The UFC heads to Prague, Czech Republic, for the first time this weekend, with a European-heavy fight card.
UFC Fight Night 145 (or UFC on ESPN+ 3) is packed with 13 fights, but none more important than the main event bout between Jan Blachowicz and Thiago Santos.
Not far behind is a fascinating bantamweight matchup that will see Petr Yan attempt to climb through the division by defeating John Dodson.
The event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 23, and will be streamed live around the world on ESPN+ starting with the prelims at 11:00 am ET /8:00 am PT.
As always, the team from The Body Lock is here to bring you our predictions for each of the main card bouts.
If you’re interested in more detailed breakdowns and predictions by our expert MMA analyst, make sure to check out Sriram Muralidaran’s UFC predictions.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Thiago Santos
Who could have guessed that Jan Blachowicz and Thiago Santos would be headlining a card in 2019?
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Thiago Santos was competing at middleweight, and Blachowicz was coming off a two-fight losing streak.
But now, here we are, and Blachowicz and Santos have put together some impressive wins in recent memory. Blachowicz’s four-fight winning streak was topped off by an arm-triangle victory over Nikita Krylov most recently. And Santos destroyed Jimi Manuwa inside two rounds to earn his spot amongst the top contenders at light heavyweight.
The bookmakers currently have this as an even fight, and that’s exactly how we see it, too.
Picking Blachowicz: Abhinav Kini, Jake Nichols, DC Howard, Max Freedman, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney, Sriram Muralidaran
Picking Santos: Drake Riggs, Jay Cranford, Michael Fiedel, J. Hyon Ko, Ollie Carlson, Nick Cowie, Tony Crozzoli
Stefan Struve vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima
Not too many people are overly excited about Stefan Struve vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima, but it makes an interesting fight, at the very least.
Struve is desperately trying to snap out of a terrible run that has seen him be defeated in all three of his last fights. After losing to Alexander Volkov by KO/TKO in round three of their bout, he has since dropped decisions to Marcin Tybura and Andrei Arlovski.
After missing weight on multiple occasions in the 205-pound category, Rogerio De Lima has moved to heavyweight where he can now focus on fight camp and not having to cut excess weight. In his last fight, we also saw a surprisingly takedown-heavy game from the Brazilian.
Picking Struve: DC Howard, Jay Cranford, Michael Fiedel, Ollie Carlson, Sriram Muralidaran, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney, Tony Crozzoli
Picking Rogerio De Lima: Abhinav Kini, Drake Riggs, J. Hyon Ko, Jake Nichols, Max Freedman, Nick Cowie
Gian Villante vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Gian Villante will desperately be attempting to end a horrific streak of four consecutive split decisions when he enters the cage this weekend. Most recently, Villante was dragged into a brawl with Ed Herman in which he came out on top after three rounds. Villante has won just two of his last five fights but is finally starting to realize that takedowns might be useful in helping him win a decision.
Michal Oleksiejczuk returns for the first time since his year-long USADA suspension and will be looking to secure his first official victory with the UFC. He made his promotional debut in December 2017 and defeated Khalil Rountree via decision, but the result was overturned after testing positive for a prohibited substance (clomiphene).
Oleksiejczuk is wild, much like Villante. Expect these two to throw down from the very beginning.
Picking Villante: DC Howard, J. Hyon Ko, Jake Nichols, Michael Fiedel, Nick Cowie, Ollie Carlson, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney, Tony Crozzoli
Picking Oleksiejczuk: Abhinav Kini, Drake Riggs, Jay Cranford, Max Freedman, Sriram Muralidaran
Liz Carmouche vs. Lucie Pudilova
Liz Carmouche returns to action this weekend against Lucie Pudilova.
Carmouche will step in after managing a unanimous decision victory against Jennifer Maia in July 2018. She’s won three of her last four, and many are expecting her to roll through her opponent in Prague. If she doesn’t, that’ll speak volumes for where she’s at right now at the age of 35.
Pudilova is a striker who has recorded two wins and two losses with the UFC since joining the promotion in March 2017. She enters this one after losing to Irene Aldana via split decision.
Picking Carmouche: Abhinav Kini, DC Howard, Drake Riggs, J. Hyon Ko, Jake Nichols, Jay Cranford, Max Freedman, Michael Fiedel, Nick Cowie, Ollie Carlson, Sriram Muralidaran, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney, Tony Crozzoli
Picking Pudilova: (none)
John Dodson vs. Petr Yan
Probably the most anticipated bout of UFC Fight Night 145 is this bantamweight battle between John Dodson and Petr Yan.
Dodson, “The Magician,” is arguably the perfect test for the rising prospect at this time. Yan joined the UFC in June 2018 and has already recorded three big wins, defeating Douglas Andrade, Jin Soo Son and Teruto Ishihara with no real trouble.
He’ll be looking to track the fast-moving Dodson and continue his rise through the bantamweight rankings.
Yan is a decent betting favorite at most bookmakers, and Max Freedman is the only one of us brave enough to back against him.
Picking Dodson: Max Freedman
Picking Yan: Abhinav Kini, DC Howard, Drake Riggs, J. Hyon Ko, Jake Nichols, Jay Cranford, Michael Fiedel, Nick Cowie, Ollie Carlson, Sriram Muralidaran, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney, Tony Crozzoli
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Klidson Farias De Abreu
Magomed Ankalaev and Klidson Farias De Abreu will get the six-fight main card started in Prague this weekend.
Ankalaev has moved to 1-1 in the UFC after two fights with the promotion in 2018. He lost his debut to Paul Craig after a last-second triangle choke at UFC Fight Night 127 but then managed to bounce back with a win over Marcin Prachnio.
Klidson Farias De Abreu will make his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 145. With a record of 14-2 and an impressive six-fight win streak, the 26-year-old will likely be a brilliant test for Ankalaev.
Picking Ankalaev: Abhinav Kini, Drake Riggs, Jake Nichols, Jay Cranford, Michael Fiedel, Nick Cowie, Ollie Carlson, Sriram Muralidaran, Steven Rae, Tom Tierney
Picking Farias De Abreu: DC Howard, J. Hyon Ko, Max Freedman, Tony Crozzoli
UFC Fight Night 145 is just one of many brilliant mixed martial arts events taking place this weekend. Check out our MMA Geek Guide to keep up with it all!
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.