Adam Catterall shares his insights and predictions ahead of a stacked UFC 296 card in Las Vegas, with Leon Edwards defending his welterweight crown against Colby Covington and Alexandre Pantoja facing Brandon Royval in a mammoth flyweight title bout.
The final numbered UFC event of the year is arguably the most highly-anticipated yet with some of the best fighters in the world rocking up to Las Vegas.
Titles are on the line and the welterweight division is front and centre as Leon Edwards defends his crown against two-time title challenger Colby Covington.
'Rocky' extended his unbeaten streak to 12 fights when he successfully retained the title with a majority decision win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 but faces another tough test in Covington.
Covington has not stepped into the octagon since recording an emphatic KO victory against Jorge Masvidal in March 2022 and it will be interesting to see if he can back up his claims of "breaking" Edwards on the night.
The co-main event is another exceptionally good matchup between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval for the flyweight title.
Pantoja was crowned flyweight champion at UFC 290, displaying his impressive grappling skills to secure a split decision win over Brandon Moreno and the Brazilian has experience of beating Royval before, submitting him by rear-naked choke in August 2021.
This will be Royval's first shot at a title and the Factory X man has been excellent in his last three bouts, defeating Rogerio Bontorin, Matt Schnell, and Matheus Nicolau.
Also on the main card is another critical welterweight contest between Shavkat Rakhmonov and Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson.
Boasting a perfect 17-0 record with an astonishing 100% finishing rate in his MMA career, Rakhmonov has taken the welterweight division by storm and a victory over Thompson would make him next in line to face the winner of Edwards and Covington.
Even at the age of 40, 'Wonderboy' remains a wily competitor and has dealt with emerging talents in the past.
The main card will also see the return of Paddy 'The Baddy' Pimblett.
Fighting for the first time since his contentious decision win over Jared Gordon at 282, Paddy 'The Baddy' faces Tony Ferguson in a captivating lightweight bout.
'El Cucuy' has endured a difficult run of late and enters the contest on the back of a six-fight losing streak, which includes submission defeats against Nathan Diaz and Bobby Green.
Given the unconvincing nature of his last win and the hype that had surrounded him prior, Pimblett will be looking to make a real statement against Ferguson.