UFC 291 Staff Picks

Image for UFC 291 Staff Picks

The most highly-anticipated weekend of 2023 for MMA fans has arrived as our MMASucka staff picks kick off a day to remember.

UFC 291 will take place later tonight, July 29th from the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, returning to the venue and city for only the third time in its 30-year promotional history. Early preliminaries kick off the event at 6:30pm ET (3:30pm PT) on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+. The regular preliminary card will follow on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+ at 8:00pm ET (5:00pm PT). Pay-per-view action with five thrilling matchups kicks off at 10:00pm ET (7:00pm PT) available for purchase through ESPN+.

Stay tuned here at MMASucka for live results from all of UFC 291: Poirier vs. Gaethje 2.

Also, stay tuned later today for our Bellator MMA x RIZIN 2 staff picks and predictions from Saitama, Japan.

The Fights

In a fight for the promotion’s “BMF Title,” lightweights Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje will square off through a possible five, five-minute rounds. The two had previously met in April of 2018 with Poirier taking the back-and-forth contest over Gaethje by technical knockout in the fourth round.

Former divisional interim champion, Poirier, makes his first appearance in the octagon since his thrilling fight and third-round submission over Michael Chandler at UFC 281 in November of last year. A 28-fight veteran to the UFC, the fan-favorite out of American Top Team looks for a path to the 155-pound peak in hopes for a third and, next time, successful shot at real gold. Poirier’s opponent, Gaethje, has won six of his last eight bouts since the aforementioned defeat including an interim title win and, like Poirier, near-identical championship losses to both Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov. The former NCAA Division I wrestler and former five-time defending WSOF Lightweight Champion has finished all but four of his 24 victories with 19 coming by knockout as he plans on his second win of the year after taking a majority decision over in March over Rafael Fiziev.

Taking place in the featured co-main event sees Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira set for battle in the light heavyweight division in what could pose as a title elimination bout.

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Blachowicz, aims for his first win in over a year after leaving fans wanting more following his draw versus Magomed Ankalaev in a 205-pound vacant championship fight last December. Former two-divisional Glory kickboxing title holder and former UFC Middleweight Champion, Pereira, makes his MMA divisional debut after suffering a second-round knockout to Israel Adesanya for the promotional strap. Because of Jamahal Hill’s relinquishing of the title earlier this month, the light heavyweight title remains open for taking as a winner between Blachowicz and Pereira could be next for Jiri Prochazka, Magomed Ankalaev, or another top-ranked fighter prepared for the opportunity.

Three additional fights on the pay-per-view each look to steal awaiting show. Season 13 winner of The Ultimate Fighter and former interim UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson aims to snap a five-fight skid against striking talent Bobby Green who looks to avoid three consecutive losses. Opening the main card sees Michael Chiesa, The Ultimate Fighter 15 winner, ready to return after a near-two year hiatus against well-rounded finisher Kevin Holland at welterweight.

Heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Marcos Rogerio de Lima were propelled to the main card after the pairing of welterweights Stephen Thompson and Michel Pereira was pulled after weigh-ins due to Pereira missing the divisional mark by three pounds. Due to the late change, Lewis versus Rogerio de Lima will not be counted in our picks. Find our UFC 291: Poirier vs. Gaethje 2 staff picks and predictions further below.

2023 Staff Picks

MMASucka staff picks are composed of five promotions: the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Bellator MMA, ONE Championship, the Professional Fighters League (PFL), and Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS). UFC and Bellator events feature picks from only main cards. PFL will feature select fights from the main and preliminary card while DWCS sees all fights counted from the event. ONE Championship returns to picks for the first time since 2020 and will feature only mixed martial arts (MMA) fights selected from cards with a minimum three matchups.

The WINNER of staff picks at the end of 2023, who picked the most victorious fighters, will have a choice between receiving a custom-made championship belt from ProAmBelts or a chain from Championship Chains. Staff picks in 2022 was won by Wesley Riddle with a record of 264-135.

Who are the MMASucka staff picking and predicting to win at UFC Fight Night 224: Aspinall vs. Tybura?


MMASucka’s 2022 Championship Belt (courtesy of ProAmBelts).

Staff Records after UFC Fight Night 224:

1T. Michael DeSantis: 163-82
1T. Ben Jamieson: 163-82
3. Nate Freeman: 158-87
4. Jeremy Brand: 156-89
5. Frazer Krohn: 155-90
6. Wesley Riddle: 154-91
7. Julio Monteros Jr.: 140-83
8. Jack Goodwillie: 124-69
9. Andrew Benjamin: 123-97
10. Brian Knight: 114-65
11. Tim Wheaton: 105-60
12. Roemello Reyes: 62-34
13. Jonathan Andrade: 31-24
14. Brandon Joint: 12-9
15. Andrew Benjamin: 10-7
16. Joshua Yule: 7-6
17. Antwyn Jackson: 5-6
18. Chris De Santiago: 3-3

*Note – not all staff pick for every event*

Michael Chiesa (18-6), +125
Kevin Holland (24-9, 1 NC), -145

Welterweight Division
– 170 LBS. ~ 77.1 KG. –

Jeremy Brand: Holland via Unanimous Decision
Wesley Riddle: Holland via Unanimous Decision
Michael DeSantis: Chiesa via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Benjamin: Holland via Round 2 TKO
Frazer Krohn: Chiesa via Unanimous Decision
Nate Freeman: Chiesa via Split Decision
Julio Monteros Jr.: Holland via Round 2 TKO
Brian Knight: Holland via Round 2 TKO
Jack Goodwillie: Chiesa via Unanimous Decision
Ben Jamieson: Holland via Round 2 SUB

Staff picking Chiesa: 4
Staff picking Holland: 6

Tony Ferguson (26-8), +290
Bobby Green (29-14-1, 1 NC), -350

Lightweight Division
– 155 LBS. ~ 70.3 KG. –

Jeremy Brand: Green via Unanimous Decision
Wesley Riddle: Green via Unanimous Decision
Michael DeSantis: Green via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Benjamin: Ferguson via Unanimous Decision
Frazer Krohn: Ferguson via Round 3 SUB
Nate Freeman: Green via Unanimous Decision
Julio Monteros Jr.: Ferguson via Unanimous Decision
Brian Knight: Green via Round 2 TKO
Jack Goodwillie: Green via Unanimous Decision
Ben Jamieson: Green via Unanimous Decision

Staff picking Ferguson: 3
Staff picking Green: 7

Jan Blachowicz (29-9-1), -110
Alex Pereira (7-2), -110

Light Heavyweight Division
– Co-Main Event –

– 205 LBS. ~ 93.0 KG. –

Jeremy Brand: Blachowicz via Unanimous Decision
Wesley Riddle: Pereira via Round 1 TKO
Michael DeSantis: Blachowicz via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Benjamin: Blachowicz via Split Decision
Frazer Krohn: Blachowicz via Round 2 SUB
Nate Freeman: Blachowicz via Round 2 SUB
Julio Monteros Jr.: Pereira via Round 2 TKO
Brian Knight: Blachowicz via Unanimous Decision
Jack Goodwillie: Blachowicz via Unanimous Decision
Ben Jamieson: Pereira via Round 1 TKO

Staff picking Blachowicz: 7
Staff picking Pereira: 3

Dustin Poirier (29-7, 1 NC), -150
Justin Gaethje (25-4), +130

Lightweight Division
– BMF Title –

– Main Event –
– 155 LBS. ~ 70.3 KG. –

Jeremy Brand: Poirier via Round 2 TKO
Wesley Riddle: Poirier via Round 4 TKO
Michael DeSantis: Poirier via Round 3 TKO
Andrew Benjamin: Gaethje via Round 1 TKO
Frazer Krohn: Poirier via Round 4 TKO
Nate Freeman: Poirier via Unanimous Decision
Julio Monteros Jr.: Poirier via Split Decision
Brian Knight: Poirier via Round 3 TKO
Jack Goodwillie: Poirier via Round 3 TKO
Ben Jamieson: Poirier via Round 3 TKO

Staff picking Poirier: 9
Staff picking Gaethje: 1


Embed from Getty Images

Share this article

Wesley Riddle is a 29-year-old writer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina from Harrisonburg, Virginia. He has been part of the MMASucka team since the fourth quarter of 2016. Additionally, he serves as a writer with partner site Last Word on Motorsports.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *