UFC 299: Old Guard vs New Guard

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UFC 299 goes down this weekend from Miami, Florida and is headlined by a bantamweight title bout between Sean O’Malley and the only man to defeat him, Marlon Vera. Aside from this fight, we have a number of fights on the card that represent the old guard vs the new guard. Old guards being fighters who are experienced at a high level in the UFC, who have been there, done it and got the bruises and scar tissue to show for it but may just be past their best. The new guards are the young, hungry up-and-comers who haven’t had their shot yet but are determined to get one over on the veterans and prove that this is the new age.

We take a look at these fights and give a hint as to how we think the fights may go.

Old Guard vs New Guard

Dustin Poirier vs Benoit Saint Denis

Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier is certainly an experienced head in a division of killers. He’s faced a whos who of the top guys at lightweight and has seen it all. Multiple title shots, PPV and fight night headline spots, Poirier has experience over the majority of his opponents. A veteran of 29 UFC bouts (and two WEC fights), Poirier has faced all comers. Having had multiple lightweight title opportunities, as well as a shot at the BMF belt, he’s, unfortunately, come up short when it comes to undisputed status. Last time out, he was brutally knocked out by Justin Gaethje and at 35 years of age, he’s probably got one last title run in him.

Standing across from The Diamond is the hungry, all-action, Benoit Saint Denis. Much less experienced than his UFC 299 opponent, the Frenchman has had just 15 professional fights and six in the UFC. His record sits at 5-0 in the UFC at 155lbs and he’s hungry to prove that he’s the best in the division. He’s finished all five opponents, including a 1:31 knockout of Matt Frevola last time out in New York City. God of War never takes a step back, is well rounded wherever the fight goes and is determined to prove that he can beat Poirier and mix it with the best in the division.

Prediction: A back-and-forth fight, with Poirier leaning on his experience to get a unanimous decision victory.

Jack Della Maddalena vs Gilbert Burns

This fight is another classic case of someone who has been there, seen it all and almost got the belt to show for his work and an undefeated, hungry up-and-comer. Gilbert Burns is a veteran of 21 UFC fights, across multiple weight classes as well as previously realising a shot at the belt at 170lbs. He’s a multiple-time post-fight bonus winner and is one of the more well-rounded guys at welterweight. He’s got heavy hands as well as being a lethal black belt on the ground. Similar to Poirier, Burns lost last time out and worrying for fans of the Brazilian, he was outstruck by Belal Muhammad on the feet.

Jack Della Maddalena was the hot shot prospect and the new kid on the block in 2022 when he burst onto the scene. He went 3-0, finishing all three opponents in devastating fashion. 2023 went well for JDM, winning another three bouts, however, two of these came via split decision. He’s very much the danger man at 170lbs because he’s only ranked #11, however, comes with huge risks. He’s got a lethally quick and effective jab, hard back hand and well timed kicks. A win over the Aussie doesn’t move Burns up in the rankings, rather takes some of the hype that he has away. It’s all risk and very little reward. Can the hungry 27 year old Maddalena get win the over the wily 37 year old Brazilian? Or can Burns lean on his experience of high level fights to outwork and outclass his foe?

Prediction: Maddalena shows that his last two split decisions were an anomaly and beats Burns via unanimous decision on the feet.

Song Yadong vs Petr Yan

Another classic example of the old guard vs the new guard is in the bantamweight division as the former champion, Petr Yan looks to bounce back from three straight defeats when he mixes things with Song Yadong.

Yan looked amazing when he joined the UFC in 2018 and quickly rushed to 6-0 before realising a vacant title shot against featherweight legend, Jose Aldo. As we know now, the fight went his way and he lifted gold at UFC 251. He looked like he could go on to be one of the greatest bantamweights of all time with his boxing heavy style and solid, powerful wrestling game. Unfortunately for Yan, things began to spiral out of his control after he landed ‘that’ knee on Aljamain Sterling. Since then, he’s gone 1-4, with his only win coming over Cory Sandhagen. Despite being just 31, he’s seen as the far more experienced man, at a high level at least. He’s competed against five former champions, current champions or title challengers, whereas Yadong hasn’t faced any.

Yadong is the hungry, young potential star. We know that the UFC is investing in the Chinese market, which we can see at UFC 300 with a historical all Chinese title bout, and Yadong could be the male counterpart to Weili Zhang‘s success. Despite being five years younger, he joined the UFC before Yan. He made his debut at 2017, going undefeated in his first six (it’s worth noting he holds a win over Marlon Vera, the man competing for the title in UFC 299’s main event). The Kung Fu Kid has been scheduled for five rounds in his last three bouts, going 2-1. He’s less experienced at the elite level, unlike Yan, who has exclusively faced killers in recent times. Song has faced good, solid competition, however, not at the truly elite, world class level, yet. Yan is that test and at UFC 299, we’ll see if he can make that step up.

Prediction: Yan is too big of a step-up in competition for Yadong, defeating him by a relatively easy unanimous decision

Katlyn Cerminara vs Maycee Barber

Arguably the most clear evidence of the old school vs the new school is on the ESPN+ prelims as Katlyn Cerminara (formerly Chookagian) clashes with Maycee Barber. Both women are highly ranked with Cerminara at #4 and Barber at #6 and the fight will determine which woman will take a step closer towards the title and which woman will become a gatekeeper at 125lbs.

Cerminara is a veteran of 15 UFC bouts and at 35 years old, she’s potentially got one more title run in her. She recognised a title shot back in 2020 but was outclassed on the night against the then champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Since then, she’s suffered two further losses but has picked up five wins. She was enjoying a five fight winning run before running into Manon Fiorot. She has to bounce back from this loss if she’s to get back to potential title contention. Despite being a veteran of the game, a good karate practitioner and a legitimate black belt, she struggles in the clinch, where Barber will likely look to take this fight.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – OCTOBER 22: (R-L) Katlyn Chookagian kicks Manon Fiorot of France in a flyweight fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Barber is still the young up-and-comer. She had aspirations to be the youngest-ever UFC champion, however, injuries got in her way. At just 25 years old, she is 10 years younger than her UFC 299 opponent and has a bright future in front of her. She has 15 professional fights, of which 13 have gone her way. She’s riding a five-fight winning run and is looking to make it six on Saturday. She’s gone 1-1 against two members of the ‘old guard’ previously, losing to Roxanne Modafferi, but defeating Jessica Eye. This fight will see the experienced head take on the young, determined fighter looking to continue her winning run.

Prediction: Barber wins this one via uneventful decision. She utilises her superior strength to control Cerminara in the clinch throughout

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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