Saturday, April 13, 2024

UFC 299 fight card: Dustin Poirier vs Benoit Saint-Denis, Michael Venom Page’s debut among fights to watch

Sometimes it’s hard to find fights to get excited about week-to-week in UFC’s bloated events calendar. UFC 299 is no such case. The promotion’s return to pay-per-view on Saturday is packed to the brim with must-see matchups.

UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera 2 headlines the PPV in Miami, but it’s the undercard that makes UFC 299 pop. There are three former UFC champions (including interim) on the card and two past title challengers, Dustin Poirier and Gilbert Burns among them. The card isn’t strictly a greatest-hits collection. Benoit Saint-Denis and Jack Della Maddalena are two of the most exciting rising contenders. Plus UFC welcomes a shiny new roster addition in Bellator standout Michael “Venom” Page.

Take a look below at three undercard fights you cannot miss at UFC 299.

Dustin Poirier vs. Benoit Saint-Denis

Poirier vs. Saint-Denis encapsulates much of what makes a great fight. You have two phenomenal offensive strikers: one a world-renowned veteran and the other a rising fan favorite with a nation behind him. Fans will hold their breath not only for a devastating blow but also because there are legitimate stakes at play. The winner will take a meaningful step forward in the lightweight division. Depending on how Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan and Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway play out next month, the winner of Poirier vs. Saint-Denis could put themselves within striking distance of a title shot.

“Sometimes he does get a little reckless brawling but, hey, you could say the same thing about me,” Poirier told CBS Sports. “If I clip a guy, sometimes I get crazy. I see a young, hungry guy who has fire in his eyes and he’s trying to finish fights. He’s a very dangerous opponent.”

Kevin Holland vs. Michael Venom Page

Welcome to the UFC, MVP. The longtime Bellator MMA star makes his UFC debut on Saturday and the promotion found him a perfect opponent. Holland vs. Page pits two talented strikers with the gift of gab. Holland is perhaps more well-rounded and offensively-minded. Page is a tactical striker with some of the most brutal knockouts in MMA history — his flying knee once caved in a man’s skull. The UFC has a good history of matching top Bellator fighters against suitably difficult opponents. Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler fought Donald Cerrone and Dan Hooker in their respective UFC debuts. Page made it to an interim Bellator welterweight title fight during his time with Bellator, so a fight against the UFC’s No. 13 ranked welterweight is an appropriate welcome.

“Most fighters that I fight, especially when they’re known for being the tough guy or stand-up fighter, will attempt that [striking] route initially,” Page told CBS Sports’ “Morning Kombat” podcast. “When they realize what they’re up against. When they realize the speed element of what’s in front of them. When they realize the power element. When they realize how tricky this Rubix cube of a fighter in front of them is, they try to go to all means necessary to try and get the win. I’m sure at some point he’ll try to go to the ground and win it that way. He’ll have another shock there as well.”

Gilbert Burns vs. Jack Della Maddalena

Belal Muhammad is overdue for a fight against champion Leon Edwards, but rumors leading UFC 300 were that Islam Makhachev, Khamzat Chimaev and Shavkat Rakmonov were in the running for a title shot. Della Maddalena could further complicate the title picture with a big statement on Saturday. The Aussie is among a new wave of 185-pounders storming the status quo. Unfortunately, split decision wins over Holland and UFC newcomer Bassil Hafez put him a step behind Shavkat Rakmonov and Ian Machado Garry. A win over a well-rounded elite fighter like Burns is the perfect opportunity he needs. Burns’ window to win a world title is closing but he has the tools to try. The Brazilian is an ultra-durable welterweight with power punches and world-caliber jiu-jitsu.

“I see a tough dude. He’s physically very strong. Young, hungry and good at boxing in both stances…” Burns told “Morning Kombat” ahead of the fight. “He has good defense, good body shots and a good sprawl. I think he likes to grapple a little bit… I know he can grapple just because of his fight with Bassil. He tried for a couple of guillotines. If you don’t grapple, you won’t even try. The way he was trying, I knew he could grapple. He’s the complete package.”

Honorable mentions: Petr Yan vs. Song Yadong, Curtis Blaydes vs. Jailton Almeida, Pedro Munhoz vs. Kyler Phillips

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