Max Holloway (Joao Baptista/Sherdog)

Toe-to-Toe: UFC 240 Preview and Predictions

The UFC continues it’s action-packed summer with its six consecutive Saturday to feature a fight card and the second of three pay-per-views in a span of seven weeks. UFC 240 touches down in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and features one title fight atop a 12-fight lineup.

The headliner is a featherweight championship bout between incumbent titleholder Max Holloway and fourth-ranked contender Frankie Edgar. This fight has been scheduled twice before, with each fighter having to pull out once due to injury. After the second cancellation, in which Holloway was unable to compete, Edgar instead took on Brian Ortega. “The Answer” was stopped for the first time in his professional career. He rebounded with a decision over Cub Swanson in Atlantic City, N.J., in his most recent fight in April 2018. Holloway most recently saw action when he challenged Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title. It was a “Fight of the Year” candidate that ended with “Blessed” on the wrong side of a unanimous verdict. Over his last several fights, Holloway has compiled an argument to be considered as one of the greatest featherweights ever. However, Edgar has seemingly been knocking on the door of featherweight gold since dropping down from lightweight, where he once reigned supreme.

The evening’s co-main event is a No. 1 contender match-up of sorts, pitting former women’s featherweight queen Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino against the unbeaten Felicia Spencer. This is Cyborg’s first fight since UFC 232, where she dropped her title to current double champion Amanda Nunes. This also marks the final fight on the Brazilian’s UFC contract. Spencer is coming off a first-round submission victory over Megan Anderson, who was once considered the biggest threat to Cyborg at featherweight. Spencer is also a former Invicta FC featherweight titleholder. With the lack of depth at women’s featherweight in the UFC, the outcome of this fight could be integral in not only determining the next woman to challenge Amanda Nunes (if Nunes ever defends her 145-pound belt), but also to whether or not the organization decides to keep the division around for the foreseeable future.


Welterweights Geoff Neal and Niko Price also clash on the main card. Neal is riding a five-fight winning streak overall and sports a 3-0 record within the UFC. He most recently defeated Belal Muhammad by unanimous decision. Price is 3-1 over his last four fights and has yet to go the distance through eight total UFC bouts.

Canadian Olivier Aubin-Mercier gets his third consecutive home game. He looks to walk out of Edmonton with a different outcome after losing his last two outings in his home country. He squares off against rising star Arman Tsarukyan, who had an impressive UFC debut in a loss to Islam Makhachev in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Middleweights Marc-Andre Barriault and Krzysztof Jotko round out the main card, while the prelims feature such notable names as Alexis Davis, Alexandre Pantoja and Deiveson Figueiredo.

Rogers Place plays host to the Octagon, with the early prelims starting on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the televised prelims on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET. The pay-per-view portion gets underway via ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Chris Huntemann and Matt Petela preview the action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.

What is the key to victory for Frankie Edgar in his featherweight title challenge against Max Holloway?

Huntemann: For Holloway to suffer some kind of incredibly fluky brain hemorrhage while walking to the Octagon, I guess?

I don’t mean to sound so glib and morbid, but I just don’t see how Edgar beats Holloway. I also don’t think it should be Edgar who should fight Holloway on Saturday night. Basically, the only reason why Edgar is receiving this title shot is because he foolishly fought Brian Ortega at UFC 223 last year and was knocked out in the first round. Edgar, who was supposed to fight Holloway on that night, ended up losing that title opportunity to Ortega. Yet, because Edgar played the “good soldier,” “Company Man,” — insert your terrible cliché here — UFC president Dana White decided to give him another title opportunity over more deserving challengers, specifically Alex Volkanovski, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about how unseriously title belts are taken in the UFC.

But I digress. As far as the fight itself, I don’t see it unfolding much differently than Holloway’s scrap against Ortega last year. Holloway will begin striking early and often, and he’ll start busting up Edgar’s face fairly quickly. Edgar will be too tough for his own good and probably take a beating for five rounds before losing a lopsided decision. Holloway is far and away the best at 145 pounds right now, and Edgar won’t do much to change that.

Petela: While I can’t disagree that Edgar might not be the most deserving of a title shot, I do think he will be able to overcome Holloway and win the featherweight title.

The path to victory for Edgar will be found by threatening takedowns early and moving all the way in, landing a leg kick or stiff jab, and then moving all the way out in his patented, high-energy pace. Edgar has a gas tank that can’t get matched, and I have doubts about how Holloway will hold up at featherweight after going to lightweight to challenge for the interim title against Dustin Poirier in April. By the championship rounds, Holloway will be spending more and more time on his back as a result of Edgar’s wrestling and struggle to get back to his feet.

It probably won’t be the first or second takedown attempt that gets Holloway to the ground, but eventually the grind of Edgar will get “Blessed” on his back, where “The Answer” really shines. There is no doubting the toughness of Holloway, though, and this one will go the distance in a close fight. The longer the fight goes, however, the more I like Edgar’s chances to win.The challenger will get an edge on all the judges’ scorecards.

Will Felicia Spencer emerge with a perfect record following her showdown with Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino?

Petela: No.

We’ll see a similar fight to the one we saw Cyborg fight against Holly Holm. Spencer is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but she won’t be able to get the fight to the ground with Cyborg, who will be a much more controlled fighter than the berzerker that got clipped early and lost her composure against Amanda Nunes.

This is also Cyborg’s final fight on her UFC contract. If she wants a new deal and a shot at redemption against Nunes, she has to deliver an impressive performance. There has been no shortage of turmoil between Cyborg and the UFC, but Cyborg is such a competitor that it would be a surprise if the UFC isn’t able to get a deal done for the Nunes rematch.

Spencer, who started training in taekwondo at age five, has an incredible arsenal of kicking attacks. She has won her last three fights by submission, too. However, Cyborg at this point is too much, too soon. Spencer’s record gets its first blemish.

Huntemann: No.

This fight won’t unfold much differently than Cyborg’s fight at UFC 223 last year, when she just straight-up overwhelmed Yana Kunitskaya. You could argue that Kunitskaya looked defeated before she even stepped into the Octagon that night, like she waited until that last moment to realize she was facing one of the most dangerous female fighters on the planet.

You have to feel for Cyborg a little bit. As my esteemed colleague noted, this is the last fight on her current contract. She has been repeatedly vocal about her desire for a rematch with Nunes, while Dana White keeps insisting that Cyborg doesn’t want to face Nunes again. Instead, Cyborg gets to pad her record for her possible last fight in the UFC against another overmatched opponent from Invicta FC.

I don’t mean to sound so dismissive of Spencer, however. You don’t go undefeated by accident in this sport. Spencer is clearly talented, but Cyborg, despite the recent loss to Nunes, is still on another level from all other female featherweight fighters. Cyborg will finish Spencer quickly. Then, one of two things will happen. Either Cyborg gets her contract extended for a rematch with Nunes, or Cyborg places a call to her old boss, Scott Coker, and makes for Bellator MMA.

Yoshinori Horie, Giacomo Lemos and Tanner Boser — do we need to know these names?

Huntemann: Since UFC 240 is very light on marquee fights, it’s the perfect opportunity for someone like Lemos to step up and make a name for himself. He basically won all six of his pro fights in Brazil via early stoppage, and he will have a tough debut test against fellow newcomer Boser, a regular on the eastern European MMA scene. The UFC’s heavyweight division is still a bit long in the tooth, so some talented young blood might be a welcome addition.

Petela: It’s interesting to see Lemos, with a perfect 6-0 record, make his UFC debut against Boser, who has 21 fights to his name upon entry into the Octagon. Both of these guys have a chance to stick around for a while, especially in the aforementioned dinosaur division of heavyweight.

Horie has a very difficult task ahead of him in Hakeem Dawodu, but the hard-hitting 24-year-old has the ability to end any fight he’s in with a single punch or knee.

This crop of newcomers to the promotion may be in a best-of-both-worlds situation where they get to perform under the bright lights of the UFC, but not a giant card like the International Fight Week event.

Who’s the biggest winner at UFC 240?

Petela: Frankie Edgar. “The Answer” will upset Max Holloway and add a UFC featherweight championship to the mantle where he keeps his UFC lightweight title. A rematch with Brian Ortega could be on the horizon if “T-City” gets through his targeted upcoming fight with the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. That’s a fight I’m sure Edgar and coach Mark Henry would be chomping at the bit to get back. Henry Cejudo would probably call out Edgar as well. That would be an interesting fight, for sure.

Huntemann: I have to agree with my compatriot once again, though not as it relates to who wins the fight. Edgar lucked out big time with this title shot against Holloway. This is another example of how it pays to be a company man in Dana White’s good graces. However, the possibility of what Holloway might do to Edgar could dampen my stance.

Who’s the biggest loser at UFC 240?

Huntemann: The jaded, cynical answer (otherwise known as the type of answer for which I’m notorious) is the fans, who are expected to fork over 60 to 70 bucks, or however much ESPN+ is charging these days, for a pay-per-view card that does not even come close to meeting that criteria. It’s as if someone at the UFC’s headquarters looked at the calendar and realized they forgot about this card, then panicked and had to throw something together at the last minute.

Petela: Felicia Spencer. With a loss to Cyborg, there really aren’t many options for Spencer in the UFC. The women’s featherweight division barely exists, so unless she and Megan Anderson fight each other over and over again, she doesn’t have any high-profile fights on the horizon. This is an all-or-nothing shot for Spencer, and it won’t go her way.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Arman Tsarukyan.

It may be on the main card, but this fight is getting almost no attention. Aubin-Mercier is on a two-fight skid, and both of those fights also took place in Canada. The 22-year-old Tsarukyan showed impressive grappling and scrambling skills in his loss to Islam Makhachev in April. This could be a fork-in-the-road fight for Aubin-Mercier. If the Canadian falters against Tsarukyan, then it might mark the end of his UFC tenure. Meanwhile, the upside is big for Tsarukyan. This is a high-profile chance for him to show off his ever-increasing skills. This one should be fun to watch.

Huntemann: I do enjoy Aubin-Mercier and his porn ’stache that is straight out of the 1980s, but my choice here is the preliminary flyweight bout between Alexandre Pantoja and Deiveson Figueiredo.

There are a combined 40 pro fights between the two men, and they have suffered only four losses. The flyweight division is still breathing — barely — thanks to Henry Cejudo and his constantly cringeworthy antics. Figueiredo lost his first fight ever earlier this year to the always-tough Jussier “Formiga” da Silva. Pantoja has won three in a row and has only lost twice since 2010. Since the UFC’s flyweight division is also still bereft of talent, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the winner of this fight could lay claim to a future title shot.

Pair this card with…

Huntemann: As you can surmise from my thoughts throughout this preview, I am not very high at all on the quality of this show. Even though it boasts some familiar names, like Holloway and Cyborg, top-to-bottom this event would be much more suited as a Fight Night on ESPN, instead of a pay-per-view that fans are expected to pay way too much to watch. So, in that vein, I suggest you pair this card with your wallet and save yourself some money. Take this Saturday night off from the MMA world. Go see a movie. Go check out a ballgame. Or just spend some time with your loved ones. Besides, as unpredictable as MMA can be, victories by Holloway and Cyborg are all but a lock.

Petela: It’s rare that I am the optimistic one, but here we are. Contrary to my colleague’s beliefs, this fight card will deliver some surprisingly entertaining fights. Pair it with a helping of poutine. The sight of french fries and cheese curds smothered in brown gravy may look horrid, but it is delicious. It’s also Canadian, making it an all-around perfect fit to go with UFC 240.

Fight Picks

Fight Huntemann’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
FW Championship: Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar Holloway Edgar
Women’s FW: Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino vs. Felicia Spencer Cyborg Cyborg
WW: Geoff Neal vs. Niko Price Neal Price
LW: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Arman Tsarukyan Aubin-Mercier Tsarukyan
MW: Krzysztof Jotko vs. Marc-André Barriault Jotko Jotko
Preliminary Card (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW: Alexis Davis vs. Viviane Araujo Aarujo Davis
FW: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Yoshinori Horie Dawodu Dawadu
FW: Gavin Tucker vs. Seung Woo Choi Tucker Tucker
FlyW: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Deiveson Figueiredo Pantoja Figueiredo
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW: Gillian Robertson vs. Sarah Frota Frota Robertson
WW: Kyle Stewart vs. Erik Koch Koch Stewart
HW: Giacomo Lemos vs. Tanner Boser Lemos Lemos