The Prediction Panel – UFC 208
Welcome to the Kamikaze Overdrive Prediction Panel- Home to Ryan Poli, Mitchell Davies, Ryan Windsor, Ryan Underwood, and Tyler Matlock who are some of the best minds the MMA prediction game. Check back every week for their latest prediction.
|Ryan Underwood||620||387||233||62%||UFN 103: 10-2||Active|
|Ben Heller||146||94||52||64%||UFN 104: 4-5||Active|
|Mitchell Davies||853||534||319||63%||UFC 200: 7-5||Inactive|
|Ryan Poli||924||585||339||63%||UFN 82: 8-4||Inactive|
|Tyler Matlock||123||81||42||66%||UFC 201: 0-2||Inactive|
|Ryan Windsor||651||426||225||65%||UFN 90: 8-4||Inactive|
|Josh Harper||855||546||303||64%||UFC FN 40: 8-6-0||Inactive|
|Martin Pedersen||273||170||103||62%||UFN 48 & 49: 12-6-0||Inactive|
|Dillon Collins||106||76||30||72%||UFC on FOX 8: 8-4-0||Inactive|
|Joe Caporale||152||74||79||49%||UFC 157: 4-7-0||Inactive|
|Joel Richer||81||46||35||57%||UFC on Fox 5: 7-3-0||Inactive|
|Ezz Fadel||80||43||37||54%||UFC 159: 8-3-0||Inactive|
|Garth Beks||34||24||10||71%||UFC 170: 9-0-0||Inactive|
|Chris Fuhrmann||34||21||13||62%||UFC on FOX 10: 6-5-0||Inactive|
| UFC FN 105
185lbs Gerald Meerschaert 25-8-0 vs Ryan Janes 9-1-0
My prediction is Gerald Meerschaert to defeat Ryan Janes by Unanimous Decision
185lbs Jack Marshman 21-5-0 vs Thiago Santos 13-5-9
My prediction is Jack Marshman to defeat Thiago Santos by TKO
135lbs Aiemann Zahabi 6-0-0 vs Reginaldo Vieira 14-4-0
My prediction is Aiemann Zahabi to defeat Reginaldo Vieira by TKO
115lbs #3 Carla Esparza 12-3-0 vs Randa Markos 6-5-0
I view this fight exactly the same way I viewed the Bec Rawlings/Tecia Torres fight from FN 104 less than 2 weeks ago. Esparza is the more experienced fighter with more well rounded skills than her opponent in every skill department. Markos is similar to Bec in that she has a size advantage and is tough as nails but constantly makes positional mistakes in the clinch and on the ground that constantly place her in bad positions. Markos' best chance to win would be to use her size advantage to keep Esparza in the clinch and on the defensive, possibly tiring her out. I honestly don't see that happening. I can see Carla dominating this fight from start to finish with an easy Unanimous Decision. Lock of the night
My prediction is Carla Esparza to defeat Randa Markos by Unanimous Decision
170lbs Nordine Taleb 11-3-0 vs Santiago Ponzinibbio 24-3-0
My prediction is Santiago Ponzinibbio to defeat Nordine Taleb by Decision
155lbs Paul Felder 12-3-0 vs Alessandro Ricci 10-4-0
Ricci is a stand up fighter that can't handle the ground game. Both he and Felder love to strike and I see the fight remaining on its feet with zero TD attempts. Felder should dominate Ricci and even though Ricci will be the home town favorite I'll take Felder in a fun fight.
My prediction is Paul Felder to defeat Alessandro Ricci by Unanimous Decision
135lbs #7 Sara McMann 10-3-0 vs Gina Mazany 4-0-0
This should be another one sided affair with McMann dominating the clinch and ground game with top control.
My prediction is Sara McMann to defeat Gina Mazany by Unanimous Decision
185lbs Elias Theodorou 12-1-0 vs Cezar Ferreira 12-5-0
I see this as a close fight, assuming Cezar's glass jaw doesn't magically reappear. Either way I'll take the Canadian to win on the judges score cards if the fight lasts that long.
My prediction is Elias Theodorou to defeat Cezar Ferriera by Unanimous Decision
145lbs Sam Sicilia 15-7-0 vs Gavin Tucker 9-0-0
I've never been impressed with Sicilia. He is a stand up fighter with solid power in his hands but is otherwise a limited fighter. He can not win a fight with forward pressure in the clinch and top control. He also can not win a fight with high striking output. He is essentially a smaller version of Sam Alvey but without the recent KOs. Tucker seems like a crafty well rounded fighter with a high fight pace. He has 8 finishes and is undefeated in 9 pro fights. Sicilia's only chance to win this fight is to KO his opponent.
My prediction is Gavin Tucker to defeat Sam Sicilia via Submission (RNC)
185lbs Johny Hendricks 17-5-0 vs Hector Lombard 34-6-1 2NC
Hendricks has been on a career ending downward spiral. He openly stated that he would retire if he lost to Magny and yet here he is fighting just 2 months after the loss to Magny. The decision loss to Magny signaled an improvement in MMA judging that I have seen over the last couple months and has been long overdue (not counting Anderson vs Brunson). Magny clearly won that fight on overall activity and aggression while Hendricks tried for the old fashioned wet blanket technique.
As far as this fight is concerned it is the best possible match up for Hendricks. They both have a long history of weight cuts and poor cardio so this fight could very easily come down to who gasses out the least. I foresee Lombard dominating the first round and possibly getting a finish with his strength advantage and aggressive fighting style that is always going for the finish. The 2nd and 3rd round may turn into a slop fest which could go either way but Hendricks should have better cardio at this new weight class and can steal the last 2 rounds. As a side note, if you are a prop better, consider betting on a draw. This is the type of fight where Lombard can dominate for a 10-8 1st round and then completely gas out and lose the 2nd and 3rd. Draws are obviously rare but if the pay out is good this could be worth a shot.
My prediction is Johny Hendricks to defeat Hector Lombard by Unanimous Decision
225-265lbs #8 Derrick Lewis 17-4-0 1NC vs #9 Travis Brown 18-5-1
I've been waiting for the right spot to fade Derrick Lewis. Due to his finishing prowess he has become a popular fighter both to watch and bet on. Most of the fight he stands flat footed and throws bombs with limited movement on the feet. If he is tired he stands with his mouth wide open and falls over losing his balance anytime he whiffs with one of his huge bombs.
Travis Brown has waisted the later part of his career training with what is widely considered the worst head trainer in MMA. Travis Brown should be able to dance around the outside and jab Lewis to death while avoiding Lewis' power shots. If this was a 3 round fight I would lean towards a decision but since it's a 5 rounder I will lean towards the finish. Something sloppy where Lewis falls over and Brown drops a hammer fist or two while Lewis is simply too tired to lift his arms in defense.
My prediction is Travis Brown to defeat Derrick Lewis by TKO
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UFC Fight Night 103
FightPass Prelims @ 6:15ET
265lbs- Dmitri Smoliakov (8-1-0) vs Cyril Asker (7-2-0)
Asker by KO/TKO
205lbs- Joachim Christensen (13-4-0) vs Bojan Mihajlovic (10-4-0)
Christensen by decision
155lbs- Devin Powell (8-1-0) vs Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
Klose by KO/TKO
115lbs- Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-3-0) vs Nina Ansaroff (6-5-0)
Ansaroff by decision
FS1 Prelims @8ET
265lbs- Walt Harris (8-5-0) vs Chase Sherman (9-2-0)
Harris by KO/TKO
155lbs- Tony Martin (10-3-0) vs Alex White (11-2-0)
Martin by decision
265lbs- Alexey Oleynik (50-10-1) vs Viktor Pesta (10-3-0)
Oleynik to defeat Pesta by KO/TKO
135lbs- Frankie Saenz (11-4-0) vs Augusto Mendes (6-1-0) [/Body_1]
In the bantamweight division, Frankie Saenz looks to shake off two straight losses as he takes on Augusto Mendes. ‘Tanquinho’ debuted in early 2016 on six days-notice to take on, now crowned UFC Bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt.
Frankie Saenz debuted on a great note with a three-fight win streak over the names of Nolan Ticman, Iuri Alcantara, and Sirwan Kakai, making it known he is a division one NCAA wrestler. In his short run in the UFC, he’s already faced tough veteran names of Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland, which boosted his experience attributes through the roof.
We don’t know much about Augusto Mendes in the octagon as he wasn’t able to last the full first round with Garbrandt. He looked a tad-bit timid against Cody, yet his UFC debut came with no preparation. Mendes seemed to keep his stance lowered in his debut, though it seems he’s made it a habit in his short career so far. In his Legacy contest before being signed to the company, he faced Donald Williams and caught a triangle choke in the 2nd round. In the opening five minutes, Mendes was caught often and actually dropped by Williams due to a poor movement plan and overall stance. He relies hard on his BJJ even though he is more than willing to stand with anyone.
Saenz didn’t get his reputation as a hard-hitting knockout artist yet he is a straight shooter whose movement is underrated. He was hammered by a perfectly timed right hand by Wineland and eventually finished, yet I expect Frankie to keep his defense on par against Mendes on the feet. Saenz cannot let Mendes into his guard on the mat as his submissions are legit. Frankie is a powerful wrestler, so I will not predict an easy submission from Augusto here.
It will not totally shock me if Mendes is able to out-grapple Saenz as this may turn into a jiu-jitsu match, and the line is very close to represent it with Saenz resting at -150 currently. Augusto’s stance really throws me off in his past fights, and if he baits Frankie, he will eat a bundle of shots with no hesitation. To be safe, I will take Saenz lasting the distance, possibly dropping a round to Mendes, yet coming out with a unanimous decision victory. My prediction is Frankie Saenz to defeat Augusto Mendes by decision.
FS1 Main Card @10ET
125lbs- #8 John Moraga (16-5-0) vs #15 Sergio Pettis (14-2-0)
We have a fun fight set in the flyweight division as #8 John Moraga takes on #15 Sergio Pettis in a fight that should mean a whole lot for Moraga. In July, Moraga dropped his second straight loss as he saw a split decision defeat to the hands of Mattheus Nicolau, which before that came a unanimous decision loss to #1 ranked Joseph Benavidez. Unlike his opponent, Sergio Pettis is on a two-fight win streak over the names of Chris Cariaso and Chris Kelades.
Moraga struggled in his last fight trying to read the timing of Mattheus Nicolau and ate fight-winning shots in the latter half of the 2nd and the majority of the 3rd round. It seems that John thrives better in quicker-pace contests as he’s able to attempt counters more often than a slower bout like against Nicolau. Moraga really looked off his game-plan, though I’m not sure what his actual strategy was. We’ve seen the best out of John Moraga when he has opponents up against the cage and eventually on the mat searching for a submission. His past two wins came via submission over Justin Scoggins and Willie Gates, and that was not the Moraga we saw in 2016. John was inactive for a minute through the bottom half of 2015 and up until his match in July of last year, and Pettis is one hell of a guy to face when the wheels need some turning.
Sergio Pettis has been consistently improving inside the octagon with every contest. He’s seen a 5-2 run so far, seeing the biggest win of his career over veteran Chris Cariaso in late-2015. Sergio, the younger brother of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, comes into the cage with a bit more conservative, and I’ll even say smarter game-plan than his brother. We’ve seen Pettis fall a bit in the past couple years while Sergio continues to rise in the flyweight division. Sergio’s performance against Chris Kelades was one of the best of his career as he controlled the fight wherever it went. Pettis had a leg up on Kelades in most grappling, clinching, and striking exchanges which led him to a 30-27x3 unanimous decision victory. His speed was too hard for Kelades to time and stay aggressive with as Sergio’s cardio only improves with every fight. When analyzing Moraga’s past performances on the feet, I will expect Sergio to be the more active guy as long as he rolls with his punches and keeps his striking tool belt unpredictable.
This biggest factor in this fight will be the grappling. John Moraga’s name was made by his submission ability and dominant wrestling which led him to a title shot with only two appearances in the octagon. In the Nicolau fight, we did not see the aggressive wrestler we’re used to watching. Moraga was 100% focused on trying to read Nicolau’s striking which led to an easy loss for him. Though he lost in a fight with not much activity back and forth, I feel Moraga will do much better here than against Nicolau as the pace will keep him far more active. If John wants to take control of this fight, he will put Sergio against the cage and attempt to bring this fight into an offensive position on the mat. The one thing is, Pettis is getting a lot of experience in the cage with grapplers. Pettis was able to defend very well against Chris Kelades on the mat, slapping up a rubber guard very quick in his guard and even reversing position. We do consider Moraga one of the best grapplers in this division, but do not be surprised if Pettis is able to flip positioning into his favor.
Moraga needs a win here far more than Pettis does, so consider that before heading to the sportsbook in Sergio’s favor. Though I hate to predict a top ranked fighter to lose three contests in a row, I expect Pettis to be the more active man in the cage with diverse strikes that will show far more aggression than Moraga on Sunday night. My prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat John Moraga by decision.
170lbs- Court McGee (18-5-0) vs Ben Saunders (20-7-2)
In the welterweight division, Court McGee takes on the returning Ben Saunders in a fight in which both men need to further stride in this packed list of 170. This features Saunders returning to the octagon after a one-bout stint in a small organization where he tapped out UFC veteran Jacob Volkmann in 17 seconds with a solid armbar. McGee made his return after a two-year hiatus in December of 2015 as he picked up a decision win over Marcio Alexandre and has gone 1-1 since.
McGee has seen an interesting return as his win over Alexandre saw a tad-bit slower Court we were used to seeing, yet was acceptable due to a long time away from the cage. McGee was amped up for his bout with Santiago Ponzinnibio and put the aggression to Santiago right off the bat. He was able to land heavy shots that put Santiago in a pressuring position yet caught a big shot in the middle of the round that left him rocked. McGee was able to combat the daze that Santiago created, yet was finished in the latter part of the round after a powerful right floored McGee coming up from a scramble. Court showed perseverance to finish his 2016 when he picked up a unanimous decision victory over Dominique Steele in another contest where his aggression in the first round proved to work, this time bringing him to a win. McGee rocked Steele in the first six seconds of the bout with a stiff right hand which was followed by a slam to a back-take. McGee excels in fast paced situations where his opponent is hurt by strikes, yet he needs to focus on moving well in scrambles when facing a guy like Saunders.
Ben Saunders left the UFC last year for a brief period (which I believe was due to a contract dispute) after a TKO loss to Patrick Cote in January. His last victory came via split decision against Kenny Robertson which turned out to be slightly controversial as many thought Robertson should have walked away with a unanimous decision victory. In those bouts, Ben’s main flaws came on the feet where he left openings in which his opponents capitalized on quickly. Robertson was able to step in and land shots plenty of times while Cote was also able to land with a flurry of shots in a spacious muay-thai clinch. Saunders made a huge mistake in that fight by giving Cote that huge amount of space whilst attempting to land knees, yet Cote took the opportunity to land flush uppercuts that dropped Saunders and led to the finish.
The most interesting part of this contest will be if this fight hits the mat. McGee favors the clinch game against the cage and attempting takedowns, yet Saunders will give him trouble with his BJJ skills. Saunders holds a black belt under Ricardo Liborio and racked the first ever win via omoplata submission in the UFC back in 2014. McGee doesn’t want to test his guard—especially not early in this fight. McGee showed great cardio against Steele going the full 15 minutes, and he was rocked a couple times in the 2nd round as well. Saunders will accept the invitation to stand and trade like he did against Robertson, and I believe that McGee will have the advantage when exchanging blows.
This is a very tight contest. Both men do have the ability to catch the other in an exchange that will end the fight quickly. If this heads to a grappling exchange, Saunders will have a platform to showcase his excellent submission ability, yet I see his opponent taking the win here. I expect Court to catch Saunders on the feet multiple times and get the better of the striking exchanges which will most likely last the full duration. My prediction is Court McGee to defeat Ben Saunders by decision.
155lbs- Joe Lauzon (26-12-0) vs Marcin Held (22-5-0)
In the co-main event, UFC veteran Joe Lauzon takes on UFC sophomore Marcin Held as both men are looking to rally back after their respective decision losses in the latter half of 2016. Held made his name in Bellator as he won Season 10 Lightweight tournament and eventually went on to face Will Brooks for the Bellator lightweight championship. Though his debut may have been filled with UFC jitters, he’s looking to rack up his first win and move into the rankings soon. Joe Lauzon is inevitably reaching the point of his career where he needs to put up-or step down. Though his recent decision loss to Jim Miller was controversial, it’s unknown how he’ll fare against young competition such as Marcin Held.
The Bellator veteran Held made his UFC debut against Diego Sanchez and lost a unanimous decision where Sanchez showed more aggression and was able to keep Held controlled and grounded on the mat. There’s a handful of ways that you can observe Held’s performance against Sanchez. Many people have analyzed and concluded that there is a major talent difference between Bellator and the UFC and maybe the veteran skills of Sanchez completely rode over the youth of Held. Another huge factor from the Sanchez fight was the altitude in Mexico and however long Held prepared for that environment. Sanchez’s cardio is never to question, and he simply could have had a larger tank in that contest which lead him to prevail. Either way, Lauzon is another hearty veteran that won’t go down without a dogfight.
Lauzon’s biggest mistake in his last Miller fight was letting him tee off while hoping to counter and or wait for Jim to gas out. After a while, the strike count rose and left a margin for Lauzon to catch up. Marcin Held met Diego’s aggression very quick in the first round, and like Sanchez, Lauzon doesn’t waste any time to throw shots right out of the gate. Held is the type of fighter to feel out for a minute and Lauzon will not wait around as long.
This contest will get interesting when it hits the mat as both men are submission specialists. Combined, these men have 30 submission wins, with Held only losing to submission once and Lauzon tapping 3 times. With seeing how Sanchez controlled Held, I don’t see Lauzon having much struggle, yet again everything in that fight could have been due to lack of training in Mexico altitude. Held didn’t fare well with veteran strength and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the speed of his strikes in the Sanchez fight. Lauzon, though losing again to Miller, pushed to the final second with strikes and grappling scrambles that nearly ended in an armbar victory.
I really want to be able to pick Held here as he’s incredibly young and may have a promising future but I cannot solidify a victory prediction for him against Joe Lauzon. Held was not too impressive against Diego Sanchez, another veteran is a good test for him, and you never know how he’s trained for this. This is razor close in the end, yet I will take Joe for the fact of how aggressive he has been until the final horn unlike Held in his UFC debut. My prediction is Joe Lauzon to defeat Marcin Held by decision.
145lbs- BJ Penn (16-10-2) vs #10 Yair Rodriguez (9-1-0)
In the main event, UFC legend and former lightweight and welterweight champion, BJ Penn makes his return to the octagon for his second experience at featherweight as he takes on fast-rising #10 ranked Yair Rodriguez. Heading into this contest, we have no idea what to expect as we haven’t seen the former two-division champion compete since July of 2014 and he’s been pulled from two expected bouts in the past year. Penn was once expected to face Cole Miller in June and Ricardo Lamas in the fall of 2016 and is now slated to compete against, possibly, one of the most dangerous men in the division. Yair Rodriguez has seen an undefeated run in the UFC since winning TUF in late-2014 with notable wins over Alex Caceres and #15 ranked Andre Fili.
“El Pantera” will bring a style in the octagon that BJ Penn has not been accustomed to; a high-flying and flashy knockout-capable skillset. Penn has faced Lyoto Machida back in 2005 in a catchweight bout in K-1 in which he weighed in at 191lbs and lost a unanimous decision. Rodriguez has unique persistence that Penn has never seen in a five-round fight. He’s faced Rory MacDonald in the past and was able to last three tough rounds, and that was at a weight where Penn didn’t have to focus on much cardio to cut weight and meet a deadline. I imagine the cut to 145 is still tough for the UFC legend, especially for someone who’s fought at middleweight before.
The biggest factor in this contest is age and hunger. Yair Rodriguez is 14 years younger than Penn, and is on a mission I believe Penn has passed in his career. I don’t think many of the MMA community is expecting a title run from the 38-year-old competitor. The UFC is really testing Penn here just like they did with the Ricardo Lamas matchup- they want to see if he still has it, and if not, his career will most likely be finished.
We all remember Penn with the gritty and scrappy style that pressured opponents to move away from their game plans. BJ was always great at frustrating his enemy by staying in their face, taking their backs, and not eating punches without counters. Rodriguez will enter the first round testing Penn’s distance and reaction time, and if he is even slightly slow to start, he will capitalize right away. It’s hard to predict how Penn will move in the first round, since he did so terribly in the third Edgar fight. It was hard to watch for many fans and fellow fighters in the MMA community. Unless Yair gets too cocky and doesn’t respect the veteran experience of Penn, I expect a start to the first round that will test BJ right away, and eventually finish him with a flurry of strikes. My prediction is Yair Rodriguez to defeat BJ Penn by KO/TKO.
|155lbs – Takanori Gomi (35-11-0) vs Jim Miller (25-8-0)
Both guys are seriously in desperate need of a win here. In most cases the loser would likely be cut, but unless someone retires, I think they have the name value for the UFC to keep them around. Miller had such a quick rise up the division, only to be a shell of his former self in the last few years, likely due to the big jump in competition. He had a close fight with Sanchez, and certainly doesn’t look like he’s too far behind the pack. Gomi has been put away in pretty devastating fashion in his last two fights and it seems like the years are catching up to him. I don’t know if Gomi can take a punch as well anymore, and Miller’s likely going to be able to wrestle him to the ground and rain down shots from there. I think this gets ugly for Gomi, as Miller can usually handle guys who don’t have wrestling on his level. My prediction is Jim Miller to defeat Takanori Gomi by TKO
185lbs – Gegard Mousasi (38-6-2) vs Thiago Santos (13-3-0)
A good short notice replacement for Mousasi here, as Santos is a dangerous up and comer. Mousasi is lacking those big exciting wins people expected out of him when he first came in. He’s coasted in his wins over Latifi, Philippou, and Leites, despite having a big skill advantage in certain areas. His TKO loss to Uriah Hall was concerning as Santos has big power. Thiago has steadily improved throughout his UFC tenure, and is coming into his own recently. His kickboxing and clinch game are vicious. If you can’t take him down, you better be quicker than him and have good defense. Fortunately for Mousasi, he has that. He fights smart at all times and definitely has the ability to shut down what Santos throws at him, which I believe he will. My prediction is Gegard Mousasi to defeat Thiago Santos by decision
155lbs – Joe Lauzon (25-11-0) vs Diego Sanchez (26-8-0)
This could actually be much closer than anticipated. Sanchez looked stellar in his last win over Jim Miller, a lot better than we’ve seen him in a while. Lauzon is definitely on the decline in his career, but still puts on exciting fights and can win when he needs to. Even though Lauzon has a similar style to Miller, I see him being able to bust Sanchez open and get the better of the striking exchanges by being more accurate. I think this could be a fight Sanchez looks great in, but I also think his emotions will get the better of him and he’ll get a little too wild. I see Joe capitalizing on some openings and getting the narrow victory. My prediction is Joe Lauzon to defeat Diego Sanchez by decision
155lbs – Sage Northcutt (7-1-0) vs Enrique Marin (8-3-0)
Northcutt really proved he has some holes to fix in his last fight, and even the one before that. His ground game seems to be lacking behind his striking and athleticism. He’s so young though, and already has a few fights under his belt in the spotlight in the UFC. The pressure has been on, and I believe he can only go up from here. Marin has nearly all his wins by submission, so if he can get Northcutt down it’ll get interesting. I’ve got to go with Sage though. His striking should be enough to get him through here. I bet he comes in looking his best as well. We should see some solid improvement from him since January. My prediction is Sage Northcutt to defeat Enrique Marin by decision
135lbs – T.J. Dillashaw (12-3-0) vs Raphael Assuncao (23-4-0)
If I was in TJ’s position, I would be pretty choked. He had some incredibly entertaining wins and defended his title a couple times before a razor thin decision loss to Dominick Cruz, and now he’s so far down the card no one can remember he’s fighting. Assuncao isn’t an easy out either. This is most likely the number 1 contender fight. The first fight between these two was very close, and TJ’s evolved since then. His footwork, speed, boxing, are all right up to the level his wrestling has always been. Assuncao has an excellent ground game himself and is an explosive striker. He’s technical everywhere so I expect a fight just as close as the last one. I see Dillashaw’s championship level experience and pace as the difference maker here. Even in light of the loss, he’s still on another level of confidence than he was 3 years ago, and I see him taking a close win here. My prediction is TJ Dillashaw to defeat Raphael Assuncao by decision
170lbs – Johny Hendricks (17-4-0) vs Kelvin Gastelum (11-2-0)
Hendricks really needs this win. He missed weight albeit only by a quarter of a pound, but still, it doesn’t look good on him since he’s struggled so much with his weight in the past. He got outclassed in his last fight and if he loses here he goes right out of the title picture window. Gastelum has had his ups and downs as well, but is still growing into his own. He lost a close decision to a very tough opponent in Neil Magny in his last fight, but is looking better. His cardio has been a big knock on him and against Hendricks he can’t let his guard down. I think everything that Kelvin can do, Hendricks can do a little better, and if Johny shows up motivated to win here, he should be able to outwrestle and grind a decision win. My prediction is Johny Hendricks to defeat Kelvin Gastelum by decision
W135lbs – Cat Zingano (9-1-0) vs Juliana Pena (7-2-0)
After a long and understandable layoff, it’s good to see Zingano back in action. She’s one of the most exciting fighters in the division and is fighting a surging prospect in Pena. She made a critical mistake in rushing Rousey, and I’m sure she’s learned from that and will come back strong. Her gutsy and impressive wins over the two girls in the main event is really what put her on the map. She’s got a well-rounded skillset and is explosive and durable on top of that. Pena is a bright, young up and comer right now, and this will be the fight to put her right in contention for a potential title shot. Her ground game is her best weapon, she gets on top of girls and smothers them. Once she gets mount it’s pretty hard to get her off. Zingano is a big step up in competition though, and will test her. There’s no real big holes in Cat’s game and she’s tough to put away. She’s proven that she’s ready for a big test, and I think she’s capable of holding her own. I feel Zingano has more ways to win here though. If she can stuff the takedown, I think she’ll beat up Pena in the clinch and on the feet. I don’t think Pena will do well with such a high level fighter who can match her everywhere. My prediction is Cat Zingano to defeat Juliana Pena by decision
265lbs – Cain Velasquez (13-2-0) vs Travis Browne (18-3-1)
Here’s an important fight for both guys. Browne has always been that guy right at the top of the division, but loses the fights he needs to win. If he wins this, it’ll be the biggest of his career. Cain is still one of the toughest outs in the whole division. He puts on an incredible pace, tight boxing, and relentless wrestling. The only question is how his body can handle it at this point in his career. He’s had so many surgeries and injuries. This fight could be a measuring stick to where he’s heading. Skill wise, you have to take Cain all day. Browne is a great fighter in his own right, but his defense needs work, and he struggles against guys who are more technical than him. Cain needs to avoid the big shot, but I think once he starts putting his pace on Browne will struggle and succumb to the damage. My prediction is Cain Velasquez to defeat Travis Browne by TKO
145lbs – Jose Aldo (25-2-0) vs Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)
Maybe the toughest match up to pick on the card is right here. Two guys battling for the right to challenge McGregor. They both need to win this fight and have a lot to prove. Aldo is coming off that quick, devastating loss, so we don’t know what to expect going in. Edgar is on fire, the best he’s ever looked for sure. So as far as momentum going in, Edgar’s got the advantage. Interesting to note, their last fight was the opposite, Edgar coming off two loses and Aldo still on his crazy streak.
Their first fight was close, and they’ve both gotten better since then. Aldo is still quick and going to look to tear up Frankie’s leg again. Frankie has settled into featherweight, and is getting even better as he’s going. His wrestling, clinch and boxing are excellent, and up against Aldo’s muay thai, BJJ, and TDD, it’s an incredibly tough one to decide on. All I know is that it’ll be close, and every round will count. I think Frankie’s pace will give Aldo problems, especially if Jose comes in a little more tentative because of the clean KO. I think its Frankie’s time and he proves that here. My prediction is Frankie Edgar to defeat Jose Aldo by decision
205lbs – Daniel Cormier (17-1-0) vs Anderson Silva (33-7-0)
I’m glad that Cormer still gets to fight through all this madness, and it’s still a fun fight, but I think it’ll get ugly. Silva still has the ‘you never know what could happen’ factor, especially since Cormier has only had 2 days to plan for his style. Cormier is still going to be the bigger fighter, and most significantly, the better wrestler. His grinding, wrestling style is just going to overwhelm Silva. Obviously Daniel has to be careful of a crafty submission or a counter coming in, but I think if he fights smart, he’ll get it done handily. My prediction is Daniel Cormier to defeat Anderson Silva by TKO
265lbs – Brock Lesnar (5-3-0) vs Mark Hunt (12-10-1)
This is an extremely fun fight, I’ll admit. It’s fun because it’s tough to say what will happen for sure, and there’s plenty of ways it could end, all seemingly consist of devastating fashion. Lesnar coming back after 4.5 years off is not good. Or maybe it is. For all we know Brock could come back a much healthier, conservative, smart fighter. I think Hunt’s improved a lot more in that time than Brock could have though. It’s the well-rounded and technical fighters that seems to beat Hunt though, which Lesnar has shown to not be so much of. He is pretty wild, rushes in often, and doesn’t set up his shot particularly well. That plays right into Hunt’s strengths. It’s possible he gets it to the ground and beats Hunt up, but I don’t think it’ll take too many shots to put Lesnar away here. My prediction is Mark Hunt to defeat Brock Lesnar by TKO
W135lbs – Miesha Tate (18-5-0) vs Amanda Nunes (12-4-0)
Now the only champ defending her belt on this card, Tate gets the headlining spot. This isn’t an easy match up for her by any means. Nunes has big power, great BJJ, and a solid all-around game. Her knock has always been her cardio though. She tends to slow down significantly later in the fight. Tate also has a very well rounded game. I think the difference is that Tate does everything a little bit better, and can maintain a pressuring pace throughout the fight. Tate is also so tough, that if she does get tagged early, I don’t see her going down. It usually takes an accumulation of damage to take her out. I think Meisha is as motivated as ever, and comes in and fights smart, wearing down Nunes for an eventual TKO finish. My prediction is Meisha Tate to defeat Amanda Nunes by TKO
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Fight Pass Prelims
170lbs – Omari Akhmedov (15-3-0) vs Elizeu Zaleski (14-5-0)
This fight is a pretty solid one to start off the card. Both of them are hulking bruisers who have ground skills, but prefer to throw hands with their opponent. Akhmedov is a well-rounded fighter, but seems to lack any big standout skill that separates him from the top tier. He starts a furious pace and has fight changing power, but struggles to keep a consistent pace and I feel that could be a big detriment to him in this one. Zaleski impressed me in his debut despite being on the wrong side of a close decision loss. He has big knockout power in all of his limbs and the majority of his wins have been by knockout. His grappling is good, but his wrestling defense is still a question mark as he consistently outlanded his opponent in his debut but struggled to stay on the feet and keep his back off the cage.
Zaleski has solid cardio and I think his ability to carry his power late will pay off big against Akhmedov. As the fight progresses, I don’t see Akhmedov having the same success with his wrestling and he doesn’t have the cardio to maintain a consistent attack for all three rounds. Plus, Zaleski has shown to be very durable in the past while Akhmedov was hurt badly in his debut before coming back, got dropped by Nelson before getting submitted, and got knocked out by a fighter who specializes on the mat last time out.
Akhmedov should look good early, but he’ll struggle to finish Zaleski early and the later this fight goes the more it favors Zaleski. I think he’ll either take the later rounds or land something big on Ahkmedov once his starts to tire. Prediction: Zaleski via TKO
185lbs – Cezar Ferreira (8-5-0) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-1-0)
Skill-wise, Ferreira is a pretty consistent and well rounded fighter. He has Capoeira background where he can be a solid range kickboxer, along with a dangerous and opportunistic submission game. However, I’m still expecting him to get starched here.
Ferreira has zero sense of defense on the feet to go along with one of the worst chins I’ve seen in a long time. Not something you want especially when facing a brickhouse like Bamgbose. I like Bamgbose a lot and he’s someone I expect to improve rapidly from fight to fight. His awkward but extremely powerful striking acumen should give Ferreira big problems here.
If this fight can get out of the first, things could get interesting. But I can’t see it. Bamgbose gets another highlight reel finish early in the fight and gives the Brazilian his 4th loss by knockout in his last 5 fights. Prediction: Bamgbose via TKO
170lbs – Randy Brown (7-0-0) vs Mike Graves (5-0-0)
This matchup makes a lot of sense from match making perspective. It’s between two skilled but inexperienced fights with different skill sets. Brown is massive for the division and is as dangerous of a finisher in the clinch as he is on the feet. Graves is only 25 and trains at ATT, so im expecting improvements from fight to fight. He can strike, but his main point of attack will likely be his wrestling here against Brown.
Brown showed that he can hold his own on the ground in his debut, but that was against Dwyer, someone who you will definitely not mistake for a dominating wrestler. Graves is very durable on the feet and competed very close with the wrestling powerhouse who was Kamuru Usman on the show. This will be the first solid wrester Brown has faced in his career.
The reach of Brown is a big advantage, but it will be nulled if he can’t stay on the feet. Graves snags a late finish in a scramble late in the fight, but it will be very competitive. Prediction: Graves via Submission
135lbs – John Dodson (17-7-0) vs Manny Gamburyan (15-8-0)
It’s pretty obvious Dodson is the choice here. He’s faster, a more powerful striker, and Manny simply doesn’t have a dynamic enough wrestling game to stifle Dodson. The only thing I’ll get to far into is to where Dodson is now as a fighter. Fighters start to decline earlier as the weight classes get smaller and Dodson has been fighting for 14 years. Dodson drastically depends on his athleticism and on being the more dynamic fighter. I have a feeling that Dodson is at that point where we will begin to see a drop off both of those.
However, this is not a fight that im concerned about it happening in this one. I don’t think Dodson will melt Manny in the first like I’ve heard from some, but it will still be a clear victory. Prediction: Dodson via Decision
170lbs – Court McGee (17-4-0) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (21-3-0)
Heres a very difficult fight to both analyze and pick a winner here. On one hand, you have a high output low power boxer-wrestler with fantastic cardio in McGee. On the other, you have an aggressive striker with fight ending power in both of his hands.
It will be interesting to see who can dictate the pace and control the center of the octagon. While Santiago doesn’t tire easily, the fact that he throws a hundred percent into almost every one of his strikes and McGee is stupidly durable gives me pause about taking him. McGees wrestling isn’t dominating but his offense is proactive enough to where it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
I expect some scary moments early for McGee, but I think he’ll stick around and his offense won’t let Santiago pressure him against the fence where he’s most dangerous. It will be a close, possibly split decision either way, but ill side with McGee. Prediction: McGee via Decision
W135lbs – Bethe Correia (9-1-0) vs Raquel Pennington (6-5-0)
In short, I think Correia is overrated and had an incredibly easy run to the title against Duke and Baszler (lol). Pennington isn’t a marvel of consistency or perfect technique, but she’s a improved her striking and has turned into a very good opportunistic submission grappler. If Correia can make this a primarily boxing matchup she can win, but Pennington has too many avenues for victory here. Predcition: Pennington via Submission
155lbs – Mike Chiesa (13-2-0) vs Beneil Dariush (12-1-0)
The prelim headliner is one of my favorite fights on the card. Chiesa looked great last time out in choking out black belt ace Jim Miller and Dariush held his own on the feet against Johnson, one of the division’s best pure boxers.
The more I look at this fight, I see Dariush edge Chiesa in almost every category. He’s the better striker, his ground game is positionally and defensively superior to Chiesa’s, and Dariush’s takedown defense is incredibly solid. The one advantage I’d have to give Chiesa is his durability and his aggression. If he’s able to pressure Dariush and either make him uncomfortable or hit him with something fight changing, it could put the fight in his favor.
However, that will be much easier said than done. Chiesas’s very physically strong, but Chiesa gets most of his takedwons in the clinch where Dariush is very strong and Dariush’s shorter stature will make it even harder for him to take him down. Chiesa will be game, but I expect Dariush to barely edge him everywhere. Prediction: Dariush via Decision
145lbs – Cub Swanson (21-7-0) vs Hacran Dias (23-3-1)
Prediction: Swanson via Decision
160lbs – Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0-0) vs Darrell Horcher (12-1-0)
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via Submission
115lbs – Tecia Torres (7-0-0) vs Rose Namajunas (4-2-0)
This fight has now be promoted to the co-main event, where it’s probably belonged this whole time. Torre’s won the first fight, but both of the two have grown tremendously since their last fight. The winner of this fight could likely face the winner of Joanna/Gadelha, so this is a very important fight for each fighter.
Both of them are very different fighters. Namajunas is dangerous and a finisher everywhere. Her grappling is arguably the most dangerous in her division and she overcomes some of her technical flaws with overwhelming aggression. Torres on the other hand, is a very competent kickboxer with a functional wrestling game. She’ll struggles to finish fights though, as all of her wins have come by decision.
Torres is likely still the better wrestler, but Namajunas grappling is on a level to where that will probably nullify that advantage. On the feet its very close, but I think the aggression will eventually overwhelm Torres. Namajunas has just seemed to grow more as a fighter ever since their first fight and get revenge from the first fight.
Prediction: Namajunas via Submission
205lbs – Glover Teixeira (24-4-0) vs Rashad Evans (19-4-1)
When I first saw the announcement of this fight, I thought Texeira would win easily. Evans just simply looked noticeably weaker in his last fight against Bader and Teixeira is starting to look to regain the form he has win he was on his lengthy winning streak.
Now? Not so sure.
Evans last fight was his first one back in 2 years. Its hard to know where he’s at. If the Evans shows up that dominated Phil Davis and finished Chael Sonnen, then I think he could definitely beat up Glover on the mat and score a convincing win. But if the same fighter who fought Bader shows up here, I think Rashads in for a long night.
Glover has scored two straight wins over the likes of OSP and Cummings after getting dominated by both Jones and Davis. His striking will definitely be a point of focus here against Evans, but that will depend on where his wrestling defense is.
This has been a very difficult fight to pick. Evans has the wrestling to stifle Glover and has a pretty specific gameplan laid out to him by Glover’s previous opponents. I think that Evans will show up looking noticeably better than when he fought Bader. His inactivity as of late makes this an even fight, but I expect Rashad to use his wrestling to take this fight on the scorecards. Prediction: Evans via Decision