UFC 200 Prelim Predictions

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205lbs- Daniel Cormier (17-1-0) vs Anderson Silva (33-7-0)

After the disastrous Jon Jones announcement, Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was left without an opponent. While several notable fighters offered to face ‘DC’, former Middleweight King Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva stepped up on 3-days notice to take on ‘DC’ in a non-title fight. Cormier has won back to back fights over Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, rebounding from his title fight defeat to Jones. Silva is winless over his last 4 fights after having his lone victory in that span wiped out for a failed drug test- he last fought and lost to Michael Bisping in February.

Silva is 3 inches taller than Cormier and will have a 5″ reach advantage. ‘The Spider’ is 4-years older than Cormier.

Silva returns to action following gallbladder surgery that cost him his UFC 198 bout with Uriah Hall. In addition to taking this fight on incredibly short notice, he has also openly stated that he hasn’t train much since his surgery. That statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Anderson had previously been campaigning for a UFC 200 return before the card was officially finalized. Silva is an elite and enigmatic fighter. He possesses lethal Muay Thai skills and an underrated grappling game. His striking attack is based largely on speed, timing, and the ability to force his opponent to hesitate. Anderson likes to open his fights by gauging the distance and cadence of his opponent before engaging. Unfortunately, what made Silva so effective is also playing a role in his recent struggles. As Silva gets older he has lost a step and as a result, an offense and defense that hinges so heavily on timing isn’t quite as effective. Bisping had success outworking Silva and capitalizing on Anderson’s willingness to sit back and counter. Even after Anderson hurt the Brit badly, he lacked the consistent output to capitalize. There is also the issue of his defensive wrestling. Dan Henderson laid the ground work that was followed by Chael Sonnen, and then incorporated into Chris Weidman’s victories over Silva. While Anderson can do damage in the clinch and attack off his back, wrestlers have a clear avenue for success.

Over his last 10-rounds of competition, Silva has landed 183 significant strikes- but he has also given up a career-worst 77 and 108 strikes against Nick Diaz and Bisping respectively.

Cormier will have to overcome the length advantages presented by his new opponent, but they are not nearly as significant as what his previous foe presented. Cormier’s wrestling and short range fighting have been at the forefront of his offensive attack. Coming from an elite wrestling background, ‘DC’ has taken down each of his last 4 opponents, picking up 8 takedown in that span. While the significance of his completion against Jones was minimal, he wore out ‘Rumble’ Johnson on the mat and absolutely manhandled former Middleweight Dan Henderson prior to submitting both. Cormier uses his lower stature to get below his opponent’s base and elevate them before driving them to the mat. Once on top, he is hard to shake off. In close range, Cormier will use the collar tie to control his opponent and land short punches. He cracked Gustafsson on multiple occasions with successive uppercuts in close. ‘DC’ will also change levels in the clinch after striking to look for a takedown. When on the outside, Cormier isn’t nearly as effective. As a Heavyweight, he utilized a speed advantage to cover distance and land strikes. Both Gustafsson and Jones were able to limit his success when he wasn’t attacking at phone-booth range by forcing him to pursue as they moved away.

Cormier landed a career best 140 strikes in his defense against Gustafsson. Jones has been the only fighter to get the better of Daniel on the feet, landing 34 more strikes than the former Olympian.

For Anderson, the circumstances surrounding this fight are anything but ideal. On the other side of the cage, Cormier has his own issues to deal with. The champ has been faced with an up and down rollercoaster of emotions. After months of preparation for a fight that would define his career, Cormier had that taken away from him and he may never get that opportunity again. If ‘DC’ never gets the chance to overcome Jones, his career will forever carry a massive ‘what if’. By beating Johnson, Gus, and even Anderson, it shows that he is elite- but the Jones loss will hang over him. In the cage, Silva’s counter striking is his key to success. He has to time and hit Cormier as he closes the distance- use Cormier’s momentum against him. When Cormier continues to move forward, Anderson needs to circle away and reset. For Cormier, he needs to lockdown Silva in the clinch, but not linger too long in the position to allow Silva to attack. Once on the inside, ‘DC’ has to change levels quickly and put Anderson on his back. Cormier is too proud a man to not come to fight, but will his head be in the game? Look for Anderson to use his speed and keep Cormier on the outside with kicks and long strikes. His ability to counter will make Daniel pay as he attempts to get on the inside. Once in the clinch, Silva will land knees and elbows and back Cormier off. While ‘DC’ has shown a stout chin in prior fights, Silva’s accuracy and timing will be the difference, Anderson Silva to defeat Daniel Cormier by TKO.

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 cat vs pena

135lbs- #3 CAT ZINGANO (9-1-0) vs #5 JULIANNA PENA (8-2-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard the next contender for the Women’s Bantamweight title could be crowned as former challenger Cat ‘Alpha’ Zingano meets ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ Julianna Pena. Zingano’s last fight was a 14-second loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184 for the title. Pena has won 3 consecutive bouts including her TUF 18 tournament finals win- she is coming off a victory over Jessica Eye.

Both girls have endured significant periods of inactivity. Pena missed all of 2014 before returning for a pair of fights last year. Cat hasn’t fought in 17-months since the Rousey loss and had an 18-month layoff earlier in her UFC career. Both girls are 5’6″, while Pena will have a slight 1″ reach advantage and is 7 years younger.

Pena has been dominant in her rise up the ranks. She picked up a pair of opening round TKO stoppages in her first 2 UFC wins, significantly shutting down her opponents with her aggressive forward pressure and top game. In a pair of one-side fights, Pena landed a combined 70 significant strikes to just 4. Her primary objective is to bully her opponent in the clinch, put them on the mat, and pound away from top position. Against Eye, Pena came out aggressively looking to close the distance behind her punches and clinch up. Before she could get on the inside she ate some big shots. Pena’s striking is still a work in progress. She will swing wild punches while leaving her head exposed and guard open. Once she got on the inside against Eye, she struggled to control the position, but was eventually able to the get the fight to the mat. Julianna will use a body lock or underhooks to control her opponent and then work a trip to complete the takedown. Pena’s constant pursuit of closing the distance did cost her as well, with Eye capitalizing on a mistake to control the majority of round 2 from top position.

Pena needed 3 wins to get to the TUF finals, including submissions of Shayna Baszler and Sarah Moras- who defeated Pena in 2012.

Resiliency has been the key to the run of Zigano and it will be put to the test again. ‘Alpha’ has been a bit of a slow starter in her UFC run. Both Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes were getting the better of the early action against Cat and had her in some tough spots. In both scenarios, Zingano was able to rally and finish both girls. Unfortunately, her title fight played out in a manner that prevented her from coming back from her early deficit. Cat comes from a wrestling background and is a BJJ Purple belt. Despite her ground fighting pedigree, she gave up 4 takedowns over her 2 wins and spent a prolonged amount of time on her back. She has an active gaurd, but she will forgo defense and eat big shots while looking for subs or sweeps. From top position, she can do a lot of damage with short punches and elbows and will jump on a sub attempt if given the chance. Equally as devastating from the clinch; Cat smashed Tate with brutal knees leading to the finish. Her striking is decent, but similar to her grappling, her defense suffers in the wake of her constant pursuit of the attack.

Zingano has stopped 8 of her 9 wins, but only 2 in the opening round compared to the remaining 6 transpiring after the midway mark of round 2.

Zingano is facing a couple of tough scenarios prior to stepping into the cage. The layoff is significant by itself, but she is also coming back after a title fight loss which can be an incredibly difficult scenario to overcome. That being said, the current champion and UFC 200 title challenger are both fighters she has defeated which can serve as a motivator to get back into contention. She is also coming off the first loss of her career, which can also push a fighter to improve. Pena is still a work in progress and it showed against Eye. While she got her hand raised, she wasn’t nearly as dominant as she had been against lower level opposition. Pena struggled to land takedowns, gave up position, and left a lot of openings on the feet. While Zigano has proven susceptible to being put on her back, she has the grappling chops to exploit the lapses that Pena presents. Additionally, look for Cat to find a lot of success in the clinch. Pena had trouble controlling Eye on the wall and if Zingano can open up with short range strikes and knees she will do a lot of damage. Cat will need to weather the early storm, but she will pounce on the first mistake made by Julianna and take control of the fight- my prediction is Cat Zingano to defeat Julianna Pena by TKO.

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hendricks vs gastelum

170lbs- #6 JOHNY HENDRICKS (17-4-0 vs #12 KELVIN GASTELUM (12-2-0)

In a marquee Welterweight showdown, former Welterweight champion Johny ‘Big Rigg’ Hendricks takes on TUF 17 tournament winner Kelvin Gastelum. Hendricks is coming off a disappointing defeat against top-ranked Stephen Thompson, he has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights. Gastelum dropped a closely contested bout against Neil Magny, he has now lost 2 of his last 3- both by split decision.

Both men are 5’9″, but Gastelum will have a slight 2″ reach advantage and is 8 years younger.

Kelvin is taking his second fight back at Welterweight after a temporary exile to the 185-pound division for weight cutting issues. After an improbable run to the TUF tournament title, Gastelum has compiled a 6-2 Octagon record. Overall, he has finished 8 opponents split evenly between knockouts and submissions. At distance, he throws a decent body kick and will also attack with hard inside leg kicks. He will paw with his right hand and fire a straight left or hook. Kelvin was getting hit with some big shots against Magny mainly because he was moving straight back when under attack. Gastelum does his best work in close, pushing forward behind his punches and continuing to attack once on the inside. Magny did find success in close attacking and then dropping for a single leg. Once on the mat, Gastelum lost the majority of the scrambles and was getting badly out positioned. He was taken down 6 times and has been put on his back 11 times overall.

Kelvin’s gas tank can be both an asset and a liability. Gastelum can push a pace that is difficult to match, but he has also had issues with his endurance when pushed or if impacted by a poor weight cut.

Hendricks’s ascension to the championship was swift, but he could be a loss away from being a non-factor in the title scene. ‘Big Rigg’ has significant power, recording 8 wins by knockout, but his last came at UFC 154 back in 2012. Despite his lack of recent knockouts, Johnny has developed a much more technical striking attack. He will throw slick multi-punch combinations in the pocket and batter his opponent with chopping leg kicks. In his 2 fight series with Robbie Lawler, he landed a combined 269 strikes and connected on 85 significant blows against GSP. Against Thompson, Hendricks seemed befuddled with the distance and varied striking attack. Johny’s other big weapon is his wrestling. An elite NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Hendricks has averaged 4.36 takedowns at a 47% completion rate. Prior to the Thompson defeat, he had completed 30 takedowns over 5-fights. Once Hendricks is able to change levels and get underneath his opponent’s base his TDAs are very difficult to stop. On top, he is a grinder and will pound away with GNP, but he has also had issues with inactivity once he begins to tire. He gets a lot of his takedowns along the cage, elevating his opponent for a big slam.

Johny’s weight cutting issues and questionable cardio are also well documented and most likely cost him his title against Lawler.

These two fighters share a lot of similarities, but Hendricks has fought the superior competition and comes from the better combat background. If Kelvin can return to form with his cardio and pressure Johny from the onset of the fight, he could wear him down and distance himself in the second half of the fight. For Hendricks, most of his glaring cardio issues have come in 5-round fights. Gastelum has struggled defensively against fighters looking to take him down. Magny took him down multiple times and Kelvin did not look comfortable off of his back. If Hendricks is able to establish his wrestling, he will be able to grind out the majority of the time in top position. On the feet, Gastelum doesn’t set up his strikes enough and fights at a range where he can be hit with regularity. Hendricks has too much power and pairs his techniques together too well for Kelvin to sit and trade with him. Look for Johny to shoot early and force Gastelum to focus on defending the shot, this will create openings for Hendricks’s to attack on the feet- my prediction is Johnny Hendricks to defeat Kelvin Gastelum by knockout.

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assuncao vs dillashaw

135lbs- #1 TJ DILLASHAW (12-3-0) vs #3 RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO (23-4-0)

Former Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao will battle it out in a rematch from their 2013 bout in which the Brazilian took a narrow split decision. TJ is coming off his title fight loss against Dominick Cruz, ending his 4-fight winning streak. Assuncao last defeated Bryan Caraway and has won 7 consecutive bouts to remain undefeated as a Bantamweight.

TJ is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage. The Brazilian is 4-years younger and has not competed in 21-months.

Assuncao has been on an impressive run since cutting to 135 pounds, but his lack of recent activity has made him a non-factor in the title picture. Not surprisingly, the grappling game of Raphael has played a big role in his success. A BJJ black belt, with 10 wins by sub- over his last 4 fights he has landed 8 takedowns and scored 11 completions since cutting to Bantamweight. That said, his takedown stats aren’t overwhelming and he tends to generate a lot of his top position time from scrambles. In the Dillashaw fight, he was shutout attempting to get the fight to the ground going 0 for 6 while TJ landed a pair of his shots. Dillashaw also took Assuncao’s back and came close on a couple of RNC attempts. On the feet, the Brazilian is a reactive striker looking to sit back and counter. He has some pop in his hands and throws with surprising volume. He has landed 175 strikes over his last 2 appearances. After a bit of a slow start, he bloodied Dillashaw’s nose and found his best success when he sat down on his punches and traded in the pocket.

Assuncao has landed more strikes than his adversary in 9 straight fights dating back to his final WEC appearance.

Despite the loss, Dillashaw really grew after the Assuncao fight. He rapidly developed as a striker, integrating improved footwork and fluid movement into his attack. He attacks from a variety of angles and will switch stances. Tossing out a lead uppercut, he builds his offense around a stiff right jab and hook. Dillashaw will go high with a well-disguised head kick and will also chop away at his opponent’s legs. TJ has power, stopping 6 fights by knockout, but it is his volume that makes him most effective. He simply wore out Renan Barao in their two meetings and has eclipsed the 100 significant strikes plateau in 5 straight bouts. Against Cruz, he landed 109 significant strikes. Cruz has not given up that much offense in any 2 fights combined over his UFC/WEC career. Despite his movement, Dillashaw does have a tendency to attack in linear patterns- stopping his motion to come forward. Assuncao had his most success on the feet when he forced TJ to exchange at close range, but TJ has drastically overhauled his style. Dillashaw is also a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and has sound offensive and defensive wrestling to compliment his striking attack.

Dillashaw’s growth as a striker has resulted in a drop off in takedowns, landing just 3 over his last 4 fights compared to 12 over the 6 bouts prior. His defense is still there, defending 86% of his opponents’ attempts.

A lot has transpired since these two fighters met in a very closely contested decision. While Assuncao has struggled to remain active, TJ has improved significantly and done it against better competition. TJ slowed down in rounds 2 and 3, which really opened the door for Assuncao to do damage with his strikes. Raphael’s willingness to sit back and try to counter his opponent will not bode well against the movement of Dillashaw. In doing this, he relinquishes the center of the cage, backs up, and lets his foe dictate the pace.While he will find success landing some offense, he lacks the power to overcome the constant forward pressure and volume that Dillashaw will throw at him. The lack of success that Assuncao had with his takedowns last time out will continue here. The improved movement of Dillashaw will make it hard for Assuncao to close the distance. While TJ could suffer from the effects of a post-title fight letdown, the layoff for the Brazilian won’t do him any favours either. Dillashaw will shuck off early TDAs and land with power, picking up the pace as the fight progress and Assuncao slows down- my prediction is TJ Dillashaw to defeat Raphael Assuncao by TKO.

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northcutt vs Marin

155lbs- SAGE NORTHCUTT (7-1-0) vs ENRIQUE MARIN (9-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt looks to rebound when he takes on TUF Latin America 2 Finalist Enrique ‘Wasabi’ Marin. Northcutt picked up back to back wins to start his UFC career, but was quickly dethroned from the ranks of the undefeated by Bryan Barberena last January. Marin’s 6-fight winning streak was ended in the TUF tournament finals via split decision against Erick Montano at UFN 78.

Northcutt is 10-years younger than Marin and will stand 2 inches taller, but Marin will have a 3″ reach advantage. Marin fought in the Welterweight bracket, but is moving down to 155-pounds for this fight.

‘Super’ Sage stormed onto the UFC scene after getting noticed by Dana White on his latest Fight show. All 7 of his pro wins have come inside the distance, 4 by knockout and 3 by submission. Northcutt has finished 4 opponents in the opening round, 3 inside the first 60 seconds. In his loss to Barberena, he moved up a weight class to fight at 170 pounds after ‘Bam Bam’ stepped in as a late notice replacement. Sage has various combat accreditations, including a Black Belt in Taekwondo and BJJ purple belt. He is very quick, using good footwork and distance management. Look for him to utilize a variety of kicking techniques and rapid straight punching combos. He landed a solid right hand early that stumbled Barberena and tagged him several times. But every time Sage closed the gap to follow-up,  Bryan would jam him up in the clinch. His takedown game is decent, setting up his level change with his strikes. From top position his ground and pound is vicious, hammering away with big elbows. Conversely, his defensive grappling has been a glaring vulnerability. Cody Pfister took him down early and Sage had to rely on a ref stand-up to get back to his feet. While Barberena grabbed top position in the second round, eventually picking up the submission win.

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Sage’s training and preparation. He has worked with various camps and competitors, but there are constant reports about the negative influence of his father on his camp.

Fighting out of Spain, Marin has been a self-built man, training himself when at home. Since his time on the Ultimate Fighter, he has joined King’s MMA to work alongside the growing stable of elite fighters in their camp. All 5 of Marin’s career finishes have come by submission along with his TUF semi-final win, but he has also been submitted twice. ‘Wasabi’ is 2-1 on the scorecards after dropping his debut. He struggled to match the output of his opponent, especially in the second half where he maintained good pressure but didn’t let his hands go. Training out King’s MMA, look for a noticeable improvement in his combination striking for this fight. He will throw a solid straight right, left hook combo and a sneaky uppercut, augmenting his hands with some decent low kicks. As his record suggests, he is a serviceable grappler, but his wrestling has been a defensive concern. Montano was able to pick up a pair of key takedowns to help him score crucial points. Prior to his debut, Enrique had only gone to the 3rd round twice in his career and his output noticeably dropped off in the second half of the fight.

Prior to entering the TUF House, Marin spent his career competing in Europe against lower level and relatively inexperienced regional competition with his last 4 foes holding a combined record of 12-14.

A lot of the shine rubbed off of Northcutt based on his last performance. He looked good early, started to fade, and then tapped quickly to a submission that was still in its infancy. Prior to the loss, Pfister helped to show signs of a defensive grappling weakness in Sage’s game. While Marin is a capable ground fighter, he hasn’t shown the wrestling needed to put Northcutt on his back. Sage has a pretty stout top game and can do a lot of damage from the position, so pulling guard would be a less than desirable option for the Spaniard. On the feet, Northcutt offers a much more diversified arsenal and has the marked power advantage. He should also be able to dictate the range as the faster and more fluid striker. Marin represents a step back in quality of competition for Sage, who should come out motivated to get back in the win column after a disappointing loss. Northcutt will dominate the exchanges on the feet and force Marin to make desperate attempts to get the fight to the mat where Northcutt will gain a superior position, my prediction is Sage Northcutt to defeat Enrique Marin by TKO.

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Sanchez vs Lauzon

155lbs- DIEGO SANCHEZ (28-8-0) vs JOE LAUZON (24-12-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass prelims, Diego ‘The Nightmare’ Sanchez battles Massachusetts-native Joe ‘J-Lau’ Lauzon in the Lightweight division. Sanchez picked up a much-needed win over Jim Miller at UFC 196, but he has just 3 wins over his last 7 fights. Lauzon is coming off a tough loss to Evan Dunham, he had won 3 of his last 4 bouts prior to the setback.

Both fighters are 5’10”, but Sanchez will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Lauzon is the younger man by 3 years.

The owner of 12 UFC Fight bonuses, Lauzon is known for his exciting style. A BJJ Brown belt, ‘J-Lau’ has a submission heavy win total- recording 18 of his 25 wins by tap out. He has a wide variety of fight ending techniques on his resume, but his last submission victory came back in 2012 over Jamie Varner. Lauzon’s wrestling numbers are respectable with 2.34 takedowns per fight at a 41% completion rate. Once on the ground, Joe is very active in pursuit of the submission and will attack off his back as well. His ability to get the fight to the mat is essential to his success. Lauzon is 0-6 in last 6 bouts when he is unable to complete a takedown- including his decision loss to Dunham. On the feet, Joe is capable of holding his own, but he has also struggled tremendously with technically sound strikers that can carry a consistent pace. Lauzon is 2-5 when his opponent eclipses the 50 significant strikes horizon and in those 2 victories he required 5 takedowns to counter-balance the vertical exchanges.

Joe has been finished 7-times in his career and is 1-4 on the scorecards which could be partially attributed to -2.47 striking exchange rate.

The TUF 1 Middleweight tournament winner and owner of 7 bonus cheques, Sanchez has bounced around between multiple weight classes, but appears best suited for 155 pounds. Diego is an aggressive fighter with a strong gas tank and impressive durability. He likes to utilize constant pressure in an attempt to break his adversary over 3-rounds. Diego will lead with an uppercut and change levels to target the body. Most notably in the Guida and Melendez bouts, he has shown he is more than willing to step into the pocket and exchange violent flurries. Where he has struggled has been against fighters that maintained a disciplined front to counter his forward push. Sanchez can be quite predictable when attacking in straight lines. His ground game is solid and he found a lot of success taking Jim Miller down and controlling top position. With a solid double leg, Diego will drive through his opponent’s hips and has picked up 7 takedowns over his last 5 wins. Once he was able to posture up against Miller, he landed some decent ground and pound.

Sanchez has been out-landed in 8 consecutive appearances, but in his 4 victories the average differential has been -17 significant strikes compared to a -34 difference in his 4 defeats. He is able to overcome the deficit in his wins with his aggression.

Lauzon’s finishing abilities are impressive, but is inability to carry his pace from bell to bell without a drop off in performance has been his undoing. Sanchez has been finished just once in his career and it was due to a cut- he is not easy to put away. If Joe can work his way into a position to lock up a sub, he can finish anyone- but getting there against Deigo will be tough. Additionally, Sanchez will get stronger as the fight progresses and the impact of his pace will take a lot out of Joe. Sanchez has decent counter wrestling and Lauzon will struggle to land his all-important takedowns. Sanchez’s size and strength in top position both shut down the grappling of Miller and appeared to wear Jim down. If Joe can’t score an early finish and his takedowns aren’t there, he won’t be able to put up the needed striking totals to overcome Sanchez on the feet. As Diego picks up the pace, Joe will slow down and find it harder to fend off the forward pressure and takedowns of ‘The Nightmare’- my prediction is Diego Sanchez to defeat Joe Lauzon by decision.

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Mousasi vs Santos

185lbs- #8 GEGARD MOUSASI (38-6-2) vs #15 THIAGO SANTOS (13-3-0)

The second fight on the undercard features former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi squaring off with Brazil’s Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos in the Middleweight division. Mousasi is coming off of a decision victory over Thales Leites and has lost just once over his last 4 outings. Santos has surged into the rankings, winning 4 consecutive fights including a knockout of Nate Marquardt and an upset decision over Elias Theodorou.

Santos is replacing the injured Derek Brunson with a couple of weeks to prep for the bout. Mousasi is 2 inches taller, but they share an identical 76″ reach. The Strikeforce alumni is 1 year younger.

Santos has been on an absolute tear of late, winning a trio of fights by knockout to push his career total to 8. His most dangerous offense comes in the form of kicks; taking out Steve Bosse with a vicious head kick and stopping his first 2 UFC wins with kicks to the body. He does an excellent job of setting up his leg techniques by attacking up and down the body and forcing his opponent to defend all areas. His left leg produces the majority of his stopping power and he will switch stance to attack from the left side, which can telegraph his offense. In his win over Theodorou, ‘Marreta’ successfully defended the Canadian’s TDAs and busted him up with knees and elbows from the clinch. Thiago has averaged 3.76 SLpM compared to just 2.15 SApM. Santos effectively cut off the cage and stopped Marquardt with his hands, landing several big lefts- but his boxing is a secondary aspect of his offensive attack. His punching technique isn’t nearly as crisp as his kicks and when under attack he will lift his chin and open his guard.

Santos is a BJJ purple belt, but was submitted in his UFC debut. He has defended 85% of his foes’ TDAs, giving up just 2 takedowns over 7-fights.

Drawing on a wealth of experience, 46 career fights, Mousasi has finished 19 opponents by knockout and 12 more by submission. His 2015 loss to Uriah Hall was shocking to say the least, with Gegard dominating the opening round on the mat before suffering the first knockout loss of his career in the second round. A BJJ Black belt, Mousasi has shown himself capable of using his ground skills to win fights. He took decisions wins over both Costa Philippou and Ovince St. Preux on the strength of 4 takedowns and prolonged top control. Known more for his striking, Mousasi can be equally devastating as frustrating. He has finishing power, but will also work a distance management approach that nullifies his opponent’s offense and averages just 1.18 SApM. Leading with a long left jab, Mousasi will routinely fire it out to maintain distance and then come with a power right hook. He has been too complacent at times and would benefit from an increase in pace and throwing more combinations.

Mousasi is coming off a career-best 81 significant strikes landed and over his last 2 victories he has out-landed his opponents by a count of 137 to 26.

While this fight could very well be decided on the feet, Mousasi’s recent fight history suggests otherwise. Against a pair of striking oriented fighters in Hall and Philippou, Gegard came out looking for takedowns from the onset. He has good top pressure, solid submission defense, and knows how to finish on the floor. By taking Santos down, he will negate the biggest weapon in the Brazilian’s arsenal.  Santos’s TDD has been decent, but Mousasi’s grappling will put it to the test. On the feet, Thiago tends to be a bit of a slow starter. He was hesitant to engage Hall and let Elias put a lot of strikes together early. Against the power threat and stout defensive front of Mousasi, Santos can’t afford to get behind early. Thiago’s kicking offense is dangerous, but short of a knockout, he won’t be able to offer enough offense to keep up. Look for Mousasi to keep Thiago on the outside with his jab, counter strike when he attempts to move forward, and score some key takedowns and top control time- my prediction is Gegard Mousasi to defeat Thiago Santos by decision.

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Miller vs Gomi
155lbs- JIM MILLER (25-8-0 1NC) vs TAKANORI GOMI (35-11-0 1NC)

To raise the curtain on the monumental UFC 200 pay-per-view event, long-time Lightweight contender Jim Miller takes on Japanese star ‘The Fireball Kid’ Takanori Gomi. Gomi is coming off back to back losses to Joe Lauzon and Myles Jury- his last win came at UFC 172. Miller has also struggled recently, with his only victory in his last 5-bouts coming over Danny Castillo- he has lost 2 in a row.

Miller is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage over Gomi. The New Jersey native is the younger man by 5 years. Gomi last competed a year ago, on the same card as Miller- Jim has fought twice since Takanori last entered the cage.

One of 3 fighters on the card to have competed at UFC 100, Miller is closing in on the end of his career. He has fought top level competition throughout his UFC run, but has struggled in recent outings. Against Diego Sanchez, Miller couldn’t match the strength of Sanchez on the mat and was unable to keep up with his cardio late in the fight. At his best, Miller is a crafty submission fighter, recording 13 wins by submission- 6 in the UFC. An opportunistic grappler, Miller isn’t afraid to dive on a limb or neck in pursuit of a finish. This can result in a negative gain and positional loss if he is unable to lock up the sub. He has a decent striking game, highlighted by well-placed low kicks- primarily targeting the inside leg to compromise his adversary’s balance. Miller is a capable counter striker as well and found success tagging  Diego with quick counters as he came forward.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Miller has either won or tied the takedown battle in each of his last 7 wins, but has given up 11 takedowns over his last 4 losses and defeat turned NC versus Pat Healy.

The vaunted power of Gomi has resulted in 13-career knockout wins, but just 2 during his UFC tenure. Conversely, he is coming off back to back TKO defeats- the first of his career. Gomi is an unorthodox striker, pawing with his jab and loading up his power right hand. He will also attack the body with a hard left hook to liver. Gomi is a decent counter striker as well and can punch while moving backward. He doesn’t utilize a tonne of kicks in his offense.  The JMMA star commits everything on his punches which creates power, but he loses some accuracy and can put himself off balance. He has had trouble with more technical strikers and his cardio will begin to falter as the fight advances. Wrestling hasn’t played a big role in Gomi’s offense. He has defended 65% of his opponents’ TDAs- Gomi has given up at least 1 takedown in 6 of his last 8 fights.

Gomi has been submitted 6-times in his career, 3 times in the UFC, and both his TKO losses came on the mat.

Both fighters are veterans and at this point in their careers they are set in their ways. Gomi will be looking to land with power and score the knockout. While Miller is durable, but he has recently been knocked out for the first time in his career. Gomi’s unorthodox style and big wind up will create openings for Miller to land counter strikes. Jim’s leg kicks should also help to keep Gomi from closing the distance with regularity. When Takanori loads up and throws his big right hand, Miller will also have the opportunity to change levels for a takedown. Jim will have a sizeable advantage on the mat, but will need to avoid giving up position. If the fight does reach the second half, look for Miller to be the better-conditioned fighter and find more success both on the feet and the mat. Miller will eventually get the fight to the mat and exploit the most significant weakness of his opponent- my prediction is Jim Miller to defeat Takanori Gomi by submission.

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