Main Card (PPV)
Amanda Nunes vs Ronda Rousey:
In our main event of the evening we have former women’s bantamweight champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey making her first trip to the Octagon since November of last year with the hopes of getting the title back from the current champion, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes. As odd as it is to think about, the last time that we saw Ronda Rousey compete was all the way back at UFC 193 where she suffered a shocking second round knockout loss to Holly Holm. Since that defeat, Rousey has, for the most part, remained out of the public eye over the past year which raised the question of whether or not she would ever compete again. However, after several months away from the spotlight, it was announced that Rousey would be receiving an immediate title shot upon her return, making it her first fight under the UFC banner where she will be the challenger, rather than the champion. Needless to say, there are many questions surrounding Rousey as she heads into this matchup. In her loss to Holm, there were several holes in Rousey’s game that were exposed. For one, while Ronda’s aggressive striking style has gained her wins in the past, such as her quick knockout victory over Bethe Correia prior to the Holm fight, it’s evident that her stand up is still in need of improvements if she hopes to be victorious over the better strikers in the division. In the Holm fight, Rousey’s aggression was constantly negated by her opponent’s counters, leading Ronda to not have an answer for her since she was unable to showcase her grappling. This leads to the next point being that while Rousey’s ground game is arguably the best in her weight class thanks to her Olympic Judo background, it’s possible that she has favored her striking too heavily which has led to her ignoring her biggest strength over her competition. On top of all of this, it’s still incredibly difficult to gauge what sort of mental state Rousey is at right now. It’s possible that she could return with a motivated mindset in order to get her title back, but it’s just as likely that she is still dwelling on her only loss and unfocused on the challenge ahead of her.
At the monumental UFC 200 card, Amanda Nunes shocked the world when she defeated Miesha Tate to win the belt. Nunes put on a striking clinic against her opponent, battering her on the feet, before eventually locking on a rear naked choke in the first round. That victory marked the fourth straight win for Nunes and proved that she is indeed one of the best fighters at 135 lbs. Nunes is quite dangerous both on the feet and on the ground. While standing, Nunes has good technical Muay Thai skills and solid power behind her strikes which she has showcased in practically all of her UFC fights thus far. On the ground, Nunes hold a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and she has proven how deadly she his with her submissions in her fights against Tate and Sara McMann. While Nunes is skilled everywhere, her main setback has always been her cardio. Nunes is known for starting off her fights with aggressive ambitions, though she almost always empties her gas tank by the third round which allows her opponents to take over when given the chance, as perfectly witnesses in her fight with Cat Zingano. Now that Nunes is the champion and will have the possibility of facing five rounds, she’ll definitely need to adjust her conditioning if she hopes to be a long lasting title holder.
This is an interesting fight given all of the variables surrounding it. The biggest question mark is simply where Rousey’s mind is at going into this challenge. If Rousey comes back focused, then this could be a good fight for her to regain the title. With that in mind, if Rousey is still dwelling on the Holm loss, something that could be speculated given her lengthy hiatus, then she will likely not appear as dominant as we’ve seen her before. If the fight stays standing, Nunes will more than likely get the better of Rousey. As mentioned before, Rousey can be overly aggressive on the feet which leads her open to being countered. If Rousey looks to close the distance too fast, then Nunes could very well catch her rushing in and finish her with strikes. If Rousey looks to utilize her Judo, then she will probably have the advantage, especially if the fight goes longer than the first two rounds. While Nunes’ grappling defense should help her avoid Rousey’s deadly armbar early on, there is a good chance that she’ll grow tired as the fight continues and her Jiu-Jitsu will not be as sharp. In this case, it would actually be wise if Nunes didn’t start off in her aggressive style and instead look to counter Rousey who will likely be looking to press forward, thus creating a similar fight to what Holly Holm was able to achieve. That being said, if Nunes pressures Rousey early on and looks to cut off the cage with her movement, it wouldn’t be shocking to see her capitalize on Ronda’s possible ring rust and score an early finish that way. However, the longer the fight goes, the more it will favor Rousey. We have only seen Ronda go into a third round once in her career, though her cardio appeared to hold up well especially compared to Nunes’ gas tank. Rousey would be smart to use a defense-heavy gameplan for the first two rounds and then begin to pick up the pace later on by implementing her grappling. If Rousey can pull this off, she will probably be able to weather the early storm, take Nunes into deep waters, and eventually lock on a submission.
Ronda Rousey via Submission (Round 3)
Dominick Cruz vs Cody Garbrandt:
In the co-main event we have bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz looking to defend his belt against Team Alpha Male contender Cody “No Love” Garbrandt. After a series of unfortunate injuries that plagued him from 2011-2014, some wondered whether or not Dominick Cruz would ever be the same world class fighter that he once was. Upon his return though, Cruz silenced the doubters by knocking out Takeya Mizugaki in just 61 seconds at UFC 178 and then went on to reclaim the title that was once stripped from him by defeating T.J. Dillashaw by split decision. Cruz most recently faced Urijah Faber in a rubber match at UFC 199 and scored a unanimous decision win with a dominant performance. Currently riding a 23-fight winning streak, Cruz has established himself as not only one of the pound for pound best fighters in the world today, but also as the best bantamweight to ever enter the UFC cage. What makes Cruz so slick is his unorthodox fighting style that seems to confuse practically everyone that he’s faced. Cruz is known for his constant movement, making him extremely difficult to hit, and his ability to dart in and out of his opponent’s range in order to tag them before getting hit himself. Along with his tricky striking, Cruz also possesses solid wrestling chops which allows him to take his opponents down when they are least expecting it since they are already attempting to figure out his stand up pattern. Now that Cruz is hopefully completely healthy, it’s time for him to continue his reign as the champion and cement his legacy as “The Dominator.”
With an unbeaten record of 10-0, Cody Garbrandt has made a huge splash in the UFC thanks to his fan friendly fighting style and brutal knockout power. Having won his last three fights all by way of first round stoppage, Garbrandt has dominated seemingly everyone that the promotion has put in front of him. Garbrandt has a fluid offensive style and can throw unpredictable strikes at any moment. On top of that, Garbrandt also has some wrestling experience and his grappling has shown to be fairly strong from the glimpses we’ve seen. “No Love” has proven power in his fists thanks to his background in boxing, as witnessed in his quick knockouts over the likes of Thomas Almeida and Takeya Mizugaki, sealing the deal that he is a solid prospect at 135 lbs, but this is without a doubt the toughest test of his career. Garbrandt has risen to the occasion several times already, but this will be his first top five opponent which will be no easy task.
While Garbrandt is a young up-and-comer with good potential, this is likely too big of a step up in competition for him. Garbrandt likes to stalk his opponents, cut angles, and eventually swarm them in hopes of landing one of his bombs. This will be challenging for Garbrandt to achieve though given Cruz’s active footwork. It wouldn’t be absolutely shocking of Garbrandt managed to land one of his power punches and score the finish, but it will be an immense challenge due to Cruz’s constant movement and his ability to fight at a comfortable distance. Also, Cruz has shown glimpses of power in some of his most recent bouts, so Garbrandt will also need to be careful to not leave his chin exposed while he is pursuing the knockout himself. Overall, Garbrandt is a good prospect and he could find himself in line for another title shot in the future, but Cruz will be too much for him as of now. The key difference, like many of Cruz’s fights, will be his tricky timing and movement. Expect Cruz to stay on the outside, keep Garbrandt guessing as to when he’ll attack next, and pick his shots wisely in order to out-point Garbrandt throughout the fight and win a justified decision.
Dominick Cruz via Unanimous Decision
T.J. Dillashaw vs John Lineker:
Up next we have a solid bantamweight scrap between former champ T.J. Dillashaw and rising contender John Lineker. After an impressive string of title fights from 2014-2015, T.J. Dillashaw came up short against Dominick Cruz back in January where he lost a razor thin split decision. Dillashaw successfully bounced back with a dominant decision victory over Rafael Assuncao at UFC 200, proving that he’s still one of the top contenders at 135 lbs. Dillashaw came into the sport as a wrestler but his striking has improved to the point where it is his strongest asset thanks to the help from Duane Ludwig. T.J. has fantastic movement which he uses to skip around his opponents and tag them with a wide array of strikes. This fluid stand up style has led to his flashy finishes of Renan Barao and Joe Soto. He also isn’t afraid to mix in his wrestling as well, scoring takedowns when his opponents are least expecting it, and once Dillashaw gains a dominant position he can be dangerous with his ground and pound. Dillashaw still appears to be hungry to get the belt back and if he gets his hand raised here, then he will likely move up to the number one contender position.
Since moving up to bantamweight, John “Hands of Stone” Lineker has gone 4-0 in the division and has picked up huge wins over the likes of Michael McDonald and John Dodson. Lineker truly lives up to his nickname because he packs some of the scariest power in his weight class. With 13 of his 29 wins being stoppages due to strikes, Lineker has proven that he can finish practically anyone when he connects cleanly with them. Lineker’s striking might not be too technical, though he is great at stalking his opponents, forcing them to engage in brawls, and finishing them with wild swarms of punches. Lineker also has some decent grappling abilities as well. With a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Lineker can hold his own on the ground if his opponents test him there, as shown in his guillotine win over Francisco Rivera. The biggest setback for Lineker has always been his issues with cutting weight. Lineker has missed weight in five of his twelve UFC appearances, including his last fight against John Dodson, and this has greatly held him back from becoming a true contender at either 135 or 125 lbs.
This should be a fun fight between two talented strikers with proven finishing ability. If Lineker connects cleanly, then he could pick up the knockout given the power in his hands. With that in mind, Dillashaw is difficult to hit due to his footwork and movement. If Lineker just charges at Dillashaw, then he’ll likely just be leaving himself open to being countered by his opponent’s more technical offense. Lineker is one of the most durable fighters in the division so it would be pretty surprising if T.J. were able to knock him out, though he should still be able to get the better of the striking exchanges. Provided that Dillashaw can avoid trading in the pocket with his opponent, then he should be able to move in and out, utilize his wide arsenal of attacks, and pick Lineker apart from a comfortable distance in order to win on the judges’ score cards.
T.J. Dillashaw via Unanimous Decision
Dong Hyun Kim vs Tarec Saffiedine:
Taking the action to the welterweight division we have Judo specialist Dong Hyun Kim taking on former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine. Having won six of his last seven fights, Dong Hyun Kim has looked to be at the best point in his career considering that he has picked up impressive finishes over the likes of Erick Silva, John Hathaway, Josh Burkman, and Dominic Waters. Kim has always been great at tossing his opponents to the canvas and punishing them with his ground and pound, though his striking has made noticeable improvements over the last few years. Not only has his striking become more flashy, as seen in his spectacular spinning elbow knockout over Hathaway, but it also carries a good amount of power. Now that Kim possesses a fairly well rounded arsenal, it could be his time to put climb the ladder and possibly make a run at the title.
Since making his way over to the UFC, Tarec Saffiedine has been inconsistent over the last few years, as shown in his 2-2 record with the promotion thus far. Saffiedine has solid technical striking, particularly his brutal leg kicks which he put on display in his win over Nate Marquardt, and he’s great when he works the outside and picks his opponents apart. Although his striking is top notch, Saffiedine still struggles with his grappling which is a main factor that has held him back in the UFC. On top of that, Saffiedine has faced several injuries as of late which actually kept him on the sidelines for all of 2014 and those could definitely be adding up and taking a toll on him now. This is a big fight for Saffiedine and a win here could help him make his way up to being a contender, but he’ll need to put his tools together and put on a showing similar to what we’ve previously seen in his Strikeforce days.
Kim has more power in his hands but Saffiedine is without a doubt the more technical striker. Saffiedine while want to circle on the outside, chop away at his opponent’s legs, and avoid the clinch at all costs. The problem there is that Kim is pretty skilled at flustering his opponents with his heavy strikes and then pressing them against the cage before eventually taking them to the ground. Provided that Kim doesn’t fall right into Saffiedine’s striking rhythm, then he can likely use his superior grappling to tie up with his opponent, score with takedowns, and wear him down with strikes in order to win a decision.
Dong Hyun Kim via Unanimous Decision
Louis Smolka vs Ray Borg:
Kicking off the main card we have an exciting flyweight scrap between Louis Smolka and Ray Borg. After winning four straight fights, Louis Smolka unfortunately came up short in his last appearance where he was caught in a guillotine against Brandon Moreno. Despite that setback, Smolka remains a top prospect considering that he’s only 25 years old and he’s surely only going to improve coming away from his loss. Smolka has been getting better with practically every performance that we’ve seen from him. His strongest area is his tricky ground game. Smolka is great at tripping his opponents to the ground and using his long limbs to lock on a submission, as perfectly showcased in his win over Paddy Holohan in Ireland. To go along with his submission skills, Smolka has gained some powerful ground and pound skills as well, which he put on his display in his TKO victory over Ben Nguyen. Smolka’s striking still needs some work given that he entered the sport primarily as a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but given how fast he’s been getting better lately, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that become tightened sometime in the near future. For this fight, Smolka will likely be hungry to get back in the win column and establish himself as a contender.
Another young up-and-comer at just 23 years old, Ray Borg will also be looking to get back in the win column after dropping a decision to Justin Scoggins back in February. Borg has had impressive performances in the UFC thus far thanks to his strong ground game and athleticism. Borg does a good job of combining his wrestling with his Jiu-Jitsu in order to dominate his opponents on the ground before eventually securing a submission, particularly his favored rear naked choke. Borg is still quite young and needs to sharpen his skills in certain areas, but if he continues to get better at the rate that he’s going, he could become a serious title threat within the next several years.
This should be a fun fight between two top prospects. Both men will likely want to engage on the ground which should lead to some exciting exchanges. Borg’s superior wrestling will aid him early on in securing his takedowns but he could have trouble with Smolka’s active guard. Smolka is fantastic at using his size to capitalize on sweeps and keep his opponent busy with submission attempts. Borg will likely out-muscle his opponent early on but Smolka should be able to weather the storm and begin to take over as the fight progresses. Expect Smolka to increase his output as the fight goes on, keep Borg busy by making him fend off various submission attempts, and ultimately sway the judges in his favor.
Louis Smolka via Unanimous Decision
Televised Prelims (Fox Sports 1)
Johny Hendricks vs Neil Magny:
In the featured prelim we have an interesting matchup between former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and Neil Magny. Although Johny Hendricks was once the 170 lbs champion, he has greatly struggled since losing the belt mainly due to his numerous issues making the weight limit. After suffering a first round TKO at the hands of Stephen Thompson, Hendricks most recently lost a unanimous decision to Kelvin Gastelum. Earlier in his career, Hendricks was one of the scariest fighters in his division thanks to his dominant wrestling skills and dangerous knockout power, which he showed in his quick wins over John Fitch and Martin Kampmann. In his most recent outings, Hendricks just hasn’t looked like his former self and it’s possible that he could be nearing the end of his decorated career.
A former member of The Ultimate Fighter 16, Neil Magny has been able to put on an incredibly impressive run in the UFC. With wins over the likes of Hector Lombard, Kelvin Gastelum, Erick Silva, Alex Garcia, and Tim Means, Magny has surpassed many expectations and risen to become one of the most promising and exciting fighters in his division. Magny has a huge frame for a welterweight, seeing as how he stands at 6ft 3in, and he uses his 80 inch reach to its full advantage. Magny is good at keeping his opponents at a comfortable range with his jabs and then mixing in his takedowns to keep his foes guessing. The biggest flaw in Magny’s game is still his striking defense, which was proven in his last fight where he suffered a TKO defeat from Lorenz Larkin. Nonetheless, Magny shows us something new with each performance and this fight could further establish the fact that he is someone to keep an eye on.
Based on how Hendricks has looked as of late, it’s difficult to pick him to win here. Magny can be a slow starter so it wouldn’t be shocking if Hendricks managed to have success early on but considering that he’s had cardio issues in the past, Johny could very well fade as the fight continues. Provided that he doesn’t get caught with that vicious left hand that Hendricks possesses, Magny should be able to keep his opponent at a comfortable distance with his striking, take the fight into deep waters, and either pick up the decision or maybe even force the stoppage depending on how Hendrick’s gas tank holds up.
Neil Magny via Unanimous Decision
Mike Pyle vs Alex Garcia:
Continuing the action in the welterweight division we have true MMA veteran Mike Pyle squaring off against heavy hitter Alex Garcia. A professional fighter since 1999, Mike “Quicksand” Pyle is one of the most seasoned athletes on the UFC roster. Pyle was primarily a grappler throughout his career, as proven by his sixteen submission wins, though his striking has gotten better over the last few years as seen in his knockout wins over Ricardo Funch and Josh Neer. However, despite his striking becoming better, Pyle’s chin has shown some questionability for quite some time now. Having suffered brutal knockout losses to the likes of Matt Brown, Jordan Mein, and Alberto Mina, Pyles durability has not been holding up well lately. With that in mind, Pyle has still shown good grit and toughness in some recent fights, particularly his scrap with Sean Spencer where he was able to overcome adversity and score the finish late in the third round.
Alex Garcia has had some good success in the UFC so far, though he is coming off a third round TKO loss to Sean Strickland in his most recent appearance. Garcia has solid grappling abilities and proven knockout power in his hands, as seen in his 43 second finish of Ben Wall in his UFC debut. While Garcia is athletic and has finishing skills in all areas, he carries quite a bit of muscle which has taken a toll on his cardio. When Garcia isn’t able to get an early stoppage, he sometime struggles later on due to his limited gas tank. Garcia has all the tools to become a threat at 170 lbs but if his cardio doesn’t improve, he’ll likely never establish himself as a serious contender.
This is an interesting fight since both men’s strengths and weaknesses play directly into each other. Since Pyle has been finished in multiple fights as of late, it would definitely not be shocking to see Garcia get the early knockout. With that in mind, if Pyle can survive the early onslaught and take the fight into deep waters, then he can use his better gas tank to wear Garcia down and probably force a stoppage of his own. It’s close, but Pyle’s declining chin is the key deciding factor. Garcia only needs one punch to end this fight and it’s highly likely that he’ll land it quick and put Pyle away.
Alex Garcia via Knockout (Round 1)
Antonio Carlos Junior vs Marvin Vettori:
Up next we have a middleweight scrap between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artist Antonio Carlos Junior and rising prospect Marvin Vettori. Antonio Carlos Junior has had an interesting UFC career since winning The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 back in 2014. Carlos has amassed a UFC record of 3-2 with one No Contest and many of his performances have been inconsistent. Sometimes Carlos will look like a solid prospect thanks to his impressive ground game and improving striking, but other times he’ll look incredibly lackluster like in his losses to Patrick Cummins and Dan Kelly. For Carlos to be taken seriously as a prospect in his division, he needs to put his tools together and create a winning streak that will get people's’ attention.
Italy’s Marvin Vettori has only had one UFC fight but he’s already been turning heads in his division. Vettori has a nice ground game, particularly that slick guillotine that he used to finish Alberto Uda with in his last fight, and his striking has been getting better with each appearance. Vettori is best when he rushing at his opponents, looking to land short strikes, and find submission openings when his opponents are hurt. Although he’s still young, Vettori has shown a good amount of promise so far in his career and this fight could determine how far he is from establishing himself as a proven contender.
This fight could go either way given how both men match up. Carlos’ grappling is slightly more polished than Vettori’s so he’ll have the edge if the fight goes to the ground. That being said, that’s assuming that Carlos shows up looking like his better self. If Carlos puts on another poor performance like we’ve seen from him in his other UFC losses, there is a good chance that he’ll be overwhelmed and possibly finished. It’s a close fights but Carlos’ inconsistency is too big of a grey area. Expect some close grappling exchanges between these two, but Vettori should be able to be the more active fighter both on the feet and on the ground which will allow him to win on the scorecards.
Marvin Vettori via Unanimous Decision
Brandon Thatch vs Niko Price:
Kicking off the televised prelims we have knockout specialist Brandon Thatch looking to get back to his winning ways when he faces promotional newcomer Niko Price. While he was once considered a scary prospect in the welterweight division, Brandon Thatch now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak, all of which were submission losses. Thatch started off his UFC career with two first round TKO victories, but his success ran short when he faced higher levels of competition. The main flaw that we’ve seen from Thatch is that when he isn’t able to find an opportunity to finish the fight early, he then crumbles when his fights are taken into the later rounds. With the realization that not every fight can be finished early, hopefully Thatch has worked more on his cardio so that he can remain a deadly fighter beyond the first round. If he can accomplish this, then Thatch can once again become one to watch in his weight class.
His opponent, Niko Price, holds a 8-0 record with seven of those wins being finishes. Price is predominantly a striker who likes to pressure his opponents with a wide array of offense. Price is quite athletic and packs some good power behind his shots, though he does seem to leave his chin exposed fairly often which is a bad habit in general, though it is especially concerning in this specific matchup. Price has also shown to have decent wrestling skills so it might be smarter for him to look to use those abilities and test his opponent’s grappling rather than play with fire on the feet.
Despite Price’s striking skills, he should actually look to grapple with Thatch in hopes of testing his cardio. If Price can survive the first round then he can probably grind out a decision win or pick up the late finish. However, Price’s striking defense is a big concern here. Price hasn’t shown a bad chin but the level of power that Thatch has can finish practically anyone. Ultimately, Price will likely rush forward early in hopes of setting the pace but that will leave him open to being countered. Expect Thatch to eventually tie up with Price in the clinch where he will unload with his crushing knees and score the early stoppage.
Brandon Thatch via TKO (Round 1)
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)
Alex Oliveira vs Tim Means:
Kicking off our night of fights we have Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira squaring off against the heavy handed Tim Means. After picking up a unanimous decision win over James Moontasri back in July, Alex Oliveira is now coming off a controversial TKO victory over Will Brooks and a fight where Oliveira badly missed weight. Now that Oliveira is fighting back at welterweight, hopefully he can have a successful cut. Oliveira is a well rounded fighter and has proven to have finishing skills no matter where his fights go. He has power in his hands, as showcased in his knockout over Piotr Hallmann, and proven submission skills like he showed in his quick rear naked chake victory over K.J. Noons. Since Oliveira tends to perform better at 170 lbs, hopefully he can put together a win streak and become a strong contender.
Since moving up to welterweight, Tim Means has looked better than ever in his UFC career. Means is currently coming off of back to back finishes over John Howard and Sabah Homasi, and showed off the power in his hands in both appearances. Means has a massive frame for the division and he uses his size quite well. Means throws long punches which manage to catch his opponents right on the button and put them to sleep before they manage to close the distance. Means’ only loss in his last five fights came at the hands of Matt Brown, a fight where he looked pretty good for the most part, which helps prove that Means could very well be a force to be reckoned with in his weight class.
This will be a competitive fight that could go either way. Oliveira would be wise to take the fight to the ground since his Jiu-Jitsu is better. However, Means has a pretty active guard especially with his elbows and that will likely give Oliveira some issues. Both men have the power to end the fight on the feet but Means will have the edge thanks to his size and reach. Provided that Means can avoid being placed on his back for the majority of the fight, he should be able to use his reach to out-strike Oliveira and win a close decision.
Tim Means via Unanimous Decision
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50568150
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