December 12, 2015 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas Nevada
Well my first attempt at an MMA blog on the new website didn’t go as planned, finishing with a record of 2-3. But as they say – no one has ever been successful quitting after the first attempt – so the blog must continue. The saving grace of my sub.500 record was, the two fights that I got correct I was spot on with my predictions including my method of victory.
UFC 193: Rousey vs. Holm also saw one of the greatest upsets in UFC history, perhaps even greater than Georges St Pierre’s loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69. I know there were a few people who predicted that upset, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ronda was simply far too dominant and Holly didn’t look that impressive in her first few UFC fights, but her coaches said that was all part of the plan. Not releasing all of your had before a major fight is a great strategy if a fighter can pull it off but it is also very risky, kudos to her fight camp for pulling it off.
UFC 194 Aldo vs McGregor is a re-bill of the mega fight that was to take place at UFC 189 this summer, but Jose Aldo was forced to bow out due to a rib injury. Chad Mendes stepped in in just over two week notice to create an interim featherweight bout that saved the event, provided much excitement, and ended in a second round TKO win for McGregor. Prior to UFC 193 this was to be billed as the biggest fight in UFC history, and although it won’t break any attendance or live gate records, it is certainly the most anticipated fight card of the year!
The Fight Picks
UFC 194 will end with excitement in the featherweight division, and the main pay-per-view will start that way. Max Holloway is a big favorite in the eyes of the judges in his fight with Lil Heathen Jeremy Stephens. I don’t know if the skill levels are that far apart but I do know this fight will provide some excitement and set the tone for the rest of the Pay-Per-View.
Max Holloway, currently 14-3 riding a 7 fight win streak (with his last loss coming to the interim Connor McGregor) is certainly one of the hottest fighters in the division and looking for that next shot at the title. I have never been too high on Holloway and had him picked to lose his last fight to Charles Oliveira at Fight night 74 in August (Holloway won that fight via injury TKO in the first round). Holloway is what I consider a decision fighter; he is good at everything, but not great at one thing.
Lil Heathen Jeremy Stephens is a very exiting fighter to watch, but with that excitement also comes mixed results. Stephens currently boasts a 24-11 record, including a 4-2 record as a featherweight in his last 6 fights. “Lil Heathen” does hold a recent victory over Dennis Bermudez, the last fighter to hand Holloway his last loss. If he’s been studying the tape of that loss by Holloway and his win, perhaps it will be what he needs to create an edge.
Prediction: When trying to predict a fight that has Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens, you first need to determine which Stephens is going to show up. Is it going to be the one that holds a win over current Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos or the one with his most recent loss to Yves Edwards (who has lost 4 straight of his own)? Being an Iowa boy, and his exciting style, and the fact that I need to pick at least one upset for my Draft Kings roster I am picking Jeremy “Lil” Heathen Stephens by second round TKO.
Demian Maia – 130 vs. Gunnar Nelson +110
The Demian Maia, Gunnar Nelson matchup does not yet have title implications in the welterweight division but it will certainly bring the winner into the upper tier of the division toward the next title fight.
Demian Maia is currently riding a 3 fight win streak and is 6-2 since moving to welterweight after losing to current middleweight champion Chris Weidman back in 2012. Maia is a submission ace with 10 of his 21 wins coming by way of submission. At 38 years of age, many believe that his well past his prime and that his time as title challenging-top tier fighter has come and gone. There have been few fighters to fight successfully into their 40s, but 38 is not yet 40. Perhaps he has one run left in him.
Gunnar Nelson is a young, up and coming Icelandic fighter who trains out of SBG Ireland (the same camp as interim Champion Connor McGregor). Nelson is also a bit of a submission ace with 10 of his 14 wins coming by way of submission and is looking to restart a winning streak of his own after rebounding from his first career defeat with a win over Brandon Thatch at UFC 189.
Prediction: This is a tougher prediction than I anticipated before writing this blog. On paper Gunnar Nelson looks to be a younger, fresher version of Demian Maia with a 71% submission rate, but grappling is at a different level in Brazil then it is in Iceland or SBG Ireland. Also looking at common opponents, Maia holds a win over Rick Story, where as "Gunni’s" lone loss of his career is to that same fighter. I think Maia is able to use his octagon and grappling experience and earn a Performance of the Night Award. Maia wins by first round submission.
Yoel Romero +130 vs. Ronaldo Souza -150
This bout appears to be lining up as the #1 contender’s bout for the middleweight crown according to the current USA Today/MMA Junkie Middleweight rankings. Souza is ranked #3 and Romero #4, with #1 and #2 set to do battle in a championship bout on this same card.
Romero is a former Olympic Silver Medalist in Freestyle wrestling for Cuba who now trains at American Top Team in Miami, Fl. He currently holds a 10-1 professional record with 6 straight wins since joining the UFC. Yoel isn’t just “another boring wrestler” in the UFC, along with his Olympic caliber wrestling pedigree he has crazy knockout power with 9 of his 10 professional wins coming by KO or TKO.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has been one of the best fighters in the middleweight division for a long time and is currently riding is own 8 fight win streak. Jacare has already beaten some of the best the UFC has to offer like; Gegard Mousasi, Robbie Lawler, and Tim Kennedy.
Prediction: The “experience versus youth” factor will not play a roll in this fight as both fighters are well into their 30’s and have a lot at stake in this fight (the next title shot). However, Jacare is a far more experienced fighter so that could play a roll. With 16 of Jacare’s 22 wins coming by way of submission, I don’t think Romero wants any part of Jacare on the ground even though he has the wrestling pedigree. I think Yoel uses his wrestling as a defense to keep the fight standing and use his knockout power to put Souza away. Only 2 of Jacare’s wins have come by KO/TKO so I don’t think there is much of a threat there. Yoel Romero wins by KO in the third round.
Chris Weidman -140 vs. Luke Rockhold +120 - Middleweight Title Fight
Chris Weidman has spent more than two years as Middleweight Champion since dethroning Anderson Silva’s long time run back at UFC 162. Weidman is a USA Wrestling product and was also a two-time NCAA All-American at the University of Hofstra, and even though he has the wrestling base, he’s always been under my radar a little bit. Weidman has had 8 fights in the UFC and for some terrible reason I’ve picked against him in the last 6. I don’t think I will make that mistake again.
Luke Rockhold has doesn't wow me as a possible UFC Champion yet. I’ve watched him fight in the UFC obviously, and I’ve even seen him fight in Strikeforce/Elite XC back when they were on CBS but he just doesn’t stand out to me. Rockhold is another one of those “good at everything, but not great at one thing” type of fighters. Can Weidman be beat? Of course he can, UFC 193 showed us that anyone can be beat at any given time – I’m just not sure if Luke Rockhold is the one to do it. If not him who?
Prediction: With the fact that I have predicted against Chris Weidman in his first 6 UFC fights and that Luke Rockhold doesn’t overwhelm me with anything in his fighting style – this was a hard prediction to make. I simply based it on two things; Chris Weidman’s wrestling pedigree and common opponents. Both Weidman and Rockhold have fought Vitor Belfort but with very different results. Weidman beat Belfort at UFC 187 via First Round TKO, but Belfort beat Rockhold via First Round TKO on UFC on FX 8 in 2013. I simply cannot pick against Weidman again. Chris Weidman wins via unanimous decision 49-46
Jose Aldo +100 vs. Connor McGregor -120 - Featherweight Title Fight
The main event of UFC 194 is easily the most anticipated fight of the year and if it wasn’t for the giant stadium in Australia it would also be one of the largest in history of the organization. This fight was originally scheduled for a summer tilt at UFC 189, and the UFC created an 8 city world tour to promote the fight. The fight was called off when Jose Aldo was forced out with a rib injury, and Chad Mendes stepped in on short notice and fought in an interim title fight against Connor McGregor. McGregor won that fight via Second Round TKO to set up this unification bout.
Jose Aldo has been the only featherweight champion in the UFC’s history, has won 7 straight fights in the UFC and hasn’t lost a fight in 10 years! It would seem as a no brainer to select Aldo as the winner here, the guy seems un-beatable. At some point in time everyone’s streak gets broken. Liddell, Hughes, Franklin, Silva, Barao, and most recently Rousey all have lost incredibly long streaks. Will Aldo be added to this list on Saturday night?
Connor McGregor absolutely burst on to the UFC scene in 2013 and he brought an entire country with him! Connor helped bring the UFC back to Ireland for the first time since UFC 93. His brash style and loud mouth has helped him get big fights, break records, gain legions of fans, and haters too. The one thing I can say about Connor’s brash style is that he does back it up. He has only been tested once in his 6 fights in the octagon. He was pushed to a decision against Max Holloway (who is also on the main card) in his second UFC fight. Will Jose Aldo be the one to push Connor or will it be another Irish ass whopping?
Prediction: This is a very tough fight to call. On one had you have the #2 pound-for-pound fighter in Jose Aldo against what could be the new guard of the featherweight division. The media shows what they want us to see to hype and promote the fight so over the last few weeks, we’ve seen and heard Connor McGregor talking a lot of trash and not much from Aldo. Aldo’s camp has been saying that he’s the Champion and doesn’t need to talk, that Connor is talking because he’s scared and covering up nerves. Former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen says in his latest podcast that Aldo is the one that is scared, (actually he says they are both scared). Aldo doesn’t want to give up the belt or the streak, Connor doesn’t want to give up his belt or to take a hit in his fame or popularity –so who wins? I have yet to see a fight where a Champion is an underdog; there is a reason for it. Connor McGregor by Fourth Round TKO.
Enjoy the fights and let me know what you think of my predictions in the comments below!