By: Logan Helfferich
UFC Fightpass Prelims
Lightweight: Jim Miller vs. Takanori Gomi
Overview: The UFC’s biggest card and biggest night of fights gets underway with two veteran lightweights going at it. Neither fighter is ranked in the stacked lightweight division, but both are known for putting on great performances. This is a perfect fight to get the night started because both men are crowd favorites and both look to finish their fights. Miller is coming off of consecutive losses via a submission against Michael Chiesa and a decision against Diego Sanchez. He’ll desperately be looking to avoid a third straight loss. Gomi lost his last two fights as well, against Joe Lauzon and Myles Jury, both in the first round via KO/TKO.
Key: This fight will likely come down to who is able to fight their style of fight. Miller will be looking to take Gomi down and hold top position, while Gomi will likely look to stand and bang with Miller. Gomi’s chin has been a little suspect lately, but Miller’s losses came via decision for the most part. As long as Miller can avoid getting caught with some big strikes, look for him to grind out a decision victory.
Prediction: Miller defeats Gomi via decision
Middleweight: Gegard Mousasi vs. Thiago Santos
Overview: Santos has been on a terror lately, climbing up the middleweight division with some real purpose. His previous victories were an impressive unanimous decision win over Elias Theodorou, and knockout wins over Steve Bosse and most recently, Nate Marquardt. Mousasi is looking to remain at the top of the middleweight division. A dominant decision win over Thales Leites got Mousasi back into title shot discussions, but an impressive win over Santos might be the last straw needed in order to finally get his shot. On the flip side, if Santos wins (especially if it is by KO), he’ll likely be ranked in the top ten and could get his own title shot soon. Both men lost their last fight against Urijah Hall, Santos by decision and Mousasi by KO/TKO, so perhaps the winner of this fight will get a rematch with Hall.
Key: The key to this fight is pretty similar to the previous fight. Santos will be looking to keep it standing and strike, while Mousasi will look to control in top position. Both fighters are well-rounded, but Santos is clearly the better striker in this fight. Mousasi uses his wrestling and jiu-jitsu extremely well, but Santos’ takedown defense is an impressive 86 percent. If he can keep the fight standing and avoid being taken down by Mousasi, look for Santos to wear him down with technical striking.
Prediction: Santos defeats Mousasi via KO/TKO
Lightweight: Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Lauzon
Overview: Old-school fight fans can’t wait for this fight. Arguably two of the most exciting fighters to ever enter the octagon square off in the UFC Fightpass prelims main fight. Sanchez briefly fought at featherweight before returning to lightweight and defeating Jim Miller in his last fight. Lauzon lost his last fight to Evan Dunham, but prior to that defeated Takanori Gomi via first round KO/TKO. This fight isn’t really about rankings, but it’s an early pick for fight of the night.
Key: Both fighters are extremely well-rounded and both have solid chins. Both fighters are known for their incredible cardio and for never being out of a fight, no matter the score. The jiu-jitsu advantage goes to Lauzon, but the stand-up advantage goes to Sanchez. Get ready for an all-out war. Enough said.
Prediction: Lauzon defeats Sanchez via decision
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Lightweight: Sage Northcutt vs. Enrique Marin
Overview: This fight seems like the UFC wants to propel Northcutt into the spotlight by giving him an easy win. Marin is a talented fighter, but this will be only his second UFC fight after losing his first fight by decision. Northcutt is the UFC’s newest “poster child” and recently signed a deal with Reebok, so that shows the potential he possesses.
Key: If Northcutt can land a takedown, he’ll likely be able to keep the fight in that position as long as he wants while he uses ground and pound. Marin is a well-rounded fighter with good striking and jiu-jitsu, but he won’t likely be able to stop the takedowns of Northcutt. Once Northcutt is on top, he’ll most likely either finish the fight with ground and pound, or grind out a decision victory. Since Northcutt lost his last UFC bout, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go for the safe victory.
Prediction: Northcutt defeats Marin via decision
Bantamweight: TJ Dillishaw vs. Raphael Assuncao
Overview: The fact that this is the second preliminary fight of the night shows just how ridiculously stacked this card is. The UFC ranks Dillishaw as the #1 bantamweight contender and lists Assuncao as the #3 contender. Dillishaw is coming off of a close decision loss against Dominick Cruz where he lost his bantamweight championship. Dillishaw feels he won the fight and will be looking to impress and earn himself a shot at getting his belt back. Assuncao has been a top bantamweight for years now and will be looking to finally propel himself to a championship. A win against Dillishaw would surely earn him a shot at Cruz’s title. This is Assuncao’s first fight since 2014, and he even has a previous victory over Dillishaw in 2013 that earned fight of the night honors.
Key: The key in this fight will be Dillishaw’s movement and footwork as well as his ability to use angles in his striking. Dillishaw is a much different fighter since his loss to Assuncao in 2013. Assuncao’s best bet in this fight is to try to take Dillishaw down. Dillishaw’s striking has improved leaps and bounds since his loss to Assuncao, and he was only out-struck by three shots in their previous fight. Dillishaw’s takedown defense is outstanding and it will be hard for Assuncao to get him down. Expect Dillishaw to stick and move and land combinations. If this were a five round fight, Dillishaw would be able to wear Assuncao down and most likely finish the fight. However, since it’s only three rounds, a unanimous decision victory for Dillishaw is more likely.
Prediction: Dillishaw defeats Assuncao via decision
Welterweight: Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Overview: Hendricks is coming off of a loss via a spectacular performance by Stephen Thompson. Gastelum is a promising up-and-comer for the UFC, who has finished Nate Marquardt and Jake Ellenberger. The 24-year-old Ultimate Fighter winner will be looking to boost himself into the UFC’s top ten, while Hendricks is looking to get himself back to the top of the division and another shot at Robbie Lawler’s title.
Key: This is a very close matchup with both fighters having similar styles. The stand-up advantage goes to Hendricks based on his power, but the submission advantage would have to go to Gastelum. Every other aspect of the fight is pretty even, except the difference in the fight could be the size of Gastelum. If he’s able to get Hendricks down, it’s going to be very hard for Hendricks to get back up, and Gastelum is known for finishing fights when he smells blood. If Hendricks exposes his neck for a second, he’s going to sleep. On the other hand, if Gastelum raises his chin or drops his hands, he’s going to sleep as well.
Prediction: Gastelum defeats Hendricks via submission
Women’s Bantamweight: Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Pena
Overview: Zingano is making her long-awaited return to the octagon after being submitted by Ronda Rousey in the very beginning of the first round of their title fight. Her previous two wins before facing Rousey were against current champion, Miesha Tate, and the woman challenging her for the title at UFC 200, Amanda Nunes. Pena is looking to solidify herself as a top bantamweight in the UFC. Since winning the Ultimate Fighter, she’s defeated Milana Dudieva and Jessica Eye, both pretty convincingly. Whoever wins this fight will be in discussions for the next title shot depending on what Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm’s futures are.
Key: The key to this fight will be whether or not Pena can get Zingano to the ground. Zingano defended the takedown well against Tate when they fought and ended up finishing the fight with brutal knees and elbows. Zingano’s strength will be the main factor. Pena needs to avoid the big shots and keep her range when striking with Zingano. If Pena can get Zingano down, her superior grappling will win her the round. However, for every round that Pena can’t get Zingano down, she’s going to be taking some serious damage. This is another pick for potential fight of the night.
Prediction: Zingano defeats Pena via KO/TKO
PPV Main Card
Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez vs. Travis Browne
Overview: Travis Browne didn’t necessarily gain any fans when he repeatedly gouged the eyes of Matt Mittrione in his last fight, but he still won the fight nonetheless and should earn himself a title shot with a win over Velasquez. Velasquez is solely focused on getting his belt back once again since losing it to Fabricio Werdum, who just recently lost the belt to Stipe Miocic. Once again, a fight that is potentially an elimination fight for the next title shot.
Key: This is an interesting matchup. Browne’s length and reach give him the advantage in the striking, but not by much. Velasquez has incredible power that he’s shown time and time again, like when he destroyed Brock Lesnar to win the championship. The wrestling and ground game advantages go to Velasquez as well. If he can get Browne down, he’ll likely finish the fight with ground and pound. Browne needs to defend the takedowns and use his range to look for openings. An early finish either way in this fight wouldn’t be surprising, but the power of Velasquez should be overwhelming.
Prediction: Velasquez defeats Browne via KO/TKO
Interim Featherweight Championship: Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
Overview: Aldo wants nothing more than to get his belt back from Conor McGregor. Edgar wants nothing more than to get his own shot at McGregor and feels that he’s been overlooked. Both men are on a mission. The last time they fought, Aldo got the decision victory, but it was probably the closest fight he had until he was knocked out 14 seconds into the first round by McGregor’s left hand. Since losing to Aldo, Edgar is a perfect 5-0 with wins over Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes. The winner of this fight earns the interim championship and will get to fight McGregor for the real belt after he has his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
Key: The main goal of this fight for both fighters should be to be first, meaning they need to strike first and not hesitate. Aldo shouldn’t have a problem with that, as he is one of the most aggressive fighters in the UFC. Edgar on the other hand needs to push the action. If Edgar can pressure Aldo against the cage and land takedowns, it will keep Aldo from being able to move and land his devastating leg-kicks. Fans hate boring fights, but a boring fight might be the key to Edgar defeating Aldo.
Prediction: Edgar defeats Aldo via decision
Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva
Overview: Thanks to a failed drug test by Jon Jones, the original main event of UFC 200 is now a three-round fight. However, it features the only other fighter with arguably as much notoriety as Jones that could’ve stepped in and took this fight. “The Spider” is coming off of surgery and says he hasn’t been training for months. It will be interesting to see what pace both fighters choose to try to fight at.
Key: This fight is coincidentally similar to the Cormier-Jones matchup. Like Jones, Silva should look to keep the fight standing and out-strike Cormier using his length and reach. Cormier should look to clinch with Silva and take him down. It’s unlikely that Silva will be at his best in this fight, but Cormier will surely be fighting full of emotions. The edge goes to Cormier because of Silva taking the fight on a few days’ notice, but don’t be surprised if Silva beats the light heavyweight champion of the world.
Prediction: Cormier defeats Silva via decision
Heavyweight: Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt
Overview: WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar makes his return to the octagon to take on the hard-hitting, knockout expert Mark Hunt. This fight is solely for entertainment purposes as Lesnar will doubtfully fight full-time, but even though there are no ranking or title-shot implications, this fight is undoubtedly the biggest draw.
Key: The key to this fight is simple, Hunt needs to stay on his feet. The size and power of Lesnar will overwhelm Hunt on the ground, but Hunt is a much better striker than Lesnar and would likely get the victory if he can stuff the takedowns. Hunt also has a great chin and won’t be finished easily. Whichever way this fight goes, it likely won’t go to a decision.
Prediction: Hunt defeats Lesnar via KO/TKO
Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes
Overview: Newly crowned champion Miesha Tate makes her first title defense against Amanda Nunes, a strong Brazilian fighter who has victories over Sara McMann and Valentina Shevchenko. This is the new main event of UFC 200 since Jon Jones was pulled and shows how far the sport of MMA has come with two women headlining the biggest pay-per-view event in UFC history.
Key: As strong as Tate is on the ground, her best bet in this fight might be to keep it standing. Nunes has terrific jiu-jitsu and is physically stronger than Tate. Tate has shown before that she has a solid chin and can take some punches. If Tate can keep Nunes off-balanced and land some solid counter-strikes, she should be able to retain her championship. Nunes should look to pressure Tate and go for takedowns, but she’ll also need to be very aware of Tate’s submissions. The late fifth-round submission of Holly Holm by Tate is all the evidence Nunes needs of how dangerous Tate is on the ground.
Prediction: Tate defeats Nunes via decision