UFC 200 is going to be the biggest event and the best card the MMA giant has put together since … UFC 100?
In what is a stacked card from top to bottom, fight fans from all over will gather in the sweltering heat of Nevada to be a part of a historical evening of fist-a-cuffs in the brand new T-Mobile Arena (July 9, 2016).
There are two title fights on tap along with one interim title fight, which is great because that’s three fantastic, potentially five-round matchups.
No Conor McGregor? No problem. Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2 for the UFC Light-heavyweight Title is a far better main event than that needless Nate Diaz rematch talk.
Whether you make the trek to Vegas or sit at home with a slice in hand, you need to know who to take if you’re looking to throw down some coin. Below, I give you my three title fight predictions. (Odds and fight card are subject to change, of course.)
Jon “Bones” Jones (-300) vs. Daniel Cormier (+230)
“Bones” Jones (22-1) looked rather human against Ovince St. Preux back at UFC 197. But we can probably chalk that up to cage rust; he’d been inactive for well over a year.
The current champ, Daniel Cormier (17-1-0), was supposed to be fighting Jones at UFC 197 but had to pull out because of a foot injury, which was the epitome of bad timing due to how average Jones looked. Did Cormier miss his opportunity to get by a rusty Jones, whose only career “loss” was a DQ against Matt Hamill?
Having been completely dominated by Jones at UFC 182, Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler, learned a thing or two about what it will take to pull out a win against the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet; but knowing what to do and actually being able to do it are two very different things. Does he truly have the answer?
Cormier needs to find a way to close the distance without being taken down or getting caught in the clinch game.
Jones big wing span, long reach, and surprising strength will make that exceedingly difficult. Cormier will need to pick his shots and not get frustrated. It will be a drastically different approach from the first match.
Jones who will be emotionally motivated and reclaim the title he never lost in the Octagon. But, regardless of how Cormier approaches the fight, I see it playing out much the same as the first iteration. Jones is too fast, too strong, and will be fully prepared to handle whatever Cormier tries to dish out.
Expect the same take downs, oblique kicks, and nasty elbows to put the champ away and re-crown the greatest fighter on the planet as light-heavyweight champ.
Winner: Jon Jones
Miesha “Cupcake” Tate (-260) vs. Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (+200)
Who ever expected Miesha Tate (18-5) to be the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion? It feels like yesterday that the belt was around the waist of Ronda Rousey, seemingly there to stay until the dominant fighter felt like pursuing other, more challenging endeavors.
However, Holly Holm scored a “shock the world” type of knock-out over Rousey, and then Tate took advantage with a come-from-behind win over Holm at UFC 196. Now the women’s bantamweight division feels like it’s playing a game of pin the title on the fighter. Is it Amada Nunes’ turn now?
Eventually Ronda Rousey will return from her Hollywood dreams, and whoever is holding the belt will have the unpleasant task of dealing with the former champ and her ready-to-grind axe.
But, for now, we are focused on Tate vs. Nunes. Since losing to Rousey at UFC 168, Tate has gone on a five-fight winning streak. She hasn’t been dominant throughout, but no one’s been able to finish her when she’s been vulnerable. And if you don’t put her away (or cut off her head and burn the body, in Game of Thrones speak), she will find a way to make a late surge in the championship rounds. Just ask Holly Holm.
Nunes (12-4) brings a reach advantage and fantastic striking to this bout. Her takedown defence has also been stellar, so if she can keep the fight standing, Nunes has all the tools to finish Tate in any round.
However, do not rule out championship fight experience. With 23 fights in her pocket at the young age of 29, Tate is a true veteran and has been in many five-round wars. A former professional boxing champ in Holly Holm picked Tate apart for four rounds and still couldn’t get the job done. Although Nunes is a dangerous fighter, she will have to finish Tate early or risk losing via decision.
You can’t measure heart, and this writer is done in underestimating “Cupcake” Tate. In what will probably be another close fight, I’m taking Tate to edge out Nunes via decision. She’s really hit her stride and I don’t see her losing until a third fight with arch enemy Rousey.
Winner: Miesha Tate
Jose “Scarface” Aldo (-115) vs. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (-115)
While Conor McGregor keeps the UFC Featherweight Championship hostage, Jose Aldo (25-2) and Frankie Edgar (20-4-1) will be going toe-to-toe to find out who’ll be the next one to hopefully challenge McGregor for his pot of gold.
Both men have a real challenge on their hands. The last time we saw Aldo in the Octagon, he was staring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena’s ceiling lights after being knocked out in thirteen seconds by McGregor. It was Aldo’s first loss since 2005 and it was the end of a dominant era.
All Edgar has been doing is winning and getting no respect. The former lightweight champ hasn’t lost since 2013 and that, of course, was to Jose Aldo at UFC 156. Edgar is riding five-fight winning streak yet keeps being overlooked for title shots. Now is his chance to move one step closer to be crowned champion once again.
Looking at this fight on paper, it’s hard not to look at Aldo and see a who man can finish any fight in any round. But how much will that devastating knock out play in the back of Aldo’s mind? He now knows that he’s not invincible and sometimes that realization can alter a career.
On the other hand, a loss like that can also rejuvenate a fighter who’s become complacent, and if Aldo wants to make a statement, I pity da fool who’s next in line.
Cue Frankie Edgar who, at 34 years of age, still manages to bob and weave around the cage like a 24-year-old. He too can finish a fight standing, and since his loss to Aldo in 2013, has found another level of ferocity.
In the end, this fight will come down to patience as both men can avoid being hit. I expect Aldo to throw some vicious leg kicks early on to slow Edgar’s movements. If Aldo can avoid being taken to the ground, he should be able to win the striking battle. In a fight like this, both men bring so much heart and desire, that I personally don’t see either getting stopped.
In what will be a five-round slugfest and a possible fight of the night candidate, Aldo will win via decision.
Winner: Jose Aldo
[UPDATED ON JUNE 7]
Brock Lesnar (+160) vs. Mark Hunt (-200)
At UFC 199, the world was shocked when Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com broke the story that Brock Lesnar (5-3) was going to have a one-off fight at UFC 200. Lesnar, who is currently on a WWE contract, had a clause in his deal that allowed him to jump into a UFC Octagon for this one-and-done scenario.
The former UFC Heavyweight Champion, former NCAA Division 1 Heavyweight Champion, and (let’s not forget) former WWE Heavyweight Champion is the UFC’s pay-per-view king and he just added a whole lot of eyeballs to a card that was already going to get big buys. Lesnar went onto ESPN’s Sportscenter two days later and announced that he will be fighting one of the heavyweight division’s most dangerous strikers in Mark Hunt (12-10-1).
The matchup is the classic striker vs. wrestler. Although I admire Lesnar’s “anyone, anytime, anywhere” nature, this is an extremely dangerous matchup to walk into after being on the MMA shelf for the last four years.
But the Beast Incarnate says that he feels great and wants a chance to fight without having to worry about the diverticulitis that hampered him late in his UFC career.
Hunt is a former K-1 Kickboxing World Grand Prix Champion and made the transition to MMA back in 2004. He has become a fan-favorite in the UFC for his jaw-breaking power and is considered the king of the walk-off knock out. Even at 42 years old, he is one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the division, but will Lesnar’s size and athleticism be too much?
Early on in Lesnar’s brief UFC career, his takedowns were scary and they led to impressive wins over the likes of Frank Mir. But later in his career, his takedowns started to look predictable and dare I say slow. And let’s not forget that Lesnar’s stand-up defence is an amateur duck-and-cover strategy. He doesn’t like getting hit and, when he does, the game plan gets thrown out of the cage.
If Hunt is even able to throw a decent body kick or even tap him in the face with a right hand, Lesnar will fold and go into panic mode.
For Hunt, success obviously means keeping the fight standing. If Lesnar gets his grizzly bear hands on him and takes him down, it’s going to be a long night for the Kiwi. Hunt will need to weather the early storm and tag Lesnar as often as he can.
It’s hard to bet against Brock, but I think Hunt pops him early and ends the fight via TKO.
Winner: Mark Hunt
Photo Credit: Lily Bennelong (YouTube)