The injury/illness bug struck again, as UFC 215 was originally supposed to be headlined by Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson against Ray Borg. The bout carried significance as Johnson looked to defend his belt for an all-time record eleven times. Also, a Heavyweight bout between former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos and rising contender Francis Ngannou was scrapped due to Dos Santos being flagged by USADA for potential doping. It’s a bummer for Ngannou, as a victory here all but guaranteed him a title shot.
Anyways, the new headliner of Amanda Nunes against Valentina Shevchenko is in my opinion, a fight that pits two of the very best female mixed martial artist on the planet. In fact, I believe this is the best women’s fight in mixed martial artist history. These two women are insanely talented and at the peak of their careers, both fighting at an extremely high level. Nunes, will look to defend her Bantamweight title for the second time, while ending what could be an eventual trilogy fight against Shevchenko. As for the aforementioned Shevchenko, this is an opportunity to avenge her only defeat in the UFC, while capturing UFC gold.
Let’s get to the predictions!
UFC 215 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – This is one is going be a barnburner! The Champ Nunes has been a force since entering the UFC, amassing a 7-1 record, finishing 6 of her opponents. She’s earned performances of the night bonuses in 3 of her last 4 fights and is slowly turning into an intimidating force like that of Cyborg Santos. However and despite already defeating her, she faces a much improved and scary Valentina Shevchenko. Armed with an all around mixed martial arts game, Shevchenko is a nightmare matchup for anyone. Dominant victories over Holly Holm and Juliana Pena only proved that Shevchenko is not only ready for this title opportunity, but if she wins this belt, she has the abilities to reign for a long time.
As for my prediction, I have Shevchenko. While Nunes defeated her the first time, if you watch the third round, the tide changed and favored Shevchenko. That’s due to Nunes cardio issues, which caused her to fall defeat in her lone UFC loss to Cat Zingano back at UFC 178. I expect Shevchenko to use her distance, while implementing leg kicks to slow down the explosiveness of Nunes. As we get into the later rounds, a depleted Nunes will eventually get finished by Shevchenko via submission. Let’s say 4th round!
170 lbs.: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny – I’ve gone back-and-forth with this prediction, but I’m eventually siding with dos Anjos here. While, I wasn’t overly impressed with his debut, he got the job done. However, Magny is a tall task, as he’s going to have an obvious size and reach advantage. His jab will be tough to evade, but the reason I believe dos Anjos will win this fight, is his ability to get inside. Magny doesn’t have power, but he makes that up with volume and pace. dos Anjos can match that, especially given he doesn’t have to cut anymore. So with that, I believe dos Anjos will eventually adapt and defeat Magny both on the feet and the mat, winning via decision.
125 lbs.: Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis – Another fun fight, but Cejudo takes this. While Reis has some pop in his hands, is a solid grappler and even better submission artist… Cejudo negates all that. Cejudo is an amazing wrestler, his striking has vastly improved to the point where he can defeat guys just with his fists and his top control is suffocating. Reis is a solid flyweight, but he’s headed for two straight defeats. Cejudo via decision!
205 lbs.: Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro – I’m still not sold on Pedro, but if he were to defeat a wrecking ball of a man in Latifi, I’d have to alter my opinion. Latifi via TKO!
145 lbs.: Gilbert Melendez vs. Jeremy Stephens – Another fun fight and while I think Stephens is the better pick, I’m siding with Melendez. Now, I know Stephens has been active and can crack, but he’s only knocked out one opponent in his last eight fights. Melendez is a smart fighter and while he will slug it out, I see him using his grappling abilities to carry him in this fight. His career very much is on the line here to boot, so with his back against the wall, I’m siding wth Melendez via decision.
UFC 215 Prelims On FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira – I’ve got McMann here. In her last three fights, she’s vastly improved her striking, which has granted her power wrestling easier takedowns. Once McMann has matted her opponents, it’s pretty much a moot point to attempt to get up. So with that, I have McMann via dominant decision.
135 lbs.: Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras – I’ve got Evans-Smith here via decision. Moras has been out too long and she’s a pretty strong grappler, but that’s about it.
145 lbs.: Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker – This should be a fun scrap, as you have the American Zombie Glenn against an elusive striker in Tucker. However while it might be fun, it’s going to be more fun for Tucker. Glenn offers zero striking defense, meanwhile Tucker is and out with his attacks. So, I am confident in saying that Tucker should easily dominate this fight and will finish Glenn late via TKO!
155 lbs.: Alex White vs. Mitch Clarke – Not sure who to pick in this fight, as both men have fallen on hard times. Clarke, who has lost two fights in a row, has proved that he can’t hang with the top of the division. His striking is serviceable, but often relied on when his bread and butter grappling is denied. White is a good striker, but has often been defeated by grapplers. So advantage Clarke, however, I’m not convinced he’s good enough. So with that, I have White via decision.
UFC 215 Prelims On UFC Fight Pass (6 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique – I’m siding with Bhullar here, although I’ve admittedly never seen him fight. His Olympic wrestling background and the fact that he’s fought a five-round fight, tells me that he’s a grinder with good cardio. Henrique is also a grinder, but his style is odd given that his cardio is poor. So with that, I have Bhullar outlasting Henrique, eventually winning this via late TKO!
155 lbs.: Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins – This should be an entertaining scrap, as both men are finishers. Martins boost 13 knockouts and 3 submission victories, finishing foes at a 57% clip. Meanwhile, Johnson has 4 knockouts and 11 submission victories, finishing opponents at a 71% clip. The only problem here, is that Martins has a solid chin and very durable. The same can’t be said about Johnson, who has lost 12 fights in 31 fights and of the 12 defeats, he’s been finished in 8 of them. So with that, I have Martins eventually finding a scrappy Kajan Johnson’s chin, winning this one via KO!