A day after Nicco Montano was crowned the Inaugural UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion at the TUF 26 Finale in Las Vegas, the UFC is right back at the following day with a stacked card in Detroit, Michigan. Headlining the card is a rematch between Featherweight Champion Max Holloway and longtime Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. Originally, Holloway was set to defend his title against Frankie Edgar, but an unfortunate injury sustained in practice forced Edgar off the card. Aldo, who was scheduled to fight Ricardo Lamas at UFC on Fox 26, stepped up with two weeks less of training for this opportunity at reclaiming his belt.
Also on this stacked card is what appears like a title eliminator in the Heavyweight division, as Francis Ngannou looks to continue his quick rise to the title against the “Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem. This fight is going to prove how good Ngannou really is, as Overeem is a 59-fight veteran and one of the best strikers in mixed martial arts. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, how about a lightweight bout featuring knockout artists in Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez? I would recommend taping your eyelids to your forehead, just to ensure you don’t blink.
Anyways, enough talk! Let’s get to the Predictions!
UFC 218 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo – When Max Holloway first stepped into the octagon on short notice against Dustin Poirier, I remember checking out his highlight reel on Youtube. His arsenal of striking reminded me of Anthony Pettis and his pitter patter striking like that of a Diaz brother. I knew he looked like a promising talent and could contend for the belt one day. However, I couldn’t of predicted that at age 25, he would become the UFC World Champion. That he would reel off eleven straight victories, including defeating the greatest Featherweight of all-time in Jose Aldo to become the champion. Or even that he would have 14 UFC victories in only five years… The scary thing is, the young Hawaiian might not even be in his prime yet.
Aldo on the other hand, is shockingly only 31 years of age. However, he’s gone from never losing in a decade, to being finished twice. I don’t think that’s a product of being washed up, but it’s definitely something that needs to pointed out. While many are writing him off here, let’s not forget in the first fight, Aldo won the first two rounds. Let’s also not forget, that upon winning those first two rounds, Aldo threw next to no leg kicks. That’s crazy, given that Aldo’s attack is heavily based on chopping down opponents with leg kicks.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Aldo. While Holloway has the more dynamic striking arsenal, Aldo’s leg kicks are a difference maker. One in which he failed to use in the first fight. They halt opponents in their tracks and turn them into standing targets. From there, Aldo uses his crisp jab to outpoint opponents. This is exactly how I see this rematch going, contrary to the belief that Aldo is going to get lit up. So with that, I’ve got Aldo via decision.
265 lbs.: Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem – Is there a need to even break this one down to it’s core? Probably not, just because this one all but guarantee’s a knockout. But…
In one corner, we have Overeem, whom is one of the best strikers in mixed martial artist. His new found patient approach, has saved his career. He’s being hit less, which is notable due to his suspect chin. He’s also using distance and well timed strikes, frustrating opponents and then knocking them out. In the other corner, we have Ngannou. Perhaps the future of the division, who features lighting quick speed and devastating knockout abilities. However, Ngannou has not fought anyone like Overeem. That might not matter in the Heavyweight division, but it matters to me. Overeem via KO.
125 lbs.: Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis – This is a an important fight in the Flyweight division, as the winner will undoubtedly align themselves to either fight for the title or in a title eliminator in their next bout. As for a prediction, I’ve got Cejudo. He’s faster and more powerful on the feet, while also being an incredible wrestler. Pettis is a solid striker with underrated wrestler, but this is just the case of someone being better than you in every aspect. So with that, I’ve got Cejudo via decision.
155 lbs.: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje – This fight has the makings of pure chaos, as both strikers usually abandon their top notch wrestling abilities and just swing for the fences. After going 17-0 outside the UFC, Gaethje made a successful UFC debut. Not only did he knock out top contender Michael Johnson, but he earned a “Fight of the Night” bonus. Gaethje was rocked a few times in that bout, but his granite chin ultimately held up, as Johnson eventually wilted from Gaethje constant forward pressure. As for Alvarez, his last outing was a no contest against Dustin Piorier. In what was a wild fight, in which Alvarez was clearly rocked and looked to be about finished. However, Alvarez somehow survived and turned the tide. Then while Poireir was downed by the cage, apparently Alvarez didn’t know and off instinct threw an illegal knee.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Alvarez. I know Gaethje has a granite chin, but his style of allowing opponents to punch him, just so he can fire back, will wear it’s course here. Alvarez is a technical boxer, although he doesn’t shy away from a brawl. In this fight, I see him using distance and systematically picking his shots. And unlike Michael Johnson, when Alvarez smells blood, he goes for the kill. So with that, I have Alvarez via knockout.
115 lbs.: Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson – Honestly, I’ve been back-and-forth with this prediction. Both women are top notch strikers, with Waterson’s more diverse kicking abilities maybe providing the edge. Neither have power, so don’t expect a knockout. Torres is the better wrestler, but Waterson is a submission hunter and chain’s them together so well. So I’m not entirely sure Torres even attempts to take Waterson down unless it’s with 30 seconds left in a close round.
As for a prediction, I’ll go with Waterson. In what should be a close fight and like I mentioned before, her more diverse kicking abilities ultimately give her the edge via decision.
UFC 218 Prelims On FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Charles Oliveira – This one is tough to call. Felder is a dynamic striker, who I initially thought lacked power. However, his last two knockout victories suggest different. Oliveira is a superior grappler, who likes to mat his opponents and submit them. He’s also very crafty, in which he baits opponents into grappling exchanges in which he will gladly pull guard or roll for a leg lock. Felder must avoid those traps and keep this upright. Also, Felder has had a tendency to let opponents dictate the pace, but of late he’s shed that notion.
As for a prediction, while I lean Oliveira based on his craftiness as a grappler, I do see vast improvement in Felder to believe he keeps this fight vertical. While on the feet, Felder easily holds the striking and power advantage. So with that, I’ve got Felder via late knockout.
170 lbs.: Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira – This is another great fight, but I believe that Oliveira will tally his fifth win since 2016 here. While Medeiros has vastly improved, winning three of his last four fights, he’s still simply too hittable. That’s a problem, especially against a counterpuncher with power like Oliveira. Even if Medeiros finds success on the feet without getting tagged, Oliveira is also a talented grappler with crafty submissions. He’s taken down his last seven opponents a combined 20 times. Anyways, my prediction is that Oliveira wins this fight via knockout.
155 lbs.: Drakkar Klose vs. David Teymur – This should be a fun fight, as both men recently defeated dynamic strikers. However, I’m siding with Teymur in this fight. He’s a high level kickboxer, who’s shown an arsenal of kicks and well timed knee’s to go along with his crisp punches. Klose is an excellent striker as well, but he relies on well timed takedowns to compliment it. I don’t see Klose being able to use his wrestling abilities though, as Teymur has excellent takedown defense. So with it mainly being on the feet, I edge Teymur to take excellent fight via decision
115 lbs.: Cortney Casey vs. Felice Herrig – This is an excellent fight in the Women’s Strawweight division and a tough one to call. Herrig has rattled off three straight victories, showing improved striking and superior grappling abilities. Casey has won three of her last four fights, defeating top talents like Randa Markos and Jessica Aguilar.
As for a prediction, I initially was thinking that Herrig’s grappling abilities and smothering top control would be the difference here. However, Casey’s guard is uncomfortable, as she constantly mixes in strikes and submission attempts. Those slashing elbows on bottom can be game changing, as we’ve seen in previous fights like Tony Ferguson against Kevin Lee. Ughh, I guess I’m going to side with Casey via decision. She’s just too feisty and crafty, which compliment her pressure and pace she puts on opponents.
UFC 218 Prelims On UFC Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Razak Al-Hassan vs. Sabah Homasi – This fight has knockout written all over it, as both men combine for eighteen wins, fifteen of which have via knockout. Al-Hassan’s last fight was his first professional defeat, as opponent Omari Akhmedov used a heavy dose of takedowns to take a split decision victory. However, in this fight, I don’t expect Al-Hassan to worry about takedowns and that’s a scary as everything he throws has fight ending intentions. As for Homasi, his last fight came on short notice against Tim Means. While Homasi showed toughness against Means, even scoring some success at times with takedowns, it was his cardio that failed him.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Al-Hassan. He’s just got too much power in his hands and while I mentioned Homasi’s toughness, that was to a pitter patter puncher in Means. Al-Hassan is a one punch knockout artist. So with that, I’ve got Al-Hassan via knockout.
205 lbs.: Jeremy Kimball vs. Dominick Reyes – I’m excited for this fight, as Reyes is a prospect in which I believe will contend for the belt one day. He’s lanky and lengthy, especially in this fight, as Reyes has 4′ inch height and 5′ inch reach advantage over Kimball. With only seven professional fights, Reyes has shown excellent striking abilities. His precision and power are problems for any Light Heavyweight and as he gains more experience, he’s going to be a tough out for anyone. As for a prediction, Reyes via first-round knockout.
265 lbs.: Allen Crowder vs. Justin Willis – Oddly at 265 lbs, Willis is a pretty quick individual. He’s got some pop in his hands and in his debut, he had some nice takedowns. In Dana White’s contender series, before Crowder ultimately won, he was put on his back and didn’t seem comfortable there. I could see Willis take advantage of this, taking Crowder down whenever and grinding out a decision victory.
115 lbs.: Amanda Cooper vs. Angela Magana – Although Magana is a huge underdog, I believe her grappling game could allow her to edge this one out. However, she hasn’t fought in over two year, nor won one in six years. Based on that, it’s tough to expect her to shake off the rust and win this. So with that, I’ve got Cooper via decision.