As crazy as this sounds, it’s been three weeks since the last UFC event. A rarity, given that seemingly every week the UFC puts out an event. With a 4.2 billion dollar investment and a roster over 500 fighters, WME is backing the idea that more events equates to more money. While somewhat true, I would argue that less events or PPV’s would equate to stacked card, more eyeballs and more money. Then again, I love this sport, so I can’t complain that every week I get to watch fights.
Anyways, the UFC is back in action, as they head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Headlining the event, Women’s Bantamweight Amanda Nunes seeks to make a third consecutive title defense, as challenger Raquel Pennington looks to upset and quiet the native Brazilian. Nunes, heads into this bout on a six-fight win streak and most recently defeated Valentina Shevchenko for the second time. Given that Shevchenko was the consensus second best Women’s Bantamweight before dropping to Flyweight, Nunes appears to be on the road to pure dominance in the Women’s Bantamweight division.
However, Pennington is no pushover and comes into this bout on a four-fight win streak. Pennington’s most recent fight dates back to November of 2016, as she defeated former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate. Since that victory, a battle with injuries prevented this opportunity at a title fight. The long layoff could be an issue, but Pennington’s ability to take punishment and her solid cardio makes this an enticing fight.
Without further ado, let’s get to the Predictions!
UFC 224 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington – I believe Pennington has the ability to withstand punishment and dish it, but can she do it for over three rounds? And she’s been out for nearly two years, so is she’s coming into this 100% healthy? Those are two tough questions I’m not willing to take a chance on. So with that, I have Nunes retaining for the fourth consecutive time and winning this via TKO.
185 lbs.: Ronaldo Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum – An excellent fight and it really comes down to two things for me. Can Jacare take a punch? With Gastelum’s speed advantage and Souza getting up there in age, it’s going to take a few strikes to even get in grappling range. The other thing is, can Gastelum overcome Jacare’s size and thwart his takedown attempts. Obviously on the feet, Gastelum holds the advantage, but he’s a small Middleweight who’s shown vulnerability to getting taken down.
In a tough fight to call, I’ll go with the seasoned veteran. Jacare has fought the best and has only lost 3 times since 2008. Two close decision losses to former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold and two-time title challenger Yoel Romero. And a stoppage defeat to current UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker. So, he’s only lost to the best of the best. And I’m not saying Gastelum is bad, but he’s not in the same class yet as those opponents. So with that, I have Souza winning this via his grappling, eventually submitting Gastelum.
115 lbs.: Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper – With Dern not even coming close to making weight, this fight got a little closer to even for me. However, I still believe Dern’s grappling will be the x-factor here. Cooper might try and keep this upright, but it only takes one grappling exchange for this to get dicey for her. So with that, I have Cooper winning via submission.
135 lbs.: John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher – I’ll tell you what, this is going to be an exciting fight. Kelleher called out Lineker and he got him. With legit knockout power in his hands, Lineker is one of the more feared Bantamweights on the roster. However, I believe that Kelleher is making a smart move here to ask for this fight. It’s no secret that since the T.J. Dillashaw fight, which saw Lineker’s jaw get broken, he’s been fighting a little more tentatively. Before, he was a pressure striker who lived for the brawl. Now, he avoids the brawl. So with that, I believe that Kelleher is going to surprise and shock the Brazilian fans as he outpoints Lineker en route to a decision victory.
185 lbs.: Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida – Two Brazilian legends whom’s gas tanks are nearly, if not empty, fight for legacy at this point. In my opinion though, it’s Machida who still has shown to have something in the gas tank. And its Machida who still presents issues for anyone with his karate style. So with that, I have Machida winning this via late stoppage.
UFC 224 “Prelims” on FX (8 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson – I’m unsure of Roberson’s takedown defense, but if it holds up early, I have no doubt he’ll find Ferreira’s chin. Even if doesn’t hold up, Ferreira has been hurt before late ala Nate Marquardt. So with that, I’ll take my chances and predict that Roberson wins via knockout.
265 lbs.: Junior Albini vs. Aleksei Oliynyk – Honestly, this one won’t end long. Either Albini batters Oliynyk on the feet en route to a stoppage or Oliynyk takes down Albini and submits him. I’ll take the latter. So with that, I’ve got Oliynyk via submission.
155 lbs.: Nick Hein vs. Davi Ramos – I’ve got Hein in this bout. He’s been taken down only once in his UFC tenure thus far. He’s a formidable striker and given Ramos relies solely on his grappling and BJJ, Hein’s ability to stay upright neutralizes that. So with that, I’ve got Hein via decision.
170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland – Both are solid strikers, but it’s dos Santos who’s dynamic and throws in volume. However, Strickland has some wrestling chops he can use to turn the tide in this fight. In a 50/50 fight, I’d like to believe that dos Santos win this on his volume striking. So with that, I have dos Santos via decision.
UFC 224 “Prelims” on Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Warlley Alves vs. Sultan Aliev – This should be all Alves, but his cardio issues could present an issue the later this fight goes. Luckily for Alves, Aliev’s game is pretty simple to read. He relies heavily on takedowns and top control to win fights. The problem with that is, Alves has a nasty guillotine choke awaiting those who attempt to take him down. Just ask Colby Covington. So with that, I have Alves winning this via submission.
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Thales Leites – For whatever reason, Hermansson can’t get the job done in Brazil, as his two defeats in the UFC have come here. Make it three, as the veteran and former title challenger Leites puts forth an excellent effort in front of his native Brazilian fans. So with that, I have Leites using out-grappling Hermansson en route to a decision victory.
170 lbs.: Ramazan Emeev vs. Alberto Mina – The “Soldier of God” Mina hasn’t fought in nearly two years and this will be by far his toughest test date. Emeev comes into this bout a winner of thirteen of his last fourteen fights. Despite a dull and lackluster debut victory over Sam Alvey, Emeev is capable of dominating foes with his wrestling. And he’ll do just that, as I see Emeev use his superior wrestling and top control en route to a decision victory.
185 lbs.: Markus Perez vs. James Bochnovic – While Bochnovic is absolutely massive for the weight, the unknown about his cardio and a twenty pound drop from Light Heavyweight is a red flag for me. Meanwhile, Perez showed in his UFC debut an ability to take punishment and a perseverance to win. Given he fought an athletic and tough foe in Eryk Anders, Bochnovic is certainly a step down in competition. So with that, I have Perez winning this via submission sometime in the later rounds.