A new era is upon mixed martial arts, as the sports news powerhouse ESPN is the new home of the UFC. From a sport that was shunned 25 years ago, the UFC has legitimized and aided mixed martial arts to the mainstream. To have been on FOX for seven years and now ESPN, the rise of mixed martial arts has been beyond unthinkable. I mean, mixed martial arts was banned in many states in the United States, as well as in countries. To think, 25 years later, ESPN which is owned by Disney is hosting the sport is just awesome.

To kick off the ESPN era, the UFC has loaded the inaugural ESPN fight card with a hell of a headliner. UFC Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo will look to make his first title defense since defeating longtime Flyweight Champion Demetrius Johnson, as he takes on Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw. The Bantamweight kingpin Dillashaw is shooting his shot, as he is dropping down to Flyweight for the chance of becoming a simultaneous Champion at two different weight classes. Cejudo on the other hand, is fighting not only to stay Champion, but for the Flyweight division. There have been rumors, as well as telling signs that the Flyweight division hangs in the balance in this fight. If Cejudo wins, it remains. If he loses, there’s a big chance it’s folded. The stakes are high in the UFC’s ESPN debut!

Anyways, to the Predictions!

ESPN+ Main Card (10 p.m. ET):

125 lbs.: Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo vs. Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw – This is a tough fight to call. Both men are talented and each has there route to winning this fight. I believe Dillashaw is the better overall fighter, but how compromised is he heading into this fight? When your as lean as him, ten pounds is a serious amount of weight to lose. I mean, you need a certain amount of fat in your body, otherwise organs will fail. Science aside, he made the weight, looked like a jacked Skeltor and didn’t need to be held up like depleted fighters have had to in the past.

With that said, I’ve got Dillashaw winning. I believe Cejudo is an improved striker and his wrestling abilities are among the best, but Dillashaw has the movement and wrestling chops to limit Cejudo’s wrestling. On the feet, Dillashaw is just head and shoulders above Cejudo. And as he’s shown, he’s got legit power and his arsenal of leg kicks make him a scary out for anyone. So with that, I have Dillashaw winning via late TKO and becoming a double champ.

265 lbs.: Allen Crowder vs. Greg Hardy – You may not like him, but Hardy is an athlete and has legit power in his hands. Crowder has chance to become a very popular man if he can get the job done here, but I just don’t see it. Hardy comes out fast and furious and puts Crowder to sleep in the first round. Hardy via knockout.

155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros – Gillespie is a force to be reckon with and while Medeiros is a tough out for anyone, against grapplers he just hasn’t fared well at all. I expect Gillespie to strike with Medeiros for a bit, then easily take him down. Once on the ground, at some point Gillespie sinks in a submission.

125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz – Initially I was all over Ortiz in this rematch, but last fight I doubted Benavidez and he absolutely demolished a promising Flyweight in Alex Perez. In a close fight, I have Benavidez once again topping Ortiz. I believe the grappling of both negates each other, but it’s the striking where Benavidez edges Ortiz out via decision.

125 lbs.: Rachael Ostovich vs. Paige VanZant – Fun fight and kudos to Ostovich for making this a point to fight after being a victim of domestic abuse. She had every right to not fight, but she wanted and even begged to stay on the card. That’s unbelievable and I respect her courage. As for the fight, I believe VanZant is the better overall fighter. On the feet, she should be able to have her way and when Ostovich tries to take her down, I see a reversal of position leading to a TKO finish.

205 lbs.: Karl Roberson vs. Glover Teixeira – It’s pretty clear, Teixeira is no longer in his prime and has lost a step. It’s a real bummer too, especially considering Visa issues cost him from being in the UFC way earlier than when he arrived. Anyways, as for this fight, there’s a real possibility Teixeira gets starched. However, Roberson is a Middleweight and I feel like if Teixeira uses his size to get this to the mat. On the ground, he should finish this via submission.

ESPN Prelims (8 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez – Man I love this fight. Cerrone looked great in his last fight, halting all the doubters that he was done. I for one wasn’t one of those doubters, as I picked him to beat Mike Perry. However, this go around I don’t have Cerrone winning. I believe that at Lightweight, he’s too compromised from the weight cut. And against a pressure fighter with power like Hernandez, I just can’t see how he doesn’t get dropped and finished at some point. I could be wrong, but I think young lion is a future title contender and this is a big way to catapult yourself into the top ten only three UFC fights in. So with that, I have Hernandez winning via TKO.

125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski – If it wasn’t evident, Calderwood is not a strawweight. She’s simply too big and her weight cut clearly took a lot out of her. In two UFC Flyweight bouts, she’s dispatched both foes and looked like the Calderwood we saw potential in. Now, Lipski looks to be a talent, but I just feel like Calderwood at Flyweight is a tough out for anyone. Especially someone making there UFC debut. So with that, I have Calderwood winning via decision.

205 lbs.: Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Castro – Menifield is the real deal and it’s only a matter of time before he climbs the ranks of a relatively shallow Light Heavyweight division. Get ready to see a star born, as I see Menifield starching Castro via Knockout.

135 lbs.: Mario Bautista vs. Cory Sandhagen – Don’t know much about Bautista, but Sandhagen has the looks of a future contender. He’s already beaten a veteran, got out of a what looked to be a fight ending armbar and his striking abilities are solid. So with that, I have Sandhagen winning via TKO.

ESPN+ Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards – Bermudez has lost four fights in a row, three by split decision. If I’m being honest too, I had him winning all three. Now at lightweight, he might be undersized, but his wrestling should aide him in this fight. Normally I’d say Bermudez via decision, but with three split decision losses in a row, I think he gets a TKO victory.

170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal – I’m conflicted, as both men are talented. Neal, is the bigger and more athletic of the two. I’d say he’s a better striker with legit power as well. However, Muhammad is durable, a serviceable striker and is a willing wrestler. In a close fight, I believe the cage control and takedown’s of Muhammad earn him the close decision victory.

170 lbs.: Chance Rencountre vs. Kyle Stewart – I’m not familiar with either, but Stewart has an impressive resume thus far. And despite Stewart taking this fight being on short notice, I’ll side with him via decision

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