A week after a glorious event in Japan, the UFC continues it’s ten card, nine week stretch with event number eight, its first legit pay-per-view card in nearly three months (unless you count UFC 177 as a legit UFC event).
Even though the most notable fight of the card, a Light Heavyweight Championship bout between champion Jon Jones and challenger Daniel Cormier is no longer happening on the card due to Jones’ injury, and the replacement main event looks to be a farce, this is still a loaded card.
Former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez makes his UFC debut in the evening’s co-main event against the always exciting Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and one of the UFC’s quickest rising stars in Conor McGregor takes on Dustin Poirier in a fight that fans had been clamoring for since the Irishman’s victory over Diego Brandao in his home country on July 19. Prior to that barn burner, a pair of Middleweights who boast terrific wrestling and finishing power face off, when Tim Kennedy takes on Olympic wrestler and MMA knockout artist Yoel Romero.
The night also boasts a pair of highly anitcipated returns, as the top Women’s Bantamweight contender Cat Zingano returns to the cage a full seventeen months after beating former Strikeforce Champion and UFC challenger Miesha Tate’s face to a pulp, against Amanda Nunes to kick off the main card. Also, former UFC Bantamweight Champion makes his return after a three-year layoff against #5 ranked Bantamweight staple Takeya Mizugaki to headline the prelims.
Also on the televised prelims is a very intriguing Lightweight matchup between Jorge Masvidal and James Krause, and a pair of solid Welterweight matchups. The two Fight Pass fights are also solid. Simply put, this card is stacked, barring the main event, for which half the arena will possibly be empty.
As far as my record goes, I went 8-4 last week, boosting my overall record to 223-97-1, with a no contest. Is there any way I can get to 250 wins before reaching 100 losses? It’s doubtful, but let’s give it a try.
Fight Pass Prelims (UFC Fight Pass, 7/6c)
Manny Gamburyan (13-8, 1NC) vs. Cody Gipson (12-4)
Bantamweights kick off UFC 178, as UFC veteran Manny Gamburyan takes on relative UFC newcomer Cody Gipson. While Gamburyan has been in the UFC since 2011, and was with the promotion from losing the TUF 5 Finale to Nate Diaz as a result of a shoulder injury in June 2007 until January 2009, Gipson has only been in the UFC since February. However, he has been very active, fighting for the second time since UFC 170.
While Gipson is 1-1 in the UFC, Gamburyan has gone 4-6 with a no contest in the big show. I really want to pick against Gamburyan, but he has been around, has a, Third dan black belt in Judo, a second dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate, and always seems to find a way to stick around. He’s better than Johnny Bedford, whom Gipson destroyed back in June, and I see him finding a way to win. Prediction: Gamburyan via split decision.
Kevin Lee (8-1) vs. Jon Tuck (8-1)
Closing out the Fight Pass portion of the card are a pair of rising Lightweight prospects who have seemingly bright futures. I like Tuck, but I don’t see why people are so high on him in this fight. He’s nowhere near the wrestler Lee is, and he lost to the only notable opponent he’s ever faced in Norman Parke. I see Lee using his wrestling to win a somewhat fun, but grinding decision. Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision.
Televised Prelims (FS1, 8/7c)
John Howard (22-9) vs. Brian Ebersole (50-16-1, NC)
Every card features at least a fight or two that is, well, pretty lackluster. Well, this is definitely one of them. Both fighters are sold, but neither was, is, nor will be a contender in the UFC. Ebersole’s chest hair will likely be the most intriguing thing about this fight, which Howard will likely win due to his wrestling, en route to a decision victory. Perhaps then, Ebersole, who fights about once per year nowadays, will earn a pink slip with a third straight loss. Prediction: Howard via unanimous decision.
Patrick Cote (20-8) vs. Stephen Thompson (9-1)
So, here’s the deal. Patrick Cote wins ugly fights. Meanwhile, Thompson is a fifth degree black belt in Kempo Karate,
second degree black belt in Ju-Jitsu a black belt in Kickboxing, and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He’s faster, more dynamic, and much more skilled than Cote, and I don’t se how he doesn’t win. Prediction: Thompson via tko, round 2.
Jorge Masvidal (27-8) vs. James Krause (21-5)
The second-to-last prelim fight on any card is usually a burner, and that fits the bill here. In James Krause, MMA fans get to see a fighter with serious ground skills (13 submissions), knockout power (six KOs), who is in a hot streak (won nine of last ten fights).
Meanwhile, Masvidal has fought for several major promotions, headlining the first Bellator card, as well as fighting four times for Strikeforce before joining the UFC. With the promotion, Masvidal is 4-1, with his lone loss coming to fearsome Sambo specialist Rustam Khabilov. He is a good wrestler who can put on great fights, but often uses his wrestling to neutralize his opponents. I think he’ll do the same thing he always does: get dominated in the first round, before rallying for a decision victory. Prediction: Masvidal via split decision.
#10 Dominick Cruz (19-1) vs. #5 Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2)
Finally! After three years away, former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz returns to action. Thanks to TUF, he wound up having to wait until July 2012 before his then scheduled title defense against rival Urijah Faber. However, during the season, he wound up with an ACL injury that resulted in several complications. He was finally scheduled to return against then Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao to headline UFC 169 on February 1, but a groin tear not only kept the unification bout from happening, but also resulted in Cruz vacating his title.
Now, just four days short of a three-year hiatus, “The Dominator is back. His opponent is the always capable Takeya Mizugaki. Now a top five Bantamweight, Mizugaki is is looking for his fifth straight win and a potential title shot against TJ Dillashaw. However, despite his 7-2 record, I expect him to fall to the former champion. Most people seem to be rooting for Cruz to get his career back on track, and Mizugaki won’t be able to foil those hopes. Prediction: Cruz via unanimous decision.
Main Card (10/9c, PPV)
#8 Amanda Nunes (9-3) vs. Cat Zingano (8-0)
A knee injury. Seventeen months of layoff. A lost TUF coaching gig. Stem cell treatment on both knees. A husband committing suicide. That is what top Women’s Bantamweight contender Cat Zingano has had to deal with since winning one of the most epic female fights in MMA history in April 2013. While her opponent is pretty damn good, and there is the potential toll of ring rust as well as emotional trauma, I see Zingano overcoming all of that to maul Nunes and reclaim her title shot. Prediction: Zingano via brutal tko, round 1.
#6 Tim Kennedy (18-4) vs. Yoel Romero (8-1)
Up next is a fascinating matchup between two terrific middleweights on the rise. Tim Kennedy is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with 14 finishes. He is coming off a dominant victory against Michael Bisping, having won all three of his UFC fights in dominant fashion. Oh, and he’s also a Sergeant First Class for the US Army.
Meanwhile, Romero is an Olympic silver medalist who had every fight end via knockout until he fought Brad Taveres in April. That night, he still dominated, winning via decision.
This fight reminds me a lot of Hector Lombard vs. Jake Shields. I want Romero to win, and since I think it’s a tossup, I’ll go with my heart over my head here. Prediction: Romero via split decision.
#5 Dustin Poirier (16-3) vs. #9 Conor McGregor (15-2)
Next up is the fight that seemingly everybody is waiting for. Both fighters are volatile in and out of the cage, and the smack talk for this one has been volcanic since the fight was announced. I could go on and on about this fight, but I’ll keep it short. McGregor has only seen one fight go the distance, and while I think Poirier will be game, and will go the distance, McGregor will take this one. Prediction: McGregor via unanimous decision.
Donald Cerrone (25-6, 1NC) vs. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)
In the co-main event of the evening, UFC fans finally get to see Eddie Alvarez inside the octagon! After years of waiting, including a nasty contract dispute with Bellator, the former Bellator Lightweight Champion will take on the always exciting “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Coming off a four straight finishes, including a pair of head-kick knockouts, Cerrone is the owner of 15 submission wins and four knockouts. I would pick him, but here’s the issue: Alvarez reminds me a lot of Rafael dos Anjos, the last man to defeat Cerrone. He kept Cowboy at bay the whole time, not allowing Cerrone to do what he usually does. I think Alvarez will do just that, but will still lose a decision. Prediction: Cerrone via split decision.
UFC Flyweight Championship: (c) Demetrius Johnson (20-2-1) vs. Chris Cariaso (17-5)
I’ll keep this short: this fight is a farce. This matchup is a joke, and that’s why this PPV, which was sure to do pretty damn great had Jon Jones not gotten injured, will likely pull out subpar numbers.
Cariaso is not worthy of a title shot, despite winning three straight. None of those wins came against a top Flyweight, and Johnson should dominate. Prediction: Johnson via tko, round 3.