UFC on Fox 15 is well underway, and the card has been nothing short of stellar thus far. Five of the seven prelim fights ended via finish, including two late finish, one late first round finish, two knockouts, and two submissions. Each of the finishes occurred between the bookending prelim bouts, which were pretty solid in their own rights.
I went a mediocre 4-3 in my prelim picks, giving me a 2015 record of 90-43, with two no contests. Hopefully, my main card picks wind up with better results.
UFC on FOX 15 main card (8/7c, FOX)
Felice Herrig (10-5) vs. Paige Vanzant (4-1)
The first main card bout of the evening is quite an intriguing female Strawweight bout that should be fairly entertaining. Herrig, a former Kickboxer, is a veteran that has been around for quite some time. Meanwhile, Vanzant just recently began her pro career. Both women began their UFC debuts with victories at the end of last year, as Herrig finished fellow veteran Lisa Ellis at the TUF 20 Finale in December, while Vanzant won a thrilling bout over fellow debutante Kailin Curran last November.
As far as picks are concerned, I have no idea who to pick. Herrig has the experience edge, but has never beaten a contender. Meanwhile, Vanzant has the potential advantage, yet has never even fought anyone as good as Herrig. My head says Herrig should win, but my gut tells me otherwise. I rarely pick potential over experience, but I will go against the grain tonight. Prediction: Vanzant via split decision.
Cub Swanson (21-6) vs. Max Holloway (12-3)
The next both is a Featherweight tilt that was made official the moment Holloway defeated Cole Miller on Valentine’s Day. Since that day, this fight has been one that a lot of MMA fans have been anticipating. Both men are electrifying and high-volume strikers who never fail to entertain.
Holloway has won five straight fights since losing to Conor McGregor in the first card in Fox Sports 1 history back in August 2013, with the first four coming via finish. He is 8-3 inside the octagon, and a win tonight could land him in a potential title eliminator prior to year’s end.
Cub Swanson is also a firecracker. After a 4-4 stretch to follow an 11-1 start to his professional career, including his UFC debut against Ricardo Lamas back in November 2011, he won five straight to earn a fight against longtime UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar last November in Austin. He got dominated in the fight, and was submitted by an ultra-quick neck crank in the final seconds of the fight. Still, as is the case with Holloway, a win could earn him a title eliminator bout soon.
While I admit that I have absolutely no idea who will win the fight, I’m sure it will be a barnburner. In the end, I believe Holloway will make a late surge, but Swanson will do enough to win a thrilling decision victory. Prediction: Swanson via unanimous decision, 29-28×3.
(1) Ronaldo Souza (21-3, 1NC) vs. Chris Camozzi (21-9)
In the co-main event of the evening, we have a quintessential squash match. Originally, fans were supposed to be treated to a thrilling contest between one of MMA’s most feared submission specialists, and one of the sport’s most decorated wrestlers. However, last week, Yoel Romero got injured. As a result, the former world champion wrestler had to bow out, and Chris Camozzi took his place.
Well, Camozzi just got released from the UFC last September, after a four-fight losing streak. The bout that kicked off the streak was a first round submission against, go figure, Souza. He has won two straight bouts since his release, but the only reason he got his fight is due to the extreme short notice nature of the situation. If he wins against the top-rated Middleweight in the UFC, one who submitted him in the first round just a few years back, it will be quite a “Rocky” story. However, I see this fight going much the same way as the original bout from a few years back. Souza has submitted 15 opponents, many of whom are better than Camozzi, and I see this one going the same way. Prediction: Souza via submission, round 1.
(2) Lyoto Machida (22-5) vs. (4) Luke Rockhold (13-2)
Finally, it’s time to address the main event of the evening. Just as Comozzi/Souza is a quintessential squash match, this fight is the quintessential title eliminator. Lyoto Machida and Luke Rockhold are each amongst the cream of the crop in the Middleweight division, amassing quite a lot of success over their time in the sport. Both fighters have tasted gold before (Rockhold was the final Strikeforce Middleweight champ, while Machida was once a UFC Light Heavyweight Champion), and have been yearning to do so once again.
Rockhold was the final StrikeForce Middleweight champion, whose stock spiraled out of control after Vitor Belfort head-kicked him into oblivion back in May 2013. He has since won three straight fights, all via unique finishes, and finds himself on the cusp of a title shot with a win tonight.
Meanwhile, Machida is arguably the best Karate practitioner in MMA history, the former Light Heavyweight champion finally dropped down to Middleweight, after getting robbed at UFC 163 against Phil Davis in August 2013. He has since won three of four fights, with the lone loss coming in last July’s title fight against Chris Weidman. Despite a ridiculously slow start, something he has been known for, the counter striker roared back in the final two rounds of the classic bout, making tonight’s fight the quintessential title eliminator. He won his follow up fight against CB Dolloway last December, and a win tonight will get him that shot.
This fight could get boring at times, if Rockhold lets it get to that point. Machida is the epitome of a counter-striker, and he doesn’t mind being inactive for lengthy stretches. In other words, Rockhold will have to push the fight. My head says that he will do just that, and get the decision. He is a submission specialist, but I do not see him submitting a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt like Machida. However, my heart yearns for “The Dragon” to get another shot at the belt, so I will go with him. Head pick: Rockhold via decision. Heart pick: Machida via spinning crane kick (or most likely a decision.)