Some cards just have the look and aura that conveys the feeling that it will be a damn fun one. Well, tonight’s main card definitely fits the bill. Headlined by a pair of longtime Welterweight contenders, the slate also includes a fun women’s bout, a rehash of one of the best fights in UFC history and a co-main that pits a beleaguered former champion facing off against a finishing ace.
This one has the makings of something truly great, and here are my picks for the main card slate.
Main card (8/7c, FOX)
Jim Miller (26-8, 1NC) vs. Joe Lauzon (26-11)
Some fights are so nice, they need to take place twice. That’s the case with Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon. A pair of longtime UFC competitors and perennial finishers who always bring it, the pairing stole the show in their co-main slot at UFC 155, winning unanimous acclaim in what was the 2012 Fight of the Year. Both men have had ups and downs since then.
Lauzon is 4-3 since that classic bout, has split his last four, and has 25 finishes in 26 wins, 18 via submission. He’s also a a notorious post-fight machine, winning some sort of bonus on 14 different occasions. Miller is 4-4 with a no contest since that fight, and like Lauzon, vanquished a legend at UFC 200. He’s also a submission specialist, winning 13 times in that fashion, but he also has the better gas tank. No result will surprise me here. If there’s one thing I do know though, it’s that this will be a great fight. If it winds up being even half as good as their first encounter, it’ll steal the show for sure. Prediction: Miller via thrilling decision or late submission.
(9) Paige Vanzant (6-2) vs. Bec Rawlings (7-4)
Up next is the lone women’s bout on the card, and it should be a damn fun one. Vanzant is coming off a dominant loss to Rose Namajunas last December, after which she stole the show on Dancing with the Stars. She’s got three decisions, two submissions and one knockout win to her credit. She is still pretty green though, so this will be a big test for her.
Rawling is a five-year veteran, but has had mixed results throughout her career. She’s badass and has a wild side that she’s portrayed throughout her career, and while she’s lost to most of the good and even average fighters she’s gone up against, she has won her last two. I think she’ll lose a decision here, but a win won’t surprise me. Prediction: Vanzant via decision.
(#7 LW) Anthony Pettis (18-5) vs. (6) Charles Oliveira (21-5, 1NC)
In the co-main event of the evening, a former UFC and WEC champion will take on a submission ace. The former champion, Pettis, has looked like a complete shell of his former self over the past year. Once a feared and flashy striker with crafty submissions to boot, has lost three straight, all via decision, in dispirited efforts. It began with a five-round drubbing in his championship loss to Rafael dos Anjos last March, and was followed up by a lay n’pray loss to Eddie Alvarez this past January, before a surefire barnburner against Edson Barboza turned out to be a one-sided affair for the Brazilian in April. Now, Pettis needs a win more than ever. He’s finally moved down to Featherweight, and while a loss won’t necessarily end his UFC tenure, it will further derail whatever stock he’s got left.
Pettis’ opponent, Charles Oliveira, will further try to make his career turn into a living hell. Nineteen of his 21 career wins have come via finish; 13 via submission, and six via knockout. He’s won five of his last six fights, and is one or two wins away from knocking on the door of a potential title eliminator. I think he’s got a great shot here, but silly me, I still believe that Pettis can turn his UFC career around. I’m not too confident in my belief, but I will still pick him, as foolish as that may be. Prediction: Pettis via decision.
(4) Carlos Condit (30-9) vs. (3) Demian Maia (23-6)
In the main event of the evening, a pair of longtime elite Welterweights and personal favorites will duke it out to decide which one will stay in title contention. The longtime fan favorite who has won 28 of his 30 fights via finish (15 via knockout, 13 via submission) garnered a controversial title shot against then champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 195, despite being 2-3 in his previous five before the title shot, and lost a controversial to him that January 2nd night. He then threatened retirement after not getting an immediate rematch, but ultimately he cooled down and decided to take this fight.
Well, it’s a dangerous fight for Condit. Maia is a throwback to the old UFC days, when guys used to be great at one skill and little else. Maia isn’t great in most aspects, but is arguably the greatest submission specialist in MMA today. The fourth-degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has 11 submission and nine decision wins, because he’ll try to become a human backpack against you, and work relentlessly to submit you. He’s won five straight fights, and if he wins here, he does warrant a title shot. He’s not exciting, but he’s amazing at his craft nonetheless. He does have a slightly suspect gas tank though, while Condit is notorious for thriving in late round situations. If Maia is to win, he’ll have to latch on to a submission early. Otherwise, he could be on the receiving end of his second career devastating knockout loss. Condit has been submitted three times, so that is a possibility, but I’ll say he’ll be resilient and win via kate knockout.