Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is the night. Tonight is the night that Stipe Miocic will either complete a successful title defense in his home city, or will be vanquished by Alistair Overeem, a man who’s looking to check of the final item on his MMA bucket list. Tonight, either former champion Fabricio Werdum will bounce back from his last fight and embarrass Travis Browne for the second time in two years, or Browne will avenge that loss.
Also, Urijah Faber will either pass the torch to a surging contender in Jimmie Rivera, or show that he’s still got something in the tank. Either Jessica Andrade or Joanne Calderwood will lay claim to a potential Strawweight title eliminator. Oh, and CM Punk will finally make his long-awaited professional MMA debut. Not bad for a PPV, right? Well, here are my predictions for tonight’s main card. Hopefully, it lives up the lofty expectations.
UFC 203 Main Card (10/9c, PPV)
(7) Joanne Calderwood (11-1) vs. (6) Jessica Andrade (14-5)
The opening bout is a Women’s Strawweight bout where the winner is basically guaranteed a title eliminator bout. The soft-spoken Calderwood has five knockout and six decision wins to her credit, including a devastating body kick against Valerie Letourneau in June which gave her two straight wins since suffering her lone career loss at the hands of Maryna Moroz in April of last year. She’s 3-1 inside the octagon, and a win tonight would go a long way for her.
As for Andrade, the former Bantamweight looked sensational in her Strawweight debut in June. On that UFC 99 night, she utterly dominated former title challenger Jessica Penne, en route to a second-round tko finish. She went 4-3 as a Bantamweight inside the octagon, and her size gives her quite the advantage. She’s got 11 finishes to her credit (six submissions, five knockouts,) but has also been knocked out and submitted twice apiece.
That said, all those finish losses came against Bantamweights, so it’s a question mark as to whether anyone at Strawweight can finish Andrade. For that reason, as much as I love Jojo, I think Andrade will finish the fight in the third round. If this goes the distance, it could spell trouble for Andrade, but I see her finishing the fight before it can get to that point. Prediction: Andrade via tko, round 3.
(2) Urijah Faber vs. (12) Jimmie Rivera (19-1)
Old guard vs. hot prospect. We’ve seen this story before, and that’s what we’re getting here. Urijah Faber is the most famous fighter amongst the lower weight classes in MMA history due to his popularity throughout his UFC and even his WEC days dating back a decade, but retirement questions have begun popping up. What does he have left to prove? His last fight was a one-sided decision loss to Dominick Cruz, so does he still want to compete?
Well I say to hell with it, let the man fight while he’s still at a high level. He may be 37, but the only time he got finished since 2008 was a controversial finish against Renan Barao in early 2014. He may have lost two of his last three, but those losses were a title fight, and a decision loss to a former Lightweight champion in Frankie Edgar, at Featherweight. He’s still ranked second in the division he made famous, has 26 finishes to his credit, a solid 9-5 UFC record, and as long as he’s not getting anymore unearned title shots handed to him, it should be fine.
That said, Jimmie Rivera is no joke. He may be a decision machine (14 decisions in 20 fights,) but he is on an impressive 18-fight winning streak, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, he hasn’t been very impressive inside the octagon, with both fights ending via controversial decision. He may well be the real deal, but I don’t think he’s elite just yet. A win for him wouldn’t shock me, but I think Faber still has enough left in him to pull off his 20th career submission win. Prediction: Faber via submission, round 2.
CM Punk (professional debut) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0)
Well guys, it’s finally happening; CM Punk is finally making his professional MMA debut, inside the octagon, almost two years after sigining with the UFC. No TUF, no amateur bouts, nothing, just straight to the UFC. That’s drawn the ire of many fighters and MMA fans, who view this fight as a sideshow. Well, it sort of is a sideshow, since both men should be in regional competition in MMA, and even Gall knows it. Alas, the UFC is more about entertainment and publicity than it is about merit these days, so it is what it is.
Punk was a legendary “pro” wrestler in the WWE, but that’s not sports, so I won’t delve deeper into it than that. Bottom line is, he and the company butted heads for like the millionth time, and he walked away in early 2014. Tensions continued to boil for the next several months, before he signed with the UFC in December of that year. Injuries delayed his debut to tonight, at a point where many wondered if the debut would ever happen. Well, it is now.
As for Gall, he knows that this fight shouldn’t be on this level. He’s 2-0 with a pair of first round rear-naked choke victories, with the latter being in the UFC against a photojournalist who was making his UFC debut, and had a 3-6 amateur record at one time. I applaud Punk for taking on this challenge, and I wish him luck. I would honestly love it if he won and stunned the haters, but I don’t see it happening. The only thing standing in the way of a Gall win is the attention and potential jitters. So long as they don’t hinder Gall, he should win in the opening round. I hope that doesn’t happen and we get a good fight, but I’m not going to predict that. Prediction: Gall via submission, round 1.
(1) Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1) vs. (6) Travis Browne (18-4-1)
In the co-main event of the evening, former UFC Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum will fight for the first time since losing his title to tonight’s headliner, back in May. Werdum made a critical error that night, it cost him, and he’s fighting just four months after that fight. His original opponent Ben Rothwell got injured, so his former foe, Travis Browne, stepped up to the plate. Browne got dominated and finished by Cain Velasquez in July, so this is a bout between two powerful Heavyweights that got viciously knocked out just a few months ago.
The two met in a title eliminator back in April 2014, in a fight where Werdum dominated Browne for 25 minutes en route to a one-sided decision win. Since that fight, Browne has gone 2-2, while Werdum has gone 2-1 in three championship fights, and all seven of those combined fights ended via finish.
Browne is a knockout artist, with 14 of his wins and three of his losses coming in that fashion. He’s also got a pair of submission and decision wins to his credit, and a 9-4-1 record inside the octagon. As for Werdum, the man has a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as well as black belts in Judo and Muai Thai. He’s won ten fights via submission, six via knockout, four via decision and has been knocked out just twice. He’d won all six of his UFC fights since his return, until he got knocked out by Stipe Miocic in May.
Werdum has also followed up every loss with a winning streak, which is all the more reason for he to pick him, along with the fact that I believe he’s better than Browne in every facet. I don’t think this one will go the distance, and anything can happen at heavyweight, but I’m definitely picking Werdum here. Prediction: Werdum via submission, round 2.
UFC Heavyweight Championship
(3) Alistair Overeem (41-14, 1NC) vs. (c) Stipe Miocic (15-2)
In the main event of the evening, history will be made. Either Alistair Overeem will check off the final thing remaining in his MMA bucket list, or Miocic will defend his crown in his home city.
Both men are knockout artists, although Miocic has the wrestling edge due to his collegiate wrestling credentials. He’s 9-2 inside the octagon, and his only knockout loss came against Stefan Struve in late 2012. He’s won a performance bonus in four of his last five fights, his last four wins have come via knockout, and he has eleven knockout wins to his credit.
Meanwhile, Overeem has been everywhere. He was a superstar as a K-1 Kickboxer, fought 14 fights for the legendary PRIDE promotion, six times for the famed DREAM promotion, was the former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion, and is even better with submissions (19) than he is with getting knockouts (18.) He does have nine knockout losses, but in his last few fights, he’s been much better with his striking defense than ever before.
This fight might be a tossup. Miocic is the better wrestler, but Overeem has 19 submission wins to his credit. Miocic has the better chin, but Overeem has the most brutal knees in the business. Miocic might have a little bit more power in his fists, but Overeem has been terrific with his striking defense of late. Overeem has more experience, but nearly 60 fights in MMA plus a bunch in kickboxing is a lot of mileage on the 36-year-old. Miocic is also fighting in his hometown, which can be both a plus and a minus. I won’t be shocked with any result other than Stipe via submission, but I’ll predict that Overeem will win tonight. Anything can happen though, and I’m expecting a great fight. Prediction: Overeem via tko, round 3.
Hope everyone enjoys the fights!