Three title fights. One barnburning Middleweight title eliminator. Oh, and a scintillating women’s bout. Ladies and gentlemen, here are my predictions for tonight’s loaded main card.
Main card (10/9c, PPV)
Miesha Tate (18-6) vs. Raquel Pennington (8-5)
Females Bantamweights kick off the main card, as former UFC and Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate faces the surging Raquel Pennington. Tate is 5-3 inside the octagon, and fighting for the first time since losing her title to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. She’s won most of her fights via decision, but also has seven submission and four knockout victories.
Pennington began her career with a 4-4 record, but has won three straight and four of five, with the only loss in that stretch coming in a split decision loss against Holly Holm. She’s 4-4 in bouts that go the distance, and 4-1 in fights that end early. I feel like this fight is guaranteed to go the distance. It’s essentially a tossup, but I’ll go with the former champ in what is basically a coin flip. Prediction: Tate via decision.
(2) Chris Weidman (13-1) vs. (4) Yoel Romero (12-1)
Up next is a surefire barnburner and potential Middleweight title eliminator between a pair of elite wrestlers.
Weidman has finished 9 of his 13 victories, including his title win over Anderson Silva back in July 2013, as well as two of his three title defenses. This is his first fight since losing the title to Luke Rockhold last December, and it’s only fitting that the former NCAA All American wrestler, the face of New York MMA today, gets to fight on the PPV tonight.
Weidman’ opponent? Controversial Olymic wrestler Yoel Romero. Fresh off a suspension for a failed drug test, Romero will look to win his eighth straight fight. His last fight was a controversial split decision against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza last December, on the same night that Weidman lost his belt. Ten of his 12 wins have come via knockout, and he’s arguably the best wrestler in MMA today.
That said, for some reason, I feel like it’s Weidman’s night. It’s his home state, he was the driving force behind the UFC’s return to New York, and I think he’ll find a way to win tonight. Prediction: Weidman via submission, round 3.
Women’s Strawweight championship: (c) Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0) vs. (2) Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0)
JJ vs. KK. Two Polish women, both unbeaten, both being decision fighters, each doing so seven times. That said, I believe JJ’s Muai Thai prowess will be too much for KK to overcome, and I see the champ retaining via, go figure, a decision. Prediction: Jedrzejczyk via decision.
UFC Welterweight Championship: (c) Tyron Woodley (16-3) vs. (1) Stephen Thompson (13-1)
In the co-main event of the evening, newly crowned Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will look to retain in his first title defense, against striker Stephen Thompson. Now, Woodley may not have been the most worthy challenger for the belt, but he did finish them champion Robbie Lawler in the first round this July. He’s got great wrestling, and has finished 11 of his 16 career victories.
That said, I believe it’s Wonderboy’s time. A fifth degree black belt in Kempo Karate, as well as a black belt in Tetsu Shin Ryu Jiu Jitsu and American Kickboxing, Thompson won all 57 of his kickboxing bouts, has seven MMA knockouts, and a great gas tank too. If Woodley takes him down, he can retain, but I think it’s Wonderboy’s time. Prediction: Thompson via tko, round 4.
UFC Lightweight Championship: (c) Eddie Alvarez (28-4) vs. (FW C) Conor McGregor (20-3)
For the sake of flash, Conor McGregor is getting a Lightweight title shot to headline the card, despite never defending his own belt. I won’t address his antics or personality, but fighting wise, he’s got great striking and great power, as evidenced by his 17 knockout wins. His weakness is his takedown defense, and all three of his losses have come via submission.
Speaking of takedowns, Alvarez is great at them. He’s also a finisher, with 15 knockout and seven submission wins in 28 victories. The last time he was finished was in November 2011 against Michael Chandler, and his only knockout loss came in April 2007. If he loses tonight, it’s via knockout. If he doesn’t get knocked out, I see him winning via decision or late finish, and that’s what I think will happen. Prediction: Alvarez via decision or late submission.