CURRENT RECORD 125-68-2
I thought the card and talent on display for UFC 200 would never be beaten, I stand corrected because this is the greatest card, top to bottom, in UFC history. Three title fights and a jam packed undercard is exactly what New York City deserves for its first ever UFC event in Madison Square Garden. On November 12th history could be made in the main event as Conor McGregor attempts to become the first ever two weight champion, as the featherweight champ takes on lightweight kingpin Eddie Alvarez. Preceding that is a co-main event that sees newly crowned welterweight champion Tyron Woodley defends his belt for the first time against the number one contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. But before either of these fights, we have a third title fight to feast upon, between the women’s Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and her Polish compatriot; Karolina Kowalkiewicz. If the stakes weren’t already high enough for this one, both their undefeated records are also on the line; someone’s 0 must go. Elsewhere on the card, we have a blockbuster undercard that consists of standout fights such as New Yorker Chris Weidman fighting the returning Yoel Romero, “Cowboy” Cerrone fighting Kevin Gastelum, Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on Michael Johnson, Tim Kennedy takes on Rashad Evans and Frankie Edgar versus Jeremy Stephens, to name but a few. This card is air tight from top to bottom, miss this and you will severely regret it, so do yourself a favour and be tuned in from the very beginning.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
EDDIE ALVAREZ vs. CONOR McGREGOR
What a way to top the bill at MSG, pitting champion versus champion. Conor McGregor has the opportunity to leave New York as the first ever dual weight UFC champion but standing in his way is Philadelphia native Eddie Alvarez. “The Underground King” will come here full of confidence having dismantled Rafael dos Anjos in one round to win the lightweight belt at Fight Night 90. Alvarez is primarily a wrestler, who packs a mean punch, he pushes forward and sets a high tempo to the fight but what may be his best weapon is his fight IQ, if Alvarez isn’t finding success on his feet he will switch up his game and take the fight to the mat. After successfully overcoming Nate Diaz in the rematch, Conor McGregor takes his third fight in nine months outside the 145 bracket. “Notorious” has pin point accuracy when he throws HIS left hand, more than likely if it connects, his opponent is going to sleep. His tall frame helps him control the distance and he utilises it exceptionally well by throwing kicks to disguise the counter left hook. For this fight Conor will hold a healthy five inch reach advantage and if it stays on the feet, he should easily pick Alvarez off and finish him early but like I’ve said before, Alvarez is extremely intelligent and I think he will take this fight to the mat as soon as possible. It was apparent in both the Diaz fights that McGregor’s cardio isn’t the best and moving up and down weight certainly wouldn’t have helped, so although McGregor’s takedown defence has improved, I don’t think he will have the stamina to continually stuff the takedowns. This is a fight that’s a lot closer than some fans think, Alvarez is an extremely under rated fighter but the question is does he have enough to get the job done? Alvarez isn’t a cardio machine himself and he does have a suspect chin, so unless he gets McGregor down and submits him I think this goes one way and that’s McGregor catching him early and creating history.
McGregor by KO.
TYRON WOODLEY vs. STEPHEN THOMPSON
Tyron Woodley shocked the MMA world when he knocked out Robbie Lawler in two minutes at UFC 201 to claim the welterweight belt and for his first defence he will take on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Woodley is one of the hardest hitters in the division; he has genuine knockout power and fires off punches at incredible speed. “The Chosen One” also has an underappreciated ground game; he is fantastic wrestler who has five submission victories to his name. Woodley would be wise to apply his wrestling a bit more in this contest and avoid the stand-up exchanges with Thompson. “Wonderboy” comes into this fight on a tear; winning his last seven and cleaning out the division in the process. Thompson is a kick boxer by trade which has helped him become one of the most unorthodox strikers on the roster. He is an incredible counter puncher that in a split second can throw a wild, outrageous kick. His one weakness may be his ground game and it will be interesting to see how he copes if he does get taken down. Woodley’s biggest concern for this fight should be his ability to last the five rounds, he has a tendency to slow down in the later rounds and I think this could be a major factor in this fight. Once “Wonderboy” avoids the haymaker early on, he should cruise to victory and maybe even get a late stoppage.
Thompson by decision.
JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK vs. KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ
This will be a wild fight for so many reasons; the titles on the line, both women are Polish and both are undefeated. JJ is one of the finest strikers around, the volume in which she throws punches is phenomenal and her accuracy is sensational. She is a master at controlling the centre of the Octagon and if she is allowed to fight her fight, she will dominate from start to finish. Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a lot like JJ, minus the killer instinct; she too has fantastic hands but is a bit more conservative in letting them go. Her one advantage over JJ and something she may choose to use in this fight, is her great work from the clinch. When JJ fought Claudia Gadelha, Gadelha found success from getting in close and was able to cause damage, so if Kowalkiewicz can do the same but be more effective with the strikes, she may cause some problems. This will be Kowalkiewicz’ fourth fight since making her UFC debut in 2015 and she has been gradually improving each time but JJ is a different beast and she is queen of the 115lb division for a reason. Kowalkiewicz may give her some trouble early but as the fight wares on, I expect JJ to take complete control and win by unanimous decision. Joanna Champion remains undefeated.
Jedrzejczyk by decision.
CHRIS WEIDMAN vs. YOEL ROMERO
If things had of panned out differently, Chris Weidman would be defending his belt in his home town but Luke Rockhold and a couple of months of injuries put an end to that. Weidman spent the summer recovering from a neck injury and on Saturday will make his comeback against another returning fighter in Yoel Romero who has been absent these past few months through suspension. Weidman is the former middleweight champion who went 13-0 before Rockhold put him to the sword at UFC 194, “The All-American” is a high level wrestler with slick boxing; perfected under the tutelage of Mark Henry. His opponent; Yoel Romero is a pure muscle monster; he is an Olympic silver medallist and one of the finest wrestlers to grace the Octagon. This match up could well be a battle of the ground game, one I think Romero holds an advantage over; when he gets an opponent down he smothers them. As talented as Weidman is on the mat, he is not comfortable working off his back so Romero may pin him down and unleash some heavy shots on him. Romero is seven years older and five inches shorter and he does tend to fizzle out late into a fight but I think he may overwhelm Weidman early and finish this one. Weidman is a class act but I don’t think the layoff will have helped and he may scupper to Romero’s power.
Romero by KO.
KELVIN GASTELUM vs. DONALD CERRONE
This fight will mark “Cowboy” Cerrone’s fourth fight at welterweight and his toughest to date. So far Cowboy has shown he can mix it with some of the best in the division; finishing all three fights early but this fight is a big step up in competition. Kelvin Gastelum is a genuine welterweight (when he makes weight that is) and he is the biggest opponent Cowboy will have ever faced. Cerrone will have a slight two inch reach advantage but in terms of weight, Gastelum will be the bigger man so he may decide to wrestle and clinch more to drain Cowboys energy. If Cerrone shows the same performance as he did against Rick Story in his last fight; using his kicks to the leg and mid-section, he could find success and slow Gastelum down. But my one fear is that Cerrone has struggled in the past against southpaws; think Nate Diaz and RDA, and this may come to play here again. If Cerrone’s done all the right adjustments, he could win and that would propel him to a contender but I think Gastelum’s size and power will prevail.
Gastelum by decision.
MIESHA TATE vs. RAQUEL PENNINGTON
Miesha Tate had been on a five fight winning streak (including claiming the title) before Amanda Nunes jammed on the breaks at UFC 200. Tate is a pioneer of women’s MMA and one of the best in the division. She is a dominant wrestler with an eye for a submission; her one downfall is her stand up. For the nine years “Cupcake” has been fighting, her stand up has never really improved, she is prone to taking shots and despite having the heart to continue surging forward, she tends to leave her chin in vulnerable positions. Lucky for her Raquel Pennington isn’t the most prolific striker either. Pennington has had a varied career going 5-5 before winning her last three fights consecutively and looking good in doing so. She is a busy fighter and works well in the clinch, she has good takedown defence but it won’t be good enough to continually prevent Tate from taking her down. Once Tate does take the fight to the mat, she will dictate the rest of the fight. Tate should do enough to grind out a decision.
Tate by decision.
Best of the Rest.
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens
Edgar to win.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson
Nurmagomedov to win.
Rashad Evans vs. Tim Kennedy
Evans to win.
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
Muhammad to win.
Jim Miller vs. Thiago Alves
Alves to win.
Rafael Natal vs. Tim Boetsch
Natal to win.
Liz Carmouche vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Chookagian to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 13 predictions in an accumulator is about 775/1.
The inbetweener bet: Tate, Edgar, Nurmagomedov, Romero and Thompson to win is 8/1.
The conservative bet: McGregor to win by KO is evens or KO and Round 2 is 5/1.
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