Big event, big money, and an even bigger fight card. So with all the hype and match-ups, what should fans look forward to on July 9 inside the newly constructed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Before we get to the main card though, we have a number of exciting preliminary fights.
UFC 200 Prelims Predictions
Jim Miller (25-8-1NC) vs Takanori Gomi (35-11-1NC)
This fight instantly grabs your attention if you’re a big MMA/UFC fan, but not so much for the casual observer. Both fighters have had long careers with 80 fights between them. This bout will no doubt be a battle of experience. Unfortunately for Jim Miller, he’s coming into this bout with back-to-back losses on his record, including a submission defeat to Michael Chiesa in December 2015, and a unanimous decision loss to Diego Sanchez at UFC 196 back in March. It’s been quite some time now since “Mayhem” has been anywhere near a genuine contender level. His most impressive winning streak was when he seven fights in a row from 2009 to 2011. He has not seen the same level of success since then.
On the other side of the octagon come July 9th will be “The Fireball Kid,” Takanori Gomi, has also lost his previous two bouts coming into UFC 200. However, unlike Miller, “The Fireball Kid” was defeated via KO in the first round on both occasions. Those losses were to Myles Jury and Joe Lauzon (who is also featured on the UFC 200 card). Gomi’s UFC career has sadly never got going. He’s struggled to rekindle the form he had back in PRIDE.
This one will go all the way to a decision with Miller taking the victory. His gritty determination to hang in there will see him control the centre of the octagon and look to land strikes on Gomi’s chin. He will be even more motivated than normal now as he’s coming off of two knockout losses. Winner: Miller DEC
Gegard Mousasi (38-6-2) vs Thiago Santos (13-3)
This is another interesting bout, especially for a Fight Pass Preliminary fight. Gegard Mousasi has previously headlined four UFC events. While these were not pay-per-view events, the UFC still considered Mousasi a big enough draw to be in the main event. Mousasi boasts an impressive MMA record. However, since his arrival in the UFC, losses to Lyoto Machida, Jacare Souza, and Uriah Hall have impacted his ascent to the top. He managed to bounce back from his most recent defeat, which ended via TKO vs. Uriah Hall, by gaining an unanimous decision win against Thales Leites back in February of this year.
In front of him will be Thiago Santos, who currently holds a four fight win streak. The Brazilian will be looking to extend his good form and make it five consecutive victories inside the octagon. Before beginning his streak, Santos also suffered a defeat to Uriah Hall at UFC 175 via unanimous decision. Since that fight he’s managed to gain a victory over Nate “The Great” Marquardt by knocking him out in the first round.
This fight should be thoroughly entertaining. On one side of the octagon is Mousasi, a kick-boxing, black belt Judoka. On the other side is a Muay Thai black belt in Santos.
Expect to see an intense stand-up battle, which could mean that this fight does not escape the very first round. It was a very smart plan by the UFC to have placed these two fighters against each other to see nothing but fireworks. Confidence is going to be riding higher than ever with Santos, therefore, he’s my pick for this fight. Winner: Santos KO Round 1
Diego Sanchez (28-8) vs Joe Lauzon (24-12)
The UFC has certainly placed a tasty fight for all fans of the sport on the Fight Pass Prelims here.
In Sanchez, we have another very high level fighter who likely would be on the main card if not for this event potentially being the highest grossing UFC fight card of all-time. Diego Sanchez will be full of confidence as he prepares to enter the octagon for the 37th time in his career. In his most recent bout, Sanchez took on Jim Miller, a UFC veteran and an extremely well-rounded fighter. Sanchez earned himself an unanimous decision victory. He executed the perfect game-plan and dominated Miller throughout all three rounds.
Joe Lauzon, however, is going to be looking to avenge his unexpected unanimous decision defeat to Evan Dunham. Lauzon is well known around the MMA world, not just for being a highly entertaining fighter, but for blood; lots and lots of blood. Lauzon has a lot of experience, just like Sanchez, except he boasts a remarkable standing of second place in UFC post-fight bonuses. That is an accomplishment to be proud of. It comes as no surprise, though, due to Lauzon’s ability to put on fights which not only get the crowd cheering, but the fans on the edge of their seats at home.
This one could very well start off with a good amount of stand up from both fighters. Joe Lauzon will be looking to earn another post-fight bonus, and Diego Sanchez will kindly assist in trying to make this fight a war. This winner of this fight will increase his stock significantly in the lightweight division. When it’s all said and done, Sanchez will take a decision here if and only if he can take Lauzon down to the canvas at some point and keep him grounded. Oh, and one more thing: there will be blood! Winner: Sanchez DEC
Sage Northcutt (7-1) vs Enrique Marin (9-3)
Can “Super” Sage Northcutt continue his rise as an MMA fighter in this bout vs ‘Wasabi’? Northcutt has been heavily promoted by the UFC as an up-and-coming superstar in the sport despite a huge upset in his last fight against Bryan Barberena. ‘Super’ tapped out to a Von Flue choke in that match-up and potentially revealed a hole in his ground game. Marin will most likely be looking to expose any flaws in Northcutt’s ability on the mat.
Enrique ‘Wasabi’ Marin is a submission specialist, with all five of his finishes coming by the way of submission. He has picked up four decision victories along the way.
This fight could be over rather quickly. Northcutt will be looking to keep the fight standing as long as possible, hoping to gain a knockout victory early on. However, ‘Wasabi’ will be looking for an opportunity to hit a takedown and start to work some offence on the ground. A well known submission specialist, Northcutt would have prepared extensively on his submission defence for this training camp. Although ‘Super’ has three submission victories on his MMA record already, he isn’t as versatile in the field as his opponent.
Northcutt, however, does boast a great amount of potential, but if he doesn’t close this fight out in the early exchanges, Marin will drag him to the mat and teach him a lesson. Another loss so early on in his career won’t affect him long term, and he will bounce back and eventually become a top draw in the sport. However, expect him to hit another bump in the road this Saturday at UFC 200. Winner: Marin SUB Round 1
T.J. Dillashaw (12-3) vs Raphael Assunção (23-4)
MMA fans all over will be licking their lips at this one. This will be the second time these two terrific fighters will go head to head inside the octagon. T.J. Dillashaw, the former UFC Bantamweight Champion, will be looking to get some revenge against his opponent, as Raphael Assunção managed to convince the judges into a split decision, back in 2013. Unfortunately for Dillashaw the accolade of ‘champ’ didn’t last very long; as the returning king of the UFC Bantamweight division: Dominick Cruz, took the title back via split decision.
Dillashaw will be desperate to get back on the winning path and hope to earn a potential rematch with Cruz, for the belt. He mustn’t look to far ahead though, as Assunção will be hoping to upset the former champ once more. He is riding an impressive seven fight win streak; with his last win, coming against Bryan Caraway. However, Assunção hasn’t fought since 2014. This could be a huge stumbling block in this bout.
Although, Assunção holds a victory over Dillashaw, it’ll be harder than ever this time around. Since Assunção last fought inside the octagon, his opponent has grown significantly as a fighter and even captured UFC gold. The Brazilian native has had multiple injuries over the last two years. A broken ankle, was the start of the long lay off. This was mainly due to Assunção himself, as he failed to take the required rest and recovery for the injury. His lack of care for his health, meant that surgery was the only option to fix the ankle. UFC fans across the globe, will be hoping that he has taken all the advice from his team and conditioned himself for this fight. With both fighters being quite evenly matched, this bout is quite hard to call.
Despite the Dillashaw’s rise in the sport, I still see Assunção taking the win. As long as he can condition himself to be in fighting shape; I believe that he will win by decision. I expect this to be a tough one for the judges to call, as Dillashaw, will most likely be pushing the pace. If Assunção can dig down deep and fight off the ring rust bug, he wins this bout. Prediction: Assunção DEC.
Johny Hendricks (17-4) vs Kelvin Gastelum (11-2)
Did somebody shout “knockout”? Well, I’m going to…
Johny ‘”Bigg Rigg” Hendricks is a fantastic fighter, who once took Georges St. Pierre all the way to a split decision. Unfortunately, he now finds himself fighting in a co-main event Fox Sports Preliminary bout. Many fans believe that ‘Bigg Rigg’ did in fact defeat St. Pierre back in 2013 and should have claimed the UFC welterweight title.
Furthermore, since the split decision loss against St. Pierre, a lot of critics and fans thought that Hendricks would push on; to eventually wear the coveted prize around his waist. These critics and fans of the sport were correct. Johny Hendricks, won the vacant title at UFC 171 vs. Robbie Lawler. This fight came after ‘GSP’ took a hiatus and retired the belt almost instantly after his victory over ‘Bigg Rigg’. He was in a very good place mentally, physically and emotionally as his dream of becoming champion became a reality. That was until UFC 181, where he faced Robbie Lawler in a re-match and suffered a split decision loss.
It was after failing to defend the belt that Hendricks started this decline in performance. He looked merely average against Matt Brown, where he won through unanimous decision. Despite this method of victory, it wasn’t the same Hendricks we were accustomed too. His fire seemed to dampen after losing the gold. His next fight was against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The decline became even more obvious here as ‘Wonderboy’ schooled Hendricks throughout the fight. The whole 211 seconds of it. It was by far his most disappointing appearance under the UFC banner. Hendricks was completely outclassed and was defeated by the way of TKO.
Standing across the octagon from ‘Bigg Rigg’ will be Kelvin Gastelum. The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner shocked many viewers when he managed to defeat Uriah Hall in the finale. He was picked last for Chael Sonnen’s team and managed to grind his way to a UFC contract. Since becoming the winner of the show, Gastelum was able to win another four fights in a row. His skill set continued to improve and he was victorious against established fighter Jake Ellenberger.
After submitting Ellenberger, he then moved onto Tyron Woodley. This is where the undefeated record was snatched away from him via a split decision. Gastelum’s confidence didn’t take a hit though as he bounced back with a cool and calculated TKO (corner stoppage) win over Nate “The Great’ Marquardt.” Furthermore, Gastelum then headlined a UFC Fight Night event in Mexico. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in this event. He was defeated by split decision yet again thanks to Neil Magny. Gastelum will be looking to get back to winning against Hendricks.
With both fighters coming off losses to their records, this fight has tons of potential to be a fan favourite. Both ‘Bigg Rigg’ and Gastelum will be looking to put one another out in convincing fashion. If the bout plays out as I expect and both participants look to trade significant blows, then a knockout is definitely on the cards. This is a tough one to call, but due to his last two performances being terrible, I see Kelvin Gastelum getting a win. Back to back knockouts won’t look good for ‘Bigg ‘Rigg’. Especially as the UFC look to cut talent after 3 consecutive defeats. Its vital that neither fighter loses here. Winner: Gastelum KO round 2.
Cat Zingano (9-1) vs Julianna Peña (8-2)
The seventh bout of UFC 200 features two high level Women’s Bantamweight fighters. “Alpha” Cat Zingano hasn’t fought since her 14 second submission loss to Ronda Rousey. The defeat to Rousey was also Zingano’s first in professional MMA. Sadly, her private life outside of fighting was incredibly difficult and filled with injuries, upsets along with tragedy. Luckily for us fight fans, Zingano was able to stay strong throughout this torrid time and keep career going. ‘Alpha’ previously defeated Amanda Nunes; who is now fighting Miesha Tate for the Womens Bantamweight belt on this card!
Facing Zingano on July 9th, will be Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Peña. First appearing under the UFC banner during ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season 18. Peña managed to win the women’s competition and earn a contract with the UFC. Ironically, this was the season that was supposed to be coached by Ronda Rousey & Cat Zingano, but due to her injury, Miesha Tate ended up with the coaching role. Since winning a spot in the final, she has gone on to defeat all three fighters that have stood in her way. This includes victories over Jessica Rakoczy, Milana Dudieva and Jessica Eye.
The final preliminary fight of the night is an extremely important bout for both fighters. One interesting statistic about Cat Zingano’s MMA career is that she has 100% takedowns. If Zingano can push the pace and press Peña from the opening exchange, then I can potentially see a decision victory heading towards her corner. However, Peña is a very versatile fighter, whose lethal hands could result in a TKO or even a KO victory. For me, it all relies on the takedown defence of Peña. If she can consistently stop the attempts from Zingano and keep the fight standing her chances of winning significantly increase. Nevertheless, this Women’s Bantamweight title eliminator will prove to decisive in both fighters careers. Winner: Peña TKO round 2.