They say if you want to make God laugh, make plans. That statement could not have been more true in the days leading up to the biggest series of fight cards in MMA history.
Dominant champions such as Matt Hughes and George St-Pierre look more like relics of an ancient epoch of MMA, and with titles changing hands faster than ever before, not one of these matchups is an easy fight to call.
Now that Eddie Alvarez is the new lightweight champion, we have the impending penultimate fight card rapidly approaching, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudio Gadelha vie for the women’s strawweight title, the UFC prepares for the biggest show of the year featuring a main card that will indelibly impact the future of the sport.
UFC 200 Staff Picks: LWOS Weighs In
The goliath UFC 200: Tate vs Nunes card goes down Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV, capping off an incomprehensible fight week for the world’s premier organization. At the very least, it’s a busy week for the UFC roster and the production staff who make everything possible.
MMA fans around the world might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of high profile fights happening, so we’re going to take a look at one event in particular – the UFC 200 main card.
Arguably the biggest event in history, rivaling only the historic UFC 100 back in July of 2009, the main event now features Meisha Tate vs Amanda Nunes after some juggling on the card. Daniel Cormier vs Anderson Silva, a last minute replacement for Jon Jones will take place earlier in the night. The co-main event is back to the original booking between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt in a slobberknocker featuring two of the UFC’s biggest draws.
So without further ado, Last Word on Sports is delving right into the meat and potatoes of the UFC’s bicentennial event by presenting our Staff Picks for the blockbuster card of the year.
Main Event: Miesha Tate (c) vs Amanda Nunes
Miesha Tate’s last performance in the UFC was ultra impressive. She rallied to submit former champion Holly Holm. However, I don’t see her winning this fight. She’s tough, durable, and has improved remarkably during her tenure in the UFC. However, I don’t think she poses any particular threat to the surging Amanda Nunes. Nunes has the edge in striking and arguably in power, and I expect her to finish strong against Tate and become the new women’s bantamweight champion.
Nunes def. Tate via Unanimous Decision
This might be the easiest fight to predict on the card but it is not a sure thing until the fight happens. Tate looks like she is on a roll and has been very resilient in her last couple of fights. Nunes has been a finishing machine and most of her fights and could capitalize on the slow starting Tate but if that doesn’t happen, it should be a good night for Miesha Tate defending the belt.
Tate def. Nunes via Submission, Rd 5
This is Tate’s first title defense since winning the belt back at UFC 196 and she could not have drawn more of a dark horse opponent than Nunes. Nunes has won 5 out of her 6 fights since coming into the UFC. 4 of which were 1 st Round stoppages. We all know about Tate’s fantastic ground game and ever improving striking. She is the champion for a reason. My thing is that Miesha, especially in that Holm fight, got off to a very slow start and then had to go for broke in the final round. You cannot do that when your opponent has the potential to end you in the first round. I know I’m in the minority on this one but still hard to argue with Nunes’ power.
Nunes def. Tate via TKO, Rd 4
Co-Main: Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt
There are many questions that remain to be answered in this fight. We haven’t seen Lesnar in the octagon for approximately five years, and his last fight was a brutal TKO loss to future title contender Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. Hunt has looked absolutely devastating in his last two performances in the octagon, stopping both Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and former UFC champion Frank Mir by knockout. Based on those aforementioned variables, I’m predicting a first round TKO by the “Super Samoan.”
Hunt def. Lesnar via KO, Rd 1
If there is a fight that has finish written all over it on this main card, it is sure to be this one. Hunt is the king of the walk-off KO. Lesnar is a big money grab for the UFC and they sure glad to have him fight on the biggest card in history. For Lesnar, he’s out to prove he still has what it takes to fight and for Hunt, this could be the biggest win of his career against a former champion. I would love to see Brock Lesnar win but Hunt is peaking at the right time and we could smell another one of his vintage knockouts at UFC 200.
Hunt def. Lesnar via KO, Rd 2
Brock Lesnar makes an unexpected return against the walk off KO king, Mark Hunt. Lesnar’s game plan is going to be simple, get the fight to the ground. Hunt’s game plan will be just as simple, Keep the Fight standing. The difference comes in where Brock actually has a stand up game, whereas we do not know how much of a ground game Hunt really has. Look for Brock to exploit that huge hole all night.
Lesnar def. Hunt via SUB, Rd 2
Daniel Cormier (c) vs Anderson Silva
The UFC couldn’t have picked a more bizarre fight to add to the UFC 200 card. On one hand, we have Daniel Cormier, the American Kickboxing Academy standout who won the undisputed title after Jon Jones vacated the strap following a host of personal issues.When Cormier defeated Anthony Johnson in the third round of their light-heavyweight title fight, he became the first champ since Jon Jones won the title back at UFC 128, after obliterating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a one-sided beatdown.
The fact is, we’ve seen Cormier in all his glory inside the octagon. With the exception of a unanimous decision loss to Jon Jones, he hasn’t lost in mixed martial arts. He’s dominated fighters like Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and Swedish superstar Alexander Gustaffson. He’s more than battle-tested, he’s battle-proven. It’s hard to bet against Cormier fighting anyone other than Jon Jones.
Anderson Silva is widely considered the greatest of all time (GOAT), however, following two brutal KO/TKO losses to Chris Weidman, he took a considerable amount of time off before returning to face Nick Diaz, emerging with a unanimous decision victory. Strangly, both Silva and Diaz were suspended for one year and five years, respectively, following their main event fight, drawing mixed reactions from fans and pundits alike.
Despite Silva’s success in the octagon, he hasn’t looked like his old self since the two Weidman losses. Ddspite knocking Michael Bisping down at the end of the third round, he wound up losing a decision in Bisping’s hometown. It was a controversial bout which many thought Silva won.
We can go back and forth on what each fighter’s past says about this match, but there are several factors that, I argue, invariably put Cormier far ahead on the oddsmakers books.
Silva has suffered a vicious KO, a devastating leg fracture, and been popped for PEDs in the past several years. He’s also the much smaller fighter, and has had trouble with wrestlers in the past. Not to mention, Cormier isn’t simply a wrestler – he’s the incumbent light heavyweight champion and a former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. Cormier’s stand-up has looked increasingly impressive in each performance since his loss to Jones at UFC 182, and he’s unequivocally the better prepared fighter coming into this match, having a full training camp and the mindset of a current champion.
To be honest, I don’t see how Silva can win this fight, lest we see a revived Silva return in vintage form to KO the granite-chinned Louisiana native with a flashy muay thai combination or a brutal head-kick reminiscent of the Vitor Belfort fight back at UFC 126. Unsurprisingly, I’m going to pick Daniel Cormier to win this fight. Although he could most likely submit Anderson Silva, I think he’ll most likely choose to pound him out from top position. I expect this to end in the second or third round of this strikingly bizarre matchup.
Cormier def. Silva via TKO, Rd 3
Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar
So much has changed since these two first met in the octagon back at UFC 156. What concerns me most is Jose Aldo’s mindset coming into this fight. Frankie Edgar looks hungrier than ever. He is coming off an impressive first-round knockout over Chad Mendes. Mendes stood in the pocket with Edgar and paid for it dearly.
The other variable to consider is how Jose Aldo looked against Conor McGregor in his last fight. The way he deviated from his typically strategic, calculated fighting style worries me. A fighter whose reign lasted ten years, including four years as the *only* UFC featherweight champion, should have the mental fortitude to withstand trash talk and bravado. These factors, along with a strong intuition, tell me Frankie Edgar is well on his way to his second UFC belt. I’d also like to mention that I consider the victor of this fight the genuine UFC featherweight champion, since McGregor has apparently left the division and has been submitted by Nate Diaz.
Edgar def. Aldo via TKO, Rd 3
I am a big Frankie Edgar fan, that i will put out there. I respect Aldo a lot, but if any man in the featherweight division can beat Conor McGregor, its Edgar. He has looked at top form almost every fight he has had at 145 pounds and if he can beat Aldo for the Interim belt, this will put him in a historical class of his own. He has the stuff to beat Aldo, and it will sure be epic but Edgar will come out on top.
Edgar def. Aldo via Submission, Rd 4
This fight really should just be called “The McGregor Bowl” because the winner of this fight should finally get the first shot at McGregor’s Featherweight Belt. Aldo is looking to bounce back from a shocking 1st round knockout loss to the aforementioned McGregor. Meanwhile, Frankie Edgar looks to continue his winning ways and climb to a spot where only B.J. Penn and Randy Couture have ever reached, hold a title belt at two different weight classes. Both of these fighters have the hearts of ten men and it should make for quite possibly “Fight of the Night” material. Aldo still has those perfectly timed cruel leg kicks. Edgar still possesses that incredible ground game. The last time these two fought… Aldo won via decision. I think lightning strikes twice as Aldo gets back on track.
Aldo def. Edgar via Unanimous Decision
Cain Velasquez vs Travis Browne
The whole world knows who Cain Velasquez is. One cannot question his skills and heart. Travis Browne looked outstanding in his last performance against Matt Mitrione. I’ve seen noticeable improvements in both his conditioning and technique. He’s never tasted UFC gold before, and it’s very possible we’ll see Browne take the UFC heavyweight title in 2017, if not sooner. Velasquez has demonstrable capabilities as a fighter. He has proven his resiliency time and again, which makes picking against him extraordinarily difficult. Despite my ambivalence, I’m going to go against my better judgment and pick Travis Browne to win this fight.
Browne def. Velasquez via TKO, Rd 2
The key is if Velasquez is 100% going into this fight. He is still one of the very best in the heavyweight division. Rest assured, we know that he has made some silly mistakes in the octagon. Hopefully we see a solid fight but Browne is nowhere near the level that Velasquez is at.
Velasquez def. Browne via Unanimous Decision
The last time we saw Velasquez, he was taping out to Fabricio Werdum in his home town of Mexico City. He has said since then, he wanted to get back on track. Now he has the opportunity to do it against Travis Browne. Both men feature some fantastic power and each man has the ability to KO each other early and often. I think Velasquez gets back on track very quickly.
Velasquez def Browne via TKO, Rd 1
All of these fights could easily headline any other UFC card, but this card is special in more ways than I can articulate. Each match-up poses unique challenges to both fighters. The reality is this sport has proven to be as unpredictable as life itself. Despite the outcomes of these fights, the salient point to remember here is how both the winner – and more importantly, the loser – of these fights make the necessary adjustments to stay at the top of their game.
In a sport as capricious as mixed martial arts, one can only speculate on who will emerge victorious in this monumental and historic UFC event.
In a world with no guarantees, the only certainty is these will bear the fruit of the pinnacle of entertainment. If there’s no such as a loser, it’s because the UFC has incredible fans. The true fighters will march forward to live to fight another day.
And with that, I tip my hat to anyone with the courage and heart to step inside the octagon to compete against the best fighters in the world.
UFC 200, here we go!
LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 28: Anderson Silva prepares to face Chris Weidman in their UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 168 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 28, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)