UFC’s Landmark Weekend

By: S. Davis

Seventy-five percent of this original article had to be trashed because of Jon Jones. If you follow mixed martial arts then I’m sure you’re up to date on the news that Jones was yanked from UFC 200 for a positive PED test last night. Fans get shafted, the weekend is without it’s main event and Daniel Cormier loses a chance to unify the titles and earn the public’s respect as the true light-heavyweight champion (one in which he needed as he won the title when Jones was stripped due to a traffic incident of his own doing).

Since most of the copy I had ready to post last night is invalid I’ll dive right into the fights I’m most looking forward to seeing. This is not a ranking; it’s some of the fights I’ll be most intrigued to watch. There might even be a prediction or two. What could possibly go wrong?

1. Raphael dos Anjos (C) vs. Eddie Alvarez: Being that this fight is taking place in a few hours it’s safe from being blown off the card, I think. Dos Anjos has been a complete buzz saw since his last loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2014, putting together a string of five wins in a row (with three finishes). Alvarez steps into the cage having won two split-decisions after a debut loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

Alvarez has the resume to be confident heading into this fight. A former Bellator champion, the big fight atmosphere won’t shake him as he’s “beaten champions his whole career” which he likes to say – and is true. He’s got a legit chance to add the UFC gold to a treasure chest full of them. A drawback to Alvarez’s – mostly – exciting style is that he goes into fight-and-survive mode all too often once a few big punches or kicks find a home. Meaning, he has no problem taking part in a firefight because he’s tough. Being tough is a trait that every fighter needs but if he’s using that as a crutch this evening, it’s going to be a short night. He needs to ensure he remains technical while controlling the terms of engagement. Closing distance and working takedowns could be the recipe to success although standing anywhere in a cage with dos Anjos is a scary proposition.

Once labeled as a pure jujitsu ace, dos Anjos has completely added a fluid striking element that makes him one of the most offensively diverse and well-rounded athletes on the roster. You want a grappling match with dos Anjos? Good luck with that. You want to be lazy standing in front of him? Talk to Anthony Pettis’ left eye socket about dos Anjos’ punching power. If you care to be dismissive of his body attacks, well, Cowboy can answer the phone about that one.

In all fights, a myriad of looks needs to be utilized in order to stack the odds of victory in a fighters favor. RDA has more ways to win whereas Alvarez needs to be measured and calculated, traits he likes to ignore at times. Although he fought with those two in abundance which gained him this title shot in the first place. This is going to be a great fight.

Prediction: RDA; fourth round TKO.

2. Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Pena: Not a single person on the planet knows what’s going to happen with Ronda Rousey and I hate having to mention her here but she looms over every fighter in the bantamweight division. The victor, here, could very well challenge for the next title shot depending on Rousey, what happens in the aftermath of Tate vs. Nunes and whether Holly Holm wins over Valentina Shevchenko (next month). It’s a lot to sift through but a win stamps a spot on the shortlist, does it not?

Pena is such a dynamic athlete. She’s fast, explosive and seems on the verge of a breakout. She faces the woman – who I thought – would push Rousey but we saw how that ended. Zingano’s said in interviews that she’s learned from the Rousey setback, her last fight before a long sabbatical, by the way.

Zingano can compete anywhere. She can take punishment, whether the storm and rally back from defeat. She’s great in the clinch with crushing elbows (talk to the champ, Miesha Tate about that), she’s powerful, fast and her knees to the body are formidable as well. I worry about the long layoff (the defeat versus Rousey coming back in February 2015) for her when Pena knows that an impressive showing against a former title challenger earns her a spotlight to share with Holm and Rousey. I want to see who initiates the clinch and where that goes. I’ll also be watching for Zingano’s endurance as Pena is sure to test her gas tank.

Prediction: Zingano by unanimous decision.

3. T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao: Dillashaw dropped a close split-decision to Assuncao in 2013 before he scorched the division on the way to the bantamweight championship (which I don’t think he lost to Dominick Cruz). This fight is on the UFC 200 preliminary card! Dillashaw isn’t even the same fighter as he was then and I think his footwork will cause Assuncao headaches all evening.

Prediction: Dillashaw; third round TKO.

4. Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar: This is a fantastic fight…that SHOULD NOT take place…for the interim featherweight championship. I don’t mean that it’s not worthy of UFC 200, in fact it’s the opposite. My problem is that Conor McGregor, the undisputed title holder in the division, is forcing the top two contenders at featherweight to kill one another off so that he only has to face one of them after his dalliance with Nick Diaz. He should have to share the Octagon with them both at some point.

Aldo faces a lot of questions as many think this is the end of his career unfolding right before our eyes. Losing in 13 seconds in his last showing was devastating but how does that erase everything else he’s accomplished since beginning his career as a poor kid from Brazil? In my eyes it doesn’t. However you have to wonder if Aldo got lazy and just got caught with a perfect punch or if it’s foreshadowing a steep decline. Hmm…

Edgar, fully entrenched as a featherweight, is staring directly at history on Saturday. He’s looking to join the two person list of Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the only fighters in UFC history to hold belts in two weight classes. His footwork, boxing, angles, defense and speed make him a tough out for anyone (looking at you McGregor) and I do think he’ll have a closer showing with Aldo in this fight. Their first battle at UFC 156 was hotly debated but I thought it was a clear victory for Aldo.

It bothers me that one of these remarkable fighters has to lose, to then become further disrespected by the UFC, and fall within the division. Edgar is cooked if Aldo comes out the victor this weekend as that will be his second loss to him in another title fight while Aldo might have to look at a lightweight move as McGregor seems uninterested in making featherweight any longer.

Prediction: Aldo by unanimous decision. I think his style just matches well with Edgar’s. They shouldn’t be fighting each other at all, at least not now. I don’t want either to have a loss after the weekend. Is there any way this can end in a fascinating, exciting, draw?

5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (C) vs. Claudia Gadelha: My pick for fight of the weekend! These women really want to beat each other around Nevada and it’s going to be a sight to see tomorrow night. In their first meeting, Jedrzejczyk barely escaped a fight many feel she lost. (I think Gadelha won that fight but the uppercut that dropped her in the last 10 seconds of that first round had to be the clincher for the judges and I understand it.)

Jedrzejczyk is going to aim to keep the fight standing where she can dictate terms from any range and work her opponents over with volume and crippling power. Gadelha, while not as polished on the feet, is solid there and a better fighter in more facets of MMA, in my opinion. Takedown defense will be the crucial key for the defending champion but I do think Gadelha will get the fight to the ground on at least two occasions and the interest will spike there. I expect both of these ladies to have their moments during the fight and I’ll be looking to see if either party attempts to end it early because of the real disdain they have for each other – and empties their endurance in the process.

Prediction: Gadelha takes the title by unanimous decision.

Have fun fight fans, I’m sorry the card was ruined but there’s a lot to love about three cards in three days.

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