Aldo. Brazil. No Conor McGregor. Title fight. Challenger is riding a 10 fight UFC win streak. Nothing to see here, nothing I say! Both men won their fight for an interim belt, so the battle in Brazil will be the unification for the official featherweight championship belt after McGregor failed to even attempt a title defense at 145 pounds. Shame! It’s a very compelling fight between a legend of the sport and a surging contender that’s wiped out the entire division up to this point. Outside of that fantastic championship fight, UFC 212 is a little low on big names, but not low on the violence meter as matches like Oluwale Bamgbose vs Borrachinha and Yancy Medeiros vs Erick Silva should pique your interest. Of course there’s the long awaited UFC debut of Marlon Moraes, the former WSOF bantamweight champion. Then there’s…..well, filler. It’s not a great PPV by any means, but it marks the start of 5 consecutive fight weeks so deal with it! Let us pray.
Deiveson Alcantara Figueiredo vs Marco Beltran
What a long name! Ol’ Figgy will have to do for now until his name deserves to be fully said. Figgy brings an undefeated 11-0 record with him, 10 of those wins by KO/TKO or submission. He’s a very random, stance-switching striker who tries to find that awkward angle and tries to land a big hit. He often puts his hands low to the ground and rarely if ever moves his head, which has put him in trouble against more technical/cleaner strikers. His fight against Denis Fontes saw ol’ Figgy get dropped several times before coming back with a crushing left hand that got the KO victory for Figgy. That fight, among others, proved to me that Figgy may struggle against those who won’t engage in a brawl with him or get mystified by his stance-switching and awkward movement. Beltran will have a 3 inch height advantage and that will likely force Figgy to have to push forward more than he’d like to. Beltran is the more fluid fighter, with better boxing and has the length to bother Figgy and force him to jump into Beltran’s space with risky entry shots. One thing Figgy may have over Beltran is his grappling, as Figgy has some solid clinch take-downs and is very active on the ground. Beltran has struggled in his career at defending take-downs and grappling exchanges, so if Figgy quickly becomes over-matched on the feet it’s likely he’ll try to get the fight to the ground ASAP. While Figgy definitely has an unique striking style that can ignite brawls and catch opponents off guard with how he attacks from all angles, Beltran is just too fluid of a fighter with a competent boxing game. As long as Beltran can keep himself on the keep, he should be able to take advantage of Figgy’s lackadaisical striking defense and frequent back-pedaling.
Beltran via unanimous decision
Jim Wallhead vs Luan Chagas
Wallhead has been around MMA for a long time, having face some old school names hardcore fans would know such as Frank Trigg and Lyman Good back in the Bellator days. He finally made his UFC debut, but it wasn’t a successful one as he lost to an inferior opponent (on paper). The fight really summed up the unfortunate adage of “Father Time always wins”, as Wallhead simply just didn’t have the quickness or cardio to really put together the counters that’s made Wallhead a highlight reel finisher. Wallhead is 37 years old now and clearly on the downhill of his career, but he still packs quite the wallop on his counters, diminished hand speed and all. His game has always been a stand-pat, hit back with real heat on his counter-strikes and show them youngins’ what real fisticuffs looks like. Wallhead’s got a strong background in Judo which explains his “Judo” nickname, and it shows during his clinch-ups with classic Judo trips and quick successive knees. Chagas is adept enough in the clinch to avoid getting tossed to the ground, but even if he did get eventually thrown to the mat Chagas has a very good and active guard that should protect him against any GnP. Chagas will be the younger fighter by about 14 years, but does that matter? Probably not, as Chagas also has a terrible gas tank that’s been his downfall so far in the UFC. Chagas is more explosive and has very sharp, high-arcing kicks that help him mix in his power-boxing, even if his combinations can be sloppy and uncoordinated at times. Wallhead excels at countering against sloppy techniques and landing a flurry immediately when he sees an opening. That’s why I think this fight is closer than the odds say, despite the age difference and Chagas’ obvious superiority in his athleticism/overall skill-set. Chagas has knocked down his last 2 opponents in the 1st round and looked fantastic, then fizzles out later when his gas tank needle nosedives to E. It’ll likely come down to whether or not Chagas can hide his inefficient boxing against Wallhead’s counters, and he probably can do that in the 1st round while stacking up on his hard low kicks that Wallhead generally doesn’t check against. It’s after the 1st round where things can get really dicey for both men, and it’s why I’m hesitant to pick Chagas even though he has a great guard to counter Wallhead’s clinch take-downs and should be the much quicker, athletic fighter. Letting Ayari land combinations and not punishing his leg kicks then inevitably gassing out made me dislike Wallhead’s chances against Chagas. It’ll have to be a fight-ending KO counter for Wallhead.
Chagas via unanimous decision
Jamie Moyle vs Viviane Pereira
Snore. Not interested in this fight at all, as Pereira proved against LeTorneau she won’t be an active striker unless absolutely necessary. She prefers to sit back and land counter-strikes, hitting on level changes and well-timed take-downs for boring top control. SNORE. Jamie Moyle is way more active than Pereira, but also likes to wrestle and sit in top control if she has the advantage. Moyle gets hit way too much and is too eager at times to push for the take-down attempt, which isn’t a smart idea against a patient Pereira who will quite literally let you drain your hourglass all the way to to the last little grain. Pereira’s got a strong right hand and some grappling skills, but like I said she’s very risk adverse and won’t have to chase down Moyle. If Moyle is able to dictate the pace and create striking exchanges that lead to reactive take-downs, she can be the physical fighter that can really overwhelm diminutive 5’1” Pereira. It’ll be tough to do that if Pereira just runs away all fight and is able to time her right hand counter. I don’t even want to pick a winner for the fight, so I’m going to call it a draw. That’s how much I hate it. WHERE’S RONDA? WHERE’S PAIGE VANZANT? WHERE’S GEEEEEOOOOORGESSSSSS? Where you at, bubba?
DRAW – NO ONE WINS
Brian Kelleher vs Iuri Alcantara
Kelleher will be making his UFC debut against Alcantara, and he’s not really a prospect on the watch. That’s a little strange considering Alcantara had a thrilling comeback victory against a very good prospect in Luke Sanders and has long been a top 15 fighter in whatever division he’s in. Whatever the case may be, I tried my best to locate and watch Kelleher’s fights, but most of them left me asleep in my chair. Such a comfy chair. The majority of Kelleher’s losses have come by submission and his striking skills just aren’t noteworthy in my opinion. He did excel against a noted skilled Muay Thai striker in Andre Soukhamthath, but I think that was more of an outlier fight. Alcantara is an absolutely elite grappler and still packs power in his strikes, even if they’ve become somewhat disheveled over the years as Iuri tries to be overly aggressive at the point where he’s just begging to get taken down. Kelleher doesn’t have the grappling IQ to even come close to defending against Alcantara’s antics on the ground should he decide to take the Brazilian down. If it stays on the feet, I feel very comfortable at picking Alcantara by whatever he wants as he should be able to consistently defend against Kelleher’s simplistic boxing. I’m not going to think too hard about the match-up and sticking to what I Know in Alcantara, and that’s the fact he’s a ridiculously good BJJ black belt with enough competent stand-up to wash away less than stellar competition.
Alcantara via 2nd round RNC
Johnny Eduardo vs Matthew Lopez
Hey, it’s Johnny Eduardo! The man who had one of the biggest upsets from an odds standpoint when he knocked out Eddie Wineland. He’ll be facing against a promising prospect in Matthew Lopez, coming off a win against forgotten semi-contender Mitch Gagnon at UFC 206, which just so happens to be the card when Holloway won his interim belt! Good vibes, man. Lopez is a strong, physical wrestler with opportunistic overhands and a good sense at timing his bombs without over-extending himself. That will be important against Eduardo’s Muay Thai striking style, which has long been his base and the main reason why he continues to be employed by the UFC despite not fighting very often. While Eduardo is the quicker, more technical striker, his take-down defense has always been a major chink in his armor. Aljamain Sterling was able to find that weakness and devour Eduardo whole with a guillotine choke. I expect Lopez will find that weakness as well, as his ability to chain an overhand into a take-down is very efficient and allows Lopez to always be a threat for a take-down at any moment. Winning the scrambles will be key for Eduardo, but considering his lack of wrestling and tendency to be passive off his back, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to fend off most of Lopez’ take-down offensive tactics. Lopez has the potential to be the DK darling of your lineups with his take-down acumen and creating advances at will against a mediocre grappler. As long as Lopez doesn’t do anything crazy on the feet and bides his time, he should be able to thrash Eduardo all around the octagon and nab a win, possibly a finish late.
Lopez via unanimous decision
Antonio Carlos Junior vs Eric Spicely
It’s crazy that Eric Spicely keeps winning when he has one of the worst stand-up in the UFC. I mean, he’s a pretty good grappler and all, but sheesh, cmon! Spicely will be at a size disadvantage against ACJ, but that won’t prevent him from trying his damnedest to get the fight to the ground. That is all he wants to do and the only gameplan Spicely will attempt. Both men are skilled BJJ black belts, with ACJ probably being the better grappler along with the better stand-up, which isn’t much to brag about considering the match-up. Simply put, if ACJ can keep the fight on the feet and defend against Spicely’s average take-downs and relentless attempts at clinching up, it should be a breeze for him. Of course, this is MMA and nothing ever comes easy even if it looks that way on paper. ACJ may end up being on top against Spicely, which still puts him in danger against Spicely’s active and dangerous guard. Considering Carlos Junior is an experienced grappler who already has outstanding top control and a sneakily good back-take, I’m not too worried about those kind of scenarios. It’s really all up to ACJ to avoid being put on his back, and Spicely does have that annoying habit of buzzing around his opponents like a gnat, just hoping for that one mistake that lets him latch on like a rabid animal. I’m betting on ACJ’s physical size and grappling experience to guide him against Spicely for the win, and maybe a late stoppage if he can get Spicely’s back or ends up battering him around on the feet. Now, some of you may say, “What about that Dan Kelly feller? Dude submitted him! And he’s like 100 years old!!!!” Well yeah, he did submit ACJ, but that was after surviving a perilous 1st round where ACJ had his back and just kept pounding away on poor old Dan Kelly’s head, eventually gassing out while getting smacked around by the Kangaroo Master. I mean, old man power is a real thing guys! Google it!
Carlos Junior via 3rd round TKO
Marlon Moraes vs Raphael Assuncao
The long-awaited UFC debut of Marlon Moraes has finally arrived, and it’s against one of the better bantamweights in the division. Assuncao is one of the few men who’s been able to defeat T.J. Dillashaw in a split decision. Of course, he did lose the eventual rematch but I digress. Assuncao is similar to Moraes as he’s very light on his feet and mixes in his wrestling well, offering a balanced attack at all times. What Assuncao lacks in power and explosiveness, Moraes checks all the above in that department. Moraes is the more athletic fighter of the two, employing some dazzling kicks and fantastic reactive strikes as a counter, including flying knees and even the occasional switch head-kick. Much like Assuncao, Moraes is also willing to mix in his wrestling to keep his opponents honest, but he’s a little more active with his ground offense, not opting to sit in top control and stay heavy on top. That’s an important distinction to have if a fighter wants to make their mark in their respective division, and it’s probably why Assuncao just hasn’t broken through at this point despite some good wins over opponents like Dillashaw, Sterling, Caraway, and Munhoz. Moraes obviously hasn’t faced the kind of talent Assuncao has had, nor has he faced a complete fighter like Assuncao who can not only negate his offensive wrestling but match Moraes’ striking speed as well. The difference between to the two comes down to athletic ability in my opinion, and Moraes has it in droves while Assuncao has struggled with injuries and may have lost that extra gear needed to keep up with the quicker competition. Moraes can really give Assuncao fits if he’s able to find his range early and really showcase his combinations that made him such a tremendous prospect in WSOF. If Assuncao can negate Moraes’ offense early with his leg kicks and octagon control, his experience should kick in and he’ll pick up a decision win. I doubt this fight ends up being a finish for either guy, so I’d probably look elsewhere for your GPP lineups. I’m going with the athletically superior fighter with more to prove despite most of the WSOF departures not really panning out up to this point.
Moraes via unanimous decision
Erick Silva vs Yancy Medeiros
Well, the Bieber of Brazilians has returned to his homeland and it’s a glorious match-up! Medeiros hasn’t had a great run in the UFC thus far, ending up being known for his uncanny ability to endure punishment and put on a display of how the heart can withstand a ridiculous amount of damage. That’s not something you want to be known as a fighter. You don’t wanna be that guy who can take a punch but can’t dole it right back. That sums up Medeiros in a nutshell, but there’s a saving grace for him against Erick Silva. The Brazilian Bieber has no chin to speak of, which is kinda funny in its own right. It’s essentially a battle of whose chin can hold up the longest between a legendary chin and a peasant chin. Both guys switch up their stances from time to time, but Silva prefers to sit in southpaw as his left straight is his best weapon of note. Medeiros really lacks any sort of consistent striking defense, rarely moving his head and feet which might explain why most of his opponents have had an easy time targeting his legendary chin. Silva should be able to take the same advantage as Medeiros’ past opponents have had, but can he avoid getting into a brawl with Medeiros? While Silva is quicker, more precise, and more explosive as a striker than Medeiros, the one thing he lacks other than a chin is a gas tank. If he blows his wad in the 1st round and doesn’t finish Medeiros, it could end up being a situation where he’s extremely gassed and lethargic while attempting to stave off an angry Medeiros going for the finish near the end. Medeiros has a lanky build and builds off his lead jab with plenty of combinations and the occasional spinning kick, but doesn’t really have any rhyme or reason to his striking. That randomness has cost him fights against more seasoned veterans who can pinpoint the window to strike back with a fight-ending counter and take control of the fight. Silva will have to continually find those said windows if he wants to keep his chin intact and his hand raised in the air. It’s a tough, close fight and it really shouldn’t be, as Silva is just a better overall fighter than Medeiros and even has the much better grappling. Chins man, when will they ever not be a thing? Damn it! I’ll just hedge this fight and be done with it. I’m going with the better guy.
Silva via 2nd round RNC
Oluwale Bamgbose vs Paulo Borrachinha
Someone’s going to get knocked the PHUK OUT! That would have been funny if it was a fighter named Phuk. Shame. “The Holy War Angel” aka Bamgbose is full of frightening power and dynamite in his leg kicks, with all of his wins by KO/TKO including a devastating head-kick over Daniel Safarian in his 2nd UFC fight. Then there’s Paulo Borrachinha, coming off a brilliant 1st round KO over Garreth McLellan. He also has all but 1 win by KO/TKO, with every single fight ending in the 1st round. EVERY SINGLE FIGHT. Bamghose has also won every fight in the 1st round along with a 1st round loss to Uriah Hall and a decision loss in his last fight. Point here is, who’s going to get slaughtered in the 1st round between two power punching evil-doers? Simple. The guy who has shown more in my opinion across all of his fights. That man is Paulo Borrachinha, who has a variety of ways to attack his opponents. He generally likes to corner his opponents with a push-forward pace and leading ahead with mean leg kicks and a hammer of a right hand. Bamghose has shown in the past he can be pushed back easily and doesn’t circle out very well, which is exactly what Borrachinha wants. Once cornered, that’s when Borrachinha really shines, attacking every part of the body with crisp but devastating combinations and taking his time to attack instead of going all out. That’s when Borrachinha can pick his spots to counter for the final, fight-ending strike. While Bamghose could absolutely light up Borrachinha with well-timed counters and utilizing his knee-shattering leg kicks, he’s just not as well rounded as Borrachinha and has zero take-down defense or anything on the ground to speak of. Borrachinha rarely goes for the take-down, but does have some grappling experience and has a couple fights with a TKO win by GnP and a rear naked choke to boot. I’m simply going with the fighter that has more tricks up his sleeve and a better overall striking base, but won’t discount the Holy War Angel at pulling out the upset. Remember, these men have soul devouring power!
Borrachinha via 1st round KO
Nate Marquardt vs Vitor Belfort
This is quite the Champions League fight that Belfort wanted. What Belfort basically asked for in a Champions League is just a bunch of old, washed up UFC veterans with no chins or stamina brutalizing each other for the gain of….well, I’m not really sure what they gain out of it other than more concussions. Anyway, Belfort got his wish as he’ll face off against a decrepit Nate Marquardt, who has a 3-7 record in his last 10 fights with 4 of those losses by KO. Marquardt still has the power to put away anyone in the division, as 2 of his 3 wins are by KO. His speed and chin has completely evaporated though, and the wins he got were against really bad competition. Belfort is sort of in the same boat as Marquardt, only to a lesser extent. The Old Lion has seen his speed diminish over the years, and he just got brutally knocked out in his last fight, but he’s still shown some life in short spurts against Dan Henderson and Chris Weidman. Not to mention he’s not as shot from a striking perspective as Marquardt is, willing to pop off a quick combination or two whenever necessary. Marquardt is less willing to engage and really be aggressive, often finding himself crawling the fence with his back and looking for an exit. Belfort’s biggest weakness other than the obvious old age has been his utter lack of take-down defense and even worse ground defense. If Marquardt has any hope of not becoming a victim of the Old Lion, he’s gonna have to muster every last ounce of his energy into a successful take-down and go from there. If he does, I’m confident he can get a submission or slice his way into full mount for the TKO win. Unfortunately for Marquardt, I don’t think he has the mentality to really gun for the take-down instead of staying back and literally standing there doing nothing. Be forewarned, both men hate to engage and Belfort has always preferred being a counter-striker, so we could end up with a replay of the Sam Alvey/Marquardt fight where neither man wanted any parts of any striking exchange. Otherwise, just stick with the Old Lion and hope he juices for one last final push to legendary status.
Belfort via 2nd round KO
Claudia Gadelha vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Gadelha got handled by Joanna Champion, but that doesn’t mean she can’t continue to prove that she’s the only other legit threat to dethroning Joanna Champion. She’ll get a tough test against Kowalkiewicz, who also got handled by the champion but did have a round where there were signs of improvement and even rattled the champion with a glancing blow before getting Joanna’d. Gadelha has been steadily improving her stand-up to the point where it isn’t detrimental to her success as a strawweight, allowing her to become a more complete fighter instead of depending on her raw power and size to bulldoze her opponents to the ground. Thing is, Kowalkiewicz is the better and cleaner striker, but struggles against bigger challengers who can impose their will through the clinch and not give Kowalkiewicz the space she needs to really let her striking shine through. Kowalkiewicz has a tendency to stay flat on her feet, not moving laterally enough which makes her an easy target for entry shots. Gadelha is probably the best balanced wrestler in the division, as she has the physical size and strength to go with her strong BJJ and ground control. Yes, Kowalkiewicz was able to defend against Namajunas’ take-downs and get back quickly on the ground, but Namajunas has always been a little weak in the take-down offense department. Gadelha has more tricks up her sleeve and a more physical approach as well. The biggest issue for me is can Gadelha continue to push around Kowalkiewicz for 3 rounds and not gas out as she has done in past fights? I think she can and that’s why I’m going to pick Gadelha by unanimous decision with some tough take-downs and showcasing her improved striking that should allow her to mix in her take-down shots without being predictable.
Gadelha via unanimous decision
Jose Aldo vs Max Holloway
Let’s get this out of the way. Aldo is the best featherweight and has been for a long time. Yes, he got knocked out by McGregor in 13 seconds, but was it a fluke or a mistake on Aldo’s part? I lean towards the latter, as Aldo was unusually aggressive early in the fight which cost him the title after McGregor nonchalantly planted the death left straight right on the button. That one singular blow somehow eradicated Aldo’s legacy as the ultimate featherweight contender, erasing #1 contender after contender with relative ease outside of a select few (Chad Mendes comes to mind). I mean, the dude made Frankie Edgar look like a total bum! The same Edgar who eviscerated a great young talent in Yair Rodriguez as if he was some amateur making his UFC debut. Plain and simple, don’t discount Aldo’s skills and his past superiority over the division just because he got knocked out in 13 seconds. Now that’s over with, let’s talk about the match-up!
Aldo and Holloway have arguably the best boxing/complete striking bases in the division. Aldo’s a harder hitter than Holloway, but what Holloway lacks in power he more than makes it up with volume and pace. Holloway also will have a big length advantage over Aldo, which ultimately could give him the much needed edge to get what only one man had done before in Aldo’s last 6 years in the UFC – a win. Holloway will boast a 4 inch height advantage but will surprisingly be at a 1 inch reach disadvantage, though you wouldn’t know it from watching his fights. Sometimes numbers can lie in MMA, as Holloway has managed to really push his height advantage over the majority of his opponents largely due in part to his fantastic footwork and navigating around the octagon. Aldo also has the same kind of footwork and cage navigation that made Holloway such a difficult target to chase down, making the match-up all the more interesting. Who has the real striking edge between two accomplished strikers that have just been absolutely dominant in their wins?
Aldo has some earth-shattering leg kicks that could chop down a tree, while Holloway certainly will have the cardio advantage against Aldo’s history of gassing near the end of fights. Holloway also maximizes his combinations, with an absurd high volume output with great accuracy that doesn’t deteriorate over time. Aldo clearly is the better counter-striker with world class take-down defense, so it’s extremely unlikely Holloway will engage Aldo in the clinch or attempt any take-down shots. It truly will be a war of attrition on the feet, with each man having their own nuanced advantages. So let’s focus on their disadvantages, which should decide the fight rather than what each excel at. Aldo has a little bit of a wobbly chin, having been cracked by Mendes and some others including…..McGregor! Cough. The cardio issue is also a real thing for Aldo, as he gassed against Ricardo Lamas and Mendes, but being the champion that he is, Aldo’s been able to still gather enough points to win handily despite a less than stellar gas tank. Holloway’s largely untested on the ground, having only gone to the mat in a couple of his early fights against Dustin Poirier and…..MCGREGOR! COUGH COUGH HACK COUGH!!! Aldo has never been one to actively go for the take-down unless it’s literally right there for the taking, so throw out Holloway’s ground defense issues out of the window. Holloway’s other negatives include not checking kicks enough and walking through counters instead of circling out, both reasons why Aldo is the favorite (for now).
I think we’re in for a great 5 round battle that’s going to be razor thin every round, and regardless of what happens someone’s going to be upset about the outcome. It truly is a ridiculously close match-up with little weaknesses and plenty of advantages on both sides. Alas, I must make a pick and be wrong once again. The MAIN EVENT CURSE!!!! I choose Aldo. Too much experience, Brazil, beautiful counters, and he’s still steaming about the McGregor loss so he’ll definitely be motivated to not come close to losing his belt yet again. Also, Brazil, because Brazil gives +100 everything to Brazilians for some reason. Unless you’re Vitor Belfort. Wait a minute….