It is that time of year again. It is Fourth of July weekend which means it is time for the UFC’s biggest card of the year. It has become a tradition of sorts for the UFC to make a stacked card every year around this time and they certainly have done that with two title fights as well as the lighter divisions’ biggest star fighting on the prelims in Urijah Faber. While anything can happen on any given night in the fight world, here are my predictions of what the winner’s circle will look like after tonight.
UFC Middleweight Championship: Chris Weidman (c) vs Lyoto Machida
No one will ever forget the image of Chris Weidman standing over Anderson Silva after knocking out the greatest of all time to become the new Middleweight Champion at UFC 162. If that moment couldn’t have been topped, it certainly came close in the bizarre ending of their rematch at UFC 168 when Weidman checked a leg kick from Silva and broke the former champion’s leg. While Weidman may have his critics, here are the facts: in four rounds with Anderson Silva, Weidman has bested the greatest cage fighter of all time. We also have yet to see Weidman in any sort of trouble in the Octagon, and every time he shows up we see a smarter, more disciplined fighter. Bottom line, every new fight we see a better Chris Weidman.
Lyoto Machida on the other hand, is still after all these years a puzzle that is hard to solve for most who step into the cage with him, especially fighters with a wrestling base. This fight will be a clashing of styles; Machida’s laid back counter approach and Weidman’s nonstop pushing forward of takedowns and hard-hitting punches. The only question is which will prevail. Machida may give Weidman his greatest challenge to date, possibly a bigger challenge than Silva, but I do not see Machida being able to stop the pace and the constantly growing champion.
Pick: Chris Weidman
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs Alexis Davis
It’s become like a bad, often-repeated joke a relative tells us at holidays: it is not a matter of will Ronda Rousey win, but when. Up until her last fight, that joke came in a different form: it’s not a matter of will Rousey hit that armbar, but when. In her last defense against Sara McMann, Rousey showed much improved striking after finishing McMann in less than a minute with strikes. Rousey may very well be the best pound for pound fighter in the world, with only her gender keeping her out of that conversation for many uneducated fans. Her relentless pace, her Olympic-level athleticism and her unbelievable mental toughness makes her virtually unbeatable. McMann’s black belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game and her much improved striking may give Rousey some problems, but with all due respect, I do not see any scenario where Rousey does not leave with the belt.
Pick: Ronda Rousey
Stefan Struve vs Matt Mitrione
While this will certainly be an entertaining fight for fans of the big guys, it is certainly upon first glance, a mismatch. Skill-wise, any educated MMA fan knows that Struve is miles ahead of Mitrione, however, there’s a black cloud that hovers over this fight: Struve has not fought since March of last year and in that time he has faced a number of medical problems. Time away from the ring is a fighter’s worst enemy and there remains a big question as to what kind of fighter Struve will be. That being said, while Mitrione is certainly an improved fighter from his days on the Ultimate Fighter, he chokes in big fights when he steps up in competition. It will be interesting to see what kind of fighter Struve is after his time away from the ring, but ultimately the size, skill and experience will be too much for Meathead to overcome.
Pick: Stefan Struve
Uriah Hall def. Thiago Santos
Russell Doan def. Marcus Brimage
Urijah Faber def. Alex Caceres
Kenny Robertson def. Ildemar Alcantra
Bruno Santos def. Chris Camozzi
George Roop def. Rob Font
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