(C) Demetrious Johnson vs. #8 Chris Cariaso:
To me, there isn’t much to say about this one. Can Cariaso win? Yes. Will he win? Very unlikely.
When it comes to technical striking Cariaso may just hold the advantage over the champion. In order to beat “Mighty Mouse,” Cariaso will need to stuff the takedown and keep things standing, he will also have to be wary of Johnson’s clinch. If Cariaso is able to get distance he should look mix things up with kicks off his back leg and switch kicks, as he is a southpaw this could cause some problems for Johnson.
There isn’t much to say on the other end of the spectrum, as long as Johnson is his usual self he should have no real problem with Cariaso. Johnson is the fastest fighter in MMA, he gets in and out very quickly and is able to swarm on takedowns at will. That’s exactly what he’ll do to Cariaso and will likely find the finish, look for a submission and retain his UFC Flyweight title.
My Pick: Johnson
Favorite: Johnson (-1552) Underdog: Cariaso (+951)
#5 Donald Cerrone vs. #14 Eddie Alvarez:
This fight between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and former Bellator Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has all the makings for a “Fight of the Night.” Alvarez is making his UFC debut against one of the best Lightweight fighters in the world, a win for him would be huge and possibly put him in a title fight.
In order to beat Cerrone, Alvarez needs to keep moving forwards and putting pressure on Cerrone, threatening with strikes and takedowns, and work from the clinch. If Alvarez is able to take Cerrone down, he should be wary of landing in the guard, as Cerrone is known for threatening with triangles from there.
As for Cerrone, he needs to counter Alvarez as he’s coming in and look for openings to land something big. Being the longer, more technical striker, Cerrone should look to find space when he can to land his kicks from the outside.
Cerrone also has to avoid starting out slow like he has in the past, especially in a three round fight. Losing the first round would hurt Cerrone big time, especially considering Alvarez has never lost via decision.
Win or lose, Alvarez won’t have an easy UFC debut.
My Pick: Cerrone
Favorite: Cerrone (-126) Underdog: Alvarez (+106)
#5 Dustin Poirier vs. #9 Conor McGregor:
I won’t say this will be the hardest fight of Conor McGregor’s career, as anything could happen, but Dustin Poirier is easily the best opposition McGregor has ever faced.
McGregor and Poirier are basically the exact same size, both 5’9, with McGregor holding just a one inch reach advantage. They both use their rangy striking to set up big shots later on. Where they differ is that Poirier is a bit more aggressive with his striking, where McGregor seems more composed and also throws in some unorthodox strikes.
McGregor is also a southpaw, so I expect to see him mixing things up and throwing a lot of kicks against Poirier, who fights from an orthodox stance. He also utilized some trips from the clinch in his last bout with Diego Brandao, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do so here if he finds himself in that position.
For Poirier, he needs to stay composed, pick his shots and look to test McGregor’s grappling. If Poirier can take this fight to the mat, he will give himself a much better chance of coming out on top.
However, I feel that Poirier will come out guns blazing early and look to trade with McGregor, which will probably get him into trouble.
Although McGregor is the lower ranked fighter in the UFC’s Featherweight division, there’s a reason why he’s the favorite in this one.
My Pick: McGregor
Favorite: McGregor (-282) Underdog: Poirier (+232)
#6 Tim Kennedy vs. #10 Yoel Romero:
This one is a tough one to call. Both of these guys are really strong, hard-nosed wrestlers. While Romero has more accolades as a wrestler, taking home the silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and gold in both the 1999 World Championships and 2003 Pan Americans, Kennedy has used his wrestling more effectively in MMA.
Kennedy has been able to find the takedown at will and apply his grinding style to find victories, while Romero has just begun to use his wrestling effectively inside of the UFC octagon.
When you look at the stats, Romero has surprisingly been out-wrestled in half of his UFC bouts and has relied on more-so on his power and athleticism to come out on top. Romero was taken down twice by Ronny Markes and scored none of his own and was taken down three times by Derek Brunson, once again scoring none of his own. It wasn’t until his most recent fight with Brad Tavares that Romero used his wrestling dominantly, out scoring Tavares seven takedowns to zero.
As for Kennedy, he has never been outscored in the takedown department in a UFC, Strikeforce or WEC bout.
This is one of those fights that I would stray away from betting on, and I believe it will come down to Kennedy’s ability to get this one to the mat. If this fight remains standing, I would favor Romero; although Romero isn’t the more technical striker, he is the more athletic man and has freakish knockout power.
This one is a real toss up.
My Pick: Kennedy
Favorite: Romero (-124) Underdog: Kennedy (+104)
#1 Cat Zingano vs. #8 Amanda Nunes:
Cat Zingano has had a tough go of things recently. Zingano has been out of action for over a year and a half following her TKO victory over Miesha Tate, losing her shot at the UFC Bantamweight title in the process.
Zingano and Nunes are actually pretty similar, they’re both solid grapplers, Zingano a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt, Nunes a brown belt; and they are two of the physically strongest women in the division.
Nunes has basically done the same thing to her last two opponents, taken them down and battered them until earning a TKO victory, in hindsight, she’s a relatively one-dimensional fighter. If she can’t put Zingano on her back, I have a hard time seeing Nunes coming away with a win.
As the better striker, Zingano’s best bet is to keep things standing and mix it up with Nunes. As long as Zingano stuffs the takedown attempts and avoids the ground and pound of Nunes, she should be in a good position to not only win, but finish Nunes.
Regardless of the long layoff, if Zingano returns at 100 percent, I see her coming away victorious on Saturday night.
My Pick: Zingano
Favorite: Zingano (-290) Underdog: Nunes (+240)
#10 Dominick Cruz (-500) > #5 Takeya Mizugaki (+400)
#12 Jorge Masvidal (-385) > James Krause (+315)
Stephen Thompson (-410) > Patrick Cote (+330)
John Howard (-245) > Brian Ebersole (+205)
Kevin Lee (-275) < Jon Tuck (+230)
Cody Gibson (-205) > Manvel Gamburyan (+175)
*Odds Courtesy of BetDSI