PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS
Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes
Well this wasn’t the first choice. It wasn’t the second either. Hell, it wasn’t even the third. After the cancellation of McGregor vs. Diaz and Jones vs. Cormier, Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt were briefly promoted as the main event of UFC 200. This only lasted about 24 hours, however, as the addition of Anderson Silva brought about yet another change-of-order, this time leaving the championship bout between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes at the top of the heap.
Miesha Tate has been at the forefront of Women’s MMA for a number of years now. Tate won the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship back in 2011, before Ronda Rousey stole it away with her infamous armbar. Just one year later, due the popularity of the aforementioned arm collector, a women’s division was introduced to the UFC, with Tate debuting shortly thereafter. She lost a Fight of the Night war to Cat Zingano and followed that up with yet another Fight of the Night war with Rousey. But since then, she has looked unstoppable.
The win streak is now at five with her greatest victory coming against Holly Holm last March. Just when it looked like another UFC Championship opportunity was slipping away, she sold out for a desperation takedown, secured the rear-naked choke, and put the champ to sleep. It was a championship performance indicative of her entire career; heart and perseverance overcoming all other obstacles. Now, with the belt around her waist, she will look to face her first challenger.
Amanda Nunes is riding a win-streak of her own. She’s 5-1 since joining the UFC roster, with four of her five victories coming by first-round stoppage. In this stretch, she has faced and defeated a variety of fighting styles. Germaine de Randamie is a larger-than-life kickboxer. Amanda knocked her out. Shayna Baszler is a battle-tested veteran. Amanda knocked her out. Sara McMann is an elite wrestler. Amanda knocked her out.
Miesha Tate is a well-rounded champion with a tremendous amount of heart. Amanda Nunes will knock her out.
Nick’s Pick: Amanda Nunes (+210 via 5Dimes)
Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt
I can’t believe I’m bringing this fight down. No really… I can’t believe it. But it’s my job, so I’ll do it.
Brock Lesnar hasn’t fought since 2011. That was four and a half years ago. He’s 38 years-old and only has eight professional fights to his name. The rest of his time – both in the past and currently – has been spent play-wrestling for the WWE. But he’s being slated as a coin-flip fight by oddsmakers? Absurd…
He’s obviously a freak athlete, and he can obviously bull rush and out-wrestle most people on the planet. But Mark Hunt is notoriously difficult to takedown. He’s far more skilled. He’s got a granite chin and elite striking. I just can’t envision a scenario in which Hunt loses. It’s worth noting that this is the most unpredictable division in the fight game. One punch can end it. And it probably will. But Brock will be at the receiving end of said punch.
Nick’s Pick: Mark Hunt (-165 via 5Dimes)
Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva
Remember everything I said above about unbelievable analysis opportunities? That goes two-fold for this one. I mean, DC vs. Anderson Silva? Who saw that coming? At least the oddsmakers got this one right.
Daniel Cormier is the heavy favorite and rightfully so. Aside from his elusive adversary, DC is arguably the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He’s undefeated at heavyweight. He’s only got one loss at 205. Excluding that lone loss, he’s basically dominated every opponent he’s come across. More often than not, this domination has involved picking up his adversaries and literally throwing them across the cage. This time around, fighting a natural middleweight in Anderson Silva, DC should have no trouble exerting his wrestling dominance tonight. It’s a simple matter of physical strength. Silva has the experience advantage. He’s likely the more skillful striker; the more accomplished submission artist. But he’s over-sized. It’s as simple as that.
Now take all the information above and apply it to an Anderson Silva that’s just months removed from a gallbladder surgery without any training heading into the fight? I mean it’s not like Silva forgot how to fight. A certain amount of it is muscle memory. A certain portion instinctual. But to test that approach against a fighter like Daniel Cormier is a near-impossible task. Okay, I’m done breaking this one down. Easiest pick of the night. DC for the win.
Nick’s Pick: Daniel Cormier (-460 via 5Dimes)
Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo
Finally, an evenly matched fight!! Forget Conor McGregor for a moment. I know it’s difficult, but try. Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo are the two greatest featherweights on the roster. They’re also two of the best lighter-weight fighters in MMA history. Both are clear-cut hall-of-famers if they walked away from the sport today. Former champions, unbelievable highlight reels, a resume that exceeds 99% of the men and women to step inside the Octagon. This is the best fight on the card. This should be the main event. And this should be for the real title.
But I digress. This is Aldo’s first performance since his 13 second knockout at the hands of the Notorious one. That was over a year and a half ago and that sort of ring rust is real. Well, it’s real for most. If we’ve learned anything from Dominick Cruz, it’s that ring rust is mental. And if anyone can overcome a mental obstacle, it’s the decade-undefeated 145 pound king, so let’s throw that bit of information out the window.
Still, Frankie seems to be in his prime, while Aldo has been slipping of late. Slipping is, of course, a relative term. Prior to McGregor, he’s defeated every contender that’s come his way, but he isn’t doing it with the same vigor. Ricardo Lamas almost knocked him out. Chad Mendes almost knocked him out. Conor McGregor did. While 29 is remarkably young considering what he’s accomplished, it’s always been about the fight years, and Aldo has been fighting since 2004.
To be fair, Edgar made his pro debut less than one year later, but if we’re judging trajectories, Frankie seems to be peaking of late. Aldo will have the explosive combinations. He’ll have the leg kicks. He’s absolutely a threat to Edgar. But combining Frankie’s chin with his ability to use his wrestling and boxing skillset to squeak out rounds, I think any potential decision will go to the Jersey boy. If we’re talking finishes, I give the edge to The Answer, as well. If this turns into a slug-fest, I think Edgar gets the best of it. Either way, the same man gets his hand raised.
Nick’s Pick: Frankie Edgar (-130 via 5Dimes)
Cain Velasquez vs. Travis Browne
Kind of strange to see two heavyweight bouts showcased on the UFC 200 main card without one of them being for the title. That being said, Cain still kind of feels like a champion to me, so what’s the difference?
Aside from a 2011 loss to JDS – one that was avenged not once, but twice in the years to follow – Cain had a spotless record heading into his most recent title defense. Many felt he would simply continue his run of dominance in his hometown of Mexico City, but Fabricio Werdum had other plans. Werdum, now the former-heavyweight champion thanks to a perfectly timed counter from Stipe Miocic, absorbed a takedown from Cain and locked in the guillotine choke on his way to the mat. Moments later, he was the new UFC Champion. Werdum had added another heavyweight legend to his list of victims and Cain was again sent on a journey to win his belt back. Now, more than one year later, he takes that first step.
Travis Browne is a creative and dangerous striker. Very rangy for a heavyweight, he seems to come at unique angles to put away opponents in unexpected ways. This makes him extremely difficult to prepare for. His takedown defense is phenomenal as well. I see a lot of double legs resulting in Travis against the cage. On more than one occasion, he’s simply widened his stance and used his size to separate the hands of an attacking wrestler. Once the threat has been neutralized, he rains down elbows from above, dropping the wrestler to his knees and forcing the rep to step in. Now normally, I’m not one to get into specifics. But I’m calling it now… THAT is what happens to Cain at UFC 200.
He goes for the double-leg, fails, and switched to a single-leg. Travis manages to hop backwards on one leg until his back is against the cage. Cain sells out for the takedown with his stance low and his head vulnerable. Travis rains down those patented elbows until Cain goes limp. And since I’m going to this level of detail… let’s say it happens in the 2nd round.
Nick’s Pick: Travis Brown (+235 via 5Dimes)