UFC 194 in Las Vegas, Nevada, is being billed as the greatest pay-per-view card Dana White and the Fertitta brothers have ever put on. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating but it’s a main card with five potential Fight of the Night contenders. Three belts in two title fights supported by six title contenders all looking to stand out and get their shot at a belt. Nothing will come easy tonight but let’s see if we can wrangle ourselves a profit.
Jose Aldo (c) v Conor McGregor (ic)
Thinking about the possibilities of tonight’s big fight is like having two well-informed drunks screaming over each other inside your head. They both have good points to make but the method of delivery has grown abusive as it all becomes an angry noise offering only the occasional fragments of an opinion.
Being Irish and a McGregor (18-2) fan the tendency is to lend a more attentive ear to the advantages he holds over Aldo. He’s a potentially tricky southpaw. His distancing and movement are something Aldo has never had to deal with before. That left hand looks like it could stop guys up at 185 and the right is no slouch either. McGregor’s kicks jabbed the wind out of Mendes and Aldo has slowed in the latter rounds of previous fights. And McGregor may have looked near death at the weigh-ins but come fight time he’ll hold a noticeable size advantage over the champion.
Then let the ‘Ole, ole, ole’s’ fade from your ears for a second and remind yourself that this is Jose Aldo (25-1). The man is unbeaten in ten years. A rare feat in high level MMA. Aldo packs a punch too, perhaps not quite the one-punch concussive power of McGregor but he’ll put you down. He’s the faster fighter too. Moving in an out throwing rapid flurries of punches, you can guarantee he’s going to connect and test that chin. His leg kicks are vicious and against a wide southpaw stance if he lands a few good ones to the inside of McGregor’s right leg Aldo can affect his opponent’s ability to move and strike.
So you know, it’s a very tough one to call.
If McGregor wins then we’ll know for certain he’s a legit as he tells us he is. On paper Aldo is the value bet but the desire to believe in magic, in things ethereal lends to the heart backing McGregor to win. There isn’t much of a market for Hallmark cards urging you to follow your value so let’s continue to ride this McGregor bandwagon. Will sentiment beat sense in the battle of featherweight belt holders?
- McGregor to win:
Chris Weidman (c) v Luke Rockhold
Two incredibly well rounded, well-matched fighters. Luke Rockhold (14-2) will offer the champion challenges and looks he has yet to face in the Octagon but will it be enough? The short answer is no. Weidman (13-0) has been in against great strikers and one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA, Demian Maia, and he remains unbeaten. The challenger has been knocked out twice. Yes the last of those was against a TRT enhanced Vitor Belfort but he knows the taste of defeat, the champion does not. In a fight of fine margins this could be enough.
- Weidman to win:
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza v Yoel Romero
This should be a crazy fight and don’t be surprised to see both men on their respective backside’s at some point during proceedings. Romero (10-1) will be winging wilder, clubbing shots with Jacare (22-3(1)) looking for cleaner straights. If things stay standing the edge goes to Romero who has 9 stoppages in his 10 professional victories. If things go to the ground then Jacare, with his 16 professional submissions, is the more dangerous man. Jacare can hold his own on the feet and if he can use his cleaner striking to land first and rock Romero then take him down he should be able to find a submission to set up a tilt at the middleweight title.
- Souza to win:
Demian Maia v Gunnar Nelson
Two ridiculously good Brazilian Ju-jitsu practitioners but Maia (21-6) is widely regarded as being better. He’ll also be the bigger man in this fight, though that’s nothing new for Nelson (14-1-1) who took out the far larger Brandon Thatch in his last fight. Nelson’s in-out Karate style will give him the advantage on the feet and if he can rock Maia he certainly has the ground skills to do the unthinkable and submit the Brazilian. He’s the younger man at 27 years to Maia’s 38 and with the Irish fans in attendance behind him he could take a big step towards title contention, even if it does turn out to be tight points decision.
- Nelson to win
Max Holloway v Jeremy Stephens
Since losing to Conor McGregor back in 2013 Max Holloway (14-3) has been on a tear, fighting four times in 2014 and three times already in 2015. Seven wins, six finishes and leap forward from prospect to challenger. Stephens (24-11) may be a dangerous striker not lacking in power but Holloway can take a shot, is more varied in his striking and his relentless pace will overwhelm his opponent.
- Holloway to win