In case you weren’t aware, there is quite the doozy of a UFC card going down this Saturday. Former champions and number one contenders returning from lengthy lay offs. One of the most heralded fighters that has ever existed outside of the Zuffa Universe has finally broken free of his Bellator chains and will be making his big show debut. Also, the most electrifying persona in the sport is facing his toughest test to date and I haven’t even mentioned the Main Event yet! Why, you ask? Because no one cares about it! Read why after the jump!
I would absolutely love to see the major MMA blog’s click rates for posts on this card. Take a gander at the UFC 178 Countdown YouTube views. McGregor/Poirer clocks in at 182,000 and Cerrone/Alvarez hits almost 110,000. The Main Event? The World Championship between Johnson and Cariaso has racked up 84,000. Unless someone is a blood relative of Demetrious Johnson or Chris Cariaso, I don’t see how they would ever click on an article about the Main Event with all the buzz brewing around the rest of the card.
There is no story behind the title fight. There is no true “star” in the booking and it does little to no good for any party involved. For some reason, Zuffa possesses a belief that a title fight is needed to sell PPVs. While Demetrious Johnson is one heck of a fighter, he is an absolute dud in the promotional aspect of fighting. He couldn’t sell cheese to a mouse and it doesn’t help that he is probably 75 pounds lighter than the average joe that plunks down $60 to watch any given UFC PPV.
During his last title fight, crowds were filtering out because they had no stake in the Champ winning or losing. They would rather beat the traffic or hit a bar instead of watch him masterfully outpoint Ali Bagautinov. I can’t say I blame them. I know where I’ll be watching this fight Saturday night, and if it looks like another dancing DJ decision, I would have no problem calling it a night and not seeing the conclusion of the fight. This is a waste of a golden strap.
Throw DJ on a FOX or FS1 card and you may garner some interest, but anyone actually buying this PPV is going to see it as a chore to sit through his Flyweight tilt after the fireworks that are primed in the undercard. There is nothing about a Demetrious Johnson fight that makes it worth paying more than what already comes out of my pocket for Fight Pass or cable.
There are legitimately 7 fights on this card that I am more interested in than the Main Event, so I’ll give you in-depth breakdowns of the five that have me the most jazzed up.
Yoel Romero (-145) vs. Tim Kennedy (+125)
Talk about flying under the radar! This scrap has all sorts of potential to be a barn burner. Both fighters are getting up there in age and need to get on the road to a title shot sooner than later. The first step in that process will be an impressive performance on one of the biggest cards of the year.
We know Kennedy’s story and how he fights. Fast, strong, and tirelessly. How will the powerhouse that is Yoel Romero hold up to Kennedy’s relentless attack? In my opinion, not well. All that muscle is tough to carry around for 3 fast paced rounds. I like Kennedy to work form the outside, attack those Redwoods that Romero has for legs and outpoint the Cuban behemoth. Kennedy by decision.
Cat Zingano (-260) vs. Amanda Nunes (+220)
Remember not too long ago when Cat Zingano beat the snot out of Miesha Tate and was scheduled to take on Ronda Rousey for the belt? Rousey and Zingano were slated to coach against eachother on The Ultimate Fighter, but unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. Cat’s knee buckled under her and she was set for a lengthy recovery. Within that recovery period, her husband, Mauricio Zingano tragically committed suicide. No one could blame Cat for taking some serious time off, but here she is, ready to reclaim her number one contender spot. Nunes has wrecked her last two opponents with powerful strikes and relentless effort, but it is impossible to pick against Zingano here. Zingano by ground and pound TKO. Round 2.
Dominick Cruz (-400) v. Takeya Mizugaki (+325)
In a linear sense, Dominick Cruz is still the UFC Bantamweight Champion. He never lost his belt, unless you consider his recurring leg injuries to have defeated the Alliance fighter over the last few years. Cruz hasn’t fought since 2011! I was still in college! Who did he beat? The aforementioned Demetrious Johnson! Cruz’s return to the cage could spark some massive fights within the 135 lb. division. A rematch with Faber? Okay. A dazzling striking display with Dillashaw? Sign me up!
First, Cruz is going to have to prove he still belongs to be mentioned with the best of the UFC’s bantamweights. Takeya Mizugaki is no slouch, but his best days are likely behind him. Some of his WEC fights are legendary. Even though he is on a four fight win streak, the MMA blogosphere (AKA me…) wasn’t lit on fire by any of his performances. He is certainly game though, it takes more than a few punches to the noggin to stop ol’ Mizugaki.
The question here is: Does Dom still have it? I think he does. He has delayed this comeback long enough so that there is no doubt he is 100% and prepared to get his belt back. I think Dom walks through Mizugaki with his usual precision striking and unorthodox movement. Three rounds for Dom in the book. Welcome back, Mr. Cruz!
Donald Cerrone (-110) v. Eddie Alvarez (-110)
Much like Cruz, Eddie Alvarez hasn’t been a frequent fighter as of late. We all know the convoluted story between Eddie and Bellator, but happily that mess is behind us and Eddie is where he belongs: fighting with the best in the world. On the other hand, Donald Cerrone is one of the most active fighters in the game today. Will activity triumph over ring rust and big show jitters?
Even with his inactivity, Alvarez has been able to turn in some outstanding performances against his Bellator foil Michael Chandler. Those fights were regarded as some of the best in recent memory and this one could fall right into that same category. Cerrone loves to march forward and throw his entire kickboxing arsenal at his opponents. Alvarez isn’t opposed to standing in the pocket and eating one punch to throw three more. This recipe could allow this fight to reach mythical heights. I dream of this scrap being just like Melendez/Sanchez, but with crisp striking and flawless technique.
It is near impossible to pick a winner, though I have to ride with the UFC veteran. Alvarez is being tossed into the UFC soup pretty quickly. I don’t know if he will be at his best after the rigorous pre-fight schedule in Vegas. Cowboy takes it two rounds to one.
Conor McGregor (-265) v. Dustin Poirer (+225)
This is pretty much a dream fight for me. I have always thought that once Dustin Poirer “put it together”, he would be one of the premier fighters in the UFC Featherweight division. I’ve continuously rooted for him over the years because he has a story to tell and a likable personality. This was on full display in his 2011 Fightville documentary and he has since added a few more chapters to the story. His talents outgrew his small town Louisana gym and he moved to the MMA killing fields at American Top Team in Coconut Creek. Since the move, he has become a more calculated fighter. The daily sparring sessions with the likes of Will Brooks and Nik Lentz have sharpened Poirer’s iron to a razor-like level.
Opposing the ever-improving Poirer will be likely my favorite fighter in the game today, Mr. Conor McGregor. (I just bought his walk-out shirt, I’m a fan boy, sue me.) Whether it is my Irish roots, or my desire to see fighters actually market themselves in this sport, McGregor has a gravitational pull akin to the Death Star’s tractor beam. He is dynamic in the cage, and even more compelling outside of it. Whether it be the pro-wrestling-esque promos, or the shiny three-piece suits, you want to listen to this man when he talks. That is rare for athletes in this sport.
As for the fight, I am scared for my guy McGregor. There was no way that anyone was going to overcome the Irish pride in that arena in July. The atmoshphere was incredible and his performance was dominant. Though, he is now being tossed in there with big boys. Real deal contenders. Poirer is no joke. He has stood toe to toe with the divisions best and beaten the same opponents that McGregor has in equally strong fashion. Vegas loves McGregor as a favorite, but I see Poirer as a very, very live dog here.
If Dustin charges in and attempts to fight at range with Conor, then I see this going
my McGregor’s way. Conor is a superior striker and will likely be able to land a lethal shot or two and end this thing quick. Poirer can win if he makes the fight dirty. If he pushes Conor to the cage and stifles his elaborate striking, rounds can be won. Better yet, if he takes him to the ground, where Conor has never really been tested in the UFC, things could look even better. Still, with all the buzz in the air and the bright lights on, Poirer always looks to excite. That’s why I have always loved watching him fight. These two are going to stand and trade and it is going be freaking epic. To pick a winner is tough, but if I have to say it, McGregor by TKO. Round 3.