For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Haydo, newest addition to the Check Down empire. I’m a catcher on the Skidmore College baseball team along with Fronte, Jeb and @JoshBrownie7, helping the squad to a stellar 14-25 record (next year is our year). I proudly hail from Vermont, a state with more cows than people and a population whiter than Wonder Bread (Bernie Sanders 2016). My team alliances lie exclusively with the Boston franchises (Patriots-Bruins-Red Sox-Celtics). It’s been a rough 15 years for us New Englanders but I’m sure we’ll get a championship one day (lol). In my spare time I enjoy cow tipping, blowing embarrassing amounts of money on Bovada.com and reminiscing about UVM point guard TJ Sorrentine’s dagger 3-pointer in UVMs OT victory over Syracuse in the first round of the 2005 NCAA tournament. I’ll watch anything (even lacrosse) with the real life drama and urgency that make sports so damn fun. Hope you enjoy my content.
For even the most casual sports fan, the meteoric rise of the UFC has been impossible to ignore. What started as a fledgling experimental sport in the 1990s has evolved in only 23 years from being basically a legalized fight club into a multi billion-dollar entertainment juggernaut with millions of fans all over the world. Dana White’s UFC promotion was purchased in 2001 for only 2 million and is now valued at over 4 billion dollars, more than the New York Yankees. Sports media giants like ESPN and Fox are all currently vying for television rights with hopes of bringing major UFC cards off of pay-per-view and into cable television in the near future. Whether you like it or not, the UFC is exploding and it does not seem to be slowing down any time soon; you’d better get used to it.
The increase in the UFC’s popularity was expected to reach a fever pitch with UFC 200, an unprecedentedly epic card scheduled for this Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Sin City. Originally, UFC’s golden boy “The Notorious” Conor McGregor was scheduled to headline the card with a rematch against Nate Diaz. However, in typical UFC fashion as of late, Dana White became fed up with McGregor’s antics as he skipped a mandatory promotion in NYC and removed him from the card. As a fan of Dana White and the UFC, I was extremely disappointed that the two sides couldn’t see eye to eye, but I was still eager to see who would be scheduled to replace McGregor as the headliners. When the Jon Jones versus Daniel Cormier rematch was announced as the replacement matchup, I was more than satisfied. I was excited to see Jon Jones, arguably the most talented MMA fighter of all time, return from his bender and fight for the title he had stripped from him after a hit and run arrest. As UFC 200 neared, the anticipation grew as the both fighters appeared to be in tremendous physical form, poised to renew their heated rivalry with a no hold barred war in the Octagon. But then, the unthinkable happened. Jon Jones fails a PED test, immediately disqualifying himself from UFC 200 and likely facing a career-crippling two year ban. The 37 year old Cormier is robbed of his opportunity to cement his legacy days before the fight and the UFC takes a massive hit, likely costing them millions in Pay-Per-View revenue and dirtying the UFC’s reputation.
Nevertheless, the show must go on. Even though the main event has been canceled, Dana White has just announced that the geriatric legend Anderson Silva will step up on two days notice and fight Daniel Cormier in Jones’ place at UFC 200. The returns of Brock Lesnar and Jose Aldo are still extremely tantalizing storylines, nothing compared to a Jon Jones or Conor McGregor fight, but still must-watch television nonetheless. Even the preliminary card of UFC 200 is full of intriguing matchups between celebrated fighters. Here are my previews and predictions of how it will all go down Saturday night.
#2 Cain Velasquez (13-2-0) vs #7 Travis Browne (18-3-1)
Similarly to the Lesnar vs Hunt fight, I expect this fight to be an absolute slugfest. Both of these heavyweights are veteran heavyweight knockout artists known to deliver brutal knockout strikes at a moments notice. Velasquez and Browne sport KO/TKO percentages at 85% and 78%, respectively. Currently, Bovada.com has Velasquez at -305, one of the heaviest favorites on the card and for good reason. Velazquez is a former champion and undoubtedly one of the finest heavyweights the UFC has ever seen. His well-rounded approach includes a superb takedown game and an above average defense against striking and takedowns. Browne, on the other hand, is a much more one-dimensional fighter. Velasquez averages 5.24 takedowns per bout compared to just 1.5 for Browne; I see this statistic coming becoming very important if Velasquez finds himself having trouble getting inside Browne’s longer reach. I expect Browne to take a lot of punishment and expend lots of energy grappling with Velasquez if this fight extends past the first or second round. Velasquez is simply the better fighter and I expect Browne’s porous defense to erode as the fight unfolds, allowing Velasquez to connect with a decisive knockout strike and chalk up a fairly easy victory.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Velasquez over Browne by 2nd round KO
Brock Lesnar (5-3-0) vs #8 Mark Hunt (12-10-1)
Let me begin by going on the record by saying that I really hate that this fight is happening, especially on such a monumental night for the sport of MMA. Lesnar’s reign as heavyweight champion was definitely a fun era for the UFC when it was need of a polarizing star, but the dude is 38 and hasn’t fought since 2011 after enduring back to back losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. Lesnar cannot be the same fighter he was back when he was heavyweight champion and I believe that this is just a money grab for both him and the UFC. In his past two losses (both 1st round KO’s), Lesnar showed that he has a very weak chin and does not respond very well to getting clocked. This does not bode very well for him as Mark Hunt’s signature move is the “walk away knockout”, meaning he hits people hard that he is able to pimp it like Bryce Harper as his opponent collapses to the canvas. If Hunt is able to land one of his haymakers to Lesnar’s cranium, it’s all over. Both of these fighters are significantly past their primes and I don’t anticipate a very exciting or technically sound fight. I think this bout will resemble a barroom brawl more than an MMA fight at the highest level I expect Lesnar to be a shell of his former self in this fight and the “Super Samoan” will add another KO to his resume, but I don’t really care. Both of these guys are washed up and have absolutely no chance of becoming heavyweight champion in their lifetimes.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Hunt over Lesnar (1st round KO)
#1 Jose Aldo (25-2-0) vs #2 Frankie Edgar (19-4-1)
This fight for the interim Featherweight belt is my bold prediction to garner “Fight of the Night” honors once the night is over. These two former featherweight champions are both future Hall of Famers and I expect their second clash to be as breathtaking as their first meeting at UFC 156 in 2013. Bovada has this fight as almost dead even, giving Edgar a slight edge at -120 compared to -110 for Aldo. Both fighters use relatively well-rounded styles, with Aldo relying more heavily on jackrabbit-esque speed and knockout power than the older Edgar who tends to use his ground game more frequently against opponents. However, I do not expect this fight to spend much time on the canvas. Aldo sports a tremendous 91% takedown defense rate and will use his lightning quick jab and debilitating leg kicks to keep Edgar on his feet and avoid a grappling situation where Edgar will have the advantage. Both fighters are known to be defensively sound with excellent conditioning that allows them to still be effective in the fourth and fifth rounds. I am planning on betting the farm that this fight goes the full five rounds with both fighters going balls to the wall for the interim belt and the right to fight Conor McGregor once he decides to defend his title. Once the dust settles I expect Aldo’s superior speed and striking ability to be the difference. Even though he lost in embarrassing fashion to McGregor in December, I consider that loss to be an anomaly. The loss to McGregor snapped an 18-fight winning streak for Aldo, an absolutely incredible feat. Aldo is a living legend in the sport of MMA and a win in this bout will get him back on track towards a championship rematch with McGregor.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Aldo over Edgar (unanimous decision)
C Daniel Cormier (17-1-0) vs #5 Anderson Silva (33-7-0)
It’s nothing short of a travesty that DC has lost his opportunity to legitimize his lightweight belt because Jon Jones is a complete moron. Cormier is 37 and likely will not get a chance to avenge his only career loss, assuming that Jones ends up serving his two year ban from fighting from his second positive test. Even though this isn’t the fight we all were anticipating, a Daniel Cormier vs Anderson Silva matchup is still extremely intriguing. No matter the outcome, Silva is an absolute badass for accepting a fight against the current champion on the UFC’s most important card ever, at age 41, on literally two days notice. If he is able to somehow win this fight it will undoubtedly go down as one of the most legendary performances of all time. But it won’t happen. Even though Anderson Silva is one of the greatest middleweight fighters of all time, he hasn’t won a fight since 2012. Injuries and ineffective knockout defense have plagued Silva as he has aged out of his prime. Not to mention he will be moving up a weight class to fight Cormier at 205 pounds, a choice that has not fared well for fighters in the past (see McGregor vs Diaz). Cormier is an established wrestler and will undoubtedly use his takedowns and superior grappling game to his advantage against the leaner Silva. As long as Cormier can avoid getting tagged by one of Silva’s signature kicks to the head and is able to consistently take Silva down, this fight should not be a problem for him. Cormier has gone on the record as saying he has never trained harder for a fight and will likely be in significantly better shape than Silva fighting on two days notice. I see all of these factors coming together and resulting in a decisive three round victory for Daniel Cormier.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Cormier over Silva (unanimous decision)
C Miesha Tate (18-5-0) vs #4 Amanda Nunes (12-4-0)
After Ronda Rousey’s shocking defeat to Holly Holm at UFC 193, the Women’s Bantamweight championship has been a revolving door of sorts with 3 champions all in the past year. The champion Tate enters this main event fight as a -260 favorite over Nunes, fresh off of her dispatch of Holly Holm by a fifth round submission. Both of these women tend to beat their opponents in very different ways. Tate tends to use her wrestling background to her advantage, with seven of her wins coming by submission. Nunes, however, is much more of a well rounded fighter, displaying competency with her striking, ground game and submissions. Nicknamed “The Lioness”, Nunes has a ferocious and aggressive style that has led to 9 first round finishes. I believe that Tate is a cocky fighter and is taking Nunes much more lightly than she should be. If Nunes is able to keep the fight to her feet and use her superior striking skills, I predict that she will be able to keep her 3 fight winning streak alive and become the new Bantamweight Champion in an upset.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Nunes over Tate (1st round KO)
Well there you have it. Even though that it has been a rocky road getting to this point, UFC 200 is finally here and MMA fans all around the world can be rest assured that this card will be as good as advertised, even without Conor McGregor or Jon Jones. UFC 200 is an absolute must-buy for any sports fan. Even if you aren’t willing to shell out the cash to watch at home, any sports bar worth its name will have UFC 200 on the tube. No matter how you slice it, Saturday night will be absolutely epic for even the most casual MMA fans. Go watch it.