There’s been a significant lack of stacked cards in 2017 mainly due to fighter availability, injuries, and complications making weight resulting in late cancellations.
This weekend the Honda Center in Anaheim California hosts the first mega card of the year. The card features three title fights including the much-anticipated rematch between Jon Jones & Daniel Cormier. Tyron Woodley defends his UFC Welterweight Championship against Demian Maia & Cris “Cyborg” Santos fights for the vacant Featherweight UFC title against Tonya Evinger.
Cormier vs Jones 2
A fight that’s been two years in the making also happens to be one of the most genuinely fierce rivalries in the history of the sport.
You have on one side Daniel Cormier seeking revenge and rightful respect as champion after fending off strong contenders in Jones’s absence.
On the other side an athlete who’s become almost as famous for his actions outside the cage as he is for his achievements inside of one. Jones has more than just the title to regain he’s attempting to re establish his reputation as one of the greatest fighters ever.
The underlying theme of this story is Cormier’s personal pursuit of redemption chasing the shadow of Jon Jones, the man who many still regard as the legitimate champion & Jones’s ongoing battle with his inner demons, which will be represented in the form of Daniel Cormier on Saturday night.
This is my personal favorite fight of the year, two guys who are both without question top 10 pound for pound fighters if not top 5, Should Jones win he buries the rivalry for good and reclaims his long lost gold if Cormier wins a trilogy will be required to settle the score.
(Link to my full video breakdown of this fight below)
Woodley vs Maia
Ever since Tyron did this,
to become the Welterweight Champion he’s had a somewhat underwhelming reign. A fight of the night contest against Stephen Thompson at UFC 205 ended in a controversial draw.
Woodley expressed his preference to fight another challenger instead of a rematch with Thompson, despite Woodley’s apprehension the rematch was booked four months later.
Although the fight wasn’t as engaging as the first, Woodley did get a razor thin decision victory which many thought could have gone either way.
Stephen Thompson’s rare counter striking style requires a patient approach, he’s so smart at judging distance opponents are forced to bide their time or risk getting caught with clean counters. That style of a fight makes it difficult to look impressive against Thompson.
Demian Maia’s style is heavily grappling orientated, so this contest is more of a striker vs grappler type match up. Wrestling is Tyron Woodley’s base, however, taking the fight to the floor would be courting risk where as on the feet Woodley on paper has a clear advantage.
Playing a point contest with Thompson compromised some of Woodley’s strengths. Against Maia, expect to see the aggressive version of Woodley, this is when I feel he is most dangerous.
Demian Maia will want to get this fight on the mat as soon as possible and keep it there for as long as possible. Maia’s record at welterweight is 10-2 and he’s currently riding a 7 fight win streak which is his best run during his time in the UFC.
Widely regarded as one of the best if not the premier grappler in MMA today, Maia has imposed his grappling on fellow Welterweights, only Jake Shields & Rory MacDonald thus far have managed to cope with Maia.
From Maia’s last five fights two men have made the scheduled distance, those being Gunnar Nelson & Jorge Masvidal.
The other three were submission finishes,
and Carlos Condit all suffered the consequences of being trapped in Maia’s web.
Talking of webs this isn’t Maia’s first title shot, he fought fellow countryman Anderson “The Spider” Silva for the Middleweight title in 2010. Maia was unsuccessful and looked completely outmatched.
After almost 10 years with the UFC at 39 years old, this is most likely Maia’s last chance to capture a title.
Cyborg vs Evinger
Ronda Rousey is the most recognized name in women’s MMA but Cris Cyborg is the scariest female fighter on the planet.
The proof can be found in her record, only 2 of her 17 wins have gone to a decision the remaining 15 have all been knockouts leaving Cyborg with an 88% finish rate.
Power in both hands, solid grappling, extremely hard to take down. Cyborg is a nightmare for anyone.
Tonya Evinger is replacing Megan Anderson on this card with only 4 weeks notice, Evinger would have had an uphill task fighting Cyborg with 8 weeks to prepare so she’s really up against it with only 4. The odd’s reflect my assessment, Evinger coming in as a +690 (7/1) underdog.
On the plus side, nobody is giving her much of a chance so there’s no pressure, she’ll also get some valuable exposure regardless of the result featuring on the main card of a PPV event.
Lawler vs Cerrone
A fight that the fans have been begging for on social media and MMA forums for quite a while pitting two of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster against one another.
It seems like an age since Lawler lost the belt to Tyron Woodley, it marks the longest period Lawler’s been away from the cage since making his debut in 2001.
Lawler is a former UFC Champion known for getting into brutal wars, more often than not his fights are the highlight of the night.
Donald Cerrone, the most active fighter in the Company is a perfect dance partner for Robbie Lawler, Cerrone who’s looked better than ever as a Welterweight also has a reputation for provoking a slugfest.
Two fighters coming off of losses with everything to play for. Can’t see this one going the distance.
Main Card Predictions
Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones (Jones)
Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia (Woodley)
Cris Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger (Cyborg)
Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone (Lawler)
Jimi Manuwa vs Volkan Oezdemir (Manuwa)