Light Heavyweight Championship: Jon Jones (C) vs Alexander Gustafsson (#1)
I’m wholly aware the UFC likes to angle on The Mauler’s size “advantage” over Jon Jones yet doesn’t mention how his 76 inch reach is still dwarfed by Bones supernatural 84 inch reach advantage. Only 7 footer Stefan Struve from the Heavyweight division ties Jon Jones’s reach. Everyone else has shorter reach. But this won’t even be a focal point in the fight between both these two goliaths.
Gustafsson, while being a worthy contender, has bullied his way into a title shot by using his size over his smaller opponents. His last fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua saw him practically manhandle the former Light Heavyweight Champion. He’s done the same to Thiago Silva and has either knocked out or submitted all the rest with one glaring exception: Phil Davis, who used his superior grappling and wrestling to give the big Swede his only career loss. But it’s a loss that is a foreshadowing to his fight with Bones.
Gustafsson has improved his overall game but Jon Jones is the faster, longer, bigger and superior version of Phil Davis. Jones is a fighter on his own level – he is virtually undefeated (only loss came via DQ) and has never looked close to being in danger of losing. Seemingly, the only new “weapon” Gustafsson brings that Jones hasn’t met yet is his size and the fact he wasn’t a former light heavyweight champion or title contender but a hot young prospect just as hungry if not hungrier than the champ.
While I dream of an upset of colossal proportions, I can’t picture a scenario outside of Gustafsson catching Jones with a punch to put him out that would favour him. Bones just has him beat on every level – striking, grappling, wrestling and athleticism. This fight will go as far as Jones wants it to and it won’t reach the championship rounds.
Conclusion: Jones via round 2 submission
Interim Bantamweight Championship: Renan Barao (IC) vs Eddie Wineland (#4)
I feel the need to promote Eddie Wineland. He is truly the “workman’s fighter” as he suggested paving a humble but solid MMA career that has seen him beat the likes of Brad Pickett, George Roop and Scott Jorgensen. Wineland’s a tough nut and hasn’t been knocked out in 29 fights (his single TKO loss was due to injury). He’ll bring the fight to Barao and go for the knockout.
Barao on the other hand is just on another level and I feel he’s on a class of his own similar to Jones in the light heavyweight division. Barao has also never lost since dropping his first professional MMA fight way back in 2005. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert (who also trains with Featherweight Champ, Jose Aldo) has won almost half his fights via submission (14) and the decisions he won were barely close. His speed, technique and poise are just phenomenal.
Wineland is going to give Barao a big fight similar to fellow brawlers Pickett and Michael McDonald but he’s just not on his level. He will ultimately succumb to Barao’s advanced grappling within the first three rounds.
Conclusion: Barao via round 2 submission
Heavyweight Bout: Brendan Schaub vs Matt Mitrione
Let’s call this right away: Mitrione by first round knockout. I like Schaub a lot better and he’s on a good winning streak but his three most recent losses (all by KO) suggests he can’t take hits as well as he can dish them. Add the fact Meathead is a one of those prototypical top-heavy fighters with heavy fists and this fight is big trouble for Schaub.
Schaub can win if he fights smart and keeps his distance from Mitrione, “out-pointing” him because he is the faster of the two but Mitrione is tougher. This fight may end up mimicking the Vera-Rothwell fight one PPV ago where Vera outstruck Rothwell for the majority of the fight but eventually let Rothwell get too close and score the big knockout. I don’t see this fight lasting all three rounds and I see Schaub hitting the mat in a heap within round 1 or 2.
Conclusion: Mitrione via round 1 KO
Middleweight Bout: Costa Philippou (#7) vs Francis Carmont
I don’t know too much about fighters and it’s because neither one has really had a fight that’s been memorable. Costa’s biggest win came against Tim Boetsch a few months ago, utterly dominating him and finishing him in round 3. Carmont on the other hand has been on the better end of controversial decisions most recently against Lorenz Larkin, a fight that saw him fail at multiple takedown attempts and get kicked around.
My heart suggests Philippou, who appears to have more knockout power of the two, will finish off Carmont once he finds his striking range but the rangier Carmont has the better grappling game and is tenacious with his takedown attempts. Having GSP at his side is also an “intangible” that’s clearly worked in his past fights.
Conclusion: Carmont via split decision
Lightweight Bout: Pat Healy (#10) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
I’m tempted to buy into Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov’s hype. He’s undefeated and has absolutely manhandled the four fighters he’s faced in the UFC. He’s the type of fighter as Dana loves to say, “wrestle f*cks” you to oblivion with his triple threat background of sambo, judo and wrestling. Scoring a big win over Healy would vault him up the lightweight rankings and a title shot would be within striking distance.
Healy on the other hand is one of MMA’s more underrated fighters. His “grind you to death” style of wrestling/fighting is not too unlike Nurmagomedov and while he doesn’t have the Eagle’s pedigree he has twice the experience (46 fights versus 20) and has even fought at welterweight beating the likes of Paul Daley and Dan Hardy. Since moving to lightweight, Healy has gone 8-1-1 with his NC decision being an original Submission of the Night win over the gritty Jim Miller. Healy’s only loss came to Josh “The Punk” Thomson, who is now fighting Anthony Pettis for the lightweight title.
The Eagle has a bright future in the UFC and is one of the better prospects but he hasn’t fought an opponent of Healy’s caliber and experience and “Bam Bam” rises up to usually overcome his underdog status. Chalk another big win for Healy.
Conclusion: Healy via unanimous decision