On Saturday night in Detroit, Max ‘The Blessed One’ Holloway and Jose Aldo will headline UFC 218.
Although presented with the unenviable task of following up on the history-making UFC 217 event, there are some outstanding match-ups taking place. Here, we look at the five main card fights and predict how they will pan out.
Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson
While most ranked ladies in the strawweight division would have been ecstatic at seeing Rose Namajunas end the reign of Joanna Jedrzejczyk as champion at MSG last month, these two will certainly not have been.
This is due to the fact that neither of these fighters have faced Joanna before and so would have likely been fighting on Saturday for a shot at the gold had Joanna won.
However, both have suffered relatively recent defeats to Rose and so will have to go to the back of the queue when it comes to a title fight.
Despite this, both fighters will be eager to get a win here and climb the ranks. Tecia Torres is currently 7-1 with her only defeat being a decision loss to the aforementioned Namajunas.
While Waterson put impressive back-to-back wins against Angela Magana and Paige VanZant before suffering a submission loss to Rose. She will be hoping to erase the memories of her recent defeat and get back to winning ways.
Both ladies have a similar background, beginning their MMA training in the karate discipline before evolving a more rounded game and both hold blue belts in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Waterson’s ground game may be slightly more evolved than Torres, with three of her last four victories coming by submissions. So expect Torres to keep the fight standing where possible.
Prediction: Tecia Torres to outwork Michelle Waterson in the striking department and take a decision victory
Eddie Alvarez v Justin Gaethje
Many fans will claim this is the stand-out fight of the night, and understandably so. Stylistically, these fighters could not be better matched.
Both are renowned for their ability to withstand damage and keep coming forward.
Gaethje debuted in the UFC back in July where he arrived with an undefeated record of 17-0, with 15 of those victories coming inside the distance.
He defeated Michael Johnson on his debut in outstanding fashion, landing a stoppage in the second round due to punches and knees.
Meanwhile, Alvarez is without a win since July 2016 having suffered a knockout defeat to ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor and following this up with a no-contest against Dustin Poirier.
This was due to illegal knees to the head of his downed opponent from Alvarez in the second round.
The Underground King took serious damage at the hands of Poirier in the second round yet managed to rally back and was on the offensive when the fight was stopped.
This fight is likely to turn into a brawl and it may be the man with the strongest chin who will have their hand raised.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje to win by way of knockout. Expect a Bonus prize to be awarded to one, if not both, of these fighters also.
Henry Cejudo v Sergio Pettis
This match-up has the potential to act as a title eliminator for their shot at flyweight gold. The reason this is the potential, as opposed definite, is to do with a certain TJ Dillashaw looking to become a two-weight UFC champion.
Henry Cejudo comes from a wrestling background but has honed in on his striking skills and this was evident when he scored a hugely impressive second round knockout win over Wilson Reis in September.
It will also be interesting to see the mentality Cejudo brings into this fight after the Olympic Wrestling gold medallist was caught up in a forest fire in California in October which threatened his life.
Sergio Pettis will go into this as the underdog but will not be short of confidence as he is currently riding a four-fight win streak. The younger brother of the former lightweight champion, Anthony, showed an increased maturity in his dominating decision victory over Brandon Moreno back in August.
He successfully avoided too many grappling exchanges and stuck to his game plan, outclassing Moreno in the striking department.
Expect Cejudo to be the aggressor here and look to test the ground game of his opponent, while Pettis will look to use his precise striking and height and reach advantages to keep the fight standing.
Prediction: Sergio Pettis to grind out a decision win here.
Francis Ngannou v Alistair Overeem
Francis Ngannou is the top prospect in the heavyweight division.
Last time out, he defeated former heavyweight champ, Andrei Arlovski, in just 91 seconds by technical knock-out.
Yet on Saturday, he will be faced with easily the biggest test of his career to date.
Alistair Overeem is a veteran of the sport. He has over five times the amounts of professional fights as Ngannou.
The number one ranked contender demonstrated his experience in his last outing when he took a decision victory over Fabricio Werdum.
The ‘Reem did just enough to secure rounds one and two and subsequently clearly lost the third round, yet took a majority 29-28 decision.
Ngannou possesses incredible power and will be gunning for a knock out while Overeem will aim to be cautious and bring the Cameroonian into deep waters, particularly as the African fighter has never gone past the second round.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou to test the chin of Overeem and land an early knock-out.
Max Holloway v Jose Aldo
It is not often we see an immediate rematch in the UFC, particularly after a knock-out defeat, but these are the circumstances we are now in, following an injury to Frankie Edgar which ruled him out of the main event.
Holloway is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC and is currently riding an eleven fight win streak. He has not been defeated since a decision loss to Conor McGregor back in 2013. After Demetrious Johnson, he is the most in-form fighter in the promotion.
Jose Aldo is still a legend of the featherweight division. The Brazilian has been UFC champion for a total of 2,037 days. The pedigree of both fighters makes for an incredibly exciting main event.
These men last met in June of this year. Aldo had the early success in their exchanges using his accurate striking.
However, the Blessed One never looked to be in any real danger. In the third round, he took control and dropped Aldo before raining down punches on his downed opponent leading to a stoppage.
Holloway will be looking for a repeat of last time out. He may once again give up the early exchanges to break down Jose and find his timing.
For Aldo, he will have to be patient. He knows the power the Hawaii native possesses and may look to attack the legs of Holloway to slow him down in order to avoid a consecutive loss to the islander.
Prediction: Jose Aldo to score a decision victory over Max Holloway.
Cathal Geeney, Pundit Arena
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