UFC 178 is particularly strong (with the usual disclaimer: “On paper!”), so why not bang out a preview? These fights matter. I’ll skip the Fight Pass portion, which will be won by Jon Tuck and Cody Gibson, maybe.
To give you an idea of how stacked this card is, this fight could have co-headlined that Bader-St. Preux card a few weeks ago. It’s your standard ho-hum undercard fodder here. Brian Ebersole and his manscaping have a bad habit of blowing winnable fights, so look for Howard to continue his improbable second stint in the UFC with a blah decision victory.
Patrick Cote vs. Stephen Thompson
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Cote fanboy. This has been true ever since he walked straight through Drew McFedries (one of the hardest hitting human beings who ever lived) hardest shots, knocked him out, and said in his postfight interview, shaking his head “He thought I didn’t hit hard enough.” Tough dude, tough chin, big hitter, big heart. I was in.
The problem is that he’s getting a bit long in the tooth, so to beat Thompson he might want to mix things up by sprinkling in some takedown attempts. Remember, he’d have a TKO loss on his record to the immortal Alessio Sakara if silly old Alessio hadn’t decided to hit him on the back of the head.
I always root for Cote, but Thompson is the better, more versatile striker here. Thompson knocks Cote out in the first round.
James Krause vs. Jorge Masvidal
Whoever wins this fight will catapult himself into a bigger fight, the coveted “Yeah, he’s a top 15-20 lightweight” tier. Fun fact about James Krause: He just beat a man who fought for three minutes on one leg. Fun fact about Jorge Masvidal: He was once floating inverted triangle choked by a man named Toby Imada.
Both guys are well rounded on the feet, and this will most likely be contested there. Masvidal can get a little lax, and Krause’s length and volume kicking game should push him to either wilt or succeed with counter attacks. Give me James Krause in a 29-28 squeaker.
Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Well, holy freaking smokes. Look who decided to make it all the way to fight week without tearing his groin or blowing an Achilles tendon mowing the lawn. Dom’s going to make it to fight night, right? I sincerely hope he doesn’t get knocked out by some errant baggage that falls from the overhead bin. The last time Dominick Cruz fought, people were still hyping up Mitt Romney as the Next Big Thing.
Jokes aside, all the questions that have been asked a million times apply here in spades. Will a long layoff, coupled with several devastating lower body injuries impede Cruz’s ability to, well, fight like himself? Will he be able to plant his feet comfortably and move laterally? These are huge questions.
Before Dom makes his triumphant UFC return, lets all tip our caps to the always serviceable Takeya Mizugaki for his impressive streak. Even when he loses, he always puts on an entertaining fight. His aggression in recent fights suggests that it’s definitely possible that he could land a big straight right and knock Cruz senseless.
Cruz will probably take a decision here, and then he’ll go on to fight TJ Dillashaw in a fight that might set the record for total steps taken inside the octagon. But realistically, who the hell knows? Who really knows? I’m pumped to find out.
Amanda Nunes vs. Cat Zingano
I enjoy Cat Zingano. Her stoppage of the always underwhelming Meisha Tate was particularly cold and brutal. However, that was eons ago. Since then, Cat has lost her husband to suicide, and had to deal with multiple injuries as well.
She takes on Amanda Nunes, who never met a gas pedal she couldn’t throw a brick on top of. I see this as a struggle between two strong women, real cloud-of-dust, holy-shit-this-is-a lot-of-action-to-call type stuff. I select Zingano to come out on top by TKO.
Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero
God, this card is awesome. The hits just keep on coming. Anyway, Timmy Kennedy takes on chronic pants-shitter Yoel Romero, in a fight that is truly a clash of styles.
Kennedy will look to put Romero on his back, and I see him being able to do that, at least some of the time. The problem will come when he tries to hold the springy, athletic Romero down. Romero could always have a brainfart and get tapped, but I see him being able to keep it on the feet often.
From there, I like Romero. Kennedy is a solid, if uninspiring, striker. He can absolutely put your lights out if you fight stupid and circle into his power hand, but he’s pretty nuts and bolts on the feet. Romero, on the other hand, is a wild, jumpy dynamo. He’s good at leaping in and out with big punches, and is always a threat to uncork a picturesque flying knee. More than that, he always seems so relaxed on the feet, like there’s no place on the planet he’d rather be.
This is a tough one to call, and it has “29-28 split decision that pisses a lot of people off” written all over it. My gut says Kennedy ends up on top enough to convince two judges that he’s the victor. Kennedy by decision.
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
You know, even though Conor was trying to be edgy and snarky by saying that Poirier “isn’t a step up in competition” for him, he was sort of accidentally right. Poirier is a perennial top ten featherweight, a guy always eager to put on a barnburner.
The thing is, Conor McGregor is a terrible matchup for him. Awful. Nightmarish. If you said “We have this guy we want to promote until giving him a title shot is justified, and we want to find a good fighter to essentially put him over by going down in flames while fighting his ass off the entire time” … I mean, Dustin Poirier is that guy, right?
Poirier just gets hit too much. He lives by the sword, and he dies by the sword. McGregor should really be able to open up on the feet with his acrobatic karate techniques and above average boxing combos, and if the fight hits the floor (where McGregor is no slouch, by the way. McGregor detractors like to scream “Just put him on his back, where he hasn’t been tested!” like he’s Lavar Johnson on the ground or something. He’s solid on the floor.), I see Conor being able to handle himself. He’s got to watch out for Poirier’s A+ brabo choke, and if Poirier finds some momentum, he could really get rolling. It seems far more likely that McGregor hands Poirier his first TKO loss, though. McGregor by TKO, followed by a title shot sometime next spring. If you don’t think he’s fighting for the title if he wins this, you are insane, and a danger to yourself and others. Get lucid.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Donald Cerrone
Jesus! This card. I’m about to pass out. I know that praising a card for being stacked on paper can be dangerous, but look at these matchups. Is there any way Alvarez and Cerrone put on a snoozer? Seriously, is there any way? I’d love to hear theories.
At long last, Edward Alvarez makes his UFC debut, against the “I really need money, can I just fight every week?” vibes of one Donald Cerrone. Both guys get dropped a lot, both guys are aggressive, dynamic strikers, and I could see either guy getting TKO’d by the other.
Alvarez is a tougher wrestler, though Cerrone has improved tons in that department. I know I’m predicting grandiose things for what seems like every fight on this card, but I see a tit-for-tat striking war here, where both guys might have to “dig deep” and “show tremendous heart”. Dudes are gonna get connected on here. The kicks and punches will be flying, Eddie and Donald will make some faces, someone will get hit with a big killshot, and someone will follow up with punches on the floor and get a TKO stoppage. That someone will be Donald Cerrone. By TKO, round three.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso
Wait, is that a misprint? Huh? Why are all of these reputable MMA media sites reporting that Chris Cariaso is fighting for the flyweight title? There must be some mistake. That simply can’t be true.
It’s true? This thing is gonna happen? Huh. Strange world. Um, instead of complaining about this being one of the lamest title shots in MMA history, I’m just going to hype this as an opportunity to watch Mighty Mouse do his thing. People feel cheated when a movie is great but the ending sucks, and that’s not entirely fair.
Mighty Mouse does whatever he wants to Cariaso. I just hope he comes out aggressive and finishes him, because to see him give Cariaso the “Sakuraba doesn’t know how to beat Gilles Arsene while still seeming like a nice guy” treatment would be disappointing. In a way, there’s a lot of pressure on DJ here, at least in my eyes. He needs to finish Cariaso, or he’ll be perceived as a boring champion. Cariaso isn’t a terrible fighter or anything, and he won’t be a pushover. But DJ’s waaaaaay too much for him. DJ by submission, round four.
Enjoy the fights. It’d be hard not to.