The UFC starts its summer run this weekend, the period that usually sees some of the year’s strongest cards, and UFC 212 does not disappoint. The main card will be live from Rio de Janeiro on pay-per-view at 10pm ET, and there are some great fights to tune in for, and a couple less than great ones.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
The main event of the preliminary card features two Brazilians vying to be the number one contender for the bantamweight title. Marlon Moraes started his career off with a 5-4-1 record but has since rolled off thirteen straight wins, along the way winning the World Series of Fighting bantamweight strap and successfully defending it five times, the last four via finish. In his UFC debut, Moraes will face off against Assuncao, the #3 contender in the bantamweight division, who has lost only once in his last nine fights, a unanimous decision to the current #2, TJ Dillashaw. However, the last time out, Assuncao barely escaped with a split decision win over Aljamain Sterling, and he has been outstruck in his last two fights, the first two times that has happened in his UFC career. Are Assuncao’s injuries, which kept him away from the Octagon for almost two years prior to the Dillashaw loss, impacting his performance? Is Moraes, who has yet to face UFC-level talent able to overcome Octagon debut jitters to prove that he deserves a UFC title shot? This should be an excellent fight, perhaps stealing the show, and I expect Moraes to pick up a decision win over the UFC vet.
Yancy Medeiros vs. Erick Silva
Erick Silva was once considered a bright prospect at welterweight, but he has lost three of his last seven fights and established himself as nothing more than a lower level gatekeeper in the division. Medeiros, who fought in Strikeforce at 185 lbs, dropped to lightweight upon his UFC debut, but he failed to gain a foothold in that division, so he has decided to try his hand at welterweight. Yancy won his only 170 lb contest in the UFC, and he looks to add a second victory in this fight. Putting this fight on the main card is a stretch, even though Silva is a Brazilian. The fight will likely be a fairly even and entertaining matchup of two lower-class UFC performers, and I expect Medeiros to come away with a submission victory, possibly in the second round.
Paulo Enrique Costa vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
This clash of middleweight contenders is another fight with the potential to be the fight of the night. Bamgbose, hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, is 6-2 and has seen all of his wins end in finishes. Costa, fighting in his native Brazil, has won all nine of his professional bouts via KO/TKO. This matchup is almost guaranteed to have fireworks, and Costa is the huge betting favorite, but I am going to pick Bamgbose to use his 6” reach advantage to keep his distance and eventually finish the Brazilian.
Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
This is another fight that is only on the main card due to the location of the event, and it is probably more properly located in that legends division Belfort wants to see created than on this PPV card. Marquardt is 4-7 in his last 11 fights, with many of those losses coming against ranked fighters. Belfort is 1-3 in his four fights since being forced off of testosterone by rules changes in the sport, all three of his losses coming by KO/TKO. This fight will probably end quickly, and we will all be grateful as it will likely be a sloppy mess. Belfort has gained the oddsmakers’ favor, but I smell an upset: Nate “the Great” by TKO in the first.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
The Brazilian Gadelha, whose only two career losses have been razor-thin decisions to the champ, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, faces off against the fighter the champ will only refer to as “that Polish chick,” whose only career loss also came at the hands of Jedrzejczyk, though not nearly as closely. One of these women will finally lost to someone else, and I would be my life savings on Gadelha coming out ahead. Claudia is the best offensive wrestler in the strawweight division, and I expect her to put Karolina on her back and keep her there for most of this fifteen minute co-main event.
Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
The night’s main event is a unification of the featherweight championship between champion Jose Aldo and the interim champ, Max Holloway. Holloway is on a ten-fight winning streak, his last loss coming via unanimous decision at the hands of Conor McGregor. Aldo’s only loss in the last eleven years was a 13-second KO at the hands of Mystic Mac. Holloway is a striker who has attempted a grand total of five takedowns in his 20 UFC fights, though three of those attempts came in his last fight. Aldo is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the game who will take the fight wherever his opponent does not want to be. If Aldo can get this to the ground, he likely has the advantage. Conversely, if it stays standing, Holloway is the better striker. I can see either Aldo winning a decision or Holloway getting a late TKO finish. I am cheering for Holloway, but Aldo has been dominant in this division for the last decade, save for one bad night against a phenomenal knockout artist, so I think Aldo pulls out a decision victory.