As most MMA fans have heard, World Series of Fighting has rebranded as the Professional Fighters League. The promotion will be structured like the big three in sports; the NFL, NBA and MLB with a regular season leading to playoffs and ultimately crowning a champion beginning in January, 2018.
The first season will consist of seven different weight classes with each fighter competing in three regular season fights. The fighters with the best records will then compete in the playoffs and finally, the championship. Each of the champions in the seven weight classes will win $1 million, with $3 million getting dispersed among the remaining fighters.
After rumors of the demise of WSOF, a group of businessmen including Russ Ramsey, Donn Davis and Mark Leschly purchased the struggling promotion and co-founded the Professioanl Fighters League. Ray Sefo and Carlos Silva will remain with the new group of owners.
Ray Sefo stated, “All fighters deserve to control their own destiny, to win or lose on their own merits. There are thousands of professional MMA fighters, and yet in the entire history of the sport, only a handful of these athletes have ever fought for $1 million. We are proud to offer that opportunity to every fighter in the Professional Fighters League.”
Sefo also sent out an email to the fighters informing them of the news prior to the official press release:
Since the news broke, reaction to the new venture has been mostly negative, and I don’t know why. The PFL has an opportunity to provide MMA fans an alternative to both the UFC and Bellator way of match-making. UFC fans have been forced to watch fights/cards that may make sense to them financially, but have little regard to rankings and the pursuit of championship titles. Bellator cards are loaded with fighters fresh off the regional circuit, squash matches and former UFC fighters. The MMA landscape has become stale.
The PFL is providing more opportunities for fighters. More opportunities for them to make money. It wasn’t until UFC 196 where we saw Conor McGregor become the first UFC fighter to pull in $1 million. That type of payday will be life changing money for any of the fighters competing.
The million dollar payday aside, by offering its fighters a regular paycheck and treating wins and losses like they matter – like a real sport - the promotion has an opportunity to change the future of MMA. What’s not to like about that?
UFC Fight Night 108 is live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday night. The main event takes place in the featherweight division as Artem Lobov takes on UFC veteran Cub Swanson. The co-main event is a lightweight battle between longtime UFC vet Diego Sanchez and Al Iaquinta.
The six fight main card also includes: Ovince Saint Preux who will be looking to put a halt to a three fight skid taking on Marcos Rogerio De Lima; MMA Torch’s 10th ranked bantamweight John Dobson takes on Eddie Wineland; fan favorite Joe Lauzon goes up against Steven Ray, and in a fight that probably won’t go to the judges, Jake Ellenberger takes on the heavy handed Mike Perry.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 PM CT, with Fox Sports 2 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. The main card will air on FS1 starting at 9 PM CT.
Artem Lobov (14-12-1, 1 NC) vs. Cub Swanson #4 (24-7) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Swanson -650; Lobov +450
The fact that Artem Lobov is in the main event of a UFC card says a lot about where the promotion is in 2017. But here we are, none the less. Lobov’s record is just over .500 at 14-12 with seven of the wins coming via decision. He is 2-2 under the UFC banner and 2-0 in his last two fights, beating Chris Avila at UFC 202 and Teruto Ishihara at UFC Fight Night 99 both by decision.
MMA Torch’s #4 ranked featherweight Cub Swanson enters Saturday’s fight on a three fight winning streak. Swanson has fought every name there is to fight in the division. Although he suffered losses to fighters such as Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas he does own victories over Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Doo Ho Choi.
Lobov is primarily a striker who likes to sit back and wait for his opportunity to land a knockout punch. While it looks as though he’s added a few wrinkles to his offense such as adding more kicks and making an effort to throw at a higher volume, his biggest advantage is his ability to counter punch with power. Lobov has a below average ground game so if his plan is to take Swanson to the ground his night will come to an end quickly. I expect Lobov to stand and try to maintain distance while avoiding going to the ground at all costs. Considering the caliber of opponents Artem has fought, Swanson will be the biggest challenge of his career.
Cub Swanson clearly has the advantage regardless of where the fight goes. He has a ton of experience and has been inside the cage with the top featherweights in the world. His last fight against Choi proved his durability and ability to take a punch. Lobov’s game plan will be to stand and trade with Swanson, but unfortunately for him, Swanson has only been knocked out once in seven losses. Cub is stronger, faster, better on the feet, better on the ground and just overall better than Artem Lobov. If there is one concern, it’s the possibility of Swanson coming back too soon after his war with Choi in December.
Pick: Swanson by submission
Diego Sanchez (29-9) vs. Al Iaquinta (12-3-1) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Iaquinta -430; Sanchez +330
Longtime UFC veteran Diego Sanchez steps into the cage for the thirty-eighth time on Saturday night. He’s 3-3 over his last six fights, alternating wins and losses. His most recent fight occurred at UFC Fight Night 98 where he won a unanimous decision over Marcin Held in a fight he looked excellent in. Sanchez has fought every big name in the division over his long career and will look to try to make yet another statement by taking out the heavily favored Al Iaquinta.
Al Iaquinta returns after a two year layoff and enters Saturday night’s fight riding a four fight winning streak. The win streak started with three straight TKO finishes against; Rodrigo Damm, Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon. The fourth win came at UFC Fight Night 63 where he won a split decision over Jorge Masvidal that most thought he should have lost.
This is a tough match-up for Diego Sanchez. Al Iaquinto is an excellent boxer who works at a quick pace with a high volume of strikes. He mixes up his punches well and will occasionally throw in some kicks to keep his opponents off balance. While Iaquinta is competent on the ground, I expect him to try and keep this fight on the feet.
Diego Sanchez showed some grit in his last fight against Marcin Held. He was able to take Held down and control him for most of the fight leading to well-deserved win by decision. I expect Sanchez’s game plan to be similar in this fight. He’s going to want to avoid getting into a slug fest against a much superior striker and get the fight to the ground. Once there he can try and keep Iaquinta down while working for submissions. The problem is Iaquinta has excellent take down defense, so if that avenue isn’t there for Sanchez I don’t see him winning this fight.
Unless the two year layoff has a negative effect on Iaquinta, this is his fight to win.
Pick: Iaquinta by TKO
Marcos Rogerio De Lima (15-5-1) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (19-10) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Saint Preux -160; De Lima +130
To say Ovince Saint Preux needs a win on Saturday night would be an understatement. OSP has lost his last three fights in a row and needs a win to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division. His most recent loss was at UFC Fight Night 104 where he dropped a split decision to Vlokan Oezdemir.
Marcos De Lima is 2-2, alternating between wins and losses over his last four fights. The Brazilian’s most recent fight occurred at UFC on FOX 23 where he finished Jeremy Kimball in the first round. De Lima will look to make it two wins in a row by taking out OSP on Saturday night.
Unless there’s an early stoppage, this fight will come down to which fighter has more left in the gas tank come the later rounds. Both fighters have similar strengths and weaknesses. They are both excellent strikers with more than enough power to end the fight with one punch. OSP likes to use his jab and front kicks to keep distance while on the other hand, De Lima prefers to close distance and punish his opponents in the clinch.
Neither OSP nor De Lima excel on the ground, but I would give the edge to OSP. This should be an exciting fight. While I expect both fighters to keep the fight standing, I think OSP has a clearer path to victory by taking De Lima to the ground. He is the better wrestler and De Lima has been submitted twice in four losses.
Pick: De Lima by TKO
Eddie Wineland (23-11-1) vs. John Dobson #10 (19-8) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Dobson -475; Wineland +350
Top flyweight contender John Dobson has lost three times in his last twelve fights. Those three losses came against John Lineker and current champion and pound for pound best fighter in the world Demetrius Johnson, twice. He’ll look to get himself back into a title fight with a win over Eddie Wineland on Saturday night.
After dropping two fights in a row, MMA veteran Eddie Wineland enters this fight on a two fight winning streak. He finished Frankie Saenz at UFC on FOX 20 and then he stopped Takeya Mizugaki at UFC on FOX 22.
Both fighters prefer to stand and strike. Wineland in particular is strictly a boxer who rarely, if ever goes to the ground. While Dobson will attempt a take down here and there, I don’t expect him to have success taking this fight to the mat. Due to Eddie’s ridiculous take down defense and his lack of interest in a round game I expect this fight to remain standing.
Both Wineland and Dobson have the power to end the fight at any time, Dobson clearly has the advantage in speed and quickness. The problem with Dobson’s game is his low volume. Couple that with Wineland’s high volume and pace, Dobson runs the risk of giving rounds away. That said, I like Dobson in this one. He has more ways to win this fight. I especially prefer his more well-rounded offense compared to Wineland’s. I also think the speed of Dobson will give Eddie fits all night.
Pick: Dobson by decision
Stevie Ray (20-6) vs. Joe Lauzon (27-13) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Ray -200; Lauzon +160
Longtime UFC veteran and fan favorite Joe Lauzon steps into the cage for his 40th professional fight on Saturday night. He is 3-3 over his last six fights alternating wins and losses. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 103 where he was awarded the split decision in a fight even he thought he didn’t deserve. While Joe’s days of competing for titles are behind him, his fights remain must see.
Scotland’s Steven Ray was riding a five fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Alan Silva Alves at UFC Fight Night 95. He returned at UFC Fight Night 99 where he got back in the win column by taking a split decision from Ross Pearson. He’ll look to make it two in a row on Saturday night.
Stevie is a finisher with fourteen of his twenty pro wins coming by either submission or knockout. However, lately he has shown the ability to outpoint his opposition by going the distance in his last three fights. He is 2-1 in those fights. I expect Ray to keep the fight standing so he can utilize his excellent striking. While he’s decent on the ground I don’t see him beating Lauzon there.
Joe Lauzon’s path to victory lies in his ability to get Ray to the mat. If he chooses to stand and trade with Ray I don’t see the fight going well for him. Lauzon is a tremendous grappler with a deadly submission game. Of Joe’s twenty-seven pro wins, eighteen are by submission. An area of concern for Lauzon has always been his cardio. The longer the fight goes, the smaller Joe’s window of opportunity becomes.
Stevie Ray is younger, faster, and stronger and has a better gas tank. As long as he doesn’t get caught early in the fight, it’s his fight to win.
Pick: Ray by decision
Mike Perry (9-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (31-12) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Perry -150; Ellenberger +120
This will be Jake Ellenberger’s 44th professional fight. He has fought every big name there is over his twelve year career. Obviously Jake’s skills aren’t what they used to be. He has only won two fights over his previous eight. His most recent fight occurred at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale where he was stopped in the first round by Jorge Masvidal.
Heavy handed Mike Perry suffered the first loss of his career after winning his first nine fights when he dropped a decision to Alan Jouban at UFC on FOX 22. The knockout artist boasts nine knockouts in nine wins.
Both fighters can end the fight with one punch. I do not expect a technical classic here. Perry will look to close distance while loading up for the knockout blow. Fighting this style opens Perry up to get hit fairly easily but the guy’s chin is made of granite and just walks through punches. Ellenberger has the power to end anybody’s night with one punch so it will be interesting to see how Perry’s chin holds up.
While I expect both guys to come out and throw hands, Ellenberger would be wise to use his wrestling to get Perry to the ground. Once there he can take advantage of Perry’s inexperience and either try to outpoint him or work for a submission. While I would like to see Ellenberger apply this strategy, I don’t see it happening.
Pick: Perry by TKO
Prelims Quick Look
Alvey -105 over Leites -125
Ortiz -145 over Moreno +115
Holtzman -305 over McBride +245
Penne -115 over Taylor -115
Early Prelims Quick Look
Davis -280 over Dandois +220
Barberena -345 over Proctor +275
Schnell -140 over Sandoval +110
Enjoy the fights!
Bellator MMA returns to the States for Bellator 178. The event takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut and features the long awaited return of Daniel Straus. Straus will put his featherweight title on the line when he faces long-time rival Patricio Freire in the main event. The bitter rivals first fought each other at Bellator 45 where we saw Freire take a unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27). After the win, Freire was supposed to face Joe Warren for the title but an injury put him on the shelf for almost two years. Freire did get a shot at the title upon his return but lost to then champion Pat Curran at Bellator 85.
Daniel Straus was the champion when he fought Freire for the second time at Bellator 132. It wasn’t the prettiest fight, but it was a fight Freire won with a rear naked choke to capture the title. Straus got his rematch at Bellator 145 and won the title back, but was injured in the fight. On Saturday night he makes his return to take on Freire once again with his title on the line.
The co-main event takes us to the women’s flyweight division where either Jessica Middleton or Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will suffer their first defeat. The main card rounds out with the undefeated AJ McKee taking on Dominic Mazzotta and Saad Awad vs. Ryan Quinn.
The prelims will stream live on Bellator.com starting at 6 PM CT with Spike TV taking over at 8 PM CT for the main card.
Daniel Straus (23-6) vs. Patricio Freire (25-4) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Straus -150; Freire +120
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire makes his return after suffering a leg injury in his fight against Benson Henderson at Bellator 160. The injury could not have come at a worse time considering Freire seemed to have won the first round and was continuing to get the better of Henderson early on in the second round as well. Prior to suffering the TKO loss to Henderson, Freire was 1-1 over his previous two fights. After losing his title to Straus at Bellator 145 he returned at Bellator 153 where he submitted Henry Corrales.
Daniel Straus returns to the Bellator cage for the first time since Bellator 145 where he won the title from Freire by decision. That fight took place back in November of 2015 so it will be interesting to see if the long layoff will have any effect on the champion.
After fighting three time already both fighters will be well prepared. The winner of this fourth fight will be the fighter who can execute his game plan and show enough patience to not get lured away from it. Freire is 2-1 against Straus, but all three fights were back and forth affairs. In the third fight, Straus managed to avoid tiring in the championship rounds even with Freire picking up the pace in an effort to take advantage of the injured Straus. Freire came close to getting the finish late in the fifth round, but Straus was able to fight off a rear naked choke and take the decision.
Straus and Freire match up very well against each other. I would give Freire the slight edge in striking, but Straus was able to hurt him with a big straight left that turned the tide in Straus’ favor in their previous fight. I give the edge to Straus when it comes to their ground games. It’s on the ground where I see Straus winning the fight. If he has success scoring take downs I think he has the skill and the strength to be able to control Freire and do just enough on the feet to grind out a decision. Straus has to be careful not to get caught up in fire fight due to Pitbull’s power and ability to finish. He has 19 stoppages in 25 career wins. On the flipside, 58% of Straus’ wins have been by decision.
I see this fight going one of two ways; either Freire gets the finish or Straus outpoints him to a decision. What I don’t know is how the layoffs for each fighter will affect their cardio. While I slightly favor Daniel Straus in this one, this fight is ultimately a pass for me.
Pick: Straus by decision
Jessica Middleton (2-0) vs. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (5-0) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Macfarlane -450; Middleton +340
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is 4-0 under the Bellator banner and 5-0 overall. Her last two wins came against Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 157 and Emily Ducote at Bellator 167. Macfarlane, who fights out of Team Hurricane Awesome has three finishes in her five wins.
Jessica Middleton is 2-0 since signing with Belllator after going 2-0 as an amateur. She beat Bruna Ellen in her debut at Bellator 159 and followed that win up by decisioning Alice Yauger at Bellator 171.
The women’s flyweight division has some good talent including; Macfarlane, Anastasia Yankova, and Lena Ovchynnikova. After beating Helen Harper last week at Bellator 177, Ovchynnikova called out Yankova so it will be interesting to see which direction Bellator will go with a title fight. Will they make Yankova vs. Ovchynnikova for the inaugural title or will Macfarlane, with a win on Friday night get the winner?
As for Macfarlane, this is a fight she should win. She is by far the better fighter regardless of where Middleton tries to take the fight. A win here should put her in line for a title fight against Yankova. Or possibly the winner of Yankova/Ovchynnikova if Bellator decides to go that route.
Pick: Macfarlane by submission
Dominic Mazzotta (11-1) vs. AJ McKee (7-0) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: McKee -500; Mazzotta +370
Top prospect AJ McKee will look to make it eight straight wins when he steps into the cage against Dominic Mazzotta on Friday night. His most recent fight took place at Bellator 171 where he beat Brandon Phillips by decision. After beginning his Bellator run with five straight finishes, McKee has been taken the distance in his last two fights.
Dominic Mazzotta will be making his Bellator debut on Friday after going 6-0 fighting for Pinnacle FC. Mazzotta’s only loss came against current UFC Champion Cody Garbrandt back in March of 2014. His most recent fight occurred at Pinnacle FC 15 where he won a decision against Solon Staley. Mazzotta is a finisher with ten of his twelve wins coming via stoppage.
McKee is an excellent striker who uses his length and reach to maintain distance and dictate the pace of his fights. He also has the power to end fights on the feet as his three wins by KO/TKO show. McKee’s ground game is what makes him even more dangerous. He has shown the ability to out wrestle his opponents while also having the strength to be able to control them once on the mat. While his cardio was an unknown due to his first five fights ending via stoppage, he has been taken the distance in his last two, showing he has plenty in the gas tank.
While I expect AJ McKee to win this fight, he shouldn’t take Mazzotta lightly. With thirteen professional fights and four as an amateur he clearly has the edge in experience. With nine submissions in twelve pro wins, the potential is there for Mazzotta to pull off the upset.
Pick: McKee by decision
Ryan Quinn (13-6-1) vs. Saad Awad (19-9) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Awad -300; Quinn +240
Saad Awad has lost his last two fights after beating Evangelista Santos at Bellator 154. He dropped a decision to Derek Anderson at Bellator 160 and at Bellator 163 he was stopped by Brennan Ward. While the Bellator veteran won’t be fighting for the lightweight title any time soon, his fights are usually exciting to watch. In nineteen career wins he has seven wins by submission and eight KO/TKOs.
Connecticut’s own Ryan Quinn enters Friday night’s fight on a two fight winning streak and winning three of his last four. He last fought under the Bellator banner at Bellator 140 where he submitted Waylon Lowe with a guillotine choke.
Quinn is a well-rounded fighter. His ground game is where he has the advantage against Awad. I expect him to try for take downs in an effort to get the fight to the ground where he can work his submissions. While Quinn is decent on the feet he won’t be able to match Awad’s power. Saad is going to want to throw hands and try to end the fight early. Awad does tend to leave himself open so the possibility he gets caught by Quinn is there. This should be a fun fight. I don’t have a strong feel one way or the other, so I’ll back the heavy handed Awad in a fight that can end in the first round.
Pick: Awad by TKO
Prelims Quick Look
Shainis over Kelleher
Perrin over Carvalho
Watford over Lachinov
Lopez over Caedarelli
Foster over Manley
Tugman over English
Young over Caron
Ruth over Mundell
Fortune over Busick
Giovanella over Ricci
Alley over Xhema
Enjoy the fights!
UFC of FOX 24 is live at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday night. The main event features UFC Flyweight Champion and pound for pound great Demetrious Johnson as he defends his title against MMA Torch’s 5th ranked flyweight, Wilson Reis. The co-main event takes place in the women’s strawweight division where Rose Namajunas goes up against Michelle Waterson with the winner taking another step closer to a title fight.
The four fight main card rounds out with a fantastic scrap between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Robert Whitaker in a battle of two of the top middleweights in the world, and Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano in a battle of featherweights.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 3 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 PM CT.
Demetrious Johnson #1 (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis #5 (22-6) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Johnson -800; Weis +500
The best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world goes for his tenth straight title defense when he steps into the cage to take on Wilson Reis Saturday night. Johnson has won eleven fights in a row and hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Dominick Cruz back in October of 2011. His most recent victory came via unanimous decision over Tim Elliott at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.
Wilson Reis comes into the fight winning his last three in a row and five of his last six. His last fight occurred at UFC 208 where he won a unanimous decision against Yuta Sasaki. Reis will come into Saturday’s fight with confidence as he tries to pull off the unthinkable.
At +500, Vegas, as well as everyone else in the MMA community knows that winning this fight is going to be a tall task for Wilson Reis. While Reis is a decent striker, he doesn’t carry much power in his hands. He has zero finishes from punches in twenty-two career wins. Wilson’s real strength lies in his ground game. The Brazilian Ju-Jitsu black belt has ten submission wins. Along with his strong wrestling, Reis sets up his take downs well and Johnson has been susceptible to the take down.
Demetrious Johnson does everything well, but what really sets him apart is his stamina and pace. There have been fighters that have given Johnson trouble for a round or two, but none of them have the cardio to keep up over five rounds. No matter where this fight goes, Demetrious will have the upper hand. Reis may have some success early, but it’s just a matter of time before he becomes the tenth challenger to have fallen to one of, if not the greatest of all time.
While I think Mighty Mouse is a safe pick, I don’t recommend laying that price...ever. So this fight is a pass.
Pick: Johnson TKO
Rose Namajunas #5 (6-3) vs. Michelle Waterson #8 (14-4) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Namajunas -130; Waterson ev.
Michelle Waterson is 2-0 since coming to the UFC from Invicta FC. Both wins were by submission. First she stopped Angela Magana at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale and then she took out UFC darling Paige VanZant in the first round at UFC on FOX 22. She comes into this fight winning eight of her last nine. She is also quite the finisher with twelve of her career fourteen victories ending inside the distance.
Rose Namajunas was on a three fight win streak until she dropped a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201. Like Waterson, Namajunas will go for the finish whenever it presents itself. Of her five professional wins, four have come by submission.
Waterson is not the striker Namajunas is, but her high level karate makes her very dangerous on the feet. She is also extremely quick. This allows her to score by utilizing her speed to get in and out of the pocket while avoiding damage. While not as decorated as Namajunas in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Waterson can certainly hold her own should the fight go to the ground.
Rose Namajunas has gone up against some of the best fighters in the division. She is better than Waterson on the feet and on the ground. Rose tends to struggle when pressured so I’ll be interested to see if Waterson uses her speed and quickness to keep Namajunas off balance and moving backwards. If the fight stays on the feet I think Waterson’s chances of winning increase and I can see her out working and out pointing Namajunas to a decision. However, I think Rose’s size, and superior ground game will be the difference in this one.
Consider backing the small favorite.
Pick: Namajunas by decision
Ronaldo Souza #4 (24-4, 1 NC) vs. Robert Whitaker #7 (18-4) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Souza -245; Whitaker +195
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza was on an eight fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Yoel Romero at UFC 194. Since then he’s 2-0, beating Vitor Belfort at UFC 198 and Tim Boetsch at UFC 208. One of the best middleweights in the world, Jacare has seventeen submissions in twenty-four career wins. One would think that with a win here it would all but guarantee a title shot. But with Michael Bisping possibly being one of the worst champions in recent memory, nothing is guaranteed.
After stumbling in back-to-back losses to Court McGee and Stephen Thompson, Robert Whitaker is now riding a six fight winning streak. His most recent win came at UFC Fight Night 101 where he finished Derek Brunson in the first round. Whitaker is a finisher with thirteen stoppages in seventeen career wins. If he were to win his seventh straight on Saturday night, it will be the biggest win of his career.
At 37 years old Ronaldo Souza is still a freak athlete. His pressure style of fighting keeps his opponents on their heels and always moving backwards. He mixes his offense up well between kicks and punches while looking to explode in for a take downs. But, Jacare’s biggest advantage is his grappling. Yoel Romero was able to defend against Souza’s take down attempts, but Romero is the best middleweight in the world. I don’t see Whitaker having the same success.
Robert Whitaker must keep this fight standing. His take down defense will be the key to how the fight plays out. Lucky for Whitaker, his take down defense is among the best in the UFC. Whitaker will have the advantage on the feet which makes this fight so compelling. He uses his jab and kicks to maintain distance extremely well. It will be interesting to see if he has success keeping distance against a fighter like Souza who likes to continuously press forward.
This is going to be an excellent fight. Whitaker matches up very well against Jacare, so I would not be surprised if he won here. That said, I’m going with the ground skills of Souza in a very close fight. I will be passing on this one.
Pick: Souza by decision
Jeremy Stephens #7 (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Stephens -175; Moicano +145
UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens makes his 25th appearance for the promotion. He’ll look to get back in the win column after dropping a decision to Frankie Edgar at UFC 205. Stephens is 2-4 over his last six fights with the losses coming against the best the division as to offer in Edgar, Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. Although he’s no longer one of the top fighters in the division, he is still dangerous.
Renato Moicano is 2-0 under the UFC banner beating Tom Niinimaki at UFC Fight Night 58 and then Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 198. He’s 10-0 with half of those wins by submission. Moicano will be looking to make a name for himself by beating a big name in Jeremy Stephens.
At this stage in his career Stephens will continue to be a good gatekeeper to the elite fighters in the division. A win here will keep him around the top 10 and in meaningful fights. Once known as just a brawler, Stephens has turned into a well-rounded striker. He likes to pressure his opponents behind a solid jab which sets up his power shots. Although he’s a competent grappler, he’ll likely try to keep this fight standing in an effort to avoid Moicano’s superior ground game.
Moicano will be taking a big step up in competition when he faces off against Stephens. The submission specialist will be the more athletic and quicker fighter on Saturday night. The key for Moicano is to avoid getting into a slugfest with Stephens. Moicano’s path to victory is clearly by getting Stephens on the ground where he can work for submissions.
For Stephens to win he’ll have to be able to defend Moicano’s take down attempts. If he can do that and force Moicano to fight on his feet I think he will find success closing distance and out point his younger counterpart. However, I do think Moicano will be able to get Stephens to the ground, the only question is will he be able to get the finish?
While I like Moicano to pull off the upset, I’m not confident enough to place a wager on him. This fight is a pass, which I may regret.
Pick: Moicano by decision
Prelims Quick Look
Volkov -150 over Nelson +120
Duquesnoy -800 over Williams +500
Green +270 over Magomedov -350
Elliott -230 over Smolka +180
Sterling -400 over Mendes +300
Clark -145 over Collier +115
Sanchez -350 over Smith +270
Cummings -465 over Coy +355
Evans-Smith -210 over Viera +165
Enjoy the fights!
Bellator MMA continues their International Tour with a stop at the Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary for Bellator 177. The main event features Bantamweight Champion Eduardo Dantas defending his title against Bellator newcomer Leandro Higo. Darrion Caldwell was originally scheduled to challenge Dantas for the title, but an injury forced him out of the match-up. The co-main event takes place in the featherweight division where MMA and Bellator veteran Daniel Weichel takes on John Teixeira.
The main card rounds out with a women’s flyweight fight when Lena Ovchynnikova goes up against another newcomer to the Bellator promotion, Helen Harper and finally Hungary’s own Adam Borics takes on Anthony Taylor.
The main card will air on Spike TV starting at 8 PM CT.
Leandro Higo (17-2) vs. Eduardo Dantas #9 (19-4) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Leandro Higo steps in for the injured Darrion Caldwell, while also making his Bellator debut. The 28 year old Brazilian enters the fight riding an eight fight undefeated run with six stoppages. Higo is hoping to make a huge statement by taking out the champion in his first fight with the promotion.
Eduardo Dantas won the bantamweight title by beating Marcos Galvao by unanimous decision at Bellator 156. It was his second time winning the title. He successfully defended the title at Bellator 166 when he defeated Joe Warren by majority decision. It will interesting to see if there’s any letdown now that he’s not facing Darrion Caldwell in what was a highly anticipated fight between two of the best bantamweights in MMA.
Dantas doesn’t possess big power as 4 KO/TKOs in 19 wins illustrates. He does however have great cardio who works at a fast pace with a high volume of offense. His ground game is solid but he does struggle with fighters who are stronger and can keep him down. Leandro Higo isn’t exactly a knockout artist either with only 3 KO/TKOs in 17 wins. He does have a strong ground game which has earned him 10 wins by submission.
I don’t think Higo has the strength to be able to control Dantas on the ground like Joe Warren did. I do expect a high paced fight that goes the distance with Dantas outworking and pointing Higo.
Pick: Dantas by decision
John Teixeira (21-1-2) vs. Daniel Weichel (38-9) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Germany’s Daniel Weichel comes into his fight against John Teixeira winning 10 of his last 11 fights. The one loss came against Patricio Freire at Bellator 138. His most recent fight was a submission win over Brian Moore at Bellator 169. While Weichel doesn’t have huge power, only 5 of his career 38 wins are by KO/TKO, he does have an excellent ground game with 22 submissions.
If not for a draw against Rivaldo Junior back in June of 2013, John Texeira would be working on a ten fight undefeated streak. His most recent fight was at Bellator 167 where he decisioned Justin Lawrence. Like Weichel, Teixeira is much more dangerous on the ground with 10 of his 21 wins coming via submission with only 4 KO/TKOs.
I’m really looking forward to this scrap. I enjoy watching Daniel Weichel fight and I expect John Teixeira to give him all he can handle and then some. The winner of this fight will likely put themselves in line for a shot at the featherweight title.
Both fighters are dangerous and either can pull off a submission win here. However, I think Daniel Weichel gets it done by either late submission or decision.
Pick: Weichel by decision
Helen Harper (4-1) vs. Lena Ovchynnikova (12-4) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Lena Ovchynnikova will be making her third appearance for Bellator when she steps into the cage to face Helen Harper. Ovchynnikova lost her debut for the promotion by losing to Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 150. After that loss she took on Mara Romero Borella at WMMAF World MMA Cup 2016 and was awarded the decision; however, it was later overturned by WMMAF to a no-contest. Lena returned to Bellator at Bellator 164 where she won a unanimous decision over Karla Benitez.
Helen Harper makes her Bellator debut after going 4-1 on the regional circuit with 3 stoppages. Her latest fight occurred at Showdown Series MMA - Showdown 5 where she decisioned Sofie Langsford.
Ovchynnikova started out on an eight fight winning streak, but is just 3-4 over her last seven. This is a fight she has to have in order to stay relevant in Bellator’s competitive flyweight division. Lena has an excellent ground game. Eight of her eleven wins are by submission. Ovchynnikova is the better fighter with more experience. Harper’s last fight was in May, 2015 so she might get off to a slow start. Either way, this is a fight Lena has to have.
Pick: Ovchynnikova by submission
Anthony Taylor (1-2) vs. Adam Borics (5-0) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Hungary’s own Adam Borics looks to stay perfect when he steps into the Bellator cage for the first time. He has fought primarily in Eastern Europe and has looked good while amassing a 5-0 record on the regional circuit. His latest win came at Final Fight Championship 23 where he submitted Manuel Bilic.
Anthony Taylor is 1-2 under the Bellator banner. His lone win came against Victor Jones at Bellator 154 and most recently was submitted by James Gallagher at Bellator 169.
I don’t expect Borics to have much trouble in getting past Taylor for his sixth straight win.
Pick: Borics by submission
Enjoy the fights!
The UFC makes its way to the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York for UFC 210 on Saturday night. Two of the three best fighters in the light heavyweight division meet for the second time when Anthony “Rumble” Johnson challenges Daniel Cormier for the title. The two first met at UFC 187 where they fought for the then vacant light heavyweight title. In that fight we saw Daniel Cormier submit Johnson with a rear naked choke in the third round and win UFC gold. The co-main event pits former Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, who is in desperate need of a win against Gegard Mousasi who has been on tear as of late.
The five fight main card rounds out with Cynthia Calvillo taking on Pearl Gonzalez in the women’s strawweight division, back to the men’s side we go to the welterweight division for a match-up between MMA veterans Thiago Alves and Patrick Cote, and finally in the lightweight division Charles Oliveira takes on former Bellator champion Will Brooks.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:15 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. The main card airs on PPV beginning at 9 PM CT.
Anthony Johnson (22-5) vs. Daniel Cormier (18-1) – Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Cormier -115; Johnson -115
Since beating Johnson, Daniel Cormier has successfully defended the light heavyweight title twice. He beat Alexander Gustafsson by split decision at UFC 192, and then at UFC 200 he decisioned late replacement Anderson Silva.
After his loss to Cormier, Rumble has rattled off three straight wins. He made quick work of some of the best fighters in the division. At UFC 191 he stopped Jimi Manuwa in the second round, at UFC on FOX 18 he finished Ryan Bader in the first round, and finally at UFC 202 he needed only 13 seconds to end Glover Teixeira’s night. Of Johnson’s 22 career wins, 16 are by KO/TKO.
Daniel Cormier remains one of the best grapplers in MMA, but at 38 years and a long career of taking damage, will we see him start to fade? Clearly DC’s game plan will be to use his wrestling to get Johnson to the ground where he can land his vicious ground and pound. But, that’s easier said than done against Rumble. Johnson’s size and strength makes him difficult to not only take down, but keep down. It took Cormier two rounds to finally start getting take downs, but once he did he was able to keep Johnson down and the constant pressure eventually broke Rumble.
Anthony Johnson knows his path to victory is to keep the fight on the feet where he can take advantage of his tremendous punching power. Rumble had success landing against Cormier in the first two rounds and even put him down twice. The question is, can he finish DC? He tried to when he knocked Cormier down, but he was reckless which allowed DC to recover and even reverse Johnson. Cormier’s toughness is second to none so it would be wise of Johnson be more disciplined and under control if he were to hurt Cormier in this fight. Although, I can understand Johnson wanting to stay aggressive and try to end the fight early as opposed to Cormier taking him into deep waters where DC will clearly gain the advantage.
This fight will go one of two ways; Rumble connects early in the fight, hurts DC and finishes him, or Cormier will be able to once again withstand the early onslaught, take Johnson into deep waters and either submit him or outpoint him.
The smart money is on Cormier grinding Johnson down and finishing him late in the fight, and while this may very well be what happens, I’m going with my gut and predicting we will have a new light heavyweight champion crowned. As far as a monetary investment, this fight is a pass for me.
Pick: Johnson by TKO
Chris Weidman (13-2) vs. Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Mousasi -120; Weidman -110
Chris Weidman looked like a world beater after his back-to-back wins over Anderson Silva in 2013. He continued his undefeated streak by beating Lyoto Machida by decision at UFC 175 and finishing Vitor Belfort at UFC 187. It was then at UFC 194 where things took a turn for Weidman. He was finished by Luke Rockhold in the fourth round, thus losing his middleweight title. He followed up that loss by getting finished again, this time by Yoel Romero at UFC 205. To say that this fight is a must win for Weidman would be an understatement.
He takes on MMA veteran Gegard Mousasi who comes into the fight riding a four fight winning streak with the last three all coming via stoppage. Mousasi is clearly coming into this fight with a ton of confidence. He alluded to his confidence on the UFC 210 conference call when he said, “I know how Chris Weidman’s going to fight. He’s going to come forward, he’s going to try to put the pressure on me, work on the cardio, do some wrestling, do some striking. But at the end of the day I’m prepared, I know exactly what he’s going to do, so I’m more than prepared. I got my skills, and I’m going to show it the 8th of April. I’m very confident, that’s all I can say.”
Weidman needs to come into this fight with confidence, which I’m not so sure he has right now. His chin has become a question mark as well after getting stopped in his two previous fights. Weidman likes to pressure his opponents and dictate distance. The former champion seems to struggle though when the roles are reversed, so it will be interesting to see if Mousasi tries to apply pressure in an effort to keep Weidman on defense. Mousasi has always been a dangerous fighter on the ground, but he shown excellent striking of late.
This fight, just like the main event is tough to predict. Until Chris Weidman can show he has righted the ship, the pick here is Mousasi.
Because I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other, I will be passing on this fight.
Pick: Mousasi by decision
Cynthia Calvillo (4-0) vs. Pearl Gonzalez (6-1) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Cavillo -280; Gonzalez +220
After going 5-1 as an amateur, Cynthia Calvillo is now 4-0 as a professional. Three out of her four wins ended inside the distance. She is 1-0 under the UFC banner after submitting Amanda Cooper with a rear naked choke at UFC 209.
After losing her professional debut, Pearl Gonzalez has rattled off six straight wins. Four of the six wins came via submission with one KO/TKO. Her most recent victory came against Katie Klimansky-Casimir at Hoosier Fight Club 28. On Saturday night she makes her UFC debut as she looks for her seventh straight win.
This should be a fun fight. Calvillo’s striking isn’t where it needs to be yet so I expect her to try and take the fight to the ground. If Calvillo does have success taking Gonzalez down she does possess solid ground and pound, which ultimately can lead to a submission.
Pearl Gonzalez has the advantage on the feet. Her striking is more precise and carries more power. While I give Calvillo the edge on the ground, Pearl isn’t afraid to take the fight to the ground either. She does have four submission wins in six fights. The problem is, Gonzalez can get sloppy and give up position rather easily. If this happens against Carvillo, she’ll surely suffer her second defeat as a pro.
Pick: Calvillo by decision
Thiago Alves (26-12) vs. Patrick Cote (24-10) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Cote -155; Alves +125
Patrick Cote was on a three fight win streak until he was stopped by Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 89. The 37 year old veteran will look to get back in the win column when he goes up against fellow vet Thiago Alves.
Alves has been up and down, but mostly down going 2-3 over his last five fights. He comes into his fight against Cote on a two fight skid. First, losing to Carlos Condit by TKO at UFC Fight Night 67 and then to Jim Miller at UFC 205.
Alves returns to welterweight after he missed weight at 155 against Miller. Although injuries and age have slowed Alves down, he is still a very dangerous fighter. He still has excellent striking with knockout power and his always dangerous kicks.
Patrick Cote also has very good striking so this one could turn out to be the Fight of the Night. Cote prefers to throw from distance while mixing in kicks in an effort to keep his opponents off balance. Cote does have the advantage in wrestling in this fight. There is a much greater chance we see Cote shoot in for take downs than Alves.
This should be a good fight. If Alves has success defending the take down, which is a big if, then it forces Cote to stand and trade. Cote may welcome that scenario regardless which will make this fight that much more exciting. I would consider backing the slight underdog here.
Pick: Alves by decision
Will Brooks (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (21-7, 1 NC) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Brooks -240; Oliveira+190
Will Brooks went 10-1 in Bellator and held the promotion’s lightweight title. Since coming to UFC he is 1-1. After beating Ross Pearson by decision at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, he was finished by Alex Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 96. He’ll look to get back on track when he takes on Charles Oliveira.
UFC veteran Oliveira has fought every big name there is in the featherweight division. After tapping Myles Jury at UFC on FOX 17, Oliveira has lost two straight. He lost both fights by submission, first to Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX 21 and then Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night 98.
Charles Oliveira returns to the lightweight division after struggling to make weight at 145. Oliveira has an exciting way of fighting. He likes to move forward, apply pressure and is dangerous in the clinch. He is also dangerous on the ground as his 13 submissions prove.
Will Brooks matches up better with Charles than he did with Alex Oliveira in both height and weight. I expect Brooks to use his boxing to control distance and avoid the clinch. He is the superior wrestler so I see him having no troubles with Oliveira’s take down attempts. Only half of Brooks’ 18 wins were finishes so I expect this fight to go the distance.
Will Brooks entered the UFC with a lot of hype, so I hope he doesn’t let the pressure of putting on a good show get in the way of fighting a smart fight. I see Brooks controlling the pace of the fight and earning a workmanlike decision.
I would consider the rounds total over in this one.
Pick: Brooks by TKO
Prelims Quick Look
Jury -450 over De La Torre +340
Usman -350 over Strickland +270
Burgos -240 over Rosa +190
Cummins -105 over Blachowicz -125
Early Prelims Quick Look
Gillespie -245 over Holbrook +195
Emmett -210 over Green +165
Chookagian -155 over Aldana +125
Bibulatov -450 over Lausa +340
Enjoy the fights!
Bellator MMA travels overseas to the Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy for Bellator 176. The main event is a rematch between Melvin Manhoef and Rafael Carvalho, for Carvalho’s middleweight title. The two last fought at Bellator 155 where we saw Carvalho win the title over Manhoef by a split decision. The fight was awful and the decision wasn’t any better. Hopefully this time around we get a much better fight with a decisive winner one way or the other. The co-main event takes us to the women’s side for a catchweight fight between Anastasia Yankova and Elina Kallionidou.
The four fight main card rounds out with Valeriu Mircea taking on Djamil Chan in a battle of lightweights and Mihail Nica takes on Samba Coulibaly in another middleweight showdown.
The main card will air on Spike TV starting at 2PM CT.
Melvin Manhoef (30-13-1) vs. Rafael Carvalho (13-1) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho will put his twelve fight winning streak on the line when he steps into the cage against Melvin Manhoef for the second time. Carvalho likes to move forward and apply pressure looking to clinch and work his opponents against the fence. Once there he’ll either try to wear them down against the fence or try to take the fight to the ground. Both strategies have worked with great success for Carvalho.
MMA veteran Melvin Manhoef is 2-2, with one no-contest since joining Bellator. For whatever reason Manhoef came into the first fight against Carvalho with a peculiar game plan. He seemed very tentative to let his hands go and decided to be more conservative. Maybe it was to save energy. Regardless his plan backfired and he was never really able to get anything going throughout the five round snooze-fest.
I expect a much different fight this time. Manhoef has 28 KO/TKOs in 40 fights and Carvalho has 10 in 13 fights so both fighters will go for the finish when they can. I can see Manhoef coming out and throwing hands in an effort to get the fight finished early, the question is will he end up gassing himself out in the process? If Carvalho can weather the early storm and take Manheof deep into the fight he will either get the finish or outpoint him to a decision.
Pick: Carvalho by decision
Elina Kallionidou (5-1) vs. Anastacia Yankova (4-0) – Catchweight
Anastasia Yankova is 4-0 in her professional career and 2-0 under the Bellator banner. Three of her four wins are by submission, with one decision. The decision came at her most recent fight against Veta Arteaga in a fight she didn’t look particularly good in.
Elina Kallionidou is 5-1 as a pro and 0-1 in Bellator. She lost her debut for the promotion when she was decisioned by Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 169. Three of her five wins are by KO/TKO.
Bellator would love to turn Yankova into the star she has the potential to become. The question is does she have what it takes in the cage? Kallionidou is a good opponent for Yankova. Her striking didn’t look good and her take down defense was nonexistent in her debut. Yankova shouldn’t have any trouble taking this fight to the ground and tapping the 18 year old Kallionidou.
Pick: Yankova by submission
Valeriu Mircea (13-4) vs. Djamil Chan (12-3) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Djamil Chan was on a seven fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Derek Campos at Bellator 161. He is 1-1 under the Bellator banner. Of his 12 career wins, 9 have come via KO/TKO.
Valeriu Mircea makes his second appearance for Bellator. He was subbed by Goiti Yamauchi in his debut at Bellator 168. Mircea is a finisher with 11 of his career 13 wins ending inside the distance.
Both fighters are coming off of losses and will want to put on a good show here. Chan is the bigger fighter with better striking and more power. While I don’t see Mircea having success on the feet, he can be dangerous on the ground as his six wins by submission illustrate.
Unfortunately for Mircea, Chan should be able to stuff his take down attempts and keep the fight standing leading to a stoppage.
Pick: Chan by TKO
Mihail Nica (5-0) vs. Samba Coulibaly (11-4) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Samba Coulibaly makes his Bellator debut after a long run on the regional circuit. He’s coming off of a submission win over Christopher Sengele at 100% Fight 29. Of his 11 career wins, 6 have come via submission.
Mihail Nica brings his undefeated record to Bellator for his promotional debut. He comes into the fight on a five fight winning streak with all five wins by stoppage. His most recent win came against Aldo Cirillo at Fight or Nothing – Road to Bellator.
This should be a fun fight, and a tough one to predict. Coulibaly has the experience so there won’t be anything that Nica can throw at him that he hasn’t seen before. I’m curious to see if Nica gets taken out of his game plan how he’ll respond. Will he have a back-up plan or will Coulibaly take advantage of Nica’s inexperience?
Pick: Nica by submission
Enjoy the fights!
WrestleMania 33 is finally upon us so let’s get right to the predictions!
Austin Aries vs. Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship
I think WWE is making a mistake by putting this match on the Preshow. This match deserves to be in a prominent spot on the main show. WWE had a chance to prove to everyone that they are taking the cruiserweight division seriously, but I think by putting it on the preshow it diminishes it. Hopefully WWE gives them time to put on the great match these two can have. Austin Aries just came back and this feud feels like it’s just getting started. Neville should retain and keep Aries in chase mode.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
There are only a few wrestlers that I can see winning this. While the obvious choice is Braun Strowman, I think Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Big Show have an outside chance at winning. Sami Zayn needs a big win at some point in the near future, and if WWE wants to the crowd hot to start the show then this is the way to go. However, WWE has put a lot of time and effort into building Braun Strowman. I hope the entire build wasn’t just to feed him to Roman Reigns.
Winner: Braun Strowman
Alexa Bliss vs. the SmackDown Women’s roster
Having Asuka debut here and win the title would be my first choice, but after seeing her retain the belt on last night’s NXT Takeover show I don’t see it happening. Another nice surprise would be the return of Maria Kanellis/Bennet to WWE. But, the more likely scenario would be Tamina Snuka returning. In any case, the Smackdown Women’s Division needs a new direction and focus. While Alexa Bliss has become my favorite wrestler in the division, it’s time to start anew and rebuild the division around Naomi.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley for the WWE RAW Women’s Championship in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match
Oh how I wish WWE can go back and reintroduce Bayley. This should match should be a one-on-one match with Bayley challenging Charlotte Flair for the title. Instead we have a convoluted fatal four way match between four women with no real direction. Put the belt back on Charlotte and reset the rest of the division. Rebuild Bayley and book her to face Charlotte at SummerSlam in what should have been the blow off match at WrestleMania.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose for WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE didn’t give this match much build which is surprising given how popular Dean Ambrose is with the crowd. Personally, I’m not a fan of Ambrose’s current character. However, I have been a fan of Baron Corbin’s work over the last several months. His in-ring work has improved greatly, and while he’s still inconsistent on the mic I think he has the ability there too as well. If WWE decides to put the strap on Corbin, I’d like to see Ambrose go away for a while and return as the Dean Ambrose from The Shield.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson for the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
WWE seems to be finally getting behind Gallows and Anderson. I like the way the duo has been booked recently. While I can see WWE wanting to put the titles on Enzo and Big Cass, I hope they resist that urge. Keep the titles on Anderson and Gallows, continue to build them as strong heels and keep the bayface teams chasing.
Winner: Gallows & Anderson
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
While a match against Shawn Michaels or Finn Balor would have been more befitting for a wrestler like AJ Styles, wrestling Shane McMahon at WrestleMania isn’t the worst thing that can happen. The build has pretty strong and they seem invested in the story. This match will certainly have a lot of eyes on it waiting to see what crazy bump Shane takes. Styles has the ability to have a four-star match with a broom and I expect the same here. While I’m not crazy about the match, I do expect it to surprise and be very good. That said, Styles has to win this match.
Winner: AJ Styles
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. the Miz & Maryse
I’ve actually enjoyed the build to this match. The Miz and Maryse spoofing Cena and Nikki was entertaining, and Cena’s comeback promo on the SmackDown go-home show was perfect. Miz has been at the top of his game over the last year or two both in the ring and on the mic. You know what you’re going to get from Cena so I expect this to be a good match when the two are in the ring together. I think they will keep the two women’s involvement at a minimum. While I think this is the easiest match on the card to predict, wouldn’t it be awesome to see Cena go to propose, turn heel, take his ring back and start one of the greatest heel runs in history?
Winner: John Cena & Nikki Bella with a proposal
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
Logical booking would be to put Seth Rollins over here. But, we are talking about WWE and more specifically, Triple H. The issue here is the crowd just isn’t 100% behind Seth Rollins. Something is missing. Ever since WWE decided to keep him heel upon his first return from a knee injury, the crowd hasn’t warmed up to him a babyface. The booking sure hasn’t helped either. If Rollins is 100% then these two will put on a fantastic match. Samoa Joe gets involved helping Triple H get the win and afterwards the two beat down Rollins. WWE continues to build sympathy for Rollins leading up to their blow off match at SummerSlam. By then Rollins will be a red hot babyface looking for his revenge.
Winner: Triple H
Roman Reigns vs. the Undertaker
This is the match I’m most looking forward to on the card. If this is the Undertaker’s last ride then the match should go on last with him going over for the final time. However, if the reports are true about WWE already having next year’s WrestleMania main event of Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar as the only two to have ever beaten the Undertaker at WrestleMania, then all this becomes moot. The problem WWE has then, is if Reigns is winning the match can’t go on last because there will be near riots in Orlando. But, if WWE is still on the fence with turning Reigns full heel, then this is the time and place to do it.
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg for the WWE Universal Championship
As a fan, I’ve enjoyed Goldberg’s latest run with the company. I think WWE booked him perfectly. He did this for his son and in the process became a real life super hero for kids. WWE made more money than they ever though they would when they decided to bring him in so this run of Goldberg’s couldn’t have gone better if they tried. But, it’s time for it to end. My hope is that they can prove the naysayers wrong and have a decent wrestling match and not one that ends in less than a minute or two. However it plays out you can expect a spear, jackhammer, cover and a Lesnar kick out. Two to three F5s and a Lesnar victory.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship
The heel and babyface roles in this feud puzzled me. Bray Wyatt has already lost too many big, important matches. He can’t afford to lose another one. Also, putting the belt on Randy Orton just feels old and tired. WWE talks a big game about wanting to build new starts, but they never follow through with it. This is their opportunity to make good on that statement. There’s rumor of Erick Rowan returning so perhaps he figures into the finish, but either way Wyatt needs to go back to the character he had when he debuted. If WWE plans on keeping him heel then he needs to have a “family.” Obviously, Rowan will be one member, and hopefully we see WWE call up a few wrestlers from NXT to debut as Wyatt Family members or followers.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens for the WWE United States Championship
The obvious decision would be to have Owens go over. But is the obvious direction always the best direction? I think WWE is going to throw us a curve ball, especially if Jericho is sticking around a bit longer. If he is sticking around a little longer I would give him the win here and drop it either on RAW or at the next PPV. There’s just something about KO carrying the U.S. Title that doesn’t sit right with me.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Enjoy the show!
The Fighting Champion
Blogging about mixed martial arts, sports betting and providing winning sports picks.