UFC 203 is live on PPV at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH on Saturday night. Stipe Miocic makes his first title defense in his hometown against Alistair Overeem in the main event. Miocic enters the fight as the Heavyweight Champion after a stunning first round knockout of Fabricio Werdum back in May. While Alistair Overeem has faced some of the biggest names in the sport over his long career; surprisingly, this is his first shot at winning the UFC Heavyweight title.
The co-main event is another big fight in the heavyweight division as former champion; Fabricio Werdum takes on Travis Browne, with the winner getting back into title contention.
But, the two heavyweight bouts aren't what most people are talking about. Former WWE wrestler Phil Brooks, who is better known by most fans as CM Punk, makes his long awaited UFC debut. You can bet the fan reaction will be split. Ardent MMA fans took exception to Punk getting preferential treatment by leapfrogging over more deserving, experienced fighters for this opportunity. That doesn't mean Punk won't have his supporters as well. There is a large percentage of MMA fans who are also fans of professional wrestling. Now whether Punk’s fans make the trip to Cleveland, Ohio to support him remains to be seen. I am very interested in hearing the crowd reaction once Cult of Personality fills the arena.
The main card is rounded out with Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera and Jessica Andrade vs. Joanne Calderwood.
The Main Card
Stipe Miocic (15-2) vs. Alistair Overeem (41-14, 1 NC) | Current Line: Miocic -130, Overeem +110
Stipe Miocic comes into his first title defense on a tear. He won his last three fights, all finishes, against Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski and then Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. Like most heavyweights, Miocic possesses a lethal right hand, but he also has a good jab and solid wrestling skills. Stipe will look to set the pace with his pressing style while keeping Overeem within reach. While Miocic is the better wrestler, I see both fighters preferring to stand and box.
Alistair Overeem enters the fight on his own impressive run winning his last four fights. The former Dream and Strikeforce champion finally gets his shot at the UFC Heavyweight Championship and comes into the fight as a live dog with the current betting lines listing him as a slight underdog. While Overeem isn't a skilled wrestler, he is a devastating striker in the clinch. Overeem will also look to utilize kicks to Miocic’s legs and body in an effort to slow him down. Miocic will have the advantage the longer the fight lasts, but I don't see it getting to the championship rounds.
Winner: Overeem by TKO
Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1) vs. Travis Browne (18-4-1) | Current Line: -210, Browne +170
This is a big fight for both men. The last time these two faced off back in 2014, Werdum kicked Browne’s ass from pillar to post. Since then, Fabricio has gotten better and Travis has leveled off. Like Urijah Faber, Browne fares well against lesser opponents as demonstrated his victories over Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitione. But, once he faces off against the higher ranked heavyweights he gets his ass handed to him like he did by losing badly to Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez.
I think Werdum learned a valuable lesson in his knockout loss to Stipe Miocic. Werdum will come into the fight more focused than ever and finish Browne within the distance.
Winner: Werdum by TKO
CM Punk (0-0) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0) | Current Line: Gall -470, Punk +370
This fight will make it past the first round. I expect Gall to take Punk down repeatedly throughout and control the fight in top control. If Gall sticks to his game plan and doesn't get careless it's his fight to lose. I respect Punk for wanting to get in the cage and test himself, but the fact is he's approaching forty years old and fighting a much younger, stronger, opponent in Mickey Gall. Add to it, the years of wear and tear on Punk’s body coupled with his injuries makes it almost impossible to think he can pull off the upset. As a fan of CM Punk, I will be rooting for him to win the fight, but I will not be making a financial investment on him winning.
Winner: Mickey Gall by submission
Urijah Faber (33-9) vs. Jimmie Rivera (19-1) | Current Line: Rivera -170, Faber +150
I've been a big fan of Urijah Faber throughout his MMA career. Now entering his late thirties Urijah is slowing down. That's no knock on him either as no one defeats Father Time. While he no longer possesses the skills to compete with the best of the division, he can still hang with lesser opponents.
Winner: Faber by decision
Jessica Andrade (14-5) vs. Joanne Calderwood (11-1) | Current Line: Andrade -140, Calderwood +120
I really like both these fighters. Calderwood can strike with the best in the division, but she's a slow starter. Andrade is an aggressive fighter who likes to get off early. Will Jessica be able to deal with the longer, larger Calderwood? As long as Calderwood keeps distance and doesn't allow Andrade inside I think she gets the decision.
Winner: Calderwood by decision
Enjoy the fights!
The Fighting Champion
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