Main Card (PPV)
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
It’s been a strange five years for both Jones And Gustafsson since their first classic encounter, during which time neither has lived up expectations.
Of course in Jones case that’s all down to his repeated troubles both inside and outside the cage that’s led to him serving drug suspensions and dealing with legal matters, though he has managed to remain unbeaten during his four-fights in the Octagon during that time.
Gustafsson on the other hand has suffered from injuries, some notable disappointments in the cage, including being TKO’d by Anthony Johnson and again falling just short of title success against Daniel Cormier, but he has won two fights since then and looked like his old self against Glover Teixeira last time out.
Nevertheless, ring rust will surely play a factor for both fighters here, having been out for over a year a half.
Gustafsson remains a trick opponent for Jones since he measures up better reach wise than most at 205lbs, albeit still coming up short, and he uses it well, with his technical boxing making him effective at a range ‘Bones’ usually dominates.
Jones is the more creative striker though and has good wrestling too, though he often opts not to use it these days. While Gustafsson got the better of him in the early rounds in their first fight, Jones gradually adjusted and stepped up a gear to get the better of him later, so he’ll know what’s required of himself this time around.
Gustafsson’s form has been shakier since, he’s been in some damaging encounters and injuries haven’t helped, so I don’t feel he’s operating at quite the same level as before and believe that overall Jones is the better fighter. I expect it to be another close fight though given that Gustafsson’s style makes him a tricky opponent, but Jones has taken less damage and still possesses that extra magic that will lead him to best his rival on the scorecards.
Prediction: Jon Jones to win by decision – BET NOW
Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes
A legitimate female superfight serves as the co-main event and it will be intriguing to finally see ‘Cyborg’ go up against another world class fighter who has tools at her disposal to give her problems.
Cyborg will remain the stronger, heavier, more powerful fighter here, but in terms of height and reach Nunes matches her, while being considerably faster and having very good technical striking, putting together quality combinations and applying pressure well.
Cyborg’s own striking is at a high level too and she can piece together combinations and land on the counter too, and while she’ll not be as fast, she’ll land with more authority.
Nunes could also be a problem on the mat too though, using her speed, agility and natural finishing instincts to threaten with submissions if she can get the fight on the floor, though Cyborg is a good wrestler and will likely make that difficult to achieve.
I think cardio could be an important factor here. Nunes has had issues in the past and that’s led to her taming her aggressive instincts somewhat during her title reign. That could make her less potent in the striking exchanges however, and it remains to be seen how she’ll cope with the extra weight after moving up to 145lbs for this title challenge.
Overall I’m leaning more towards Cyborg here, but I absolutely believe Nunes is talented enough to give her the toughest test of her career to date, before ultimately losing out on the scorecards.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg to win by decision – BET NOW
Carlos Condit vs. Michael Chiesa
Considering his stature in the welterweight division it’s quite something to note that Condit has lost seven of his last nine fights, and the fact that he’s been teetering on the verge of retirement at times doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in the 34-year-old.
Generally Condit has been fighting the best of the best at 170lbs though, while this time around he’s facing a solid lightweight in Chiesa who is making his first move into the division on Saturday night.
Though his recent performances have lacked spark, Condit should find some success here on the feet against Chiesa, who is a fairly average striker without much in the way of power and doesn’t have the best defense either.
However, Condit is vulnerable to being outwrestled and has some liabilities in his submission defense, and that just happens to being the two areas that Chiesa excels, so I think this could be another fight where ‘The Natural Born Killer’ is controlled on the mat and then succumbs to a submission in the second round.
Prediction: Michael Chiesa to win by submission in Rd2 – BET NOW
Ilir Latifi vs. Corey Anderson
These two 205lb’ers couldn’t be any more different physically, with Latifi being short and stocky at 5ft 10” with a 73” reach, while Anderson is 6ft 3” and has a 79” reach.
Anderson uses that to his advantage and will fight at range with straight punches, while also looking for avenues to get the fight to the mat where he can make use of his strong wrestling.
However, he lacks real power in his punches and also has a vulnerable chin, which could be a big concern against Latifi, who tends to load up with single powerful bombs and isn’t afraid to take a few strikes to land one potentially fight-ending blow of his own.
Latifi’s low center of gravity and strength will also make him difficult to get down and I think that leads to this being a fight where it may only be a matter of time before he lands something big that switches Anderson’s lights out.
Prediction: Ilir Latifi to win by KO in Rd2 – BET NOW
Chad Mendes vs. Alex Volkanovski
This looks like one of the best matched fights on the card, with Mendes looking straight back on form after a two and a half year layoff due to suspension when he TKO’d Myles Jury in the summer, while in his absence from the division Volkanovski has risen to prominence with five wins in a row.
Mendes started off his career as an excellent wrestler, but he’s fleshed out his game well now and has become a dangerous striker with knockout power too.
Volkanovski meanwhile has stuck to his dominant, powerful wrestling and aggressive ground and pound, and so far that’s worked out great, but he’s never met anyone as well rounded as Mendes or as capable of grappling with him.
It’ll be very interesting to see how this all plays out in reality, but while Volkanovski might turn out to be the superior grappler and has been competing far more actively in recent years, I still think Mendes’ striking will stand him in good stead here as he wins out on the scorecards.
Prediction: Chad Mendes to win by decision – BET NOW
Prelims (Fox Sports 1)
(Predicted winners in bold)
Andrei Arlovski vs. Walt Harris
Megan Anderson vs. Cat Zingano
Petr Yan vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
B.J. Penn vs. Ryan Hall
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Andre Ewell vs. Nathaniel Wood
Uriah Hall vs. Bevon Lewis
Curtis Millender vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Brian Kelleher vs. Montel Jackson