Champion Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem (Heavyweight)
Stipe Miocic looks to defend his title for the first time against legendary striker Alistair Overeem. Overeem has always been a fight or two away from a shot at the title but found himself on the wrong end of fighters like Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne. A change in training took Overeem to the Jackson-Wink facility in New Mexico where he has won four in a row and found himself just a win away from being a champion. Miocic has also improved in leaps and bounds since his TKO loss to Stefan Struve back in 2012 and looked very strong even when losing a decision to Junior dos Santos. Miocic is a strong wrestler and possesses fast counters but he has never fought a wrecking machine like Overeem. Overeem destroyed Struve and dos Santos when they met and he can call himself one of the best strikers to ever fight MMA and K1. His knees to the head and body as well as his body kicks are some of the most dangerous ever seen and Miocic had better have a solid gameplan if he intends on surviving the first round. There is a chance that Miocic may utilize a wrestling-heavy game to wear down Overeem and capitalize in the later rounds, but Overeem has become a more patient and intelligent fighter ever since he put Greg Jackson in his corner. Miocic has come a long way and his luck may hold out against Overeem, but I can’t call this fight going his way in good conscience. Overeem by first round KO.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne (Heavyweight)
Werdum was originally slated to fight Ben Rothwell but now finds himself in a rematch against Travis Browne following their first fight back in 2014. Werdum won a unanimous decision after he outmuscled and out-struck Browne in nearly all five rounds. Werdum would then go on to win the interim title against Mark Hunt and then submit Cain Velasquez for the unified World Title. Werdum’s title reign was predicted to be a dominant one but Stipe Miocic wrecked him in the first round in front of a Brazilian home crowd. Browne would go 2-2 in his next four fights, his most recent being a devastating TKO loss after being destroyed by Cain Velasquez at UFC 200. Both fighters are looking to right the ship in the rematch, but this appears to be Werdum’s fight to lose. Werdum has evolved greatly as a fighter ever since moving to the Kings MMA camp under coach Rafael Cordeiro and his improvements in striking were noticed against Hunt and Browne. On the other hand, Browne has appeared to have stalled in his development ever since moving his camp to California. Since then, his ground game has been nearly nonexistent against grappling heavy opponents and has been outworked by elite level opposition. Browne wants to rewrite history against Werdum but past and current events lead me to the conclusion that Werdum will emerge victorious once again. Werdum by second round submission.
C.M. Punk vs. Mickey Gall (Welterweight)
We come to the fight that has divided fighters, MMA writers, and fans ever since the signing of C.M. Punk back at UFC 181. Punk found his fight camp in Milwaukee under coach Duke Roufus in January 2015. Since then, he suffered a shoulder injury in October 2015 and a back injury in February 2016. Mickey Gall was discovered by Dana White in his first professional MMA bout and was chosen to fight fellow MMA upstart Mike Jackson to see who would be Punk’s first UFC opponent. Gall won by submission in the first minute of the fight and was given the fight. Gall is a brown belt in Gracie jiu-jitsu and has a strong grappling pedigree as well as exceptional reach when it comes to striking. As far as Punk’s talents, we have yet to see how much he has learned from Roufus since he began training. Unfortunately for Punk, MMA is a young man’s game and it is hard to believe that he can compete against Gall’s experience and training. Punk is taking a big leap in front of a huge audience but I’m siding with Gall. Gall by first round submission.
Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera (Bantamweight)
Urijah Faber continues to soldier on despite coming up short in his fourth UFC title shot. He will do so against tough young talent Jimmie Rivera who is undefeated in his UFC run. Faber’s bread and butter has always been his strong wrestling and dangerous submissions which include the Team Alpha Male guillotine choke. His takedowns are slick and lightning fast and his striking has always been improving. Rivera brings a strong boxing game to the table, always throwing power punches and mixing up his strikes. When Rivera does go for takedowns, they are explosive and very hard to stop. We have yet to see a real example of Rivera fighting off of his back which he may very well end up having to do against a seasoned grappler like Faber. Faber has been slowing in his last few fights, winning by very close margins against Francisco Rivera, Alex Caceres, and Frankie Saenz. Faber was beaten soundly by Dominick Cruz in his last fight and it will be interesting to see in what form he returns to the cage this Saturday. It may be a mistake on my part but I’ll call this one for Rivera by split decision.
Jessica Andrade vs. Joanne Calderwood (Strawweight)
After one fight at flyweight, Joanne Calderwood returns to 115 to face the dangerous striker in Jessica Andrade. Calderwood looked very good at flyweight and has been very open about how the weight cut affects her. It will be interesting to see if she starts slow against Andrade who has looked amazing since dropping down to the flyweight division. Andrade is a powerful striker who overwhelmed Jessica Penne in her last fight, backing Penne against the fence and unloading with power punches at every chance. Calderwood is an effective striker herself and will need to use her movement and variety of strikes to keep Andrade from controlling the fight. Calderwood has a competent ground game and may try to use her slight size advantage to take Andrade to the ground and drain some energy there. Andrade is a very strong fighter and should be able to keep this fight standing. This should be a very close fight and may even be a Fight of the Night contender but Calderwood has been the more consistent fighter lately. Calderwood by unanimous decision.
Jessica Eye vs. Bethe Correia – Correia by split decision
Nik Lentz vs. Michael McBride – Lentz by unanimous decision
Caio Magalhaes vs. Brad Tavares – Magalhaes by second round submission
Ian McCall vs. Ray Borg – Borg via Fight of the Night unanimous decision
Fight Pass Prelims
Yancy Medrios vs. Sean Spencer – Spencer via third round TKO
CB Dollaway vs. Francimar Barroso – Dollaway via first round submission
Drew Dober vs. Jason Gonzalez – Dober via unanimous decision
(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)