UFC on Fox 17 caps off a great 2015 for the UFC, and the four-fight main card brings a few highly intriguing fights to network television. The final main card of the year brings us just the second Lightweight Title fight of the year, as well as a heavyweight matchup that’s been long overdue. Here’s what’s coming up tonight:
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone (Lightweight Championship): Both of these fighters have taken interesting paths back to this rematch. After their meeting in 2013, dominated by dos Anjos to a unanimous decision, dos Anjos dropped a fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov before railing off three wins and getting a title fight with Anthony Pettis in March. He won that fight to take the title, but injury kept him out of action for the rest of the year until now. As for Cerrone, he’s fought eight times in the 28 months since they last fought, winning all eight of those fights to earn this shot.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that we’re in for a repeat of that first fight. Dos Anjos has a smothering pressure game that batters opponents and wears them down. He did that against Cerrone the first time, he did that to capture the title in March, and it’s entirely possible he does just that through five rounds once again. There’s also his flaky but still there KO power, as he showed when he stopped Benson Henderson on his way to the Championship.
Cerrone has put a lot of things together on this current run, and he’s beaten a wide variety of opponents in a number of ways. His striking continues to get even better than it’s been, and he’s real good in his ground game as well. He’s got the weapons to defeat dos Anjos, but he has to avoid the power and pressure presented by the champ. That’s a tough thing to do through five rounds, and in their last meeting Cerrone found himself getting hurt early and never really recovering. It may take Cerrone finding a way to stop dos Anjos for him to take that title, and while that remains a very real possibility, I’m not sure how likely it is. With that said, leaning dos Anjos by decision.
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem (Heavyweight): This fight easily could have happened for the title a few years back had Overeem not come back from suspension with a pair of KO losses. It then was in the conversation as a potential fight numerous times, only to fall to the side in favor of other fights. It’s hard to know what we’re going to get out of dos Santos here. He just didn’t look himself against Stipe Miocic in his last fight a year ago, that itself coming more than a year after he got demolished by Cain Velasquez in their third fight. How is he going to look after another year out of the cage?
As for Overeem, he’s won two straight with a KO over Stefan Struve and decision over Roy Nelson, but neither of those victories means all that much in the heavyweight field right now. He’s always got power, but he’s got a weaker chin than dos Santos, and a tendency to under-perform. He’s entering on the final fight of his current deal and looking to maximize earnings, while dos Santos wants to get back into the title picture with a victory. Despite how poor the Miocic fight went for him, I think dos Santos is the better fighter, and he’s got the power to put Overeem away if and when he gets an opening. Dos Santos by TKO in the second round.
Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz (Lightweight): Johnson should be coming in to this fight on a five fight winning streak, as he was screwed out of the decision over Beneil Dariush in his last fight. Diaz has fought just once in the last two years, losing to now-champ Rafael dos Anjos last December, but he remains dangerous in a number of areas.
Johnson’s improved boxing and his wrestling game are keys for him in this fight. If he can out-strike Diaz, mix in takedowns, and use control to avoid the submission game, he’s got the overall game to potentially cruise in this fight. With that said, Diaz still strikes quite well, and his submission game at lightweight has been fantastic at times. If Johnson gets overzealous in his attacks, he can easily get caught in something, so he has to stay patient and fight his fight. It’s entirely possible Diaz comes back here to pull something off; it’s not the most likely way for this to end, but it’s there. Still, I think Johnson by decision is the right call here.
Randa Markos vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Women’s Strawweight): Markos really impressed against the field during The Ultimate Fighter 20, and though she lost a close split decision to Jessica Penne in her official debut, she bounced back with a nice victory over Aisling Daly in her last outing. Kowalkiewicz comes in with an undefeated record at 7-0, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of her countrywoman, UFC Champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Now, while Kowalkiewicz has a solid, well rounded game, she’s fought lesser competition than has Markos coming in, and that experience gives Markos a slight edge here. Expect a competitive fight, but I think this goes to Markos by decision.
Tune in later today for our live round by round report for the event!
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