The UFC hopes to follow up the epic card that was UFC 202 with a FOX event stacked with potential barnburners. Carlos Condit vs. Demian Maia was supposed to be the co-main event of UFC 202, but was moved to this event as the marquee fight. It is expected that the winner of that fight will be on the verge of a title shot against new champion Tyron Woodley or a no. 1 contender match with the dangerous Stephen Thompson.
In the co-main event, former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis hopes to end a three fight losing streak with a drop to featherweight. He will not get an easy win, though, as his opponent Charles Oliveria is one of the most talented and dangerous submission artists in the UFC.
Paige VanZant vs. Bec Rawlings and a rematch between Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller round out the event with fights that should see plenty of pure talent and violence between rising stars and crafty veterans.
Carlos Condit vs. Demian Maia (Welterweight)
Carlos Condit is coming off a razor-thin split decision loss to then-champion Robbie Lawler. The loss had Condit contemplating retirement, but the offer of fighting Demian Maia brought him back to the cage once again.
Maia is riding a five fight win streak that includes dominant wins over Gunnar Nelson and Matt Brown. Widely regarded as one of the best grapplers in MMA today, Maia is a beast on the mats. He utilizes a variety of single leg and trip takedowns to drag opponents to his territory where he has outworked and submitted some of the best wrestlers and grapplers in the world.
On the other end of the spectrum, Condit is a world-class striker and is capable of standing and trading with anyone who is willing. His grappling is highly underrated and, if he has one flaw, it is that he has struggled against powerful wrestlers in the past who can outwork him with takedowns and top control. Thankfully for Condit, Maia is not the takedown monster that Johnny Hendricks and GSP were. Maia’s striking has developed during his UFC career, but he is still not in the same league as Condit.
Maia will look to take the fight to the ground as soon as he can, but Condit has a knack for fighting long and using his jab and kicks to keep opponents at bay. Maia isn’t a power wrestler and depends on technique to get opponents to the mat. Condit will be able to keep him back and utilize his sprawl and balance to keep Maia from dragging him down. Maia has won against many of the division’s best, but Condit should be able to stay on his feet and batter Maia with his diverse arsenal.
PREDICTION: Condit by 3rd round TKO.
Anthony Pettis vs. Charles Oliveira (Featherweight)
Anthony Pettis looks to breathe new life into his fighting career by cutting another ten pounds and reinventing himself as a featherweight. To do so, he will have to defeat a slick and dangerous opponent in Charles Oliveira.
Pettis is a world-class competitor and his stand-up game was a true spectacle to watch. Unfortunately, he is riding a three fight losing streak and hasn’t been able to really pull the trigger in those fights, holding back at opportunities to take control. Oliveira is a grappler by trade and his submissions are quick and brutal. He doesn’t need to take an opponent down to submit them, having wins by standing guillotine and rear-naked choke. His striking game isn’t as polished as Pettis’s, but he has held his own with fighters such as Jeremy Stephens and Myles Jury.
It will be interesting to see how the lower weight class affects Pettis who was never a large lightweight. Pettis also needs to go on the offense earlier and much harder than he has. If he cannot use his striking to keep Oliveira at distance, Oliveira will surely press the attack and look for submissions by any means necessary. Some fighters have had success dropping weight and looking for new life, but I don’t see it going the way of Pettis in this one.
PREDICTION: Oliveira by 2nd round submission.
Paige VanZant vs. Bec Rawlings (Strawweight)
Paige VanZant is looking to get back on course following the heavy loss to Rose Namajunas and spending time off performing on “Dancing with the Stars.” Bec Rawlings needs a win over VanZant to show she can perform against the best in the division.
VanZant brings youth and energy to the cage, having dominated fighters Felice Herrig and Alex Chambers. Her ground game is strong and controlling as a result of her work with the wrestling-heavy Team Alpha Male. She will look to push the pressure early on Rawlings and try to get the fight to the ground where she can control the top game and drop heavy punches or look for submissions.
Rawlings may not have the all-around game that VanZant does but she has real toughness and experience that could help her survive an early onslaught from VanZant and help turn the fight in her favor. Rawlings is a competent fighter and if the fight goes late, she could turn the tide in her favor but for now I’m choosing VanZant.
PREDICTION: VanZant by 1st round submission.
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon (Lightweight)
These two UFC veterans will go back to the war they started back in 2012 at UFC 155. Their first fight was a Fight of the Night bloodbath due to a cut opened up on the forehead of Lauzon that had both fighters soaking in the first round. Miller would win the decision, but both fighters showed heart and grit and left everything they had in the cage.
Both men are coming off big first round stoppage wins at UFC 200; Miller over Takanori Gomi and Lauzon over Diego Sanchez. Both fighters mirror each other, each having well-rounded boxing and both having dangerous submission games. Miller poured it on early in the first fight which most likely gave him the edge when the fight was done, but Lauzon held his own and attacked heavily in the second round.
This fight should pick up right where the last one ended with both men looking to press the attack early on and go for takedowns when the opportunity presents. Miller came out the victor in the first fight but I expect Lauzon to be the aggressor in this fight and present the strongest and more effective offense. I’m calling this one for Lauzon.
PREDICTION: Lauzon by decision in a Fight of the Night.
(Matthew Peterson will be covering UFC on FOX this Saturday night live on MMATorch.com. Join him to see if his predictions turn out to be the results of the actual fights. He is currently training in MMA in St. Cloud, Minn. His first UFC event was UFC 100 in 2009.)