The following is a fight-by-fight preview and prediction for the entirety of Saturday’s UFC 203 event.
Fight Pass Early Prelims
Drew Dober (16-7, 1 NC) vs. Jason Gonzalez (10-2) – Lightweight Bout:
Drew Dober may be fighting for his job here since he has gone 2-3-1 NC in the UFC. He has an admirable wrestling game with some strong submissions. If Dober can’t find the submission it can turn into a grinding affair in which his cardio can usually hold out. Jason Gonzalez is making his UFC debut against the gritty Dober. Gonzalez is riding a six fight win streak, all stemming from finishes. He has never seen a decision in his 12 fight career and looks to continue that streak into his debut for the promotion. Dober is hard to finish but Gonzalez seems like he has the tools to do it either standing up or on the mat, when Doberman takes him down look for Gonzalez to find a way to finish him off there with an upset win.
Prediction: Jason Gonzalez via Submission Round 1
C.B. Dollaway (16-9) vs. Francimar Barroso (18-5) – Light Heavyweight Bout:
C.B. Dollaway is moving up from middleweight to 205 lbs. for this bout hoping to keep his job intact after going 0-3 in his last three bouts. Francimar Barroso is 2-2 in his UFC career thus far and seems to have met his skill cap at 36 years of age. Dollaway has very solid wrestling and has shown his strikes have some power but nothing too impressive. Barroso seemed to be a knockout machine heading into the UFC, but has only seen one finish so far, in which he was submitted. Moving up a weight class should be able to help Dollaway’s cardio and durability in fights which is what seemed to be hurting him the last few times out in the cage. He isn’t losing much in terms of height and reach and is about even with his opponent.
Prediction: CB Dollaway via Unanimous Decision
Yancy Medeiros (12-4, 1 NC) vs. Sean Spencer (12-5) – Welterweight Bout
A probable loser leaves town matchup with their combined records of 6-8-1 NC so far, both fighters haven’t been able to fulfill their untapped potential and get a signature win yet. Medeiros has good boxing and BJJ, but can be outworked against better wrestlers or taken out against better strikers. Sean Spencer is hard to finish but hasn’t shown off any significant skill in his game to earn many finishes himself. He has shown some struggles off of his back and is fairly similar to Medeiros. The main difference comes to who lost to who and Medeiros lost to much higher levels of opponent than Spencer has so far, that should be the key difference when looking at these two similar fighters. Medeiros has more snap to his strikes and should be able to outland Spencer.
Prediction: Yancy Medeiros via TKO Round 3
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Ian McCall (13-5-1) vs. Ray Borg (9-2) – Flyweight Bout
Ian McCall makes his return after over a year off from the sport and faces a strong submission artist in Ray Borg. McCall’s only losses in the UFC are to Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez and John Lineker (who missed weight). He is definitely a top 10 fighter and even with octagon rust he shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ray Borg’s only losses are also to fringe top 10 flyweights in Dustin Ortiz and Justin Scoggins. Overall McCall is the better fighter, but on the ground Borg has the advantage. Both of these fighters are extra durable, but look for the more technical fighter and the only man to give Mighty Mouse a real challenge to pull off a decision victory.
Prediction: Ian McCall via Unanimous Decision
Nik Lentz (28-7-2, 1 NC) vs. Michael McBride (8-1) – Lightweight Bout:
Nik Lentz has fought in multiple weight classes and looked very good at 145 lbs. but the weight cut must be too much for him as he is returning to lightweight to take on the debuting Michael McBride. Nik Lentz is a grinder, through and through. He likes to enter with strikes, clinch against the cage, wear down his opponent and finally take them down and not let them back up. He is incredibly durable and has a large gas tank. McBride is making his debut here and seems to be a Jiu-Jitsu expert going 8-1 with all submission victories. While it would be entirely entertaining for McBride to pull off the upset, I’m expecting more of a grinding, smart and safe decision by the 36 fight veteran Nik Lentz.
Prediction: Nik Lentz via Unanimous Decision
Brad Tavares (13-4) vs. Caio Magalhaes (9-2) – Middleweight Bout:
These two middleweights are looking to get back on track after recent losses. Brad Tavares has struggled against more technical and heavier hitters, but is a seasoned veteran and can beat most of the middle of the pack middleweights. His striking is crisp and he has a decent grappling game. Caio Magalhaes is really the most dangerous in the opening minute with his wild power striking. If this fight gets out of the first round, Magalhaes will be gassed and Tavares will have the leftover cardio to push the pace and make it a long night for Magalhaes.
Prediction: Brad Tavares via Unanimous Decision
Jessica Eye (11-5, 1 NC) vs. Bethe Correia (9-2) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout:
If this wasn’t in the women’s bantamweight division, the loser would certainly be getting their pink slip out the UFC door. Jessica Eye has a record of 1-4, 1 NC in the UFC and Bethe Correia is 3-2 with her 2 of her 3 wins coming from less than impressive competition. Both of these fighters will likely stand and trade with each other. When Jessica Eye isn’t facing a strong wrestler she has a better chance of winning. I like her chances here to keep her UFC career alive and score an impressive finish over Correia.
Prediction: Jessica Eye via TKO Round 2
PPV Main Card
Jessica Andrade (14-5) vs. Joanne Calderwood (11-1) – Women’s Strawweight Bout:
The PPV card starts off with a fascinating bout between two contenders in the 115 lb. women’s division. Jessica Andrade has shown her ability to batter people on the feet, her finish of the taller, rangier Jessica Penne in her last bout was particularly brutal. Joanne Calderwood shows patience with her jabs, getting into the clinch and working her strong Muay-Thai game. This should be a mostly standup affair, with the battles happening at boxing range and in the clinch for the majority of the fight. If it stays standing I would favor Joanne Calderwood playing the smarter game at range and using the height advantage in the clinch, although I wouldn’t count out the power Andrade has, either way this will be an exciting fight.
Prediction: Joanne Calderwood via TKO Round 3
Uriah Faber (33-9) vs. Jimmie Rivera (19-1) – Bantamweight Bout:
Uriah Faber is returning from his defeat against Dominick Cruz at UFC 199 to take on Jimmie Rivera who is riding an 18 fight win streak. Uriah Faber has only one bout that wasn’t a title fight and that was to Frankie Edgar, Jimmie Rivera is no Frankie Edgar. Rivera is gritty, strong and quick and I don’t see him getting finished, but Faber is just too good against anyone not holding a belt. Faber will control this fight wherever he would like to, probably in the grappling department.
Prediction: Uriah Faber via Unanimous Decision
C.M. Punk (0-0) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0) – Welterweight Bout:
Here we have it fight fans, the biggest spectacle on this card. A MMA debuting CM Punk is taking on the recently turned pro Mickey Gall on the PPV portion of a UFC card. This fight is designed to bring in viewers from outside of the sport and it will certainly accomplish that. Both of these fighters aren’t world beaters yet, and it is hard to say if they will ever be. This fight is being sold as more of a story than fight, but this will certainly be a fight.
CM Punk is almost 38 years old, is beaten up from appearing in the WWE, he has never fought before and has only been training for two years. In those two years he has had surgery on his shoulder and on a herniated disk. Those are all of the negatives that lead into this fight, but there are some positives to be found. He has been training with one of the best camps in the world at Roufusport with the likes of Tyron Woodley, Anthony Pettis and Ben Askren. For the past year he trains two or three times a day since moving closer to Milwaukie and is as prepared as he is ever going to be.
Mickey Gall got into the UFC earlier than anyone would think he would by calling out CM Punk. He has had two amateur and two pro fights. Both of his professional fights have been wins by rear-naked choke in the first round. The fight is almost unpredictable when nothing more than a few seconds of clips have been show for Punk on Fox Sports 1. The expected pick is Mickey Gall and he could certainly finish the fight in the first round, but I just can’t believe that all of this momentum and hard work for CM Punk will end in a loss. This is a mighty upset in the works and will shock the MMA world.
Prediction: CM Punk via Submission Round 2
Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1) vs. Travis Browne (18-4-1) – Heavyweight Bout:
Before the main event, the former champion Fabricio Werdum takes on a perennial contender in Travis Browne in a rematch from their bout in 2014. Fabricio looked incredibly impressive since rejoining the UFC in 2012, not losing a single fight until he faced Miocic. Browne has done very well against people who aren’t in the top 5 of the heavyweight division.
Werdum has always been known as one of the best submission artists at heavyweight, but recently he has added crisp striking to his game. Knocking out Mark Hunt is no easy task and he did so in tremendous fashion. He even got the better of Cain Velasquez on the feet and ended up choking him out after softening him up standing. Werdum can strike, but against a fighter that is a few inches taller than him he should be calm and look for a takedown when possible. He has what it takes to keep it standing, but he is miles ahead better on the mat.
Travis Browne’s only real chance at winning this fight is a knockout. Browne has nasty elbows, finishing two fighters by them when they shoot in for takedowns against the cage. He needs to keep his distance and try to work with a jab and some long range kicks with his taller, longer body. He can take a hit and give some back, but there doesn’t seem to be too much of an opportunity for him to win here against the former champion.
Prediction: Fabricio Werdum via Submission Round 3
Stipe Miocic (c) (15-2) vs. Alistair Overeem (41-14-0, 1 NC) – Heavyweight Championship Bout (5 Rounds):
Cleveland’s own Stipe Miocic looks to defend his belt for the first time against veteran Alistair Overeem. This is a stern test for both fighters, for Stipe it is to see if he worthy of holding that belt and for Overeem to see if he can finally achieve UFC gold glory. These two fighters are great on the feet, Overeem being the more technical striker with Miocic taking the edge in grappling. Either way this will fight will be nothing short of an interesting championship bout.
Stipe Miocic has been on a tear, using his slick boxing and tall imposing figure to be faster and lengthier than the competition. He mixes in his takedowns to reign down power shots from the mount on his opponents. The cardio in his possession is amongst the best at heavyweight and he can outwork most fighters he faces. His strategy going into the night is to counter-strike, use his jab and try to keep the fight at distance and if he needs to, work in some takedowns when able and keep Overeem hesitant.
Alistair Overeem has seemed to find his way since joining the Jackson-Wink camp in New Mexico. His performances prior to this run were wildly inconsistent, but he has really put it all together going into this title fight by knocking out Junior Dos Santos and Andre Arlovski in the second round. If this fight stays standing up, it is going to play into Overeem’s realm with his nasty Muay-Thai and huge power strikes. His ground game is something that hasn’t been tested too much in his UFC tenure, but I’d say Miocic tries to take him down and fails against the similar sized man. I’d say this doesn’t see the judges and look for a KO finish by the challenger a couple rounds in.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem via KO Round 2
(Matthew Ecochard of New Jersey contributes fight card preview articles to MMATorch. He became fascinated watching MMA starting with UFC 111: St. Pierre vs. Hardy and hasn’t missed an event since. UFC, Bellator, Invicta FC, and more, he watches as many MMA events as possible. He is an environmentalist when I’m not overly-obsessed with watching MMA or WWE.)