UFC ON FOX: Grocke’s Preview & Odds & Predictions including Demetrius vs. Reis, Namajunas vs. Waterson

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

UFC of FOX 24 is live at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday night. The main event features UFC Flyweight Champion and pound for pound great Demetrious Johnson as he defends his title against MMA Torch’s 5th ranked flyweight, Wilson Reis. The co-main event takes place in the women’s strawweight division where Rose Namajunas goes up against Michelle Waterson with the winner taking another step closer to a title fight.

The four fight main card rounds out with a fantastic scrap between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Robert Whitaker in a battle of two of the top middleweights in the world, and Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano in a battle of featherweights.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 3 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 PM CT.

Main Card

Demetrious Johnson #1 (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis #5 (22-6) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Johnson -800; Weis +500

The best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world goes for his tenth straight title defense when he steps into the cage to take on Wilson Reis Saturday night. Johnson has won eleven fights in a row and hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Dominick Cruz back in October of 2011. His most recent victory came via unanimous decision over Tim Elliott at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.

Wilson Reis comes into the fight winning his last three in a row and five of his last six. His last fight occurred at UFC 208 where he won a unanimous decision against Yuta Sasaki. Reis will come into Saturday’s fight with confidence as he tries to pull off the unthinkable.

At +500, Vegas, as well as everyone else in the MMA community knows that winning this fight is going to be a tall task for Wilson Reis. While Reis is a decent striker, he doesn’t carry much power in his hands. He has zero finishes from punches in twenty-two career wins. Wilson’s real strength lies in his ground game. The Brazilian Ju-Jitsu black belt has ten submission wins. Along with his strong wrestling, Reis sets up his take downs well and Johnson has been susceptible to the take down.

Demetrious Johnson does everything well, but what really sets him apart is his stamina and pace. There have been fighters that have given Johnson trouble for a round or two, but none of them have the cardio to keep up over five rounds. No matter where this fight goes, Demetrious will have the upper hand. Reis may have some success early, but it’s just a matter of time before he becomes the tenth challenger to have fallen to one of, if not the greatest of all time.

While I think Mighty Mouse is a safe pick, I don’t recommend laying that price…ever. So this fight is a pass.

Pick: Johnson TKO

Rose Namajunas #5 (6-3) vs. Michelle Waterson #8 (14-4) – Strawweight 115 lbs.

Current Odds: Namajunas -130; Waterson ev.

Michelle Waterson is 2-0 since coming to the UFC from Invicta FC. Both wins were by submission. First she stopped Angela Magana at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale and then she took out UFC darling Paige VanZant in the first round at UFC on FOX 22. She comes into this fight winning eight of her last nine. She is also quite the finisher with twelve of her career fourteen victories ending inside the distance.

Rose Namajunas was on a three fight win streak until she dropped a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201. Like Waterson, Namajunas will go for the finish whenever it presents itself. Of her five professional wins, four have come by submission.

Waterson is not the striker Namajunas is, but her high level karate makes her very dangerous on the feet. She is also extremely quick. This allows her to score by utilizing her speed to get in and out of the pocket while avoiding damage. While not as decorated as Namajunas in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Waterson can certainly hold her own should the fight go to the ground.

Rose Namajunas has gone up against some of the best fighters in the division. She is better than Waterson on the feet and on the ground. Rose tends to struggle when pressured so I’ll be interested to see if Waterson uses her speed and quickness to keep Namajunas off balance and moving backwards. If the fight stays on the feet I think Waterson’s chances of winning increase and I can see her out working and out pointing Namajunas to a decision. However, I think Rose’s size, and superior ground game will be the difference in this one.

Consider backing the small favorite.

Pick: Namajunas by decision 

Ronaldo Souza #4 (24-4, 1 NC) vs. Robert Whitaker #7 (18-4) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Current Odds: Souza -245; Whitaker +195

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza was on an eight fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Yoel Romero at UFC 194. Since then he’s 2-0, beating Vitor Belfort at UFC 198 and Tim Boetsch at UFC 208. One of the best middleweights in the world, Jacare has seventeen submissions in twenty-four career wins. One would think that with a win here it would all but guarantee a title shot. But with Michael Bisping possibly being one of the worst champions in recent memory, nothing is guaranteed.

After stumbling in back-to-back losses to Court McGee and Stephen Thompson, Robert Whitaker is now riding a six fight winning streak. His most recent win came at UFC Fight Night 101 where he finished Derek Brunson in the first round. Whitaker is a finisher with thirteen stoppages in seventeen career wins. If he were to win his seventh straight on Saturday night, it will be the biggest win of his career.

At 37 years old Ronaldo Souza is still a freak athlete. His pressure style of fighting keeps his opponents on their heels and always moving backwards. He mixes his offense up well between kicks and punches while looking to explode in for a take downs. But, Jacare’s biggest advantage is his grappling. Yoel Romero was able to defend against Souza’s take down attempts, but Romero is the best middleweight in the world. I don’t see Whitaker having the same success.

Robert Whitaker must keep this fight standing. His take down defense will be the key to how the fight plays out. Lucky for Whitaker, his take down defense is among the best in the UFC. Whitaker will have the advantage on the feet which makes this fight so compelling. He uses his jab and kicks to maintain distance extremely well. It will be interesting to see if he has success keeping distance against a fighter like Souza who likes to continuously press forward.

This is going to be an excellent fight. Whitaker matches up very well against Jacare, so I would not be surprised if he won here. That said, I’m going with the ground skills of Souza in a very close fight. I will be passing on this one.

Pick: Souza by decision

Jeremy Stephens #7 (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Stephens -175; Moicano +145

UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens makes his 25th appearance for the promotion. He’ll look to get back in the win column after dropping a decision to Frankie Edgar at UFC 205. Stephens is 2-4 over his last six fights with the losses coming against the best the division as to offer in Edgar, Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. Although he’s no longer one of the top fighters in the division, he is still dangerous.

Renato Moicano is 2-0 under the UFC banner beating Tom Niinimaki at UFC Fight Night 58 and then Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 198. He’s 10-0 with half of those wins by submission. Moicano will be looking to make a name for himself by beating a big name in Jeremy Stephens.

At this stage in his career Stephens will continue to be a good gatekeeper to the elite fighters in the division. A win here will keep him around the top 10 and in meaningful fights. Once known as just a brawler, Stephens has turned into a well-rounded striker. He likes to pressure his opponents behind a solid jab which sets up his power shots. Although he’s a competent grappler, he’ll likely try to keep this fight standing in an effort to avoid Moicano’s superior ground game.

Moicano will be taking a big step up in competition when he faces off against Stephens. The submission specialist will be the more athletic and quicker fighter on Saturday night. The key for Moicano is to avoid getting into a slugfest with Stephens. Moicano’s path to victory is clearly by getting Stephens on the ground where he can work for submissions.

For Stephens to win he’ll have to be able to defend Moicano’s take down attempts. If he can do that and force Moicano to fight on his feet I think he will find success closing distance and out point his younger counterpart. However, I do think Moicano will be able to get Stephens to the ground, the only question is will he be able to get the finish?

While I like Moicano to pull off the upset, I’m not confident enough to place a wager on him. This fight is a pass, which I may regret.

Pick: Moicano by decision

Prelims Quick Look

Volkov -150 over Nelson +120

Duquesnoy -800 over Williams +500

Green +270 over Magomedov -350

Elliott -230 over Smolka +180

Sterling -400 over Mendes +300

Clark -145 over Collier +115

Sanchez -350 over Smith +270

Cummings -465 over Coy +355

Evans-Smith -210 over Viera +165

Enjoy the fights!


UFC on FOX 24 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Saturday’s event including Demetrious vs. Reis, Namajunas vs. Waterson

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