The UFC will close out 2017 with five cards this month. UFC 218 is up first this Saturday from the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The main event will feature a rematch from UFC 212 as current featherweight champion Max Holloway faces off against Jose Aldo.
With Frankie Edgar withdrawing from this card, Aldo jumped at the opportunity and will look to join Randy Couture as the only fighters in UFC history with three title reigns in a single weight class. Holloway will look to quiet any critics by beating the legendary Aldo for a second time.
We will also see three fights that could determine the number one contender in the heavyweight, flyweight and women’s strawweight divisions. The main card will also feature a potential fight of the year contender between two lightweights looking to move up the ladder. Let’s take a closer look at UFC 218 and make a few predictions.
Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson
This fight could very well determine the next challenger for the women’s strawweight championship. Both fighters are two of the more balanced fighters in all of women’s mma. Both are very good strikers and are not afraid to take the fight to the ground. While Waterson can compete with anyone in the standup game I think her best chance of winning is to get this fight to the ground. She is a good striker but I think if she elects to keep this fight standing up then Torres should be able to out point her.
Torres is a karate and taekwondo black belt and is excellent at fighting at distance. She has used her skills to get to 5-1 in the UFC and has vastly improved her takedown defense during that period. I suspect Waterson will put up a good fight but not be able to keep Torres down. Torres will strike early and often and I think Waterson will not be able to keep up that pace.
The Pick: Tecia Torres by unanimous decision
Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
This is a huge fight for the flyweight division as the winner could be in line for a title shot. The former Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo was dismantled quickly in his title fight against champion Demetrius Johnson. Since then he has wins over former title challengers Wilson Reis and Chris Cariaso. Cejudo has improved his striking game but will want to turn this fight into a wrestling match.
Sergio Pettis is a technical striker who can land strikes from nearly any angle. He is on a four fight win streak against very good competition including his last fight with a very game Brandon Moreno. I am sure the fans and the UFC would much rather see Pettis try to dethrone Johnson with his exciting striking style but he may not be ready just yet.
I think that going against a former title challenger in Cejudo will be a bit too much for him to overcome. Cejudo has the type of wrestling that is nearly impossible to prepare for and Pettis has not beem in the octagon with someone who can take their opponent down at will like Cejudo.
I look for Pettis to try to land some big shots early to finish Cejudo, but I think Cejudo will weather the first round attack and get this fight to the ground. It may not be pretty but he should be able to grind out a decision win.
The Pick: Henry Cejudo by unanimous decision
Justin Gaethje vs. Eddie Alvarez
This has fight of the night written all over. The veteran brawler vs. an undefeated wrecking machine. Gaethje is an aggressive striker with an iron chin who made a big statement in his UFC debut with a TKO win over Michael Johnson.
Alvarez will be looking to get back on track after losing his lightweight title to Conor McGregor and then not looking very impressive in a no contest with Dustin Poirier. Alvarez was once the best brawler in his weight class but has been much more cautious as of late.
I look for Gaethje to keep doing what brought him to the dance by moving forward, throwing hard leg kicks and letting his hands go. Alvarez will want to get this fight to the ground by catching some of those legs kicks from Gaethje. I also look for Alvarez to try to counter punch Gaethje when he is over aggressive. I just do not see that happening enough and Alvarez will eat too many hard shots that will eventually allow Gaethje to pick up the win.
The Pick: Justin Geathje by 2nd round TKO
Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou
This is the third fight of the night that will most likely decide who will face the champion of their division. This time it’s the heavyweight’s turn. Francis Ngannou has the odds stacked against him if you just look at this fight on paper. Rarely in the heavyweight division do fighters who are significantly over matched in experience and technical skills come out on top. Overeem has a great resume with championships all over the world including the Strike Force heavyweight title and winning the K1 Grand Prix. He is good at all aspects of MMA and probably has the best clinch in the heavyweight division.
After being dominated by champion Stipe Miocic, Overeem has bounced back with wins over Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum. However, Ngannou is the most physically over powering fighter this division has seen since Brock Lesnar. Ngannou is 10-1 and has finished his opponent in all ten of his victories. He has devastating power that can drop his opponent at any time as he showed in his last fight against Andrei Arlovski. He demonstrated that power recently at the UFC performance center when the Cameroonian-French heavyweight set the record for highest punching power ever measured at 129,161 units.
Overeem will want to close the distance and use the clinch to control this fight. I assume he will want to test Ngannou’s ground game. Ngannou will come forward aggressively but controlled. He has a tendency to get hit a bit too much when coming forward and I think he will be able to land enough shots on Overeem to finish him off. Overeem has been knocked out several times over the past few years by a variety of opponents. He has turned himself into a very good counter striker in recent years but I just do not think he has the chin to handle the power of Ngannou.
The Pick: Francis Ngannou by 1st round TKO
Max Holloway (c) vs. Jose Aldo for Featherweight Championship
This was scheduled to be Frankie Edgar facing Holloway but Aldo is now stepping in after Edgar withdrew due to injury. I am very torn on this fight. I am worried about the lack of time for Aldo to build a new game plan for Holloway. Aldo was scheduled to face Ricardo Lamas later this month so conditioning should be fine but Holloway is a different animal compared to Lamas.
With that being said I do not think Holloway saw a 100% healthy version of Aldo in their first fight. His coach stated after UFC 212 that an undisclosed leg injury slowed him down which seems legit as Aldo barely threw any leg kicks. If Aldo throws his trademark leg kicks more in this fight compared to his first encounter with Holloway it could really change the direction of this fight. I am also interested to see if Aldo tries to get this fight to the ground if the aggressive striking of Holloway begins to overwhelm. Aldo’s ground game is top notch even though he never really had to use it during his title reign.
Holloway will most likely want to stick to his same game plan of being aggressive and frustrating Aldo. I also do not see Aldo being able to take down Holloway very often as Holloway has 82.4% take down defense placing him in the top 5 all time in the featherweight division.
Aldo’s best shot to win this fight will be to consistently land the leg kicks and slow down Holloway. This will be a closer fight than their first one but I think Holloway is able to do enough damage to win over the judges.
The Pick: Max Holloway by unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 121- 3-3
Overall since UFC 217: 9-8
NOW CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE: UFC FIGHT NIGHT 121: Harris’s preview and predictions for the Werdum vs. Tybura headlined main card