The UFC travels to the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for UFC 212. The featherweight title will be unified in the main event when interim champion Max Holloway takes on current champion Jose Aldo. The co-main event pits two of the top title contenders in the strawweight division against each other when Claudia Gadelha takes on Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
The main card also includes the final fight in the long and storied career of Vitor Belfort. While this may be his final fight in the UFC, I’m not convinced that this will be his final fight ever. He’ll take on fellow long time veteran Nate Marquardt in a fight no one should expect to go to the judge’s scorecards.
The card rounds out with Paulo Henrique Costa taking on Oluwale Bamgbose in a battle of middleweights and in the welterweight division Erick Silva goes up against Yancy Medeiros.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:30 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. The main card will air on PPV starting at 9 PM CT.
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @FightChampBlog. You can also find all of my official MMA bets at betmmatips.com.
Jose Aldo (26-2) vs. Max Holloway (17-3) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Aldo -150; Holloway +120
Jose Aldo was a tear, beating every top featherweight in the world until he lost in stunning fashion to Conor McGregor at UFC 194. The 13 second knockout loss was one of the most stunning events in UFC history. However, while that flash loss has to be taken into account, it doesn’t change the fact that Aldo is the greatest featherweight of all-time. After the loss to Conor, Aldo bounced back with a dominant victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.
Max Holloway has been on an absolute tear. The twenty-five year old Hawaii native has rattled off ten straight wins after losing to McGregor at UFC Fight Night 26. His most recent win came at UFC 206 where he finished Anthony Pettis.
This should be an amazing fight. What’s to be said about Jose Aldo’s game that hasn’t been said already? His timing and defense is second to none and his leg kicks are the best in all of MMA. Holloway likes to pressure and out-volume his opponents. I expect this fight to take place primarily on the feet and with Aldo’s speed and quickness I see him getting the better of the exchanges.
I think Holloway’s pressure style plays perfectly into Aldo’s game. His counter-striking and relentless leg kicks will prove to be too much for Holloway. Aldo’s fundamentals make him one of the greatest of all-time. Granted, it took a perfectly placed punch from McGregor to stop Aldo, but until I see someone match his skills over five rounds I’ll keep backing Aldo.
Pick: Aldo by decision
Claudia Gadelha (13-2) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Gadelha -365; Kowalkiewicz +285
After starting her pro career winning her first twelve fights, Claudia Gadelha suffered her first defeat by dropping a split decision to Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC on FOX 13. Gadelha bounced back by beating Jessica Aguilar at UFC 190 earning her a rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, only this time for Joanna’s title. Unfortunately for Claudia she came up short again losing by unanimous decision. Her most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 100 where she decisioned Cortney Casey.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz brought a ten fight winning streak into her most recent fight at UFC 205 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Like Gadelha, Karolina came up short in her bid to become the strawweight champion losing a one-sided affair by unanimous decision.
This is a big fight for both women. They both have lost to the great Joanna Jedrzejczyk, twice for Gadelha, and would like nothing more than to get another crack at the title. I’ll be interested to see how Karolina is able to bounce back after suffering her first loss. Both women are strikers and it’s on the feet where Kowalkiewicz has her best chance of winning. If she can keep the fight standing and avoid going to the ground with Gadelha I like her chances. She also has to get off to a quick start, which is something she isn’t known to do.
Claudia Gadelha can take solace in knowing she gave Joanna all she could handle, and if her cardio was better she might be the champion right now. While Claudia has decent striking, her advantage in this fight is in her ground game. While I don’t see her getting out-matched on the feet by Karolina, her strength is definitely on the ground. While I think Gadelha is the better overall fighter, the one thing that worries me is her cardio. Claudia is a fast starter which bodes well for her because she tends to slow down in the latter rounds. Since this fight is three rounds I think she’ll do enough to earn the decision. However, if this were a five round fight, my prediction might be different.
Pick: Gadelha by decision
Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs. Nate Marquardt (38-16-3) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Belfort -160; Marquardt +130
MMA legend Vitor Belfort makes the walk for the last time for the promotion on Saturday night. While this may be his swan song in the UFC, I don’t believe for a second he’s done fighting. Belfort has said this week that this is the best he’s felt in a long time and he intends on fighting beyond UFC 212, and possibly even resigning with the UFC. I tend to think the UFC is done with Vitor, but Bellator, now that would be interesting.
Unfortunately for Belfort it’s impossible to ignore his time on performance enhancing drugs and TRT when evaluating where he stands historically. Regardless of where you stand on that part of his career, there’s no denying he’s one of the pioneers of the sport. He’s one of, if not the most beloved fighter to come out of Brazil.
All that said, the recent past has not been kind to Vitor. He’s 1-3 with one no-contest due to Kelvin Gastelum testing positive for marijuana. In all three losses he was stopped by punches, not including the no-contest where he was also knocked out.
Thirty-eight year old Nate Marquardt has 52 fights under his belt. Like Belfort, Nate has struggled recently. He is 2-4 over his last six fights. His most recent fight occurred at UFC on FOX 23 where he dropped a decision to Sam Alvey.
Both Marquardt and Belfort are offensive fighters, with suspect defense. Both fighters also have very suspect chins due to the amount of damage each of them has taken over the years. I expect both fighters to come out and throw hands and whomever lands the first flush strike will probably get the win. With this being Vitor’s last fight and in front of his adoring fans I’m going to back the Brazilian as he goes out on top.
Pick: Belfort by TKO
Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2) vs. Paulo Henrique Costa (9-0) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Costa -280; Bamgbose +220
Costa is undefeated as a pro and 1-0 in the UFC. He won his promotional debut in style by finishing Garreth McLellen in the first round at UFC Fight Night 106. The 26 year old Brazilian and former Jungle Fight champion is a finisher. Not only have all nine victories been stoppages, he’s yet to even see the second round.
Oluwale Bamgbose started his pro career by going 5-0 in Ring of Combat. All five of those wins were by KO/TKO, and all were stopped in the first round. After such an impressive run the UFC came calling and matched him up with Uriah Hall in his first fight with the promotion. Unfortunately the success Bamgbose had in Ring of Combat did not follow him to the UFC as he was stopped in the first by Hall. Bamgbose bounced back with a first round knockout of Daniel Sarafian at UFC Fight Night 83, but suffered another set-back in his most recent fight by dropping a decision to Cezar Ferreira at UFC on FOX 19.
This fight has all the makings to be an all-out slugfest. Both men are finishers so the chances this fight makes it the judge’s scorecards are slim. Both fighters like to get in there and bang. Bamgbose is a raw talent with a ton of potential. Unfortunately he’s going up against a fighter that’s further along in his development. I expect this fight to take place on the feet with both men looking for a knockout. Another impressive showing from Costa could land him in the Top 15.
Pick: Costa by TKO
Yancy Medeiros (13-4, 1 NC) vs. Erick Silva (19-7, 1 NC) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Medeiros -140; Silva +110
Erick Silva comes into Saturday night’s fight just one win over .500 at 7-6 since joining the UFC. After losing to Neil Magny at UFC Fight Night 74 and Nordine Taleb at UFC 196, Silva got back in the win column by beating Luan Chagas at UFC Fight Night 95. He’ll look to build on that victory with a win over Yancy Medeiros.
Medeiros has also struggled since coming to the UFC with a record of 4-4. He is 2-2 over his last four fights with wins against John Makdessi and most recently Sean Spencer, and losses to Dustin Poirier and Francisco Trinaldo. His win against Spencer came fighting at 170 for the first time after competing primarily at 155.
While neither fighter is close to contending for a title, this should be a fun fight with the potential to be the FOTN. Both fighters have struggled with the top contenders in the welterweight and lightweight divisions so I expect this to be a close fight. Silva will be the bigger fighter of the two so I expect him to come out super aggressive and try to get Medeiros out of there early. If Medeiros can weather the early onslaught, I think he will start to have more success as the fight progresses.
Pick: Medeiros by TKO
Prelims Quick Look
Moraes -155 over Assuncao +125
Carlos Junior -220 over Spicely +170
Eduardo +140 over Lopez -170
Alcantara -320 over Kelleher +250
Pereira -160 over Moyle +130
Chagas -260 over Wallhead +210
Figueiredo -145 over Beltran +115
Enjoy the fights!
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS UFC PPV PREVIEW: UFC 211 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions including Miocic vs. Dos Santos for UFC Hvt. Title, Jedrzejczyk vs. Andrade for Strawweight Title