The UFC takes to Cleveland for UFC 203 and the event features an Ohio-born champion looking to defend his gold. Stipe Miocic will put his UFC heavyweight championship on the line when he takes on Alistair Overeem in the main event.
Though the main event is great, this card also features the highly anticipated debut of one Phil Brooks, a.k.a. CM Punk. The former pro wrestler makes his MMA debut when he takes on youngster Mickey Gall on the main card Saturday.
Stipe Miocic vs Alistair Overeem
Stipe Miocic tends to keep a fight standing so he can properly utilize his excellent boxing skills and athleticism. The former Golden Gloves winner is a technical marvel when it comes to boxing, as his ability to plant and throw power in tight spaces is almost unparalleled. Don’t be expecting to see many fancy techniques in the standup game though, as Miocic is a boxer through and through.
Not only is Miocic an excellent striker, but his collegiate background in wrestling makes him a threat while grappling as well. Though he is able to take a fight to the ground, Miocic generally uses his takedowns as a threat more than a weapon, using the level changing to make his opponents hesitant.
Alistair Overeem has always been one of the deadliest strikers in the heavyweight division. He has a wide array of attacks from every distance and has power in all eight limbs. ‘Reem is also incredibly dangerous in the clinch, as his tight grip and power cause problems for opponents — if you get tied up in the clinch with Overeem, then massive knees are incoming. ‘Reem has also done a great job at becoming more measured in the Octagon, which has helped him pick his spots and hide his questionable chin.
Overeem is a surprisingly solid grappler, though many don’t talk too much about it. If he does take the fight to the mat, Overeem is more likely to look to pound on his opponent rather than go for the submission.
This fight is extremely close on paper and could be a grueling battle in the Octagon. However, Miocic is more than skilled and athletic enough to avoid getting caught in the standup game. Plus, he has better wrestling abilities than Overeem. And my rule of thumb: if a fight is close, take the better wrestler.
Prediction: Stipe Miocic
Fabricio Werdum vs Travis Browne
Fabricio Werdum is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in MMA today. ‘Vai Cavalo’ is a world champion BJJ practitioner who has notched 50 percent of his career victories via submission. Once a fight is to the ground, there are very few fighters who can defend themselves against his excellent mat skills.
Though his submission skills are highly touted, Werdum also has an underappreciated striking game. He has spent years working under Rafael Codeiro and has earned a black belt in Muay Thai. Though he can strike with his hands, it’s Werdum’s kicks and knees that are his forte. He has grown especially adept at slowing his opponent down with leg kicks.
Travis Browne is a very large individual, as he stands six-foot-seven with a 79-inch reach. ‘Hapa’ has plenty of KO power in all of his limbs, though it is his kicks that are the deadliest. He has a knack for tying up his opponent’s neck and landing big knees in the clinch, so fence fighting is usually best avoided against the Hawaiian.
Browne uses his strength and surprising agility to get by, but his technique is far from refined. He can be overly aggressive and makes rash decisions in the Octagon, which has cost him dearly more than once.
These two have already fought and I highly doubt that there is much of a difference between then and now. Werdum is confident in all facets of the game and has no problem standing and striking with Browne. Normally I would say that is dangerous, but Werdum will not be caught off guard following his KO loss to Miocic.
Prediction: Fabricio Werdum
CM Punk vs Mickey Gall
For all the hype around this fight, it is nothing more than a sideshow. I respect CM Punk for giving MMA a try this late in life, but he shouldn’t be near the UFC. Neither should Mickey Gall, who has beaten what we will generously call ‘scrubs’ in his two fights.
In all honesty, I’ve been a CM Punk fan since his days in the independent wrestling days so I’m a tad biased on this one. Neither guy deserves the chalk we are seeing, so take a punt on Punk, I guess.
Prediction: CM Punk
Urijah Faber vs Jimmie Rivera
Urijah Faber finds himself in familiar territory. He has again lost in a UFC title fight and is now sort of directionless in his career. ‘The California Kid’ is still much the same fighter that made him so vitally important to the early development of the lighter weight classes in MMA. Faber predicates his fighting style around forward movement, as he is routinely pushing the pace. He is most effective when he is mixing his takedown attempts and strikes to keep his opponent guessing.
The striking game of Faber would basically boil down to advanced basics. This is not a knock against Faber, but rather a statement that he is not going to get too cute with his striking. Though it has yet to get him into too much trouble, his advancing age has seen his chin and power slowly deteriorate. So a headlong attack could prove to be dangerous against a heavy hitter.
Jimmie Rivera is an athletic, high-volume boxer who exudes athleticism. Despite being an aggressive puncher, ‘El Terror’ doesn’t exactly sport power in his hands – with just four career knockout victories. His takedown defense has been spectacular as he has yet to be taken down in his UFC tenure, though his opposition has been just OK.
Rivera is a solid, well-rounded fighter who is making a major step up in competition. He has been good, but we have yet to see if his skills hold up against the elite-level fighters.
I think Rivera will put up a better fight than most people expect, but Faber doesn’t lose to non-elite opponents. Rivera is no Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz or Frankie Edgar. Faber just keeps on doing his thing.
Prediction: Urijah Faber
Jessica Andrade vs Joanne Calderwood
You are not going to find many fighters as aggressive as Jessica Andrade. The Brazilian pushes forward and looks to overwhelm her opponent with a flurry of punches – plus she has the cardio to keep this up for an entire fight. She has looked even better since moving down to 115, as she has maintained her power and cardio while increasing her speed. More than anything, Andrade will look to take the fight to the mat so she can ground and pound.
Andrade is undersized even for the strawweight division and she will enter this fight with the height and reach disadvantage. Though this has yet to hamper her too much in her career, Andrade would be unable to use her pressure-based attack if her opponent can use their length and movement to keep ‘Bate Estaca’ chasing.
Joanne Calderwood is a Muay Thai ace who has been practising the art since she was 13 years old. ‘Jojo’ excels at controlling the distance with her kicks and knees, but has just as refined striking skills inside the clinch. She has been working on her wrestling, which she will use exclusively in a defensive manner to keep the fight standing.
Jojo is not a ground fighter. When she gets taken to the mat, she more or less needs to try and create a sprawl to get the fight standing again. Her only career loss came against a short-notice newcomer – Maryna Moroz – who took her down and submitted her within two minutes.
Andrade has made a career out of being the smaller fighter and pressuring her way into the clinch to initiate the takedown. However, she has never fought an opponent with such well-refined striking skills. Jojo should be able to dictate where this fight takes place and outpoint Andrade.
Prediction: Joanne Calderwood
UFC 203: Cleveland, Ohio
Odds as of September 7 at Bovada
- Stipe Miocic -145
- Alistair Overeem +115
- Fabricio Werdum -225
- Travis Browne +175
- CM Punk +300
- Mickey Gall -400
- Urijah Faber -105
- Jimmie Rivera -125
- Jessica Andrade -145
- Joanne Calderwood +115
- Jessica Eye -140
- Bethe Correia +110
- Brad Tavares -185
- Caio Magalhaes +150
- Nik Lentz -450
- Michael McBride +325
- Ian McCall -135
- Ray Borg +105
- Yancy Medeiros -135
- Sean Spencer +105
- CB Dollaway -175
- Francimar Barroso +145
- Drew Dober -165
- Jason Gonzalez +135
- Damir Hadzovic
- Yusuke Kasuya