In a combat sports landscape that has increasingly put an emphasis on big money fights, UFC 212 emphasizes the best fighters clashing in the main event. Jose Aldo and Max Holloway will meet in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to unify the UFC featherweight title and name the undisputed king of 145lbs.
The co-main event features a potential title eliminator when Claudia Gadehla and Karolina Kowalkiewicz clash. Further down the card, you find former WSOF champion Marlon Moraes making his Octagon debut against contender Raphael Assuncao. The rest of the event is usual for UFC events in Brazil with plenty of homegrown talent.
Jose Aldo vs Max Holloway
Jose Aldo (-125) has been the face of the 145 lbs division for more than a decade. Sure, he lost to Conor McGregor in 0:13, but he has reigned over that division consistently since it’s introduction to the UFC in 2011 and beyond.
Aldo’s game is built around defense and timing. Though that doesn’t sound the sexiest, it has allowed ‘Scarface’ to methodically dismantle basically every opponent in his way. He is more of a counter striker who will wait on his opponent to commit before angling off, with some of the best footwork in MMA, to land a stinging punch or trademark low kick. In space, Aldo sticks to his jab and the above-mentioned leg kick. His ability to probe with his jab to not only set the range of the fight but to mess with his opponent’s timing is phenomenal.
In terms of grappling, it’s largely used defensively for Aldo. The Brazillian has some of the best defensive wrestling ever seen in MMA and, when he rarely does get taken down, he has the grappling ability to cause a scramble and get back to his feet. Though he rarely uses it offensively, Aldo is a solid wrestler in his own right. Again, he combines good technical skills with his amazing timing to explode into takedowns. Once on top, Aldo’s rarely seen BJJ black belt takes over and he passes with ease.
Aldo has been questioned throughout his career in terms of his killer instinct. You can go back and see he had a tendency to coast in some of his title defenses and ride out the decision. His methodical style doesn’t typically lend itself to stoppage victories but he looked incredibly motivated in his domination of Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.
Much like his opponent, Max Holloway (-105) has a gameplan built about great fundamentals and footwork. The implementation is different though. ‘Blessed’ is constantly angling and moving his feet to find the best opportunity to strike preferring a more pressure-based style than Aldo. That being said, Holloway is also plenty capable of using his height and reach advantage that he typically holds to stick-and-move. His striking style isn’t exactly filled with flashy strikes, he will throw the occasional wheel kick, it is violent and precise. The Hawaiian loves bullying his opponent against the cage where he can set his feet and throw wicked combinations.
Grappling isn’t something that Holloway partakes in voluntarily and his amazing takedown defense, he has not been taken down in his past seven fights, means that his opposition rarely has the opportunity to. His size generally leads to Holloway have a huge leverage advantage is the fight goes to the clinch, which allows him to break easily and get back into space.
Holloway is generally hittable once he does get into the pocket. It has not been an issue in his career so far and nobody has been able to really capitalize on it. This may cause issues with such a precise counter striker like Aldo but ‘Scarface’ doesn’t really have the one-hitter quitter power to land the devastating blow.
This fight is razor thin. It’s likely going to be a 25-minute war of not only violence but strategy, as both men will look to impose their gameplan on the other. I give the slightest of leans toward Holloway with his aggression ultimately being the deciding factor in a decision victory.
Prediction: Max Holloway (-105)
Claudia Gadehla vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
There is a really good argument to be made that Claudia Gadehla (-280) is the best strawweight fighter on the planet not named “Joanna Jedrzejczyk.” Unfortunately, that means that she finds herself in the “Benavidez paradox,” where a fighter has proven to be the clear No.2 in the division but has lost to the champion twice.
Gadehla is a powerful takedown artist first and foremost. She wants to get her opponent against the fence so she can work one of her multitude of takedowns. Once on top, the Brazilian is unshakeable and will grind her opponent into a fine dust. You should be expecting growth in her already crisp striking game now that she is spending time at Jackson-Wink. The issue with Gadehla continues to be her cardio. She dominated Jedrzejczyk for the first 10 minutes of their second fight, then gassed and got steamrolled.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (+220) is looking to take Gadehla’s spot after her loss to Jedrzejczyk. Though people wanted to say Kowalkiewicz performed well against JJ at UFC 205, she clearly lost four of the five rounds. With a win in this one, she may position herself for another crack at the gold ad force Gadehla up to the incoming flyweight division.
Kowalkiewicz uses her technique and cardio to overcome some of her athletic limitations. The Polish fighter has experience in several types of martial arts that emphasize striking. Kowalkiewicz is at her best when she can use her constant foot movement to move in and out of range while landing quick combos. She likes to work a constant pace on the feet and looks to overwhelm her opponent. In the clinch, Kowalkiewicz uses leverage well and lands some heavy knees. Opponents often look to shoot on Kowalkiewicz and get her on the ground, which is much easier said than done.
I’m a big fan of Kowalkiewicz but Gadehla’s wrestling and power give her a clear edge in this fight. If this was a five-round fight, I’d be picking the Polish fighter but I don’t know if anybody in the division can beat Gadehla in a 15-minute fight.
Prediction: Claudia Gadehla (-280)
Vitor Belfort vs Nate Marquardt
Vitor Belfort (-160) has become the definition of “kill or be killed,” with each of his past eight fights ending with someone being rendered unconscious. Despite being 40, Belfort still has solid speed in his strikes and throws with immense power. Volume isn’t his strong suit, as Belfort would rather just throw a powerful strike and exploding when he wobbles his opponent. This feast or famine approach was fine when he was younger but his chin is failing him at this point. Belfort is actually solid when grappling but he doesn’t really want much to do with that.
Similar to Belfort, Nate Marquardt (+130) is an aging veteran who has seen KO losses starting to rack up. Nate “The Great” is a solid, all-around fighter who is capable of competing in every aspect of the game. He has a solid jab and can still bite down and throw some good combos, but he isn’t able to take many punches anymore. Marquardt’s submission skills are somewhat underrated but generally does his best work upright.
Hopefully, this fight ends quickly. At this point in their careers, watching Belfort and Marquardt fight for 15 minutes would not be fun. It’s more likely that one of them lands a strike and wobbles the other early on. I’ll take Belfort because…I really don’t have a good reason. Take the UNDER.
Prediction: Vitor Belfort (-160)
Paulo Borrachinha vs Oluwale Bamgbose
Paulo Borrachinha (-350) is a monster. He is a physical specimen that blends great speed, heavy strikes and natural athleticism to embarrass his opponents. Nobody has ever survived to see the second round against Borrachinha. He is a bullish fighter who walks down his opponents, using his reach well, until he traps them and starts hammering away. We haven’t seen anything in his wrestling game but his natural power makes me believe he can likely land a takedown by brute force alone.
Much like his opponent, Oluwale Bamgbose (+265) has picked up all of his career victories via first round stoppage thanks to his freakish athleticism and powerful strikes. “The Holy War Angel” has a much more varied repertoire of attacks than Borrachinha thanks to his experience in multiple striking disciplines, he is especially adept with his Taekwondo. He is still a novice in terms of grappling and can be exploited in this area.
Don’t blink. One way or another someone is getting their head knocked off in this one. Though a lot of chalk, you should probably take the UNDER 1.5 rounds. Based on the betting line and the likelihood of a knockout, I’m taking the value and versatility of Bamgbose.
Prediction: Oluwale Bamgbose (+265)
Erick Silva vs Yancy Medeiros
Erick Silva (EVEN) was once the hottest prospect in the UFC but he has amounted to a middling fighter at best. He has never quite developed technically in the stand-up game but still has good hand speed and power in his strikes. He is at his best when he can land the takedown, he is a black belt in judo and work his submission game. Silva needs to keep composed, avoid just slinging blind power punches and likely look to take the fight to the mat.
“Fancy” Yancy Medeiros (-130) has made a UFC career out of being an action fighter. Medeiros is primarily a ranged striker who likes to push the pace of the fight. His aggressive style results in the Hawaiian throwing plenty of strikes and absorbing his fair share as well. His grappling game is underrated, as Medeiros is surprisingly difficult to takedown. He has the ability to catch a submission in transition but largely just wants to stand and bang.
Medeiros should be able to keep Silva at range if he wants. This distance will likely frustrate Silva, as the Brazilian won’t be able to throw his heavy hands or shoot in for a takedown.
Prediction: Yancy Medeiros (-130)
UFC 212: Aldo vs Holloway Betting Odds
Odds as of May 31 at Bovada
- Jose Aldo -125
- Max Holloway -105
- Claudia Gadelha -280
- Karolina Kowalkieqicz +220
- Vitor Belfort -160
- Nate Marquardt +130
- Paulo Borrachinha -350
- Oluwale Bamgbose +265
- Erick Silva EVEN
- Yancy Medeiros -130
- Marlon Moraes -175
- Raphael Assuncao +145
- Antonio Carlos Junior -225
- Eric Spicely +175
- Matthew Lopez -210
- Johnny Eduardo +170
- Iuri Alcantara -315
- Brian Kelleher +245
- Viviane Pereira -130
- Jamie Moyle EVEN
- Luan Chagas -250
- Jim Wallhead +195
- Marco Beltran +125
- Deiveson Figueiredo -155