The UFC have been building towards this event for ages and it’s finally here. UFC 200 comes at the end of their annual International Fight Week and is the third of three consecutive fight cards this week.
The week begins with UFC Fight Night 90, where Rafael Dos Anjos becomes the first man to defend a UFC belt on a Fight Pass exclusive card, taking on Eddie Alvarez. The card also features TUF Brazil 4 bantamweight winner Reginaldo Vieira whilst the co-main event of Roy Nelson and Derrick Lewis promises a beautiful knockout.
On Friday, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha go to war again for the UFC Strawweight championship. Their first fight was on a knife-edge and the bad blood between the two has grown exponentially ans so this promises to be one of the fights of the weekend. New TUF winners will be crowned in the Light Heavyweight and Women’s Strawweight divisions, whilst the card also features the debut of former Bellator Lightweight champion Will Brooks.
Those two cards set the stage perfectly for the showpiece event, UFC 200. It isn’t the 200th event in UFC history (it’s actually the 363rd), but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a symbolic card in a symbolic venue (it will be the first card they have held in the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas) and they have certainly stacked the deck. The 11-fight card features 15 fighters who have previously main-evented a UFC event, 7 current and former UFC Champions and three massive title fights. With that in mind, let’s get on to breaking these fights down!
Fight Pass Prelims
Jim Miller (25-8 1NC) vs. Takanori Gomi (35-11 1NC): Pride veteran Gomi and Jim Miller are men with long UFC careers behind them and both produce fun fights. Gomi has always been an amazing striker and although Miller can also bang on the feet, his wheelhouse is in the grappling department. Gomi has lost his last two by KO and has six career submission losses and whilst I think this fight will be competitive and a great opener, I expect Miller to dominate before clipping the Japanese with something in the third and locking up a submission. Prediction: Miller via third round submission.
#8 MW Gegard Mousasi (38-6-2) vs. #15 MW Thiago Santos (13-3): Surprisingly, this fight was the only one affected by injury on the entire card. Mousasi’s original opponent Derek Brunson was forced to pull out in mid-June and was replaced by the surging Santos. Santos has won four straight since January 2015, including three brutal first round knockouts. Santos is a lethal striker, especially at range, but Mousasi demonstrated some excellent jabs, one-two combinations, footwork in his February win over Thales Leites. Santos could hurt him, but expect Mousasi to be controlled and vary his offence on his way to a decision. Prediction: Mousasi via unanimous decision.
Diego Sanchez (26-8) vs Joe Lauzon (25-11): It seems fitting that Diego Sanchez is on this card, a celebration of the promotion’s achievements and history, given that he was the original TUF winner and has been in some of the most memorable fights in UFC history against Nick Diaz, Clay Guida, and Gilbert Melendez to name a few. What is strange though is that he has never fought Joe Lauzon, another man known for bloody wars, before. Sanchez was more conservative against Jim Miller in his last fight than normal, using his wrestling in the first round and then good footwork in the last to secure a decision win. Lauzon, however, is more likely to bring out the warrior in Sanchez and that should lead to a brilliant match up. Sanchez can be reckless and Lauzon is a good opponent to exploit that in a super close fight. Prediction: Lauzon via split decision.
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Sage Northcutt (7-1) vs Enrique Marin (8-3): This is perhaps the easiest fight on the entire card to predict. The UFC likes Northcutt and wants him to succeed and despite him showing obvious flaws against Bryan Barberena, he is too good for Marin. Marin is a submission specialist who poses a threat on the ground but he doesn’t have good enough wrestling to get the fight there. That means it will be a stand-up encounter where Northcutt is certain to dominate. Prediction: Northcutt via first round TKO.
#1 BW TJ Dillashaw (12-3) vs #3 BW Raphael Assuncao (23-4): You know a card is stacked when the former bantamweight champion is in the middle of the prelims. Assuncao beat Dillashaw back in October 2013 but the American has matured significantly since and has put on striking clinics against Renan Barao and ran Dominick Cruz very close. Assuncao meanwhile hasn’t fought since October 2014 due to persistent injuries. Rust will be a problem for Assuncao and given that Dillashaw has a speed advantage, it could be a tough night for the Brazilian. Dillashaw wins comfortably to set up a rematch with Cruz later in the year. Prediction: Dillashaw via unanimous decision.
#6 WW Johny Hendricks (17-4) vs #12 WW Kelvin Gastelum (11-2): The significance of this fight for the welterweight division seems to be flying under the radar a little but that’s hardly surprising. Despite the experience edge of Hendricks and his derisory comments about Gastelum’s striking abilities, this fight is quite even. Both are very good wrestlers so this could well be largely contested on the feet. Hendricks has a power advantage but Gastelum is the quicker man and looked in great shape against Neil Magny last November. Hendricks’ vicious KO defeat to Stephen Thompson in February could be the deciding factor here. I expect that to make him more cautious in the early going and perhaps gift Gastelum the first round and therefore the advantage in a very close fight. Prediction: Gastelum via unanimous decision.
#3 Women’s BW Cat Zingano (9-1) vs #5 Women’s BW Julianna Pena (7-2): Pena is the more powerful puncher but Zingano has speed and power of her own, whilst Zingano has the submissions off her back to prevent Pena from being too grappling heavy in her offence. This fight is close but Zingano is very powerful and normally much calmer than she was against Ronda Rousey last year. Prediction: Zingano via unanimous decision.
#2 HW Cain Velasquez (13-2) vs #7 HW Travis Browne (18-3-1): Without wishing to write off ‘Hapa’, this is Velasquez’s fight to lose. In-shape Velasquez is one of the best heavyweights in the world and without the altitude problems of last year’s fight with Fabricio Werdum, he is the clear favourite. He can take a punch and has the sort of intensity to nullify the reach advantage of Browne. Training with Daniel Cormier ahead of this fight will benefit Velasquez hugely and I expect him to send out a statement. He will use big punches to get on the inside before securing a takedown and winning through ground and pound. Browne has a puncher’s chance but not much more than that. Prediction: Velasquez via first round TKO.
Interim Featherweight Title – #1 FW Jose Aldo (25-2) vs #2 FW Frankie Edgar (20-4-1): Due to Conor McGregor’s continued antics up at 170 pounds, we have an interim title fight. The winner of this could become the unified champion though, as McGregor may not come back, regardless of result against Nate Diaz in August. Aldo won in their first meeting but it was close and I think Edgar has improved since then. Both have aged and are probably not as quick as they were but Edgar is probably quicker and has the takedowns to punish Aldo’s kicks. Aldo’s mind seems focused on matters out of the cage at the moment and I expect Edgar to be more motivated and avenge his 2013 defeat by mixing up his offence throughout. Prediction: Edgar via unanimous decision.
Women’s Bantamweight Title – (C) Miesha Tate (18-5) vs #4 Women’s BW Amanda Nunes (12-4): If someone had said this time last year that the Women’s bantamweight title picture was exciting and had a bevy of contenders, I would have called them a liar. Then, Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey and then she got choked out by Miesha Tate. Meanwhile, Amanda Nunes put together a sneaky good run and earned a shot at the gold. Nunes is the more natural striker and has greater hand speed than Tate but the champ has improved of late and it has complemented her grappling. Tate is tough and was able to take the offence of Holm on the feet and I think she can survive the early onslaught from Nunes. Nunes has gassed before in three round fights and I think she maybe takes the first two rounds but then slows, allowing Tate to get in and secure a take-down and then lock up a submission in the championship rounds. Prediction: Tate via fourth round submission.
Brock Lesnar (5-3) vs #8 HW Mark Hunt (12-10-1): BROCK IS BACK! With Jon Jones being busted for a potential doping violation just days before the card was set to take place, Brock Lesnar has somehow found himself in the main event of UFC 200, just as he was in the main event of UFC 100. The inner wrestling fan in me loved the fact that Brock Lesnar was announced for this card and this fight is perhaps the most compelling of the weekend, especially now it is in the main event. Simply put, this will go one of two ways. If Lesnar can secure a takedown, he should win as Hunt’s submission defence is almost non-existent. That’s a bigger if than it would have been a few years ago because Hunt’s takedown defence has improved and he has brilliant timing on counter knees and uppercuts. If he can’t, Hunt will knock him silly. Given Lesnar’s time away from the cage, I’ll lean with the latter. Prediction: Hunt via first round KO.