We're just hours away from the most stacked card in UFC history, and I can't help but stare in awe at the fight card.
There are twelve bouts, many of which will be serious game-changers for a variety of divisions. More specifically, there are a handful of fighters (if not more) whose careers could drastically be altered at UFC 200.
While one could make an argument that every bout is an important one, the storylines and angles we can draw up seem endless. For whatever it’s worth, here’s what sticks out to me, which as many of you know, could contradict what the UFC brass says could or should happen.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao is the rematch we’ve been waiting for since May of 2014. That was when Dillashaw became the bantamweight champ, and Assuncao made it clear he should be next in line. It never happened during TJ’s reign, but now it will. With a clear-cut victory for the Brazilian (maybe not so much for the American), a title shot on the horizon.
Johny Hendricks is 1-1 since losing the welterweight title, and was TKO’d in February. Should he lose to Kelvin Gastelum, that would be two losses in a row and make him 1-3 in his last four bouts. That’s never happened to “The Big Rigg” before. Wonder if he’s crossing his fingers that Kelvin has some issues during his weight cut while he has the perfect drop to 170 lbs. Wait … maybe that’s the real battle to determine who may win this bout!
Cat Zingano is finally back. After a shocking 14 second loss to Ronda Rousey, it’s been a tumultuous ride for “Alpha Cat” to even set foot in the octagon. Now that she’s ready, willing and able, she has to deal with Julianna Pena, who is riding a three fight winning streak. No matter who wins this bout, the UFC matchmakers “could” be hard pressed to figure out who should “seriously” deserve the next title shot. I know - MMA math doesn’t always work; the money fight usually does. No need to say anything else.
Come Sunday morning, what will the world look like for Cain Velasquez, should he lose to Travis Browne? Yes, things change fairly quickly at heavyweight, but the reality is simple: this could actually happen. At -290, not many people agree that it will, but stranger things have happened in MMA.
Jose Aldo Jr. once was on an eighteen fight win streak. Then, in thirteen seconds, Conor McGregor made our jaws drop. Any chance you believe that (arguably) the best pound-for-pound fighter (anointed early last year) could go on a two-fight losing streak, specifically courtesy of a fighter he’s already defeated? The same fighter (we’ll call him Frankie Edgar), who hasn’t lost since they last met? I'll have to remind myself to breathe during this featherweight tilt.
Daniel Cormier should have been involved in the main event, but Jon Jones … yeah, that’s a whole other conversation. Feel like we’ve been there, done that, shake my head, etc. So “Bones” gets pulled and stepping up to take on “DC” is none other than Anderson Silva. Not the pre-Chris Weidman “Spider”, but the 2016 one. Which, despite having the speed and accuracy advantage (big time), I simply have lost trust in thinking he will use all of his incredible abilities in a fight. It always seems like when we think he will, he does not. When we assume he won’t, he does. Seriously - I’ve given up. I just watch him fight now and let him be who he truly is … and not who I (or we) think he should be. And that basically means, Cormier will likely punish him the way Chael Sonnen did in his first bout vs. Silva. Just no fifth round submission this time for the Brazilian.
Speaking of MMA craziness - Brock Lesnar is back. I still can’t believe it’s going to happen, but it is. I should note that I have gone 2-5 whenever I predict who will win in a Lesnar bout, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Seriously - do not take my advice on this one. But let me tell you one thing: having been luck enough to be octagon side to cover many of his bouts, I can assure you, there are few things cooler than to see him make his way to the cage and eventually watch the referee step out of the way to let the fighters dance. This one could be ugly. For both fighters. But all I see is two four letter words and two maybe three letters: Mark Hunt – (T)KO.
While Lesnar vs. Hunt should be the main event, UFC 200 will be headlined by Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate, who will be taking on Amanda Nunes. While the betting public isn’t exactly forecasting a new champion (neither am I), it could happen – and what an absolute mess this division would be. I mean that in a good way, as it would take quite some time for it realign itself to some normalcy, but seriously, can you imagine if we hear “AND NEW … “ on Saturday night?
It’s almost here folks - UFC 200 is upon us and what a night it’s going to be. In the great words of (should be in the UFC Hall of Fame) “Big John” McCarthy, “Are you ready?”
I can just imagine how much history will be made on Saturday night. I can’t wait.
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