The UFC Heavyweight Champion is returning to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to defend his championship against Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC 203. That is not all MMA fans, because UFC 203 will also feature a rematch between Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne, plus the highly anticipated UFC debut of CM Punk. So, without any further interruption, let’s get to the preview and predictions for Saturday Nights UFC 203 card.
Main Card (Pay-Per-View – 10PM EST.)
UFC Heavyweight Title Fight
Stipe Miocic (15-2-0) (Champion) vs. Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (41-14-0-1NC)
Miocic will be making the first defense of his championship, which he won by defeating Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198. Overeem will be entering the fight on the strength of a four fight winning streak, with two of those wins coming over former UFC Heavyweight Champions (Andrei Arlovski & Junior Dos Santos). Miocic has competed in five round fights in four of his last five UFC appearances, with only one of those fights going the distance (vs. Junior Dos Santos at UFC On Fox 13). Overeem will be in a championship bout for the first time in six years, his last title bout was a successful defense of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Title over Brett Rogers in May 2010.
Prediction: Miocic is going to be using his volume boxing in this fight, while Overeem will be looking to mix in power striking with his clinch game. This one really comes down to whether or not Miocic can weather the storm of Overeem for the first couple of rounds. I believe that Miocic will fall to the power of Overeem and Overeem takes the gold via knockout in the third round.
UFC Heavyweight Division Fight
Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (20-6-1) vs. Travis “Hapa” Browne (18-4-1)
Werdum is going to be competing for the first time since losing the heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198. Browne lost the first meeting between himself and Werdum via decision, that fight took place at UFC On Fox 11 in April 2014. The knockout loss to Miocic was only the second KO/TKO loss that Werdum has suffered in his fourteen year career, the other came to former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos at UFC 90. Browne has been rotating wins and losses in his last six UFC appearances, his last fight was a loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 200.
Prediction: The key thing to be remembering here is that Browne enters this fight on late notice after Ben Rothwell pulled out due to injury. Werdum won the first fight by using his striking game and speed to get inside of the much larger Browne. Browne will need to control the range better with his long legs and long arms, while Werdum’s susceptible striking game was good enough in the first fight. Werdum will do his best to get inside on Browne and Browne will let him because he does not know how to control range will, Werdum wins another decision.
UFC Welterweight Division Fight
Phil “CM Punk” Brooks (Pro Debut) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0-0)
Brooks will be making his professional MMA debut in this fight, but he has spent the last year-plus training out of Roufus Sports with head trainer Duke Roufus. Gall made his UFC debut back at UFC Fight Night 82, where he defeated Mike Jackson by first round submission. Brooks has found tons of success in the pro wrestling world, winning such titles as the WWE World Heavyweight Title, WWE Intercontinental Title, WWE Tag Team Championships, Extreme Championship Wrestling Title, Ring Of Honor World Heavyweight Championship, Ring Of Honor World Tag Team Championships and the Ohio Valley Wrestling Heavyweight Title. Gall was brought into the UFC after calling out Brooks during an episode of Dana White’s “Lookin’ For A Fight.”
Prediction: This fight really comes down to one huge factor, because we all saw how good Gall was when he defeated Mike Jackson, that huge factor is how much skills and knowledge that Brooks has absorbed in his time with Roufos Sport. With that being said, Brooks has never competed in a fight as a pro or as an amateur, while Gall has a total of four fights under his belt (2 Pro/2 Amateur), Gall uses his striking to set up a takedown before submitting Brooks quickly in the first round.
UFC Bantamweight Division Fight
“The California Kid” Urijah Faber (33-9-0) vs. Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (19-1-0)
Faber will be competing for the first time since losing the rubber match to current UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz at UFC 199. Rivera is currently undefeated thus far under the UFC banner, defeating Pedro Munhoz, Marcus Brimage and Iuri Alcantara. Faber has lost a grand total of five fights in the UFC, four of those five losses came in title fights (UFC 132, UFC 149, UFC 169 & UFC 199). Rivera’s lone loss in his entire professional MMA career came over eight years ago to Jason McLean, who retired two years ago with a career record of 6-7-0 (Rivera was 1-0-0 when the fight happened/McClean was making his pro MMA debut).
Prediction: Everybody already knows what Faber brings to the table, a good ground game with a good striking game mixed in, but the mileage on his body from so many great wars inside the cage has started to take its toll on the fighter. Rivera has seen his fair share of battles to, but a lot of his came under the regional circuit instead of under the big lights like Faber’s has. With that being said, Faber pressures Rivera early with takedown attempts, but Rivera comes alive in the second round mixing his grappling and striking on route to a decision win.
UFC Women’s Strawweight Division Fight
Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (14-5-0) vs. Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (11-1-0)
Andrade has been undefeated since dropping to the strawweight division, finishing former title challenger Jessica Penne with strikes at UFC 199. Calderwood enters the fight riding a two fight winning streak, defeating both Cortney Casey and Valerie Letourneau. Andrade previously competed as a bantamweight in the UFC, winning four of seven fights in the division. Calderwood will be competing on her first UFC pay-per-view card, as her previous four fights came in “Fight Night” and “Ultimate Fighter Finale” events.
Prediction: Andrade’s biggest strength is her seemingly reckless striking game that she mixes well with the occasional takedown. Calderwood is great though at using her range and distance to keep opponents at the space she wants them at, plus she has her personal and financial problems cleared up, which is a first in her UFC run. Calderwood survives the first round onslaught from Andrade before taking over with her more technical striking game to get a split decision win.
Preliminary Card Quick Picks
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1 – 8PM EST.)
Bethe Correia over Jessica Eye
Nik Lentz over Michael McBride
Brad Tavares over Caio Magalhaes
Francimar Barroso over CB Dollaway
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass – 7PM EST.)
Yancy Medeiros over Sean Spencer
Drew Dober over Jason Gonzalez