UFC 215 has taken a big hit this week with the removal of a flyweight title fight but there’s certainly still a lot of fun to be had in Edmonton, Canada.
With a women’s bantamweight title fight between two feared strikers now headlining the card, UFC 215 is supported by a bevvy of great matchups on the main card that should guarantee fireworks.
Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)
This fight may well be decided by how each fighter starts.
Nunes is unquestionably a fast starter and blazed her way through both Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Shevchenko meanwhile has a more composed and calculated fighting style and will be the more technical striker on the feet.
Since their first fight, both women have made improvements but I think Shevchenko has improved in the places where she was lacking, notably on the ground.
It’s a tough pick, as most fights are at the elite level, but I’ll side with Shevchenko picking up through the gears as the fight wears on and controlling the later rounds.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko
Rafael dos Anjos (26-9) vs Neil Magny (19-5)
Magny is a big welterweight and will dwarf RDA in the Octagon and that simple size and experience advantage at 170 lbs would normally be enough if he were taking on a fighter jumping up in weight.
Dos Anjos, however, has the style that has caused Magny fits in the past as the Brazilian will walk Magny down and remove his normal tools and game plan.
Whether Dos Anjos can actually apply that pressure to Magny will be the big question of this fight as Magny can pile up the damage when on the ascendancy so it’ll be in RDA’s best interests to take a page from Lorenz Larkin’s book and start as he means to go on.
It’s a very tough pick as neither man has produced their best in recent bouts but I’ll plump with Magny’s wrestling and top game being too heavy for the smaller man.
Pick: Neil Magny
Ilir Latifi (12-5, 1 NC) vs Tyson Pedro (6-0)
This is a tough pick for the sole reason that Pedro is an unknown quantity.
He clearly has a ton of potential and is a natural finisher of fights but the young Australian has never seen the second round in his unbeaten career.
Latifi is a strong wrestler and equally as good in the clinch but those advantages are shared with Pedro who more than likely has a better submission game.
A more sensible pick would be Latifi having too much experience for Pedro and providing the unbeaten fighter with a learning curve. However, light heavyweight needs some new blood so I’ll pick Pedro to catch his Swedish opponent with something heavy and find a seventh straight finish.
Pick: Tyson Pedro
Gilbert Melendez (22-6) vs Jeremy Stephens (25-14)
Melendez is the more complete fighter here but he hasn’t fought since July last year and hasn’t recorded a win since 2013.
The move to featherweight may provide a new lease of life for Melendez and Stephens’ fairly one-dimensional striking game may give ‘El Nino’ the chance to pick his moments but picking a fighter as out of form as Melendez isn’t advisable.
I’d expect Stephens to be taken down once or twice but find his way back to his feet and make the most of the exchanges on the feet.
Pick: Jeremy Stephens
Henry Cejudo (10-2) vs Wilson Reis (22-7)
Reis’ jiu-jitsu is famed but Cejudo has the ability to avoid the ground if he so chooses.
Cejudo is markedly better on the feet and the dominant loss to Demetrious Johnson in Reis’ last fight may have a lasting effect.
Pick: Henry Cejudo
(Last Predictions: 4/4, Total: 67/108, 62% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)