The UFC comes to Kansas City for the first time this Saturday with arguably its best Fox card yet. The P4P No. 1 looks to equal a record, two top strawweight contenders face off, and one of the best middleweights in the world makes a quick-fire return to action
Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis (flyweight Championship)
The main event features the consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Demetrious Johnson, attempt to defend his flyweight title for a record-equalling 10th consecutive time: a record that currently belongs to middleweight legend Anderson Silva.
Standing in his way of achieving this is jiu-jitsu specialist Wilson Reis, who boasts a 6-2 UFC record, making him as worthy a challenger as any other flyweight due to Mighty Mouse’s domination over all other contenders at 125lbs.
This bout was originally scheduled for UFC 201 last July, a booking that was hardly met with enthusiasm by fans. However, the champion was forced out through injury, and this time around, the matchup has a more competitive feel to it.
Since that cancellation, Reis has picked up two victories, including a submission last July and a close decision win over Ulka Sasaki this February. More importantly however, Johnson’s last defence in December reminded us that he is not (completely) invincible, as he was inches away from being submitted by underdog Tim Elliott, before earning a decision victory.
A similar approach would be wise for the Brazilian Reis, who has won by submission in 45% of his career victories. However, ‘Mighty Mouse’ is regarded as the best in the world for a reason. The American is probably the quickest and most well-rounded fighter alive today. A title-change would be a huge upset.
Prediction: Mighty Mouse via decision
Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson (strawweight)
The co-main event may well serve as a strawweight title-eliminator matchup, as ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas takes on Michelle Waterson. Namajunas was last seen in action at UFC 201 last July, where she dropped a split decision to eventual title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the Fight of the Night.
Meanwhile, Waterson is 2-0 in her UFC career, most recently choking-out Paige VanZant via rear-naked choke last December – a feat she shares with Namajunas. Despite her underwhelming career record of 5-3, the American Namajunas is a clearly talented grappler, with four submission wins to her name, including defeats of Angela Hill and the aforementioned VanZant.
Namajunas has yet to finish a fight with strikes in her career, while ‘The Karate Hottie’ has done so just once in the last seven years, so we can expect the grappling skills of these two fighters to be the deciding factor in this one.
Prediction: Namajunas via decision
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robert Whittaker (Middleweight)
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza may very well be the best middleweight fighter in the world right now, currently boasting a 7-1 UFC record, with his only defeat coming in a contentious split decision loss to Yoel Romero in December 2015.
This is what makes it so frustrating that a fighter as talented as Jacare probably has a better chance at a UFC title shot by moving up a division and challenging for the light-heavyweight title, due to the current shambolic title picture at 185lbs.
Putting that aside, Jacare has a serious challenge on his hands this Saturday, as he faces rising Australian contender Robert Whittaker. Whittaker, aged just 26, is 5-0 in his UFC middleweight run, recently finishing Derek Brunson last November. ‘The Reaper’ possesses powerful, unorthodox striking, as well as solid takedown defence, which could spell trouble for the Brazilian.
If Whittaker can keep the fight standing, then the five-time jiu-jitsu world champion Souza could see his already frail title aspirations crushed once and for all. However, a man as deadly as Jacare only needs the slightest opening on the ground or in the clinch to submit his opponent. This should be a closer fight than most are giving Whittaker credit for, but it is still likely to end with Jacare (‘alligator’) constricting the Australian into submission.
Prediction: Jacare via submission
Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano (Featherweight)
Jeremy Stephens will be making his 25th UFC appearance this Saturday as he squares off against Brazilian Renato Moicano. Stephens (25-13) actually holds the record for the most losses inside the Octagon, having amassed 12 defeats during his 10-year long UFC career. The fact that he has done so without ever facing danger of being cut is a testament to his fan-friendly fighting style, specifically the knockout power he possesses.
The 27 year-old Moicano is 2-0 in the UFC, having made just one appearance since his debut in December 2014 due to various injuries. The submission specialist remains undefeated thus far in his career (10-0-1), and has a powerful rear-naked choke which the American will be wary of. However, the striking prowess and vast experience of Stephens should hand Moicano his first loss.
Prediction: Stephens via TKO
The depth of this card is exemplified by the strength of its prelims. Bantamweights Aljamain Sterling and Augusto Mendes headline the Fight Pass prelims, while recent flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott meets Louis Smolka in the Fox prelim opener.
Lightweights Bobby Green and Rashid Magomedov will do battle before heavyweight veteran Roy Nelson faces Russian giant Alexander Volkov in the preliminary main event.
However, the fight to look out for is the long-awaited UFC debut of exciting French prospect Tom Duquesnoy, as he is heavily favoured to put away Patrick Williams in the penultimate Fox prelim. This should be a very fun night of fights!