UFC 218 Preview
It feels weird to write this, but I am going to miss UFC 218 on Saturday night. It's not because I am boycotting it or because I don't want to pay for it, but because my wife and I are taking a weekend vacation to go hiking. It's going to be strange not spending an UFC PPV night with the crew watching the fights, talking shit, and eating some pizza, but we need to get away and take a break from the outside world. Luckily I'll have Twitter to keep me up to date with the fights and of course I'll go back and watch it on Fight Pass in a few months. So with that all being said, let's ring the bell and talk UFC 218.... If the UFC was still naming fight cards like they used to back in the day, then this one should be dubbed, UFC 218: The Young Lions. This card has some very interesting matchups with young fighters looking to make a name for themselves by taking down established opponents. It's not the most star-studded card by any stretch of the imagination and it will be interesting to see what the PPV buys are for a show headlined by Max Holloway, a fighter in his prime who is riding an impressive 11-fight win streak. While I won't be breaking down every fight on the card, I am going to be taking a look at the fights that have piqued my interest the most.
Early Prelims 6:15pm on Fight Pass
Justin "Big Pretty" Willis vs Allen "Pretty Boy" Crowder
There are few things that I enjoy more than a heavyweight collision between two hosses. The Battle of the Pretty pits the 5-1 Willis against the 9-2 Crowder. After dropping his first fight, Willis is riding a 5-fight win streak, including his UFC debut. Crowder, on the other hand, has been Hulk-smashing dudes through out his career, including his last two victories on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contenders Series and a one-off match in Bellator. Judging by their physiques, Crowder should definitely have the cardio advantage in this one, unless he just completely dumps his gas tank at the opening bell. I am picking Crowder in this one.
FS1 Prelims 8pm
#15 Alex "Cowboy" Olivera vs. Yancy "The Kid" Medeiros
After losing The Battle of the Cowboys to Donald Cerrone in February 2016, Olivera has posted a respectable 4 wins and 1 no-contest run. He avenged his no contest to Tim Means by choking him out in their next fight. Yancy Mederios began his career at 9-0 but has been streaky ever since, getting a win or two here and there followed by a loss. My money is on Olivera, as he is a battle-tested vet who is comfortable in the cage, and there is way less pressure on him than Medeiros, who is still trying to establish himself in the Welterweight division.
Main Card 10pm on Pay Per View
#5 Tecia "The Tiny Tornado" Torres vs. #6 Michelle "The Karate Hottie" Waterson
Let's kick off the main card with a battle of the Strawweights as Tecia Torres goes 1 on 1 with Michelle Waterson. This is an interesting fight as both women were recently beaten by the champ, Rose Namajunas, on her ascension up the ranks in the Strawweight division. What is even more interesting about that is Torres's only loss is to Rose. Hey, if you lose, it's best to lose to the best, right? On the flip side of that, Torres has 9 wins in her career and is riding a 2-fight win streak thanks to victories over one of my favorite fighters, Bec Rawlings, and her first submission victory over Julianna Lima.
Michelle Waterson is as seasoned as a $50 steak. She has been kicking ass and helping to establish women's MMA since her first professional fight in 2007. Waterson's grappling game is strong and she loves to make her opponents go to sleep or tap via her Rear Naked Choke. She also has submission wins over both Paige VanZant and Jessica Penne.
While Torres looks impressive at 9-1, 8 of those victories have come from decisions, whereas Waterson has made her bones choking necks and snapping arms. My prediction is the Karate Hottie gets the win in this this one.
#4 Eddie "The Underground King" Alvarez vs. #5 Justin "The Highlight" Gaethje
HOLY SHIT! I AM FIRED THE FUCK UP FOR THIS ONE!!! This fight is the Old Guard vs. the Young Lion personified. Gaethje is a stud at 18-0, with 83 percent of those victories coming from TKO/KOs. His fighting style is what the fans and Dana White love, as this kid just wants to stand and bang. He is constantly moving forward, imposing his will on his opponents, and just looking to land as much damage as possible. This is hands down his biggest fight to date and a win here could launch him into a FS1 main event or a co-main event on FOX or PPV, but to quote the great Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
Gaethje is facing off with one of my favorite fighters of all time, Eddie Alvarez. You know when Jules pulls out that wallet in Pulp Fiction that says "Bad Mother Fucker" on it? Yeah, he stole that shit from Alvarez. Eddie Alvarez has rained down hell on opponents from Bo-Dog to Dream to Bellator to UFC and whole lot of other places in-between. His record is a who's who of the Lightweight division that includes wins over Shinya Aoki, Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Michael Chandler. Things have been rough for him lately, as he lost the 155lbs belt to Conor McGregor at UFC 205 and then followed that up with a No Contest against Dustin Poirier.
The question here is how much does Alvarez have left in tank? The man has seen it all and done it all competing across the world and is both a former UFC and 2-Time Bellator champ. Gaethje, on the other hand, is on the come up, super aggressive, and willing to stand in the pocket and trade with anyone. While Gaethje's style sells fights, it's an incredible risky proposition to just want to throw leather every time you step in the cage. Eventually you come up against an opponent that won't be suckered into a slugfest and has a more three-dimensional game. I like Gaethje, but I got to go with my boy, Eddie Alvarez...for now.
#2 Henry "The Messenger" Cejudo vs. #4 Sergio Pettis
Welcome to the "two guys that aren't Demetrious Johnson fight." I kid, I kid. These two flyweights are set to collide in the classic battle of a grappler vs. a striker. Sergio is a great athlete with quick hands but not much in the way of knockout power. Cejudo, on the other hand, is a former Olympic Gold Medal wrestler who is freaky strong for a 125-pounder. I don't think that Pettis can hang with Cejudo if and when this thing goes to the ground, and as soon as that happens, Cejudo will be all over him like a cheap suit. If I were in Vegas, I would be dropping some fat stacks on Cejudo at the Sports Book window.
#1 Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem vs. #4 Francis "The Predator" Ngannou
Here is another matchup of the tenured vet vs. a young fighter who is looking to make a big name for himself. If you are reading this column, you know who Alistair Overeem is. "The Reem" has a MMA career that dates back to 1999. He fought in PRIDE, K1, Strikeforce, and DREAM before smashing Brock Lesnar's guts at UFC 141. Love him or hate him, you can question his past with PEDs, but you cannot question the fact that he is one of the greatest Heavyweights of all time.
Ngannou has been wrecking fools since his UFC debut 2 years ago. He is a large, athletic Heavyweight coming in at 6'4" and 260lbs with abs. The big man has a ton of horsepower and can put opponents to sleep very quickly with his heavy hands. He is coming off the biggest win of his career over future hall of famer, Andre Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23.
This is going to sound weird, but I don't think that Overeem should stand with Ngannou. Yes, Overeem is one of the most prolific Heavyweight strikers in MMA history, but people tend to sleep on the fact that he has just as many submission wins as he does KO/TKOs (19 and 19 respectively). Plus Overeem has only been submitted twice in his entire career. My final prediction is if it stays on the feet, it's Ngannou and if it goes to the ground, then Overeem gets the W.
C Max "Blessed" Holloway vs. #1 Jose "Scarface" Aldo
Katy bar the door, because this is going to be one hell of a rematch. The best, active Lightweight competing in the UFC today locks horns with arguably the greatest Lightweight of all time. The last time these two crossed paths, Holloway stopped Aldo with a TKO in the 3rd round. This is an interesting fight because Holloway has evolved so much over his UFC career and is brimming with confidence. I feel that Holloway truly believes that he is the best fighter in his weight class and is able to take out anyone across the Octagon. Aldo is not the invincible boogey man that he once was, but he is still one of the best fighters at 155lbs. He isn't going to be intimidated by Holloway and he certainly won't be intimidated by being in the main event. Aldo has been averaging a schedule of 1 to 2 fights per year since 2010, so he is still in remarkable shape for having such a long career. That being said, Holloway is a way more active fighter and is trying to carve out his own legacy. I am leaning towards Holloway in this one, but I wouldn't be surprised if Aldo gets the win and recaptures the Lightweight strap in the process.
Got a fight that you want to talk about that I didn't? Disagree with my picks? Have a hot take concerning UFC 218? Then head over to the Craft Brewed Sports FB Group and share it with us.