UFC 203 might be headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem, but plenty of people will be tuning in to watch CM Punk's debut against Mickey Gall.
The unknown is central to the allure of MMA, the idea that at any moment a fight can be drastically changed by just one strike, takedown or submission attempt.
When we literally know nothing about a fighter who is already one of the most popular in the sport, that level of uncertainty turns into must-watch TV.
The former WWE star signed with the UFC in 2014 but has yet to actually fight professionally. The main card of the pay-per-view broadcast will mark his first foray into professional mixed martial arts.
Here's a look at the tale of the tape between the two, along with the latest odds from Odds Shark and predictions for the fight.
|CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall Tale of the Tape|
|170 lbs||Weight||170 lbs|
|FightMetric; Odds via Odds Shark|
Obviously this is a bit of a rarity. It isn't every day that a man with literally no MMA experience makes his debut in the Octagon.
Thus, even if the fighters themselves have spent little time jawing at one another, there have been plenty of takes in the MMA community regarding this fight.
There were some obvious reactions to the Ohio Athletic Commission's explanation for licensing the fight. According to Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting, Ohio waived the usual stipulation that a fighter have at least five amateur fights before turning pro because Punk had a similar wrestling background to Brock Lesnar.
While Lesnar also competed in WWE before making his MMA debut, the commission kind of skimmed over the whole "used to be an NCAA wrestling champion" part of his resume.
RJ Clifford of SiriusXM made light of the comparison:
RJ Clifford @RJcliffordMMA
Because CM Punk is just like Brock Lesnar in every way except in any way. https://t.co/RqRP6z1neB9/6/2016, 7:29:27 PM
Chad Dundas of Bleacher Report also had a hard time processing the commission's reasoning:
Chad Dundas @chaddundas
When I saw the quote comparing CM Punk to Lesnar I wondered, "Who said THAT?" Turns out, the exec. director of the Ohio Athletic Commission?9/6/2016, 6:26:02 PM
Regardless of the decision-making process, Punk is licensed to fight, and regardless of the laughable justification, everyone should be OK with that. After all, he's a 37-year-old man who is fully aware of the risks he's going to encounter, and he's worked hard to get to this point.
Josh Gross of the Guardian noted that this is far from the MMA's most exotic sideshow:
Josh Gross @yay_yee
Think Punk-Gall is a questionably licensed fight? Naa. Modern UFC has done far worse. (E.g. Gannon-Hinkle, Toney-Couture. Jones-Belfort.)9/6/2016, 8:39:25 PM
Once you get over the fact that a man from the world of professional wrestling is being licensed to fight, there is another side to this equation. At 24 years old, Gall has created quite the opportunity for himself to show what he can do, and several people have pointed out that he's also of interest in this fight and beyond.
Patrick Wyman of Bleacher Report commented on his overall skills:
Meanwhile, Brent Brookhouse of MMAjunkie cautioned viewers to slow down on taking too much away from this fight about Gall. His other opponents have never won a fight, either:
Brent Brookhouse @brentbrookhouse
If (more likely when) Gall beats Punk he'll be 3-0 as a pro, opp. combined rec. 0-3. Talented kid but go slow on crowning him.9/1/2016, 10:49:49 PM
Ultimately, this fight is what it is. Punk is an intriguing name whom a lot of people want to see compete going against a young fighter who might actually be really good or just another young fighter with a win or two on his resume.
We won't know until the two are actually in the cage on Saturday night, which brings us to...
When predicting this fight, it's important to remember that we're working with a very limited set of information. Gall has two professional fights and Punk has...well, Punk has training footage, and it's a little rough around the edges at best.
You'll be hard-pressed to find very many people who will pick Punk in this one. He's 37 years old, and after years of the grind of professional wrestling, it's hard to envision him having enough vigor left for a second career in MMA.
However, the thought process as to how the fight will play out differs.
Chris Huntemann of Combat Press sees a rather boring fight that will wind up as a decision win for Gall:
I expect a very cautious approach by both guys. Whether or not Punk admits it, he will have butterflies when he steps into the Octagon and therefore will take a defensive approach. Gall might be amped to take out the former pro wrestler, but I also think he doesn’t want to take unnecessary risks and suffer a “humiliating” loss. This fight goes the distance, and it won’t be particularly exciting to watch.
However, Wyman sees the fight ending a little more quickly, citing the fact that Gall is simply better:
There's no real reason to think CM Punk will win this fight. Gall is younger and isn't beat up from decades as a professional wrestler. Every bit of visual evidence we have suggests Gall is the better athlete and the more skilled fighter. He knocks Punk down and finishes with a submission in the first round.
Ultimately, it's easier to see the fight playing out the way Wyman describes. Even if Punk proves that he can take the punishment necessary to last beyond the first round, he'll still have to prove that he has the conditioning to go multiple rounds.
Huntemann's point about Gall starting slowly certainly makes sense and could easily apply, but Punk will likely run out of gas in the second round before Gall feels comfortable enough to take advantage.
Prediction: Gall by second-round submission