UFC 212: Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway Full Card Preview and Predictions
UFC 211 was a breath of fresh air for MMA fans. 2017 has been a flop of a year thus far, and Saturday night's card marked the year's first true "event."
The company's next foray onto pay-per-view comes on June 3 as the UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro for UFC 212. The full card stands as follows:
Main Card (Pay-Per-View)
- Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
- Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
- Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
- Paulo Borrachinha vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
- Erick Silva vs. Yancy Medeiros
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
- Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
- Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
- Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
- Iuri Alcantara vs. Brian Kelleher
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
- Leonardo Santos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
- Viviane Pereira vs. Jamie Moyle
- Luan Chagas vs. Jim Wallhead
- Marco Beltran vs. Deiveson Alcantara
While it's not as good as this weekend's card (and lacks a certain former middleweight champion), there is still plenty of intrigue to be found here. As such, it's worth taking a look over the full UFC 212 lineup and discussing the many, many fights lined up for the event.
Erick Silva vs. Yancy Medeiros
Erick Silva was the original Sage Northcutt; a young, athletic fighter the UFC identified as a star in the making and pushed heavily. Unfortunately, while wins and losses don't mean much in MMA, they do mean something, and Silva's propensity for being knocked out sucked nearly all the wind out of his sails. He won't have an easy time getting it back, either, facing the tough Yancy Medeiros.
Viviane Pereira vs. Jamie Moyle
The UFC isn't quite sure what to make of Viviane Pereira. Her 12-0 record has largely come at the expense of regional-level talent, but her debut win over former contender Valerie Letourneau suggests there's something there. The promotion is taking the slow road and pitting her against The Ultimate Fighter season 23 washout Jamie Moyle.
Paulo Borrachinha vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
Middleweight slugger Oluwale Bamgbose's fourth UFC fight is coming up, and that likely means contract negotiations are underway. As such, he gets a high-risk, low-reward fight against fellow power puncher Paulo Borrachinha. If he wins, he could be looking at a nice contract offer from any number of promotions. If he loses? Good luck...
Luan Chagas vs. Jim Wallhead
Luan Chagas is 0-1-1 in the UFC. Jim Wallhead is 0-1. Neither man has shown much to inspire confidence in their prospective value. This is a likely loser-leaves-town match, and that's not a great spot to be in for Wallhead, who will be fighting on enemy soil.
Marco Beltran vs. Deiveson Alcantara
Marco Beltran had a respectable 3-1 record at bantamweight, but his loss to Joe Soto in November sent him down to 125 pounds. He'll be welcomed to the division by prospect Deiveson Alcantara, who will need to show he's legitimate after racking up an 11-0 record against "enhancement talent."
Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
At long last, Marlon Moraes is in the UFC. The former WSOF champion pushed his way onto many top-10 lists at the expense of regional-level talents, but walks into UFC 212 with the chance to cement himself as one of the division's best. He'll have to do so, however, by knocking off longtime contender Raphael Assuncao.
Assuncao has largely flown under the radar but has been a presence in the UFC bantamweight title picture since his 2013 win over TJ Dillashaw. While a lengthy layoff followed by a tough 2016 loss briefly took him out of the running, he bounced back with a split-decision win over Aljamain Sterling in January. He'll have a tall order on his hands in Brazil, but there are very few fighters who should be looked at as a favorite opposite Assuncao.
Leonardo Santos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
The UFC seems to be over its fascination with Olivier Aubin-Mercier. The runner-up from TUF: Nations endeared himself to the promotion and Reebok back in 2015, and that earned him some preferential matchmaking and placement on cards. Flash forward two years and he is fighting an undefeated Brazilian in Rio.
That Brazilian, of course, is TUF: Brazil 2 winner Leonardo Santos. 5-0-1 in the Octagon, he has established himself as one of the lightweight division's most interesting up-and-coming talents, despite being 37 years old. While this contest is far from a slam dunk for him, it certainly feels like the UFC is expecting him to win, and the promotion tends to be pretty good about feeding its favorite competitors.
Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
Johnny Eduardo was a top-10 bantamweight not all that long ago, but his momentum was stopped dead by a pair of injuries that shelved him for the better part of two years. Still, there's a reason Eduardo is the striking coach of the famed Nova Uniao camp, and his pure knockout power remained intact despite the time on the shelf. He regained some of his momentum in November by defeating Manny Gamburyan and looks to gain even more steam at the expense of Matthew Lopez.
Whether he can do it, however, is a tough question to answer. Lopez, despite being a humble 1-1 in the UFC, picked up a big win over over the underrated Mitch Gagnon in December, and will own a distinct grappling advantage over the striking specialist. Eduardo will almost certainly open as a favorite here, but don't count out Lopez.
Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
The TUF: Brazil 3 heavyweight tournament winner has settled into the middleweight division quite well to this point, notching a 3-1 (1) record through five fights. The one knock on him is that he is yet to beat a formidable foe, with his biggest win to date coming at the expense of Eddie Gordon. While Eric Spicely isn't exactly a household name, he marks a major step up in competition for ol' "Shoe Face."
This is a matchup that largely favors Junior, which is only aided by the fact it is set to take place in Brazil. If he can take the win convincingly, though, it could lead to bigger things for him at 185 pounds.
Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
Records: Vitor Belfort (25-13 (1)), Nate Marquardt (35-17-2)
UFC 212, in all likelihood, marks the end of Vitor Belfort's days as a UFC fighter. Does it mean the end of his career as a fighter? That remains to be seen.
Regardless, the time is most certainly right for Belfort to hang them up. Long buoyed by his controversial use and abuse of testosterone replacement therapy, which Deadspin reported was covered up by the UFC, he has gone from one of the most fearsome finishers in the sport to a running gag. Punchlines like his deflating physique and his pleas to fans to give him money have come close to outnumbering his punches landed in the cage, with the result being his entry into UFC 212 riding back-to-back-to-back knockout losses (more or less).
Still, the 20-year veteran remains a favorite for old school fans and a legend in his native Brazil. As such, the UFC has given him a relatively manageable final foe in fellow shopworn old-timer Nate Marquardt.
After a brutal 1-4 start to his second run in the UFC, Marquardt has reestablished himself as a solid middleweight over the last 18 months, alternating wins and losses opposite formidable competition. He retains some of the pop and power that made him a contender, but, at 38 years old and with 54 (documented) fights to his name, the former King of Pancrase is in the same boat as Belfort.
As such, the stakes are fairly low in this contest. If Belfort wins, he takes home a feelgood victory that adds some legitimacy to any potential comeback run outside the UFC. If Marquardt wins, he keeps his job as an upper-mid-level 185-pounder for at least a while longer.
The fight is something of a toss-up, but Belfort did show off a bit of the explosiveness in his last fight that made him one of the most fearsome fighters in MMA. That's enough for him to get a reluctant nod here.
Prediction: Vitor Belfort def. Nate Marquardt by TKO in Round 2
Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Records: Claudia Gadelha (14-2), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk's tyrannical reign over the UFC's strawweight division has left many talented women left unappreciated. Two of the greatest testaments to that are Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Gadelha is a legitimate pound-for-pound-level talent. Her high-level grappling and solid clinch work have carried her to victory against all comers to the point where few have been able to even win a round at her expense, never even mind fights.
Kowalkiewicz is right there with her. Originally the toast of Poland's KSW, she established herself as a world-class flyweight long before stepping foot into the Octagon, running through the stiffest opposition the European circuit could muster. When she made the jump to the UFC, her striking skills and strong cardio held up at 115 pounds and carried her into a quick title shot.
The combined records of both women is 24-3. All three of those losses came from Jedrzejczyk and, unfortunately, those losses have disproportionately undermined their credibility.
They'll have the chance to shine at UFC 212, working in the co-main event of a relatively interesting pay-per-view. More importantly, they'll have the opportunity to stake a claim for a title shot in a relatively open division.
Given that this is a three-round fight, the odds heavily favor Gadelha, whose sole weakness is her limited cardio down the stretch. Kowalkiewicz has the tools to stick-and-move her way to victory, but that's easier said than done against one of the most smothering fighters in MMA.
Prediction: Claudia Gadelha def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by Unanimous Decision
Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
Records: Jose Aldo (26-2), Max Holloway (17-3)
On one hand, it's hard to get too excited about a featherweight title match between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway. While the UFC 212 main event is billed as a "Champion x Champion" affair, their two belts have zero legitimacy therein.
Aldo, of course, came to hold the undisputed title back in November after the UFC stripped the true featherweight champion, Conor McGregor. Holloway's title came into existence during that same dispute, as his UFC 206 bout with Anthony Pettis in December was functionally used to camouflage that strong-arm tactic and wrangle Aldo out of his own beef with the company.
Worse, both men have ugly losses to the real featherweight titleholder on their records, with Aldo famously getting iced in 13 seconds and Holloway dropping three clean rounds to a McGregor with a freshly blown ACL.
That said, while it's easy to scoff at the marketing of this fight and smirk at how it came together...this is likely the best MMA contest booked in 2017 thus far.
Even taking into account his UFC 194 loss, Aldo remains in discussion as the greatest fighter of all time. His low-risk, high-reward striking game and second-to-none takedown defense makes him nearly impossible to build momentum against. That combination led him to lopsided victory after lopsided victory for eight years against the likes of Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Chan-Sung Jung and Frankie Edgar.
Holloway, however, looks to be every bit his equal. After an ugly 3-3 start to his UFC career, the Hawaiian was sent down to the bottom of the division and managed to steadily worked his way up the ranks. Opponents went from failed prospects to steely veterans to former champions and, in time, Holloway found himself wearing UFC gold and owning a whopping 10-fight winning streak.
They come together at UFC 212 at their peaks for a match that should be something special. Aldo currently sits as the favorite, but Holloway is a deceptively tricky stylistic matchup for him, to the point where he gets the nod here.
Prediction: Max Holloway def. Jose Aldo by Unanimous Decision