UFC 215 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2017

UFC 215 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC will mark its second entry of a busy month when the Octagon travels to Edmonton, Canada, this Saturday, September 9, for UFC 215. The fight-card is looking a little worse for the wear after main event participant Ray Borg withdrew from the event late Thursday night due to illness.

    Borg's withdrawal not only rids the card of its main event, but also its potential to become the answer the trivia question, "At which event did Demetrious Johnson establish the record for most successful defenses of a UFC title?" 

    The bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko now slides into the main event slot. The women are familiar foes, having faced off previously in a competitive bout that Nunes won on the judges' scorecards. This time around the stakes are higher, as Nunes will look to notch her second title defense, while Shevchenko will attempt to capture UFC gold for herself.

    Welterweights Neil Magny and Rafael dos Anjos will square off in the co-main event of the evening. Magny enters having won four of his last five, while Dos Anjos has split a pair since losing his lightweight title a little more than a year ago. 

    UFC 215 will be rounded out by an additional nine matchups, beginning on Fight Pass, moving to cable and ending on pay-per-view.

    The full UFC 215 main card looks like this:

    • Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
    • Neil Magny vs. Rafael dos Anjos
    • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
    • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
    • Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez

    In anticipation of the action, Bleacher Report has assembled its usual team of writers to make some prognostications for the final five bouts of the evening. Read on for predictions from Steven Rondina, Nathan McCarter, Scott Harris and Craig Amos.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez

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    Melendez during a presser.
    Melendez during a presser.Thomas Mendoza/Associated Press

    Steven Rondina

    The original Reebok gaffe might be be past his prime, but so is Stephens. And Melendez's prime? Yeah, it was a lot better than Stephens'. Unless he loses a lot in the cut down to 145 pounds, I'm expecting the former Strikeforce champ to work his way to a handy decision win.

    Melendez, unanimous decision

            

    Nathan McCarter

    I'm interested to see how Melendez looks at featherweight, but he's 35-years-old. Is his body going to be able to handle the cut down to 145, and how can he recoup the damage his body is going to go through?

    These questions make me weary to take him against Stephens, who has acclimated to the weight class. Stephens' strength, defensive wrestling and power will win the day. Melendez wears down and can't take the fight on points.

    Stephens, unanimous decision

            

    Scott Harris

    Could be a loser-leaves-town match, though the heat is definitely more on Melendez, who is older, less "exciting" and less active at this career stage. But here's predicting Melendez plants his feet firmly in the dirt.

    He won't be ushered off just yet. He'll add takedowns to his mix of boxing and toughness. One more big win for the 35-year-old.

    Melendez, unanimous decision

              

    Craig Amos

    Neither guy is exactly on the upswing here, so it may come down to whose game has diminished less. That's not characteristic of an exciting fight, but both guys like to light some fireworks inside the cage, so it could work as a nice kickoff for the main card. I'll say Melendez avoids the incoming powershots and takes it on the scorecards.

    Melendez, unanimous decision 

Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro

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    Tyson Pedro gets his hand raised over Khalil Rountree.
    Tyson Pedro gets his hand raised over Khalil Rountree.Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

    Steven Rondina

    Is Tyson Pedro the next big 205-pound contender? Maybe, maybe not. This fight will be a good way to tell. Latifi is good but not great, but an unproven challenger like Pedro will probably get overwhelmed by his sheer power and physicality. I'll take the Sledgehammer here, but I wouldn't be shocked if this breaks against him.

    Latifi, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Nathan McCarter

    Latifi is a fun fighter to watch, but he is not a high-end light heavyweight. Pedro has a chance to take the next step up the ranks with a dominant performance. Latifi possesses big power, but Pedro uses his size and length to render it useless. Pedro eventually finishes with ground and pound.

    Pedro, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Scott Harris

    We all love Latifi and his horse-riding ways, but he's set up for the upset here. This is the fight of Pedro's life, and he'll bring all of his considerable skills to bear. He can probably keep Latifi on the outside, stave off his power wrestling and find Latifi's chin.

    Pedro, unanimous decision

           

    Craig Amos

    If Pedro gets through Latifi in any sort of fashionable way, like with a quick finish, it'll officially be time to start getting excited about the Aussie. I'll hedge my bets, though, and predict he emerges with the win, but leaves us in limbo by earning it via a closely fought decision.

    Pedro, unanimous decision

Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis

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    Henry Cejudo.
    Henry Cejudo.Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Steven Rondina

    I'm struggling to figure out a way Reis can win this, short of a lightning-quick submission getting slapped on during a scramble. The most likely outcome by a mile, though, is...

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

           

    Nathan McCarter

    This is a real bad matchup for Reis. Cejudo's wrestling is a dominant fall back if he's not trusting his hands, but against Reis, he should be able to score while standing, too. I don't have a lot of confidence in Reis here and feel this is going to be a big showcase for the Olympian.

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

             

    Scott Harris

    Reis needs takedowns, not only as a direct means of success but as way of setting up his heavy shots, which are very meat-and-potatoes on their own. Cejudo has great takedown defense and solid kickboxing arsenal. That will make Reis a sitting duck.

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

            

    Craig Amos

    Reis uses his wrestling to bully opponents, but you've got to believe an Olympic gold medalist can handle the pressure. Assuming Cejudo takes away Reis' primary offensive tool, he'll force a striking contest in which he has a clear edge.

    Cejudo, unanimous decision  

Neil Magny vs. Rafael dos Anjos

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    Rafael dos Anjos in action with Tony Ferguson.
    Rafael dos Anjos in action with Tony Ferguson.Etzel Espinosa-USA TODAY Sports

    Steven Rondina

    Magny is very good and I'm tempted to pick him here but the former lightweight champion is just too savvy for him. Expect Dos Anjos to adjust as the fight goes on, keep the pressure high and take this one on the score cards.

    Dos Anjos, unanimous decision

            

    Nathan McCarter

    Stylistically, this is a good fit for Dos Anjos. However, the physical stature of Magny will create some issues allowing him to implement his typical game plan. If Dos Anjos can get inside, I expect him to control Magny en route to the decision. I believe he can and will do just that. It'll take repeated takedowns and cage control, but the former lightweight champ picks up another big win at 170.

    Dos Anjos, unanimous decision

              

    Scott Harris

    For all the accolades he receives, Dos Anjos is not amazing at stopping takedowns. As it happens Magny is good at applying them. That may be the fulcrum in this matchup.

    I'm picking against Magny because I think Dos Anjos will stop them more often than he doesn't and will have a clear advantage on the feet thanks to his inimitable pressure game. The former lightweight champ takes a close win and moves to 2-0 at 170 pounds.

    Dos Anjos, unanimous decision

             

    Craig Amos

    Magny's fights often get off to a fast start, but I don't see that working in his favor here. He's by no means an easy guy to put away, but I expect Dos Anjos to make a statement in this bout.

    Dos Anjos, knockout, Rd. 1

Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko

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    Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko exchange punches.
    Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko exchange punches.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Steven Rondina 

    I picked Shevchenko back at UFC 213, and I'm picking her again here. She weathers the early Nunes storm and rallies late to take it on the score cards.

    Shevchenko, unanimous decision

             

    Nathan McCarter

    We originally picked this fight for UFC 213, and I have only changed a minor bit. And it's in favor of a finish.

    Shevchenko's calmness scares me, but I think Nunes is being undervalued due to pulling out of the rematch earlier this year. Nunes is still physically at her peak and as talented as anyone in the division. She'll have a point to prove.

    Nunes' power from top position wears down a smaller Shevchenko and sends her to the newly minted flyweight division.

    Nunes, TKO, Rd. 3

              

    Scott Harris

    Nunes will do what she always does, which is come out aggressive and violent. She may also try to take down and punish the smaller Shevchenko with ground strikes. It worked last time, in a three-round fight. It won't work in a five-rounder, where Shevchenko can better use her striking defense and gas tank to win a war of attrition. And new....

    Shevchenko, unanimous decision

             

    Craig Amos

    I expect the fight to play out as Steven and Scott do. Nunes starts strong, fades and loses. I mean, it's not like her previous win over Shevchenko was the first time we saw Nunes lose ground as a fight wore on.

    In fact, Nunes is just 1-3 in bouts that have gone past the first round since 2011. When the action moves to championship frames, she won't have enough left to defend herself against someone as dangerous as Shevchenko.

    Shevchenko, submission, Rd. 5