UFC 218: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2017

UFC 218: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC 218 in Detroit is just around the corner with a featherweight rematch leading the charge.

    Little Caesars Arena plays host to Max Holloway's first title defense against former divisional king Jose Aldo. Holloway stopped the all-time great to capture gold, but a win will solidify his position as the true No. 1 at 145.

    The stacked card features two of the most anticipated fights of the year: Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou and Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje. Those two fights alone are worth the price of the event. Fans of heavy leather will get their fill as those two bouts should provide ample fireworks. But the fun doesn't stop there.

    Michelle Waterson and Tecia Torres meet in the PPV opener with flyweights Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis following their lead.

    Who walks out of Detroit with their hand raised? The B/R staff is here to tell you the answer to exactly that. Here are the staff predictions for UFC 218.

TUF Finals: Nicco Montano vs. Roxanne Modafferi

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    Craig Amos

    When sharks from the strawweight and bantamweight divisions smell fresh blood at 125, the belt is going to change hands real quick. But at least for one night, one of Nicco Montano or Roxanne Modafferi will get their hand raised as champ.

    It'll be Modaferri who will exploit her edge on the mat to get the finish in the championship rounds.

    Modaferri, submission, Rd. 4

             

    Scott Harris

    Everyone loves Modaferri, but her game is firmly old school in all the bad ways. Modaferri is a grappling specialist and doesn't move with a lot of athleticism. Montano is no world-beater herself but, uh, I guess this is the title fight.

    Montano won't finish, but she will get the win and the belt.

    Montano, unanimous decision

              

    Steven Rondina

    I don't do this often, but I'm picking with my heart. Modafferi is a true women's MMA pioneer, and her capturing UFC gold is just too great a tale for me to try to cosmically undermine by picking against it.

    Modafferi, unanimous decision

           

    Nathan McCarter

    If Modafferi wins, karma wins. No, she is not the most athletic fighter on the planet. However, Modafferi is a diligent worker who has improved tremendously since returning to the states at Syndicate.

    Montano will certainly have her opportunities, but it'll be the veteran grit that wins the day. Unexpected heavy shots followed by a submission nets the MMA universe a feel-good story for the ages.

    Modafferi, submission, Rd. 2

Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson

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    Craig Amos

    I like Torres on the feet and Waterson on the mat. Because I foresee this devolving into a kickboxing match, the pick is Torres. She's more active and is better at avoid damage. Even though her shots won't do enough damage to make it a dominant win, Torres will land enough to at least make it a win.

    Torres, unanimous decision

               

    Scott Harris

    Torres is the favorite here, but Waterson has an edge. This will be a battle of ranges. Waterson should be able to use her size, kicks and experience to keep Torres out long enough to tee off and garner a points advantage.

    Waterson, unanimous decision

               

    Steven Rondina

    I'm still trying to figure out why Waterson is viewed as an elite strawweight. Paige VanZant is far from being a queenmaker, and those red carpet walks and game show appearances probably haven't helped turn her into one.

    Torres has been too consistent for too long to get me to brush her off here, and I'm expecting her to post a signature, boring-as-heck performance.

    Torres, unanimous decision

             

    Nathan McCarter

    Waterson will once again struggle with the strength disadvantage she has in this division. Torres has solid striking, but her grappling has improved greatly. Unfortunately, her relying on her ground game means it'll be a much less interesting fight than originally thought. Torres takes Waterson down and grinds out a win.

    Torres, unanimous decision

Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje

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    Craig Amos

    So to begin, I'll just say I'm a little bit excited for this fight.

    As for the prediction, I'm going Gaethje. It's not slam dunk—as dangerous as he is, he does take damage, and that could be a problem with a hard-hitter like Alvarez. Still, I give him the edge in a fire-fight, and it may be optimistic of me, but that's what I expect to get out of these two.

    Gaethje, knockout, Rd. 2

            

    Scott Harris

    Great match. Gaethje won't allow Alvarez to shoot out the sides of his stalk-you-down game. Leg kicks and mobility may not even play into it. The young up-and-comer might just pin him down along the fence and keep him there.

    Gaethje, TKO, Rd. 2

              

    Steven Rondina

    I'm not ready to check out on Alvarez as a top-notch fighter quite yet and, personally, I haven't forgotten about Gaethje getting tagged by B-level competition in WSOF.

    This is going to be a highly competitive three-round fight where either guy could come out on top. For me, the pick is...

    Alvarez, unanimous decision

            

    Nathan McCarter

    I was never a hater of Gaethje, but I was critical of his level of opposition in relation to the hype surrounding him. That all changed in his UFC debut.

    He still doesn't have a style built for a longevity, but he has a style that'll spell doom for Alvarez. This will be exceedingly fun while it lasts. Gaethje wins a very Gaethje-like fight—wild and dirty.

    Gaethje, KO, Rd. 3  

Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis

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    Craig Amos

    After a shaky start to his UFC career, Pettis looks to be making good on his talent. His growth has garnered a lot of eyes, and rightly so.

    But did you see how good Cejudo looked against Wilson Reis?

    The former challenger really looked like he's finally put it all together. And if that's truly the case, there may not be a flyweight alive, except for you know who, able to deny him a victory.

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

            

    Scott Harris

    This favors Pettis and those long-range punch combinations if Cejudo forgets he's a wrestler. That's a pretty big "if."

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

          

    Steven Rondina

    Cejudo looked phenomenal at UFC 215, and I'm expecting him to have improved even more since then. I'm starting to buy into Pettis as a legitimate, top-end prospect, but I'm also starting to buy into Cejudo as a legitimate pound-for-pound-caliber talent, and that takes priority.

    Cejudo, unanimous decision

            

    Nathan McCarter

    Pettis has been fantastic as of late, but Cejudo is the future champion of this division. He'll stamp his ticket to another title shot with a stellar finish of Pettis. Cejudo is just too well-rounded and too powerful for Pettis at this stage in the game.

    Cejudo, TKO, Rd. 2

Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou

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    Craig Amos

    Overeem is enjoying a nice resurgence, having won five of his last six. But despite those success, I don't like the way his chin matches up with Ngannou's fist.

    The up-and-comer has some serious power, as well as the look of a future champion. At this point, Overeem is just holding the gate for him, and Ngannou is about to kick it down.

    Ngannou, TKO, Rd. 1

             

    Scott Harris

    Ngannou is the guy to beat here. Everyone wants to pay homage to a canny veteran like Overeem, but it's not realistic here, which is why most people go ahead and pull the lever for Ngannou.

    Ngannou is more than just tremendous power. He's also speed and great fight acumen. That's enough to beat Overeem, who for all his greatness will show all his 37 years in there.

    Ngannou, TKO, Rd. 2

              

    Steven Rondina

    It's easy to become infatuated with the massive Frenchman, but I'm actually feeling like this might be a case of too much, too soon for him.

    Overeem is as legit as they come, and his tighter defensive kickboxing should allow him to outland Ngannou and either take it on the score cards or get the finish in the latter half of the fight.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 3

              

    Nathan McCarter

    Overeem has gotten a lot smarter in recent years, so don't expect him to just stand and trade with Ngannou. Unfortunately, his grappling isn't going to be good enough to pose a real threat. That'll lead to a first-round knockout for Ngannou. Overeem is set to feel the wrath.

    Ngannou, KO, Rd. 1

Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo

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    Craig Amos

    We just saw this fight. It was a decisive win for Holloway. There can be no "learning experience" angle played for Aldo. If either fighter has grown since, it's the fighter who won. The guess here is that history repeats, albeit one round late.

    Holloway, TKO, Rd. 4

           

    Scott Harris

    When you have a rematch situation, it's difficult to take that situation and create a carbon copy of the original.

    Holloway will come in with the same muay thai aggression that gave Aldo fits last time. He'll still have the unassailable cardio. On the other end, you have Aldo, who for my money is still the greatest featherweight of all time.

    If this doesn't instill in Aldo a sense of urgency, nothing will. His defense, his efficiency and his well-roundedness will carry the day this time, and he'll once again address those gas-tank concerns.

    Sound the upset alarms, because we have a new champion and a tantalizing rubber match.

    Aldo, unanimous decision

           

    Steven Rondina

    I'm tempted to pick Aldo strictly based on the fact that he's a bona fide all-time great that has received an astounding amount of disrespect from new MMA fans based solely on his loss to Conor McGregor...but naw.

    Holloway is just too good right now for me to pick against him, and while I'm expecting Aldo to actually look a bit better, look for a fairly handy win for the younger, fresher, probably hungrier fighter.

    Holloway, unanimous decision

           

    Nathan McCarter

    There were a lot of "what ifs" following their first meeting, but I'm struggling to make myself believe this will be different.

    Aldo has been jovial all week in Detroit. He's feeling good. But is it that he feels he'll reclaim his championship, or is he just enjoying the moment?

    Holloway is too far in the zone for me to pick against him. He has the championship mettle to weather the early storm from Aldo. He'll stop Aldo in similar fashion to their first fight.

    Holloway, TKO, Rd. 4