UFC 227 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterAugust 2, 2018

UFC 227 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

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    Cody Garbrandt (left) watches as TJ Dillashaw takes the bantamweight belt following their first meeting.
    Cody Garbrandt (left) watches as TJ Dillashaw takes the bantamweight belt following their first meeting.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    UFC 227 is a two-fight event. Outside the main and co-main events, it gets bleak real quick, but that is one tasty pair of aces at the top of the card.

    TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt are the two best bantamweights in the world, and they do not care for each other. Saturday's rematch will see Dillashaw defend his title against the man he took it from. It's a grudge match at the highest level.

    There's a second strap at stake in the co-main event. Flyweight king Demetrious Johnson is the best fighter in the world right now, and a second win over Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo would make the division about as close to cleaned-out as it'll get.

    The main card is five fights long, even if the clear focus lies at the top even more here than normal, thanks in part to a visit from our old friend the injury bug. Good thing it didn't reach those top two fights, or we'd be dead in the water.

    Our picks team is here to break down each main card contest and give a prediction. Nathan McCarter, Matthew Ryder, Steven Rondina and myself, Scott Harris. Let's get it on.

Cub Swanson vs. Renato Moicano

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    Cub Swanson
    Cub SwansonMel Evans/Associated Press

    Steven Rondina

    Cub Swanson has lost a step, but even in his prime, he struggled with fighters that actively looked to grapple with him. Renato Moicano won't dominate, but he'll get a takedown or two and keep things clinched up long enough to score an unsatisfying, boring, split-decision win.

    Moicano, split decision

         

    Nathan McCarter

    I won't disagree that Swanson has lost a step, but I don't think it's that big of a step. A child's step, perhaps. And that means there is still enough in the tank for him to finish Moicano. They'll get into a wild exchange where Swanson's power becomes the difference.

    Swanson, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Matthew Ryder

    The main card should kick off with some gusto when Swanson and Moicano clash. Moicano has been getting some attention from hardcore fans, but Swanson has been doing it for longer and against higher-level competition. Look for him to keep the Brazilian from getting takedowns or even a clinch, bang it out for a while and eventually take home a decision for his efforts.

    Swanson, unanimous decision

         

    Scott Harris

    When it goes, it goes fast. Swanson will still have steady work if he drops his third straight here, but conversation about where his best days lie relative to his current location will gain steam if he loses to the younger Moicano, a talented if not scintillating grapple-grinder. That will be the case Saturday when Moicano stubs out the Jackson-Wink great on the ground.

    Moicano, unanimous decision

Polyana Viana vs. JJ Aldrich

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    Polyana Viana
    Polyana VianaBuda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Rondina

    Polyana Viana is 10-1 at the expense of a lot of fighters with even or close-to-even records, while JJ Aldrich has actually beaten some solid competition. I'd agree with Viana having the higher career ceiling, but right now? This is Aldrich's fight to lose.

    Aldrich, unanimous decision

         

    McCarter

    Aldrich is a fine prospect in her own right, and she does a lot of things well, but Viana is a top-tier prospect. Expect to see the difference in talent and athleticism in this matchup. Aldrich will be able to stay in the fight until the final bell, but she will never be a threat to win the fight. Viana cruises through 15 minutes of work.

    Viana, unanimous decision

         

    Ryder

    Viana is a prospect the UFC seems interested in, while Aldrich is on a nice little run. It feels like a setup for Viana to work a little bit of stand-up, probably get touched up some while she does and then take the fight to the floor and seek a finish there. She'll get it.

    Viana, submission, Rd. 2

         

    Harris

    What does Viana have to do to get a Wikipedia page? She's 10-1 as a pro and never saw a decision in any of those victories. Then she sets the house on fire in her UFC debut earlier this year with a nifty first-round chokeout. Aldrich has had trouble with wrestling and grappling, so Viana's jiu-jitsu should be enough to win the day and get her that Wikipedia page.

    Viana, submission, Rd. 2

Thiago Santos vs. Kevin Holland

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    Thiago Santos (right)
    Thiago Santos (right)Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Rondina

    Thiago Santos is a solid fighter, but he'll be walking a tightrope against a knockout artist like Kevin Holland. I'm predicting he's capable of making that walk...but not too confidently.

    Santos, unanimous decision

    McCarter

    Unlike a lot of late replacements against ranked opposition, Holland has a chance here. Not only because he is a power puncher, but because Santos has a propensity to get wild where he is able to get clocked. But I'll stick with the favorite. Santos will be more composed and rely on leg kicks in the early stages, setting the stage for a bigger blow later. Santos sails through with a knockout finish.

    Santos, TKO, Rd. 2

    Ryder

    Holland is in late and Santos is an absolute marauder in those times he desires to be. This one ends via stomach-churning KO.

    Santos, KO, Rd. 1


    Harris

    And now here is our second Wikipedia-less fighter on the UFC 227 main card. That's 20 percent of this main card that doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Ten of the entire card's 24 fighters also have that status. Not that Wikipedia pages are the be-all and end-all of anything, but it's an interesting metric. Holland is well-rounded, but this should be a slugfest with the berserker that is Santos. Holland could definitely catch Santos with something, and in the spirit of true courage, I'm not going to say I expected it unless it has already happened.

    Santos, TKO, Rd. 2

Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo

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    Demetrious Johnson
    Demetrious JohnsonJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Rondina

    Henry Cejudo has a better chance of winning than almost anybody else Demetrious Johnson has fought to this point...but that's not saying much. DJ's all-over-the-cage skills and ability to adjust will keep Cejudo off balance for the majority of the fight. The gold medalist might be able to take a round, maybe even two...but three? No.

    Johnson, unanimous decision

    McCarter

    Cejudo is a live dog. The first fight did teach him a lot, and he has all the tools to make life difficult for Johnson. I will not be taking a flier on the Olympian. Johnson is the greatest fighter ever to step inside the cage. I'll start picking against him when he gives me reason to, and his last outings did not give me any reason. Cejudo sticks around for 25 but comes up short.

    Johnson, unanimous decision

    Ryder

    I've felt for years that Cejudo was the guy to beat Johnson, but I'm not sure this is his time. He has the tools to handle the flyweight GOAT—otherworldly wrestling, athleticism to rival Johnson and power striking that has gotten better since their first fight. Still, Johnson feels too quick and too slick, and Cejudo won't get close enough consistently enough to do what he needs to win. It'll be a better showing than UFC 197 was, but it will be a loss.

    Johnson, unanimous decision

    Harris

    It's funny to watch everyone say "Cejudo has a real chance here!" before quickly checking off the Johnson-by-unanimous-decision box. It speaks to Johnson's greatness that not even an Olympic gold medalist in the prime of his career with a 12-2 pro-MMA record is enough to gin up serious underdog buzz. Maybe one day the UFC will find a way to truly and deliberately market its best fighter.

    Johnson, unanimous decision

TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt

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    Cody Garbrandt (left) kicks TJ Dillashaw during their first meeting.
    Cody Garbrandt (left) kicks TJ Dillashaw during their first meeting.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Rondina

    TJ Dillashaw's first win over Cody Garbrandt absolutely, positively wasn't a fluke...but he was well on his way to losing that fight before cracking Cody with the head kick that brought about the end of the contest. Unless he can make lightning strike twice, I expect Garbrandt's one-punch knockout power to be the difference-maker, with Dillashaw either crumbling in the first two rounds or barely hanging on en route to a losing trio of scorecards.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    McCarter

    I think Steven is on point here. It's easy to focus on the finish of the first fight, but that does a disservice to how Garbrandt performed. He reclaims the title with a stoppage, setting the stage for a potential trilogy fight in 2019. Garbrandt focuses on cutting off the Octagon and forcing Dillashaw into a phone booth where he'll land the finishing blows.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Ryder

    This is as good as it gets at bantamweight, and maybe at any weight. I can't wait to see it. Skill for skill there's almost no discernable space between these two, as both bring power, speed and finesse along with wrestling and grappling chops. I'm taking Garbrandt simply because I'd like to see a trilogy.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 4

         

    Harris

    This is a rare fight. It's possible to argue that this fight alone is worth the cost of a pay-per-view buy without getting laughed out of the room. (I don't agree with that argument here, but it can at least be made with a straight face.) Both of these guys are so incredibly good. Garbrandt's power is scary, but I'll take the angles and footwork and unorthodoxy of Dillashaw. A memorable back-and-forth scrap goes the distance.

    Dillashaw, unanimous decision

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