UFC Fight Night 148 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 21, 2019

UFC Fight Night 148 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Stephen Thompson
    Stephen ThompsonJohn Locher/Associated Press

    It's been an odd road of late for Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson.

    The celebrated kickboxing world champion stormed into the UFC in 2012 after just five bouts in other shows. His first fight: a thrilling first-round head-kick knockout of Dan Stittgen. The die was cast, it seemed.

    Wonderboy won eight of nine en route to a welterweight title shot with champ Tyron Woodley. And there is where the proverbial tables began to turn.

    Woodley is known for his plodding, defense-oriented bouts. Thompson not so much. But that's what happened for 25 minutes before judges ruled the contest a draw. The remaining audience members were roused from their slumber and sent home.

    A rematch with Woodley, which Thompson lost, was no better. A win over Jorge Masvidal reminded fans that Thompson is if nothing else a master craftsman, even if it didn't deliver the fireworks everyone hopes to see from him.

    And then there was the loss to Darren Till. Check out the chorus of commentary from fellow fighters, media and fans if you need a refresher.

    In summary, Thompson has been short on offense lately. Given that he's known for offense, he needs to show out Saturday at UFC Fight Night 148 against a similarly dynamic fighter in Anthony Pettis. In terms of its action potential, it feels like the UFC is lobbing Thompson a softball and saying: "OK, buddy. Hit this."

    Those are the stakes for Saturday's main event, going down with the rest of the card from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Our predictions team (Nathan McCarter, Jeremy Botter, Jonathan Snowden and myself, Scott Harris) is here to give you breakdowns and picks for each of the six bouts on the main card. Let's get it on.

Maycee Barber vs. JJ Aldrich

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    Maycee Barber
    Maycee BarberMike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    JJ Aldrich has a solid game, but solid isn't going to cut it against Maycee Barber. Barber has legit skills and a very high ceiling. This is good matchmaking for the youngster, and because of that, it'll take her a little bit to get warmed up. Once she figures out Aldrich's game plan, it's a wrap. Barber ends the fight with a second-round ground-and-pound TKO stoppage.

    Barber, TKO, Rd. 2

           

    Jeremy Botter

    I like the cut of Barber's jib. She's brash and arrogant, but not in a Colby Covington way, and really good at fighting. That's the combination we need in the women's division right now.

    Barber, unanimous decision

           

    Scott Harris

    Barber is a big favorite and appears to have the attention of UFC matchmakers. Aldrich is solid enough competition, but this is teed up for a Barber victory.

    Barber, unanimous decision

            

    Snowden

    I'm a little worried about Barber here. The UFC doesn't have the best track record when it tries to push a favorite new prospect, and it sees big things in Barber. Unfortunately for the UFC, Aldrich is a competent, professional prizefighter. A bunch of people hop off the hype train before it ever gets on the tracks.

    Aldrich, split decision

Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson

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    Luis Pena
    Luis PenaChris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    If you ask me who Luis Pena is, I won't be able to tell you. It just doesn't register. Ask me who "Violent Bob Ross" is, and I get a little excited to see him fight again. Being known only by your nickname isn't a bad thing, and Pena will showcase the "Violent" part of his nickname in this fight. Steven Peterson ends up bloodied and battered.

    Pena, TKO, Rd. 3

            

    Botter

    Violent Bob Ross! Few Ultimate Fighter expatriates from the past, oh, six years have the kind of instant recognition earned by Pena, and with good reason. For one, that's a killer nickname, maybe the best in MMA. And two? He's so much fun to watch. And he's dangerous as hell.

    Pena, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Harris

    When you're Pena, fighting is your world. And there are no mistakes in our world. Only happy accidents. One of the low-key cult figures of the UFC handles an unheralded and inconsistent opponent in Peterson.

    Pena, unanimous decision

            

    Snowden

    "Violent Bob Ross" is a fun little action fighter. Peterson is just there to be the canvas he paints on with punches and kicks.

    Pena, TKO, Rd. 3

Jussier Formiga vs. Deiveson Figueiredo

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    Jussier Formiga (left)
    Jussier Formiga (left)Harry How/Getty Images

    McCarter

    It's a shame this fight has almost no fanfare. It's really good. Like, really good.

    Deiveson Figueiredo will keep this fight standing to avoid Jussier Formiga's top-notch submission game, and that will give him a few opportunities to land big shots. Don't sleep on Figueiredo's power. He'll come away with a solid knockout that stuns the crowd.

    Figueiredo, KO, Rd. 2

             

    Botter

    I've predicted nothing but knockouts so far on this card, but that changes here. Somebody's getting tapped. I don't know who, but I do know I'm looking forward to the scrambles we're going to see until the finish. Formiga is a slight underdog, but he's a wily veteran, and he gets it done.

    Formiga, submission, Rd. 2

           

    Harris

    Formiga has won three straight—tied for the longest streak of his UFC career. But because of his size, smallish for even the flyweight division, and a complementary skill set that hasn't risen to the point it can truly support his world-class jiu-jitsu, he's never viewed as great. On the other side, Figueiredo is on a four-fight UFC win streak. His stand-up chops are serious. But the more seasoned Formiga will find a way to pull an early flash submission at the tail end of some intense early exchanges. Sound the upset alarms.

    Formiga, submission, Rd. 1

              

    Snowden

    The two men are close in age, but there is a vast experience difference. By the time Figueiredo started in the sport, Formiga was already fighting the world's best. In this case, that won't prove to be a good thing for the submission ace.

    Figueiredo has more tread left on the tires and will continue to wonder what defeat tastes like.

    Figueiredo, KO, Rd. 1

John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo

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    John Makdessi (left) hits Ross Pearson
    John Makdessi (left) hits Ross PearsonJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    We know what John Makdessi brings to the table, but not Jesus Pinedo. He's 1-0 in the UFC and largely an unknown. I am not sure he makes a big statement. Makdessi is a bit too tough for him and should run up the score with a competent and steady striking attack.

    Makdessi, unanimous decision

             

    Botter

    Makdessi still owns one of the most horrific knockouts I've ever heard: a spinning backfist to Kyle Watson's dome back in 2011 at UFC 129 in Toronto. That Makdessi is still plying his trade in the UFC all these years later is a remarkable thing considering how little his style is designed for longevity. This is another knockout waiting to happen.

    Makdessi, KO, Rd. 2

            

    Harris

    I'm an unapologetic fan of Makdessi, who is resurgent in the lightweight division. He has one of my favorite jabs in MMA history because I am a nerd. Pinedo feels more like a brawler, and a green one at that.

    Makdessi, TKO, Rd. 2

               

    Snowden

    Makdessi has been fighting in the UFC for more than eight years now, which is pretty wild. If the UFC continues to feed him guys like this every few bouts, there's no reason he can't continue to compete for five more years.

    Makdessi, unanimous decision

Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis

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    Curtis Blaydes
    Curtis BlaydesJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    Justin Willis is a serviceable fighter, and his service here is to lose to Curtis Blaydes. He shouldn't have much to truly threaten Blaydes, but he will be a warm body to make him work. I wouldn't be shocked if Blaydes earned a finish, but I would not expect it to be particularly exciting. This will be a slog.

    Blaydes, unanimous decision

            

    Botter

    I love watching two out-of-shape heavyweights crush each other in the face. It's one of MMA's enduring treats, the thing that can overcome all the sadness bullets shot in our direction every day by this sport. I won't say "this one isn't going the distance" because that would mean it absolutely is going the distance—one of MMA's funny jokes it likes to play on us—but I will say there's a good chance one of these guys leaves the Octagon with a little help from his friends.

    Willis, TKO, Rd. 1

            

    Harris

    Heavyweight is rife, as it always was and always will be, with lovable but plodding knockout artists. Still, no one has definitively claimed the mantle of aging-out icons like Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson. They seem to want Willis to do this, but no dice thus far. Blaydes and his wrestling win the day.

    Blaydes, unanimous decision

            

    Snowden

    Blaydes is one of those guys the UFC kept threatening to give a title shot to. Thanks to Francis Ngannou for silencing that talk. This fight was booked to get Blaydes back on track, but it doesn't promise anything resembling excitement or fireworks.

    Blaydes, unanimous decision

Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis

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    Anthony Pettis
    Anthony PettisChristian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    I enjoy watching Anthony Pettis as much as the next guy, but this seems like a bad fight for him. Stephen Thompson is so crisp on the feet and has a significant size advantage over the former lightweight champion, and Pettis likely can't get this to the mat in any sort of meaningful way. Look for Thompson to be in full control from the outset; I don't foresee a competitive fight. The result may come down to whether Thompson can land a clean shot.

    Thompson, TKO, Rd. 3

            

    Botter

    There was a time I believed Pettis was going to be an unstoppable force for years to come. The very next fight, he was stopped. He's since shown glimmers of the fighter I thought he would become, but he's never been able to sustain it against top talent, and he folds under pressure. That's a bad thing against Thompson.

    Thompson, TKO, Rd. 1

             

    Harris

    Pettis isn't going to be able to get close enough to Thompson to gain a net damage advantage in any one sequence, at least not consistently. Thompson's back is against the wall here. He's billed as a consummate action fighter, and he can't afford another clunker.

    Thompson, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Snowden

    Pettis was in my fight of the year in 2018 and remains as stunningly talented as ever. Here's the thing, though: They have weight classes for a reason, and "Pretty Tony" isn't one of those guys who looked primed to move up a division. Thompson will land the heavier, more telling blows, though it may take him some time to get the motor running.

    Thompson, TKO, Rd. 3