UFC 237: Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Brazil

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2019

UFC 237: Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Brazil

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    The UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro on May 11 at the Jeunesse Arena for UFC 237. It will be headlined by a strawweight title tilt featuring a clash of styles.

    Rose Namajunas will defend the belt against the top-ranked challenger, Jessica Andrade. Namajunas will travel to Andrade's backyard in the hopes of spoiling the homecoming and sending the Brazilian crowd home in disappointment.

    In the co-main event, Anderson Silva returns to action against Jared Cannonier. It is not the marquee matchup the former champ is used to, but it remains a dangerous challenge. Cannonier will be given the opportunity to oust a legend and establish himself as a true title threat in an increasingly deep middleweight division.

    Also on the main card, Alexander Volkanovski will meet Jose Aldo in what may be a title eliminator in the featherweight division.

    The action in Rio will be as hot as the city itself. The 13-fight event features incredible bouts from top-to-bottom.

    It is a surprisingly deep card that should earn your attention.


    UFC 237 Main Card

    • UFC Strawweight Championship: Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade
    • Jared Cannonier vs. Anderson Silva
    • Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski
    • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Ryan Spann
    • Thiago Alves vs. Laureano Staropoli


    ESPN Preliminary Card

    • BJ Penn vs. Clay Guida
    • Thiago Moises vs. Kurt Holobaugh
    • Francisco Trinaldo vs. Diego Ferreira
    • Luana Carolina vs. Wu Yanan


    UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Card

    • Irene Aldana vs. Bethe Correia
    • Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes
    • Raoni Barcelos vs. Said Nurmagomedov
    • Talita Bernardo vs. Melissa Gato  

The Main Event: Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade

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    Namajunas captured the UFC strawweight title at UFC 217 in an astonishing manner by knocking out long-reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It was a fitting performance for a fighter fans got to see develop since her professional debut in Invicta FC in 2013.

    Namajunas returned at UFC 223 to prove the win was no fluke, and she bested Jedrzejczyk in a five-round battle. Now it is time for the other contenders in the strawweight division to try their hand at dethroning Namajunas. First up is Andrade.

    Andrade joined the UFC in 2013 when they started the bantamweight division for women. She was undersized but still showed her technical acumen with a 4-3 record during her 135-pound run.

    When the strawweight division came, it was a prime opportunity to fight at a more natural weight. She has gone 6-1 since dropping to 115, where her physical gifts have enhanced her technical abilities.

    Andrade failed in her first bid for the strawweight title, at UFC 211 against Jedrzejczyk, but she took the lessons from that attempt to become an even more dangerous challenger.

    The Brazilian put a stamp on her claim for another title shot by icing Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 228 in just under two minutes. Few women on the roster carry the punching power that she does.

    Namajunas' second title defense is not simply intriguing due to the stylistic clash, but also because she will go into hostile territory to fight the challenger on her home soil. Usually, it is the champion who is afforded those benefits.

    The challenger brings in big power but also a strong ground game. While Namajunas has fought a few well-rounded fighters in recent years, she has primarily fought striking-first fighters.

    The last time she met a grappling ace was in 2014, when Carla Esparza dominated her for the inaugural strawweight belt. Andrade's wrestling and jiu-jitsu will be the best she has fought since that day.

    The belt is almost secondary. The fighter's personalities, the clash of styles and the environment of Brazil cheering for their native daughter all play a crucial role in why this fight is a stellar main event.

    The pressure of this bout will require the victor to be at the top of their game mentally. It is a test of the elite and what separates them from being just another mixed martial artist.

    Champions rise to the occasion and both of these women are worthy. At UFC 237, fans will be put on the edge of their seats by a tactical battle of wills.

The Co-Main Event: Anderson Silva vs. Jared Cannonier

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    The co-main event pits the former middleweight champion Silva against Cannonier. It is a big moment for Cannonier, but the matchup itself speaks volumes for where Silva is at in his career.

    Father Time is undefeated, and he has been repeatedly beating Silva looking for the knockout blow to send him into retirement.

    Cannonier is an instrument of Father Time and another pawn in his game. Skill for skill, Silva would have dominated Cannonier in his prime. Those skills are still there, but at 44 years of age, they come a little more slowly than they once did.

    It does make the matchup with Cannonier a bit more exciting with an element of the unknown

    Silva managed a quality performance against Israel Adesanya at UFC 234, but he was never truly in a position to win the fight. The younger, quicker striker cruised. Cannonier looked fantastic in his middleweight debut at UFC 230 with a second-round TKO against David Branch.

    Cannonier may not be a spring chicken himself at 35-years-old, but he is still in his athletic prime. His skills have not yet faded as Silva's have recently. He is shredded at middleweight with quick, heavy hands.

    Silva, and his legion of fans, are looking for that one last shining moment. That feel-good ending to a storied career. But in combat sports, it rarely happens. That is the story here. Can Silva drink from the fountain of youth and get one last stunning victory under his belt in front of a home crowd, or will Cannonier sadden the MMA world by violently ending his UFC tenure?

    There is no pressure on the American. He gets a shot at a legend in a co-main event. The weight is firmly on Silva's shoulders, and we will find out on May 11 if he still has the strength to lift an entire nation.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: BJ Penn vs. Clay Guida

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    Many times the fight to watch is a battle between exciting fighters or something under the radar with significant stakes. Here, at UFC 237, the fight to watch comes under a dark cloud.

    Former two-division champion BJ Penn will return to the Octagon with an active restraining order against him, per MMAJunkie.com's Steven Marrocco

    Shealen Uaiwa, Penn's longtime partner, alleged Penn verbally and sexually abused her. Penn's team released a statement on his website refuting the allegations.

    As it stands now, as Dana White told TSN's Aaron Bronsteter, Penn is still slated to compete in Brazil. The bout is scheduled to be the featured prelim on ESPN.

    Even from a pure fight perspective, this fight draws curious eyes. Penn has not won a fight since 2010. He has gone 0-6-1 since, including a submission loss to Ryan Hall at UFC 232 in December. His opponent, UFC vet Clay Guida, has had middling results in recent years but at least has been able to pick up a few wins.

    Penn's name in the sport still puts him in this position, but his personal life's troubles are putting this fight on a platform he may not want it to have. There is little to be excited about regarding this fight. The optics are terrible in and out of the cage.

    Guida is put in a tough position, but focusing on a broken Penn will allow him to potentially get the biggest win of his career. That is if it happens. There is still time for the UFC to change course and remove Penn from the card entirely.

    Penn's issues are notable and worth watching as the event draws near.

The Best of the Rest

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    Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski

    A featherweight title shot could be on the line when former champion Aldo meets Volkanovski. Aldo is the No. 1-ranked contender and Volkanovski enters as the No. 4-ranked contender. The only other potential contender for Holloway is No. 3-ranked Frankie Edgar, who still has not returned from injury.

    The door is open for Aldo or Volkanovski to lay claim to a title shot as the top active contender.

    Volkanovski is on an incredible 16-fight win streak and coming off a victory over Chad Mendes. A win over Aldo should put him in the catbird's seat, but Aldo has shown he is still capable of putting away contender after contender.

    With the stakes so high, this is the second most important fight on the card and could be a changing of the guard with Volkanovski staking claim as a title contender.


    Francisco Trinaldo vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

    On the ESPN undercard, Francisco Trinaldo and Carlos Diego Ferreira will compete in an underrated lightweight scrap.

    After two years away, Ferreira returned in 2018 with a TKO win over Jared Gordon. He followed that up with two more victories. A win over Trinaldo should net him a ranked opponent later in 2019 and mark him as a potential contender in the division.

    Trinaldo has gone 2-2 in his last four bouts. A win over Ferreira would net him back-to-back wins and put him on the path for a final trek toward being ranked. His window is closing, and the urgency he will have at UFC 237 will make this an incredible fight.


    Irene Aldana vs. Bethe Correia

    The bantamweight division needs contenders, and Irene Aldana could move into the title picture with a win over former title challenger Bethe Correia.

    Correia hasn't fought since a 2017 knockout to Holly Holm. She is 1-3-1 in her last five fights, but she brings a forward pressure that should ensure the matchup with Aldana will carry a lot of action.

    In spite of Correia's recent record, Aldana will be on a three-fight streak if she can pick up the win. Only No. 6-ranked Aspen Ladd, No. 3-ranked Ketlen Vieira and No. 1-ranked contender Germaine de Randamie have active streaks of three wins or more.

    Aldana having a streak gives her leverage to force the UFC into elevating her into a contender's bout.


    Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes

    Circle this bout. It is the dark horse for Fight of the Night.

    Warlley Alves and Sergio Moraes are two of the most unheralded fighters on the UFC roster, and they bring excitement into the Octagon.

    Their clash will be furious. Moraes has a stellar ground game but loves a good fist fight. Alves will oblige. No matter if standing or on the ground, this matchup will be high-level excitement.

    Expect each man to grab some bonus money from the UFC during this 15-minute war.