UFC Fight Night 131: Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes

Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes

This main event matchup between Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes has been brewing up for quite a while.

The two were in the works to go at it on short-notice not that long ago, but Moraes changed his terms and backed out of the contest. However, now, Rivera and Moraes will be given the opportunity to lay hands on each other as they step in and feature in the showcase bout of UFC Fight Night 130 in Utica, New York.

This fight is a very significant one regarding how the bantamweight division is shaping up. Rivera, who is on a 20-fight winning streak and is 5-0 in the UFC, is one of the top contenders at bantamweight right now but has been unable to secure a big-name matchup.

Not long after arriving in the UFC, Moraes has now become a major threat to the top guys in the division. He was once a World Series of Fighting champion and will enter the cage this weekend on a two-fight winning streak that includes big victories over Aljamain Sterling and John Dodson.

Prediction: Jimmie Rivera inside the distance

Bet: Jimmie Rivera to win

Gregor Gillespie vs. Vinc Pichel

Gregor Gillespie is a legitimate lightweight threat who is yet to breakthrough and gain widespread attention, much like Rivera who is in the main event. Gillespie will be fighting Vinc Pichel, who is on a four-fight winning streak over as many years.

Since arriving at the UFC in 2016, Gillespie has managed wins against Glaico Franca, Andrew Holbrook, Jason Gonzalez, and Jordan Rinaldi, who are all below-average fighters for the division. Pichel, who is by no means a top contender, is certainly a step up for Gillespie and it will be interesting to see how this fight plays out.

At the very least, both of these guys are known for their wildly entertaining styles.

Prediction: Vinc Pichel inside the distance

Bet: Vinc Pichel to win

Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz

The token heavyweight clash of the evening is a battle between Walt Harris and Daniel Spitz. Neither Walt Harris nor Daniel Spitz have been successful in their UFC career so far, and have been skipping between wins and losses.

Harris has been around since 2014 and is now 3-4 in the UFC’s heavyweight division after recent defeats to Fabricio Werdum (on short notice) and a disqualification loss to Mark Godbeer at UFC 217.

Spitz recently got back to winning ways by defeating Anthony Hamilton in his last outing. He picked up that win in just 24 seconds at UFC Fight Night 116.

Both Harris and Spitz pack plenty of power in their hands, so this one might not last long.

Prediction: Walt Harris inside the distance

Bet: Walt Harris to win

Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders

One year after being crushed by a vicious Mike Perry elbow, Jake Ellenberger will return to the UFC’s Octagon to battle with Ben Saunders at UFC Fight Night 131.

The devastating KO loss to Mike Perry became Ellenberger’s second consecutive KO/TKO defeat and his fourth defeat in his last five fights. His only win during this time came against Matt Brown in a fight at UFC 201.

Ellenberger’s chin will be tested against Ben Saunders, who is entering this fight after two KO/TKO defeats of his own. Saunders, who is a 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu student, was recently on the bad end of the contest with fellow 10th Planet fighter Alan Jouban in February.

Prediction: Jake Ellenberger by decision

Bet: Jake Ellenberger to win

Julio Arce vs. Daniel Teymur

Daniel Teymur will drop down to featherweight and do battle with Julio Arce in a fierce contest in the 145 lbs category.

Teymur, who usually competes at lightweight, will make the drop down one weight class after struggling against Danny Henry at UFC Fight Night 113 nearly one year ago. Despite winning Fight of the Night honors, Teymur ended up on the wrong side of the decision and tasted defeat for the first time in his seven-fight career.

Julio Arce is riding a six-fight winning streak and only recently earned his spot in the UFC, as well. Arce made his way through Dana White’s Contender Series after defeating Peter Petties and earned a call-up to the UFC. In his debut with the promotion, he defeated Dan Ige via unanimous decision and now looks to make it two in a row in the featherweight division.

Prediction: Julio Arce by decision

Bet: Julio Arce to win

Gian Villante vs. Sam Alvey

It’s a strange old scrap, but Gian Villante will clash with Sam Alvey in a fight that no one asked for.

Villante steps in after a big win over Francimar Barroso at UFC 220. The win marked his return to form after experiencing two losses to Mauricio Rua and Patrick Cummins in 2017.

Sam Alvey also returned to winning ways with a win in his last contest. He defeated Marcin Prachnio in a fight that not many predicted Alvey to win. He proved that his hands are still powerful enough to knock an unsuspecting fighter in the division out with ease and Villante will need to be careful of the stopping power in Alvey’s hands.

It makes sense to go with Gian Villante here as he is more skilled than Alvey overall, but Alvey does have that one-shot power that can end fights.

Prediction: Sam Alvey inside the distance

Bet: Sam Alvey to win

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UFC Fight Night 131 fight card

UFC Fight Night 131 begins on UFC Fight Pass from 6:30 pm ET (10:30 pm GMT) on Friday, June 1.

FS1 Main Card (10:00 pm ET / 2:00 am GMT)

  • Jimmie Rivera [-110] vs. Marlon Moraes [+101]
  • Gregor Gillespie [-503] vs. Vinc Pichel [+377]
  • Walt Harris [-308] vs. Daniel Spitz [+252]
  • Jake Ellenberger [-159] vs. Ben Saunders [+131]
  • Julio Arce [-184] vs. Daniel Teymur [+156]
  • Gian Villante [+116] vs. Sam Alvey [-144]

FS1 Prelims (8:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)

  • Sijara Eubanks vs. Lauren Murphy
  • Nik Lentz vs. Leonardo Santos
  • Belal Muhammad vs. Chance Rencountre
  • Desmond Green vs. Gleison Tibau

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims (6:30 pm ET / 10:30 pm GMT)

  • Jessica Aguilar vs. Jodie Esquibel
  • Johnny Eduardo vs. Nathaniel Wood
  • Jarred Brooks vs. Jose Torres

UFC Fight Night 130: Stephen Thompson vs. Darren Till

Stephen Thompson vs Darren Till

This main event is a pay-per-view quality fight.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will step inside the cage with Darren Till in what is expected to be a display of high-level striking.

Thompson’s experience as a kickboxer shines every time he enters the UFC’s Octagon. He manages the distance of the fight with ease and peppers his opponent with side kicks, straight punches, and any other strike that is deemed best at the time. He can switch between orthodox and southpaw stance and be just as effective from both positions. If it weren’t for two extremely narrow fights that went to decision against current champion Tyron Woodley, Thompson would be the current UFC welterweight champion. Most recently, Thompson returned to winning ways against Jorge Masvidal and will be looking to score a big win here and gain another shot at Woodley and the belt.

Darren Till has quickly become of the brightest stars across the UFC’s entire roster. He had always looked sharp inside the cage, and his world-class striking resulted in him outclassing many opponents. His major claim to fame was defeating Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a terrifying way in his last fight. Till was matched against “Cowboy,” and many people were confused as to why Till was even being matched against the veteran. We now know why. Expect big things from Darren Till, even if he can’t get the job done this weekend against “Wonderboy.”

Prediction: Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision

Bet: Stephen Thompson to win

Neil Magny vs. Craig White

Neil Magny was originally scheduled to face Gunnar Nelson in a welterweight clash this weekend in Liverpool, but a meniscus injury has forced Nelson out of the contest.

In steps Craig White, who is a 14-7 fighter from England. White is on a four-fight winning streak in Cage Warriors and has finished all four of these fights inside the first two rounds. White has juggled defeats and victories through his career, but he is now riding the equal-best winning streak of his 21 fight career at the moment.

He’ll be facing Neil Magny, who likely needs no introduction to those familiar with the UFC. Magny is a skilled welterweight who has never been able to put it all together to climb the rankings with speed and stay there. Instead, he has picked up major wins every now and again but then lost momentum almost immediately in the next fight after. An example is when he finished Hector Lombard in a brilliant come from behind win, to then lose to Lorenz Larkin in the first round. The same thing happened when he defeated Hendricks, only to lose to Rafael Dos Anjos in the first round in the very next fight.

Prediction: Neil Magny by unanimous decision

Bet: Neil Magny to win

Jason Knight vs. Makwan Amirkhani

Jason Knight quickly developed a fanbase in the UFC when he put four wins together against tough competitors in the featherweight division. Knight picked up big wins against Jim Alers, Daniel Hooker, Alex Caceres, and then Chas Skelly to work him all the way up the rankings and earn a shot against Ricardo Lamas. Unfortunately for Knight, he couldn’t hang with Lamas and was finished inside the first round. Most recently, Knight lost to Gabriel Benitez and is now desperately looking to get back to winning ways.

Makwan Amirkhani had his four-fight winning streak snapped by Arnold Allen in March last year. “Mr. Finland” was undefeated in the UFC before meeting Allen, having won all three of his contests and two of those inside the first two minutes of the contest. The fight he dropped to Allen was by split decision, and now Amirkhani, much like Knight, needs to get back in the win column.

Prediction: Jason Knight by submission

Bet: Jason Knight to win

Davey Grant vs. Manny Bermudez

The undefeated Manny Bermudez will look to make it two in a row in the UFC when he meets Davey Grant this weekend in Liverpool.

Bermudez, who is known as “The Bermudez Triangle” is a submission machine and proved that by choking Albert Morales in the second round in his UFC debut in February. With another submission win this weekend, Bermudez is going to start gaining some serious attention as a potential threat in the featherweight division.

After featuring on The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 in 2013, Davey Grant hasn’t been able to get anything going in the UFC. His only win came against Marlon Vera in February 2016, but he has also lost to Chris Holdsworth and Damian Stasiak during his time with the organization. The 32-year-old is now 8-3, and the UFC will surely be running out of patience if he loses another fight.

Prediction: Manny Bermudez by submission

Bet: Manny Bermudez to win

Eric Spicely vs. Darren Stewart

We first saw Eric Spicely when he appeared on The Ultimate Fight Season 23 and was introduced as a supremely talented submission fighter. He proved worthy of that title when he won his first bout via submission inside the house. However, his talent never really became noticed until he easily submitted Thiago Santos in September 2016 after entering the fight as a significant betting underdog. After that fight, he’s since gone 1-2 in the UFC.

Spicely will be up against Darren Stewart, who is yet to score a win in his four fights with the organization so far. Stewart joined the UFC with plenty of momentum behind him after racking up seven victories in seven fights. However, he has now lost to Francimar Barroso, Karl Roberson, and Julian Marquez in the 15 months that he has been fighting for the UFC.

Prediction: Eric Spicely by submission

Bet: Eric Spicely to win

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UFC Fight Night 130 fight card

UFC Fight Night 130 begins on UFC Fight Pass from 10:00 am ET (2:00 pm GMT) on Sunday, May 27.

FS1 Main Card (1:00 pm ET / 5:00 pm GMT)

  • Stephen Thompson [-110] vs. Darren Till [+110]
  • Neil Magny [-500] vs. Craig White [+450]
  • Arnold Allen [-259] vs. Mads Burnell [+236]
  • Jason Knight [-147] vs. Makwan Amirkhani [+135]
  • Davey Grant [+196] vs. Manny Bermudez [-210]
  • Eric Spicely [-195] vs. Darren Stewart [+180]

FS1 Prelims (11:00 am ET / 3:00 pm GMT)

  • Claudio Silva vs. Nordine Taleb
  • Dan Kelly vs. Tom Breese
  • Bradley Scott vs. Carlo Pedersoli
  • Gillian Roberson vs. Molly McCann

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims (10:00 am ET / 2:00 pm GMT)

  • Elias Theodorou vs. Trevor Smith
  • Lina Lansberg vs. Gina Mazany

UFC Fight Night 129: Demian Maia vs. Kamaru Usman

UFC Fight Night 129: Demian Maia vs. Kamaru Usman

This isn’t the main event that was promised for the fans in Chile, but it will surely be a good one. #5 ranked Demian Maia will replace Santiago Ponzinibbio on a short notice battle with Kamaru Usman (#7).

Maia will be attempting to snap a two-fight losing streak as he steps into the cage with the fast-rising Usman. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert has had a tough run lately and has failed in his challenge for the UFC’s Welterweight Championship before also dropping a gritty three-round war with Colby Covington. The story of these two fights was much the same. Maia was never able to get his ground game going because Woodley and Covington are superb wrestlers and defended his takedown attempts with ease.

Unfortunately for Maia, Usman is also a talented wrestler. In fact, he’s one of the more explosive wrestlers in the division and will likely have no troubles keeping Maia away. Usman is also excellent at pushing forward and making his opponent fight off the back foot, so it’s going to be difficult for Maia to shoot in and trap Usman against the cage.

All the signs point to trouble for the aging Brazilian, but there’s always a tiny bit of hope considering his submission skills are probably the best in all of mixed martial arts.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman by KO/TKO – Round 2

Bet: Kamaru Usman to win

Alexa Grasso vs. Tatiana Suarez

24-year-old Alexa Grasso will return to the UFC’s cage this weekend in Chile to face the up-and-coming Tatiana Suarez in what will be an exciting strawweight clash.

Grasso was one of the most-talked-of prospects not all that long ago. However, recently, all of that hype has seemingly disappeared, and now she enters this one after a narrow split decision win against Randa Markos. Grasso is now 2-1 during her time in the UFC and 10-1 as a professional, with her only loss coming to Felice Herrig.

Could Tatiana Suarez be one of the brightest rising stars in all of the UFC? Maybe. She’s got loads of talent and stood out from a tough pack of women on The Ultimate Fighter Season 23 to take home the gold. She defeated Amanda Cooper in 2016 and then came back to outwork 13-0 Viviane Pereira over three rounds in November last year. Suarez is now undefeated after five fights and will be looking to keep her streak alive this weekend.

Prediction: Tatiana Suarez by unanimous decision

Bet: Tatiana Suarez to win

Jared Cannonier vs. Dominick Reyes

The heavy-hitting Jared Cannonier will face rising talent Dominick Reyes in a light heavyweight battle at UFC Fight Night 129.

Despite his talents, Cannonier has struggled to get traction in the UFC so far and has since gone 3-3 after six fights. Most recently, Cannonier was controlled by Jan Blachowicz in a three-round fight in December. That loss quickly erased the memories of his earlier win against Nick Roehrick and his handy work against Ion Cutelaba and Cyril Asker in 2016.

He’s only had two fights in the UFC, but Dominick Reyes has already made a splash.  With a first round KO/TKO victory over Joachim Christensen and a first-round submission against Jeremy Kimball, Reyes has made his presence felt quickly. He’ll look to extend his career record to 9-0 this weekend.

Prediction: Dominick Reyes by KO/TKO – Round 1

Bet: Dominick Reyes to win

Diego Rivas vs. Guido Cannetti

Diego Rivas and Guido Cannetti are all set to square off against each other in a bantamweight fight this weekend.

Rivas and Cannetti wouldn’t usually be featured on the main card, but they are fighting in Chile and Rivas will be representing the local fans in a battle against his Argentinian opponent. After a lengthy break, Cannetti reappeared after his USADA violation to challenge Kyung Ho Kang at UFC Fight Night 124. Unfortunately for Cannetti, the matchup didn’t go his way, and he was submitted late in the first round.

Diego Rivas began his stint in the UFC by featuring on The Ultimate Fighter Latin America Season 1 against Gabriel Benitez. He came back from a defeat in an exhibition bout on the season to then defeat Rodolfo Rubio Perez and Noad Lahat in the UFC. In his most recent outing, Rivas was defeated by Jose Alberto Quinones by unanimous decision in Mexico last August.

Prediction: Diego Rivas by KO/TKO – Round 2

Bet: Diego Rivas to win

Andrea Lee vs. Veronica Macedo

Andrea Lee has finally arrived at the UFC, and she will face Veronica Macedo in her first fight with the promotion.

Lee, who is well-known for her enthusiastic personality and dominant fights at Invicta FC and LFA, is a seriously talented flyweight fighter that will inject some much-needed talent into the list of women in the division. In her last fight, she successfully defended her Legacy Fighting Alliance Flyweight Championship against Jamie Thornton.

22-year-old Veronica Macedo first appeared in the UFC when she faced Ashlee Evans-Smith in Germany. Macedo certainly impressed with her striking ability but fatigued significantly as the bout progressed because she had taken the fight on short notice. The bigger and stronger Smith also outsized her at the time in this bantamweight battle.

Prediction: Andrea Lee by unanimous decision

Bet: Andrea Lee to win

Vicente Luque vs. Chad Laprise

To get the six-fight main card started, Vicente Luque and Chad Laprise will do battle in a welterweight fight.

Laprise has proven to be quite an entertainer in his last three fights and has managed to stop Thibault Gouti, Brian Camozzi, and Galore Bofando consecutively. He’s on a roll of great performances, and we’ve quickly forgotten about two losses to Francisco Trinaldo and Ross Pearson a few years back now.

He’ll be up against the talented Vicente Luque, though, who looked better than ever against Niko Price. Luque had also finished his last four victories before that fight and had stopped five of his last six opponents. His only loss during this time was a unanimous decision defeat to Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Night 107.

Prediction: Vicente Luque by submission

Bet: Vicente Luque to win

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UFC Fight Night 129 fight card

UFC Fight Night 129 begins on UFC Fight Pass from 6:30 pm ET (10:30 pm GMT) on Saturday, May 19.

FS1 Main Card (10:00 pm ET / 2:00 am GMT)

  • Demian Maia [+336] vs. Kamaru Usman [-380]
  • Alexa Grasso [+340] vs. Tatiana Suarez [-400]
  • Dominick Reyes [-231] vs. Jared Cannonier [+190]
  • Diego Rivas [-145] vs. Guido Cannetti [+130]
  • Andrea Lee [-330] vs. Veronica Macedo [+267]
  • Chad Laprise [+171] vs. Vicente Luque [-200]

FS2 (8:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)

  • Michel Prazeres vs. Zak Cummings
  • Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Poliana Botelho vs. Syuri Kondo
  • Gabriel Benitez vs. Humberto Bandenay

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims (6:30 pm ET / 10:30 pm GMT)

  • Enrique Barzola vs. Brandon Davis
  • Frankie Saenz vs. Henry Briones
  • Claudio Puelles vs. Felipe Silva

Bellator 199: Ryan Bader vs. Muhammad Lawal

Bellator 199: Ryan Bader vs. Muhammad Lawal

Well, here we are. Many years after Ryan Bader and Muhammad Lawal crossed paths in collegiate wrestling, they’ll now stand toe-to-toe in a battle to proceed in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. Bader and Lawal is the very last matchup of the first round, and the winner will go on to face Matt Mitrione in round two.

Bader is stepping into this contest in hot form. He’s looked superb through his most recent four fights, and it all began with a face-shattering knee that crushed Ilir Latifi in the UFC. Bader then stopped Antônio Rogério Nogueira in the third round before making a move over to Bellator.

Since arriving in Bellator, Bader has claimed the Light Heavyweight Championship by defeating Phil Davis at Bellator NYC and then defended his title successfully against Linton Vassell. The Davis fight was a close one, but Bader returned to finishing ways when he stopped Vassell with ground and pound in the second round.

Muhammad Lawal, or “King Mo,” recently got himself back on track when he ‘outworked’ “Rampage” Jackson in March last year. It wasn’t the most impressive performance, but he got the job done and now enters the tournament with some momentum. “King Mo” typically relies on strategic game planning to defeat his opponents – he can take them down or keep them standing.

Against Bader, though, it’s going to be hard for him to control the pace of the fight.

Prediction: Ryan Bader by unanimous decision

Bet: Ryan Bader to win

Paul Daley vs. Jon Fitch

Well, this certainly isn’t a battle that we had expected to see this year.

Paul Daley, who is a well-regarded name in Bellator, will face Jon Fitch who has only recently made a move over to the organization. Both of these guys are veterans and have been in there with some very high-quality opposition. Now, they’ll compete against each other in what is sure to be an exciting co-main event.

Daley steps in after smashing Lorenz Larkin with a perfect left hook. The win marked his return to form after Rory MacDonald dominated him in the prior bout. Fitch is riding a four-fight winning streak that all happened during his time at WSOF (now PFL) and that included a successful title claim and a defense, as well.

Prediction: Paul Daley by KO/TKO

Cheick Kongo vs. Javy Ayala

In the second and much less important heavyweight clash of the evening, Cheick Kongo will face Javy Ayala on the main card.

Ayala picked up a big upset victory when he crushed Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 163 in 16 seconds in November 2016. That win propelled Ayala to a position to fight Roy Nelson at Bellator 183. Unfortunately for Ayala, things didn’t go his way that night, and Nelson grounded him for the majority of the contest. It was certainly a sign of respect from Nelson, who chose the most convenient path to victory against the heavy-handed heavyweight.

As for Cheick Kongo, we haven’t seen the 39-fight veteran since he defeated Augusto Sakai in May last year. The win marked the fifth consecutive win for Kongo, and he moved to 7-1 in his last eight fights. His only loss during this time was to “King Mo,” who is in the headline bout of Bellator 199 this weekend. Kongo has managed to defeat all of his most recent opponents by way of submission and it’s approaching three years since he finished a fight inside the distance.

Will this be any different to Roy Nelson vs. Javy Ayala? Probably not.

Prediction: Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision

Aaron Pico vs. Lee Morrison

Bellator’s rising star will step back into the cage this weekend when he faces Lee Morrison

Despite just three fights under his belt, most of us know the story of Aaron Pico. The highly-touted youngster suffered a stunning defeat in his MMA debut last year when Zach Freeman submitted him in 24 seconds. He has since picked up his first and second victory in the sport by defeating Justin Linn and Shane Kruchten. Pico has finished both of these guys with highlight-reel knockouts.

This time, Pico is facing another experienced fighter in Lee Morrison. Morrison has 26 fights to his name, and the 32-year-old has stopped his last four opponents. Upon closer inspection, though, none of opposition had a winning record, and his last opponent was 0-10 when they met in November last year.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by KO/TKO – Round 1

Carrington Banks vs. Adam Piccolotti

The undefeated Carrington Banks will get another stiff test when he meets Adam Piccolotti this weekend at Bellator 199.

Banks is 7-0 as a professional and 3-0 since joining the ranks over at Bellator. With a strong wrestling base, he has caused havoc for his opponents so far. This time, however, he faces Piccolotti who is somewhat of an underrated fighter after dropping contests to Goiti Yamauchi and David Rickels. It’s been a sharp decline for the guy who defeated Brandon Girtz in November 2016.

Prediction: Carrington Banks via unanimous decision

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Bellator 199 fight card

Bellator 199 begins at 7:00 pm ET (10:00 pm GMT) on Saturday, May 12.

Main Card (9:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)

  • Ryan Bader [-255] vs. Muhammad Lawal [+294]
  • Jon Fitch vs. Paul Daley
  • Cheick Kongo vs. Javy Ayala
  • Adam Piccolotti vs. Carrington Banks
  • Aaron Pico vs. Lee Morrison

Prelims (7:00 pm ET / 10:00 pm GMT)

  • James Terry vs. Danasabe Mohammed
  • Brandon Hester Diego Herzog
  • Mark Climaco vs. Daniel Oseguera
  • Elias Anderson vs. Hyder Amil
  • Josh San Diego vs. Hohelin Hernandez
  • Dominic Sumner vs. Tom Oswald
  • Khai Wu vs. Cass Bell
  • Josh Paiva vs. Adam Antolin
  • Justin Tenedora vs. David Rivera-Cruz
  • Ignacio Ortiz vs. Matt Aragoni
  • Ahmed White vs. Deron Winn
  • Janay Harding vs. Amber Leibrock
  • J. Okanovich vs. Hugo Lujan
  • Gaston Bolanos Malcolm Hill

UFC 224: Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington

Amanda Nunes vs Raquel Pennington

UFC 224 is headlined by what should be an entertaining duel between Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington. As it stands, Nunes is one of the very best females in the sport right now. She’s the kingpin of the women’s bantamweight division and there is seemingly no way to stop her reign. She terrifying stormed past Miesha Tate at UFC 200 to claim the title before then destroying Ronda Rousey in her comeback fight. She backed up these two wins with a victory over arguably the best complete striker in the division, Valentina Shevchenko. Amanda Nunes is for real.

The champion will be defending her title against Pennington, who has been on a winning streak of her own lately. In her last fight, she practically retired Tate at UFC 205. Pennington outhustled Tate for three rounds before Tate decided to hang the gloves up for good. Pennington’s last two defeats were a while back but they came against the very talented Holly Holm and Jessica Andrade – not concerning.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes is powerful, accurate, and ferocious. Pennington doesn’t offer anything too complex and is relatively flat-footed in her striking approach. It’s hard to see her getting the better of Nunes while standing, but her toughness might see her hang in there longer than many expect.

Amanda Nunes by unanimous decision

Bet: Total Rounds – Over 2.5

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum

This is the type of fight that would make for a really good main event. However, it’s in the co-main spot and that’s fine. Jacare Souza will face Kelvin Gastelum in what should be a very entertaining middleweight affair. Both of these talented fighters bounced back from defeat with a win in their last contest.

For Souza, he marched past Derek Brunson with ease. In fact, it was kind of terrifying the way that Souza walked down Brunson and finished him inside the first four minutes of the contest. Souza is well and truly back in the mix in this division.

As for Gastelum, he ruined the former champion Michael Bisping in Shanghai, China, inside the first round as well. Gastelum had been growing in confidence and quickly rising the rankings until he met Chris Weidman in July last year. No matter, though, because he’s already back in the win column.

Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum’s hands are no joke. He’s lightning fast in this division and extremely accurate, as well. He can work the body and come up high with extreme power. It’s the same way that Souza lost to Whittaker, really. But it’s just hard to see Souza losing here. When he’s switched ‘on,’ he controls the distance and always has the ability to shoot in there and take someone down to the mat and submit them.

Jacare Souza by submission – Round 2

Bet: Total Rounds – Under 2.5

Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper

Mackenzie Dern returns to action here against Amanda Cooper in what should be a highly-anticipated female clash.

Dern, who competed at the highest level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu previously, has now swapped to mixed martial arts and made her UFC debut in March against Ashley Yoder. Dern showcased her elite grappling when she took Yoder down to the mat and controlled her in the final round to score a narrow split decision victory. Now, she jumps right back in the cage just two months later to face Cooper.

Cooper might even be a step down from Ashley Yoder in some ways. She’s certainly quite a capable fighter, but she isn’t one of the best in the division. She’s won two of her last three, but those two wins came against Anna Elmose and Angela Magana. This is arguably her toughest test to date against the rising Mackenzie Dern who has waves of support behind her.

Prediction: Mackenzie Dern flourished when the fight went to the ground last time – it just took her too long to get it there. Her takedown attempts aren’t perfect yet and Cooper might be able to shrug away most of the threat. However, just one takedown might be enough for Dern to do her work and score a submission victory.

Mackenzie Dern via Submission – Round 3

Bet: Mackenzie Dern to win

John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher

While this matchup won’t garner the same attention that the main and co-main event at UFC 224 will, it’s still going to be a fascinating battle.

John Lineker will return to action against the rising Brian Kelleher. Starting with Lineker, it’s important to note that this guy is one of the most heavy-handed punchers in the bantamweight division. There’s a reason that he is named “Hands of Stone.” He knows this, of course, and essentially just walks down his opponent before trapping them against the cage and unloading series of devastating punches. It’s worked to great effect and he defeated six fighters consecutively before he met TJ Dillashaw at UFC 207. Lineker bounced back in a big way when he met Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night 119 and is now looking to make it two in a row.

Brian Kelleher is the definition of ‘sneaky good.’ By that, we mean that he doesn’t look to be all that technical or capable as a fighter, but he keeps getting victories against high quality opposition. Take his UFC debut, for example. He debuted against Iuri Alcantara and finished him in just 1:48. Yes, he lost to Marlon Vera in his next fight, but he has since defeated Damian Stasiak and Renan Barao. This guy is equally impressive and underrated.

Prediction: The thing about John Lineker is that he is brilliant at enforcing his own strategy. Everyone knows what he is going to do, and then he does it anyway. He’ll walk down Kelleher here for three rounds, unless he gets an early stoppage.

John Lineker by unanimous decision

Bet: Total Rounds – Under 2.5

Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida

Two aging fighters who are likely well past their prime will meet in the cage at UFC 224 to get the main card started this weekend.

Both Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida used to be some of the very best to have ever done it. Machida is a former champion, having defeated Rashad Evans in spectacular fashion at UFC 98 back in 2009. It hasn’t been quite the same for Machida recently, however. He lost three of his four fights before being pinned by USADA for a drug policy violation. He returned and was then demolished by Derek Brunson in under three minutes in late 2017. Most recently, though, he picked up a big win over the rising Eryk Anders.

Belfort’s path has been remarkably similar. Also a former champion, Belfort has recently struggled with form. He lost two contests in a row to Ronaldo Souza and Gegard Mousasi before he was then finished by Kelvin Gastelum, as well. However, he recently got back to winning ways with a win over Nate Marquardt  in June 2016.

Who’s going to make it two in a row?

Prediction: Vitor Belfort looked to have improved against Nate Marquardt recently. Machida was what we have come to expect, he controlled the distance and managed Anders from a distance. Will he do the same to Belfort? We think so.

Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision

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UFC 224 fight card

UFC 224 begins on UFC Fight Pass from 6:15 pm ET (10:15 pm GMT) on Saturday, May 12.

Pay-per-view (10:00 pm ET / 2:00 am GMT)

  • Amanda Nunes [-588] vs. Raquel Pennington [+702]
  • Jacare Souza [-140] vs. Kelvin Gastelum [+133]
  • Mackenzie Dern [-217] vs. Amanda Cooper [+205]
  • John Lineker [-234] vs. Brian Kelleher [+212]
  • Vitor Belfort [+236] vs. Lyoto Machida [-255]

FX (8:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)

  • Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson
  • Aleksei Oleinik vs. Junior Albini
  • Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein
  • Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims (6:15 pm ET / 10:15 pm GMT)

  • Warlley Alves vs. Sultan Aliev
  • Thales Leites vs. Jack Hermansson
  • Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev
  • Markus Perez vs. James Bochnovic