The UFC makes their second trip of the year to Brazil this weekend, offering up an entertaining PPV headlined by a featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway.
Aldo’s interim title was promoted to the full belt when Conor McGregor was stripped last November, before Holloway then won his own interim belt against Anthony Pettis in December. This is a fight a couple of years in the making and is on paper the best fight the UFC has booked thus far in 2017. I could easily write a few thousand words on how excited I am for this fight but I will refrain, for both the benefit of those reading this and mine.
The 12-fight slate, scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena, also features top-ranked women’s strawweights Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the debut of former WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes and possibly the final UFC fight for Vitor Belfort.
Without further ado, here are my predictions for UFC 212!
Fight Pass Prelims
Flyweight – Marco Beltran (8-4) vs Deiveson Alcantara (11-0): Alcantara, a former Jungle Fight champion, makes his UFC debut in the night’s opening bout and he has a good chance to make waves in the division. 10 of his 11 wins are finishes, evenly split between KOs and submissions, and although he looks a bit sloppy, all the tape I’ve seen shows an entertaining fighter. Beltran is scrappy and has a decent defensive guard, but he throws limited volume on the feet and it’s impossible to look past his massive weight cut for this fight – he’s never previously fought lower than bantamweight. I think it’s competitive early before the Mexican fades and Alcantara locks in a submission. Prediction: Alcantara via third-round submission.
Welterweight – Luan Chagas (14-2-1) vs Jim Wallhead (29-10): Wallhead is a proper veteran and it seems quite sad that he’s only made it to the UFC at the twilight of his career. He looked decent in his debut defeat to Jessin Ayari last September but I can’t foresee a good night for ‘Judo Jimmy’. Chagas is a dynamic striker who packs real power and I don’t think Wallhead’s takedowns will be enough to stave off the young Brazilian’s assault. Prediction: Chagas via first-round TKO.
Women’s Strawweight – Viviane Pereira (12-0) vs Jamie Moyle (4-1): This should be a really fun scrap and I’m glad it’s got the featured slot on Fight Pass. Both of these women are prospects in the division and both picked up debut wins, meaning the victor here will have real momentum. Moyle definitely has the edge in the takedown department, but I think the real question will be whether she can a) land them and b) keep Pereira down. If she can’t, Pereira has a wider striking arsenal and a decided power advantage. I think this goes back and forth and will make the judges earn their keep. Prediction: Pereira via split decision.
Bantamweight – #13 Iuri Alcantara (35-7, 1NC) vs Brian Kelleher (16-7): Iuri Alcantara might be the most frustrating fighter at 135 pounds. He clearly has all the talent in the world and for brief periods he looks almost unstoppable, but then he also has tendencies for feats of unbelievable donkery. The man opposite him on Saturday night, New York native Kelleher, has won six straight and possesses the sort of wrestling game that has previously caught Alcantara out. However, this is a massive step up for the American, especially on short-notice, and I expect ‘Marajo’ to lock up an early sub and secure his third consecutive win. Prediction: Alcantara via first-round submission.
Bantamweight – #10 Johnny Eduardo (28-10) vs Matthew Lopez (9-1): This is one of several fights on this card that are flying under the radar but should be fascinating. Lopez has been enthralling in both of his UFC bouts, pushing an absurd pace and always looking for the finish whilst Eduardo is one of the division’s best strikers with effective counter-wrestling. Lopez’s workrate worries me against someone like Eduardo, who has fought just three times in the last five years, but I also can’t look the past the way Lopez got dropped by Mitch Gagnon. For that reason, I’m picking Eduardo but this really could go either way. Prediction: Eduardo via second-round KO.
Middleweight – Antonio Carlos Junior (7-2, 1NC) vs Eric Spicely (10-1): It’s hard to believe, but a win here for Spicely would put him on a three fight win streak in the UFC. Spicely has good jiu-jitsu, receiving his black belt last year, but he also possesses some of the most wooden striking I’ve ever seen (he’s no Cindy Dandois, but it is bad). I’m hoping we get loads of ground exchanges between these two, as they should be fantastic, but I fear that may be wishful thinking. Carlos Junior is the much bigger man, with better striking and wrestling and therefore should have enough to pick up another win. Prediction: ACJ by UD.
Bantamweight – #3 Raphael Assuncao (24-5) vs Marlon Moraes (18-4-1): The headline prelim is probably my second most anticipated bout of the evening. Moraes, currently on a 13-fight win streak, truly became a star with WSOF and is undoubtedly a top-five bantamweight. Assuncao is a tough test on debut, with his wrestling and decent counter-striking enough to see him past most of the division’s best. This is a fight Moraes should win though, as he has the faster feet and he throws considerably more volume. I doubt he’ll get the finish, but it should be a good start for the new import. Prediction: Moraes via UD.
Welterweight – Erick Silva (19-7, 1NC) vs Yancy Medeiros (13-4, 1NC): An excellent way to open up the PPV card, this bout should be a shoe-in for a performance bonus at the end of the night. Medeiros looked solid in his welterweight debut in September, and whilst Silva may never reach the ceiling we initially thought he would, he always brings it. I suspect these two will stand and bang, trading spinning nonsense and probably dropping each other a couple of times. I’m not hugely confident in this pick, but I think Silva is more powerful and a bit more durable. Prediction: Silva via second-round TKO.
Middleweight – Paulo Borrachinha (9-0) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2): There’s not a lot of nuance in this one. These two have 13 KO victories between them, and only once has one of them gone past the first round. Borrachinha looks like a really solid prospect and his KO of Gareth McLellan was downright scary. With that in mind and given Bamgbose’s questionable chin and spotty gas tank, I’m favouring the big Brazilian. Prediction: Borrachinha via first-round KO.
Middleweight – #11 Vitor Belfort (25-13, 1NC) vs Nate Marquardt (35-17-2): It’s been some career for Vitor Belfort. This will be his 25th and supposedly final fight with the organisation and it’s been a career of spectacular moments. Whilst the issues with TRT and PEDs will always tarnish his legacy, Belfort was a unique talent when he burst onto the scene all those years ago and set the trend for the next generation. Over the last few years he’s been on a rough run and has lost 4 of his last 5 by KO. I personally have no desire to see him fight again, regardless of result here, but I hope he can go out on a high. Marquardt is also shot at this point and I think it’s a case of whose chin gives out first. I’m hoping its Nate’s. Prediction: Belfort via first-round KO.
Women’s Strawweight – #1 Claudia Gadelha (14-2) vs #2 Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1): Watching the way Joanna Champion dismantled Jessica Andrade made me realise not only how good she is, but also how good these two women are. I still believe Gadelha is the only woman who has a real chance of beating the champion, given her skillset and the pair’s heated rivalry. Kowalkiewicz is incredibly talented, mixing in excellent technique with superb game planning, but she doesn’t have the raw power to sap Gadelha’s energy reserves and in a three-round fight Gadelha’s gas tank should hold up. She lands repeated takedowns to secure a comfortable decision victory. Prediction: Gadelha via UD.
Featherweight – (C) Jose Aldo (26-2) vs IC Max Holloway (17-3): This is such a good fight. The two best in the world fighting for the crown. You have the old guard in Aldo, who looked backed to his untouchable best against Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, against the young pretender in Holloway, who has served a real apprenticeship in the UFC and comes into the fight with 10 straight wins. I suspect we’ll get five rounds of toe-to-toe action and whilst my head is leaning towards Aldo, I’ve got a gut instinct about Holloway. I feel like there’s just something about this fight that feels like a changing of the guard. I think Holloway takes Aldo’s best shots but keeps marching and does enough to nick a decision. Prediction: Holloway via split decision.