No, this card isn’t as good as 217, but most aren’t going to be. We don’t get three title fights at Madison Square Garden. We don’t get a Thug Rose upset and the return of an all-time great, Georges St-Pierre.
What we do get is a salvaged card featuring a rematch of one of the year’s better title fights and a heavyweight co-main that should provide some divisional clarity. There’s a Philly angle with Eddie Alvarez on the card and intriguing flyweight and strawweight fights as well.
Featherweight: Max Holloway (C) vs. Jose Aldo
This was supposed to be a title fight between Holloway and Frankie Edgar, who had to pull out due to injury.
So Aldo, who lost to Holloway just six months ago, gets another crack at reclaiming the title he originally lost to Conor McGregor back at UFC 194. He looked rough at weigh-ins Friday morning, struggling with a short-notice weight cut. Max didn’t look too healthy either.
That said, Holloway is in the best form of his career right now. He was comfortable and focused in his first win against Aldo, beating the former champ on his home turf in Rio. Aldo, after a strong bounce-back win over Edgar last year, just didn’t seem like himself in the last outing. He looked a bit burdened in front of the Brazilian crowd and didn’t throw the savage leg kicks we’ve seen him utilize in the past, apparently because he had a leg injury he hid during build-up to the fight. I wonder if the short preparation and trip to Detroit is actually a boon for Aldo this time around for pressure purposes, and I wonder if the leg is 100%.
I just see two guys moving in different directions right now, with the 25-year-old Holloway on an 11-fight win streak and the 31-year-old Aldo looking mortal after so many great years.
prediction: Holloway wins via unanimous decision
Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou
Ngannou is still a relative newcomer but viewed as the eventual challenger to Stipe Miocic. He hits like a truck and is a freak athlete overall, but he really hasn’t beaten anybody yet. He’s coming off of three straight first round wins against Andrei Arlovsky, Anthony Hamilton, and Bojan Mihajlović.
Overeem is the grizzled vet, well past his prime but the winner of six of his last seven fights. The only loss was his title shot against Miocic, a bout in which he knocked the champion to the ground but couldn’t finish the job.
So if Ngannou wins, it sets up a fresh matchup for the belt. If Overeem wins, we’re back to square one, with Miocic already holding wins over the other top contenders in the division. It’s a division begging for new blood.
prediction: Ngannou wins via 2nd round TKO
Flyweight: Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
A good matchup between flyweights overshadowed by the dominance of Demetrious Johnson.
I don’t think there’s a ton of buzz regarding that, since it looks like UFC is trying to set up a Johnson/T.J. Dillashaw superfight. Cejudo lost to Johnson awhile back and Pettis could use a solid win to justify a title shot against Mighty Mouse.
I agree with this:
Henry cejudo vs Sergio Pettis is such an interesting fight. If Pettis wins Mighty Mouse can make a legit argument that Pettis is next not Dillashaw. If Cejudo wins then there is no option other than a Dillashaw superfight at 125.
— MMA All Day (@fightoftheday) November 30, 2017
Pettis is the underdog but has a height and reach advantage here. Cejudo is more experienced and the favorite going in, but I could see the fight going either way. I think it comes down to whether or not Pettis can assert himself over Cejudo and stay on his feet.
prediction: Cejudo wins via unanimous decision
Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje
I always want to see Eddie win, but he’s got his hands full with the unbeaten Gaethje.
This fight is gonna be violent and probably out of control. Gaethje is a monster brawler who will fight through damage and keep throwing. Eddie isn’t much different, as we saw in his last fight against Dustin Poirier, where he got rocked but recovered. That fight was ruled a no contest after Alvarez hit Poirier with a couple of illegal knees, but it could/should have easily been ruled a disqualification instead.
I thought Eddie was disappointing against Conor McGregor last December, but it is what it is. Conor is Conor. I felt like Eddie’s game plan, or execution of it, just wasn’t there. He’s due for a bounce-back performance, but I think Gaethje is the better fighter in 2017.
prediction: Gaethje wins via 2nd round TKO
Strawweight: Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson
Torres is 9-1 with a win and loss against current champion Rose Namajunas. Waterson is 8-2 since 2010 with one of those losses also coming from Namajunas.
Tecia is a volume striker and solid athlete. Waterson is better on the ground and a smart submission artist.
It’s a stylistic clash that I think Torres wins if she plays her game correctly.
prediction: Torres wins via split decision