UFC 194 Preview and Predictions

image UFC 194 takes place live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday. In the main event, long-time UFC featherweight champion and No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Jose Aldo takes on bitter rival Conor McGregor for the UFC featherweight strap. The pay-per-view card also features four other magnificent bouts including a UFC middleweight title bout between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor Obviously this is a fight the whole word has been wanting to see ever since it was officially announced in March of this year, however since Aldo had to pull out in July and the fight was postponed, it seems like we've been waiting a lot longer than that for this fight, but it's finally here. The biggest fight in UFC featherweight history and easily one of the biggest ever, is upon us. Stylistically alone, this is the most intriguing fight the UFC could make at featherweight in my opinion, and it's one that is extremely difficult to predict on any level. I've really struggled with my pick for months in this fight, originally in July I picked McGregor, but since then I've had time to digest a little more, just how incredibly special Aldo is and the exact reasons he hasn't been beaten in 10 years. I'm ever so slightly leaning McGregor here simply if only for his durability in the pocket versus a guy who's taken a lot more damage than him, especially in his last fight. I expect McGregor to pressure as always, in effort to wear down the opponent early but I expect Aldo to get the better of the exchanges early, due to superior speed, accuracy and just unpredictable explosion. In saying that, I think McGregor's gas tank to help him here and body work also, I like to him to kick on the outside as the fight progresses, eventually wearing Aldo down with his boxing and kicking on the outside, after Aldo takes the first two rounds. I see McGregor pulling away in rounds 3,4,5 and taking a late TKO to beat the only ever UFC featherweight champion. Pick: McGregor Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold Just what an incredibly intriguing match-up this is. The best title bout in middleweight history in terms of the complete unpredictability and unknown of how this is going to play out, I think. In Weidman, you have the man who beat the man, a guy with an unbreakable mentality inside the octagon, who just bullrushes opponents with his incredibly complex pressure game on the feet, which makes you second guess yourself in every facet. He's got some of the best takedowns in the game and heavy, heavy strikes if need be, not to mention an incredibly complex jiu-jitsu game, but guess what? I think Luke Rockhold is better. I'll tell you why. Rockhold is rangier fighter here, a taller, yet still legitimately strong guy, something Weidman has yet to face. He's also someone who employs a very similar style to Weidman on the feet in the way he likes to lead and be the bully in the octagon, he's got a fairly legitimate striking game that is not easy to handle for any top level fighter, and I believe he gives Weidman trouble with the fact that he likes to lead on the feet unlike any of Weidman's previous opponents, I believe that'll give Chris a new look he hasn't seen before and in my view, something he won't be able to handle. Grappling-wise, Weidman's top-game is second to none. Ferocious ground and pound, extremely high-level Jiu-jitsu and overall just a physically huge guy for the weight class which helps clearly helps him in dominant positions. Athletically though, Rockhold edges him, and in my view, also edges the grappling phase of the game, he's so physically imposing on the ground, especially on top, as was evident in the bout against Lyoto Machida where he just completely man-handled Lyoto, a former 205er, on the ground. His ability in scrambles is also second to none and that's a place where Weidman can be outmatched, especially when going for a takedown. Overall, I see Rockhold being too slick on the feet and too rangy and big for Weidman to bully and get the better of and on the ground I think he can turn Weidman's failed takedown attempts against him with scrambles and end up on top, despite not being able to submit such a high level practitioner as Weidman, he can still have a lot of success there versus the champion. I like Rockhold to be the aggressor here and win a tight decision against Weidman to become the new middleweight champion. Pick: Rockhold Ronaldo Souza vs. Yoel Romero Excluding the co-main event of UFC 194, this is easily the best middleweight fight the UFC could put on right now, and it is one that will surely produce the next contender for the championship. Both guys have been virtually unstoppable inside the organisation and have displayed some of the most freakish athleticism ever seen in the UFC. I really believe this is a toss up, and all depends on what guy can make it their fight in terms of establishing dominant position on top. Souza is fantastic on top if he gets it there but that's no certainty against an Olympic level wrestler in Romero. Both are pretty decent strikers at this stage in their careers, offering low output but when they do hit, they make it mean an awful lot. I like Romero to have enough defense of the takedown to keep it on the feet the majority of the fight despite showing tendencies to be taken down in the past. I think he can keep Souza on the outside, occasionally exploding in with unique pace and accuracy with his combinations, which is something Jacare hasn't shown to be able to do. Romero is more mobile standing and thus, I believe footwork speed will be key here for him, especially in rounds 2 and 3. I like Yoel to earn a unanimous decision by being the more mobile man, with faster reactions in every area. Pick: Romero Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson UFC 194 is really is a card full of incredibly close-matched fights in which guys are so elite that it's near impossible to be 100% right on how a fight is going to go and this bout is no different. It's no secret that Demian Maia is one of the best Jiu-Jitsu players to ever grace the sport of MMA, but in Gunnar Nelson, you have, in a way, a young Demian Maia, certainly not matching the accolades Maia has achieved in his Jiu-Jitsu career but nonetheless a phenomenal grappler who's been nothing short of unstoppable on the ground thus far in the UFC. I can see this fight going one or two ways, either both are so defensively sound, that this ends up playing out on the feet, or a scramble ends it up on the mat and we see excellent back-and-forth grappling exchanges early. I see the fight eventually going on the ground as both have expressed a desire to compete on the mat versus one another. I tend to think this fight will be extremely close on the ground, with both guys having their moments and near-submissions, and thus, giving the fans everything they'd hoped for out of this match-up. What I see being the difference though is Nelson's far superior striking game and distance management on the feet, I think he easily beats Maia on the feet, even if it's only for a short time that they're there but I believe it'll ultimately tip the contest in the Icelandic fighters favor, and he'll win a tight split decision despite it being more than competitive on the ground. Pick: Nelson Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens I couldn't really think of a better fight to open the biggest card of the year than this one right here, whilst it's not exactly a number one contender bout, the winner will certainly be only a win away from a crack at gold should they perform on Saturday night. Both guys love to trade often on the feet but Holloway seems to have really turned a corner in his career as was evident in the total domination of Cub Swanson this past April, I like Holloway here because he simply is more diverse on the feet and despite being only 24 and Stephens being older and around  the game a lot longer, I feel Holloway is the more mature fighter and is more patient and smart with his output on the feet despite still being extremely good to watch. I like Holloway to handily take a decision by being simply too hard to hit against the gritty brawler Stephens, and being too long, rangy to be caught by one of Stephens hard shots. Pick: Holloway

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