UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Cormier (c) (19-1) vs. Jon Jones (22-1)
Nolan Howell: Jones tweeted the other day: “When a younger fighter beats an older fighter and then they rematch…the younger fighter wins again, only easier. That is the rule of fighting and holds true in boxing, wrestling, or MMA. You would have to go back and search two decades to find a scenario where that didn’t happen.” -Chael Sonnen
That seems apropos enough and Cormier has shown nothing since to prove that he is more than the #2 light heavyweight in the world. Jon Jones by unanimous decision.
UFC Welterweight Championship: Tyron Woodley (c) (17-3-1) vs. Demian Maia (25-6)
Nolan: While I’m actually a believer that Maia has the technique standing to survive with Woodley, intangibles matter here and Woodley is the faster and stronger fighter. Maia could bait him into grappling with him and that would end up being the end of Woodley more than likely, and Maia has beaten better MMA wrestlers than Woodley doing the same, but at the end of the day Woodley is able to control where the fight takes place with a decided advantage. Tyron Woodley by first-round KO.
Vacant UFC Women’s Featherweight Division: Cristiane Justino (17-1) vs. Tonya Evinger (19-5)
Nolan: Evinger is as well-rounded as they come, but it is hard to imagine that really matters when the fight starts on the feet against Cyborg. Evinger could look to ugly it up and drag the fights into later rounds, but it will take a round or two of burning takedown attempts and getting clipped on the way in to survive that. It won’t happen. Cris “Cyborg” Justino by first-round KO.
Welterweight Bout: Donald Cerrone (32-8) vs. Robbie Lawler (27-11)
Nolan: After Cerrone’s struggle with an elite MMA boxer like Jorge Masvidal last time out, it is hard to pick him not dropping his hands on a leg kick and catching one on the chin to put him out. Cerrone should use the kicks to his advantage and focus on the body and legs of Lawler, perhaps adopting a Manhoef like strategy. Lawler can get inside and do what he does and that seems like the more likely route. Robbie Lawler by second-round TKO.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Jimi Manuwa (17-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (14-1)
Nolan: This simply boils down to Manuwa having faced the better competition to me. While Oezdemir might have the more credentialed background technically, Manuwa has faced and lost to two of the best light heavyweights in the world and has starched just about anyone else. Jimi Manuwa by first-round TKO.
Featherweight Bout: Jason Knight (20-2) vs. Ricardo Lamas (17-5)
Nolan: Lamas is the more dangerous fighter of the two, but the combination of his fighting down and the toughness of Knight seems like a game he is bound to lose. Jason Knight by unanimous decision.
140lb Catchweight Bout: Aljamain Sterling (13-2) vs. Renan Barao (34-4)
Nolan: Both took major hits to their stock, but Sterling lost to better opponents and should use his wrestling to get back on track here. Aljamain Sterling by unanimous decision.
Featherweight Bout: Brian Ortega (11-0) vs. Renato Moicano (11-0-1)
Nolan: Brian Ortega by unanimous decision.
Featherweight Bout: Andre Fili (16-4) vs. Calvin Kattar (16-2)
Nolan: Andre Fili by split decision.
Women’s Strawweight Bout: Alexandra Albu (2-0) vs. Kailin Curran (4-4)
Nolan: Kailin Curran by unanimous decision.
Flyweight Bout: Eric Shelton (10-3) vs. Jarred Brooks (12-0)
Nolan: Jarred Brooks by second-round submission.
Lightweight Bout: Drew Dober (17-8) vs. Josh Burkman (28-15)
Nolan: Drew Dober by first-round submission.