UFC Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Cormier (c) (22-1) vs. Stipe Miocic (18-3)
Luke Irwin: Firstly, no, I don’t expect a repeat of last fight. At least it ending that way so suddenly. It wasn’t a fluke, but I don’t think Stipe is going to put himself in that position again. He won’t engage with DC at close range, again. He has an eight-inch reach advantage, and he should watch every millisecond of both Jones-DC fights to see how length can be used effectively against DC. However, Stipe doesn’t always fight patiently. For better or worse, Stipe is a blood-and-guts fighter and he fights with his heart and with his adrenaline. I think Stipe gets impatient, and DC has so many goddamned tools to use. Maybe another bodyslam in our future? Cormier via R4 Submission.
Welterweight Bout: Anthony Pettis (22-8) vs. Nate Diaz (19-11)
Luke: The Diazes are notorious for their conditioning, even out of fight camp, so while I don’t think Nate’s gas tank will be poor despite not fighting since Obama was in office, but ring rust is a very real thing, and nothing can emulate actually being in the cage, and getting hit from an actual opponent in an actual fight, no matter how much you spar. This would have been a HELL of a fight six years ago, but alas, here we are. Diaz’s absence in a knuckle-hair short of three years make this very, very, hard to pick. The once baby Diaz is 34 years old now, and while neither fighter is going to be one-shotted, Pettis’s output and pressure, even though Diaz will counter some solid ones in, might be too much for the rusty fighter to take. Diaz is much better than Pettis on the ground, but Pettis would have to be an imbecile to let it get there. I think he keeps the pressure on long enough he earns enough points to take a close one. “Wheaties Man” via SD.
Middleweight Bout: Paulo Costa (12-0) vs. Yoel Romero (13-3)
Luke: Look, I get it. Costa is an absolutely intoxicating fighter. 12-0 with 12 finishes, eleven by T/KO, including 4-0 in the UFC. But it is QUITE the jump from beyond washed Johny Hendricks and Uriah Hall to Yoel Romero. He’s never faced a wrestler like Romero, or even anyone two-to-three levels below Romero, and it feels like he needed one more step-up before Romero. Romero via UD.
Featherweight Bout: Gabriel Benitez (21-6) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (9-1)
Luke: Well, I doubt it ends with a Benitez slam KO like his last fight, but what this fight does have a chance of of these two throwing hands, and Yusuff probably landing a good one on Benitez. HOWEVA!, if the fight gets to the ground, I can see Benitez finishing it. but Yusuff has enough power to keep Benitez honest and afraid to shoot, so I think Yusuff boxes him up until finding the right spot to finish him. Yusuff via R3 TKO.
Middleweight Bout: Derek Brunson (19-7) vs. Ian Heinisch (13-1)
Luke: Here are Brunson’s last four losses: Israel Adesanya, Jacare Souza, Anderson Silva, and Robert Whittaker. He is what he is, a high-level middleweight gatekeeper. There’s nothing wrong with that and you can make a great living as that. Here are his last four wins: Elias Theodorou, Lyoto Machida, Dan Kelly, and Uriah Hall. Brunson only loses to elite fighters, and Heinisch isn’t at that level, at least not yet. Brunson via SD.