UFC Heavyweight Championship: Stipe Miocic (c) (19-3) vs. Daniel Cormier (22-2)
Luke Irwin: Perhaps the two best heavyweights in UFC history, both with a finish over the other. I’m not entirely sure why DC is the favorite, here. Look at their previous two fights. DC hit Stipe with a flash knockout in the first. In the second, Stipe adjusted, didn’t walk into another short-arm killshot, and earned a finish over Cormier in the championship rounds. Which outcome taught us more about these two fighters? Cormier is going to make adjustments, as well, but if Stipe keeps his distance, he’s proven he can bank rounds and have the gas to go for finishes in the late rounds. I think it makes it the distance, as DC isn’t going to want to get finished in his retirement fight, but I’m giving the edge to Miocic. Miocic via UD.
Bantamweight Bout: Marlon Vera (15-6-1) vs. Sean O’Malley (12-0)
Luke: Quite the step up for Sugar Sean. Pay-Per-View co-headlining is a big deal. Well, less so when there are no fans. And is being held in a trumped-up gym. ALAS! O’Malley won’t get fazed, as he doesn’t seem to get fazed by much of anything. The UFC has promoted O’Malley almost as much as the headline fight, so we’re all awash in SugarMania, but I think the hype is warranted. I like Sean’s game a lot, especially lately, and while Vera is another step up for him and not a gatekeeper, O’Malley is still a level or two above at this point. O’Malley via R2 KO.
Heavyweight Bout: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1) vs. Junior dos Santos (21-7)
Luke: There’s no shame in losing to Francis Ngannou, whatsoever. Even if it was a 20-second knockout. It was the first loss of Rozenstruik’s professional MMA career, and sometimes that can derail a fighter’s career. Mentally some never recover, especially losing in such a quick and violent way, and that would be much more of a concern if Rozenstruik didn’t have an 85+ fight professional kickboxing career. He gets it. Live by the sword, die by the sword. And in JDS, he gets a former world champion that has been TKO’d in his last two fights. Unless JDS can reach back and find another throwback like he did against Derrick Lewis, I don’t see it, which although breaks my heart, is the natural progression of things. Rozenstruik via R1 KO.
Bantamweight Bout: John Dodson (21-11) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (11-4)
Luke: Firstly, this is going to the cards. Secondly, Dodson’s M.O. is pretty clear at this point, he’s a gatekeeper, and a clear-cut one at that. He’ll beat your middling fighter, but a step up and you can get by him. Is Dvalishvili that fighter? Well, he was 7-4 at one point and 0-2 in the UFC. Since then, he’s banked four wins, all by decision, but did he find a new level within himself and make adjustments? Or did he just get a glut of beatable opponents? Dodson via SD.
Featherweight Bout: Daniel Pineda (26-13) vs. Herbert Burns (11-2)
Luke: Pineda has been everywhere and done everything. There’s not a whole hell of a lot he hasn’t seen, but he’s also plateaued as a fighter, and Burns has learned how to use his incredible jiu-jitsu into his fighting game, while keeping a variety of striking styles to keep his opponents honest. Pineda is hard-nosed and tough, but Burns is too dynamic. Burns via R3 Submission.