Is Chris Weidman a dominant champion? Or the luckiest middleweight on the planet?
That depends on who you ask, though we're likely to get a definitive answer this weekend -- in either direction -- when the "All American" defends the 185-pound title he stripped from Anderson Silva against "The Spider's" Blackhouse broski Lyoto Machida.
If you're not excited for this fight, I have two words for you. The first is "potato" and the second is "tailpipe."
Speaking of suicide missions, the women's bantamweight division will send its little engine who could, Alexis Davis, into the lion's den against undefeated 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey, who is not only adept at winning, but making her opponents suffer in the process.
But hey, what's a little pain in the fight game?
Just ask Stefan Struve, whose mandible went all Humpty Dumpty last year in Japan. The good news is, its 2014, so they could put all the pieces back together again. Swollen heart notwithstanding, "The Skyscraper" is ready to put Matt Mitrione through the "Meathead" grinder in their heavyweight affair.
A couple of other guys are fighting on the main card as well, but I'm running out of bad puns and still have about 1.5k words to go.
Shall we? We shall!
185 lbs.: Chris "All American" Weidman (11-0) vs. Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (21-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Even though I'm picking Chris Weidman to retain, if I woke up on Sunday morning and read that Lyoto Machida had frustrated the champ for five rounds with his footwork and striking, I probably wouldn't be that surprised.
No matter who you're picking, this is a great fight, between great fighters.
What Machida has done since dropping to middleweight has been impressive, but I still have that nagging doubt in the back of my (admittedly limited) mind. Landing cleanly on Munoz is like that game at the boardwalk where you shoot water into the clown's mouth until the balloon explodes, in that it takes like three seconds of adjustments before you're dead on.
As for Mousasi?
Outstriking the Armenian is no small feat, but I can't ignore the fact that Machida was in cruise control, simply because "The Dreamcatcher" had no Plan B. And those stinkers "The Dragon" turned in against Dan Henderson and Phil Davis aren't exactly ancient history.
On the flip side, I don't want to go too crazy over Weidman's wins over Anderson Silva. The blueprint was there for beating him, established by Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, you just needed someone with the balls to execute it. Weidman won not because of his gameplan, but rather because he was 100-percent convinced that he was better than his opponent, and was not afraid to fight that way.
The "All American" is impossible to intimidate.
But there is a fine line between confident and reckless, and if Weidman can successfully walk it against Machida, he should be in a position to get his hands on him. I don't expect this to play out on the feet -- where the champion is at risk -- but rather on the floor, where he holds the best chance for success.
Maybe in a three-round fight I would be more inclined to believe Ma-cheetah could play keep-away, but trying to stay away from Weidman's formidable wrestling -- and corresponding ground game -- over the course of 25 minutes just sounds like an impossible mission.
Final prediction: Weidman def. Machida via submission (Star-Strangled Banner)
135 lbs.: "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey (9-0) vs. Alexis "Ally-Gator" Davis (16-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: There will always be a special place in my
pants heart for Alexis Davis, because the first women's fight I ever saw live was her main event against Tara LaRosa at "War at the Shore" in Jan. 2009. I never imagined she'd be fighting for a UFC title over five years later, then again, it's a different sport these days.
But I'm a realist.
I've been staring at the stat sheets for hours and I just can't come up with any credible scenario for a Davis victory. Usually in cases of grotesque matchmaking, I go into full troll mode (Davis by knockout!), but this one is just to lopsided for even me.
"Ally-Gator" still has not finished an opponent inside the Octagon.
In order to stop Ronda Rousey from pulling off an armbar, you must first stop the judo, and Davis just isn't strong enough to do it. "Rowdy" has also proved she has knockout power, sending Sara McMann to the floor with a brutal liver shot at UFC 170.
That's before we get into her ferocity and otherworldly confidence.
All things being equal (and they aren't), it's impossible to overlook the fact that Davis has been defeated by four other opponents in her career, none of whom are the caliber of the champion, and "Rowdy" is unbeaten with nine straight finishes.
I would be shocked if this got out of the first round.
Final prediction: Rousey def. Davis via submission (armbar)
265 lbs.: Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve (25-6) vs. Matt "Meathead" Mitrione (7-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: If Stefan Struve hadn't been missing in action for the past 14 months, I would have picked him without pause. But the sort of layoff he's been forced to endure -- coupled with his crushing loss to Mark Hunt in Japan -- makes me wonder what kind of "Skyscraper" we're going to get in "Sin City."
He's not the pushover some people think he is.
In addition to knocking out Stipe Miocic in late 2012, he also put together a nice run of four consecutive wins. Keep in mind, the towering Dutchman is just 26 years old and already has 31 professional MMA fights to his name, with 16 submission wins.
That's bad news for the rapidly fading Matt Mitrione.
The only thing working in his favor is the fact that Struve has a tendency to get KTFO by big guys who throw even bigger punches. "Meathead" is fairly one dimensional, but he sure as hell knows how to pack a punch. If Struve hasn't yet figured out how to move his head, he's going to sleep.
If he works his jab and maintains distance, I think he takes the win.
Mitrione turns 36 next week and what you see is what you get. It's up to Struve to work around that. Unfortunately, I think the allure of the firefight -- and cage rust -- gets the best of him, as he (once again) fails to tuck his chin while going for the killing blow.
Final prediction: Mitrione def. Struve via knockout
185 lbs.: Uriah "Prime Time" Hall (8-4) vs. Thiago "Marreta" Santos (9-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I think the jury is probably still out on what kind of fighter Uriah Hall is. His run through the promotion's combat sports reality show is seductive when it comes to predicting the future, but tepid performances against Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard have nullified those slam-bang memories.
And I'm not sure how much stock I want to put in a retirement win over the clearly-exanimate Chris Leben.
Fortunately for him, he's tasked with facing the equally uneven Thiago Santos, who at age 30, no longer qualifies as a "prospect." If he's going to make something happen in the middleweight division, it has to be now, and he matches up pretty well with Hall.
This might come down to who lands first.
They both have a comparable size and reach, but "Prime Time" is consistently the more accurate striker. If this thing plays out on the feet, which I expect it to, I think he's going to be too fast for the Brazilian. If he can avoid stalling and actually push the pace, Hall could even have this thing wrapped up by the end of the first frame.
Final prediction: Hall def. Santos via technical knockout
135 lbs.: Marcus "The Bama Beast" Brimage (6-2) vs. Russell "The Young Punisher" Doane (13-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Marcus Brimage and Russell Doane kicking off a Fourth of July Weekend PPV for the world's biggest MMA promotion? Welcome to UFC in 2014, folks, get used to it. Brimage started his UFC career by getting choked out by Bryan Caraway on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14.
The last time we saw him, we was getting lit up by Conor McGregor in the Irishman's UFC debut.
Sandwiched in between those losses are a couple of ho-hum decision wins over middle-of-the pack talent. The best thing going for the "Bama Beast" is his athleticism and he does have some decent Muay Thai, but he hasn't finished a fight in UFC and hasn't competed for over a year.
Doesn't scream "victory."
Doane, meanwhile, had an impressive debut back in January, submitting well-traveled International veteran Leandro Issa in the second round of their Macau melee. The Hawaiian has twice the experience of his opponent and looks to be more well rounded.
In addition to six wins by way of knockout/technical knockout, "The Young Punisher" also has five submissions.
I think this one is going to come down to Doane's ability to withstand Brimage's aggression. It wouldn't surprise me to see the former tap the latter after surviving an early onslaught, but I wouldn't consider this a pick of supreme confidence, since we don't have a large body of work to draw upon.
Final prediction: Doane def. Brimage via submission (triangle choke)
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 175 fight card on fight night (Sat., July 5, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 175 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Weidman vs. Machida."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.