Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV) this Saturday night (June 13, 2015) after a brief pit stop on FOX Sports 1. Will you open your wallets for UFC 188 in Mexico City? We have a couple of intriguing fights in the main and co-main events.
It all goes south from there.
Still, it's not often we actually get to see a heavyweight title fight, thanks to Cain Velasquez and his "old school" training methods. He'll try to prove he's still the cat's meow opposite improbable 265-pound interim titleholder Fabricio Werdum.
But before mixed martial arts (MMA) fans get to the evening's marquee match up, they'll be treated to what could be "fight of the night" when Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez slug it out for 155-pound bragging rights.
Want to see what's doing on the UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 "Prelims?" The incomparable Patty Stumberg has you covered here and here. UFC 188 odds and betting lines? Yup, he's got that in the bag as well, with all the relevant numbers crunched here.
With that out of the way, let's take a closer look at the five main card match ups.
265 lbs.: UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez (13-1) vs. Interim Champion Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum (19-5-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: There's a great scene in that movie The Game, starring Michael Douglas, when Nicholas Van Orton wakes up in a coffin in the middle of Mexico, completely disheveled and clueless as to how or why he ended up there.
That's kind of how I expect things to go for Fabricio Werdum.
But let's not call this a squash match just yet. I think "Vai Cavalo" has proven time and time again that he can defeat anyone in the world. It's not unreasonable to believe a fighter with Werdum's grappling pedigree can't submit Cain Velasquez, who by trade is a wrestler.
I'm just not sure how much we're going to see of the ground game.
The Brazilian is a formidable striker with a dangerous Muay Thai game. That said, he operates best when he's afforded the luxury of striking at a measured pace. Most opponents, like Roy Nelson and Travis Browne, have been polite enough to take turns.
Mark Hunt wasn't playing that game, but on two weeks' notice and a punishing 7,350 feet above sea level, striking with the "Super Samoan" was like shooting paint balls at the Kool-Aid Man.
We don't yet know how the injury layoff or the geography will affect Velasquez, but there is nothing I've seen from him to date that would suggest either is a deal breaker. His chin -- which I once thought was suspect after the Cheick Kongo fight -- survived nine and a half rounds against Junior dos Santos.
And outside of that one hiccup to "Cigano," he's flat-out embarrassed just about everyone else.
I don't think he's going to make Werdum look foolish, but I would be surprised if this fight when all five rounds. Like we saw against Fedor and Alistair Overeem, "Vai Cavalo" has a tendency to plant his keister on the canvas if he feels he's outgunned.
If that pattern emerges in Mexico City, it may cost him the fight.
Final prediction: Velasquez def. Werdum via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez (22-4) vs. Eddie Alvarez (25-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Originally the two best lightweights not fighting inside the Octagon, both Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez are now competing for UFC and ironically, both have losing records since crossing over to ZUFFA.
Welcome to the top of the food chain, gents.
While both fighters match up pretty well stylistically, I think this pairing is not as close as it looks on paper. Alvarez is a terrific boxer with sneaky submissions, but his level of competition over the past decade has been average, at best. When he's not overpowering featherweights like Shinya Aoki and Pat Curran, he's beating up UFC washouts like Josh Neer and Roger Huerta.
Melendez has recycled his share of cans, and he is to Josh Thomson what Alvarez is to Michael Chandler. The difference for me, is that we've seen "El Nino" go the distance against Benson Henderson (robbed?) and perform well against Anthony Pettis, while Alvarez looked completely lost against Donald Cerrone.
Perhaps, and if this was a straight-up boxing match, I would be more inclined to pick the former Bellator king. In this case -- particularly with only three rounds to get it done -- I like Melendez, specifically because he understands how to shut down an opponent's offense.
That first round against "Showtime" comes to mind.
Unless Melendez has completely lost his chin (possible), I think he outsmarts Alvarez, who will be handcuffed by the ex-Strikeforce champ's suffocating wall work. It may not be the prettiest gameplan of the night, but it could turn out to be the most effective.
Final prediction: Melendez def. Alvarez via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Nate "The Great" Marquardt (33-14-2) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (10-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: There was a time when Nate Marquardt was the third best middleweight in UFC, right behind Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva. But that was eight years ago and since then, he's experienced a failed move to welterweight, a botched drug test, and a three-fight losing streak.
As it stands, "The Great" is just 1-4 since 2013.
Whatever skill and durability that once made him "The Great" has long since dissipated, as Marquardt, 36, is no longer able to take a punch, which probably comes as a shock to no one after nearly 50 professional fights and 15 years of taking damage.
I'm not expecting any miracles tomorrow night in Mexico.
Gastelum is still a work in progress, but I won't go crazy over his loss to Tyron Woodley. He caught the flu, was briefly hospitalized, missed weight, and still managed to fight to a split decision. Outside of that, he's already proven he can topple established veterans like Rick Story and Jake Ellenberger.
The same Jake Ellenberger who creamed Marquardt.
Maybe "The Great" is a little cleaner with his striking, perhaps a bit smoother with his grappling. I'm not sure it matters at this stage of the game because his aggressive opponent is a decade-plus younger, more athletic, and able to take a punch to give one. I can't say the same about Marquardt.
Break out the smelling salts.
Final prediction: Gastelum def. Marquardt via knockout
145 lbs.: Yair "Pantera" Rodriguez (4-1) vs. Charles "Boston Strong" Rosa (10-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: If you're going to walk around with a nickname like "Pantera," as Yair Rodriguez does, then you better be Fucking Hostile when the cage door slams shut. If not, Yesterday Don't Mean Shit. I'm referring, of course, to his knockout wins in Mexican Fighters Promotions.
What have you done for me lately?
Rodriguez won The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Latin America," which is more impressive than it sounds, considering the competition. That said, he does show great promise and I was impressed by his cage awareness and ability to transition lucidly between strikes and takedowns at UFC 180.
He may need a knockout to win this one.
Charles Rosa trains out of American Top Team (ATT) and has top-shelf training partners. In addition, he's already faced some tougher names at 145 pounds and has twice the experience. Assuming he can secure the takedown against Rodriguez, it's hard to overlook his seven submission wins.
But "Boston Strong" -- which sounds like a slogan for a "Beantown" health club -- loses the battle of nicknames.
I'm sure he won't care, so long as he's able to leave Mexico with the "W." I would expect some early feeling out on the feet, but not for long, as Rosa is going to drag this thing to the floor and lock up the neck at some point in the opening frame.
Final prediction: Rosa def. Rodriguez via submission
115 lbs.: Angela Hill (2-0) vs. Tecia "Tiny Tornado" Torres (5-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Back when I was a tin-badge security guard in college, my boss would always tell me that 90-percent of the job was showing up on time with a clean uniform. I think that's applicable in MMA, as well, as most fighters can do well if they show up in great shape and on weight.
That's why (creepy old-man crush aside) there is a lot to like about Tecia Torres.
Not only is she one of the most athletic strawweights in the division, she also has a ton of experience. Her pro record is 5-0, but she also has a 7-0 record on the amateur circuit and three fights during The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20. In addition, Torres has already defeated the likes of Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, and Paige VanZant.
Not bad for just 25 years old.
Ranked No. 5 in the world, I'm a bit puzzled by her match up against the 2-0 Angela Hill, who clocks in at No. 15 because there are barely enough female strawweights to round out the list. "Overkill" is a talented Muay Thai striker who can do major damage in the clinch, but her takedown defense is suspect and her ground game needs a ton of work.
Since Torres is also an accomplished striker, both in Muay Thai and Taekwondo, she can take this fight anywhere she wants it. Assuming the "Tiny Tornado" doesn't lay an egg and forget to engage -- something that stymied her rise on TUF -- a takedown-tapout combination seems likely.
Final prediction: Torres def. Hill via submission
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 188 fight card on fight night (Sat., June 13, 2015), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
You've heard from me, now let's hear from you. Who gets it done tomorrow night in Mexico City?