I was almost afraid to write this until an hour before deadline, since every time I sat down to give it a go, someone got injured or pinched by USADA.
But here we are, just a little over 24 hours from fight night and we (hopefully) have our UFC on FOX main card locked up. Leading the charge is a five-round showdown pitting Glover Teixeira against Rashad Evans, two aging light heavyweights who went the distance against Jon Jones.
Which one of them gets back to the land of "Bones" could depend on how this main event unfolds. Unless, of course, something crazy happens when Jones battles Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197.
In the UFC on FOX 19 co-main event, Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres run it back after "Tiny Tornado" took home a decision win under the Invicta banner a few years earlier. The winner would have a strong argument for a shot at the 115-pound title at the end of the year.
To see what's doing on the UFC on FOX 19 "Prelims," which kick off at 4 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass from inside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, check out Patty Stumberg's outstanding analysis here and here. Latest odds and betting lines for the "Teixeira vs. Evans" line up can be located here.
Enough potatoes, let's get to the meat.
205 lbs.: Glover Teixeira (24-4) vs. "Suga" Rashad Evans (19-4-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I was surprised to see how quick some fans were in writing off Rashad Evans, based on his disappointing performance against Ryan Bader last October. UFC President Dana White said "Suga" looked old and while 36 does not make him a spring chicken, he's hardly over the hill.
Evans entered the Bader fight coming off knee surgery and two years on the sidelines.
When the former TUF champ is on, he's one of the best light heavyweights on the planet. Few combatants can match his mix of speed, power, and explosiveness, a lesson Chael Sonnen learned when he got taken to the woodshed back in 2013.
Then we have the lame-duck version of Evans who thinks he's Floyd Mayweather and settles for a three-round slap fight, like the snoozer he lost against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156. Which version shows up tomorrow night will most likely determine the outcome.
Glover Teixeira is good, no question, but he's gotten a little help along the way.
Ryan Bader had him on queer street but gave the fight away with his patented chin-up offense, and I'm not sure how much stock I put into wins over guys like Patrick Cummins and James Te Huna. He boxes like he's stuck in ski boots and lumbers around the cage like Victor von Gerdenheim in Darkstalkers.
Wake up Emily!
Evans has a suspect chin but to be fair, he's never been finished by strikes -- outside of Lyoto Machida -- even after getting wobbled. Teixeira may give him an early scare, but a slow fighter does not get faster as the fight wears on, meaning whatever path to victory is in play for the Brazilian will expire after round three.
Final prediction: Evans def. Teixeira via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: "Thug" Rose Namajunas (4-2) vs. Tecia "Tiny Tornado" Torres (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Rose Namajunas is just 23 years old, which makes her run in combat sports rather remarkable. While I know fights under the TUF banner don't "count" because they are exhibition bouts, it's still two fighters locked inside the cage throwing hands.
Don't let her record fool you.
I believe her loss to Carla Esparza at TUF 20 finale was more confidence than it was skill, and what we've seen in two fights since that hiccup has been frightening. She disposed of Angela Hill -- not entirely unexpected -- but the savage beating she delivered to Paige VanZant was an eye opener.
When "Thug" is locked in, she's as dangerous as they come.
That's bad news for the durable but predictable Tecia Torres, who presents all of the usual problems you would expect from a muscular, explosive wrestler. Her physicality carries her to victory in most (if not all) of her wins, including the one over Namajunas nearly three years back, but I'm troubled by the fact that "Tiny Tornado" can't finish a fight.
I was also surprised at how easily she was neutralized by Randa Markos en route to her TUF loss.
Namajunas is going to get taken down, no doubt about it. She's also going to be smothered against the cage and bullied on the ground. How she responds to those obstacles will mark the difference between victory in defeat. If "Thug" remains poised and confident -- and as nasty as she was last December -- this will not go to the scorecards.
Final prediction: Namajunas def. Torres via submission
160 lbs.: Khabib "The Eagle" Nurmagomedov (22-0) vs. Darrell "The Saint" Horcher (12-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I find it peculiar that a guy like Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is so Russian in his Russian-ness, is nicknamed "The Eagle" which oh by the way, is the national bird of the United States of America and prominently displayed on all sorts of government logos.
Shouldn't he be nicknamed "The Bear" based on all those wacky stories?
What does this have to do with tomorrow night's fight? Well, nothing, but it was either bears or dick jokes. What else am I going to say? Nurmagomedov is undefeated in 22 pro fights and made the reigning lightweight champion look helpless when they fought back in 2014.
He's also a two-time Russian Combat Sambo and two-time World Sambo Champion.
Darrel Horcher has no chance. He's certainly a promising prospect and racked up a couple of impressive knockout wins on the regional circuit, but he's facing the No. 2-ranked fighter in the division who specializes in grinding up warm bodies like "The Saint."
The "experts" will tell you anything can happen in MMA and one punch can change the trajectory of the fight and blah, blah, blah. Sorry folks, not this time. Unless Nurmagomedov suffers another injury walking to the cage, this is going to be a slaughter.
Final prediction: Nurmagomedov def. Horcher via submission
145 lbs.: Cub Swanson (21-7) vs. Hacran "Barnabe" Dias (23-3-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: This is a difficult fight to predict because it's hard to tell where Cub Swanson is at in his combat sports career. The WEC import took a year off and I don't blame him -- he was chewed up and spit out by Frankie Edgar, then submitted with ease by featherweight wunderkind Max Holloway.
That leaves me wondering what happened to the power-punching slugger who captured six straight fights -- with four knockouts -- from 2012-14. Was he simply having a good run then ... or just a bad run now? The fact that five of his seven losses have come by way of submission may tell the tale.
Even more so against "Barnabe."
Hacran Dias entered the ZUFFA fold in early 2012 with very high expectations, which is the sort of thing that happens when you rack up a 20-1 record on the international circuit. He certainly started off on the right foot by topping Iuri Alcantara, but then floundered in consecutive fights against Nik Lentz and Ricardo Lamas.
The Brazilian has since rebounded, but it worries me that he hasn't scored a finish in nearly five years. Let's also not pretend that his split-decision win over Levan Makashvili was anything to write home about. I think his best chance here is the guillotine, but Swanson is likely to come back refreshed, motivated, and ready to rumble.
Final prediction: Swanson def. Dias via unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 19 fight card below, starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.
You've heard from me, now let's hear from you. Who gets it done in "The Sunshine State?"