It has been a long time coming.
More than five years after he made his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut, former DREAM, Strikeforce, and K-1 champion, Alistair Overeem, will finally make a bid for a world title with the mixed martial arts (MMA) leader, taking on newly-crowned Heavyweight champ, Stipe Miocic, in UFC 203's pay-per-view (PPV) main event this Saturday night (Sept., 10, 2016) inside Quickens Loan Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
In addition, a rematch between former 265-pound champion Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne, as well as the long-awaited MMA debut of former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar, C.M. Punk, against Mickey Gall.
Before the PPV main card action begins, UFC 203 will feature seven "Prelims" undercard matches, which will be split between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s look at the online portion first:
170 lbs.: Yancy Medeiros vs. Sean Spencer
Yancy Medeiros (12-4) opened his UFC career with two losses and a win overturned because of marijuana, but managed to rebound with two "Performance of the Night"-winning submissions. A 1-2 stretch followed, leading him to make his Welterweight debut this Saturday.
He has knocked out six opponents and submitted another three.
Sean Spencer (12-5) stepped up to Middleweight on short notice in his Octagon debut, resulting in a submission loss to Rafael Natal, but he found more success at his native Welterweight. Following a horrid robbery loss to Cathal Pendred, he suffered a knockout loss to Mike Pyle that earned them "Fight of the Night" honors.
His four stoppages include two knockouts and two submissions.
Medeiros’ unique striking and opportunistic submission game are hampered by porous striking defense. Luckily, Spencer is not a big hitter by any stretch of the imagination. "Black Magic" has all of two knockout wins, which came in his first two professional fights. In short, he’s someone Medeiros should be able to ply his craft against without fear, especially since Spencer doesn’t have a great takedown gain.
The one issue may be that Medeiros relies on pressuring and overpowering foes, which he may find more difficult at 170 pounds than he did at Lightweight. Still, he’s the bigger hitter and better overall finisher. Expect a mid-round submission in transition, possibly off of a knockdown.
Prediction: Medeiros via second-round submission
205 lbs.: C.B. Dollaway vs. Francimar Barroso
Four wins in five fights -- the sole loss an inexplicable robbery against Tim Boetsch that C.B. Dollaway (15-8) dominated -- bumped The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 7 runner up higher in UFC's Middleweight division than he’d ever been before. "The Doberman" enters Saturday’s bout on a three-fight losing streak, however, including a stunning one-punch defeat to Nate Marquardt in his most recent effort.
He has knocked out six opponents overall.
It’s been a rather interesting UFC road for Francimar Barroso (18-5), who won three of his first four bouts in the promotion in a streak that saw him accidentally punt Ryan Jimmo’s balls into next week en route to an underwhelming decision. Last time out, he slugged it out with Nikita Krylov in Rotterdam before tapping to a rear-naked choke in the second round.
This will mark his Middleweight debut.
Barroso can grapple and Barroso can strike. Everything in-between seems to be a work-in-progress. His long kicks and wild punches don’t synergize with his middling takedown takedown game, leaving him forever stuck below the elite level. Dollaway’s not elite himself, but he’s the better boxer and very well-equipped to shut down Barroso’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
The real question here is where Dollaway’s head is -- a significant part of his success lies in his newfound confidence in his striking, confidence that Marquardt’s right hand could have thoroughly obliterated. He has faced adversity and come back before, though, so I say he controls the striking for a decision win.
Prediction: Dollaway via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Jason Gonzalez
The "submission loss" Drew Dober (16-7) suffered at the hands of Leandro Silva may have been laughable, but there was nothing bogus about the guillotine Efrain Escudero forced him to tap to two Junes ago. With his back against the wall, Dober used his wrestling to upset Scott Holtzman at UFC 195 to earn his second UFC victory.
He will give up six inches of height to the 6’2" Jason Gonzalez (10-2).
As part of Team Urijah Faber, Gonzalez knocked out Tim Welch on TUF 22 before losing a decision to Abner Lloveras in the quarterfinals. After taping, he knocked out previously-unbeaten Chris Padilla in his RFA debut this past June.
He steps in for the injured Erik Koch on one month’s notice.
Looking back, I really haven’t given Dober enough credit in my prediction pieces. He’s not a world-beater, of course, but he’s a capable and well-rounded fight who’s incredibly difficult to finish.
In short, a fairly tough match up for Gonzalez, who’s used to finishing foes and whose wrestling failed the test against Lloveras. Without much time to prepare and with the inefficient striking he showed against the Spaniard, I expect him to steadily lose ground to Dober, whose wrestling attack should carry him to a decision win.
Prediction: Dober via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 203 "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, capped off by a battle between women’s Bantamweight strikers. Same time as always, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 203 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.