Here's a fun little fact: UFC 203, booked for the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, is the first mixed martial arts (MMA) event in recent memory where the guy who scrubs the urinals has the same professional record as one of the biggest draws on the pay-per-view (PPV) card.
As real as it gets!
That said, this Saturday night's (Sept. 10, 2016) five-round championship headliner between Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem should be a blistering affair. Depending on which version of "Demolition Man" shows up (humper vs. thumper), a finish feels like a foregone conclusion.
I'm not sure if I can say the same about the co-main event, kicking off round six of the Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne feud that is high risk, low reward for "Vai Cavalo." Elsewhere on the card, Jimmie Rivera plans to arrive at 135 pounds by disposing of Urijah "I won't go away" Faber, while Jessica Andrade and Joanne Calderwood try to make some noise at 115 pounds.
For a closer look at the UFC 203 preliminary card fights, airing on UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1, see what MMA whiz kid Patty Stumberg had to say here and here. Latest odds and betting lines for all the "Miocic vs. Overeem" action can be located here.
Now then, let's get to work.
265 lbs.: Stipe Miocic (15-2) vs. Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem (41-14, 1 NC)
Nostradumbass predicts: Give credit to Alistair Overeem, who at one point, had been knocked out three times in four fights during his putrid run from 2013-14. Now he's back with four straight wins -- and three knockouts of his own -- to dethrone Stipe Miocic.
Or get smoked in the process.
Overeem is clearly the better striker, having amassed world titles in both kickboxing and MMA. But his chin does not hold up in the phone booth and "Demolition Man" has been knocked out a staggering nine times throughout his professional career.
It's also important to note that Overeem has more submission victories than he does knockouts (19), making him dangerous wherever the fight goes. But the hulking Dutchman is much more effective when he can control the pace of the fight and strike at range, or wrestle his way to the cards, as we saw against Frank Mir.
The most important thing Miocic can do is move forward and apply constant pressure. Overeem is not difficult to hit and the champion is an accomplished boxer, as well as a standout collegiate athlete. And let's not discount the kind of motivation the hometown crowd can give him.
Overeem is the better all-around fighter with more experience and more ways to win. I just can't shake this vision of him getting bumrushed by an aggressive Miocic, galloping forward with the city of Cleveland on his back, and wilting under the pressure.
Final prediction: Miocic def. Overeem by knockout
265 lbs.: Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum (20-6-1) vs. Travis "Hapa" Browne (18-4-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: While not the cakewalk the "Punk" prediction was, this showdown is fairly easy to deconstruct. When Fabricio Werdum first fought Travis Browne in 2014, he whooped his ass across five rounds. Since then? "Vai Cavalo" got even better, finishing Mark Hunt and Cain Velasquez in back-to-back fights.
As for Browne? He got even worse.
His two wins post-Werdum came over Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione. The former realized he's a better podcaster than a fighter, while the latter was nearly blinded during their three-round bangfest before splitting for Bellator. Then Browne got smashed in a pair of losses to Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez.
Werdum's loss to Stipe Miocic, in my opinion, was not unlike his earlier defeat to Junior dos Santos. The Brazilian was not taking the fight seriously -- the byproduct of wins over greats like Fedor Emelianenko and the aforementioned Velasquez -- and paid the price.
His focus is back, as is his motivation, and that's bad news for a stagnant fighter like Browne.
Final prediction: Werdum def. Browne via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Phil "CM Punk" Brooks (0-0) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: This is undoubtedly the easiest prediction of my increasingly worthless career as an MMA blogger, since there isn't much "analysis" available for a UFC (cough) "fighter" with zero fights both professionally and as an amateur.
Can CM Punk defeat Mickey Gall?
Sure, because this is MMA and you don't need skill to throw punches and get lucky. Let's face it, Gall is not exactly competing at the top of the food chain. That said, he is younger, larger, and more battle tested than Punk and is a dangerous ground fighter. Until I see Punk compete, I can't say anything about his ability as a mixed martial artist.
But it does make for a cool story, bro.
Final prediction: Gall def. Punk by submission
135 lbs.: Urijah "The California Kid" Faber (33-9) vs. Jimmie "El Terror" Rivera (19-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jimmie Rivera is the sexy pick on this card and not because he's sexy, but rather because the MMA collective is convinced that Urijah Faber is going to turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. Noncompetitive losses will do that to a fighter.
But I'm not writing his eulogy just yet.
Rivera has that Thomas Almeida thing going for him in that his record looks outstanding -- and he's smashed his way through the 135-pound rankings in UFC -- but none of the names on his record jump out to me as world class. The Pedro Munhoz fight was very, very close.
In addition, six finishes in 19 wins does not get my blood pumping.
Faber is getting up there in age but I have't seen a decline in skills, at least not enough to warrant the upset. His speed and timing have been his strongest assets, complemented by a stifling wrestling game and sneaky submissions. Admittedly, "The California Man" looked flat against Dominick Cruz.
I expect Rivera to make the first round fairly scary for Faber and his loyal Faberites, but once the experience of the longtime vet takes over, he's going to outsmart -- not outwork -- "El Terror" en route to a convincing unanimous decision win.
Final prediction: Faber def. Rivera by unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Jessica "Bate Estaca" Andrade (14-5) vs. Joanne "JoJo" Calderwood (11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jessica Andrade is the kind of fighter who doesn't really care about the subtle nuances of combat sports, and simply lumbers forward with bad intentions. The fact that she was competitive at bantamweight -- standing just 5'2" -- is kind of amazing. As a strawweight?
Ask Jessica Penne what that's like.
The question coming into her showdown opposite Joanne Calderwood is how she will deal with the larger, rangier striker who looked much-improved in last June's shellacking of Valerie LeTourneau. Not that "JoJo" was ever a bum at 11-1, but her performances averaged on... well, average.
My biggest concern is Calderwood's slow start, which may not bode well against an ultra-aggressive fighter like Andrade. Assuming she can stay out of the clinch, punches in bunches for "Bate Estaca" may find the body early and often, leading to an eventual finish.
Final prediction: Andrade def. Calderwood by technical knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 203 fight card on fight night (Sat., Sept. 10, 2016), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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.
You've heard from me, now let's hear from you. Who gets it done tomorrow night in Cleveland?