Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is roughly 24 hours from uncorking its UFC on FOX 24: "Johnson vs. Reis" mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which takes place inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on Sat., April 15, 2017.
Headlining the network-televised extravaganza is reigning flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who looks to put himself in a first-place tie with Anderson Silva for consecutive title defenses when he battles the venerable Wilson Reis.
That’s not all.
In the UFC on FOX 24 co-main event, “Thug” Rose Namajunas looks to turn away streaking strawweight striker Michelle Waterson, as both 115-pound contenders look to stake their claim to the winner of this bout.
To see what’s doing on the UFC on FOX 24 “Prelims” card, check out Patty Stumberg’s expert analysis here and here. For all the “Johnson vs. Reis” odds and betting lines for this weekend’s action click here.
Now then, let’s get to work.
135 lbs.: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis (22-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: In order to build a credible case for the upset, we have to try to find a path to victory for the challenger. How do you beat Demetrious Johnson? There is no area where he can be outclassed. You will not find a flyweight faster than John Dodson, nor will you find one with better wrestling than Henry Cejudo. Experience? Good luck finding a more seasoned veteran than Joseph Benavidez.
Johnson ran through them all with ease.
In fact, “Mighty Mouse” is so good, a difficult round against the wily and unorthodox Tim Elliott had most combat sports fans hootin’ and hollerin’ as if the champ was suddenly “exposed.” What I saw was a master tactician working through adversity with composure and guile.
He’s nearly perfect and getting better in every fight.
That means Reis will have to perform flawlessly, a tall order for a combatant who already owns two losses inside the Octagon. In addition, the Brazilian was able to “earn” a title shot without having to fight the aforementioned Dodson, Cejudo, or Benavidez. That’s a serious deficiency in championship credentials.
Especially if he was unable to beat Jussier Formiga.
That said, Reis does have the sort of wrestling that can trap the “Mouse,” who has been taken down in just about all of his UFC fights. Not that it means anything, as Johnson gets back to his feet and uncorks a barrage of punches before most opponents even realize they’ve scored a takedown.
Reis can also hit hard but the real danger here is submissions. Johnson is so comfortable with his submission defense it borders on reckless, so it would not surprise me to see a few early scares once the headlining act gets underway. If not, Johnson will do what he always does (and he does it better than anyone) by simply outrunning his foe en route the finish line.
Final prediction: Johnson def. Reis by unanimous decision
115 lbs.: “Thug” Rose Namajunas (5-3) vs. Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (14-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Rose Namajunas comes into the strawweight showdown with a 5-3 record, but that hardly tells the whole tale. “Thug” racked up four wins on the regional circuit and then another three inside The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) house, so we shouldn’t pretend she’s still wet behind the ears.
Not surprisingly, her performance inside the Octagon, especially for just 24 years old, has been superb. She dropped her debut to Carla Esparza, but regrouped and captured three straight wins before coming up short against stand-up specialist Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Her striking is unorthodox, her submissions are deadly, and she’s getting more confident with each fight.
That makes her a handful for ex-atomweight Michelle Waterson, who brings her own style of badassery to the cage. Her polished striking — which includes a formidable kicking game — is accurate and lightning fast, which means she’s going to connect on Namajunas early and often.
How many of those kicks she can thwart (and counter) will be the deciding factor.
Waterson has an impressive resume, most of which came from Invicta FC, but is more suited for the 105-pound division. While she’s mastered the head-and-arm throw, her opponent is adept at stifling such techniques and will prove to be a tough nut to crack. My only concern is how experimental Namajunas gets during each exchange, because three rounds does not afford the time to fool around.
Not against a busy bee like Waterson.
Final prediction: Waterson def. Namajunas by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-4, 1 NC) vs. Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker (17-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: Ronaldo Souza has just one loss inside the Octagon since crossing over from the ranks of Strikeforce roughly four years back. That defeat came against top contender Yoel Romero and was so razor thin you could probably floss with it. Did he lose any stock with that performance?
No, but he didn’t gain any by fighting the middle of the pack, either.
“Jacare” is in a tough spot. Yes, he subbed the red-hot Gegard Mousasi, but for the most part, the promotion has no idea what to do with the Brazilian. Why risk eliminating a contender just to keep him busy? He’s one of the world’s best grapplers and hits like a Mack truck.
Not that I think he wants to get into a stand-up war with Robert Whittaker.
Unfortunately, he may not have a choice. “The Reaper” has a staggering 93-percent success rate when it comes to stopping takedowns. It’s not like he’s been fighting Phil Davis or some other decorated collegiate wrestlers, but it’s worth noting against a fighter who will work for the ground.
As we saw in the Francis Carmont fight, Souza has no problem boxing his way across all three rounds, though he may be a little weary to remain upright against a puncher with Whittaker’s power. I think this fight boils down to the amount of pressure “Jacare” is able to apply without getting clipped.
Based on what I’ve seen this far, I like his chances.
Final prediction: Souza def. Whittaker by submission
145 lbs.: Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (10-0-1) vs. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (25-13)
Nostradumbass predicts: Undefeated featherweight prospect Renato Carneiro finally gets a step up in competition after a successful run on the Brazilian circuit, followed by a pair of wins under the UFC banner.
With none of his 10 wins coming by way of knockout, there is some concern about being tasked with a power-punching veteran like Jeremy Stephens, who is also difficult to take down, thus neutralizing Carneiro’s threat of the ground game. Perhaps a more nuanced attack — which only comes through experience — would bear more fruit in positional exchanges, but I do not have high hopes here.
Though it’s unlikely to be a blowout.
Stephens is consistently inconsistent, but whether we blame that on his ability to shed the gatekeeper status, or his unenviable position of facing the best fighters in the world, like Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway, among others, is unclear.
We do know that he likes to “fight” more than he does to win.
I would expect Stephens to be the aggressor and keep the Brazilian on his bicycle. If “Lil’ Heathen” was more interested in strategy and less interested in killing his opponent, by way of Super Macho Man death punch, Carneiro would probably go to sleep.
In this case, I think he’ll probably just get beat up for three rounds.
Final prediction: Stephens def. Carneiro by unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 24 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.
For much more on this weekend’s UFC on FOX 24 event click here.