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UFC 212 predictions, preview and analysis

UFC 212 Press Conference Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is inching closer to its UFC 212: “Aldo vs. Holloway” pay-per-view (PPV) event, taking place tomorrow night (Sat., June 3, 2017) inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Formerly known as the HSBC Arena.

UFC 212 will be headlined by the title unification bout pitting featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo against interim champion Max Holloway, two talented combatants who share losses to Conor McGregor.

I suppose UFC 212: “Sloppy Seconds” was too crass for an event title.

In the women’s strawweight co-main event, No. 1-ranked Claudia Gadelha and No. 2-ranked Karolina Kowalkiewicz collide to see who stays alive in the division title race. Similarly to the five-round headliner, these gals both came up empty against division champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

There are no second-place trophies in MMA.

Before we break down the five-fight main card, let’s take a look at what the increasingly-lucid Patty Stumberg had to say about the UFC 212 “Prelims” action here and here. “Aldo vs. Holloway” odds and betting lines can be crunched here.

Enough with the potatoes, let’s get to the meat.

145 lbs.: Jose “Junior” Aldo (26-2) vs. Max “Blessed” Holloway (17-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: One of the most impressive things about Jose Aldo the fighter is the way he was able to bounce back from his knockout loss to Conor McGregor. Not only was he flattened in just 13 seconds, he had to endure months of verbal warfare — only to come up lame in the big spot. That’s the kind of mental test that many fighters fail and as a result, never recover.

“Junior” returned unfazed.

And it’s not like he was paired off with a middle-of-the-packer to get his confidence back, like Dennis Bermudez. No, he was asked to go 25 minutes with Frankie Edgar, a top-shelf contender makes good featherweights look bad.

Aldo disposed of him with little effort.

That’s bad news for Max Holloway, who by all accounts earned his spot in the 145-pound title chase. To win 10 straight fights in any division — even fighting so-so competition (he didn’t) — is impressive, simple because there are so many variables that can affect the outcome of a fight.

Bad judging, blown out knee, kick to the nuts ... whatever.

Coupling that with some of the names “Blessed” has been able to shut down is remarkable. Cub Swanson, Jeremy Stephens, and Ricardo Lamas are formidable foes and Holloway got it done.

That said, I’m not going crazy over his most recent win against Anthony Pettis, who went on The Machinist diet to make the 145-pound limit.

Holloway may be taller, but Aldo has the longer reach. I’m not sure it matters for this fight, as the Brazilian will be looking for speed and power, while the Hawaiian will focus on volume and finesse.

I don’t expect the ground game to be a factor, though I do favor “Junior” in that department.

Picking against Aldo is very hard, simply because he operates on such a higher level. But the X factors for tomorrow night’s title unification bout will be his aggression, as well as his cardio.

Not enough of either will cost him a decision.

Holloway has done a good job of getting to the top of the mountain, but staying there is an entirely different conversation. Expect him to get befuddled by the Brazilian’s speed, as well as his devastating low kicks.

It won’t be a blowout, but it won’t be controversial, either.

Final prediction: Aldo def. Holloway by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha (14-2) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: It’s scary to think what kind of damage Claudia Gadelha could do if she had a bigger gas tank. The Brazilian would probably be champion, but that’s the kind of attribute that separates champions from contenders.

Speaking of which, we have two to work with tomorrow night in Rio, as Karolina Kowalkiewicz is also no stranger to five-round title fights, nor is she completely unfamiliar with losing to Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

In that fight, the fleet-footed Pole tried to win using her toughness and hands. The champ was too crafty and simply had too many tools to offset that attack, which is why Gadelha — who mixed in wrestling and power shots — was more successful.

I would expect the same result here.

Kowalkiewicz is a good, but not great striker with an iron hide and plenty of energy. She’s not going to out-power Gadelha, but she can stay out of the red zone and fire at will. Easier said than done against “Claudinha,” who runs around the cage like the running of the bulls.

Easy to see why she hemorrhages fuel so quickly.

If this fight was scheduled for five rounds, I would make a better case for Kowalkiewicz. But Gadelha only needs to win two of the three rounds and that’s likely going to be the first two, when she is undoubtedly the freshest.

And the most violent.

Final prediction: Gadelha def Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (25-13, 1 NC) vs. Nate “The Great” Marquardt (35-17-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: It’s easy to get down on Vitor Belfort for looking like garbage over the past few years, but let’s also recognize that he was fighting three former champions in the form of Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza, and Gegard Mousasi.

Kelvin Gastelum was just younger, faster, and not surprisingly, hungrier.

Getting paired off against Nate Marquardt is a considerable downgrade. Not necessarily in skill, but in durability. “The Great” has been anything but in recent years, thanks to a deteriorating chin and a ban on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

These two really are a perfect fit.

Marquardt may not have faced the quality of opposition “The Phenom” has, but the depth of his resume compensates for any championship shortcomings. He is one of the most well-rounded combatants in the game, with the ability to strike and grapple with equal effectiveness.

Can he survive the early blitzkrieg?

Even at age 40, Belfort is still quicker than most middleweights. Marquardt will need to be mindful of this during his attack and a Weidman-esque defense — the Octagon equivalent of rope-a-dope — would serve him well.

But I wouldn’t bet against Belfort in Brazil, simply because the confidence issues that have plagued him in the past, as well as his newfound alliance with Tristar gym, will exorcise his demons.

Even if it’s just for one night.

Final prediction: Belfort def. Marquardt by technical knockout

185 lbs.: Paulo Henrique “Borrachinha” Costa (9-0) vs. Oluwale “Holy War Angel” Bamgbose (6-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: I love Oluwale Bamgbose because when I see his name my awful brain reads “Bangbus” and I silently chuckle. Welcome to my life, folks. Anyway, the “Holy War Angel” was unable to parlay his success in Ring of Combat (ROC) into something meaningful under the UFC banner, going 1-2 since crossing over in late 2015.

On the bright side, all six of his wins have come by way of violent knockout.

That means Paulo Henrique Costa will have to keep his chin tucked if he wants to get out of Rio in one piece. Like Bamgbose, “Borrachinha” is a devastating striker, ending eight of his nine wins by way of strikes.

Because fuck the ground game, we like guys who war!

Bamgbose has a massive six-inch reach advantage, despite being a couple of inches shorter. That sounds a lot scarier than it is, simply because the 29-year-old slugger is void of technique. His “gameplan” is to run forward and punch as hard as he can.

Jab? What jab?

Expect the Brazilian to be faced with a dangerous opening round. But he’s equally powerful and more disciplined on his feet, so assuming one of those bombs doesn’t detonate, “Borrachinha” will trump savagery with technique.

I would be shocked if this bout saw the second stanza.

Final prediction: Costa def. Bamgbose by knockout

170 lbs.: Erick “Indigo” Silva (19-7, 1 NC) vs. Yancy “The Kid” Medeiros (13-4, 1 NC)

Nostradumbass predicts: Erick Silva debuted to much fanfare back in late 2011 and was pegged as an early candidate to be the future of the welterweight division. 13 fights later and “Tiger” is basically a .500 fighter, going 7-6 and getting finished three times.

Silva remains unranked at 170 pounds.

That’s unfortunate, as the Brazilian is talented in all areas of the fight game, except for defense and perhaps even fight I.Q., though I do admire his disdain for decisions, having seen the scorecards in just three of his 19 victories.

Similarities are apparent with his opponent, Yancy Medeiros, who lit up the regional scene en route to a 9-0 start from 2007-10, with two of those wins coming under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner.

That was the last of the headlines for “The Kid,” who may want to rework that nickname as he approaches the age of 30

Medeiros is also a prolific finisher, putting away 10 of 13, but the few times he was afforded the opportunity to step on some established stones, the Hawaiian came up short against rugged veterans Jim Miller and Dustin Poirier. That left him alongside the aforementioned Silva in Nowheresville.

On the bright side, there’s nowhere to go but up.

It’s kind of amazing that Medeiros has never scored a takedown in 11 fights for ZUFFA, not even by accident, and yet has four submission wins. Silva can wrestle but something tells me he’ll oblige “The Kid” and bang it out on the feet.

A decision that will cost him the fight.

Final prediction: Medeiros def. Silva via technical knockout

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 212 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC 212 extravaganza click here.

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