Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sets off for Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., this weekend (Sat., July 22, 2017) with three title fights in tow, stacking UFC 214’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card with a heap of quality mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
In the main event, 205-pound champion Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones attempt to finally settle their feud in a long-awaited Light Heavyweight championship rematch, while Welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley looks for his third title defense against Demian Maia and his seven-fight win streak. Batting third is Cris “Cyborg,” who faces Tonya Evinger for the vacant women’s Featherweight title.
Seven “Prelims” will set UFC 214’s PPV stage, three on Fight Pass and four on the rarely-used FXX channel. Let’s first breakdown the online lineup below:
115 lbs.: Kailin Curran vs. Aleksandra Albu (2-0)
Kailin Curran (4-4) — who welcomed Paige VanZant to the Octagon in 2014 — enters Saturday’s bout just 1-4 in the world’s largest fighting promotion. She snapped a two-fight losing streak in 2015 with a submission of Emily Kagan, but embarked on another such streak thanks to Felice Herrig and Jamie Moyle.
She stands an inch taller than Aleksandra Albu (2-0) at 5’4.”
“Stitch” finally made her first UFC appearance almost two years after she was initially signed, taking on Izabela Badurek in the latter’s native Poland. Despite a close first round, she managed to come up big with a guillotine finish in the second.
This will be her first fight in 27 months.
I’m not sure what Curran’s issue is, but she should be doing better than this. It’s hard to have confidence in her, even when her opponent hasn’t fought in more than two years. In addition to solid movement and boxing, Albu has a good grasp of framing and underhooks to deny takedowns. She’s a bit vulnerable to being pressed against the cage for long stretches, but so is Curran, who also looks to be the more hittable of the two. Unless Curran can hit consistent takedowns or keep her pinned to the cage for minutes at a time, Albu outlands her for the decision.
Prediction: Albu via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Eric Shelton vs. Jarred Brooks (12-0)
Ranked No. 15 on The Ultimate Fighter TUF) 24, Eric Shelton (10-3) upset No. 2-ranked Yoni Sherbatov on the Round of 16 and went all the way to the semifinals before falling to Tim Elliott by narrow decision. He went on to face No. 1-ranked Alexandre Pantoja at UFC on FOX 23 and, once again, came up just barely short in the second split decision loss of his professional career.
Half of his professional wins have come by submission.
Jarred Brooks (12-0) entered MMA with a top-notch wrestling pedigree and immediately put it to good use, fighting and winning everywhere from Strawweight to Bantamweight. He stepped up on short notice to face Ian McCall at UFC 208, but “Uncle Creepy’s” eleventh-hour illness delayed Brooks’ debut until this Saturday.
“The Monkey God” will give up three inches of height and an inch of reach to Shelton.
Anyone who hasn’t seen Brooks fight is in for a treat. He pushes an absurd pace, winging power hooks until he can close the distance for a huge takedown, and he’s a quality scrambler on top of that. He does have two key issues, though, chief among them: Size. He can fight comfortably at 115 pounds and did so in his most recent fight.
The other, which could cost him dearly, is his lack of defense. He has a habit of pushing forward so hard with his strikes that he gets off-balance and Shelton proved in his last fight that he can deliver power shots on the retreat. I do think Brooks will give him problems and maybe hit a few eye-catching slams, but Shelton’s own wrestling and counters should carry him to a narrow win.
Prediction: Shelton via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober
Josh Burkman’s (28-15) vicious guillotine of Jon Fitch, part of a 6-1 run that included wins over three additional UFC veterans, resulted in his return to the Octagon after more than six years away. The homecoming hasn’t been a productive one, however, as he’s gone just 1-5 (1 NC) in his last run.
He is eight years older than Drew Dober (17-8), but debuted only three years earlier.
An up-and-down start to his UFC career, which included an upset submission of Jamie Varner and one of the worst stoppages in UFC history against Leandro Silva, finally gave way to two consecutive wins in 2016. He couldn’t quite finish the year unbeaten, however, suffering his second-ever submission loss to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in Toronto.
Nine of his professional wins have come by submission, though several were to strikes.
Burkman has not looked good in a fight in more than three years. He had a couple decent rounds against Patrick Cote before getting obliterated with a right hand and beat a faded K.J. Noons, sure, but he didn’t look good doing so. There has not been a single point in Burkman’s current UFC run where I thought, “Man, I’m glad Josh Burkman is back in UFC — he’s making a real impact!”
While Dober may never crack the division elite, he’s a solid striker and competent wrestler, which ought to be plenty considering how ineffective Burkman has looked in both departments. He wins enough striking exchanges to earn the decision.
Prediction: Dober via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 214 “Prelims” matches to preview and predict tomorrow, including a clash of undefeated Featherweight prospects, a former champion, and Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight in the main event.
See you then, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 214 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FXX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.