The two undisputed kings of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division will duke it out once again this Saturday evening (June 9, 2018) when Robert Whittaker fights Yoel Romero in UFC 225’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The co-main event sees Rafael dos Anjos look to secure a title in a second weight class against Colby Covington, competing for the interim UFC Welterweight belt, and Invicta champ Megan Anderson fights Holly Holm in the third slot.
UFC 225 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, four apiece on Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1. Let’s see what’s cooking on the Internet!
205 lbs.: Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith
It’s been more than four years since Rashad Evans (19-7-1) demolished Chael Sonnen in his last Octagon victory. He has since lost four straight, including a winless (0-2) Middleweight run that featured split decision losses to Dan Kelly and Sam Alvey.
“Suga” is four inches shorter than Anthony Smith (28-13) and will give up two inches of reach.
“Lionheart” — who was one-and-done in his first UFC venture — won eight straight to earn another shot in the Octagon. After splitting his first two bouts, he rattled off a three-fight knockout streak before succumbing to the power of Thiago Santos in February.
Fourteen of his 25 stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
If Evans had shown even a modicum of his former self since 2013, I’d pick him to win this without much trouble. Smith’s takedown defense remains iffy and I don’t think moving to 205 pounds is the panacea for that particular trouble. As is, Evans is too reluctant to pull the trigger for me to pick him over someone who throws this much volume.
Evans needs to stay low, active and work his way inside Smith’s reach to overpower him on the mat. I’m sure he can still do that physically, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him finally pick up another win, but I say his hesitation costs him as Smith potshots his way to victory at range.
Prediction: Smith via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Sergio Pettis vs. Joseph Benavidez
After opening his UFC career 3-2, Sergio Pettis (16-3) finally got his feet under him and proceeded to win four straight, among them a main event victory over Brandon Moreno in hostile territory. Henry Cejudo proved a step too far, though, exploiting Pettis’ takedown defense to win a unanimous decision.
He will have two inches of height and four inches of reach on Joseph Benavidez (25-4).
Benavidez has won 13 of his last 15 fights, defeating everyone not named Demetrious Johnson along the way. His current six-fight streak includes a split decision victory over Cejudo in his last bout.
This will be his first Octagon appearance since Dec. 2016 thanks to ACL surgery.
In more than one decade as a professional fighter, Benavidez has only ever lost to the Flyweight G.O.A.T. and the arguable Bantamweight G.O.A.T. That streak has to end at some point, obviously, but it won’t be doing so this Saturday. He’s got the same sort of wrestling prowess that has stymied Pettis in the past and his sheer speed is enough for him to hold his own on the feet.
Unless Pettis can finally show off some stopping power, Benavidez is going to walk him down all night, clipping him with overhands and hooks until he can dominate on the mat. In other words, 30-27s across the board for Joe B.
Prediction: Benavidez via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Charles Oliveira
Clay Guida (34-17) has found new life since returning to Lightweight, winning two straight after ending his Featherweight run on a 1-3 skid. His last fight saw him score his first (technical) knockout in almost a decade by stopping Joe Lauzon in just 67 seconds.
“The Carpenter” is three inches shorter than Charles Oliveira (22-8) and will give up four inches of reach.
A series of catastrophic weight cut failures — including weighing in at the Lightweight limit for his Featherweight fight with Ricardo Lamas — sent “Do Bronx” back to 155 pounds after 12 fights at Featherweight. He choked out Will Brooks in his Lightweight return, but got pounded into the dirt by Paul Felder in his most recent appearance.
He replaces Bobby Green on just over a week’s notice.
This could either be very entertaining or hideously boring — there is no middle ground. All things being equal, I lean toward Oliveira. On the feet, his height and clinch knees give him the edge, while his ground prowess is well-known. Guida risks a guillotine or sweep every time he ducks in for one of his favored double-legs and isn’t an active enough ground-and-pounder to break Oliveira’s will the way Felder did.
Oliveira is just too dangerous on the ground for Guida to execute his ideal gameplan and too dangerous with his clinch striking for Guida to grind him to death on the cage. In short, Oliveira catches him in something nasty before long.
Prediction: Oliveira via first-round submission
145 lbs.: Mike Santiago vs. Dan Ige
Mike Santiago (21-11) knocked out Mark Cherico on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” to cap off an 11-fight win streak that included nine first-round finishes. He went on to lose to Zabit Magomedsharipov in his Octagon debut, then dropped a decision to Mads Burnell four months later.
He has submitted 10 opponents and knocked out another seven.
Dan Ige (8-2) rattled off five straight wins to earn a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” slot, choking out Luis Gomez in Week 3. Facing fellow “Tuesday Night Contender Series” alumnus Julio Arce in his UFC debut, “Dynamite” struggled to deal with his opponent’s striking and ultimately lost a unanimous decision.
He is three inches shorter than Santiago, but will have a two-inch reach advantage.
Santiago is the more entertaining of these two by a fair margin, which makes it a bit of a bummer that he’s going to eat his third consecutive loss. Ige may be a slow, one-note grinder, but a severely diminished Burnell managed to take down Santiago three times, so my faith in his counter-wrestling isn’t sky-high at the moment.
Santiago’s the better striker of the two and will have a considerable edge if he can force a high-pace, scramble-heavy bout. After his last performance, though, I see Ige’s meat-and-potatoes wrestling putting him on top long enough to get the decision.
Prediction: Ige via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 225 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of Mirsad Bektic and a clash of Top 10-ranked Heavyweight contenders in the featured undercard bout. See you there, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 225 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 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.