Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing combat sports fans a championship doubleheader for the upcoming UFC 227 pay-per-view (PPV) event, scheduled for this Saturday night (Aug. 4, 2018) inside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
UFC 227 will be headlined by the bantamweight rematch between reigning 135-pound kingpin TJ Dillashaw and ex-champion Cody Garbrandt, who first went to war at UFC 217 last November with “No Love” going down on strikes.
In the UFC 227 co-headliner, longtime flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will give Olympic medalist Henry Cejudo another crack at the crown, after delivering “The Messenger” his first pro defeat way back at UFC 197.
Elsewhere on the card, longtime veteran Cub Swanson makes his return to the featherweight division opposite Brazilian bruiser Renato Moicano, while J.J. Aldrich and Polyana Viana hook ‘em up in strawweight action.
Before we break down the five-fight main card, let’s take a look at the wizarding world of Patrick Stumberg, as he magically breaks down the UFC 227 preliminary card — spread across FX and UFC Fight Pass — by clicking here and here. Odds and betting lines for all the UFC 227 action can be perused here.
Let’s get to it.
135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw (15-3) vs. Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I think it says a lot about the bantamweight division that Cody Garbrandt is getting an immediate rematch when he was knocked out by TJ Dillashaw the first time they went to war back at UFC 217. I understand that it’s not uncommon these days, as it was in the case of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but the Pole captured the crown in early 2015, then went on to register five straight title defenses. Garbrandt, on the other hand, was unable to defend his strap a single time. The obvious answer is “marketing” and I can’t imagine anyone in the promotion's front office was in a big hurry to give Raphael Assuncao — 1-1 against Dillashaw — the next crack at the bantamweight crown, so here we are. The good news? It’s going to be fireworks.
Typically when two fighters come back around to get after it a second time, there have been some bouts in between to make it easier for us to measure what sort of progress each combatant has made. Sometimes the answer is “none” and that just depends on the fighter. For UFC 227, this is essentially round three of their last fight. Garbrandt undoubtedly watched tape ad nauseam and probably feels confident that he fixed the mistake he made last November, just as Dillashaw believes he righted the wrong that left him wobbled to close out the first frame. At least we weren't subjected to another three months of Team Alpha Male vs. Duane Ludwig headlines. Even a clickety clickster like myself was over that nonsense.
Honestly, I don’t give a shit who wins this fight because it’s going to be bananas from bell-to-bell. As we saw in their first go-round, they match up pretty evenly in all areas. Garbrandt is slightly taller but has a slightly shorter reach. Dillashaw went further in his amateur wrestling career; however, Garbrandt has never been taken down in UFC. This is a question of who makes the first mistake and that’s what makes this fight so dangerous, there is absolutely no margin for error. I know I’m pretty critical of MMA fights that are nothing more than glorified kickboxing matches, but I think in this case — and considering the level of talent inside the cage — I’m willing to make an exception. Garbrandt feels like the right pick on Saturday, simply because the MMA gods love reruns — and hate Dominick Cruz.
Do I hear rubber match?!?
Final prediction: Garbrandt def. Dillashaw by technical knockout
125 lbs.: UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (27-2-1) vs. Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo (12-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: If you don’t enjoy watching Demetrious Johnson fight, then you probably aren’t a real MMA fan. Early criticism of “Mighty Mouse” was certainly warranted, as the flyweight phenom went to the judges’ scorecards in his first seven UFC fights. Nobody wants to watch a five-round sparring match. But then Johnson matured as a fighter and started to get more comfortable with his abilities. A lot of guys are afraid to commit to the finish because it leaves them vulnerable to counterattack, but when you move as fast as the champ does, it doesn’t really matter. I think once he realized that, he went from point fighter to ruthless killer, with seven of his last 10 fights ending by way of knockout or submission.
Including his 2016 destruction of Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo also had his fair share of growing pains, struggling to make the 125-pound limit on multiple occasions. And, like Johnson, he too matured as a fighter and began living as a flyweight instead of just fighting as one. A gold medalist in the 2008 Summer Olympics, “The Messenger” is certainly the most decorated wrestler in the division and he hits pretty hard for a flyweight. But unlike Johnson, he doesn’t know how to seamlessly transition between disciplines. You can almost see him making the conscious decision to shoot or strike as opposed to just adjusting on the fly. It probably doesn’t matter against most of his weight class, simply because he’s the better athlete, but it made his Joseph Benavidez fight way closer than it needed to be and against “Mighty Mouse,” he just got torn apart.
Let’s not bullshit ourselves here. This fight was booked because Johnson cleaned out the division and got injured when TJ Dillashaw offered to come down to flyweight and try that whole “champ champ” thing. That left us with reruns and I already know how this show ends. Despite all his gifts, Cejudo couldn’t seal the deal in 2016 and I don’t believe he’ll be able to do it here, either. I do, however, expect a more measured approach and a few takedowns, but all that will do is get this fight to last 25 minutes ... and not much else. “Mighty Mouse” is faster, has more cage awareness, and owns a much deeper toolbox. Barring something dramatic, expect Johnson to handily win four of the five frames while adding another lap to his UFC record.
Final prediction: Johnson def. Cejudo by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Cub Swanson (25-9) vs. Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (12-1-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: One of the great things about Cub Swanson, or more specifically his UFC career, is that it proves you don’t have to win a championship title or score some fancy-shmancy sponsor to have a long and prosperous career as an MMA fighter. You simply need to get into the Octagon, put on exciting fights, and not act like a drunken fool every time you’re out in public. To that end, Swanson has been a smashing success and he’s now 16 fights into his UFC run following eight appearances for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). There probably isn't a combat sports fan out there — young or old — who hasn't seen Swanson compete at some point over the last 15 years.
I’m not sure what he’s got left at age 34 and his career was littered with post-fight performance bonuses, so damage given is by proxy damage received. I don't want to go crazy over his consecutive losses to Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega, because those are two of the best featherweights in the game. As far as I can tell, Swanson is still a tremendous boxer with top-shelf cardio and a willingness to engage. That beats most fighters in the 145-pound weight class, including Dustin Poirier (UFC on Fuel TV 7) and Jeremy Stephens (UFC Fight Night 44), though his Swiss cheese submission defense has cost him his fair share of fights, to the tune of six taps in nine losses.
That might be a problem when he tangles with Renato Carneiro, a talented submission specialist who quietly put together a 4-1 record under the UFC banner. Prior to that, “Moicano” — which sounds way too much like “Boitano” — ran the table in Jungle Fight back in his native Brazil. He’s taller and has a longer reach than Swanson, but nobody in his corner is going to advise him to get into a boxing match with the wily veteran, so we can go ahead and just scrap those stats. When a fighter has gotten into double digits in the win column without a knockout, particularly after recycling cans on the local circuit, you know there’s a reason why.
Even as unreliable as Swanson is on submission defense, Carneiro is going to have to get their fight to the floor in order to exploit it. Against someone who’s shared the Octagon with the likes of Edgar, Ortega, Jose Aldo, and Chad Mendes, just to name a few, I find that to be a fairly daunting task. I would expect this to be three rounds of cat-and-mouse as Swanson uses fancy footwork and punishing counterpunches to keep “Moicano” at bay for the better part of 15 minutes. Besides, what has Carneiro done to establish himself as a legit contender outside of a split-decision win over “Lil’ Heathen” back in April 2017? Sorry, I need more.
Final prediction: Swanson def. Carneiro by unanimous decision
115 lbs.: J.J. Aldrich (6-2) vs. Polyana “Dama De Ferro” Viana (10-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: When I first saw that UFC put this bout on the main card, I shook my head and said to myself, “They only did this to get a women’s fight on PPV and in turn they screwed ... [scans UFC 227 line up for household names] ... uh ... you know this is probably going to turn out to be a great addition to the PPV card.” JJ Aldrich has fewer pro fights than her Brazilian foe, but more appearances under the UFC banner. What we’ve seen to date has been unremarkable in every way. After dropping her Octagon debut to Julianna Lima, Aldrich scored back-to-back decision wins over Chanmie Jeon and Danielle Taylor, neither of whom have a winning record in UFC.
Aldrich was expected to be a serious contender on Team Joanna during The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, right up until she got bounced in the opening round by Tatiana Suarez. That came as a surprise to most fans, as the Coloradan racked up a 7-4 record on the amateur circuit before going 2-1 in the pros. Her background is in Tae Kwon Do and she’s also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, though Aldrich has yet to record a submission victory in eight trips to the cage. That’s definitely going to be a factor against Polyana Viana, who comes into this contest the winner of six straight — five of them submissions.
The Brazilian has only been to the scorecards once and that was a decision loss to Aline Sattelmayer under the Real Fight umbrella back in late 2014. Outside of that hiccup, she’s been an absolute terror, finishing nine of her 10 fights inside the first frame. Before we start salivating over that stat I should also point out that only three of her wins came over opponents with a winning record. There is no height or reach advantage in this fight as both strawweights stand 5’5” and hold a 67” reach. Aldrich, however, is a southpaw, for whatever that’s worth in a fight at this level.
Aldrich is a solid fighter with serviceable hands. No question she has skills on the ground to to complement her stand up and make her a complete fighter, but she’s struggled to secure the finish as the competition has gotten stiffer. Viana, meanwhile, continues to seal the deal in each fight and I don’t expect this bout to be the exception. Look for the aggressive “Dama De Ferro” to score an early knockdown and follow Aldrich to the ground, where she locks up the fight-ending tap.
Final prediction: Viana def. Aldrich by submission
185 lbs.: Thiago “Marreta” Santos (17-6) vs. Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland (12-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: It’s hard to know what to expect from Thiago Santos on any given night. This is a middleweight who won four straight fights — all by way of knockout — including last February’s destruction of Anthony “Lionheart” Smith, who is now in the division title hunt after wiping out a couple of ex-champions. Then out of nowhere he gets KTFO by David Branch, a jiu-jitsu specialist who recorded just one KO over the last eight years. Prior to that, “Marreta” had yet another four-fight win streak derailed when he went down in flames against Gegard Mousasi.
The Brazilian has 12 knockouts in 17 wins — eight of them in the first round — so we know he’s not going to enter the Octagon and pull guard. We also know he’s about as tough as they come, thanks to his time spent as an army paratrooper That’s probably why only one of his six losses have gone to the scorecards. Santos is there to kill or be killed, but his inability to stay consistent has kept him from sniffing a title shot. To be honest, I’m not sure there’s anything he can do on Saturday night to change that, win or lose.
Kevin Holland (no relation) makes his Octagon debut after a strong showing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he returned a decision victory against Will Santiago Jr. I guess the biggest knock on that performance is how it didn't live up to “The Trailblazer’s” incessant yammering about how great he’s been. To his credit, his record backs it up, sporting a 8-1 mark dating back to late 2015 with eight finishes, including his one-off in Bellator MMA last March. Holland is a credible threat to the division, but he’s still got a long way to go in terms of proving he can hang with the Top 10.
One of the biggest concerns for Santos is overcoming a five-inch reach advantage. In addition, Holland also enjoys a three-inch edge in height and could probably make this bout a protracted sparring session if he knew how to effectively utilize the jab. It’s kind of amazing to me that we’re now in 2018 and the jab is still not at the forefront of every striker’s arsenal. I know Santos is getting up there in age, but 34 is not 44 and at age 25, Holland may not yet be in his prime. How could he be? This is his Octagon debut and we just don't know what to expect from a rookie who draws a main card slot on a major PPV. Until he proves otherwise, I have to side with the combatant who’s already proven himself against some of the toughest guys in the division. Expect Santos to get knocked around for awhile, then get pissed off and charge in with his Brazilian blitzkrieg, slicing right through any defense in the process.
Final prediction: Santos def. Holland by technical knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 227 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 FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For much more on UFC 227 click here.