UFC 184 goes down Saturday night in Las Vegas, and the women take center stage in the main event. Someone’s ‘O’ has got to go, as undefeated women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey defends her title against undefeated Cat Zingano. We also get to see the debut of the hard-hitting Holly Holm, the return of Josh Koscheck and much more. Let’s break down the card, Draft Kings Playbook style.
Ronda Rousey ($13500) vs. Cat Zingano ($6600)
Zingano offers great value at just $6600. But to make that play, you have to be sure she’ll win or at least go the distance with Rousey. The odds of either happening are slim. Rousey is simply on another level skill-wise than the entirety of women’s MMA.
Zingano has many qualities. She’s strong, durable and an accurate striker. But unless she scores a quick knockout, the fight will eventually get to the ground, as Zingano’s takedown defense is pedestrian. Rousey averages over eight takedowns and almost six submission attempts per 15 minutes. When it hits the ground, you know what will happen. Rousey will break her arm or get her to tap before the snap. If you believe Zingano is the one to dethrone Rousey, have at it. But the smart money is to take Rousey to continue her destruction and retain her title.
Prediction: Rousey by submission
Holly Holm ($13400) vs. Raquel Pennington ($6400)
The highly-anticipated debut of Holly Holm is finally here, and she gets a favorable matchup in Raquel Pennington. Simply put, Holm is bigger, stronger and has a reach advantage and more experience. She was an 18-time champion boxer, holding a record of 33-2. She moved to MMA and won her first seven fights, six by knockout. Yes, Holly Holm is as good as advertised. Pennington is as game as they come, and is durable enough to take this the distance. If Pennington can grind out three rounds, she might hit value. But the more likely scenario is a knockout in round two or three after Holm shakes off the UFC debut jitters.
Prediction: Holm by KO/TKO
Jake Ellenberger ($11400) vs. Josh Koscheck ($8500)
Josh Koscheck is back after taking all of 2014 off, at which time you probably thought he retired. Koscheck, 37, hasn’t had his hand raised since 2012 and has lost three fights in a row, all to division powerhouses: Woodley, Lawler, Hendricks. No shame in any of those losses. Ellenberger is on a slide of his own, dropping three straight fights. Both are wrestlers that developed striking skills and have powerful right hands. Did the time off recharge Koscheck for one more run? Is Ellenberger too strong and too hungry for the former welterweight title challenger? An upset here wouldn’t be a surprise, but given Koscheck’s age, time away and reduced chin, look for Ellenberger to send Koscheck into retirement.
Prediction: Ellenberger by KO/TKO
Alan Jouban ($12500) vs. Richard Walsh ($7400)
Jouban won Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night bonuses after knocking out Seth Baczynski at UFN 47. Walsh likes to bang, and two of his four wins have come by KO. Both are coming off losses, and controversial ones at that. It’s doubtful either one wants to tempt that fate again, but on paper this looks to be a grind-it-out affair likely to be decided by the judges. You can’t play all the favorites, and at $7400, Walsh is a solid choice for an upset special. He’s ready to take that next step.
Prediction: Walsh by decision
Tony Ferguson ($11400) vs. Gleison Tibau ($8500)
This has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Both fighters are extremely difficult to take down, so the action will remain on the feet. That favors Ferguson, who has youth, speed and reach to his advantage. He loves a fast-paced fight and he will eventually wear down Tibau, who is on a short turn around after fighting just six weeks ago. While Tibau is a tough out and hard to finish, Michael Johnson knocked him out at UFC 168. I expect Ferguson to do the same.
Prediction: Ferguson by KO/TKO
Mark Munoz ($12200) vs. Roan Carneiro ($7700)
The rumors of the demise of Mark Munoz have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, he’s lost three of his last four fights, but they were to elite fighters such as Mousasi, Machida and UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Carneiro returns to the UFC for the first time since 2008, and he’s riding a five-fight winning streak. Carneiro is a ground specialist, and while Munoz has an outstanding wrestling pedigree, he’s actually fairly easy to get down. Carneiro averaged over three three takedowns per fight during his first UFC stint, and he will get Munoz to the ground. Munoz has only been submitted once in his career, so I don’t expect Carneiro to finish him. But I do predict him to win by decision.
Prediction: Carneiro by decision
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto ($12300) vs. Roman Salazar ($7600)
Back in the day, there weren’t many fighters better than Kid Yamamoto. He went more than five years without losing a fight and dominated K-1. But he hasn’t fought in over three years and he’s lost five of his last six fights. The “Kid” has aged, and unfortunately not so gracefully. His last run in the UFC was disastrous, and it’s surprising that he is back for more. On paper, Salazar is an opponent that Yamamoto could beat, but I suspect that Salazar will be able to take this to final horn and get his first UFC win.
Prediction: Salazar by decision
Dhiego Lima ($10100) vs. Tim Means ($9900)
Dhiego Lima was the perfect for “The Ultimate Fighter,” a young fighter who just needed a chance at the big show, and one who is likely to improve with each fight he takes. He has a fantastic ground game, and while Tim Means is solid in his takedown defense, Lima should be able to get Means to the ground repeatedly. From there he will use his speed and power to lay some ground and pound on Means. Means will survive, but Lima will take it via unanimous decision.
Prediction: Lima by decision
Derrick Lewis ($12600) vs. Ruan Potts ($7300)
Lewis is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Matt Mitrione at UFN 50. But before that setback, he won his first two UFC fights by knockout in the first round. He was the Legacy FC heavyweight champ, and has tremendous power. Of his 11 wins, ten have come by knockout. That’s bad news for Ruan Potts, who has already been knocked out twice in his first two UFC fights. This is the no-brainer on the card. Lewis by vicious KO in round one.
Prediction: Lewis by KO