The wait is over. Conor McGregor finally gets his shot at Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title. And that might not even be the best fight on the card. Let’s break down the truly stacked UFC 194.
Jose Aldo ($9500) vs Conor McGregor ($9900)
This is not only the most-anticipated fight of the year, it’s also the most difficult to pick. Aldo is aging slightly, suffering injuries, in his 12th year as a pro, and fighting after a layoff of more than a year. McGregor has the tools and record to back up his bravado, but he has never faced a fighter like Aldo, who is one of the most difficult fighters to hit cleanly, and near impossible to take down. I think Conor will get frustrated when he’s unable to put Aldo away. Aldo will try to counter everything Conor throws, and might even shoot for takedowns. The leg kicks of death will also come into play. All of that will disturb McGregor’s rhythm, leaving him leery to engage freely. McGregor will have to force the action at some point — likely in the championship rounds — and that’s when Aldo will make him pay for his mistake.
Pick: Aldo by KO/TKO
Luke Rockhold ($9400) vs Chris Weidman ($10000)
This fight will take place wherever Chris Weidman wants it to take place. Rockhold won’t take him down, and Weidman has never been taken down in a fight anyway. Both fighters like to pressure, but Weidman does it better. Rockhold does better with kicks than Weidman, but Weidman has more power. Rockhold is excellent at takedown defense, but I bank on Weidman being able to get him to the ground. It may come after he hurts Rockhold with punches, at which point he takes him down and pounds him out. They are very even statistically, but I believe Weidman’s big fight experience, power and wrestling wins out.
Pick: Weidman by KO/TKO
Yoel Romero ($9200) vs Jacare Souza ($10200)
Two world-class athletes do battle with former Olympian Romero taking on BJJ champion Jacare Souza. Both are tremendous athletes, with big power and amazing ground games. Romero showed he is capable of beating the best when he finished Lyoto Machida in June. But Jacare poses a unique challenge due to his ground game. This fight will get to the ground and anytime that happens with Jacare it’s a problem for his opponent. Jacare will win and get the next shot at the title.
Pick: Souza by submission
Gunnar Nelson ($9300) vs Demian Maia ($10100)
Gunnar Nelson is a world-class jiu jitsu player, but Maia runs the master class, as he showed against Neil Magny in his last fight. He’s also greatly improved as a striker, and absorbs little punishment. Nelson throws more volume, but eats more shots too. This is Maia wherever it goes, and the Jiu Jitsu ace will take Nelson to school.
Pick: Maia by submission
Max Holloway ($10900) vs Jeremy Stephens ($8500)
Max Holloway is one of the most technical fighters in the UFC, using outstanding footwork to pepper his opponents with shots. He lands an insane 5.67 significant strikes per minute, and Stephens will not be able to take him down. Holloway’s speed and volume will make this a quick fight. He overwhelms Stephens in the first, getting the TKO victory.
Pick: Holloway by KO/TKO
Urijah Faber ($11000) vs Frankie Saenz ($8400)
Weird matchup for Faber in that Saenz is the #13 bantamweight in the UFC, and Faber has designs on a title shot. This fight won’t help him any. Saenz has made the most of his time in the UFC with three straight wins, and is rewarded with a fight against Faber. Conventional wisdom has Faber using his speed and footwork to outstrike Saenz, and defensive wrestling to keep this fight on the feet. It should be a fun fight to watch but one that has going to a decision written all over it. Faber will score the W, but won’t be worth his price tag.
Pick: Faber by decision
Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger ($8700) vs Tecia Torres ($10700)
This should be a squash. Torres is an outstanding wrestler who connects on punches in bunches. Jones-Lynbarger is making her UFC debut without a full camp. Torres will dominate Jones-Lynbarger, and will beat her down, take her back and choke her out.
Pick: Torres by submission
Colby Covington ($9800) vs Warlley Alves ($9600)
A slight upset here. Alves is slick on the ground and has good power. He has a better skill set and has fought much stiffer competition than Covington. Alves will love for Covington to try and take him down. Wrestling is Covington’s specialty, but Alves will make him regret going to the ground. Look for the Brazilian to remain unbeaten with a quick submission.
Pick: Alves by submission
Leonardo Santos ($8600) vs Kevin Lee ($10800)
If you are looking for a low-cost punt play, Leonardo Santos isn’t a bad choice. He fights for Nova Uniao, has plenty of experience, and has a clear advantage on the ground. Lee hasn’t been able to finish many fights in the UFC, so I also don’t like him here for that reason. You’ll have to bite the bullet and pick an upset somewhere, and I think Santos has a legit shot at submitting Lee.
Pick: Santos by submission
Magomed Mustafaev ($10600) vs Joe Proctor ($8800)
Mustafaev has huge power, and Joe Proctor is just too easy to hit. Light out in the first round.
Pick: Mustafaev by KO/TKO
Yancy Medeiros ($9100) vs John Makdessi ($10300)
I find John Makdessi to be underrated. He was doing well against Donald Cerrone before the head kick ended his night, but he outlanded Cerrone and did it with more accuracy than Cowboy. He has good power and excellent boxing. Medeiros has always found a way to falter against the division’s better talent, and that will be the case here too. Makdessi averages over five significant strikes per minute, and Medeiros will eat a ton of shots. Makdessi will drop him before the final bell, and I really like this pick as a lock.
Pick: Makdessi by KO/TKO
Court McGee ($10400) vs Marcio Alexandre Junior ($9000)
McGee hasn’t fought in about two years, and he hasn’t finished an opponent since 2010. He throws in volume, which is good, but he’s not that accurate or powerful. He’ll win the rounds and the fight, but he won’t be worth $10400 in salary. I’m staying away here.
Pick: McGee by decision