Fans will be treated to an amazing card on free TV when the UFC on FOX goes down Saturday night in Chicago. The bantamweight strap is on the line as TJ Dillashaw tries to defend his title against the man he took it from in Renan Barao. Let’s break down the card.
Renan Barao ($8500) vs TJ Dillashaw ($10900)
I’m certain we’ll see a different Renan Barao this time around against TJ Dillashaw. That said, Dillashaw has been a completely different fighter since hooking up with Duane Ludwig as his coach. His strikes landed stats are eye-popping. He’s landed over 400 strikes over his last three fights, and more than doubled the output of Barao in their last fight. Barao cuts a lot of weight to get to 135. Dillashaw and his camp know this, and they expect the same as the last fight: get to the latter rounds where Barao will fade and Dillashaw will attack. At that point his speed and angles will allow him to knock out the former champ again.
Pick: Dillashaw by KO/TKO
Miesha Tate ($10700) vs Jessica Eye ($8700)
I’m still not sure Miesha Tate gets the credit she deserves, but that’s an entirely different article. But for now, let’s just say that she is a world-class fighter who absolutely never quits. She might not be the best at any one aspect of MMA, but she is certainly well-rounded. She has fought the best in her division for many, many years. Once the fight starts, I think fans will be reminded that Miesha is on a different level. I see Miesha choking out Eye, probably in round two.
Pick: Tate by submission
Paul Felder ($9700) vs Edson Barboza ($9700)
Felder is 10-0 with big knockout power behind diverse striking. Barboza throws some of the most devastating leg kicks in MMA. This should be one of the more entertaining fights of the night. Felder is better defensively than Barboza, who is quite hittable. With this looking like a slugfest, I like Felder to knock Barboza out, proving he is indeed a legit lightweight in the UFC.
Pick: Felder by KO/TKO
Takanori Gomi ($8300) vs Joe Lauzon ($11100)
Back in the day, Takanori Gomi was one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. Unfortunately age has caught up to him, and “The Fireball Kid” sizzles less and less with every fight. Lauzon is still in his prime with an excellent chin and ground game. At some point Lauzon will take Gomi’s back after a scramble and choke him out. Book it.
Pick: Lauzon by submission
Tom Lawlor ($10800) vs Gian Villante ($8600)
Welcome back, Tom Lawlor. For your first fight in over two years you get a matchup with Gian Villante, who just happens to be Chris Weidman’s training partner. Villante has big power, and he flew under the radar for years until he smoked Corey Anderson at the last UFC on FOX. Lawlor has never been knocked out, but he also isn’t the most accurate striker. This has all the earmarks of going to the scorecards, and while I’m tempted to pick Villante by KO, Lawlor is the ultimate grinder who will likely finish the fight. If you run multiple lineups, Villante is a solid value play at $8600, especially if he gets the finish.
Pick: Villante by decision
Jim Miller ($10100) vs Danny Castillo ($9300)
Miller might not make it back to the top five of the division, but he’s far from finished. He has lost two in a row, but one was to Donald Cerrone and the other was a decision loss to Beneil Dariush, who will be a top-five fighter in this division soon. The problem for Miller here is the matchup. Castillo is a solid wrestler who defends takedowns and submission attempts well. This one looks like it will stay mostly standing, and Castillo has a slight advantage there.
Pick: Castillo by decision
Kenny Robertson ($10000) vs Ben Saunders ($9400)
Saunders showed how slick his ground game is now when he scored a win by omoplata over Chris Heatherly last year. But if this fight goes to the ground Saunders will not find subs but the murderous fists and elbows of Kenny Robertson, a very underrated fighter in my opinion. Robertson could always wrestle and his striking has improved greatly over the years. I like this fight for Robertson wherever it goes.
Pick: Robertson by decision
Bryan Caraway ($9500) vs Eddie Wineland ($9900)
Wineland is at a different level than Caraway when it comes to striking, in both speed and power. Caraway is a good fighter and solid wrestler, but at some point Wineland will tag Caraway and end his night. Wineland is an underrated fighter that continually has to reintroduce himself to the masses. He’ll do it again with a bang Saturday night.
Pick: Wineland by KO/TKO
James Krause ($9100) vs Daron Cruickshank ($10300)
I was a bit stunned to see that these two fighters are a combined 2-5 with one no contest in their last eight fights. This is an excellent matchup for Cruickshank. He won’t have to worry at all about being taken down by Krause, and he’ll be able to implement his outstanding striking game. I expect Cruickshank to find the range by round two and then hit Krause with something that sends him down to the ground, where Cruickshank will pounce and finish.
Pick: Cruickshank by KO/TKO
Andrew Holbrook ($9600) vs Ramsey Nijem ($9800)
Holbrook has been more than impressive on the regional circuit, going 9-0 with 9 submission wins. Nijem has loads of talent, and I think we haven’t seen the best that he can be yet. Knowing that Holbrook is a submission specialist, Nijem might forego his solid takedown game and try to make it a kickboxing match. If that’s the case, I look for him to take this by decision.
Pick: Nijem by decision
Jessamyn Duke ($8800) vs Elizabeth Phillips ($10600)
Phillips and Duke have both had rough starts to their UFC careers. Duke won her first bout then dropped her next two, while Phillips remains winless in The Octagon. Duke choked out Phillips in an ammy fight in 2012, but that won’t happen again. Still, Duke has a tremendous reach advantage and throws mass strikes. She will have a lot more output than Phillips and take this by decision. The question when making your lineup is whether a decision upset is worth $8800 of your salary cap.
Pick: Duke by decision
Zak Cummings ($11200) vs Dominique Steele ($8200)
Steele is a late addition to this card and gets the beastly Zak Cummings in his UFC debut. Cummings is a suffocating grappler who will get Steele down and beat him up. He’ll win but won’t hit value on his lofty $11,200 salary.
Pick: Cummings by decision