UFC on Fox 15 is a card filled with intriguing matchups. Paige VanZant tries to prove she’s a true contender in the UFC women’s strawweight division, while Felice Herrig needs a win to keep moving toward a title shot. Two fast-rising fighters look to move up in the rankings in Corey Anderson and Beneil Dariush. And the main event of Luke Rockhold vs. Lyoto Machida should be an exciting striking clinic. Let’s break it down.
Luke Rockhold ($10200) vs Lyoto Machida ($9500)
This is going to be fun. Rockhold loves to push the pace while Machida is one of the best counter-punchers in the game. I think the matchup is favorable to Rockhold. He has tremendous speed and both a reach and height advantage over Machida. While neither fighter is likely to shoot for takedowns, there will be scrambles and that too favors Rockhold, who is quicker and has a killer sub game. Machida hasn’t subbed an opponent in almost eight years, so that’s not a concern for Rockhold. For Machida to win, he’ll have to catch Rockhold on a counter and knock him out. I don’t see that happening. Rockhold will not finish, but he will win by decision.
Pick: Rockhold by decision
Jacare Souza ($11900) vs Chris Camozzi ($7400)
This will be a very rude welcome back fight for Chris Camozzi. Camozzi returns to the UFC as a replacement for Yoel Romero, and he gets one of the top fighters in the world in Jacare Souza. I would have picked Jacare against Romero — or almost anyone else for that matter — so this one is the no-brainer of the card. Jacare already beat Camozzi once, choking him out in the first round of their fight in 2013. It will be the upset of the century if Camozzi pulls this off. Jacare will be good for about 120 points.
Pick: Jacare via submission
Cub Swanson ($10300) vs Max Holloway ($9100)
This should be an action-packed bout between two fighters that are always a joy to watch. Holloway possesses some of the best footwork and boxing in the UFC and he throws a lot of punches, landing almost six significant strikes per minute. He’s won five straight since losing to Conor McGregor, and a win over Swanson would likely move him into the top five for featherweights. Swanson is coming off a brutal loss to Frankie Edgar, one that halted his six-fight winning streak. He desperately needs a win here. This fight should remain on the feet, and while Swanson is a proficient striker in his own right, he won’t match the volume of Holloway. This one will go the distance, and Holloway will win enough rounds to get his hand raised.
Pick: Holloway by decision
Paige VanZant ($10100) vs Felice Herrig ($9300)
VanZant has become the trendy pick here after her amazing performance against Kailin Curran. She can do it all and does it all in dynamic fashion. She’s fast, creative and has an endless supply of energy. She’s all about non-stop pressure, looking to break the will of her opponent. But Herrig has a wealth of experience to draw on. She was caught early in her fight with Lisa Ellis, but calmly escaped and went about her business. Herrig is also very well-rounded, with a ground game that is ever improving. This has Fight of the Night written all over it. I don’t think that VanZant will be able to work Herrig up against the cage like she did with Curran, and it likely could be the other way around. It will be close, but I like Herrig to take it by decision.
Pick: Herrig by decision
Beneil Dariush ($10700) vs Jim Miller ($8700)
Replacements usually favor the fighter initially scheduled to fight. Not so here. Beneil Dariush replaced Paul Felder to take this fight just about one month after his exciting victory over Daron Cruickshank at UFC 185. Miller has dropped out of the top 10 down to 12, and Dariush is poised to make his way into the rankings. Miller was once a top contender, and could make the division more interesting with a win here. But watching Dariush in his last few fights, you get the sense that he is something special and on his way to the top of the division. I think Dariush will outstrike Miller, get him to the ground and submit him.
Pick: Dariush by submission
Patrick Cummins ($10000) vs Ovince St. Preux ($9400)
Cummins has shown to be a force following his UFC debut loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 170. He’s scored 14 takedowns over his last three fights, all of them victories. He’s also outstruck his opponents by a total of 167-37 in those bouts. He’s putting up big points on Draft Kings, and St. Preux showed he is susceptible to takedowns in his fight with Ryan Bader. But he has some big power, demonstrated when he dropped Shogun Rua with a counter-left hook while he was backing up. He has five UFC wins; the last four have been finishes. If he can stop the Cummins takedown attempts early he’ll be able to work his striking. I think he will, and he’ll knock out Cummins.
Pick: St. Preux by KO/TKO
Corey Anderson ($11000) vs Gian Villante ($8400)
Corey Anderson is too big, too fast and too strong for Gian Villante. He’s scored nine takedowns in his first two UFC fights, and he’ll do exactly that to Villante. He’ll take him down, beat him up and pound him out. I see a quick finish here for Anderson.
Pick: Anderson by KO/TKO
Aljamain Sterling ($10900) vs Takeya Mizugaki ($8500)
Mizugaki is as durable as they come and he represents a great matchup for the undefeated Sterling, who will try to take that next step in the division. Sterling has great takedowns and is a very active fighter. He also trains with Matt Serra and Ray Longo, which means we’ll see an improved version of him with each fight in The Octagon. I do not expect Sterling to finish Mizugaki, but he will land more strikes and take Mizugaki down. It’s the type of fight Sterling needs to take his game to the next level. Sterling will take this, but he’ll have to go the distance for the win. But if you need a low-priced fighter for your team, you could do worse than Mizugaki.
Pick: Sterling by decision