The final UFC show of 2018 looks like a fantastic pay-per-view event, as UFC 232 takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson vie for the light heavyweight title in the main event, while women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg defends her belt against women’s bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes in a “superfight.”
Why is this card happening in California and not Las Vegas as originally planned? Well, Jones tested positive for trace amounts of turinabol, the same substance that got him recently suspended by USADA. This result wasn’t considered a USADA violation, but the Nevada Athletic Commission wouldn’t license Jones, so the UFC moved the show. With that in mind, and before we see more twists and turns surrounding this card, let’s take a brief look at some of the night’s competitors who could cap off your 2018 by producing high scores for your DraftKings teams.
Jon Jones ($9,100) vs. Alexander Gustafsson ($7,100)
We know about Jones’ numerous problems outside the octagon, but inside of it? He’s been legendary. His last fight was a KO of Daniel Cormier, which of course didn’t count due to his drug test failure. Out of his 24 pro fights, only Matt Hamill has ever “beaten” him, and that was by DQ. One man who argues to this day he actually beat Jones is Gustafsson, who gave him a memorably tough fight at UFC 165 in 2013, coming up short by controversial unanimous decision. The Swede has remained one of the best light heavyweights in the world, but injuries have prevented him from being more active. His most recent outing was way back in May 2017, when he wowed his home fans with a fifth-round uppercut KO of Glover Teixeira.
Jones has said he didn’t take Gustafsson seriously the first time, as Alexander was able to outstrike him for large portions of the bout and stuff his takedowns, as well as take Jones down. The rematch figures to be fascinating given what’s transpired for both men over the past five years. That said, it’s hard to pick against Jones. He’s the superior athlete, a masterful strategist, an improved offensive striker, and has shown himself to be insanely tough when dealing with adversity in the cage. Gustafsson might need a finish to win this one, but I think Jones can win a high-volume kickboxing match and mix in timely takedowns to get an entertaining decision.
Number of Note: 113. Jones is averaging roughly 113 significant strikes over his past five fights, which includes his 134 against Gustafsson. In that fight, Gustafsson’s 110 significant strikes are the most anyone has ever landed on Jon.
Cris Cyborg ($9,200) vs. Amanda Nunes ($7,000)
One of the greatest women’s MMA fighters of all time, Cyborg has been a cut above the rest at 145 pounds. She’s not lost since her pro debut in 2005, and scarcely has been challenged. At UFC 222 in March, the 33-year-old quickly dispatched and stopped Yana Kunitskaya, which came on the back of a competitive but clear-cut decision over Holly Holm. Nunes figures to be one of Cyborg’s toughest challenges, if not the toughest. The current UFC women’s 135-pound champion holds notable finishes over Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, and at UFC 224 she busted up Raquel Pennington on her way to a fifth-round TKO in front of her home fans in Brazil.
This has a chance to be compelling and probably more exciting than the Holm fight, but Cyborg holds the advantages here. She’s the bigger fighter, harder striker, brutal clinch fighter, and proved her cardio is great by going 25 minutes with Holm. Nunes also will find it hard to take Cyborg down if she has to resort to that. You cannot discount Nunes given her impressive resume, but I still think Cyborg gets it done with pressure footwork and pinpoint striking on her to a TKO.
Number of Note: 85. When Cyborg wins, it’s almost always by knockout. A whopping 17 of her 20 pro victories by KO/TKO, an 85 percent finish rate. For what it’s worth, two of Nunes’ four losses have been by knockout.
Michael Chiesa ($9,000) vs. Carlos Condit ($7,200)
Chiesa finally is making the move to welterweight after missing weight for his most recent bout, a submission loss to former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The TUF 15 winner is on a two-fight losing skid, with his most recent win coming by submission against a fellow dangerous grappler in Beneil Dariush. As for Condit, he’s dropped his past four, with Alex Oliveira choking him out in April. “The Natural Born Killer” has long been known as one of the most exciting and talented fighters in MMA, but he appears to be on the downside of his career, and we might not see him fighting much longer.
Chiesa is the inferior striker, but he’s a crafty submission specialist who can exploit Condit’s notoriously poor takedown defense. We’ll most likely see exciting grappling exchanges on the mat given Condit’s aggressive guard, but I think his best days are behind him, and Chiesa will tap him out.
Number of Note: 10. Ten of Chiesa’s 14 professional wins have come by submission. Five of Condit’s 11 losses saw him get submitted.
Cat Zingano ($8,500) vs. Megan Anderson ($7,700)
Ordinarily a bantamweight, Zingano is moving up to featherweight to serve as a backup opponent in case something happens to either Cyborg or Nunes. Zingano ended a four-year, three-fight winless drought in July by dominating Marion Reneau by decision, a much-needed boost for her injury-riddled career. Anderson’s much-anticipated UFC debut was fairly disastrous, as Holly Holm prevailed in a one-sided beating on the ground at UFC 225. Prior to that, the Australian starred in Invicta FC, winning the promotion’s featherweight title, racking up four TKO finishes along the way with her dangerous striking.
Zingano doesn’t have Holm’s physical traits, but she is strong and an effective wrestler. She admittedly is vulnerable on the feet and has a history of questionable in-fight decision-making, but this seems like a bad stylistic matchup for the Australian. I’m going with Zingano to notch another win, possibly by submission.
Number of Note: 6. Zingano took Reneau down six times in her one-sided victory. Anderson was taken down four times by Holm, who’s certainly not known as a wrestler.
Petr Yan ($9,300) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade ($6,900)
The 25-year-old Yan was a sensation fighting on the regional scene in his native Russia, and his two UFC appearances have been electrifying. He scored a KO win over Teruto Ishihara in his octagon debut, then followed that up with a Fight of the Night war with Jin Yoo Son, whose head must be made of concrete. Andrade has not been terribly active in the UFC, with just five appearances over four years. He’s got a record of 3-2 in those bouts, most recently beating Marlon Vera by decision in February. His UFC career highlight was a spinning backfist and elbow TKO of Henry Briones back in November 2016.
You do not want to miss this fight. It has high potential to win Fight of the Night. These are two creative, explosive strikers who aren’t afraid to engage. I believe Yan is the more composed and diverse of the two strikers, so the pick is a Yan knockout in an absolute war.
Number of Note: 197. In their most recent respective fights, Yan and Andrade combined to land 197 significant strikes against their opponents over 15 minutes. Yan had exactly 100 significant strikes vs. Jin Soo Son, while Andrade connected on 97 against Vera.
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