The UFC closes out the 2015 calendar on Saturday with a highly anticipated rematch, as lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos puts his championship on the line against “The Cowboy” Donald Cerrone. Their first match-up was in August of 2013 when dos Anjos won via triangle choke. Here is a look at the main card.
Women’s Strawweight Division (115 pounds): Randa Markos (5-2) vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7-0)
Markos, currently ranked eighth in the strawweight division, made a name for herself when she submitted the highly ranked Tecia Torres on The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, she has split a pair of fights inside the Octagon and is looking to regain some traction in the division. She is the definition of a wrestler/grappler. She pressures in the pocket and throws flurries of take-down attempts, followed by numerous submission attempts. As for Kowalkiewicz, nothing about her skill set really stands out. She has seven victories, but four have been by decision. She relies on heart more than anything, and in a match-up against a sound technical wrestler, she will need to find the ability to keep her space from Markos, and work strikes from the outside. This is the first fight in the Octagon for Kowalkiewicz, and any nerves will need to be shaken off before this one starts if she is going to have a chance.
Prediction: Markos by submission, second round
Lightweight Division (155 pounds): Michael Johnson (17-9) vs Nate Diaz (18-10)
By now, Nate Diaz’s strengths and weaknesses are very well documented. His boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are top notch. But he doesn’t match up well against wrestlers. He missed weight in his last fight and got systematically destroyed for three full rounds by Rafael dos Anjos. The knock on Diaz is his lack of commitment. But, if he shows up in shape and sharp after a full training camp, he can hang with anybody. His best chance in this one is to stick to his strengths in the striking game. As for Johnson, he is a tremendous kickboxer, who deals at a fast pace. His striking offense is crisp, and his defense is on point as well. His best chance is to use his speed to keep Diaz guessing which angle he is coming from. Diaz’s front leg should be a main target. Johnson does possess decent leg kicks, and he should use them to keep Diaz honest in the striking game.
Prediction: Johnson by first round TKO
Heavyweight Division: Alistair Overeem (39-14) vs Junior dos Santos (17-3)
This one is easily defined as “power vs power”. Junior dos Santos is a destructively powerful boxer, who has numerous highlight reel knockout victories in the Octagon. He also recently earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and is a talented wrestler, as well. As is always the case with dos Santos, his road to victory will have to be behind his knockout ability. As for Overeem, this is his first fight in more than a year. He also possesses monstrous power and has the ability to knock about out who he connects with. Overeem will need to rely on the ability to dodge punches, and land counter strikes if stands a chance to beat dos Santos. He should have a speed advantage in this one, but if not used correctly, that becomes more of a downfall than an advantage.
Prediction: dos Santos by first round knockout
Lightweight Championship: Champion Rafael dos Anjos (24-7) vs Number One Contender Donald Cerrone (28-6)
This rematch has been a long time in the making. Rafael dos Anjos beat Donald Cerrone in August of 2013, which was also the last time Cerrone lost a fight. Since then he has ripped off an eight-fight winning streak, including five violent finishes. Cerrone is a tough, in-your-face fighter, who doesn’t ever back down from a challenge. He relies on his boxing and jiu-jitsu. As for dos Anjos, he relies heavily on his kicking ability, which is among the tops in the lightweight division. His standard, but very effective, boxing is also a staple in his game. While he may have the grappling/wrestling advantage here, getting Cerrone to the ground will be no simple feat. Cardio may come into play here too, as dos Anjos is used to using IV’s to prepare for a fight, which was recently banned by the UFC. These are two well-versed fighters who are both used to dominating their opponents.
Prediction: Cerrone wins by a very slim decision