Unfortunately, I’ve been super busy this week and that means I’ll have to keep this write-up brief. It’s a shame because UFC 178 is a great fight card and deserves deeper coverage than I’m giving it here.
Chris Cariaso vs. Demetrious Johnson
You know I like to be contrarian sometimes when making my picks, but I can’t do it here. I don’t see a path to victory for Cariaso. He’s not a knockout artist – he’s only won by TKO three times in his career. He’s also not much of a submission fighter. Cariaso wins by taking decisions due to striking volume… but his takedown defense is mediocre at best. There’s no reason to think Cariaso will stop Johnson’s takedowns or win by sudden knockout or submission. Even if Johnson keeps the fight standing for some reason, he’s an excellent striker himself and there’s no guarantee Cariaso would be able to land more strikes at distance. Sorry Chris, but I have nothing for you.
Pick: Demetrious Johnson by TKO
Eddie Alvarez vs. Donald Cerrone
Finally, Eddie Alvarez makes his UFC debut, and it’s against a very exciting opponent in Donald Cerrone. Both fighters are aggressive strikers who tend to get hit more than is necessarily good for them. At the same time, I think Alvarez is a lot better at dealing with pressure than Cerrone is. Cerrone’s history is that when he faces a striker who also has serious knockout power, he struggles. That’s Eddie Alvarez in a nutshell – I think this is a good matchup for him.
Pick: Eddie Alvarez by TKO
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
As I’ve been saying, Conor McGregor is the real deal. He’s an excellent striker who has a plan every time he steps into the cage – and has the knockout power to finish most of his opponents. McGregor will have the advantage over Poirier as long as this fight stays standing, as Poirier’s striking defense is not very good. There are a few problems though – McGregor’s takedown defense and submission game still haven’t been tested at a high level. Poirier isn’t necessarily the best fighter to test them as he’s more a striker who mixes in takedowns. McGregor is the rightful favorite but Poirier should not be dismissed as a threat.
Pick: Conor McGregor by TKO
Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero
Romero is a world-class athlete with a series of highlight-reel knockout wins in his brief UFC career. He’s also a former Olympic medalist whose takedown ratio before his fight against Brad Tavares was 0:6. Romero had to come back to beat Derek Brunson and was knocked out by Rafael Feijao. If career trends hold up, Romero will have the advantage standing but Kennedy should be able to land takedowns and control Romero on the ground. I like Kennedy to grind out a decision here.
Pick: Tim Kennedy by decision
Amanda Nunes vs. Cat Zingano
I’m rooting for Cat Zingano after everything she’s been through the past year, but I’m not sure Zingano is actually THAT good. She has a very good clinch striking game but struggled with Miesha Tate’s wrestling and may have been down two rounds before coming back to win by TKO. Now, after a serious injury and the serious emotional pain of losing her husband, should Zingano really be a -270 favorite to beat a tough opponent like Amanda Nunes? I do think Zingano is the favorite here but I would be very cautious about a bet.
Pick: Cat Zingano by decision
Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki
The same goes for those of you who might be betting on Dominick Cruz. He hasn’t fought in three years now due to a series of injuries. His game relied heavily on movement before – so who knows how it will be affected. Sure, if Cruz is the same fighter he was before, he should easily be able to out-point Mizugaki with strikes and takedowns and win by lopsided decision. I just think that’s a dangerous assumption to make.
Pick: Dominick Cruz by decision
James Krause vs. Jorge Masvidal
What a strange UFC career James Krause has had so far. His fight against Bobby Green ended in controversy while his win over Jamie Varner was due largely to Varner breaking his ankle. Krause is a very good volume striker but can’t defend takedowns. He does have a history of winning by various forms of choke but Masvidal should be disciplined enough to avoid submissions from the guard. Masvidal’s advantage in takedowns should carry him to victory but Krause will make the fight tough for him.
Pick: Jorge Masvidal by decision
Patrick Cote vs. Stephen Thompson
Cote is a striker who is tough to knock out but not tough to hit. Thompson’s striking defense isn’t great either but he should have a clear advantage as long as this fight is standing. Cote’s best chance of winning is to do what he did to Kyle Noke – land takedowns, work ground and pound from the guard, and try to grind out a decision. There’s no reason to think Thompson’s guard game is a threat but I also have to assume that Cote will want to strike first.
Pick: Stephen Thompson by decision
Brian Ebersole vs. John Howard
I’ve had a good read on Howard since he returned to the UFC. I called his fight against Uriah Hall a toss-up (it was), picked him to beat Siyar Bahadurzada (he did), and thought he would lose to Ryan LaFlare (he did). Now Howard is matched up against Brian Ebersole and I think it will be a tricky fight for both guys. Howard is the better offensive wrestler but Ebersole can wrestle as well, and Howard’s takedown defense is a dismal 48 percent. Ebersole is better at defending strikes as well. I think it’s another 50-50 fight but Howard is listed as the favorite at -230. Because I like to live dangerously…
Pick: Brian Ebersole by decision
Kevin Lee vs. Jon Tuck
I’m convinced that Kevin Lee made the jump to the UFC too early in his career. He has a lot of raw talent but is very inexperienced in martial arts and with striking in particular. The problem for Jon Tuck is that his best work is on the ground, but the same goes for Lee, and Lee should prove to be the more effective wrestler.
Pick: Kevin Lee by decision
Manny Gamburyan vs. Cody Gibson
Gamburyan’s offense is just so limited. He doesn’t have the aggressive mentality a short striker with short limbs needs, and he struggles to land takedowns. On the ground, it’s a struggle to hold top position. It doesn’t help that Gamburyan has been fighting forever and a day now. I see Gibson as the betting favorite and FPR disagrees, but FPR has been consistently wrong about Gamburyan in recent years. I just think Gibson enters with more ways to win.
Pick: Cody Gibson by decision