The Ultimate Fighting Championship will make its debut in Kansas City with Demetrious Johnson looking to tie Anderson Silva’s title defence record against Wilson Reis.
Since becoming the inaugural flyweight champion in 2012, ‘Mighty Mouse’ has defended his title nine times – just one short of the UFC record currently held by Silva.
In a stacked card, which will be televised on Fox, Johnson will aim to tie the record with another title defence against Reis, who is ranked at #3 in the flyweight division.
We preview the four main card fights below.
MAIN EVENT – UFC FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
125lbs – Demetrious Johnson (C) (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis (22-6)Embed from Getty Images
Considering this fight card will be broadcasted for free, it features some of the best fighters in the UFC, including the pound-for-pound king – Demetrious Johnson.
‘Mighty Mouse’ hasn’t lost since he was defeated by Dominick Cruz in 2011 and his move to flyweight has seen him dominate the division.
Johnson arguably one of the best fighters to have competed in the octagon and shows no real weaknesses in his game. Every aspect of his game is complete – hence why he is ranked at #1 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
He will face Reis, who is a name many UFC fans haven’t heard of. The Brazilian is currently on a three-fight win streak with his last win coming at UFC 208. Reis is a long-term training partner of Cruz, the only man to have defeated Johnson in the UFC.
The 32-year-old is an accomplished wrestler, but DJ has strong takedown defence and is comfortable on the ground. Reis’ best chance will be on the feet, where ‘Mighty Mouse’ will hold the advantage. The Brazilian is a tough competitor, but he will need a miracle to have his hand raised at the end of the night.
Prediction: Johnson via knockout
115lbs – Michelle Waterson (14-4) vs. Rose Namajunas (5-3)Embed from Getty Images
Next up is a strawweight bout between Michelle Waterson and Rose Namajunas, another exciting matchup in the female division.
After making her name at the Invicta Fighting Championship, Waterson finally moved to the UFC two years ago – winning her debut via submission against Angela Magana.
She took a brief spell away from the sport due to injury but returned to face one of the UFC’s most popular fighters in Paige VanZant. Her popularity soared after she won by submission in the first round.
A win against Namajunas could set up a title fight with the undisputed 115lb queen, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Namajunas is no pushover and knows a win over Waterson could lift her into title contention. After losing in the Ultimate Fighter Finale against former champion Carla Esparza, the 24-year-old went on a three-fight win streak, with wins over Angela Hill and Tecia Torres.
She lost on a split decision against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201 which would have set up a title bout with Jedrzejczyk. She will hold the height and reach advantage against Waterson and is equally as skilled on the mat.
It will be a hard fought encounter, but the experience of Waterson should shine through. The former atomweight champion should be able to stave off the threat of her opponent to take a decision or submission victory.
Prediction: Waterson by submission.
185lbs – Ronaldo Souza (24-4) vs. Robert Whittaker (17-4)Embed from Getty Images
A middleweight matchup between Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and Robert Whittaker is easily of pay-per-view calibre with both men looking to stake their claim for a title shot.
While Yoel Romero waits for his shot at Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold not interested in rebooking their fight, Jacare chose to stay busy and booked the fight against Whittaker after dismantling Tim Boetsch in under four minutes at UFC 208.
Ranked at #3 in the middleweight division, it is a highly risky fight for the Brazilian. Only Romero and Rockhold are ranked above him, so a win doesn’t improve his chances of a title shot. But a loss could see him fall further down the pecking order.
Whittaker is not an easy fight, and the Australian has been on a tear since moving to the middleweight division. He is on a six-fight win streak and has beaten the likes of Derek Brunson, Uriah Hall and Rafael Natal. A win over Jacare would see him shoot up the rankings, but ‘The Reaper’ will have his work cut out for him.
It may be the last time UFC fans get to see Jacare inside the octagon as the fight in Kansas will be the last on his contract. It would be foolish for the UFC to let such a star leave the company with Bellator monitoring his situation.
Prediction: Jacare via submission
145lbs – Jeremy Stephens (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1)Embed from Getty Images
The first fight on the main card is in the featherweight division and features Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano.
Stephens is fighting for the first time since losing to Frankie Edgar at UFC 205 and will be looking to get his featherweight career back on track with a win over Moicano.
Stephens holds wins over Dennis Bermudez and Renan Barao but came up short against Max Holloway, Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira. Nevertheless, Stephens is still one of the most dangerous strikers in the 145lb division.
He faces an undefeated Brazilian who has two wins in his UFC career. But Moicano has only fought twice since joining the company in 2014. He took a split decision victory Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 198 but hasn’t fought an opponent since.
A win over Stephens is a huge opportunity for the 27-year-old to mark his arrival on the featherweight division. If he can avoid the power punches of ‘Lil’ Heathen’ and stay on the outside, Moicano might find some success.
However, if Stephens can close the distance, keep the pressure on and throw in some takedowns, he should get back to winning ways.
Prediction: Stephens via decision.
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