Preview, Picks and Betting Tip – UFC 200

Brock Lesnar canada

The big one is finally here.

It’s the T-Mobile arena, it’s the beast incarnate, it’s title after title after title.

It’s UFC 200

For months, the MMA world has done nothing but chatter about potential match-ups but now we’re finally here with a card as insane as we had all hoped.

Initially, Nathan Diaz vs. Conor McGregor was the headlining bout for Saturday but that was shifted to UFC 202 when the UFC pulled McGregor for refusing to attend a portion of the promotional build-up.

Instead, the UFC light-heavyweight titles were due to be unified in the top fight of the evening with Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones meeting for the second time.

That was until Jon Jones was potentially popped by USADA on Wednesday night and taken off the card.

Instead the main event of the night will see WWE superstar Brock Lesnar return to shoot fighting to take on “The Super Samoan” Mark Hunt is a three round heavyweight attraction.

UPDATE: Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes is the new main event. Also, Daniel Cormier will now fight Anderson Silva, I wrote a few words on that below. 

Having retired with a 5-3 record in 2011, Lesnar left behind a solid legacy for a man who was often criticised for his initial move from professional wrestling to MMA. “The Beast” stacked up wins over champion fighters Frank Mir, Shane Carwin and the legendary Randy Couture in his UFC run but a fight with the chronic stomach disease diverticulitis and the losses which followed it turned Lesnar back to the squared circle.

Last year, there were talks of him returning to MMA but when he signed a new WWE contract that looked to be dead and buried. That was until the promotions struck a deal and resurrected the fighting career of the Canada resident.

Against Hunt, he goes straight in against arguably the most dangerous striker in MMA today. The New Zealander has knockout wins over the likes of Frank Mir, Bigfoot Silva and Roy Nelson and will be looking to add Lesnar to that list on Saturday night.

This one has a real old-school striker vs. wrestler feel to it and is very simple to break down.

Lesnar needs the takedown. Immediately.

If he doesn’t get it, he will be knocked out.

If he gets it and can’t hold it, he will be knocked out.

If he can’t get the finish on the ground or hold Hunt down for three rounds, he will be knocked out.

It’s as simple as that.

Now, of course, Brock is a highly-decorated collegiate wrestler with real fighting experience so taking Hunt down and pounding him out is a pretty possible outcome.

But over the last few years, Hunt has improved hugely with his takedown defence and escapes from the bottom while Lesnar’s fight team totally disbanded and didn’t return until just over a month ago. That doesn’t bode well for Brock.

Even though I think Lesnar will probably take him down, I don’t think he’ll be able to do it consistently enough.

And you know what that means?

Hunt via KO.

The women’s bantamweight title is also on the line this Saturday as Miesha Tate defends her belt for the first time against dangerous Brazilian Amanda Nunes.

Currently 12-4 in MMA, Nunes has come on leaps and bounds in recent times. Formally of Strikeforce and Invicta, Nunes have recovered from a 3-3 run to win fights over Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann and Valentina Shevchenko to earn herself a title shot against a women who is no stranger to overcoming setbacks herself.

Tate, a former Strikeforce bantamweight champion, lost twice to Ronda Rousey and lost her first two UFC fights but still came back and won the belt against Holly Holm to top a 5-fight winning stretch.

mieshatate

As a fight this one is very interesting and somewhat flying under the radar. Nunes is a very talented fighter who is extremely active on the outside and will thrown lots of different types of shots. Tate is more orthodox and throws power at a timing of her choosing with plenty of grappling mixed it. That makes for a very exciting fight here.

If Tate can quell the early storm, that will be a huge battle won. Nunes is very shot happy early and has serious power but it’s difficult to keep that up. As she showed against Sara McMann, Nunes has extremely good takedown defence so you’d expect this one to play out mostly on the feet.

For me, I think Tate will be slow early to attack as she remains defensive but will open up midway through the fight. In the past, Tate’s power has been somewhat underestimated but I think this might just be the opportunity to prove it’s effectiveness on a championship level with a late stoppage. But don’t rule out Nunes here. She is a real live challenger with a huge chance of an early stoppage.

Before that, yet another title (kinda) is up for grabs on the night as former featherweight and lightweight champions Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar rematch in a battle for an interim version of the 145 lbs strap with full champion Conor McGregor out of the picture and fighting Nate Diaz at welterweight for the second time at UFC 202.

For Aldo this is an immediate chance to recapture UFC gold having lost his title to the aforementioned Conor McGregor in just 13 second last time out at UFC 194. Prior to that, he was the only ever UFC featherweight champion and had looked unflappable in his run with names like Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian and, his opponent on Saturday night, Frankie Edgar all coming up short against him.

Although Edgar also held a UFC belt in the past, his career has been a lot less straightforward than Aldo’s. An early UFC loss to Gray Maynard was quickly put behind him before he won the lightweight title in a controversial scrap with BJ Penn. Their second fight was more dominant for Edgar who subsequently went on to fight Gray Maynard twice for the title, drawing once and winning once. Three title losses in a row followed that as two Benson Henderson defeats sent him to down to 145 lbs where he was also unsuccessful against Aldo in their first meeting. Since then, Edgar has won 5 in a row and is in arguably the form of his life.

When looking ahead to Saturday, it’s probably wise to look back on their first meeting. In that fight, Edgar had his moments but Jose Aldo put on an extraordinary performance of striking from his suited range.

As the bigger man, Aldo used his jab to keep Edgar at arm’s length. His thunderous leg kicks followed that and when Edgar was able to close the distance Aldo still won most of the exchanges in the pocket and stopped, or immediately rose up from, all of the American’s takedowns.

When Edgar did have success it came from timing the leg kicks to get takedowns and later countering the jab which forced Aldo to use it less as the fight progressed.

Although you’d probably expect something similar on Saturday to the first meeting, it must be said that both men have changed. Just the fact that Aldo was knocked out stiff in his last fight leaves a huge unknown coming into this one. Add that to the relative improvements Edgar has made in his speed, power and wrestling and you have a very exciting fight again.

Like the first fight I think that jab of Aldo will be all important. If he can keep Edgar at the end of it for long periods he has a great chance of winning. But if Edgar can time it well and use it’s regularity in his favour, he’ll be the favourite to take this one.

Takedowns, and more specifically countering the leg kicks with takedowns, will also be huge. As mentioned above Aldo has unmatched takedown defence and if Edgar could keep him down it would be huge. All in all, I think this one will be much closer than the last one. It might be hard for some to pick a winner here but, unless he looks completely shot, I can’t stop the feeling that Aldo’s size and superior striking is just too much for Edgar to overcome.

Closing out the main card you then have former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez taking on Travis Browne in a fight where I favour Cain hugely based on his pressure and Browne’s struggles when his back is against the cage. Like Aldo, Cain is coming from a big defeat and it’s hard to predict how he looks but if he can recapture even some of his former form I think he’ll walk away with this one.

That’s all after an insane undercard with huge names looking to make big statements.

For Cat Zingano, her fight with Julianna Peña has barnburner written all over it. Having defeated the two women fighting for the title on Saturday it’s a huge opportunity to put herself next in line for another shot at the belt. But, Peña, the only fighter on 200 never to have lost in the UFC, definitely won’t just roll over.

In my opinion, TJ Dillashaw has the most to lose of anyone on Saturday’s prelims. Having just lost his title, and having already lost to Raphael Assunçâo once, this is a must win for the former team alpha male man. And, to the honest, I think he will win. Assunçâo has just been out too long and TJ has improved too much.

Then you have Johny Hendricks coming off of 3 losses in 5 fights against the always game Kelvin Gastelum, and uber prospect Sage Northcutt returning to action in what should be a handy win against Enrique Marin.

On the Fight Pass portion of the card it’s also name after name as Diego Sanchez fights Joe Lauzon, Jim Miller battles Takanori Gomi and Thiago Santos jumps in on short notice to take on Gegard Mousasi in a fight I think could steal the early show.

This is a truly amazing card and one not to be missed.

UPDATE: DC vs. Silva

If like magic, Daniel Cormier is now back on the card as he takes on Anderson Silva over three rounds.

Silva, the former UFC middleweight champion, is widely regognised as one of the greatest fighters of all time but that was quite a while ago at this stage. Wins over the likes of Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson were hallmarks of a career which will be hard to match. That, though, ended abruptly in 2013 when he was knocked out cold by Chris Weidman. A broken leg in the rematch, a failed drugs test and a loss to Michael Bisping have been the stories of his career since. Well, until now.

On Saturday he meets Daniel Cormier, arguably the toughest opponent of his career. Coming into Saturday, Cormier was in the prime form of his career and holds the light-heavyweight belt which Jon Jones was forced to give up following a hit-and-run incident in his adopted hometown of Albuquerque last year. Since losing to Jones in January 2015, a fight he entered with a 15-0 record, Cormier has taken out the consensus #2 and #3 in the division, Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson and looked more at ease as champion with every passing minute. Now, though, he is entering UFC 200 with a new task ahead of him and an insane week of turmoil behind him.

As a fight, it’s pretty hard to know what to expect. Cormier obviously has a full camp behind him and will be a heavy favourite while Silva is basically coming in not long removed from surgery, up a weight and off of his couch against one of the top fighters in the world.

Normally, Silva is very much a counter puncher with beautifully timed strikes from all angles. But he hasn’t really been the killer he used to be in a long time. Cormier, an Olympic wrestler, will be looking to close the distance, hit Silva in close and put him on his back. In all likelihood, that should be enough. Expect Silva to come out on his toes willing to put on a show, but also expect that to end badly for him.

FULL FIGHT PICKS 
Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes – Tate late

Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt – Hunt via KO

Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva – DC gets a big finish
José Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar – Unless he’s shot, Aldo wins
Cain Velasquez vs. Travis Browne – Fancy an early Cain win

Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Peña – I’m going with Peña in the upset
Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum – Gastelum in a decision
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assunção – Dillashaw wins all three rounds
Sage Northcutt vs. Enrique Marín – Sean Sheehan selects Super Sage submission

Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Lauzon – I’m going with a draw here, sue me.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Thiago Santos – Youth will have its day, Santos.
Jim Miller vs. Takanori Gomi – Another close one but I’ll take Miller

BET OF THE NIGHT

Velasquez via 1st round KO at 11/4

START TIMES

Early Prelims – 11.30pm on Fight Pass
Prelims – 1am on BT Sport 2
Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma