“I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” – Muhammad Ali
We were a mere three days away from one of the biggest pay-per-views in fighting history and my excitement level couldn’t have been higher and then around might midnight (EST), I had SportsCenter on in the background and I see the disheartening news that Jon Jones had been suspended for testing positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition sample taken June 16 by USADA. We still don’t know yet what that substance is but Jones had recently claimed that he’s been 10 months sober so this news was disappointing to say the least.
While the card is still stacked from top to bottom, there is no doubt that Jones left the UFC in tough spot and cost many a lot of money, especially Daniel Cormier. If you saw the press conference last night, you saw how distraught Cormier was. When Cormier won the UFC title last year, he asked for Jones to “get his sh*t together” so that they can have their rematch with both of them at their absolute best. So now that’s two main events the UFC has lost due to unfortunate circumstances and while the UFC may potentially find an opponent for Cormier, UFC 200 will be remembered by many as the “What if” card and Cormier might get to find out if he could've beaten Jones at 100% and be considered the best light heavyweight in the world.
The new main event is now three-round (exception made here as main events are usually five rounds even if it’s a non-title fight) heavyweight bout between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt. I started watching MMA the moment co-headliner of UFC 200 Brock Lesnar started fighting in the octagon. I will admit I am pro wrestling fan first and foremost but I won’t deny that my love for MMA has grown immensely over the years. I watch all the pay-per-views and catch most the “UFC Fight Night” events even if I don’t catch it live, I’ll still watch it eventually thanks to my DVR. My love for the UFC has grown with the growth of the sport. I’m not only entertained by the fights but also with the interviews, the documentary-style shows that hype up the fights, the weigh-ins, the press conferences, all of it. Basically, the UFC does pro wrestling better than any wrestling company and I love them for it.
As I look at the card, some of my favorite fighters are on the card; the aforementioned, Lesnar, Diego Sanchez, Johny Hendricks, and Miesha Tate. With Conor McGregor faking retirement and Jones suspended, the late addition of Lesnar has become the UFC’s saving grace. Will UFC 200 break the UFC’s record for most pay-per-view buys? Probably not anymore but even if it doesn’t, I still believe we’ll get our money’s worth because this card is stacked featuring two (not three) title fights and we should be in for an entertaining night of fights.
UFC 200 Preview and Predictions
Quick Prelims Predictions:
Takanori Gomi over Jim Miller: What better to start the night than these two who always put exciting fights and despite being the opening act, should challenge for “Fight of the Night” honors (probably say that a few times).
Gegard Mousasi over Thiago Santos: Santos is on a four-fight win streak but a win for Mousasi puts him in position to enter the top 5 in the Middleweight division and potentially a title fight next year with a win streak of his own.
Diego Sanchez over Joe Lauzon: Same thing I said earlier about Gomi/Miller applies here. I expect nothing but craziness and being biased here and picking Diego to pick up the win in hopefully a three round thriller.
Sage Northcutt over Enrique Marin: The UFC’s new golden boy looks like he has a “gimme” matchup here but that’s what people said vs Barberena who made him tap out. Needs to rebound and I think he will as the UFC has high hopes for him and I don’t believe they would showcase on this show to look bad again.
Raphael Assunção over TJ Dillashaw: Dillashaw just lost the Bantamweight title to Dominick Cruz and is looking to avenge his loss to Assunção three years ago; however, I think Assunção wins and become Cruz’s next challenge for the belt.
Johny Hendricks over Kelvin Gastelum: Kendricks has had problems with weight cuts and is in a slump. Looked real bad against Stephen Thompson so he needs this win big time to get back in the hunt. A win here probably puts in line to fight the winner of Condit/Maia to get the next shot following Thompson.
Julianna Peña over Cat Zingano: Zingano hasn’t fought since losing in the championship fight against Rousey but has wins over both competitors in the Women’s Bantamweight title fight, however, Peña is looking to make a name for herself and climb up the ranks in the division and what better way than to defeat Zingano.
Cain Velasquez vs Travis Browne
Cain can’t seem to shake off the injury bug which is the only reason he isn’t headlining this pay-per-view as Heavyweight champion. This will be his second fight in the last three years and it comes against Browne, who I thought a few years ago would be a Heavyweight title contender but hasn’t reached that level just yet. However, a big win over Velasquez could catapult Brown into title contention but I just don’t see that happening. The winner of the Miocic/Overeem fight in September will just be keeping the belt warm for Velasquez.
Prediction: Velasquez by first round TKO (by ground and pound)
Interim Featherweight Title Fight
Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar
Aldo hadn’t lost a fight in ten years and was considered by many the best pound for pound fighter in the world and in just 13 seconds everything was taken away. Aldo wanted the rematch with McGregor but McGregor had other plans and for the moment has relinquished the Featherweight belt to fight in other weight classes. Aldo’s legacy won’t be tarnished by his defeat to McGregor but he could use a big win but it won’t come easy versus Edgar, whose last defeat was against Aldo almost three years ago to this date. Edgar has gotten big wins over Swanson, Faber, and Mendes and seems primed to become the champion at 145. This should be a close fight and to me it’s a toss-up…
Prediction: AND NEW INTERIM CHAMPION...JOSE ALDO! (by split decision)
**Update: Anderson Silva has replaced Jon Jones on the card.
Light Heavyweight Bout (Non-Title Fight - Three Rounds)
Anderson Silva vs Daniel Cormier (LHW Champion)
Silva is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time but his victory came against Stephen Bonnar in 2012 and only fought four times since, losing three of those fights and having one decision get overturned due to suspension. With that being said, the UFC had to salvage the event somehow after Jones was taken off the card and you got to be happy for Cormier who deserved the pay day that came with fighting at UFC 200. This matchup feels lopsided with Silva fighting in another weight class on short notice and Cormier having looked strong since his defeat to Jones. Silva has nothing to lose but a victory for him potentially gets him a shot at avenging his loss to Bisping and challenging for the middleweight title if Bisping retains the belt (it’s looking like Dan Henderson will be his first title defense). For Cormier, a win over Silva should be a nice feather in his cap but we all know he was dying to prove to the world that he was a better fighter than Jones and he won’t get that chance. This fight will be a non-title fight and three rounds and at this point all we can hope for is an entertaining fight.
Prediction: Cormier by unanimous decision
Women’s Bantamwieight Title Fight
Miesha Tate (Champion) vs Amanda Nunes
**Update: This fight is now the main event of UFC 200
Tate is one tough cookie (or “cupcake” as she’s known by) and she deserves to be on this card after her amazing comeback versus Holms to become the champion. Everyone assumed Rousey would be back in time to reclaim her title but she’s still away. If not, Rousey then a rematch with Holm made sense, right? Well, apparently the UFC didn’t think so and instead went with Nunes, the Brazilian who could put a wrench into the UFC’s plans for big money making Women’s title fights for later this year. This could go either way but I expect Tate to win setting up the rematch versus Holm later this year at MSG with Rousey waiting in the wings.
Prediction: AND STILL…Tate by unanimous decision
Main Event: Heavyweight Bout
Brock Lesnar (WWE) vs Mark Hunt (UFC)
**Update: This fight is back to being the co-main event
he very reason why I began to watch UFC was because of Brock Lesnar and the very reason I continue to do is because of men like Mark Hunt. While Hunt is basically a .500 fighter, he always put some of the best Heavyweights fights you’ll ever see, none better than the one against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva that ended in a draw. While Hunt is the favorite, Lesnar is no underdog. He is what Paul Heyman says he is, a “beast.” Hunt has walk-off KO power and Lesnar doesn’t have a strong chin, however, Lesnar has something to prove. I don’t think he would’ve come back to the UFC to embarrass himself. His short-lived UFC career ended badly with back to back losses to Velasquez and Overeem but he wasn’t 100% at the time due to a life-threatening disease, diverticulitis. Hunt is in for his biggest payday and I’m sure he will do his best to end this fight quickly by trying to KO Lesnar but I think it’ll backfire and Lesnar will be able to take him to the ground and pick up the “upset” victory over Hunt. The question then becomes: does he stay? Apparently, the UFC will allow Lesnar to come out to his WWE entrance song so there seems to be some kind of working relationship between the two companies so I wouldn’t rule it out but for now we’ll just get to enjoy for the first time ever, a WWE wrestler in the UFC octagon, who would’ve ever thought we’d see the day?
Prediction: Lesnar by first round TKO (ground and pound)