Previewing UFC 231
The UFC returns to Pay Per View Saturday night with two title fights at 125lbs and 145lbs. on the 13-fight card from Toronto, Canada. The UFC is coming off a weekend that had a card on Friday and Saturday night as its crazy schedule to close out the year continues. This UFC 231 card is sneaky stacked. It features the long-awaited showdown between former Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2 #1 Ranked Strawweight) and former Bantamweight Title Challenger Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (15-3 #1 Ranked Flyweight). We also get the Featherweight title on the line as Max “Blessed’ Holloway (19-3 Featherweight Champion) takes on undefeated rising contender Brian “T-City” Ortega (14-0 1NC #1 Ranked Featherweight). The card is stacked from the Fight Pass prelims all the way up through the main card. We have 13 fights on the card Saturday let’s look at them now.
The card kicks off on UFC Fight Pass as Devin “Brown Bear” Clark (9-2) takes on Aleksander Rakic (10-1). Devin Brown is coming off a win that got him going back in the right direction. Clark s only 30 years old and in a division that is quickly aging. Clark has 3 career knockouts, and he will be looking to add to that Saturday night. For Aleksander Rakic his 2nd straight decision win has him looking to get 3 in a row Saturday. Rakic had finished all 8 of his wins prior to entering the UFC and had never seen the judges before. Rakic is a knockout artist with 7 knockouts in his career. He will be looking to get his hands going early to end this one quickly. Prediction Aleksander Rakic via TKO.
We head next to 155lbs as Diego Ferreira (13-2) takes on short notice replacement Kyle “The Monster” Nelson (12-1). Diego Ferreira has gone through win and loss streaks of 2 in his 6 fights in the UFC for a record of 4-2. A 1st round knockout of Jared “Flash” Gordon (14-2) in February has him brimming with confidence heading into Saturday. Ferreira has a very good ground game with 6 career submission wins. He is going to be looking to get the fight there and try and shut down the debut of Nelson quickly. For Kyle Nelson on just a few days’ notice, his UFC debut comes as he’s on a 6-fight win streak. He has finished 5 of those 6 opponents. The Canada native has won his fights with 4 submissions, 4 knockouts, and 4 decisions. The UFC jitters are real, but with such short notice, he may not have enough time to think about it. Prediction: Kyle Nelson via Decision.
We head next to Welterweight as Chad “The Disciple” Laprise (14-3) takes on Dhiego Lima (14-7). Chad Laprise is looking to rebound from a loss that snapped a 3-fight win streak at the hands of Vicente “The Silent Assassin” Luque (14-6-1). Prior to that Laprise had 3 TKO wins in a row and was looking to move into the Top 15 at 170lbs. He will now work to get himself back there. Laprise has 7 wins by knockout, and it is his pressure that usually makes the difference. Dhiego Lima was the runner-up on Season 25 of The Ultimate Fighter. That got him back into the UFC. However, a loss in April has him struggling to ensure a spot on the UFC’s roster. Lima is in a situation where he needs to get a win to make sure he stays in the UFC. Lima’s jiu-jitsu may be what he must lean on in this one. He certainly has fought some of the best out there, and a win goes a long way to revitalizing his UFC career. Prediction: Chad Laprise via Decision.
We close out the Fight Pas prelims at 1135lbs as Brad “Superman” Katona (8-0) takes on Matthew Lopez (10-4). Brad Katona is riding high after claiming the Bantamweight crown for Season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter. His decision win over Jay “Mellow Fellow” Cucciniello (9-1) grabbed him the title and a 6 figure UFC contract. Katona now looks to build on that win break into the ranks of the UFC’s Bantamweight division. Katona can strike, but his calm demeanor and pace allow him to slowly chip away at his opponent and use his grappling to control the fight. Katona has a chance to really get the momentum with a win here. Mathew Lopez has dropped 2 straight bringing his UFC record to 2-3. Lopez has been finished in his last two fights and really needs a good showing in this matchup. Lopez has 4 knockouts and 4 submissions on his record. He needs to keep Katona off him and make this fight his by using pressure and control early. Prediction: Brad Katona via Submission.
We head to the FS1 prelims where Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou (16-2 #14 Ranked Middleweight) takes on Eryk “Ya Boi” Anders (11-2). Elias Theodorou put together yet another decision win over Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith (15-8) for his second win in a row. Theodorou is a guy who uses his grappling and size to control no matter where the fight goes. Theodorou has been in the UFC since 2014 and has seen the judges in 7 of his 9 fights. He is willing to grind out the win using his grappling to slow the fight down and take his opponent to the mat. Theodorou may not be flashy, but he can dominate if need be with his grappling. Eryk Anders is coming off a short notice loss at Light Heavyweight to Thiago “de Lima Marreta” Santos (19-6 #15 Ranked Middleweight). Anders is a heavy hitting 185lber who can stop a fight in multiple ways. He is still a little rough around the edges, but if he can keep his distance from Theodorou he can secure a big win. Prediction: Elias Theodorou via Decision.
We head to Flyweight next as Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian (11-1 #3 Ranked Flyweight) takes on Jessica “Evil” Eye (13-6 1NC #9 Ranked Flyweight). Katlyn Chookagian comes in riding a 3-fight win streak and is on the verge of a shot at the UFC’s 125lb title. Chookagian has seen the judges in all those 3 wins. She is willing to stand and bang with any competitor but will need to be strategic in this matchup. She uses her size and grappling to take control and own the cage. Chookagian has a chance here with an impressive win to all but ensures a title shot next. For Jessica Eye, a decision win in June gave her 2 wins in a row. She also is a competitor who has faced some of the best the UFC has had to offer in the Female MMA ranks. She seems to have found a home at 125lbs and will be looking to solidify her Top 10 spot with the win over Chookagian. Prediction: Katlyn Chookagian via Decision.
We head back to Lightweight as Olivier “The Canadian Gangster” Aubin-Mercier (12-3) takes on hard-hitting Brazilian Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (13-3). Olivier Aubin-Mercier had a 4-fight win streak snapped by Alexander “The Great” Hernandez (10-1 #12 Ranked Lightweight). Aubin-Mercier had bene on a tear prior to that and has a UFC record of 7-3/ Aubin-Mercier is a grappling whiz kid. He can use his wrestling to control a fight. He has sometimes fallen in love with his striking which can get him into trouble. If he goes back to his wrestling base he could dive right back into the win column. Gilbert Burns suffered a hard 1st round knockout loss in July to Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (18-7 #14 Ranked Lightweight). Burns had a 2-fight winning streak prior to that Loss. Burns has 5 knockouts and 7 submissions to his name. Burns is going to have to avoid the takedowns in this matchup as he should have the advantage on the feet. Prediction: Olivier Aubin-Mercier via Decision.
We close out the prelims with a Top 15 Strawweight matchup as Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha (16-3 #3 Ranked Strawweight) takes on Nina Ansaroff (8-5 #11 Ranked Strawweight). Claudia Gadelha grinded out a tough split decision win over former Strawweight Champion Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza (13-6 #8 Ranked Strawweight) in June to get back to winning. Gadelha has been in the Top 5 of the 115lb division for a very long time. She lost her bid for the title back in 2016 but stays just a few wins away from another shot at gold. Gadelha excels on the ground, and with her 7 submissions, anyone that faces her is going to want to try and keep it standing. For Nina Ansaroff 3 straight wins have her buzzing heading into the biggest fight of her UFC career. Ansaroff has looked better and better each time out and has come a long way from dropping her first two UFC fights. Ansaroff has some sneaky power with 4 knockouts, but her grappling is where she has done very well. She can control her opponents in the clinch and take the fight to the ground and work ground and pound. This is a fun matchup with some big implications for the future at 115lbs. Prediction: Claudia Gadelha via Submission.
Light Heavyweights kick off the main card of UFC 231 as Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa (17-4 #7 Ranked Light Heavyweight) takes on Thiago “de Lima Marreta” Santos (19-6 #15 Ranked Middleweight). For Jimi Manuwa he is coming off his first set of back to back losses in his entire MMA career. He is looking to get back to the form that saw him just one win away from the UFC title shot. Manuwa has been a mainstay in the Top 10 at 205lbs for a long time now. He has serious power with 15 knockouts and will be looking for more of the same on Saturday night. Thiago Santos first foray into the 205lb division came against a short notice 185lb Eryk “Ya Boi” Anders (11-2) stepping up to face him back in September. It took Santos 3 rounds, but he finally finished Anders off with a vicious run of elbows. Santos is easily one of the scariest power punchers in the UFC. He can close the show very quickly. When he gets his kicks going it is just as frightening. This is a don’t blink or you could miss the finish type of matchup. Prediction: Thiago Santos via TKO.
We head down to Featherweight next as Hakeem “Mean” Dawodu (8-1-1) gets ready to go up against Kyle “Crash” Bochniak (8-3). Hakeem Dawodu got his first UFC win in July when he took a decision win from Austin “Golden Boy” Arnett (16-5). Dawodu had some decent hype coming into the UFC from the World Series of Fighting. He had rattled off a ton of knockouts and then hit the UFC where he lost in just 39 seconds. He was choked unconscious, but he rebounded to pick up a big win. He now comes back ready to see if he can build on top of that win. He needs to keep the separation and let his striking do all the talking. Kyle Bochniak certainly showed he could take a punch and stay in a fight when he dropped a decision to Zabit Magomedsharipov (16-1 #14 Ranked Featherweight) back in April. Bochniak came into that fight as a heavy underdog and came out with a whole bunch of new fans. He is willing to get up and trade with anyone who is across the cage from him. Bochniak is going to want to shut down the striking by closing the distance and getting this fight to the ground to look to control it and take home a win. Prediction; Hakeem Dawodu via Decision.
Two Top 15 Welterweights enter the cage next as Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (19-4-1 2NC #13 Ranked Welterweight) takes on Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson (16-3-1 #14 Ranked Welterweight). Alex Oliveira is less than 3 months removed from his last appearance in the UFC a 1st round knockout win over Carlo “Semento” Pedersoli (11-1). That gives him 2 wins in arrow and 4 wins in his last 5 bouts. Oliveira is a guy with 12 knockouts who is willing to stand and bang with anybody. His ground defense, however, is where he is going to have to be mindful. If he can get his hands going, however, he will have the advantage and could end it quickly. Gunnar Nelson has been out of action since his first-round knockout loss to Santiago “Gente Boa” Ponzinibbio (28-3 #7 Ranked Welterweight) in July of 2017. Nelson is one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in MMA today. If he can get a dominant position on the mat this fight can be over very quickly. Nelson’s stand up is a bit lackluster, but his grappling where he has always made up for it. This is a fun matchup and could be a sneaky Fight of the Night Contender. Prediction: Gunnar Nelson via Submission.
We now head to the Co-Main event of the night and it is the long-awaited matchup of former Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2 #1 Ranked Strawweight) and former Bantamweight Title Challenger Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (15-3 #1 Ranked Flyweight) meeting for the vacant UFC Flyweight Title. Joanna Jedrzejczyk lost her bid to reclaim her 115lb title to “Thug” Rose Namajunas (9-3 Strawweight Champion) back in April but rebounded with a dominant decision win over Tecia “Tiny Tornado” Torres (10-3 #6 Ranked Strawweight). The former world Muay Thai Champion now moves up to 125lbs and faces a known foe in Shevchenko. Joanna can also become the first female fighter in UFC history hold a belt in two different weight classes. Joanna is going to want to keep fight standing, and her takedown defense is going to have to be on point. She also is going to have to learn from the three defeats she suffered to Valentina in their Muay Thai past. Valentina Shevchenko moved down to 125lbs following her loss in her bid for Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (16-4 Bantamweight Champion) title at UFC 215. She dominated UFC newcomer Priscila “Zombie Girl” Cachoeira (8-1) in that outing and immediately became the top contender. After former champion Nicco Montano 5-2 #2 Ranked Flyweight,) pulled out of their fights the belt was vacated and Valentina has a chance to claim her first UFC belt. Shevchenko is an extremely technical striker and she will need to be in this matchup. You talk about a favorite for Fight of the Night this one could be it. Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk via Decision.
We close out UFC 231 with the Featherweight Title bout between Max “Blessed” Holloway (19-3 Featherweight Champion) taking on Brian “T-City” Ortega (14-01NC #1 Ranked Featherweight). Max Holloway had to pull out of this matchup in July after he was having some neurological issues that had him head to the Mayo Clinic. He was eventually cleared and now is set to return to action. Holloway hasn’t lost since early 2017 and rattled off 12 straight wins. Holloway is one of the best fighters on the planet and every time someone steps up Holloway has sent them packing. He needs to be on his game for this matchup and avoid the grappling with a guy like Ortega. Brian Ortega has been one of the best stories in the UFC this past year and a half. He has flown up the rankings and put himself at the top with his last two wins over Cub Swanson (25-9 #7 Ranked Featherweight) and Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (23-6-1 #3 Ranked Featherweight). Ortega is an unbelievably talented grappler who can submit his opponent from anywhere. He is undeniably the best challenger on the card and it is going to be one hell of a matchup. Prediction: Brian Ortega via Submission.
This is one of the best cards of the year for the UFC from Toronto. The main card alone is worth the price of admission. The UFC is constantly changing and evolving, but they are closing out 2018 strong. Everyone made weight and there were no issues was a welcomed storyline was heading into Saturday. With two titles on the line and plenty of ranked fighters on the card, it is basically a can’t miss. Her is hoping the card lives up to the hype.