There isn't much that even needs to be said about this card, only that it is stacked, and I am excited.
This has been one of the craziest fight weeks in quite some time between weight class changes and the Hooker v. Nasrat saga, and I see no reason to believe this card won't be more of the same.
That being said, here come my Last Minute Predictions.
I only added this one onto the list to say that I refuse to make a pick for this fight. With all of the chaos that both of these men have had to go through over the last week or so, genuinely anything could happen in this fight. They both might be jet-lagged, I would assume they are already exhausted, and somehow they both STILL made weight. I really just hope the UFC gives these guys a nice bonus check for showing up for this fight and they both come out of the Octagon safe.
Merab is certainly the popular choice in this fight, and for good reason. He is on a six-fight winning streak, he is an absolute beast, and is a brutal matchup stylistically for just about everybody.
It seems easy to forget that just two years ago Marlon looked like he was on track to finish Henry Cejudo in their Bantamweight title fight before Cejudo stormed back. He is incredibly dangerous, and I think there is a possibility that he reminds people of how skilled he is.
But I have a hard time overlooking the style matchup, and that Eastern-European grappling.
My prediction: Merab by Decision
This is a very interesting fight stylistically. Both fighters are very proficient on the ground, but are also perfectly okay to stand and strike for all 15 minutes.
They both very recently fought Katlyn Chookagian, Andrade winning via KO and Calvillo losing via Unanimous Decision.
I think it is likely that Calvillo is probably going to try and take the fight to the ground because of just how dangerous Andrade's striking is. She also, however, has an absolutely gnarly guillotine that Calvillo is going to have to be careful to avoid.
I think Andrade shows there are levels to this game.
My prediction: Andrade by TKO/KO
In a very important matchup for the heavyweight division, Curtis Blaydes probably feels a little bit of deja vu. Rozenstruik is a big, scary knockout artist who's strategy is not shrouded in mystery.
That being said, it seems highly unlikely that Blaydes will make the same mistake twice in a row.
Also, Rozenstruik historically struggles with the opponents that are good in the clinch and can take him down. I think we may collectively forget that against Alistair Overeem he was dominated for roughly 14 minutes and 50 seconds, then he landed that sledgehammer of a right hand.
I think Blaydes wins, and makes a statement.
My prediction: Blaydes by Submission.
The People's Main Event.
It is so hard to pick this fight for a lot of reasons. I don't think all the extracurricular things that have happened this week are as telling as some people think, to me that just seems like the territory during a Diaz fight week.
I think we're going to see a great fight, and I think it is going to be close.
My prediction: Lawler by (split?) decision
It is impossible to pick against Shevchenko, she is simply the best.
I like the energy Lauren Murphy is giving off, and I think she is in a perfect mindset coming into this fight.
I think we are going to see a Rocky I-esque performance from Murphy.
My prediction: Shevchenko by decision, but she is going to have to work for it.
This is as interesting a title fight we've had on our hands in quite some time. Both men are incredibly skilled, and both men have multiple paths to victory.
It seems that Volkanovski is one of the most difficult fighters ever to try to beat by decision. His style just lends so well to being up on the scorecards when the fight goes the distance. The fact that he combines that with power fully capable of finishing is what makes him such a dangerous fighter.
Ortega, however, has many people thinking that he could in fact win by decision. His grappling of course is simply on another level, and if he was able to force Volkanovski into high level grappling exchanges he could put a lot of pressure on the champ.
I'm watching out for two things in this fight.
First is how Ortega responds to the pressure that Volkanovski is going to come at him with, because it will be a lot to deal with and we've seen him do it for 25 minutes and never slow down.
Second is how Volkanovski responds when he ends up in those high level grappling exchanges. When they end up scrambling on the ground, the Champ's reactions are going to be everything, because it only takes one mistake and Ortega will end the show.
I think Ortega winning by submission is an absolute possibility.
I also think Volkanovski is one of the best fighters of all time at not putting himself in unfavorable positions, and that is why I am so excited about this fight.
Who becomes uncomfortable first?
My prediction: Volkanovski by decision