UFC 215: Battle of the Dana White Rejects!
Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but UFC 215 (September 9th, Edmonton, Alberta) features two fighters who have recently fallen under the ire of the UFC President. Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson had a public feud with White over who his next opponent should be, and women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes got heat for pulling out of her UFC 213 fight after falling ill. Both fighters were publicly reprimanded and that has probably provided extra motivation going into their respective bouts.
“Mighty Mouse” Johnson got the match he wanted in Ray Borg and now he has a chance to make UFC history by defending his title for a record 11th consecutive time. Unfortunately for DJ, his fights over the years haven’t been big pay-per-view draws and that’s a shame. The man is one of the greats but fans just haven’t gravitated or embraced the flyweight division. Too many of the fights go to decision, and there isn’t really anyone else at Johnson’s level. You can understand the UFC wanting its flyweight champ to move up in weight and take on bigger names, and that should probably happen, win or lose, after this fight with Borg.
Women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will be facing Valentino Shevchenko for the second time and let’s hope it’s a more entertaining affair. This has the potential to be one of the best fights on the card as both women love to bang, that is, if they choose to engage instead of both playing the counter-punching game with limited action. As great as Nunes has looked in her last few fights, she will have a tough challenge in Shevchenko who has a style that could cause problems for the champ.
If the main and co-main event don’t deliver, the rest of the card should be able to prop up the entertainment value. Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos is out to prove that he’s still relevant in the division by, at the very least, avoiding another brutal KO. Unfortunately for him, he is facing a man who specializes in nasty knock-outs in Francis Ngannou. Will Dos Santos get his career back on track or will this be Ngannou’s UFC coming out party?
Gilbert Melendez, who hasn’t fought since this time last year, is also hoping for a career resurrection. The 35-year-old has had a tough run losing his last three fights and would like to turn that all around against a tough Jeremy Stephens, who’s on a two-fight losing streak of his own.
This entire card feels like it’s full of UFC rejects, castaways, and former greats who all have chips on their shoulders, and that is a recipe for some fireworks. Let’s see if we (make that I) can carry the momentum of our (my) UFC 214 predictions into the next event.
UFC 215 ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
Demetrious Johnson (c) (-900) vs. Ray Borg (+550) (Flyweight Title) UPDATE: FIGHT CANCELED DUE TO ILLNESS (Borg)
“Mighty Mouse” Johnson (26-2-1) is one of the best fighters on the planet and will go down in history as one of the greatest ever. That’s not a news flash or anything, but it’s a shame that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from some of the fans and UFC brass. Maybe that will come when his career is over and we all stop for a moment to reflect on how dominant of a champion he truly is.
I say enjoy his talent now! Appreciate the fighter for what he is currently doing in the Octagon, because it’s history in the making. Even if he doesn’t finish all his fights with highlight-reel knockouts, you’re always asking yourself: can anyone challenge him? And that is what makes his fights must-see-TV
Ray Borg (11-2-0) thinks he is the man for the job even if the current odds don’t agree. The Albuquerque native is coming off a big win over Jussier da Silva at UFC Fight Night 106 and has won five of his last six fights. He has an impressive 11-2 record with 55-percent of his wins coming via submission. He was essentially hand-picked by the champ to be his next opponent, which says something about the 24-year-old’s skill set.
But unless Borg calls upon the collective (forgive terrible Star Trek reference), it doesn’t matter how many submissions he has in his arsenal. When you sign up to fight the champ, you better bring an all around game because Johnson can beat you anywhere at anytime. Borg might have a solid grappling game, but his standup is average and that is where DJ will ultimately pick him apart.
This is a pretty easy fight to call. DJ is just too fast, too technical and too crafty to lose to a one-dimensional fighter like Borg. Johnson has a legacy he wants to continue to build and a win at UFC 215 will give him his 11th consecutive title defense, a UFC record.
At some point, “Mighty Mouse” will need to step up to bigger challenges. If he beats Borg on September 9th, super fights should be something the champ entertains going forward.
Pick: Demetrious Johnson (-900)
Amanda Nunes (c) (-110) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (-120) (Women’s Bantamweight Championship)
This fight was supposed to happen at UFC 213, but due to illness, UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was forced to pull out. That cancellation didn’t sit well with UFC president Dana White. “The doctor cleared her to fight, she said she doesn’t feel good,” White said via the L.A. Times. “It is what it is. You can’t make anyone fight.”
White continued to criticize the champ saying he would never give Nunes another main event slot again. Those were pretty harsh words towards a fighter who was clearly ill just before fight time. However, the bout was saved and rescheduled for the UFC 215 card and everyone seems healthy and ready to go.
Two years ago, most fans hadn’t heard of either of these two women, but now here they are on the big stage showing how fast women’s MMA has evolved. (Ronda who?) Right now, Nunes (14-4) is one of the baddest ladies on the planet and she will be defending against the dangerous Shevchenko (14-2) for the second time.
Back at UFC 196, these two competed in a pretty boring fight that did nothing for their stock. That was last year, though, and after beating Holy Holm and Julianna Pena, Shevchenko more than earned another go around with Nunes.
Meanwhile, Nunes is on a five-fight winning streak with four finishes, including notable knockouts over Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. The 29-year-old Brazilian looks like a force of nature, out to prove she is as unstoppable as a hurricane.
Although the odds slightly favor the champ, this is her first ever five-round affair, and her aggressive style might cost her in later rounds. Shevchenko is a late-bloomer in fights. If you don’t put her away early, she’ll get stronger as each round passes by. The Peruvian is an accomplished Muay Thai practitioner who can dictate a fight with her range. Not to mention, she knows how to get out of the way of haymakers.
If you’re looking for an upset, this might be the place. It will be Nunes aggression vs. Shevchenko’s patience and precision.
Nunes will likely feel she has something to prove after pulling out of UFC 213 at the last minute, and that should be the extra ingredient of motivation needed to get the win in a close fight. Back at UFC 213, I told you to take the upset in Shevchenko, but this time around I’m sticking with the champ. She has a chip on her shoulder now that will give her the edge.
Pick: Nunes (-110)
Francis Ngannou (-340) over Junior Dos Santos (+260)[UPDATE: Dos Santos pulled from fight due to positive drug test]
- Gilbert Melendez (-110) over Jeremy Stephens (-120)
- Neil Magny (+170) over Rafael dos Anjos (-210)