Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington
Have to say, I’m a bit shocked by the number being as close as it is in this fight. Sure, Tate lost her last one pretty badly to Amanda Nunes, but aside from that fight and losses to Ronda Rousey, Miesha is virtually untouchable. She’s just flat out tough to beat, and it really appeared as if something was wrong at UFC 200 more so than her being outclassed by Nunes. Pennington is good – like, real good – but she’s just not in the same class as Tate. Wouldn’t guarantee a finish, but Miesha absolutely will get her hand raised at the end.
Pick: Tate -165
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Donald Cerrone
Kelvin is absolutely a live dog in this fight, it’s just a shame the price isn’t a little more in his favor. There’s no reason he can’t hang in there with Cerrone and possibly even drop Cowboy at some point in the fight. Sometimes Cowboy’s “must fight now” attitude winds up with him taking some matchups that aren’t necessarily best for his style.
This is the case as he’s not simply going to be able to puck Gastellum apart like he would most fill-in fighters (Cerrone was supposed to fight Robbie Lawler). Also, the bright lights in New York could be a detriment to Cerrone, who tends to get in his own head from time to time. The safe bet is Cowboy by split decision, but the fun bet is Kelvin by TKO. Let’s have some fun.
Pick: Gastellum +135
Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero
This fight will go one of two ways. Option 1: Romero comes out in the first round, lands a bomb on Weidman’s face, shocks MSG and wins by first round KO. Option 2: Weidman survives, or simply avoids, the early Romero onslaught, then takes Yoel down and dominates him on the mat all the way to a brilliant 29-28 or even 30-27 victory.
Option two is the much more likely scenario because Weidman and his corner know the only path to victory for Romero is a quick KO. Weidman will wait him out, shoot in, take him down, and then tire him out which Yoel does in every single fight. Unless Yoel’s gas tank got a whole lot better in the past 12 months, Weidman wins this easy.
Pick: Weidman -155
Joanna Jędrzejczyk (c) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
I want to do it because I really think Karolina is an excellent fighter, but I just can’t. Joanna is simply too good. Kowalkiewicz may have a bit of success in the first or second rounds, but as this fight goes on, JJ will take over and end up being her normal ridiculously incredible self. What’s great about Joanna is that she does it in so many different ways. She can go on the offensive, she can play the counter game, she uses punches, knees, elbows, shoulders, and whatever else the UFC legally allows you to throw. I truly believe Karolina is the second best women’s strawweight fighter in the world, it’s just the number one is miles ahead.
Pick: Jędrzejczyk -400
Tyron Woodley (c) vs. Stephen Thompson
Stylistically, this is the fight I’m most looking forward to watching, and that includes the main event. There’s just something special about the way Wonderboy Thompson goes about his business in the Octagon, and any time there’s a guy with Woodley’s hands involved, count me in.
We should know quickly how this fight is going to go. If there’s distance between the fighters, Thompson will eventually land a kick to the head of Woodley and will win the fight. If Woodley can shorten the distance, get inside, and make it a scrap, he’s got a really good chance of retaining his title. The problem for Woodley is that it just doesn’t seem likely he’ll be able to do it. There’s a reach advantage already and then you throw in the kickboxing style of Wonderboy, there’s almost no way he lets him in close.
In Vegas, they don’t offer in-fight betting, and this post is going out two days before the fight, so I’ve got to take Wonderboy, but just know, I’m swapping my pick on the Live Blog quick if I see Woodley’s nose press up against Thompson’s chest at any point during the first round.
Pick: Thompson -190