UFC 197 - Preview + Predictions

Before we even talk about the PPV, let's quickly discuss the Conor issue. It's insane that the top 2 pound-for-pound fighters in the world are competing this weekend, and everybody's focus is on the Notorious One. Rightfully so. After the heartfelt, brutally honest Facebook post he made today, I just want the UFC to grant him his wish and let us watch the fight. Sadly, I don't think it'll happen.

Wanted to get that off my chest. Now, let's talk about UFC 197! The event is taking place this Satuday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Overall, I'm pretty excited about this one. The undercard is offering some exciting storylines, like the return of Carla Esparza. However, the three main fights on the card are some of my most anticipated bouts of the year. Today, I'll be doing a small preview for each contest, alongside my predictions.

Anthony Pettis vs. Edson Barboza

I'll start by saying this: I could easily see this one stealing the show, even if it's not one of the title fights. Not particularly because of their popularity, but because these guys are the definition of a stand-up artist. Both of them have amazing boxing, incredible kicks and the heart of a lion. That's the recipe to an amazing battle.

The one thing I love about this fight is that both men are on desperation mode. They both need a victory. Just a year ago, Anthony Pettis was the lightweight champion of the world. After losing the belt to Rafael Dos Anjos, he was defeated for the second time in a row by Eddie Alvarez, who dominated him on the ground. If Pettis want to remain in the title picture, he must conquer Barboza.

Edson Barboza is coming off a war with Tony Ferguson, which he ended up losing. Seriously, one of my favorite fights of the year. Not taking anything away from Ferguson, but he did hit Edson with an illegal kick. After that, he never fully recovered. A couple of months since, he's ready to return to action, and he'll be doing it against Showtime Pettis.

Like I stated, this one will be a striking clinic. Pettis has some of the best boxing in the division. His footwork and his angle cutting are exceptional. His weakness, unfortunately, is his ground game. And that's why I believe this is a great matchup for him. While Edson Barboza has some solid BJJ, he prefers to get the job done on his feet. His boxing is clean as a whistle, and he might have the fastest, most devastating kicks in the UFC. With that being said, I'm going with Pettis. I think he'll be much more comfortable and loose knowing that he doesn't constantly have to worry about defending the takedown. And eventually, he'll catch Edson with a devastating blow.

Prediction: Anthony Pettis

Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo

The co-main event will have the second best fighter in the world, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" defend his Flyweight belt for the eight time in a row against Olympic gold medalist and undefeated mixed martial artist, Henry Cejudo.

Alongside the main event, this fight presents one of the most annoying issues you can encounter in MMA. Every now and then, you get a bout that features a clear underdog, and an absolute favorite. The "smart" fans tend to go with the underdog. If the underdog loses, they'll say nothing. But if they win, they instantly become professional analysts of the sport. When in reality, they probably knew almost nothing about either competitor.

When looking at this matchup, I don't know why you wouldn't go with Mighty Mouse. Guys has proven himself over and over. His standup and his ground/clinch game are both smooth and perfectly executed. On the other hand, Henry Cejudo is a sensational athlete! His wrestling credentials couldn't be better, and he has a surprisingly fluid pair of hands. Sadly, I just don't see him defeating DJ. We're talking about a man on a mission. He wants to break Anderson Silva's record for most consecutive title defenses, and I simply don't think Henry is the man that breaks the streak.

Prediction: Demetrious Johnson

Jon Jones vs. Ovince Saint Preux

Finally, we will see Jon Jones back in action! Won't lie, I was extremely disappointed to find out that Cormier had pulled out of the fight. Jones vs. Cormier 2 was the most anticipated rematch in the last couple of years. Out with a leg injury, people were left wondering if Jones would even show up, or if he would wait for Daniel to return. Good news to all MMA fans, he chose to fight. Just like that, this bout was built out of the ashes of Daniel Cormier's title.

Straight out the bat: do I think Jones has the ability to beat Saint Preux? Absolutely. This guy might be the best...ever. We're talking about an individual who has blasting through some of the most ferocious competitors in the sport while partying and drinking. Now that he has committed to his training, he looks healthier than ever, and stronger than ever. How will those changes translate into the cage? I can't wait to find out.

I wouldn't exactly call this a tune-up fight though, as Ovince Saint Preux is a beast. A beast with a thunderous hand. No jokes, your brain will shut off if this guy hits you with a clean strike. Plus, the winner of this one will receive the interim Light-Heavyweight Championship, and an eventual fight against Cormier. Talk about motivation.

 As far as how I see the fight playing out, it's hard to tell. You can never predict things with Jones. All of his fights have a mix of striking, clinching and grappling. Dude is the complete package. Ovince will probably try and finish it as fast as he can. Will he succeed? I don't think so. But this is MMA. Anything can happen.

Prediction: Jon Jones

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