Greetings, fight friends! UFC 197 is here and with only one major shake up to the main card. We’ve still got two title fights in the co-main and main events, so that’s cool. The punches kick off at 6:30PM ET on UFC Fight Pass, so let’s take a look at the smartest, funniest, most accurate bout predictions in the entire world, it’s the Uproxx Sports Staff Predictions!
2016 Important Results:
Jessica: 67-55-2 (55 percent)
Burnsy: 63-47-1 (57 percent)
Ryan: 5-1 (83 percent)
Jason: 14-10 (58 percent)
Jackman: 7-5 (58 percent)
Enrique: 7-5 (58 percent)
Jamie: 10-8 (56 percent)
Justin: 13-4 (76 percent)
Marty: 10-11 (48 percent)
Jared: 13-11 (54 percent)
Parker: 3-4 (43 percent)
Dr. Vet: 39-21-2 (65 percent)
Lightweight – Efrain “Hecho en Mexico” Escudero vs Kevin “Mo-Town Phenom” Lee
Jessica: Lee migh have some trouble out grappling Escudero, but c’mon, it’s Efrain Escudero. Lee should finish things with a submission in the second round at the very latest.
Burnsy: Both guys have lost to Leandro Silva, but Lee got blopsed in the first round. Escudero takes Lee to a boring decision.
Marty: First, pouring out a little for the lost UFC 200 main event.*
This fight jumped off the page for me at first, but I think it was just the names. I’ll go with the up-and-comer over the guy on his third stint in the octagon. W: Lee
*I reserve the right to soak up said alcohol if the fight is reinstated.
Light Heavyweight – Marcos “Pezao” Rogerio de Lima vs Clint “Headbussa” Hester
Jessica: This stinks. I like Hester and want him to do Cool, Violent Things to people in the cage, but I think he’s bumping against his ceiling in the UFC. Lima isn’t quite at that level, but he could give Clint a tough fight. I still have Hester taking it with a second round KO.
Burnsy: Hester was so much fun until the end of 2014, when he lost his first of two. Sometimes I forget he’s still in the UFC because he fights once a year. Come on, dude. Only way to win more is to fight more. Pezao makes it three straight losses for Hester.
Marty: Look, I like Clint Hester. I like his nickname, (I mean come on, “Headbussa!”) I liked him on his season of TUF. But man, I’m not feeling good about this pink slip fight, if MRdL can use even a little bit of ground work. Oh, and the Brazilian’s nickname is Pezao, which I think you should only say while talking through your nose. W: Rogerio de Lima
Heavyweight – Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris vs Cody “Freight Train” East
Jessica: This is a dang squash match, plain and simple. Harris is 0-3 in the UFC and hasn’t fought in a year and a half. He’s being brought back to make East look good. I’ll buy into Joe SIlva’s dastardly plans and say East gets a first round KO.
Burnsy: Yeah, this fight is dumb. East wins a gimme.
Marty: Whoa, wait a minute. What the hell happened to our awesome Fight Pass features?
Harris hasn’t won in the UFC, and while I am all for second chances, I feel no urge to give East the benefit of the doubt, so my pick for this fight is: I couldn’t care less.
Lightweight – Glacio “Nego” Franca vs James “The Texecutioner” Vick
Jessica: On one hand, I haven’t heard of anyone Franca has fought, which is troubling. On the other, Vick is listed as a Team Lloyd Irvin fighter, and that’s gross as hell. I normally pick more with my heart, but I’m gonna betray myself here. Vick wins by second round TKO while I fume and seethe.
Burnsy: I still love the Texecutioner nickname, even if the warped part of my brain imagines him pummeling innocent men and the mentally challenged to the death. Look what you’ve done to my poor brain, Texas politics. Anyway, Vick wins.
Marty: It’s not that I can slight Franca since he won TUF Brazil 4, but James Vick is too good for a guy just getting into the UFC proper, even if he’s a real finisher. The bright lights will be too much this time. W: Vick
Strawweight – Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza vs Juliana “Ju Thai” Lima
Jessica: If Lima’s take down defense is in the neighborhood of “kinda decent”, I’m expecting a terrible night for Esparza. I want a terrible night for Esparza, so I’ll blindly hope that Lima can keep the fight standing long enough to unleash a devastating Muay Thai onslaught. Lima wins by third round TKO.
Burnsy: My kid is only 6 months old but he freaks out when he he sees the Cookie Monster, so he’d be mad if I didn’t pick the Cookie Monster to win.
Marty: I know Lima’s ranked 14th, but if I’m being honest, the division’s too new (and thin) for me to think it should go past a top 10. Cookie Monster’s rested and ready to get back into the title picture, and this is a tune-up. W: Esparza
Welterweight – Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts vs “Non-Stopped Action Packed” Dominique Steele
Jessica: I’m still mad at Dom Steele for slamming the other Dong Hyun Kim into unconsciousness back in November. Plus, dude got put away by Zak Cummings, and that seems like the kind of thing that causes a rift in space time. I’m taking Danny Roberts to punch Steele a lot and then lock up a second round submission.
Burnsy: Steele’s KO of Kim was other-worldly, like I’m legitimately worried about Kim’s brain. That was obviously a fluke, but… was it? Maybe Steele’s just gonna start sidewalk slamming dudes every three months. How f*cking cool would that be? Steele does it again.
Marty: If I had to guess how this fight will go, and I did, since I’ve written this, Roberts will be fine standing to trade with Dom T. (and watching out for any assault from the left arm) but with the goal of using some smooth ground work. Steele had to use the towel to make weight, so sapping his energy early could be key. W: Roberts
Flyweight – Sergio “The Phenom” Pettis vs Chris “The Greek Assassin” Kelades
Jessica: I thought Anthony threw a sh*t fit about not fighting on the same card as his baby bro because it made him too distracted. Oh well for little Sergio. I think Kelades has the skills to pay some of the bills, but on the flippity flop, Pettis the Younger is “ever improving” which means sometimes he looks less bad from his previous fight. I’m giving this to Kelades because I think he’s faced a better crop o’ dudes, both in his wins and his single loss. Kelades wins by third round TKO.
Burnsy: I think Pettis might eventually be really good, but not yet. You can’t really learn on the job in the UFC, so I’ll take Kelades.
Marty: I want to think Kelades can win, but I don’t think Pettis, young as he is and with the training group he has around him, is going to lose to someone so far away from being ranked. I can’t even say Kelades has the experience advantage, since Little Showtime (can you call him Phenom anymore? Does he want to be?) had more fights under his belt before he could (legally) drink than Kelades does overall. Don’t underestimate and he’ll be fine. W: Pettis
Featherweight – Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez vs Andre “Touchy” Fili
Jessica: Fili has been a win one, lose one kinda guy since entering the UFC. He’s due for a loss, but I’m not sure. Yair’s decent, but part of me thinks that if Fili is fueled with enough Pizza Power, he can put Rodriguez away. On the flip side, Team Alpha Male might be crumbling around Urijah Faber’s shirtless body. Ehhhh, this is a tough call, but I’m going to say Fili nabs a third round submission.
Burnsy: I’m going with Fili based on the idea that he turned the corner with his last win, and he’s going to build some momentum. I can’t remember who he fought, but I know he doinked his brain into oblivion, so I’ll say that happens again, even if El Pantera has already shown a ton of potential in so few fights.
Marty: To be honest, this is the last fight on the show where I don’t have a really strong desire to see it. I feel like this might be Yair’s gateway fight to tougher opponents, and he’s riding that hot streak since going into the TUFLA house. They’re both young, plenty of room to grow, but the Touchy One’s UFC pattern of alternating results keeps going. W: Rodriguez
Middleweight – Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker vs Rafael “Sapo” Natal
Jessica: Both dudes have won four straight and both dudes have recent wins over Uriah Hall. EVERYTHING ELSE IS VIRTUALLY THE OPPOSITE, to twist a Mike Goldberg phrase. I think Whittaker’s striking is going to be the key factor here, and I think he’ll manage to overwhelm Natal and put him away. Whittaker wins by second round TKO.
Burnsy: I think Natal’s gonna take this in three very boring rounds.
Marty: Finally a fight I really (kinda) wanna see. I can’t believe Sapo’s been in the UFC for five and a half years. Alas, every time he gets on a longer roll than before, he derails; he’s also never beaten anyone really good. In the red corner, Whittaker’s also got a four-fight win streak; his last loss, against Stephen Thompson, might’ve been a launching point. For some reason, I just think his hands make the difference here. W: Whittaker
Lightweight – Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs Edson “Junior” Barboza
Jessica: KICK FIGHT! I think Barboza’s proclivity to chopping dudes down with low kicks is really going to ruin Pettis’ Christmas. Barboza’s chin is a little shaky, but Pettis has more power in his kicks than his punches, and if Pettis gets his legs chewed up, he won’t be able to land crazy kicks. Barboza wins by third round TKO (Leg Kicks).
Burnsy: I can’t believe Barboza has lost two of three and Pettis has lost his last two. Granted, they’ve both fought some serious dudes, but I hear either of these guys’ names and I’m like, Oh yeah, he wins. So who wins in this brilliant back-against-the-wall matchup? I’ll take Pettis for the heck of it.
Marty: Oh yeah, highlight reel incoming. Man oh man.
Showtime: Awwwwww LAS VEGAAAAS, don’t you daaare be souah! CLLLAP for your Wheaties box-havin’ two-time champ, and FEEEEL the POWAAAAHHHHHH! I feel like I can say that last part because he can absolutely hit you with a slick kick and end it. Or he can submit you. Whichever.
Speaking of kicks, oh hell no would I never stand there and take any kind of kick from Edson Barboza. Only UFC fighter with two TKO (leg kicks) to his credit. He’s that rare Brazilian fighter that is much more comfortable standing than grappling.
Oddities of records that I didn’t think I’d see: Pettis has lost back to back, but they were a title loss to Rafael dos Anjos, and a split decision to Eddie Alvarez…who will be challenging RdA for the title in July. Barboza started his time in the octagon with four wins in a row, and then every win streak after has been one win shorter. Coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson in December, would that mean he’s due for a draw, or another loss? Hmm.
I think Pettis is too good to lose to a guy that can’t beat the crème de la crème yet, but if he wants to stand and trade, he’d be asking for an upset. W: A. Pettis
Flyweight TItle – Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo
Jessica: My Main Man Mighty Mouse is going to stuff Cejudo’s take downs, box him up and then probably do a tremendous amount of grappling upon him. Cejudo will get tired and wheezy and get submitted in the third round. DJ is anointed God King of the Tiny Boys.
Burnsy: I wish more people appreciated how much of an amazing badass Mighty Mouse is so he can actually headline a PPV for once. I watch fights with guys who have no respect for the little dudes, and that sucks because it’s so much fun to watch Johnson pick his opponents apart like he lives in the Matrix. Cejudo is a good fighter, but no chance.
Marty: TITLE FIGHT!!!
Time for Mighty Mouse to punch the clock and go to work. I mean, I can’t slight Henry Cejudo, um, in the slightest. He won Olympic wrestling gold, and transitioned to a so-far perfect record in MMA, TKO’ing his first four opponents before decisioning everyone after. He’s stronger than Mighty Mouse, most likely has more punching power, and is probably a better grappler.
But boy oh boy, you don’t stay the only flyweight champion in UFC history by luck, when you’re facing any and all comers with varying styles. He’s fought strong punchers, he’s fought grapplers with their own style’s belt designs. Still comes out on top. I think his speed keeps things from changing. W: Johnson
Interim Light Heavyweight Title – Jon “Bones” Jones vs Ovince “OSP” St. Preux
Jessica: Jon Jones was at worst, the third best fight in the history of the world when he was admittedly not taking his training very seriously. Now that he’s apparently focusing more on power lifting instead of getting drunk every night, he’s probably going to annihilate everyone he fights. I’m expecting Jones to launch OSP’s head into the crowd, probably with a dang Flash Kick. Jones wins by second round KO.
Burnsy: Jon Jones is going to embarrass OSP. Not just because OSP stepped up on short notice, but because Jones would have embarrassed Daniel Cormier, too. What’s funny is I’m not even sure that Jones has been embarrassed by his own actions, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, Jones is back, barring a vendor shouting, “Peanuts! Popcorn! Garbage bag full of cocaine!” during this main event, and we just need to embrace him as the bad guy superstar of the UFC.
Marty: Look, I want this to be good. It might even be good. But really, the UFC has already shown to you what they think will happen. This was originally Jones-Cormier 2, but DC got hurt, and OSP was willing to fill in. Since UFC wanted a title fight to headline, they made this an interim title fight for the light-heavyweight belt, even though Cormier fought only six and a half months ago. (Already that long?) If Jones couldn’t get his belt back, he’d get a substitute to cement his next-in-line status until DC was ready to go again.
Saint Preux has some slick, powerful striking, and can certainly find openings on the ground to win, but he’s never fought someone with as much long-fight, elite-opponent experience as this former champ, nor the ability to use a usually-pronounced reach advantage coupled with novel angles to strike. Jones will use this bout as a chance to shake off the cage rust with a decisive victory, probably before they can even get to the championship rounds. W: Jones
Performance of the Night
Jessica: East, My Main Main Mighty Mouse
Burnsy: Jones, Fili
Marty: Jones, Whittaker
Fight of the Night
Jessica: Kelades vs Pettis
Burnsy: Pettis vs Barboza
Marty: Pettis vs Barboza