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UFC on FOX 17 predictions

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Rafael dos Anjos will try to defend his UFC lightweight title at UFC on FOX 17.
Rafael dos Anjos will try to defend his UFC lightweight title at UFC on FOX 17.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC stages its last show of the year with a lightweight title bout, top heavyweight contender fight and much more. The main event is a rematch, but the results matter more than usual given how it could impact the division, draw in Conor McGregor and more.

What: UFC on FOX 17: Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone 2

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.

When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass card starts at 3:30 p.m. ET, the six-fight FOX undercard starts at 5 p.m. and the four-fight FOX main card kicks off 8 p.m.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone

Cerrone's style hasn't really changed over the years from its essential core, but what he's built around it over time has become quite formidable. The fluidity and diversity of his attacks combined with how well he can be lethal at a variety of ranges has dramatically improved. His jiu-jitsu isn't necessarily his go to, but it is quite the ace in the hole. That said, the champion's grappling is a step above and while his striking is not on par with Cerrone's, it's enough to last as long as it needs to on the feet before he can deftly switch phases of the game. I don't know how much their second fight will look like their first, but I'm struggling to imagine it'll look all that different.

Pick: dos Anjos

Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem

When it comes to the heavyweights, strenuously affirming one's side chances of winning is not the best idea. With their power and size, even an errant punch can close the show at a moment's notice. That said, I like the former UFC heavyweight champ's chances here. He's taken way too much damage, but his hand speed is excellent. If Overeem tries to mix up where the fight takes place, dos Santos is great at clinch breaking or defending the takedown. If the Dutch fighter can truly be nimble in how well he varies his game, he can take this, but I just don't find that the likeliest outcome.

Pick: dos Santos

Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz

I'm not sure why I'm taking a chance on Diaz here. He is the massive underdog. Johnson has showed the type of well-rounded game - particularly in the stand-up department - to inspire confidence. Yet, there's something about Diaz showing a rejuvenated spirit that's hard to ignore (for me, anyway). He has a four-inch reach advantage, knows how to use it and seems to be in the best physical shape that he's been in in years. When he's on, Diaz can often establish range to give his punching combinations sway over any kicking attacks his opposition might have. This is precisely how he dealt with Donald Cerrone when they met. I admit this is quite a gamble and if I'm wrong, so be it. I just can't count out Diaz quite so easily.

Pick: Diaz

Randa Markos vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Kowalkiewicz reminds me a little bit of Paige VanZant. Their games are very different, to be sure, but the Polish fighter thrives off pressing the action in her own way. She's aggressive with submissions in grappling contexts, is diligent about cutting off the cage when the fight is standing, stays busy throwing strikes to keep her rhythm going while she disrupts her opposition's. Perhaps Markos' underrated takedown ability will win the day, but when it comes to having a more complete offense, I like Kowalkiewicz's chances.

Pick: Kowalkiewicz

From the preliminary card:

Charles Oliveira def. Myles Jury
C.B. Dollaway def. Nate Marquardt
Sarah Kaufman def. Valentina Shevchenko
Josh Samman def. Tamdan McCrory
Danny Castillo def. Nik Lentz
Cole Miller def. Jim Alers
Kamaru Usman def. Leon Edwards
Vicente Luque def. Hayder Hassan
Luiz Henrique def. Francis Ngannou