The co-main event might have fallen through, but UFC brings a sensational fight card for its fifteenth installment in the UFC on FOX series. In the main event, top contenders looking for an opportunity to get one step closer to a title shot while the rest of the card offers a series of competitive match-ups among credentialed talent on both the men's and women's side of the game.
Who gets one step closer to a middleweight title shot? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC on FOX 15: Machida vs. Rockhold
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass card starts at 4:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX main card starts at 6 p.m. and the four-fight FOX card kicks off 8 p.m.
Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold
What a sensational scrap and very tough call. I'm going to side with the American here, but am ready to believe anything's possible. I'll say, though, that I don't think there's a blueprint to beat Machida, but there are a few conditions that have to be established to win, namely, the limiting of space. Machida has to be moving back or isolated, otherwise he's a nightmare. Even a Machida with just lateral space can wreak havoc. This was eliminated by Chris Weidman when he was able to pressure Machida backwards and use his preferred boxing. This largely took away Machida's kicking range, too. Rockhold is a little more kick friendly and capable, so it's going to be interesting to see how he deals with the space required to throw kicks, but without surrendering enough distance to allow Machida space to breathe. In the end, though, I still see Rockhold finding a way to get it done, if not early, then certainly late.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Camozzi
How can you not commend Camozzi for accepting a challenge like this on such short notice? In one sense, there's no pressure since so little can be expected of anyone. And there's truly a lot to gain with a victory. However, the chances of said victory are so very slim. MMA is a wild, unpredictable thing, but short of a miracle shot or injury, there doesn't seem to be much of a likely path forward for the American here.
This fight is probably much closer than folks assume, but I'm still going to stick with Swanson. What I suspect will happen is that while Swanson's technical acumen in the pocket will shine early, what we'll likely notice is the difference in fire power. I expect this will back up Holloway and if not hurt him, certainly cause him to defensively shell up. Over time, though, I'm looking for Holloway to make adjustments with movement and shot selection to mute Swanson's forward progress. By round three, the tables could be completely turned. The problem is Holloway will likely have surrendered too much time and space by backing up for it to matter. And while Holloway's precision, shot selection and side-to-side combinations are outstanding, he likely lacks the heavy handedness needed to keep Swanson hurt or at bay.
Felice Herrig vs. Paige VanZant
This is a tough call, but I'm going to side with Herrig. VanZant is admittedly hell on wheels. She can overwhelm opponents with offensive pressure and volume in multiple phases of the game. But that requires leaving a fair amount of openings in the process. I absolutely believe VanZant has the skills required to put Herrig on her back, pass to mount and earn a TKO stoppage, but I also am reluctant to look past Herrig's noticeable defense improvement and veteran experience.
From the preliminary card:
Beneil Dariush def. Jim Miller
Patrick Cummins def. Ovince Saint Preux
Corey Anderson def. Gian Villante
Aljamain Sterling def. Takeya Mizugaki
Tim Means def. George Sullivan
Diego Brandao def. Jimy Hettes
Eddie Gordon def. Chris Dempsey