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UFC on FOX 24 predictions

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The first and only flyweight champion in UFC history will attempt to tie the record of all-time great Anderson Silva for the most consecutive title defenses in the company’s history come Saturday night. The champ Demetrious Johnson will be attempting to get his tenth consecutive title defense by taking on top contender Wilson Reis in the main event of UFC on FOX 24. This is one of the best FOX cards in recent time, as it also features crucial divisional bouts with Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson and Ronaldo Souza vs. Robert Whittaker, and interesting action on the preliminary portion of the card.

What: UFC on FOX 24

Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri.

When: The five-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 4:00 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX preliminary card begins at 6:00 p.m. ET, and the four-fight main card begins at 8:00 p.m. ET also on FOX.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis

In his flyweight run, Demetrious Johnson has not only become one of the most dominant champions in UFC history, but has also set himself up as one of the best fighters on the planet.

Since winning the inaugural flyweight title in 2012, Johnson has successfully defended his belt nine times against very solid opposition. Tonight, at UFC on FOX 24, Johnson will attempt to tie Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses and more importantly, set himself up to possibly break that record later this year. The man standing in Johnson’s way to make UFC history is talented grappler Wilson Reis.

Although Reis is a very skilled fighter, Johnson still enters the bout as a heavy favorite. This is in part because “Mighty Mouse” is just simply one of the best fighters out there, but also because Reis is likely to be one of the most manageable challengers Johnson has defended his title against. Normally, I’d pick Johnson to defeat any flyweight on the roster with out major hesitation, and I still pick him to win here with with no big reservations. However, lets talk about Reis’ possible route to victory:

Scrambles are apparently Johnson’s kryptonite: The last time Johnson fought, he faced the unorthodox and scrappy Tim Elliot. Many believe that Johnson’s fight with Elliot was the toughest fight Johnson has experienced in his career as flyweight champion. Leading up to the fight, Elliot talked about making the fight dirty and creating scrambles as keys to victory, and there is no doubt he had some degree of success doing so. A few months later, flyweight contender Ray Borg told the press that Johnson had been “exposed” and that forcing scrambles was key in dethroning the champ.

At a first glance, I thought this could have some sort of truth since Elliot gave Johnson a tough fight. But looking back at the fight a second time, Johnson was extremely dominant throughout the fight and even won the majority of the scrambles. In fact, the only round Johnson had some trouble in was the first, where he was caught in an arm-in guillotine — which forced him to give up top position in order to escape — followed by a d’arce choke attempt. I think because we’re so used to seeing Johnson have flawless performances, the success that Elliot had in that fight was a bit overblown; and that’s not trying to take anything away from Elliot, he still put up a good fight.

So I don’t think Johnson was exposed in anyway against Elliot. What I did see is that Johnson can have a difficult time with guys that have a size advantage over him, have some speed, and can chain wrestle. We saw a bit of that against Elliot, and we definitely saw it against Dominick Cruz and in the first Ian McCall fight.


So does Reis fit the bill to defeat Johnson? Yes, but probably not enough.

Reis is a one of the bigger and stronger fighters at flyweights, and has a high-level grappling game, which should come in handy against Johnson. However, Reis is not that quick and that tends to be a deal breaker when fighting “Mighty Mouse”. I think Reis could have some success if he were fighting in a small Octagon like the one Elliot fought in, but this is a FOX card and the Octagon is usually normal-sized, which gives Johnson a good stage to put his speed and movement to good use. I see the champ tying Silva’s record with a dominant win.

Pick: Johnson

Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson

Here’s the fight I’m most looking forward to. Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson is an important bout for the strawweight division, since the winner will likely challenge the champion next. But aside from that, this is just a damn good fight.

Despite losing her last fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, which snapped a three-fight win streak, Namajunas has looked great in recent years. The 24-year-old fighter has put together her advanced grappling game and improved striking in a way that suits her style and body type. Namajunas fights at a high pace, and utilizes her length well in both her striking and grappling.

Waterson fights similar to Namajunas in the sense that they’re both well-rounded and dangerous wherever the fight goes. Yet, “The Karate Hottie” has a very different build than Namajunas, which shapes her fighting style. Waterson is a very accurate striker and perhaps more dangerous on the feet than Namajunas. Waterson is also equally as good as Namajunas on the ground, but her grappling style is more wrestling oriented as she like to work from top positions.

I think this might the toughest fight to pick from the card, as I can see either women winning the bout. I expect Namajunas’ reach and movement to get the better of Waterson on the feet, but I also see Waterson having an edge on the ground since judges usually favor the fighter that’s on top. This should be a close bout, but I think Namajunas should have enough of an edge on the feet and a size advantage to get her a decision victory.

Pick: Namajunas

Ronaldo Souza vs. Robert Whittaker

This fight has my attention. Not only it’s a fun clash of styles, but it has important implications for the division.

A win here is crucial for “Jacare” Souza to keep his status of being one of the top contenders of the division that’s likely to challenge for the belt in the near future. And for Robert Whittaker, this fight is the culmination of his UFC middleweight run, as the New Zealander is finally getting a crack at an elite of the middleweight division.

Whittaker is now 5-0 since moving up to the 185-pound weight class in 2014. The 26-year-old fighter has been labeled as a prospect for quite some time and this is finally his chance to turn the corner and solidify himself as a top contender in the division. Whittaker is a great boxer with a good pace and a excellent takedown defense. He also seems to have a speed and cardio advantage at 185 pounds.

On the other hand, Souza is of the best and most effective grapplers in MMA. The Brazilian has also displayed great boxing skills in his fights, and despite being 37 years old, Souza hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

I think it’s possible to see Whittaker give Souza some issues early in the fight, as Whittaker moves often and strikes on the go, which could give Souza problems when timing his takedowns. Yet, I find Souza to be too crafty and experienced to commit a mistake that gets him knocked out. I see “Jacare” figuring out Whittaker’s timing and movement early in the fight, scoring a takedown in the first or early second round, and working his way to a submission victory.

Pick: Souza

Jeremy Stephens vs. Renato Moicano

Unbeaten Renato Moicano is getting a big step up in exposure and opposition level, as he’s set to fight UFC vet Jeremy Stephens in the opening bout of the main card.

Moicano, 27, has a professional MMA record of 10-0-1. The Brazilian joined the UFC in December of 2014 and has only fought twice since, picking up wins over Tom Niinimäki and Zubaira Tukhugov. If you’ve never seen Moicano fight, picture Charles Oliveira’s fighting style minus the wrestling and the hair. Standing at 5’11, Moicano is one of the lankier strikers in the featherweight division. The Brazilian has a diverse striking arsenal and is quick at figuring out his range in the fight. On the ground, Moicano has a slick grappling game with a very dangerous guard.

Meanwhile, Stephens, who’s 25-13 in professional fighting, is the more experienced fighter here. Although Stephens has made a career of being a wild and powerful striker that’s always game in any given fight, the Alliance MMA product has cleaned up his technique and style a bit in recent years and now fights at a more controlled pace.

Stephens is always a wild card when picking fights, but I think if Moicano can avoid getting knocked out in 15 minutes, the Brazilian can outpoint Stephens with his long jab and kicks. Also, if Moicano were to get rattled with a bomb from Stephens, he can always go to his back and pull guard.

Pick: Moicano


Alexander Volkov def. Roy Nelson

Tom Duquesnoy def. Patrick Williams

Rashid Magomedov def. Bobby Green

Tim Elliott def. Louis Smolka

Devin Clark def. Jake Collier

Andrew Sanchez def. Anthony Smith

Aljamain Sterling def. Augusto Mendes

Zak Cummings def. Nathan Coy

Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Ketlen Vieira

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