In my opinion UFC 194 is the best MMA main card on paper that has ever been put together! It’s got a plethora of the UFC’s elite who are all in their athletic prime, two fascinating title bouts, some genuine animosity and a number of intriguing stylistic matchups. If you’ve never watched a card, UFC 194 is a perfect place to start and why not get involed by checking out our latest UFC betting tips.
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Jose Aldo (c) 25-1 vs Connor McGregor (#1) 18-2
It’s finally here! The most hyped title fight in UFC history is upon us. The enigmatic Irishman Connor McGregor looks to defeat mercurial featherweight champion Jose Aldo and claim what he believes is rightfully his.
Despite the fact Jose Aldo is the first and only featherweight champion, is undefeated in over 10 years and has dismantled every top class contender thrown his way, he comes into this fight as the underdog. Aldo, in my opinion is the best technical MMA striker we have ever seen. He is a Muay Thai fighter who throws flawless combinations with lightning speed - his best weapons are knees to the body and a mean left hook. A former professional soccer player (in Brazil no less), Aldo’s trademark is brutal leg kicks. He has left many an opponent unable to walk. He throws these kicks with no set up which makes them extremely difficult to read and nearly impossible to counter. While he has very good striking defence, his footwork is not the greatest, which is something I’m sure McGregor has noted. So far in his career he hasn’t really had to show it, but Aldo is a tremendous grappler, he holds a BJJ black belt under Andre Pederneiras. He also has a really good wrestling game, and if he chooses to use it, he should have a massive advantage in this fight. Throughout his career, Aldo has tended to lift or fall to the level of his opponent, so it will be interesting to see whether McGregor’s trash talking has got inside his head or whether it has lit a fire under him which will take his game to the next level.
Connor McGregor has gone from fighting on the prelims to one of the biggest stars in the UFC in record time. The rise has been on the back of a combination of in-cage brilliance and beautifully delivered trash talking. He might be the best talker in combat sports history. In the cage he has used revolutionary movement and the power punching of a middleweight to crush every one of his opponents thus far. He is incredibly unpredictable and confident on the feet, throwing wheel kicks and capoeira with reckless abandon. He is a southpaw fighter and his left straight and left uppercuts are perfectly timed and carry life-altering power. He is also massive for the division and will have a significant size advantage here. The massive question mark over him has always been the ground game and against Chad Mendes he showed he is susceptible to being controlled there. His dominance has meant we haven’t seen how he performs in the later rounds so that is another question that needs answering. He does have a tremendous chin though - he ate some massive bombs from Mendes with ease.
Prediction: No matter how this one plays out, the aftermath is going to be epic! For mine, Jose Aldo holds an advantage everywhere in this fight, but it will only take one good shot from McGregor to put him away. I think Aldo wants to prove a point here so I don’t seem him attempting takedowns, but if he does, I think he will win this one comfortably. McGregor will need to hit Aldo early, because if he takes too many of those leg kicks it will seriously hamper his striking ability. I promised myself I would never bet against McGregor again after that Mendes fight, but Aldo just has too many tools and has been proven too many times to not bet him as the underdog. Jose Also by 4th Round TKO
Chris Weidman (c) 13-0 vs Luke Rochold (#1) 14-2
This fight is the biggest east coast-west coast rivalry since Biggie and Tupac. In one corner you have the ultra-suave Californian extreme sports enthusiast Luke Rochold and in the other you have Long Island, New York born and bred All-American Chris Weidman. At 31 years old they are both at the peak of their powers and this could be the most competitive title fight in UFC history. Add to that they really dislike each other and you have all the ingredients required for a fight for the history books.
Weidman is the undefeated king of the middleweight division, most famous for knocking off the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva. He is the quintessential pressure boxer, constantly coming forward and pushing his opponent against the fence. He isn’t the most technical striker but has clean, hard punches and is good at using his length. A former Div 1 wrestler, the strongest part of his game is wrestling and top control. He has brutal ground and pound and has the ability to catch anyone in a submission. His cardio has been a bit of a problem, so if this fight goes into the championship rounds we could see the tide start to turn.
Luke Rockhold is a really complete mixed martial artist. He has a diverse striking repertoire, solid wrestling and a very tricky submission game. He likes to strike at distance using crisp straight lefts and right hooks as well as a really impressive array of kicks. He does have a few defensive holes and has been a little too hittable thus far in his career. On the ground he has a fantastic BJJ game - he is much more dangerous when in top position, but still has a number of submissions from his back. His wrestling game is also much improved, which probably has a lot to do with him training at AKA with Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier. Rockhold is also massive for the division, so for the first time in his career Weidman will come into this fight at a size disadvantage.
Prediction: What makes this fight so fascinating and so hard to call, is that both these men are so proficient in every aspect of MMA. Neither really has a weakness, and they are both capable of winning by KO, submission or decision. I think this will come down to who can control where the fight takes place. On the feet Weidman will want to be moving forward and closing the distance, while Rockhold will want keep it at kicking range. Whoever spends the most time in top position will also decide who wins it on the ground. I’m picking Rockhold here. I think he has the tools to hurt Weidman and I think the longer the fight goes the better he will look. Luke Rockhold by ultra-competitive decision.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza (#2) 22-3 vs Yoel Romero (#3) 10-1
This bout will determine who is next in line to fight for the Middleweight title, so it’s an excellent entrée to the Rockhold/Weidman fight. It also an incredibly intriguing stylistic match up - Romero won a wrestling silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics representing Cuba and Jacare is the most accomplished BJJ practitioner to ever compete in a cage.
Jacare is an absolute wizard on the ground and anyone who tries to tangle with him there is usually quickly submitted. On the mat, he has the fantastic combination of technical brilliance and pure athleticism. While he lacks a traditional wrestling game, he is effective at initiating clinches and dragging his opponents to the mat. It has been the improvement in his stand up game that has really seen him go from a submission threat to a UFC top contender. On the feet, he is right hand dominant, but does throw in some winging left hooks. He isn’t known for his power, but utilizes an array of kicks and punches which allow him to get into the clinch. He does have suspect striking defence and a shaky chin, which could spell danger against a monster like Romero.
Romero is a super athlete. He isn’t the most technical, but has some of the fastest, most explosive striking you will ever see. He is also maintains his power throughout the whole fight, so he will be a legitimate knockout threat for the entire 15 minutes. He doesn’t strike with much volume, but explodes in with a crazy knee or wild hook. He tends not to use his wrestling very much, but has still shown off impressive takedowns and other-worldly takedown defence. He hasn’t developed much of a submission game but has absolutely brutal ground and pound.
Prediction: Despite Romero’s wrestling credentials I think he needs to avoid going to the ground at all costs. If this one does hit the mat it will be fascinating to see how a top level wrestler is able to neutralise a top level submission artist. On the feet I think Jacare will get the better of it, but will have to be constantly wary of Romero’s offense. I’ve been going backwards and forwards on this one, but ultimately I think Jacare holds advantages wherever this fight takes place and if it does go to the ground I think he will dominate. Ronaldo Souza via 3rd round submission.
Demian Maia (#6) 21-6 vs Gunnar Nelson (#12) 14-1
This is one for the grappling aficionados out there. Not only do we have two of the best grappler’s the sport has to offer but it’s a battle between old school traditional BJJ and a newer flashier incarnation.
Maia is probably the most credentialed BBJ fighter in the UFC behind Jacare and one of the best Brazil has ever produced. He also an incredibly underrated chain wrestler. On the ground he can be best described as suffocating, not allowing his opponents an inch and constantly dominating position. He favours going for the back and chokes, but is proficient at every traditional submission. On the feet he utilizes a pretty a standard, but effective southpaw boxing style. Despite a technical striking disadvantage he is often able to win rounds on the feet by simply throwing a higher volume of punches than his opponents.
Gunnar Nelson is an Icelandic submission prodigy. He is a Renzo Gracie black belt and has regularly medalled at World BJJ tournaments. Unlike Maia, Nelson is constantly looking to improve his position on the ground and is always fighting for submissions. Against lower level grapplers he has been able to float from position to position and seemingly sink in a submission at will, whether he can do this against Maia is a completely different story. On the feet, Nelson has an unorthodox Karate style where he fights with his hands by his side and regularly switches stanches. He will have a technical advantage over Maia on the feet, but could easily be out volumed by Maia if he doesn’t land meaningful strikes.
Prediction: Often when we have two high level grapplers, they neutralize each other and you end up seeing a 15 minute sloppy kick-boxing fight. If this happens I slightly favour Maia, but Nelson is young and improving so it’s tough to call. It’s the same story on the ground, from what we have seen you have to favour Maia but Nelson has dealt with his opponents with such ease it’s impossible to back against him. I think this fight will spend the majority of the time on the mat and while I think it’s going to be fascinating, I think both of these guys are too good of grapplers to be submitted. Demian Maia by 29-28 decision.
Max Holloway (#5) 14-3 vs Jeremy Stephens (#8) 24-11
The opening bout on the main card continues the trend of interesting stylistic match ups. It’s a bout between two very different, but equally effective strikers.
At only 24 years of age, Holloway has already fought in the UFC an incredible 14 times and he is currently riding a seven-fight win streak. Making his debut at such a young age means Holloway has been able to hone his skills and sharpen his weapons at the highest level and we have seen considerable improvement fight to fight. Holloway is a diverse and unpredictable striker, but it all comes on the back of very solid boxing fundamentals. He lacks one punch knockout power, but makes up for it with speed and volume constantly mixing it up to the head, body and legs. He is just as comfortable coming forward as he is landing counter shots. I believe his strongest attribute is striking defence. He is incredibly hard to hit with power shots which will come in very handy against an opponent like Stephens. Although he is pretty poor on the ground, he has developed very effective takedown defence which means even if Stephens does try and take this one down, Holloway should be able to keep it standing.
Jeremy Stephens is one of the best pound for pound brawlers in the UFC and probably the only featherweight fighter who can match McGregor for power. Unlike Holloway, he sacrifices power and accuracy for night-ending power. Every strike he throws is intended to end the fight. He generates most of his power by swinging from the hips and is quite flat footed which isn’t a good combination against a striker of Holloway’s calibre. He has an underrated offensive wrestling game and I think he would be wise to throw in a few takedown attempts in this fight to try and keep Holloway guessing.
Prediction: Stephens has such ferocious punching that a win by KO is always worth a look and here he’s priced at a whopping $9.50 making it an appealing option. However the gulf in striking ability is so great in this one, I just can’t see anything other than a Holloway victory. Holloway’s striking defence will have to be on point, but if he can avoid the big Hail Mary punch, I think he will outwork and outclass Stephens to a pretty one-sided decision. Stephens’ chin has shown to be pretty solid so I don’t think Holloway possesses the tools to finish him. Holloway by 30-27 decision.
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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