This fight is not only the most exciting fight on the card, it also huge to Aldo’s legacy. Yes, the Brazilian lost his title to Conor McGregor in 13 seconds, but that will not define his career. Of course it is a big part of that, more eyes were on that fight than any other Aldo has been apart of, but one punch does not erase a decade of dominance at Featherweight. Aldo ruled the division for the best part of 10 years and outclassed everyone in his wake until the McGregor knockout, and that should not be forgotten for 13 seconds of fighting.
The fact is, nobody has mastered Aldo, nobody has outclassed him over a period of time. After losing the title to McGregor, Aldo returned to action by dominating Frankie Edgar to win the belt back, and he looked as good as ever in doing so. There is no doubt that the Brazilian is the greatest of all time at Featherweight, and 13 seconds will not erase that.
What could dent his legacy is a loss to Holloway. The Hawaiian has been writing his own legacy at featherweight since his own loss to McGregor in 2013. He has won 10 straight fights including victories over Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis. The 25-year-old finished seven of those 10 fights and has been growing in confidence throughout his win streak. These two fighters are the best 145 has to offer, and it should be a great fight.
Pick: The big difference between the two fighters is output. Holloway is a high pressure fighter who throws an average of 13 strikes per minute and holds the record for most significant strikes landed in featherweight history with 935. Aldo attempts around 7 strikes per minute and lands around the same percentage as Holloway at 43%. Aldo is an excellent defensive fighter though, and his ability to read opponents is second to none. His head movement is excellent, his pivot is great and his ability to slip and rip is brilliant. It is one of the reasons he has been such a dominant force in the sport. But his takedown defence is even more impressive meaning we are likely seeing a kickboxing fight.
Both men are extremely difficult to finish so the chances of this going into the latter rounds is quite high. Holloway is aggressive, well conditioned and will push the pace for the entire fight against a man who has had struggles with his stamina in the latter rounds. Aldo’s slick defence and counter punching will undoubtedly pose a threat to the Hawaiian, as will the leg kicks which are some of the most devastating in MMA. This will be a back and forth fight that will likely go the distance, but Aldo is a master ring general and he knows how to adapt to different opponents. Holloway might be, over five rounds at least, the toughest test of his career but one I see Aldo passing by decision.
Women’s Strawweight: Cláudia Gadhela (14-2) vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)
The funny thing about this fight is that both fighters would be undefeated if Joanna Jędrzejczyknever existed. Cláudia Gadhela has been the toughest test in the champion’s career, twice winning the opening exchanges before fading late. It could be argued that the Brazilian won the first fight, and she had Jędrzejczyk in trouble in the second. Karolina Kowalkiewicz also had Joanna stunned in their fight, but ultimately fell short too via unanimous decision. This is a fight between two of the best Women’s Strawweight fighters in the world.
Gadhela is the best takedown artist in the division and arguably the best overall grappler. The Brazilian is strong and powerful with her wrestling and is very good at controlling her opponents. However he striking continues to get better with each fight, and whilst she is not great on the feet by any means, she has a decent jab and a heavy right hand. Without Joanna, Gadhela would be champion and this would likely be a title fight, but instead it could serve as a stepping stone towards a fight with that very woman.
Kowalkiewicz has a reputation of being an excellent kickboxer, and whilst she is handy on the feet, it is not her biggest strength. The Polish fighter is tough as nails, both physically and mentally. Her stamina is on point, she can take a punch and she never seems to mentally check out of a fight, even when it is not going her way. Kowalkiewicz is also excellent in the clinch, and that is where she does most of her damage as her strikes in close quarters are fearsome.
Pick: On paper it looks like a classic striker vs grappler match-up, but the truth is Gadhela is more the capable on the feet and Kowalkiewicz is an excellent clinch fighter, and that is where the fight will be decided. Gadhela will lock up to try get the fight down to the mat, but if she fails to get Kowalkiewicz down then it could open a whole world of trouble. Stamina might be an issue for the Brazilian, but if she can bag the opening two rounds then she will likely take the decision. The pick is Gadhela via decision.
Middleweight: Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs Nate Marquardt (35-17-2)
After almost 40 fights and 20 years of fighting, it looked like Vitor Belfort was ready to retire. This was supposed to be the last fight of a Brazilian MMA pioneer and legend, in his home country of Brazil no less. It was supposed to be the perfect send off for Belfort, but now we are uncertain this is the end.
Belfort has stated his desire to continue fighting, even if it means seeking a new adventure outside of the UFC. But the fight against Nate Marquardt is not the last of his UFC contract, and if the organisation decides to hold him to the deal, then this will not even be the Brazilian’s last fight in the UFC. It somewhat takes away the romantic feel of the fight, because Belfort has not given up his love for fighting just yet.
Marquardt is also nearing retirement himself. At 38 years old and over 50 fights in his career, it is probably time for Nate ‘The Great’ to also hang up his gloves. Like Belfort, he has absorbed some serious damage throughout his career and we all would like to see fighters get out before it gets worse.
Pick: Despite his recent struggles, especially since the banning of TRT, Belfort is still exceptionally quick, deceptive and powerful. The key for Marquardt is the same as everyone else, survive the first three minutes, then work on imposing your will from there. Both men are prone to being knocked out these days, but the home crowd should be enough to will Belfort on and see him get perhaps his last knockout finish. Belfort via first round knockout.
Middleweight: Paulo Henrique Costa (9-0) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2)
This is a fight that feels like it should probably be on the prelims, and without the many casualties of the card, it probably would. But this could be a showcase for the winner to get a big win on a big stage.
Oluwale Bamgbose is an example of how far athleticism can get you in MMA. He might not be the most technically sound fighter out there, but he more than makes up for it with his speed and power. He is an aggressive fighter, and has finished every one of his wins in the first round.
Costa is also a great athlete. He is a huge Middleweight and very powerful himself. He employs a more technical approach than his opponent, using the Dutch style kick boxing to overwhelm his opponents. He too has finished all his victories inside the first round.
Pick: With the record these tow men have, it seems unlikely that this fight goes past the first round, never mind the distance. Someone is getting knocked out, but who? Both men are aggressive with big power so it will be down to who can land ‘that shot’ first. Costa’s more technical style might favour him here and he will land the cleaner punches. The prediction is Costa is first round TKO.
Welterweight: Erick Silva (19-7) vs. Yancy Medeiros (13-4)
At one point in time, Erick Silva was the most exciting Welterweight prospect in the world. His explosive quickness and power had fans excited for the future of this Brazilian prospect. But after he got smothered by Jon Fitch his career took a turn for the worse.
There have been sporadic wins since that loss, but they have been combined with knockout losses to Dong-Hyun Kim, Matt Brown and Nordine Taleb. He is not the prospect anymore, but he is still an exciting fighter capable of producing spectacular finishes, and that is why he will open the main card portion of the event.
Yancy Medeiros has had an up and down UFC career of his own. He is 5-4 in the organisation since moving over from Strikeforce. He initially applied his trade at Lightweight before deciding to move up to 170 in his most recent bout. The Hawaiian impressed against Sean Spencer in his last fight and got the win via submission in the second round.
Pick: Medeiros has to be careful early on in the fight because Silva can knock him out or submit him early. The Brazilian is not as dangerous as he once was though, and if the American can survive any initial scares he should take over the fight and possibly finish it in the latter stages. The pick is Medeiros by third round submission.
Full UFC 212 Fight card:
Jose Aldo (26-2) vs. Max Holloway (17-3)
Cláudia Gadelha (14-2) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1)
Vitor Belfort (25-14) vs. Nate Marquardt (35-17-2)
Paulo Costa (9-0) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2)
Erick Silva (19-7, 1NC) vs. Yancy Medeiros (13-4, 1NC)
Raphael Assuncao (24-5) vs. Marlon Moraes (18-4-1)
Antonio Carlos Junior (8-2, 1NC) vs. Eric Spicely (10-2)
Johnny Eduardo (28-10) vs. Matthew Lopez (9-1)
Iuri Alcantara (35-7) vs. Brian Kelleher (16-7)
Fight Pass Prelims
Viviane Pereira (12-0) vs. Jamie Moyle (4-1)
Luan Chagas (14-2-1) vs. Jim Wallhead (29-10)
Marco Beltran (8-5) vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (11-0)
UFC 212 will take place on Saturday June 3rd
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