Thoughts Heading into UFC 203

I have tickets for the fights in Cleveland tomorrow night, so I’ll share some of my thoughts heading into the event.

  • Does a win tomorrow night make Alistair Overeem the best heavyweight of all-time? I’d say no to this one, even though a win tomorrow would make him the most decorated heavyweight in mixed martial arts history as he’s already held the Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight titles, plus the K-1 kickboxing heavyweight title. While a win definitely helps him cement his legacy in the sport, I don’t think it makes him the best in the history of the sport, or even the UFC quite yet.  I’d still rank Fedor Emelianenko as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport, and I’d still regard Cain Velasquez as the best heavyweight to compete in the UFC.  But if Overeem can win the title tomorrow AND defend it a couple of times against top opposition, then perhaps my tune will change a bit.  Until then, let’s see what happens tomorrow night.
  • Who has more to lose in the Werdum/Browne and Faber/Rivera fights? In my opinion, the more established fighters Fabricio Werdum and Urijah Faber have more to lose here. Both have been pillars in their division for a while, and both are closer to 40 than they are to 30 (Werdum is 39, Faber is 37).  Werdum is fresh off of his title loss, and a loss to a lesser regarded fighter like Travis Browne might mean it’s the end of the road for him as a top heavyweight title contender.  Meanwhile, a win for Browne would be enormous here.  Sure, he has wins over Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett, but those were back in 2013 and since then he’s gone 2-3 with wins over the likes of Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione, while dropping contests to Werdum in 2014, Andrei Arlovski, and Cain Velasquez.
  • Faber is coming off of a loss in a title bout (he’s 0-4 in UFC title bouts, and 0-7 in his last 7 title bouts including the WEC) to Dominick Cruz back at UFC 199, but he’s still one of the best fighters to not hold the title in his division. On the other hand, Jimmie Rivera is 10 years younger than Faber, and is on a 18 fight winning streak with a record of 19-1.  Is this the night that Faber finally becomes an old man in the cage? Time will tell.
  • CM Punk Finally Debuts. Honestly, I wondered if we’d ever get to this day.  I was very surprised when the UFC signed CM Punk nearly two years ago (I still watch wrestling on occasion, so I was familiar with and was a fan of CM Punk’s, and was disappointed when he left the WWE back in 2014), and I’ve been eager to see how he’d look in legitimate combat since.  I’m still not the biggest fan of him fighting in the UFC with no professional or amateur fights to his credit beforehand (after all, the UFC is supposed to be where the elite talent fights), but I understand that he’s an attraction and his fight will bring more attention to the card, so from a marketing standpoint it’s not a bad idea.  What I do like is that his fight hasn’t been the main focus on the card, and it hasn’t completely taken the attention off of the heavyweight title fight.  I have no idea what to expect from CM Punk tomorrow night, but I expect him to lose but not to look completely terrible or totally outclassed in the process.
  • Final Predictions for UFC 203: I want to see Overeem win, but I think Miocic retains the title with a late second round knockout. I think Werdum overwhelms Browne and either wins via late third round stoppage or a decisive unanimous decision.  I think Mickey Gall defeats CM Punk via stoppage in the late second or early third round.  I think Jimmie Rivera takes home a very close decision win over Faber.  Finally, I think Jessica Andrade finishes Joanne Calderwood in the early third round.  Overall, I expect it to be a fun night of nights.

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