UFC Fight Night 126: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Anyone who had a sour taste in their mouth from the not-especially-great UFC 221 pay-per-view has the chance to wash that out at UFC Fight Night 126 Sunday. The UFC’s latest Fox Sports 1 foray has a lot to offer fans, with a strong main event sitting a…

Anyone who had a sour taste in their mouth from the not-especially-great UFC 221 pay-per-view has the chance to wash that out at UFC Fight Night 126 Sunday. The UFC’s latest Fox Sports 1 foray has a lot to offer fans, with a strong main event sitting atop a card full of interesting up-and-comers and recognizable veterans.

The full card reads as follows.

                       

Main Card (Fox Sports 1)

  • Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura
  • James Vick vs. Francisco Trinaldo
  • Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender
  • Steven Peterson vs. Brandon Davis
  • Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti

                  

Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)

  • Jared Gordon vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
  • Brian Camozzi vs. Geoffrey Neal
  • Roberto Sanchez vs. Joby Sanchez
  • Sarah Moras vs. Lucie Pudilova

                           

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)

  • Alex Morono vs. Josh Burkman
  • Oskar Piechota vs. Tim Williams

                    

Naturally, the Bleacher Report predictions squad is here to spoil the event for everyone and give its picks for the main card bouts. Read on to find out who is going to win Sunday night.

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UFC 222 Early Preview: What Are the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Las Vegas?

UFC 222 looked really, really bad for a little while. The event was set to be a one-fight card, offering little intrigue past the headlining bout between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar. When that one fight fell through, it seemed like the event would b…

UFC 222 looked really, really bad for a little while. The event was set to be a one-fight card, offering little intrigue past the headlining bout between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar. When that one fight fell through, it seemed like the event would be scrapped entirely.

In a strange turn of events, however, the injury to Holloway alongside a few unfortunate turns for recent fight-night events have transformed UFC 222 into the best event of 2018 thus far. The full card stands as follows:

Main Card (Pay-Per-View)

  • Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya
  • Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
  • Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath
  • Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski
  • Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira

Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)

  • Ashley Yoder vs. Mackenzie Dern
  • Beneil Dariush vs. Bobby Green
  • John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz
  • CB Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)

  • Mike Pyle vs. Zak Ottow
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann
  • Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Milstead

From the quick, card-saving turnaround from women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, to the mouth-watering co-main event matchup to the numerous top-10 names on the preliminary card, UFC 222 has a lot to offer to fans.

But what are the biggest fights on the card? And what are the best? Read on and find out!

The Main Event: Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya

Filling in for the injured men’s featherweight champion is the women’s featherweight champion, Cris “Cyborg” Justino. 

Any longtime MMA fan is more than familiar with what Cyborg offers at this point: pure violence. True, the Brazilian is much more than a simple brawler—as she proved when she outpointed former UFC champion Holly Holm in December—but when fans turn on the TV to see her fight, they’re not looking for a contest, they’re looking to see her maul some poor woman.

The “poor woman” at UFC 222 is Yana Kunitskaya.

Kunitskaya is far from the worst fighter that Cyborg has ever faced. The Russian striker has been in the MMA game since 2009 and built up an 8-1 record on the European circuit before taking a hiatus in 2012. She returned to the cage in 2016 and made the jump stateside not long after, making a big splash and ultimately capturing gold in her brief career with Invicta FC.

But while Kunitskaya has proved herself to be a generally solid fighter, she doesn’t necessarily have anything new to offer Cyborg, who is unquestionably and indisputably the single best female fighter on the planet. The question isn’t if Cyborg will win, it’s about whether she will bust Kunitskaya up en route to a decision or run her over before things get that far.

The Co-Main Event: Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Fans planning to attend UFC 222 owe Frankie Edgar a big thank-you. The former lightweight champion was supposed to receive a crack at Holloway in the main event of this card, but when Holloway withdrew due to a leg injury, Edgar stuck around instead of continuing his chase for the elusive featherweight title. 

Was that a wise move, though? Well, probably not. Now in the co-main event of UFC 222, Edgar is poised to face Brian Ortega.

Since debuting in the UFC in 2014, Ortega has been on many “hot prospects” lists and, to this point, has lived up to any and all hype pinned on him. His UFC record stands at 5-0 (1) (with that 1 being a no-contest stemming from a failed drug test) with each win coming inside the distance. While there was a brief time where it was justified to wonder if those talents would translate to the division’s elite, he passed a big test in December when he submitted top-10 staple Cub Swanson in just two rounds.

At this point, it’s easy to wonder if anyone is capable of stopping Ortega, but facing those sorts of indomitable monsters is an all-too-familiar position for Edgar. The Answer has been doubted in many of his recent fights but, far more often than not, manages to come out on top.

Ortega may be the man to finally knock Edgar down his long-held seat as the world’s No. 2 featherweight. Then again, he may just end up being the latest up-and-comer to get put in his place.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: Ashley Yoder vs. Mackenzie Dern

Mackenzie Dern is one of the hottest prospects in MMA today. And how could she not be?

Dern entered the MMA world in 2016 to much fanfare, carrying a slew of medals and awards from her years in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Those grappling skills served her well as she transitioned from the mats to the cage, too, and saw her encounter little resistance as she built up her highlight reel on the regional scene.

From there, she jumped over to Invicta FC and had little trouble finishing former title contender Kaline Medeiros.

Despite being green, the UFC decided to bring her up to the main roster. She debuts at UFC 222 against Ashley Yoder.

Yoder, quite frankly, is supposed to be a showcase opponent for Dern. 0-2 in the Octagon and without any particularly noteworthy in-cage skills, Yoder has few tools to impede Dern’s offense and even fewer tools to threaten her.

This is a fight tailor-made for Dern to win. While she can’t be viewed as a slam dunk to win because her actual in-cage experience is so limited, there is little reason to doubt her here.

The Best of the Rest

Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira: Cat Zingano is back! The longtime bantamweight contender has fought just three times since her dramatic comeback win over Miesha Tate in 2013, but she remains one of the division’s most interesting talents based on her solid wrestling and knockout power. She has the chance to reestablish herself as a title contender at the expense of a surging Ketlen Vieira, who jumped into the top-five by beating Sara McMann.

Stefan Struve vs. Andre Arlovski: These two heavyweight veterans have fallen on hard times of late and it’s easy to wonder if the loser of this fight might get booted. The good thing is that this is an unpredictable matchup and should be exciting.

John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz: UFC Belem’s loss was UFC 222’s gain as the Fight Night co-main event was moved here. In theory, Dodson is the favorite as he is better established against higher-end competition. But make no mistake, Munhoz is legit and has everything he needs to pick up a win here.

Bryan Caraway vs. Cody Stamann: After an extended layoff, Bryan Caraway is back in the cage. The veteran hasn’t been seen since posting an at-the-time upset victory over Aljamain Sterling and has a lot of work to do in terms of reasserting himself as an elite bantamweight. He has a good opportunity to do so as he faces an untested, unseasoned Cody Stamann. 

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Floyd Mayweather Teases MMA Bout with ‘Certified B—h’ Conor McGregor

MMA in 2017 was defined by Conor McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. And 2018? Well, things are moving in a pretty similar direction.
Discussion and teases about a Mayweather move to MMA have been a steady part of the combat sports news cycl…

MMA in 2017 was defined by Conor McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. And 2018? Well, things are moving in a pretty similar direction.

Discussion and teases about a Mayweather move to MMA have been a steady part of the combat sports news cycle over the last few months. The latest example? An interesting (and NSFW) tweet from Money that dropped early Sunday morning:

For those who missed it, the Mayweather-to-MMA rumor mill began churning in 2017 when longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan discussed how Mayweather was in negotiations with the UFC in regards to competing in the Octagon. UFC President Dana White later confirmed Rogan’s claims, only to have Mayweather pour water on the topic by flatly denying everything.

The topic came back with gusto in January, however, when Mayweather posted a video on Twitter that showed him stepping into an MMA cage. While it initially seemed like the post was simply a publicity stunt for one of his sponsors, Irish betting site Paddy Power, the hints haven’t stopped in the weeks since.

Whether this is anything more than Mayweather trying to keep his name in the headlines is unclear at this time. Transitioning to MMA would likely go very poorly for the 40-year-old boxer, who lacks the grappling experience to compete with even low-level mixed martial artists. That said, a rematch with McGregor in the cage also likely represents the biggest payday available at this time while also leaving his 50-0 record intact regardless of the outcome.

This tweet doesn’t necessarily swing the odds in one direction or the other, but it certainly keeps this rivalry going.

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After Family Intervention, UFC Champ Pulled Out of Fight over Grave Health Scare

This Saturday’s UFC 221 event in Perth, Australia, was built around built around one thing: the homecoming of UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. So naturally, it was a big shame when Bobby Knuckles was forced to withdraw from the fight three w…

This Saturday’s UFC 221 event in Perth, Australia, was built around built around one thing: the homecoming of UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. So naturally, it was a big shame when Bobby Knuckles was forced to withdraw from the fight three weeks ago and somewhat scary when UFC President Dana White stated that the fight was scrapped due to a serious health issue.

In the days since, the champ has been fairly quiet about what exactly happened. That changed Monday, with an appearance on The MMA Hour where he detailed the series of issues that forced his withdrawal from the bout.

“I had an abscess on my bum, and it was infected, like a big puss buildup,” Whittaker stated (h/t MMA Fighting‘s Shaun Al-Shatti for the transcription). “And the antibiotics, when you take long courses of that antibiotic, you can develop a colon bug. … I had to get a whole bunch of colon tests and stomach tests to make sure that there’s no hole in my stomach.”

On its own, the abscess was serious enough that it had Whittaker on antibiotics for weeks. Things went from bad to worse, however, as he came down with a case of the chickenpox. While chickenpox in children is a relatively minor ailment, it is debilitating and potentially deadly for adults.

“When I thought of chicken pox before what I’ve just been through, I thought of, you know, little red dots all over your body and they’re itchy,” he said. “No, these were like blisters from head to toe all over my scalp, and because I had so many, some of them were popping and getting infected, and then there were fevers and headaches and nausea.”

Despite those issues, Whittaker remained committed to competing at UFC 221 and discussed how he had toughed out injuries in many of his previous fights (including working through an MCL tear sustained before his UFC 213 bout with Yoel Romero). He didn’t decide to withdraw, however, until his family and coaching staff had a sit-down with him.

“My coaching staff came to me, my family came to me…almost like an intervention, and said, ‘Rob, there is zero chance you’re going to be able to fight,'” he recounted earlier in the interview. “‘Even if you did get in there, it is so unsafe for you to go out there with no prep and your body as weak as it is.’ And I have to listen to them. I have to listen to my coaching staff, that’s what they do, and that was the call.”

UFC 221 will continue on without Whittaker with Romero stepping in to face top contender Luke Rockhold. While the champ did everything in his power to compete and still seems to be disappointed in how everything crashed down, there was a silver lining, as withdrawing from the fight allowed Whittaker to be present for the birth of his daughter.

All in all, the maladies won’t keep Whittaker out of action for too long as he targets a return this summer. Hopefully, he will be back to full speed before long.

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Did Strangest MMA Fight Cancellation Ever Happen at UFC Belem?

UFC fans know all too well what it feels like to lose a big fight right before an event…but fans haven’t really seen anything like what just happened to Saturday night’s card in Belem, Brazil.
According to reports, the co-main event bout between John…

UFC fans know all too well what it feels like to lose a big fight right before an event…but fans haven’t really seen anything like what just happened to Saturday night’s card in Belem, Brazil.

According to reports, the co-main event bout between John Dodson and Pedro Munhoz was canceled just 24 hours before it was slated to take place. The reason? According to reports, the hotel Munhoz was working with ran out of hot water.

So what does having hot water have to do with fighting? The answer is cutting weight.

For many fighters, weight-cutting is the most difficult part of the sport. Competitors potentially shed tens of pounds through extreme dieting and dehydration in the days leading up to the fight in order to compete in the smallest possible weight class. One of the most common ways fighters will drop weight is through sweating, with hot baths being one of the go-to methods to get the perspiration flowing.

According to a report by Fox Sports 1, Munhoz checked in at 140 pounds during the weigh-ins, four pounds over the bantamweight allowance. The Brazilian claims that this was due to the fact that he did not have the proper facilities to go through his weight-cutting regimen, as he went from one hotel that didn’t have a tub to another that had a tub but ran out of hot water during his stay. Dodson ultimately declined to fight a heavier opponent, resulting in the fight’s cancellation.

In its stead, the women’s flyweight bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira has been elevated to the co-main event spot. Expect Dodson vs. Munhoz to be announced for another card in the coming weeks, and expect fighters to ask about what the bathing situation is in their hotels for the foreseeable future.

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UFC Champ Robert Whittaker Out of UFC 221 Main Event, New Main Event Announced

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s homecoming fight in Australia is not going to happen.
According to UFC officials, per ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto, the local favorite has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 221 bout with Luke Rockhold becaus…

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s homecoming fight in Australia is not going to happen.

According to UFC officials, per ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto, the local favorite has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 221 bout with Luke Rockhold because of an undisclosed injury.

“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker said, per Okamoto. “I hope the fans enjoy what should be a great night of fights at UFC 221, and I look forward to a recovery as soon as possible that will have me back in the Octagon to face the winner of the main event.”

The news is a devastating blow on multiple levels.

In the short term, despite being well-tailored to the local audience, UFC 221 was a one-fight card for the rest of the world. While Whittaker vs. Rockhold was a compelling fight, the event features no other international draws outside fan-favorite heavyweight Mark Hunt, who is set to face the unheralded Curtis Blaydes.

Already likely to struggle in terms of generating revenue, the promotion’s foray to Perth is likely to be a sour end to its winter schedule. 

In the long term, UFC 221 had the potential to be a promotional perfect storm similar to UFC Dublin, which cemented Conor McGregor as one of the UFC’s top stars. By withdrawing from the event, Whittaker is likely to enter his next fight to little fanfare, which would stunt his potential rise to the mainstream.

Despite losing Whittaker, the show will go on, with Rockhold now set to face Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title. While the introduction of yet another interim belt to the division will likely be met with derision from fans and pundits alike, Rockhold vs. Romero is an intriguing bout featuring the division’s most dynamic finisher opposite its greatest pure athlete.

Rockhold vs. Romero will take place February 11. Hopefully the card can avoid any other shakeups.

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