MMA Forethought: UFC 215
*UPDATE 9/8/2017: Since this was published, the main event bout has been canceled as Ray Borg was removed from the bout due to illness. As a result, the new main event will be the bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. Also moved up to the main event is the match between Henry Cejudo and Wilson Reis. A full statement on UFC 215 from the promotion can be read here.
UFC 215 should not go under anyone’s radar as two titles are on the line that is not labeled as “interim”, these are legit title fights. The “King of the flies”, Demetrious Johnson takes on Ray Borg who is ranked third in the UFC’s flyweight division. Also, a fight that was supposed to happen in July with bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes facing the number one ranked, Valentina Shevchenko. In a time where “money fights” have been in the headlines lately, this event is a welcoming fans back to normal.
As always with all the high profile pay-per-view mixed martial arts events, Frontproof Media will attempt to give some forethought as to how the main card will play out.
Johnson’s reign in the flyweight division put him in the “pound –for-pound” best conversation a lot as he is currently tied with Anderson Silva for title defenses. However, what makes him so great is the awareness of a loss coming at any time. That is why he is so well prepared and keeps his trash talk to a minimum if he does it at all. Borg has a lot of wins by submission and to secure one with Johnson would require taking the champ down early and controlling him enough to sink one in. That’s not something Johnson has allowed in his previous fights and probably won’t happen here. Borg is as tough as they come but Johnson is likely to win by decision.
Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)
Nunes has come under fire for pulling out of the originally scheduled bout at UFC 213. That should not remove her two successful title defenses and the win she holds over Shevchenko. Regardless of her reasoning for not defending in July, she is set to defend now and has a good track record so far. Still, Shevchenko has improved since and surprised a lot of fans when she submitted Juliana Peña in January. This is a fresh fight and true challenge for Nunes, Shevchenko has a good chance at avenging her loss and winning a title at UFC 215.
Rafael Dos Anjos (26-9) vs. Neil Magny (19-6)
The former lightweight champ has been having a rough time since losing the title to Eddie Alvarez in July of 2016. However, a win over Tarec Saffiedine last June put him back in the win column and certainly has the tools to finish Magny, but the same can be said for Magny on Dos Anjos. Both men have fought against some of the toughest in their class and it really could be either man’s fight. Leaning towards Magny to win since he has a more recent win streak.
Ilir Latifi (13-5) vs. Tyson Pedro (6-0)
These are the heaviest guys on the main card so expect a finish and make no mistake, both men are finishers. However, Latifi has had some time off and that can be good or bad for the 34-year-old who suffered a loss to Ryan Bader back in September of 2016. Pedro has been submitting and knocking out guys since turning pro, all in the first round. He is likely to continue the trend at UFC 215.
Gilbert Melendez (22-6) vs. Jeremy Stephens (25-14)
Both these men have had a string of losses in their recent bouts so winning at UFC 215 would mean a lot to the victor. Melendez is coming back after being away from competition and Stephens probably does not want three losses in a row. The 35-year-old “El Niño” is probably anxious to get back into action and Stephens is a decent challenge for the former Strikeforce champ. This fight will likely go to a decision, but it really is a coin-toss picking a winner. Leaning towards Melendez as he may feel like he needs to make a statement in his return bout.
Demetrious Johnson once said when asked his opinion on “CM Punk” making his MMA debut if he had a chance. The Flyweight Champ replied, “of course he has a chance, it’s a fight anything can happen.”
That is what separates combat sports from other sports. So many factors on fight night leading up to the time the cage door closes and the first round bell sounds and through the duration of the rounds will always keep fans on the edge of their seats. UFC 215 might keep you on the edge of yours if you’re watching.