I previewed six fights for UFC 211 a few weeks ago here at Sports Interaction and recommended the winner in four of them, with one of the other two ruled a no contest. MMA action is back this Saturday night from Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro with UFC 212. It’s the last major card until the July 4 holiday weekend extravaganza that the organization annually stages. The five-fight main card Saturday is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their MMA odds.
Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
Records: Aldo (26-2), Holloway (17-3)
UFC Odds: “>Aldo -140, Holloway +110
Prediction: Holloway by decision
This is the lone title fight on the card and it’s a unification bout. Aldo, a 30-year-old from Brazil, is an all-time great with that spectacular 26-2 record. The first defeat came way back in 2005. Aldo brought an 18-fight winning streak into his title bout against Conor McGregor in December 2015 but was knocked out just 13 seconds in by a McGregor punch. Aldo continues to claim that was a fluke and has basically threatened the UFC since then for a rematch or he would retire. Aldo has also made noise about moving up to lightweight (where McGregor last fought) or to the boxing ring like McGregor has in his quest to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Aldo hasn’t fought since he defeated Frankie Edgar to claim the interim featherweight title at UFC 200. Aldo was promoted to the official titleholder in November when McGregor won the lightweight belt and was stripped of his featherweight crown. Only in MMA or boxing can you have an official champion and an interim one, but Holloway is the latter. The 25-year-old American lost to McGregor in August 2013 by unanimous decision but has won 10 in a row since. He won the interim title by knocking out Anthony Pettis in December.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Records: Gadelha (13-2), Kowalkiewicz (10-1)
Division: Women’s strawweight
UFC Odds: Gadelha -285, Kowalkiewicz +210
Prediction: Gadelha by decision
The 28-year-old Gadelha is also from Brazil and thus will have a significant fan advantage. She’s the No. 1 contender in the division and Kowalkiewicz, 31, is the No. 2. What do these ladies have in common? Their combined three losses are to current champion and unbeaten Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She just retained her belt at UFC 211 with a unanimous decision win over Jessica Andrade. Jedrzejczyk beat Gadelha by split decision in December 2014 and then by unanimous decision last July. Jedrzejczyk’s next fight after that was at UFC 205 in November and she beat Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision.
Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
Records: Belfort (25-13), Marquardt (38-16-3)
UFC Odds: Belfort -165, Marquardt +130
Prediction: Belfort by KO or TKO
It’s the farewell fight for the 40-year-old Brazilian Belfort, who started as a professional back in 1996. The former UFC light heavyweight champion hasn’t won in his past three fights so it might be time. He took a no-decision last time out vs. Kelvin Gastelum in March and said after he was going to retire following one more fight and that he wanted it in Rio de Janeiro. Belfort lost to Gastelum, but that win was eventually voided due to Gastelum’s failed drug test for marijuana (he was originally to fight on this card). Marquardt, meanwhile, is 3-4 since returning to the middleweight division. The 38-year-old lost to Sam Alvey in January by unanimous decision and also lost to Gastelum in June 2015 by TKO.
Paulo Borrachinha vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
Records: Borrachinha (9-0), Bamgbose (6-2)
UFC Odds: Borrachinha -330, Bamgbose +240
Prediction: Borrachinha by KO or TKO
Borrachinha, who also goes by Paulo Henrique Costa, is a 26-year-old from Brazil and on his way up in the middleweight division. He made his UFC debut in March, also in Brazil, and beat Garreth McLellan by first-round TKO in just 77 seconds. Eight of Borrachinha’s nine wins are by KO or TKO. Bamgbose, 29, is 1-2 since joining the UFC. All six of his victories – the lone one in the UFC was vs. Daniel Sarafian – have been by KO or TKO. He was set to fight Tom Breese a couple of weeks ago at UFC Fight Night 108, but Breese was removed from the fight after being deemed unfit to compete. I’m predicting this will be the shortest fight on the main card.
Erick Silva vs. Yancy Medeiros
Records: Silva (19-7), Medeiros (13-4)
UFC Odds: Medeiros -150, Silva +120
Prediction: Silva by submission
There’s a trend going in the main card as a Brazilian is in each fight – that country is hugely into MMA – and the 32-year-old Silva is hometown favorite in this one. He stopped a two-fight losing streak last September with a rear-naked choke submission of Luan Chagas. Silva was once considered a top prospect in the UFC but tends to alternate good performances with bad – he isn’t always in the best of shape. This is just the second bout at 170 pounds for Medeiros, who has alternated wins and losses his past five fights. The 29-year-old American debuted at welterweight in September and beat Sean Spencer by second-round rear-naked choke.