UFC 194 is just a day away and it’s the absolute hype. The card features a crocodile, a Soldier of God, two handsome middleweight champions, and the a grappling match between two of the best submission fighters in MMA. Oh and it’s headlined by the grudge match between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. If that fight doesn’t make your pants feel a bit tight then go see a doctor.
The staff at MMA Hot Sauce are here to provide you with the absolute best (editor’s note: really?) analysis, so without further ado, here are the predictions for UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor.
Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor
Erik Fontanez (editor): It’s the weirdest thing when you say Jose Aldo’s name in a sentence that explains he’s the betting underdog going into a fight. That still rattles my brain to the point of utter confusion, but it’s a fact. Don’t let that fool you into thinking I’m picking his Irish adversary, though, because there’s no doubting JoeSay is a monster in the cage. Seriously, the guy’s a frightening human being when he’s got gloves on. Conor McGregor does wonders on the mic — a hell of a lot better than Aldo, that’s for sure — and while he’s displayed some athletic flash in his wins leading up to this longawaited fight, you can’t count out your boy Aldo in a 145pound scrap. I see Aldo holding the edge in this closely contested bout, earning a unanimous decision win. Winner: Aldo by Unanimous Decision.
Matthew Roth (staff writer): This is an interesting fight because of the recent talk from both Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen that Jose Aldo just doesn’t want to be fighting anymore. I don’t know if it’s mind games or truth but that’ll be the story of this fight. A motivated Aldo should win this every time. An unmotivated Aldo? I’ve never seen him but that worries me. Still, gotta roll with the champ. Winner: Aldo by Unanimous Decision.
Steven Muehlhausen (staff writer): This is a fight 14 months in the making. Through a World Tour, broken ribs, torn ACL’s, we are finally here to crown an undisputed featherweight champion. Aldo hasn’t fought in 14 months while this will be McGregor’s third fight in the same timeframe. The fight will be determined on the feet. Aldo has decent wrestling but not as good as Chad Mendes who took the Irishman down at will at UFC 189. If McGregor keeps his usual wide stance, Aldo can pick him apart with his thunderous leg kicks. Both guys have one punch knockout power with a slight advantage going to McGregor as Aldo has only won one fight in the UFC by knockout and McGregor’s knocked out five of his six foes. Will the layoff hurt Aldo? Will McGregor be too self-confident? Aldo has won 18 consecutive fights and until someone proves they can beat him, I’m going with the Brazilian by second-round knockout to become the undisputed champion. Winner: Aldo by Second Round KO.
Joshua Molina (staff writer): Let’s look at this fight realistically. McGregor beat Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight title. You can’t call him a champion with a straight face. Aldo hasn’t lost a fight in a decade, and has only lost once. Expect Aldo to beat McGregor with his speed, poise and skill. Winner: Aldo by unanimous decision.
Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold
Erik Fontanez: Dare I say this is the greatest co-main event of all time? Georges St-Pierre vs. Thiago Alves had a hell of a lot of build up, but that was more one-sided than journalistic bias (SHOTS FIRED). Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold offer a fight between two of the toughest guys the middleweight division has ever seen, and I expect it to be competitive for 25 full minutes. In the end, though, I expect Weidman to grind it out and use his wrestling to keep Rockhold on his back more than he likes. Winner: Weidman by Split decision. Bonus prediction: rematch and the near future.
Matthew Roth: It’s honestly crazy that this fight is a co-main event. There’s honestly no reason for it to be on this card since the Aldo-McGregor fight is the reason why people will be buying this PPV. But I’m not complaining. This is a Biggie vs. Tupac and as an East Coast native, I’m rolling with Chris Weidman. Sure, Rockhold is the better striker but Weidman is the more complete fighter and has the clear advantage on the ground. Outside of a knockout, I can’t see Weidman losing this fight. Winner: Weidman by Unanimous Decision.
Steven Muehlhausen: On any other show this is the main event. Without a doubt these are the two best middleweights in the world. You can see the intensity in Rockhold in the buildup. He feels this is his time while something with Weidman seems off. I don’t know if it’s due to keeping his weight in the low 190s or he’s dealing with an injury. Rockhold has the advantage on the feet while the champion has the ground advantage. This will be the toughest test in the careers of both fighters. Weidman has faced Anderson Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. Rockhold smoked Machida but got blistered by Belfort when he was on more illegal drugs than Charlie Sheen. This will be a five-round war and a fight for the ages. Going with Rockhold by unanimous decision to become the middleweight champion. Winner: Rockhold by Unanimous Decision.
Joshua Molina: These guys look like they belong on the cover of GQ, not fighting for the UFC middleweight championship of the world. We’ve seen Rockhold get knocked out. Weidman only beat the guy everyone at the time was calling the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. This will be a tactical fight, but Weidman will win it on the ground by controlling Rockhold, who’s best chance is a Holly Holm legkick. Winner: Weidman by unanimous decision.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Yoel Romero
Erik Fontanez: Somebody’s gonna die, you guys. I mean, not really, but there might be some (a lot of) blood. Jacare Souza’s a boss on the ground, but he showed in his fights against Derek Brunson and Yushin Okami that he can put a dude out, Sandmanstyle. And as for Yoel Romero? The guy hits like a truck, but I see Souza being the more durable of the two. Winner: Souza by TKO, Round 3.
Matthew Roth: I don’t even know where to begin with this fight. I know people are focused on the main and co-main event, but this may be the most interesting fight of the week. Both guys are insanely athletic grapplers. Souza is clearly the better submission artist but can he actually lock something up on Romero? I’m not sure. I’m torn here but I’m going with the “Soldier of God” and picking Romero by TKO in the second round. Winner: Romero by TKO, Round 2.
Steven Muehlhausen: This fight has been rescheduled more times than Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez getting back together. After Weidman and Rockhold, these are the next two guys on the food chain at 185 pounds. Both fighters each have an amazing skill combined with ferocious power in both hands. Romero is a two-time Olympian in wrestling representing Cuba. Souza has the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the middleweight division and if he gets on the ground and grabs a limb, he will try and rip it off. Both fighters are undefeated in their UFC runs. Going with Souza by second-round knockout. Winner: Souza by KO, Round 2.
Joshua Molina: Jacare is on fire and there’s no stopping him now. He’ll have to worry about Romero’s power, but it most likely won’t matter, because Jacare is going to take Romero down and submit him. Souza has UFC gold in mind. Winner: Jacare Souza, Round 1, submission.
Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson
Erik Fontanez: Grapplefest 2015, y’all. I imagine this being a beautiful display by world-class jiu-jitsu practitioners, but give the edge to the more experienced Demian Maia because those tall, skinny dudes are always you to get ya and ruin your fun. Winner: Maia by Unanimous decision.
Matthew Roth: This really is the “odd bout out” for me. It’s not that it’s uninteresting, it’s just the clear “cool down” match of the main card. These are two of the best grapplers in the UFC and I should care but I just can’t get excited. Demian Maia represents the old guard while Gunnar Nelson is the man of the future. I’m gonna go with Nelson as he’s shown better standup in his young UFC career. Winner: Nelson by Unanimous Decision.
Steven Muehlhausen: This is a must-win fight to remain relevant in the welterweight division. Nelson came off the first loss of his career to defeat Brandon Thatch at UFC 189. Maia has won three in a row since his loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC 170. Maia has the best BJJ in the sport and we haven’t seen Nelson in that predicament. Nelson is no slouch on the ground. He has won 10 fights by submission. I think it comes down to big fight experience and I’m going with Maia to win by third-round submission. Winner: Maia, Round 3, submission.
Joshua Molina: This will be a ground game battle and although Nelson is younger, expect Maia to rely on his experience in big-fight situations against name opponents to pull him through. Maia’s superior defense and submission technique will control Nelson. Winner: Maia, Round 3, submission.
Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens
Erik Fontanez: Man, why we gotta do this to Jeremy Stephens? I know he came down to featherweight to have a size advantage over these guys, but Holloway is one of those young up-and-comers who’s a little too hungry and has an impressive skill set that (scary thought) is still developing. I see Holloway’s youth and speed giving him the edge in this one. Winner: Holloway by Unanimous decision.
Matthew Roth: Poor Jeremy Stephens. There was a time when he was a prospect with a bright future. That super dope knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 91 was a true jaw-dropping moment. But over 100 UFC PPVs later and he’s still just a guy who hits really hard. Holloway has gone from touted prospect to potential title contender. At this point the pick has to be the “Flying Hawaiian.” Winner: Holloway by TKO.
Steven Muehlhausen: What a great way to kickoff the main card. Holloway has been on an unbelievable tear since losing to McGregor in Aug. 2013, winning seven consecutive fights, six of those by stoppage. After losing two in a row, Stephens rebounded with a win over Dennis Bermudez at UFC 189. The two top-ranked featherweights have power in both hands, with Stephens having a slight advantage. It is hard to pick against “The Flying Hawaiian” at this point. Winner: Holloway by second-round TKO.
Joshua Molina: Holloway has better stand-up and hasn’t lost a fight in two years. Stephens is on the decline of his career. Holloway badly wants a rematch against Conor McGregor — if the Irishman wins the main event, it’ll be for the featherweight title — and this is the fight for him to prove he’s worthy. Stephens has lost two out of his last three fights: This should be a one-sided striking display: Winner: Holloway, third-round knockout.