UFC 225: Picks and predictions for Chicago card
UFC 225: Picks and predictions for Chicago card
The UFC heads to the United Center as a stacked UFC 225 card comes to Chicago. Here are picks and predictions from our expert.
The UFC makes its way to Chicago as UFC 225 provides a stacked card for fight fans on Saturday night. Below are picks, leans and predictions for each fight, beginning with the main event. __Robert Whittaker (-250) vs. Yoel Romero (+190)__ We’ve seen this one before, fortunate enough to receive five full rounds of action when two of the world’s best middleweights met in the main event at UFC 213 last July. Yoel Romero, an anomaly of a human being with incredible athleticism and ability for his age, got off to an early 2-0 start in his bout for the interim middleweight championship in the summer of 2017. Robert Whittaker, however, managed to bounce back to steal Rounds 3-5, earning himself the interim (and eventually the undisputed) championship in the process. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Whittaker, who battled through a compromising knee injury suffered early on in the bout at UFC 213, is more than capable of replicating the sort of performance he put forth last time. This is especially true considering Romero’s greatest downfall last time – his cardio – will only be on further display with a presumably healthy opponent standing across the cage for five full rounds. That said, Romero has proven capable of defying the odds on more than one occasion before (re: wins over Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza, Lyoto Machida and Tim Kennedy). His explosiveness and unpredictability make him a compelling pick here, but it’s hard to not see the champ taking it again. __Lean: Yoel Romero__ __Colby Covington (-110) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (-110)__ Virtually unknown to the MMA community entering 2017, Colby Covington made sure the same wouldn’t be the case the following year. The standout wrestler collected two wins over top contenders last year, most notably a hard-fought win over former title contender Demian Maia. That victory netted the 30-year-old American Top Team fighter a shot at the interim welterweight title, hoping to make it five in a row with a golden ticket for an undisputed UFC belt. Problem for Covington is he’s facing Rafael dos Anjos, a former champion of the 155-pound division who’s excelled tremendously since making the jump up to 170 pounds last year. Dos Anjos last dismantled former champion Robbie Lawler, bolstering his case as the best fighter at 170 pounds. There’s little arguing dos Anjos is the more well-rounded fighter here, but Covington’s wrestling feels like it could be the equalizer. Then again, we’ve also seen the former 155-pounder make marked improvements in his grappling game, making this a potentially long night for the vocal welterweight contender. Either way, there’s little sense in focusing too much attention on this fight unless the odds shift heavily one way or the other. __Lean: Rafael dos Anjos__ __Holly Holm (-227) vs. Megan Anderson (+175)__ Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm will make her third trip to the 145-pound class when she meets ex-Invicta FC featherweight champion Megan Anderson. Holm enters this bout as the favorite, and, questionable as it may seem, it’s easy to see why against a debuting opponent who’s never faced elite competition. It’s worth wondering, however, whether Holm – now 1-4 since defeating Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 2.5 years ago – belongs in the “elite” category of women’s MMA. Holm is a popular fighter, no doubt, but her skills haven’t quite met expectations over the last two years. With little in the way of variety in her striking combinations, Holm has become a fairly predictable, totally beatable fighter. Anderson, meanwhile, has been a wrecking machine on the feet. Couple that with the sheer size advantage she’ll have come fight night and this could make for a massive debut for the Aussie striker. __Pick: Megan Anderson__ __Andrei Arlovski (+230) vs. Tai Tuivasa (-303)__ Well past his prime, Andrei Arlovski looks to prove he’s not quite done with the sport just yet. The former UFC champion has bounced back since dropping five in a row (four via stoppage) from 2016-17 with two wins over Junior Albini and Stefan Struve. He’s somewhat silenced critics of his durability, though they’ll be on full display come Saturday against a heavy hitter in Tai Tuivasa. Tuivasa, a 25-year-old big man fighting out of Australia, has made quite the statement since making his promotional debut, keeping his first-round knockout streak alive with wins over Cyril Asker and Rashad Coulter. But we’ve been here before, excited about a potential heavyweight prospect with undeniable knockout power, only to watch them crumble when faced with superior competition. Tuivasa could very well stop Arlovski minutes into the fight, but it’s worth maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism for the time being. Arlovski is experienced enough to know when to avoid a firefight, and this is that time. __Pick: Andrei Arlovski__ __CM Punk (+175) vs. Mike Jackson (-215)__ With just two combined pro MMA fights between them (both being losses to Mickey Gall that lasted a combined 2:59), there is absolutely nothing that should make you feel confident about picking either man. Consider this: CM Punk failed to land a single strike in his debut, and proceeded to be pummeled for 2:43 before he was choked out… and he’s only a +175 underdog. It's possible both men have improved drastically since we last saw them in the Octagon two years ago. But we don’t know that, and this isn’t the sort of mystery that should intrigue you. __Pick: Stay away__ __Alistair Overeem (+138) vs. Curtis Blaydes (-175)__ It’s been six months since we last saw Alistair Overeem, six months since he suffered one of the worst knockout defeats of his professional career opposite Francis Ngannou at UFC 218. The 6-foot-5 Dutch striker is back, hoping to correct his mistakes against another rising heavyweight contender. It’ll be yet another tall order for Overeem, who meets 9-1 Curtis Blaydes on Saturday’s prelims. To date, Blaydes’ only loss came against Ngannou, going unbeaten in his last five since. He sports decent standup, and a powerful ground-and-pound attack when the fight hits the ground. But Overeem is a better striker, and has standout takedown defense. Take a chance on “The Reem,” who may not be done yet. __Pick: Alistair Overeem__ __Carla Esparza (+400) vs. Claudia Gadelha (-588)__ The biggest mismatch of the night, Saturday’s lone women’s strawweight encounter likely stands to live up to oddsmaker expectations. Carla Esparza, the inaugural UFC strawweight champion, has bounced back admirably since dropping her title in 2015. Still, she faces Claudia Gadelha, a fighter who can more than nullify Esparza’s greatest strengths inside the cage (grappling) and expose her glaring weaknesses (striking). Gadelha should win this one handily, but the odds shouldn’t make this one all too enticing for your money. __Pick: Stay away__ __Mirsad Bektic (-250) vs. Ricardo Lamas (+190)__ It’s easy to give up on Ricardo Lamas after his most recent performance, a first-round knockout loss to a fighter who took the bout on short notice. But he’s still one of the best, more well-rounded featherweights on the roster. Meanwhile, Mirsad Bektic has yet to establish himself as much more than a promising prospect. This could be Bektic’s coming-out party, but all together it’s tough not to side with the former title challenger. __Pick: Ricardo Lamas__ __Chris De La Rocha (+150) vs. Rashad Coulter (-189)__ It hasn’t been a very enjoyable stay for Rashad Coulter in the UFC, going 0-2 with two vicious knockouts since debuting last May. He’ll look to pick up his first UFC win against a fellow struggling Octagon heavyweight in Chris De La Rocha, who is also 0-2 with two TKO losses. A pair of absolute finishers, a stoppage is likely. Predicting the winner, especially in a division full of giants, isn’t quite as easy. __Pick: Stay away__ __Anthony Smith (-333) vs. Rashad Evans (+250)__ Rashad Evans should not be competing anymore. There’s not much more than that. With four straight losses under his belt, the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer is in the midst of the worst run of his career. He faces Anthony Smith, who is finally making his debut at 205 pounds after a fairly successful recent run at 185. Smith faces his highest-profile opponent, but there’s not much Evans has to offer at this stage in his career. __Lean: Anthony Smith__ __Joseph Benavidez (-250) vs. Sergio Pettis (+190)__ Under any other circumstances, Joseph Benavidez would be the easy pick to make here. But considering the fact that he’s been out of the cage for more than 18 months, there’s a good chance we see a ring rust-afflicted version of the former title contender. That could give Sergio Pettis, who was trounced last time out against Henry Cejudo, a decent shot to pull off the upset. __Pick: Sergio Pettis__ __Charles Oliveira (-161) vs. Clay Guida (+130)__ Once a promising contender at 145 pounds, Charles Oliveira keeps things going at 155 when he meets Clay Guida. A slight favorite going into the matchup, Oliveira shouldn’t have too much trouble picking up the win. Taller, longer, and likely heavier come fight night, Oliveira’s greatest strength (submission grappling) is also Guida’s greatest weakness. __Pick: Oliveira__ __Dan Ige (-149) vs. Mike Santiago (+110)__ Saturday’s Fight Pass opener, Dan Ige vs. Mike Santiago kicks things off as they look to turn things around following recent defeats. Both members of the “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” family, Ige is the sporting the more impressive record at 8-2. Santiago is a finisher, though. As long as he can keep his back off the mat, he should have a decent chance of making some noise here. __Lean: Mike Santiago__2018-06-09T00:31:51.533Z2018-06-09T00:31:51.533Z