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23rd Jul 2016

UFC Chicago: SportsJOE picks the winners so you don’t have to

The Octagon lands in Chi-Town


‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ is back and she wants to set up another shot at bantamweight gold.

MMA writers’ 2016 records

Darragh The Quizmaster Murphy: 74-40
Bourbon Ben Kiely: 67-47

Holly Holm (10-1) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)

DM: All about the distance control in this one and I believe Holly Holm is just too crafty on her feet to let Shevchenko get inside without taking damage.

Holm is likely the most dangerous striker in the women’s bantamweight division, with her only real competition Germaine de Randamie, and she should have too much movement for the relatively flat-footed Shevchenko.

Add to that the fact that Shevchenko must have been affected by the shocking shooting of her head coach so her training camp presumably didn’t go as smoothly as she would have ideally liked.

I think it may be a boring enough chess match whereby Holm sticks and moves her way to a decision.

Holm by UD

BK: Holm is one of the most competitive fighters on the UFC’s roster. She’s definitely still hurting from that submission loss to Miesha Tate and I feel like she’s going to try to make a real statement in this fight.

In my opinion, Holm is the rightful heiress to the 135 lb throne and she has the skill set to beat anyone as well as that unrelenting drive to improve perceived weaknesses in her game such as her jiu-jitsu. She’s already pretty damn good, but I’ve a feeling we’ve yet to see the best from the Preacher’s Daughter.

Shevchenko is a phenomenal striker and if that fight against Amanda Nunes was a five-rounder, I believe she would have been in that headline slot for UFC 200. However, Darragh’s correct, she’s too flat-footed which will play right into Holm’s hands. She’s also a much smaller bantamweight than Holm, so the American will have the advantage in terms of physicality.

Holm via TKO (round four)

Edson Barboza (17-4) vs. Gilbert Melendez (22-5)

DM: Nobody in the UFC kicks harder than Edson Barboza, simple as.

If he connects to the temple, chin, neck, or liver then his opponent drops but, unfortunately, he comes up against one of the toughest lightweights in the world in Gilbert Melendez.

Melendez has never been stopped by strikes and that record has stayed true against elite level fighters like Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson and Anthony Pettis.

I think Melendez is gritty enough to just outscrap Barboza and I think his boxing will cause the Brazilian trouble in the pocket.

I was close to plumping for Barboza here just for the Mark Henry factor but am sticking to my guns with a Gil upset.

Melendez by decision

BK: Congratulations UFC matchmakers, this is a toughy.

I think a lot of newcomers to the sport don’t realise how great Melendez was before he came into the UFC. Sure, his record doesn’t look great, but he’s only lost to the divisions elite, Benson, Pettis and Alvarez.

However, when you look at what Barboza’s done lately, it’s hard to see his momentum being stalled. He’s a human highlight reel. In an ideal world, this will turn out to be a back-and-forth technical brawl with Barboza showcasing his flashy kicks and Melendez digging deep and using his gameness to unload a world of hurt. If that scenario arises and both fighters last until the final bell, it will boil down to a game of inches and the competency of the judges will come into play.

Barboza by coin toss

Francis Ngannou (7-1) vs. Bojan Mihajlovic (10-3)

DM: I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say I don’t know an awful lot about Bojan Mihajlovic.

From what I do know, he’s a scrappy heavyweight who likes to wildly hook his way into shots and Ngannou’s biggest weakness is his takedown defence.

But Ngannou is the much more athletic fighter here and he should be more powerful and direct on the feet than the Serb.

Ngannou via KO (round one)

BK: Ngannou is a favourite for a reason, but come on, those extremely long odds are worrying. This is the heavyweight division, lest we forget. The French fighter is the smart bet, but by no means is he certain to win.

Ngannou via KO (round one)

Felice Herrig (10-6) vs. Kailin Curran (4-2)

DM: Felice Herrig is in tremendous shape but I feel Kailin Curran is the better all-round fighter.

Curran was close to beating Alex Chambers but was caught after a lapse in concentration and while she’s not torn through anybody, she’s a solid strawweight.

I feel Curran is still on the up while we’ve yet to really see Herrig kick on from her Octagon debut.

I’m not too confident in Herrig’s weight cut either as she looks quite drawn out at the time of writing.

Curran by decision

BK: Curran’s a great athlete, but she’s yet to prove she’s a fighter in the big leagues. There’s a lot of potential there, but we’ve yet to see the full extent of it.

Herrig will be the bigger fighter in the Octagon and she always turns up to fight. That doesn’t mean she’ll fight intelligently though, and I feel that’s where Curran could have the edge. Emphasis on the ‘could’, as the Hawaiian’s also been known to make some questionable decisions in fights.

Curran by decision

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