It’s finally arrived.
Unless Jose Aldo slips while falling out of the shower today, we definitely have a fight.
You’d struggle to think of a more anticipated fight in UFC history and the two evenings of MMA action that preceded UFC 194 were the perfect appetisers for the big one.
Can Conor McGregor back up all the hype? Can Chris Weidman cement himself as the best middleweight in the world? And what the hell is going to happen when Gunnar Nelson meets Demian Maia?
All these questions, and more, to be answered in a matter of hours.
Here’s what our MMA writers’ records look like thus far.
Bourbon Ben Kiely: 148-82
Darragh The Quizmaster Murphy: 145-85
Jose Aldo (25-1) v Conor McGregor (18-2)
BK: McGregor is certainly more flawed as a fighter than Aldo, but I believe he will present the champion with a challenge he has never faced before.
I was going to pick Aldo to beat McGregor at UFC 189, then the Notorious showed even more improvements against Chad Mendes.
I believe McGregor’s unusual movement, innovative use of angles and speed will be enough to see him avoid most of what Aldo throws at him, while he gradually sets up that monstrous left straight that has finished so many fighters before him.
McGregor via TKO (round three)
DM: I’ve made no secrets about who I’m picking for this and I’m not going back now.
I’m rooting for McGregor, of course, but I honestly don’t fancy him dethroning Jose Aldo tonight for a number of reasons.
I think Aldo’s defensive guard is disciplined enough not to be caught by McGregor’s left hand which is his only way to win this fight.
I believe that the Brazilian is quick enough to counter any overextension from McGregor, which he is sometimes guilty of.
And if the fight goes to the mat, I don’t think it’s even close.
Aldo via decision
Chris Weidman (13-0) v Luke Rockhold (14-2)
BK: I’ve always been on Team Weidman, but this is his first defence where I think think there is a good chance the belt will switch hands.
Rockhold will be a lot bigger come fight night and his striking game is more diverse, but I think Weidman’s boxing is more clinical and devastating. As long as Weidman doesn’t get reckless and cocky like he did briefly against Vitor Belfort, I have faith in him finishing the challenger.
Weidman via TKO (round two)
DM: Yet more unpopular decision-making from me but I’m backing Rockhold here.
The prospect of seeing this pair go back and forth more than once has made the middleweight division the most exciting it’s been since Anderson Silva goofed his way into unconsciousness in 2013.
Rockhold is the more athletic and should be the much bigger man come fight time if rumours of Weidman’s weight loss are to be believed.
I think that Rockhold’s striking is slightly crisper than Weidman’s and he has the defensive wrestling to keep the champion off him. I’m not confident but I think that Rockhold is in the perfect place right now to cause an upset.
Rockhold via decision
Ronaldo Jacare Souza (22-3, 1NC) v Yoel Romero (10-1)
BK: Oh for Christ’s sake, the UFC aren’t making this predictions malarky easy with these super close match-ups.
I’m convinced of Romero’s knockout power, but I’m not sold on the strength of his chin. Tim Kennedy was very unlucky not to get rewarded a TKO victory over the Soldier of God, and with no disrespect to Kennedy, I believe that Jacare’s a better striker.
If he rocks Romero, I could see Jacare pouncing on him on the mat and locking in a submission.
Souza via submission (round two)
DM: Jacare is my favourite fighter on the roster so I’m not going to be picking against him but this fight is by no means a gimme.
Souza’s main key to victory is his ground game but he will struggle to get the Olympian to the mat and on the feet, Romero undeniably has more power.
This all comes down to technique though and I foresee Souza picking the Cuban apart on the feet before Romero rushes a takedown. I can see Jacare using a whizzer to set up an armbar.
Souza via submission (round two)
Demian Maia (21-6) v Gunnar Nelson (14-1-1)
BK: Gunni may be the best BJJ practitioner on the continent of Europe, but Maia should have the edge on the mat.
However, I feel that what gives him the edge is his striking. He showed against Brandon Thatch that he can throw some serious bombs and I think he’s surpassed Maia in this area of late.
Nelson by decision
DM: I’m going to come across as terribly pessimistic towards SBG but I’m of the opinion that Demian Maia is just a grade above Nelson everywhere.
This has been touted as BJJ porn but I believe that Maia is much more dangerous on the mat and that Nelson would be foolish to engage in a lengthy grappling exchange.
And as much as Gunnar’s striking has improved, I think that Maia’s is better and if Maia is better on the feet and the ground then that equals victory in my mind.
Maia via decision
Max Holloway (14-3) v Jeremy Stephens (24-11)
BK: Holloway’s uber-aggressive striking style means he’s susceptible to getting tagged, and Stephens is one of those fighters who can change the course of a fight with a single punch.
However, I feel that Holloway’s more technical and gritty enough to get the job done. This kid could be a champion down the line if he continues progressing at this rate.
Holloway via TKO (round three)
DM: Max Holloway is too good to get caught by Stephens’ power punches, simple as.
Lil Heathen essentially has a puncher’s chance over Holloway but that’s it.
The Hawaiian is better everywhere else and should genuinely coast to victory.
Holloway via VERY lopsided decision