And now, the moment that UFC fans around the world have been waiting for.
Let's face it. The world is waiting for the main event of Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo. But I'm doing a preview of the whole main card, as hard as it is to not ramble the entire time about McGregor finally fighting Aldo.
Main Event: Jose Aldo (C) vs Conor McGregor (IC)
The world has waited far too long for this one. After defeating Chad Mendes for the Interim title, Conor McGregor silenced his doubters and cemented his position as number one contender among the featherweight elite. McGregor undoubtedly has charisma, unmatched self belief, and an incredible mouth. Granted, he doesn't stop talking, but as he said he backs it up every time. Jose Aldo, on the other hand, doesn't feel the need to constantly run his mouth. The champ seems content to let his fighting do the talking for him, and doesn't buy McGregor's press conference antics.
The pair have nearly come to blows several times throughout the course of the year, my personal favourite moment coming when McGregor stole Aldo's belt in front of a raucous Irish crowd.
In Aldo, you have a champion who has stayed at the top of the game for 6 years, and champion for a decade. While Aldo has a base in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, his Muay Thai skills are simply unmatched in the featherweight division. His timing and accuracy separates him from the rest of the pack, although he is yet to face McGregor, who possesses the unique skill of unorthodox fighting. His boxing is clean, powerful and well timed, his movement almost flawless, and his general athleticism just incredible to watch. For me, Aldo has pulled out of too many fights to prove that he can maintain being a champion for too long, whereas Conor shows no sign of stopping any time soon. I'm buying into the hype, and going for McGregor. I can't not, he's just amazing to watch as well as listen to.
Prediction: McGregor by TKO. No idea which round
We're not here just to take part, we're here to take over
Co-Main Event: Chris Weidman (C) vs Luke Rockhold
This is set to be a hell of a showdown. Both fighters seem determined to prove their opponent wrong and want to finish one another. I recall seeing them on the Foxsports panel after Rockhold's win over Lyoto Machida, and neither of them seem convinced that they were going to lose. This fight will live in the shadow of the main event, but has the makings of an absolute classic. Weidman has dispatched 3 legendary Brazilian fighters, and will be looking to extend his career undefeated streak. Luke Rockhold, however, has 2 defeats to his name but is also the last Strikeforce middleweight champion. These two are on course for a war.
In Weidman, you have a near complete package fighter. He's trained in all areas, with wrestling his specialty. A collegiate wrestler and current champion, it's hard to see him being stopped quickly. Rockhold, on the other hand, is highly skilled in his kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a strength which Rockhold has pointed out before. Weidman knows a little bit of everything, but isn't an expert in any areas but wrestling. Somehow that alone is definitely not going to hold up against Rockhold's skills in stand up or on the ground, Weidman will have to prove why he is the champ.
Prediction: Rockhold, TKO or submission round 4
Ronaldo Souza vs Yoel Romero
This fight is arguably underrated on this card, as the winner is seemingly destined for a shot at the middleweight title. Both of these fighters have solidified their positions as second and third contenders, and a slug out seems to be the only way to determine the next title contender. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is riding an 8 fight win streak since his loss to Luke Rockhold in 2011. That loss is the most likely reason Souza was overlook for a title shot this time around. Yoel Romero is coming off a brutal KO win over the legendary Lyoto Machida, and has only a single blemish in his professional record. Despite both fighters being in their late 30's, these men could not be in a better position in the middleweight division.
The interesting thing about Romero and Souza is that they're both solid in the ground game, but Romero also possesses incredible knockout power, having finished 9 of his 10 professional victories by KO/TKO. Souza is going to have to get in close and quick to secure a dominant position on the ground game, otherwise we're likely to see a repeat of Rousey vs Holm in this fight. That being said, Yoel Romero for me. Seems too strong and too powerful to simply take down.
Prediction: Yoel Romero, TKO round 2
Demian Maia vs Gunnar Nelson
Six places separates these two welterweight fighters, the Brazilian Maia sits 6th while his opponent, the Finnish Nelson is ranked 12th. The greatest disparity between these two has to be their age. The veteran Maia is 38 and Nelson is 27. I can't help but feel this may be a factor in this bout, as Nelson has been able to finish 13 of his 14 opponents, including his last victory over Brandon Thatch. If Nelson is serious about making a tilt towards the top of the division, Maia will be a perfect test of how far he has yet to go.
It's hard to predict a winner for me on this one. If it's Nelson, it'll be a quick finish. If it's the experienced Maia, it will go to a decision. I'm going to go for Nelson on this one. Younger, probably quicker and more fierce. Should be a good fight to watch nonetheless.
Prediction: Nelson by TKO, round 2
Max Holloway vs Jeremy Stephens
A fantastic match up of two featherweight contenders, this fight will easily see the winner climb up the rankings towards the top. Max Holloway is riding an 8 fight win streak since his decision loss to interim champion Conor McGregor back in 2013. Stephens, on the other hand, has endured a slightly patchy record since his featherweight debut. Should Stephens want to try and raid the top, a win over Holloway would definitely elevate his status in the featherweight division.
Two similar fighters, Holloway has experienced success in stand up as well as a few victories by submission, while Stephens has shown he has proven knock out power. While they're similar in style, they could not be further apart when it comes to experience. Holloway boasts a 14-3 record, while Stephens' currently stands at 24-11. Ultimately, I think Holloway will show why he's the 5th ranked fighter in the division, having beaten a couple of Stephens' past opponents.
Prediction: Holloway by decision