With UFC 212, the promotion seems primed to finally bring stability to the pinnacle of the featherweight division, which has found itself in disarray since the departure of former champion #ConorMcGregor.
Both Jose Aldo and Max Holloway have fallen to McGregor in the past, but with each man’s credentialed history, the winner of their championship unification bout will, unquestionably, crown the world’s best featherweight.
Complete with a co-headlining act between the clear cut number-two and number-three strawweights in the world, the card is stacked at the top end with name talent, booked in compelling matchups, and bolstered with a slew of action fights. Below, you’ll find some analysis and predictions for the entire main card.
Erick Silva vs. Yancy Medeiros
Times are tough for #ErickSilva. The Brazilian, turning 33 next month, was once regarded among the welterweight division’s brightest prospects; a ridiculously gifted offensive fighter, his game was broken down by modern technicians in ways reminiscent of those employed by the opponents of fellow offensive dynamo #VitorBelfort a generation ago (and even to this day). Silva, like Belfort, presents a versatile and overwhelming offensive storm which peaks in the first round and greatly diminishes in effectiveness with each passing stanza.
#YancyMedeiros never carried much hype, but he finds himself a favorite in this bout, and with good reason. He possesses the physical and mental toughness which have troubled Silva in the past, and the lengthy Medeiros, though outgunned offensively, is more than capable of punishing a fading Silva down the stretch.
Erick Silva doing Vitor Belfort things is always a possibility, but those moments of raw dynamism have been fewer and further between with each passing year. His highest highs are almost enough to warrant a pick here, but his lowest lows seem to come just as frequently. Medeiros’ grit is the more reliable commodity.
Paulo Borrachinha vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
This is a fight defined by its uncertainty; not just in terms of result, but in the nature of its competitors. Both men are relative amateurs to the sport, remarkably inexperienced for UFC signees. The man who styles himself “Borrachinha” was 8-0 with eight first-round stoppages when he signed with the organization, debuting against Garreth McLellan in yet another first-round stoppage victory.
Bambgose, meanwhile, was 5-0, also all via first-round stoppage, before signing with the UFC, where he subsequently went 1-2 before a layoff dating back to April of 2016.
A one-year layoff may seem insignificant, but for a fighter whose professional career dates back to 2013, it is a period of immense potential development. Both men are in their formative years as technicians, after all, and volatile growth is to be expected.
We last saw Borrachinha compete in March, but the uncertainty surrounding him is more general. He has, frankly, never been tested. His A-game has never once been thwarted, and his auxiliary tools are a complete mystery.
Both men are exceptional athletes with remarkable knockout power, and are likely to bulldoze each other until one falls. Borrachinha fights with unchecked ferocity and is fleet-footed, but this is really his only layer of defense. Moving straight backwards is how he avoids strikes, and foes who pursue him have had success landing, as McLellan did, for as little as it mattered. This is a particularly problematic tendency for a fighter who does his best work backing opponents into the fence before flurrying intensely.
Bamgbose’s improvement is the bout’s biggest X-factor, but with the incomplete information we possess, Borrachinha’s sheer aggression nets him the pick.
Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
Life comes at you fast in a post-TRT world. #NateMarquardt and Vitor Belfort have each experienced physical decline as results of both age, and the decision to disallow Testosterone Replacement Therapy for competing athletes.
While neither is the athlete they once were, each man carries vast experience and craft, and each has offered his fair share of surprises in recent times. Belfort is who he is, as a technician, but the man who folded at the first signs of pressure was nowhere to be found against Kelvin Gastelum. Competitive he was not, but he struggled valiantly until he was forcibly separated from his consciousness. This quality may not be enough to recapture his old glory, but it is admirable, and speaks well to Belfort's mentality as his twilight years come to an end.
Marquardt's surprises have been more of the glass-half-full kind; he has lost several of the fights he was supposed to lose, but has also won several of the fights he was supposed to lose. Defying narratives, he was never quite as shot as people believed him to be. He still possesses enough physicality to impose his skillset in a meaningful way against UFC-level competition, paired with that unteachable savvy. Undoubtedly, a prolonged bout should favor him, though neither fighter has made prolonged bouts a habit in recent years.
Vitor Belfort doing Vitor Belfort things is always a possibility, but Marquardt—... well, he actually seems pretty susceptible to being Vitor'd. I guess that settles it.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
#ClaudiaGadelha is, without doubt, the second best strawweight on the planet. Her division's most imposing athlete and one of its best technicians in all phases, she is a powerhouse wrestler and a multiple time #BJJ world champion, along with boasting ever-improving footwork and a strong boxing game.
Outside of #JoannaJedrzejczyk, who twice edged Gadelha in razor-thin bouts, no fighter has so much as taken a round from Gadelha during her UFC career.
#KarolinaKowalkiewicz is, without doubt, the third best strawweight on the planet. While not as generally competitive with "Joanna Champion" as Gadelha was, she managed to badly stagger and almost finish her countrywoman deep into their championship bout, and is otherwise undefeated.
Gadelha should be better just about everywhere; she's a sharper, more impactful puncher, her grappling is leagues above Kowalkiewicz's, and a presumed stamina edge for Kowalkiewicz is unlikely to manifest in any significant way in a three-round bout.
The area in which Kowalkiewicz is likely to have the most success is the clinch, but even there, Gadelha is a bulldozer. This is simply a bad match-up for the Pole.
Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
The most credentialed featherweight in history and the most credentialed featherweight of his era will compete for the opportunity to unify the UFC championship, and on paper, it is one of the most high-level bouts ever booked by the promotion.
#JoseAldo is everything and more; the greatest technician in MMA history (sorry, "Mighty Mouse"), the greatest defensive striker in MMA history, the greatest defensive grappler in MMA history. It's easier to hurl effusive praise at Aldo than to criticize his game in any way.
#MaxHolloway, meanwhile, has gone ten consecutive bouts without meeting a man who could push him to his limits. The ever-improving 25-year-old is a brilliant tactician with tremendous combination punching, footwork, and takedown defense.
Neither man is likely to score takedowns against the other, and in a straight stand-up bout, it's difficult to predict how their skillsets will interact.
Holloway is the longer man, with the striking chops to make use of that attribute, while Aldo has shown the more complete stand-up game, and a master's ability to adjust round-to-round. Aldo is the cleaner kicker, even the cleaner puncher, but Holloway may have a better sense for engagements and shot selection.
Logic says Aldo, with very little reservation, but gut says Holloway, with equally little reservation. You might as well flip a coin.
UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway Fight Card
Pay Per View Main Card (10 P.M. EST/7 P.M. PST)
- Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway - featherweight title unification bout
- Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
- Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt
- Paulo Borrachinha vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
- Erick Silva vs. Yancy Medeiros
FOX Sports 1 Prelims (8 P.M. EST/5 P.M. PST)
- Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
- Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
- Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
- Iuri Alcantara vs. Brian Kelleher
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (6:30 P.M. EST/3:30 P.M. PST)
- Viviane Pereira vs. Jamie Moyle
- Luan Chagas vs. Jim Wallhead
- Marco Beltran vs. Deiveson Figueiredo