The UFC continues its transition into a new era with UFC 208 on Saturday night. New owners WME-IMG continue to slowly tweak the production, meaning that UFC 208 will be the home of a few interesting “firsts” for the promotion. On a negative note, Saturday’s pay-per-view will be the first numbered event since longtime commentator Mike Goldberg left the company after UFC 207. Goldberg, along with Joe Rogan, have been calling UFC fights together since 1997.
The other first, on a more positive note, is that the UFC will be crowning a champion in a newly created weight class, women’s featherweight (145-pound weight limit). They already have a women’s bantamweight (135-lbs) and strawweight (115-lbs) division. Former bantamweight champ Holly Holm will move up in weight and fight Germaine de Randamie for the inaugural championship.
The final first isn’t necessarily good or bad, and it could end up being a “last.” Mixed martial arts legend Anderson Silva will be in the co-main event, his “first” fight since being a last minute fill-in against Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 last summer, after Cormier’s original opponent Jon Jones failed a pre-fight drug test. At almost 42-years old, every time Silva steps into the cage, it could be the last chance for fans to watch the man who in considered one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters of all-time.
If you’re looking to lay down some cash on the fights, or just wanna impress your friends with your thorough MMA knowledge, check out our predictions for UFC 208 below!
The official Fox Sports 1 undercard features four fights, with mostly relatively unknown fighters (we’re not even bothering with the UFC Fight Pass prelims). Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of who we think will prevail in the free fights.
Randy Brown (-135) vs. Belel Muhammad (+105) – Brown is a slim betting favorite, and sports an impressive 9-1 professional record. Muhammad has lost two of his last three fights, and likely needs this win to keep his UFC dreams alive. Additionally, Muhammad took this fight on short notice, which almost never works out well.
Prediction: Brown via submission, first round.
Ian McCall (-110) vs. Jarred Brooks (-120) – The bookies actually have neither of these fighters listed as an underdog, so expect a close fight either way. Interestingly though, McCall is 6th on the UFC flyweight rankings while Brooks is making his UFC debut. McCall (pictured below) has much more experience, having fought some of the best fighters in his weight class (Brad Pickett, Demetrious Johnson x 2, and Dominick Cruz).
Prediction: McCall via decision.
Islam Makhachev (-260) vs. Nik Lentz (+200) – Neither of these fighters crack the top 15 in UFC rankings in the crowded lightweight division. The more experienced Lentz may be a 2-to-1 underdog, and probably for a good reason. This will be Lentz’s 18th UFC fight (to go with another 20 non-UFC bouts), but he’s been horrible inconsistent since 2011. Meanwhile Makhachev has a 13-1 record. No upsets here.
Prediction: Makhachev via TKO, second round.
Wilson Reis (-550) vs. Ulka Sasaki (+375) – This is a weird fight. Reis, a prohibitive betting favorite, is ranked 5th in the UFC flyweight division. Sasaki, who is just 2-2 in his UFC career so far, isn’t ranked at all. We feel like the UFC really missed the chance to have a Reis vs. McCall bout (5th vs. 6th) on this card, which would have really propelled the winner into the title picture. Instead we get this.
Prediction: Reis via decision.
Dustin Poirer (-400) vs. Jim Miller (+300)
Okay, on to the main card! Jim Miller may be the underdog in this fight, but he’s coming off three straight wins against tough opponents. Poirier, on the other hand, is coming off a main event loss to Michael Johnson at a UFC Fight Night event in September 2016, although he had four straight UFC wins before that. Both fighters are UFC veterans at this point, with Miller having a knack for pulling out crafty submission victories. If he can close enough to the hard hitting Poirer, we think Miller will find a way to make his opponent tap. We’re calling an upset!
Prediction: Miller via submission, third round.
Glover Teixeira (-190) vs. Jared Cannonier (+155)
Frankly, we’re surprised that Teixeira isn’t a bigger favorite here. He was once predicted as being the next big thing in the light heavyweight division, before the emergence of Jon Jones. He has quality wins in the division over the likes of Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Ovince Saint Pruex. The only thing Teixeira can’t seem to do is break through the elite fighters at 205-pounds. He has already lost to Jon Jones and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in high profile fights. However, we don’t think Jared Connonier will be giving him much trouble on Saturday night, even though Teixeira is now in his late-30s..
Prediction: Teixeira via TKO, third round.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (-500) vs. Tom Boetsch (+350)
This is officially the most lopsided matchup, odds-wise, on the main pay-per-view card. Souza is knocking on the door of a middleweight title shot, with wins over Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi in recent years (although he did lose to Yoel Romero in December 2015. Boetsch, on the other hand, has lost six of his last ten fights and seems to be firmly locked into the role of “middleweight gate keeper.” Souza is a well-rounded fighter, able to finish off opponents by knock out, submission, or by simply out-pointing them. While Boethsch is hardly a slouch, having a number of notable come-from-behind victories in the UFC, we think that Souza will continue up the ladder towards a title shot.
Prediction: Souza via decision.
Derek Brunson (-155) vs. Anderson Silva (+125)
As previously mentioned, any Anderson Silva fight could be the final fight of his career at this point. He hasn’t won a fight since 2012 (a 2015 decision victory over Nick Diaz was overturned when Silva failed a postfight drug test) and no fighter has ever won the battle with father time. Silva will be 42 in April, but his name alone continues to attract viewers since it wasn’t that long ago that he was considered the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. Unfortunately, like almost every prize fighter ever, we don’t see Silva (potentially) ending his career with a win. The killer instinct just isn’t there anymore, and his speed and reflexes have also diminished over the years. Derek Brunson should be able to grind out a decision victory with relative ease, unless Silva tries to get cute and drop his hands. If that happens, the fight could end much sooner.
Prediction: Brunson via TKO, second round
Holly Holm (-105) vs. Germaine de Randamie (-125)
UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship Fight
Holly Holm had a once in a lifetime moment in November 2015, when she became the fighter who finally smashed the mystique of then-unbeatable Ronda Rousey. After thoroughly outboxing Rousey for the entire opening round, a brutal head kick in the second round sent Rousey crashing to the mat and into a 13-month sabbatical. For a brief moment, Holm was the face of women’s MMA.
Then, in her first title defense, she was submitted by Miesha Tate in the fifth round. She followed that with a decision loss to Valentina Shevchenko and the shine on Holm had all but vanished. Now she’s decided to move up a weight class, into the recently created women’s featherweight division, which will crown its inaugural champion on Saturday night.
Like Holm, Germaine de Randamie also used to compete in the bantamweight division. She only has nine professional fights, compared to Holm’s 12 MMA bouts, three kickboxing fights, and 38 pro boxing matchups. While the betting odds are fairly close, we’re going with experience in the main event.
Prediction: Holm via TKO, fourth round.