No one has gotten a worse rap for one bad night than Jose Aldo did for his loss to Conor McGregor in 2015. Forget the fact that the Brazilian virtually cleaned out the division before that defeat and is arguably the greatest featherweight of all-time. To some folks, all that matters is that 13 seconds in Las Vegas. Well, Max Holloway hasn’t forgotten who Aldo is, and after winning ten straight, he gets a chance to begin his reign as undisputed champion if he can get by Aldo in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro. As for Aldo, he’s only 30 years old, and if he beats Holloway, his second reign as king of the 145-pounders may last a long time. But as a reminder, a fighter’s legacy can’t be whittled down to one fight.
CLAUDIA GADELHA VS KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ
The top two strawweight contenders in the world collide in the UFC 212 co-main event, and while Karolina Kowalkiewicz may have the clearer path to a rematch with champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk than Claudia Gadelha does, since KK is 0-1 against Joanna Champion while Gadelha is 0-2, the odds in this one have to favor the Brazilian, who now has the opportunity to leave no doubt that the only fight for Jedrzejczyk is a third one with Claudinha.
VITOR BELFORT VS NATE MARQUARDT
In combat sports, the punch is the last thing to go on an aging fighter, and while Vitor Belfort and Nate Marquardt are not in their prime anymore, both middleweights have proven in recent years to still have enough pop in their punches to be a threat to anyone at 185 pounds. So while this one doesn’t have any bearing on the division’s title picture, expect fireworks from both until this one ends, and you can pretty much guarantee that it’s not going the distance.
PAULO BORRACHINHA VS OLUWALE BAMGBOSE
Speaking of middleweights not going the distance, Paulo Borrachinha and Oluwale Bamgbose have a combined 15 wins. All 15 have ended in the first round, 14 by knockout. If you’re a betting man (or woman), the odds are pretty good that this doesn’t turn into a grappling match, with the only ground action coming when one fighter hits the mat courtesy of a knockout strike from the other. This should be fun to watch.
ERICK SILVA VS YANCY MEDEIROS
An action-packed UFC 212 main card gets off to a rousing start with Erick Silva and Yancy Medeiros. Win or lose, these welterweights always bring it, and while Silva may have the edge sizewise as someone who has been at 170 pounds for over seven years, Medeiros has the slick submission game that can catch the aggressive Brazilian when he least expects it.
RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO VS MARLON MORAES
As soon as UFC fans get their first dose of Marlon Moraes on Saturday night, they’ll immediately understand why he was booked against the No. 3-ranked bantamweight in the world, Raphael Assuncao. Moraes is the real deal and an exciting addition to the roster, but he will get tested immediately by the underrated but dangerous Assuncao.
ANTONIO CARLOS JUNIOR VS ERIC SPICELY
Just like any fight between two specialists in a particular area, the winner of the matchup between BJJ black belts Antonio Carlos Junior and Eric Spicely may come down to who can handle himself best everywhere else. Then again, if the fight does become a groundfighting war, Carlos has to have the edge as one of the most decorated grapplers in the game. Don’t count Spicely out, though, because he embraces the underdog role.
JOHNNY EDUARDO VS MATTHEW LOPEZ
With a career that began in 1996, 36-year-old Johnny Eduardo is one of the most experienced veterans in the UFC today, yet he’s only had five fights in the Octagon since joining the roster in 2011. Hopefully, the fact that he’s following up a November stoppage of Manny Gamburyan with a relatively fast turnaround against top prospect Matthew Lopez is a sign that he’s trying to stay busy and make a run at the bantamweight elite.
IURI ALCANTARA VS BRIAN KELLEHER
A newcomer to the Octagon, New York’s Brian Kelleher is no stranger to pro MMA, as he brings a 16-7 record and a six-fight winning streak into his debut against Iuri Alcantara. So this is no meeting of contender and newbie, but with Alcantara coming off back-to-back Performance of the Night finishes over Brad Pickett and Luke Sanders, Kelleher does have his work cut out for him.
VIVIANE PEREIRA VS JAMIE MOYLE
Even though Joanna Jedrzejczyk is one of the most dominant champions in the UFC today, the ladies jockeying for a shot at the 115-pound queen occupy a talent-rich division that’s been getting some exciting new blood in recent months. Two of those fighters are prospects Viviane Pereira and Jamie Moyle, and a big victory on Saturday could push the winner into the top 15.
LUAN CHAGAS VS JIMMY WALLHEAD
The arrival of Jimmy Wallhead to the UFC last year was a long-awaited and welcome one, and while he lost a split decision to Jessin Ayari in his debut, the British vet gets a second chance to make a first impression against Brazil’s Luan Chagas, another action fighter seeking his first UFC win this weekend.
MARCO BELTRAN VS DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO
Marco Beltran makes his flyweight debut this weekend against newcomer Deiveson Figueiredo, and with Figueiredo coming in with the nickname “God of War,” he’s got to bring it against the Mexican battler, a stablemate of Yair Rodriguez who has won three of four UFC bouts.