UFC 178 goes down live on pay-per-view this Saturday and will be headlined by a Flyweight Title bout between incumbent champion Demetrious Johnson and challenger Chris Cariaso. Also on the card are two barn burning matchups as Donald Cerrone takes on former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez and featherweights Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will settle their long brewing rivalry. Who will walk away with wins come Saturday night? Take a look below to find out.
UFC Flyweight Championship Bout: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (20-2-1) (c.) vs. Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso (17-5)
It’s definitely an amazing feat when the main event of a card is one of the least anticipated bouts of the night. While Johnson and Cariaso are victims to an extremely strong fight card here, the lack of excitement is mostly due to a champion who is far more advanced than anyone in his division and a challenger that very few outside of the hardcore MMA fanbase know. With that being said, this bout should be an absolute starching. Johnson has defeated the very best in the flyweight division (and some of the top players at bantamweight) in dominant fashion, while Cariaso has been so-so and faltered when put against top competition. On the feet, Cariaso has the ability to cause small issues for Johnson, but his lack of speed compared to the champion will ultimately result in him being at a severe disadvantage. On the mat, the skill differential is even more pronounced with Johnson being one of the best grapplers in all of MMA. While Johnson is far from a submission wizard, his combination of quick takedowns and solid top control make him nearly impossible to defeat on the mat.
If Cariaso wants to win this fight he needs to land a Hail Mary knockout or catch Johnson in cruise control during a grappling exchange. To be frank, it’s virtually impossible for either of those things to happen. Look for Johnson to close out the event in style.
PREDICTION: Demetrious Johnson to defeat Chris Cariaso by knockout (punch) in round two.
Lightweight Bout: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (24-6, 1 No Contest) vs. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)
In what is the front runner to win fight of the night, former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez makes his long awaited UFC debut against perennial contender Donald Cerrone. I’m a bit torn on this matchup as both guys have very similar strengths and weaknesses. Both men have strong striking skills with Alvarez favoring a more boxing-centric style and Cerrone utilizing a vicious muay thai attack. In the grappling department, Cerrone has a fairly large advantage in submission grappling but will be at a disadvantage when it comes to wrestling. What this fight will boil down to is who lands first. Both men have had a tendency to get either wobbled or dropped early in fights, so it’s hard not to see one of them hitting the deck early. While the popular pick is Alvarez, I’m going with Cerrone here. Cerrone is far from being flawless but his offensive diversity will be the difference here. Cowboy will likely get hurt early on, but look for the Jackson’s MMA product to recover, drop Alvarez with a brutal head kick, then lock in the fight ending submission.
PREDICTION: Donald Cerrone to defeat Eddie Alvarez via submission (rear-naked choke) in round one.
FEATHERWEIGHT BOUT: Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (16-3) vs. “Notorious” Conor McGregor (15-2)
While Cerrone-Alvarez is the front-runner for Fight of the Night, Poirier vs. McGregor is easily the most anticipated bout on the card. This fight is the culmination of months of trash talk between the two featherweight contenders and will likely be one hell of a barnburner. In Poirier, you have a top level fighter who has defeated everyone but the absolute cream of the crop. In ten UFC appearances, Poirier has only been defeated twice and both of those men (Cub Swanson and Chan Sung Jung) are in the top five of the division. With McGregor, the situation is vastly different. McGregor is the UFC’s brightest budding star as his brash attitude and European roots have resulted in enormous popularity across the globe. Both fighters are very evenly matched but each man holds a slight advantage over the other. Poirier is a very skilled striker but has the tendency to get hit early and often. Against an opponent like McGregor, that’s a recipe for disaster. McGregor brings a varied striking attack which is perfectly complimented by his long limbs. While McGregor’s striking advantage is sizable, on the mat is where Poirier needs to be to win this fight. McGregor has only spent a short amount of time grappling throughout his UFC career, but has two submission losses on his record. What makes those losses so significant is how quickly and easily he was submitted by his opponents. In both of those losses, McGregor was submitted within the first minute of the fight. While “Notorious” has greatly improved as a fighter since then, one has to wonder if submissions are still his Achilles heel.
It’s a huge possibility that McGregor puts Poirier away via strikes early in the fight, but I’m still not sold on the Irishman. His biggest win is against Diego Brandao who has looked less than stellar as of late. I think he’ll put a beating on Poirier early, but the American Top Team fighter will find a way to end the bout before the final bell.
PREDICTION: Dustin Poirier to defeat Conor McGregor via submission (d’arce choke) in round three.
Middleweight Bout: Tim Kennedy (18-4) vs. Yoel “The Soldier of God” Romero (8-1)
In a fantastic bout, former Strikeforce competitor Tim Kennedy will take on former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero. What makes this bout so interesting is the clash of strengths. Kennedy’s best asset is his grappling. On the flip side, Romero’s best asset is also his grappling. Credential-wise, it’s not even close. Romero should be far and away the better grappler, but I’m not quite sure that’s how it will play out. Many seem to remember Romero’s highlight reel knockouts and three round drubbing of Brad Tavares but forget that he was taken to wrestling school by Derek Brunson. Romero ended up landing a come from behind knockout in that bout, the damage was already done in my eyes. Look for Kennedy to avoid the fight ending blow and make fight fans question how Romero won an Olympic Silver Medal in the process. This fight may be a bit boring, folks.
PREDICTION: Tim Kennedy to defeat Yoel Romero by decision.
Women’s Bantamweight Bout: “Alpha” Cat Zingano (8-0) vs. Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (9-3)
Opening up the main card is a Women’s bantamweight bout between former number one contender Cat Zingano and knockout artist Amanda Nunes. Skill-wise this bout isn’t a bit hard to predict. Zingano holds the advantage over Nunes in nearly every facet of MMA, but there are two things that are holding me back form predicting a Zingano route. First, Zingano has been out of action for over a year due to knee surgery. It’s hard to predict how a fighter will react to having such a procedure done and that long of a lay-off. Second, Zingano unfortunately lost her husband earlier this year and it’s hard to imagine that she’s been able to focus completely on fighting over the past eight months. While these variables did make it tough for me to pick Zingano, I believe she will have enough to pull it off. Nunes is a well-rounded fighter but tends to fade late. I think this bout will be an absolute slugfest early before Zingano takes advantage of a tiring Nunes.
PREDICTION: Cat Zingano to defeat Amanda Nunes via TKO (Knees) in round three.
PRELIMINARY CARD PREDICTIONS
Dominick Cruz to defeat Takeya Mizuagaki via decision
Jorge Masvidal to defeat James Krause via decision
Stephen Thompson to defeat Patrick Cote via decision
John Howard to defeat Brian Ebersole via decision
Kevin Lee to defeat Jon Tuck via submission (armbar) in round two
Cody Gibson to defeat Manny Gamburyan via decision