UFC Orlando: The happiest card on Earth?

It’s fitting that the next major UFC card takes place on the same weekend as the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not only is this card taking place at the home of Disney (which also owns the Star Wars franchise, because George Lucas finally ran out of fucks to give), but a whole lot of force is set be unleashed on this card.

If you didn’t get enough excitement with last week’s gauntlet of three UFC cards in three days, including the incredible UFC 194 last Saturday, the latest edition of UFC on FOX promises to deliver even more fireworks with a lightweight title main event and a co-main event featuring two of the best heavyweights in mixed martial arts.

C.B. Dollaway (16-8) vs. Nate Marquardt (36-15-2) (Middleweight – 185 lbs.)

This tweet basically sums up my feelings about this fight:

Nate Marquardt has had a great career in mixed martial arts. He’s been a champion. He fought some of the best the sport has to offer. But he clearly has nothing left in the tank. He looked like a guy desperately clinging to the end of his rope in his last two fights, and Marquardt’s only recent win in the UFC was against the overrated James Te Huna.

Dollaway is coming off a close decision loss against Michael Bisping in a fight many people thought he won. I think he exacts some retribution on Marquardt, and it won’t be pretty.

Winner: Dollaway by first-round TKO

Charles Oliveira (20-5) vs. Myles Jury (15-1) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Myles Jury. I think he fights a slow, plodding style and has a record padded with unproven or past-their-prime fighters. His style was exposed against Donald Cerrone and frankly, I don’t blame Cerrone for becoming frustrated and literally kicking Jury in the ass. Multiple times, in fact.

Oliveira is coming off a first-round defeat against Max Holloway in his last fight, which is a bit misleading. Not only is Holloway skyrocketing back up the featherweight ladder, but Oliveira lost because he suffered an unfortunate internal injury that forced the referee to stop the fight.

I think Oliveira can still be a contender at 145, and his ground game and submissions are second to none. I like him to catch Jury in such a submission for an impressive victory.

Winner: Oliveira by second-round submission

Randa Markos (5-3) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7-0) (Women’s Strawweight – 115 lbs.)

This is Kowalkiewicz’s UFC debut, and she was a ballyhooed signing by UFC who coincidentally hails from the same country as current women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She’s coming off two consecutive split decision victories and only boasts two finishes in her MMA career.

Markos is one of the less-heralded fighters who came off season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, which crowned the UFC’s first women’s strawweight champion. She was also one of the most underrated, as she navigated the typical “Mean Girls” drama on the show and even submitted noted veteran Felice Herrig.

Markos is very dangerous on the ground and will look to take Kowalkiewicz down early and often and ground and pound her way to victory. I think she will do just that and state her case to be considered for a fight against the seemingly dominant Jedrzejczyk.

Winner: Markos by unanimous decision

Michael Johnson (17-9) vs. Nate Diaz (18-10) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)

Diaz returns to the UFC after a yearlong absence and a listless performance against current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Johnson is coming off a VERY controversial decision loss to Beneil Dariush – a fight basically everyone thought he actually won.

For me, this fight is about untapped potential vs. overrated skill. Johnson was highly touted coming off season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter, but only has four finishes in his UFC career and an overall UFC record of 11-4. Which begs the question of why he hasn’t been more seriously considered as a possible title contender. Could it be the lack of finishes?

Meanwhile, Diaz hasn’t won a fight in the UFC in over two years – which is his only win in over three years. There’s no question that Diaz and his brother Nick are two of the toughest fighters to ever compete in the Octagon. But I think their aura is more a product of their audience-friendly fighting style.

I think Diaz’s days of being a title contender in UFC are over. I also think Johnson still has a bright future ahead of him, but he needs to start stringing together some impressive victories. He will start here.

Winner: Johnson by unanimous decision

Junior Dos Santos (17-3) vs. Alistair Overeem (39-14-1) (Heavyweight – 225 lbs.)

These guys have been circling each other for quite a while, going back to Dos Santos’ days as UFC heavyweight champion. Overeem seems to be getting his UFC career on track after an uneven start, rattling off two consecutive victories. Dos Santos returns to the Octagon after a yearlong absence himself, before which he enjoyed a somewhat controversial victory over Stipe Miocic.

If Overeem wants to make a run at the title, the time is now. The heavyweight division is not particularly deep at the moment and a victory over the former champion Dos Santos would put him in title contention. However, I think the time off by Dos Santos will serve him well, and he will come back 100 percent healthy and ready to go. Dos Santos is still one of the best pure strikers in the UFC, and I like him to catch Overeem and put himself back in title contention.

Winner: Dos Santos by second-round TKO

Rafael dos Anjos (24-7) vs. Donald Cerrone (28-6-1) (Lightweight Title – 155 lbs.)

Would you believe this is Cerrone’s first title fight in the UFC, and his first title fight anywhere since 2010? It seems like Cerrone should have had at least two title fights by now. He is on an absolute tear, winning his last eight fights (coincidentally, his last loss came in 2013 to dos Anjos). He is an exciting, energetic striker who loves nothing more than to stand in the middle of the Octagon and trade blows with his opponent.

On the other hand, dos Anjos’ strength lies in his ground game. He took former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis down seemingly at will and kept him there, grounding and pounding his way to the title earlier this year. If dos Anjos is smart, he will employ the same strategy with Cerrone, who typically favors to keep the fight standing.

However, if dos Anjos insists on playing Cerrone’s game, he’s in for a long night. Cerrone looks like he has an uncanny focus and drive to be lightweight champion. Even though he’s as tough and game as they come, I think dos Anjos eventually gets caught with a hard shot and Cerrone obtains what’s eluded him throughout his entire career – a title.

Winner: Cerrone by third-round TKO

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Chris Huntemann
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also opines on all things UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting and any other MMA topics he cares to bloviate about. You should check out his blog, or his Twitter. Or both. When he's not watching MMA, he's an avid fan of other sports, such as football, baseball and college basketball. He may or may not do other, non-sports-related things as well.

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