The anticipation for UFC 200 has created a lot of buzz in the MMA world, and there is no shortage of fighters seeking a spot in that legendary card. However, there are a lot of interesting fights scheduled before July’s UFC 200. The most notable ones being Jones vs Cormier II, Weidman vs Rockhold II, Faber vs Cruz III, among others. All of those fights are amazing in their own right, and so are the cards for UFC 197 and 199. The problem is that the best card prior to UFC 200 just might be 198, and there is not a whole lot of people talking about it. The card is full of fresh, exciting, and fan friendly fights involving some of the biggest mixed martial arts fighters of all time. The event is scheduled to take place May 14th in Curitiba, Brazil. In addition to the great fights, the event will be held at Arena da Baixada, which will be the first UFC stadium event in Brazil. 

The undercard will likely have some main card worthy fights, such as Cris Cyborg’s UFC debut, and hot prospect Warlley Alves taking on Bryan Barberena. Rumors of Cyborg’s potential UFC debut have been thrown around quite a bit over the past few years. The speculation is over as she has been added to UFC 198 to fight Leslie Smith at a catchweight of 140 pounds. The anticipated match up with Ronda Rousey will not happen at her debut, but it is a huge step towards that potential fight. Cyborg has dominated Invicta FC’s featherweight division, and hopes to shake up women’s MMA in the UFC. Smith fought recently at UFC Fight Night Hunt vs Mir, and beat Rin Nakai via unanimous decision.  

On the other hand, the undefeated top prospect Warlley Alves is looking to move up the rankings in the very tough Welterweight division. Alves has finished his last two fights by submission both being guillotines, including the first round stoppage of Colby Covington at UFC 194. The talent of Alves is undeniable, but can he make some noise in one of the most stacked divisions. Bryan Barberena is no stranger to undefeated hot prospects, since his last fight was against Sage Northcutt. Barberena pulled a big upset against Northcutt, by submitting the young phenom in the second round. The question is can he do it again, or is Alves too skilled? 

Things get very interesting in the main card with important fights like Demian Maia vs Matt Brown, Anderson Silva vs Uriah Hall, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs Vitor Belfort, and the heavyweight championship bout between Stipe Miocic and Fabricio Werdum. As mentioned before, the Welterweight division is super deep with talented young fighters as well as tough and skilled veterans. A clash of top ten ranked veterans could have title shot implications, as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wizard Demian Maia faces “The Immortal” Matt Brown. Brown has gone the distance against the last two Welterweight champions in the past, and he is looking to build on his latest submission win over Tim Means. He has a very tough task in the form of Maia, and this should be a very entertaining fight to watch. The winner will likely enter the top five and put himself in the position of fighting for a shot at UFC gold. 

If you enjoy striking battles, then you should love the matchup between Uriah Hall and Anderson Silva. It might be safe to say that nobody is shooting for a takedown in this on, but you just might see a knockout of the year candidate. Both fighters are coming off disappointing losses, but they are still top ten in the Middleweight division. The winner would take a step closer to a shot at the winner of  UFC 199’s main event, and most likely a spot in the top five. The fight should be very fan friendly and thrilling from start to finish, so make sure you don’t blink during this one.

The next fight has even more influence on the Middleweight division, as it should definitely provide the next number one contender. The number two ranked middleweight “Jacare” Souza will meet number three ranked Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in the co-main event. Two guys with major knockout power, so this could easily be a quick one. There is nobody currently at middleweight or maybe even the entire UFC roster who has better Brazillian Jiu Jitsu than Souza, so If the fight goes to the ground he will certainly have the advantage. Souza lost his last fight to Yoel Romero in a very controversial fight, but he is looking to finally get that shot at the belt. Vitor’s last fight was a first round KO of Dan Henderson, and he hopes to get a rematch against either Weidman or Rockhold.

The main event is the Heavyweight championship of the world, as Fabricio Werdum defends his title for the first time against Stipe Miocic. Werdum was scheduled to fight Cain Velasquez in a rematch earlier this year, but Cain suffered a back injury. The UFC offered Miocic as a replacement to Werdum, but the champ was also injured. Nonetheless, they will fight in May and it should be a great fight between two warriors. Both men are very well trained and they can hit, so this could also be a quick fight as are most Heavyweight bouts. Fabricio’s tremendous ground game could be the x factor in this matchup, but it is not a grappling match so anything could happen. Two of the baddest men on the planet fighting for glory is a great way to close out an amazing card of fights. It is a great time to be an MMA fan, and the future looks very bright for the sport. 

Joao V. Gomes

Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer

After every UFC event we here at Pro Fighting Fans love to play matchmaker. In this column we’ll tell you who we think the winners and losers of each fight should face next.  So check back with Pro Fighting Fans after a UFC event to see what we think the next step is.

Sage Northcutt

Who he should fight next: Scott Holtzman

The UFC put a lot of effort into promoting 19 year old Sage Northcutt (7-1). Then he met Bryan Barberena at UFC on FOX 18 and suffered his first professional loss. Not only did he lose, he was also roasted on social media by fellow fighters, especially for the “quick tap” nature of the loss.

It was Northcutt’s third fight in as many months so he should take some time off. When he comes back it should be against a beatable opponent who still presents challenges for him. Fellow lightweight Scott “Hot Sauce” Holtzman (8-1) would be a great starting point on the comeback trail for Sage.

Holtzman is also coming off his first professional loss and is looking for a return to the win column. Holtzman and Northcutt have similar experience levels so this would be an even matchup. “Hot Sauce” wouldn’t be an easy fight for Northcutt, but then again in the UFC there are no easy fights. This is a fight that should happen sometime in 2016.

 

Iuri Alcantara

Who he should fight next: Eddie Wineland

Iuri Alcantara (33-7-1NC) has now lost two of his last three fights inside the octagon. Although his loss to Jimmie Rivera earned him “fight of the night” honours, Alcantara knows winning is what matters most at this point in his career. The 35 year old is a tough matchup for anyone. But if he wants to make a final push at a UFC title he’ll have to keep taking on solid opposition.

Eddie Wineland (21-11-1) is on a two fight losing skid and is in desperate need of a victory. He and Alcantara are in similar positions right now. They both need to start winning again as they aren’t getting any younger. Wineland is 3-5 since joining the UFC but just like Alcantara he’s faced some of the best bantamweight fighters in the world.

Even if neither of these gets a title shot in their UFC career this would be a highly entertaining bout. The loser could be in jeopardy of getting his pink slip so the stakes would be high.

 

Josh Barnett

Who he should fight next: Retire or fight Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva

Realistically UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett (34-8) has nothing left to prove in the sport of mixed martial arts. He’s a former UFC heavyweight champion and has fought all over the world for many years. He’s fought a who’s who of heavyweight contenders since turning pro in 1997. It’s incredible to think that before he lost to Ben Rothwell at UFC on FOX 18 he’d never been submitted in his lengthy career.

So if Barnett decided to retire no one would hold it against him. However, he’s a fierce competitor and going out on a loss may not sit well with “The Warmaster”. If he must fight again “Bigfoot” Silva (19-8) would be an excellent foe. He’s also on the tail end of his fighting career but wanting to stay relevant in a thin heavyweight division. This would be the perfect main event for a UFC event overseas in Asia and a nice curtain call for the 38 year old Josh Barnett.

 

Ryan Bader

Who he should fight next: Alexander Gustafsson

Just because Anthony Johnson made quick work of Ryan Bader (20-5) at UFC on FOX 18 doesn’t mean Bader isn’t a top ten light heavyweight. The problem for Bader is that he’s already fought most of the guys in the top ten. But one guy he hasn’t faced is two time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson (16-4).

Gustafsson has lost two straight fights but those losses were to Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier. In the fight with Cormier, Gustafsson once again rose to the occasion in a title fight and took the champ to his limits. A win over a guy like Gustafsson would be absolutely huge for Ryan Bader and would put him right back into the title picture at 205lbs.

Neither guy is currently booked for a fight so a late spring, early summer matchup would be perfect for these two light heavyweights. It would be one of the biggest fights in the division for 2016 and one that fans would love to see.

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

After every UFC event we here at Pro Fighting Fans love to play matchmaker. In this column we’ll tell you who we think the winners and losers of each fight should face next.  So check back with Pro Fighting Fans after a UFC event to see what we think the next step is.

 

Bryan Barberena (11-3)

Who he should face next: Drew Dober (16-7-1NC)

Bryan Barberena brought the Sage Northcutt hype train to a screeching halt with a second round submission victory over the 19 year old prodigy. He took the fight on short notice so he was doing the UFC a favour.  Hopefully the UFC will return the favour and give him a solid challenge in his next fight.

Fellow lightweight fighter Drew Dober would be a great matchup for Barberena the next time he steps inside the octagon. Dober is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Scott Holtzman earlier this month at UFC 195.  In his UFC career Dober owns a win over former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner.

Bryan Barberena may have stopped Sage Northcutt, but if we’re being realistic he still has a lot of room for improvement. There is no reason for the UFC to rush him along and Dober is a perfect step up in competition for Barberena

 

Jimmie Rivera (19-1)

Who he should face next: Thomas Almeida (20-0)

Jimmie Rivera faced the biggest challenge of his career at UFC on FOX 18 when he took on Brazilian Iuri Alcantara. Rivera came away with a well-earned decision victory despite being knocked down.  He had some key takedowns that were likely the difference in the minds of the judges.

Rivera is on a eighteen fight win streak and should be on the cusp of breaking into the top ten of the UFC’s bantamweight division. Therefore he deserves a top ten opponent and Thomas Almeida is another rising superstar who’s looking to prove he’s ready for the big time.  Almeida has a perfect 21-0 record and has started his UFC career with four straight victories, including a knockout victory over veteran Brad Pickett in his last fight.

The outcome of this fight would determine which man is ready for the biggest fight of his career. There is no doubt it would be an entertaining scrap and would be the perfect co- main event for a Fight Night card.

 

Ben Rothwell (36-9)

Who he should face next: Cain Velasquez (13-2)

Unfortunately for Ben Rothwell the UFC’s heavyweight division is falling apart and it’s unclear what his submission win over Josh Barnett actually means. It’s one of the biggest wins of Rothwell’s career and with three straight stoppage victories he should be put into a title eliminator the next time we see him in the octagon.

Cain Velasquez lost his heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum then dropped out of the rematch due to injury. Velasquez was dominated in the first fight and many fans were disappointed that he was getting an immediate rematch.

So why not have him and Ben Rothwell fight for the right to a title shot? It’s a rematch as well, Velasquez stopped Rothwell with strikes way back in 2009 at UFC 104.  This fight would give us a legitimate number one contender in the heavyweight division.  In the meantime current champ Fabricio Werdum can defend his belt against Stipe Miocic, a more deserving contender than Velasquez at the moment.

 

Anthony Johnson

Who he should face next: Winner of Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier II

If it wasn’t already it official it definitely is now, Anthony Johnson is the scariest knockout artist in the UFC today. He’s so scary Ryan Bader tried to take him down from across the cage in an attempt to avoid getting hit.  It didn’t work out well for Bader and Johnson ended up smashing him until he lost consciousness.

Johnson is only two fights removed from a UFC title shot, but with the win over Bader at UFC on FOX 18 it looks like he is ready for another shot. Yes, he could keep taking fights while he waits for Jones and Cormier to go at. It is just a really big risk.  However, like Daniel Cormier said on Saturday night, if Johnson can make easy money knocking guys out while waiting for a shot he should do it.

We should know soon when Jones and Cormier will fight. No matter what happens Anthony Johnson is the number one contender and deserves to be next.

For more coverage of UFC on FOX 18 keep checking back with Pro Fighting Fans.

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

To open up the main card of UFC on FOX 18 rising star Sage Nortchutt (7-1) met Bryan Barberena (11-3) in a welterweight matchup. Barberena took the fight on eight days’ notice when Northcutt’s original opponent Andrew Holbrook dropped out due to injury.

Barberena proved to be a worthy opponent for the 19 year old prodigy. He took some solid shots from Northcutt and was even knocked down at one point in the first round.

Every time Northcutt created distance on the feet he was able to land punches and kicks. However, Bryan Barberena scored a takedown late in the first round that changed the momentum of the fight. Northcutt got right back to his feet that time, but to begin the second round it was a different story.

Barberena settled into Northcutt’s guard and stayed active with some solid ground and pound. He opened up a cut on Sage’s forehead and for the first time in his career the 19 year old was getting beat up.

Around the two minute mark of the second round Barberena started to work on an arm triangle submission. Despite not having proper position Barberena was able to tighten his grip enough to force a tap from Sage Northcutt.  Many believe it was a quick tap from Northcutt, but in his post-fight interview Bryan Barberena said it’s a submission he gets all the time in the training room.

The victory puts Barberena back in the win column after having his seven fight winning streak broken by Chad Laprise last April. It’s likely the biggest win of his career and now ten of his eleven victories have come by way of stoppage.

Sage Northcutt has now tasted defeat for the first time and this could very well be a crossroads in his career. He can learn from the mistakes he made and use them to improve, or he could never recover and fall into obscurity.  Either way Northcutt will continue to be the topic of many conversations for a long time to come.

For more coverage of UFC on FOX 18 please keep checking back with profightingfans.com.

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

With another UFC event taking place this weekend it’s time to bring back an old tradition here at Pro Fighting Fans. One of the best things about sports is trying to figure out who is going to win and who is going to lose.  That’s why we are excited to announce the return of…BS Predictions! Write your picks in the comments and we’ll compare after Saturday night!

Bryan Barberena (10-3) vs. Sage Northcutt (7-0)

Judging by the amount of hype the UFC has put behind 19 year old Sage Northcutt it’s safe to say he’s being given winnable fights. It doesn’t mean he’s a guarantee or that his opponents are total bums, but Dana White wouldn’t want the train to fall off the tracks before it has even hit its stride.

That made it even more interesting when Northcutt was tapped to face Andrew Holbrook at UFC on FOX 18. Holbrook is also undefeated as a professional at 11-0 and in his last fight he came away with a split decision victory over Ramsey Nijem.  He could have been a solid test for the youngster, so it may have been a blessing in disguise when Holbrook dropped out of the bout due to injury.

Instead Northcutt will face Bryan Barberena on Saturday night. It’s a short notice fight and one that pits the unbeaten Northcutt against a man coming off a loss way back in April of 2015.  Northcutt is the busier of the two men and this will no doubt be a factor.  He will dazzle early and often, coming away with a TKO victory in the first round.

Prediction: Sage Northcutt via TKO Round One

 

Iuri Alcantara (33-6-1NC) vs. Jimmie Rivera (18-1)

This fight is cruising under the radar and it’s unfortunate because it promises to be a pretty good scrap. Maybe Jimmie Rivera and Iuri Alcantara are not household names, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put on a show at UFC on FOX 18.

In his last fight Alcantara got back in the win column, after a loss to Frankie Saenz snapped a three fight winning streak, by defeating Leandro Issa. Alcantara has faced some great competition since joining the UFC in 2011, most notably Urijah Faber at UFC Fight Night 26.  He’ll need that experience when he meets Jimmie Rivera.

Rivera hasn’t lost in just over 7 years and sports an impressive record of 18-1. He’s coming off a split decision victory over Pedro Munhoz in November 2015 at UFC Fight Night 77.  12 of his 18 victories have gone the distance, so don’t expect a finish from him at UFC on FOX 18.

Iuri Alcantara has a 5 inch height advantage and a 6 inch reach advantage; he’d be smart to utilize these against Rivera. If he can keep the fight at a distance and occasionally threaten with takedowns he’s got a great shot at coming out on top.

Prediction: Iuri Alcantara via Unanimous Decision

 

Josh Barnett (34-7)vs. Ben Rothwell (35-9)

Call me a skeptic, call me negative but I have not been looking forward to this fight one bit since it was announced. It might be due to the fact that there is a very good chance this fight ends up crawling to the final bell. These are two guys with a lot of wear on their bodies.  Although they’ve combined for a total of 12 stoppages in their last 13 victories I still can’t be convinced we’re in for a barnburner at UFC on FOX 18.

Josh Barnett is 2-1 since returning to the UFC in 2013 after an 11 year absence from the sports premier organization. He’s taken out Roy Nelson and Frank Mir respectively.  Neither of those guys are anywhere near a title shot so let’s take that into account when we’re discussing Barnett’s most recent wins.  He’s a submission ace and his best shot at winning this fight with Rothwell is on the mat, that’s all there is to it.

Rothwell is no slouch on the ground either, 12 of his 35 victories have come by submission. It’s at least a possibility that he could keep Barnett at bay if the fight gets to the ground.  That’s where my concerns become valid; I see this fight taking place against the cage.  In other words it’s going to be a three round grind.

If it is a three round grind I’m going to have to give it to Josh Barnett. He just might have the better cardio between the two of them.

Prediction: Josh Barnett via Split Decision

 

Anthony Johnson vs. Ryan Bader

If you’re looking for in depth analysis of this fight you’ll find a bit of that in my Breakdown column from earlier this week on Pro Fighting Fans. Right now I’m just going to call it like I see it.

Ryan Bader wants nothing to do with Anthony Johnson’s striking. Anthony Johnson wants nothing to do with Ryan Bader’s smothering wrestling game.

Bader has been known to charge forward with reckless abandon, watch his UFC on FOX 4 bout with Lyoto Machida. That is a dangerous move against someone with the type of power Anthony Johnson possesses in his fists.

It’s sad because Bader has been on a tear, but this one isn’t getting out of the 1st round.  I’m taking Anthony Johnson by way of complete destruction.

Prediction: Anthony Johnson via TKO Round One

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

UFC on FOX 18 is a little light on star power, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any meaningful bouts. Of course it’s speculated that the main event between Ryan Bader and Anthony Johnson will be a title eliminator.  If we look past the main and co main events we can see there a couple of very interesting fights taking place earlier in the night.

 

Sage Northcutt (7-0) vs. Bryan Barberena (10-3)

Saturday night will be all about Sage, there’s no doubt about it. At this point in his young UFC career Sage Northcutt is the main attraction no matter who stands across the cage from him.  At UFC on FOX 18 it will be Bryan Barberena, a late notice replacement for Northcutt’s original opponent Andrew Holbrook.

In his UFC debut Barberena came back from a slow start to defeat Joe Ellenberger in the 3rd round by TKO.  Things were looking up for the Minnesota native before he ran into TUF Nations winner Chad Laprise in his next fight at UFC 186 in Montreal, Quebec.

Barberena was originally scheduled to face Jonavin Webb at UFC Fight Night 82 on February 21st.  Instead he’ll step in against Northcutt.  Due to the short notice nature of the bout it will be contested at 170lbs.

Sage Northcutt tore through his first two UFC opponents, Francisco Trevino and Cody Pfister, making quick work of both men. But it’s likely that Bryan Barberena has faced the tougher competition inside the octagon and he was already training for a fight, so he shouldn’t be out of shape.

If Barberena isn’t afraid to stand in the pocket with Northcutt he could force him to engage in a brawl. If Sage can get distance though, he would be able to open up with kicks and cause all sorts of trouble for his opponent.

This fight is opening up the main card for UFC on FOX 18. It will be an interesting test for the 19 year old golden boy Sage Northcutt, so don’t miss it!

 

Jake Ellenberger (30-10) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (15-4)

Tarec Saffiedine’s UFC career could be described as inconsistent and not too many people would argue with that. Not only has he fought very few times in three years, the quality of his performances has been less than stellar.

Saffiedine has been scheduled to face Jake Ellenberger on two separate occasions but both bouts were scrapped due to injuries. Now it’s been over a year since we saw the former Strikeforce welterweight champion getting beat up by Rory MacDonald, it marked the first time in his career that he had been finished.  He has a great shot at redemption on Saturday night, but getting past Ellenberger is never an easy task especially if cage rust is a factor.

Jake Ellenberger might be fighting for his job at UFC on FOX 18 having lost 4 of his last 5 fights. All of those losses came against top notch competition like Robbie Lawler and Kelvin Gastulem, while the lone victory was a submission win over veteran Josh Koscheck.  However, when you are getting paid to fight it’s generally understood that winning has a positive effect on your employment.  Ellenberger needs to show up on Saturday night if he wants to keep getting paid by the UFC.

It would seem as though both men are healthy and this should be an entertaining matchup. It closes out the preliminary card which airs on FOX Sports 1 at 5pm ET.  For more coverage of UFC on FOX 18 keep checking back with Profightingfans.com.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer