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It's The 'Biggest Week In UFC History' - Here's What You Need To Be Watching

It's The 'Biggest Week In UFC History' - Here's What You Need To Be Watching
By John Balfe
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While this morning's news that Jon Jones has been removed from the main event of this Saturday's UFC 200 has taken a substantial part of the wind out of the sails of International Fight Week, there are still some outstanding fights to look forward to over the course of the next three nights.

More than 30 fights are scheduled to take place in Las Vegas over the next three nights, along with tonight's Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz press conference which will be able to see live here on Balls.ie, should make for an incredibly exciting few days for MMA fans.

Below are ten scraps which you absolutely can't miss if you're a fight fan.


Joseph Duffy (14-2) vs Mitch Clarke (11-3) - UFC Fight Night 90, July 7th

Irish eyes will be focused squarely on Donegal man Joe Duffy, the only representative from our island competing at the trio of events this week. Ahead of his bout with Dustin Poirier in January, Duffy was one of the most talked-about prospects in the UFC's lightweight division but with the unanimous decision loss he received, as well as how quickly this sport moves, you get the feeling that Duffy is flying considerably under the radar for his fight against Mitch Clarke.

Duffy is an extremely technical fighter with sharp boxing and a very effective submission game but where he fell short against Poirier was in his passivity in the transitions between these different fighting styles - the middle part of the venn diagram between striking and grappling. You can be sure that his coaching team in TriStar have addressed this and look for Duffy to make a statement against Clarke and to reassert himself in the conversation at 155lbs.

Clarke, who holds a 2-3 record in the UFC, is a solid if unspectacular opponent. He proved in his win over Al Iaquinta that he has it in him to cause an upset but this seems unlikely against an opponent of Duffy's skill level.


Prediction: Joe Duffy by TKO, late in round one.

Rafael Dos Anjos (c) (25-7) vs Eddie Alvarez (27-4) - UFC Fight Night 90, July 7th

UFC lightweight Rafael Dos Anjos' foot injury earlier this year set into action a chain of events that the UFC is still dealing with. Dos Anjos was days removed from defending his title against Conor McGregor when he picked up a knock in training. In stepped Nate Diaz and his win against McGregor led to its rematch being named as the main event for UFC 200. One tweet later, that all fell apart and the UFC replaced the Diaz/McGregor do-over with Jones and Cormier and, well, that didn't work out great either.

Despite all that drama, RDA still sits atop the throne of the lightweight division and in Eddie Alvarez he faces almost a mirror image of himself. Dos Anjos latter career has been defined by his aggressive, in-your-face style of fighting which has suffocated every opponent he has faced in the UFC in the last four years (with the notable exception of Khabib Nurmagomedov) but he will have to overcome someone trying to do that very thing to him if he is to defend his title against Eddie Alvarez.


Alvarez is a never-say-die type of competitor and, while he's in with more of a shot than some of the odds are suggesting, our money is on RDA having his hand raised after 25 minutes of action.

Prediction: Rafael Dos Anjos by Unanimous Decision.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (c) (11-0) vs Claudio Gadelha (13-1) - The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, July 8th

Joanna Jedrzejcyk is, simply put, one of the fiercest fighters in all of mixed martial arts. The Polish six-time world Muay Thai champion is about as aggressive a striker as anyone in the sport and her rivalry with Claudio Gadelha, the only fighter who has made her appear mortal in the UFC, is the defining story in the UFC's ever-developing women's strawweight division.


Their first fight, back in December of 2014, took place while the division was still finding its feet. Since then, the cream has considerably risen to the top and the Pole, along with her Brazilian foe, are the two most effective fighters in that weightclass. Whoever wins this could end up dominating the division for a long, long time.

Jedrzejczyk hasn't met an opponent yet who has been able to deal in any real way with the striking. If Gadelha can't take her opponent down and keep her there, it's going to be a long night for her.

Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk by KO, Round Three.


Ross Pearson (19-10) vs Will Brooks (18-1) - The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, July 8th

Fight fans who consume a diet of just the UFC might not have heard of Will Brooks but the former Bellator lightweight champion, who makes his debut this weekend against the always tough Brit Ross Pearson, is one of the top prospects in the lightweight division.

Brooks boasts on his record two victories over Michael Chandler who, like Brooks himself, could be considered one of the best fighters outside of the UFC but for all his exploits outside of the Octagon, there is always the idea that you're never really anyone in this sport until you do it in the UFC and Will Brooks will be looking to make that statement against Pearson this weekend.

Prediction: Will Brooks via Unanimous Decision


Sage Northcutt (7-1) vs Enrique Marín (8-3) - UFC 200, July 9th

For someone who is perhaps the most polite person you will ever come across in your life, Sage Northcutt generates a LOT of heat. The 20-year-old was plucked from obscurity by Dana White and annointed with the tag of potential superstar by the Zuffa brass - until Bryan Barbarena's submission victory derailed his momentum in his last bout.

Whatever your feelings are towards Northcutt, it's impossible to deny that he's an interesting fighter to watch even if he never quite becomes the shining light that Dana White and co. clearly want him to be.

This time around Northcutt will stare across the cage against Spaniard Enrique Marín, a fighter with his own impressive resumé of submission finishes but this is a test that Sage should pass with flying colours.


Prediction: Sage will have too much for Marín and he will overwhelm him early. First round TKO.

T.J. Dillashaw (12-3) vs Raphael Assuncao (23-4) - UFC 200, July 9th

For a while there it was beginning to look like T.J. Dillashaw was going to estabish himself as the man to beat in the UFC's bantamweight division. That was until Dominick Cruz returned from one of his many injuries to reclaim his belt. Dillashaw looked a step behind Cruz throughout their title fight and if he is to work his way back into contention, then he will have to get a victory over another man who has had a troubled past with injuries, Raphael Assuncao.

Outside of Cruz, Assunsao is the only fighter to have beaten Dillashaw in the last five years but the Brazilian hasn't competed in the cage since October 2014 so questions of 'ring rust' will be bandied about (except by Dom Cruz, of course).

Dillashaw has some interesting money fights in his future with former Team Alpha Male training partners Urijah Faber and Cody Garbrandt and it's hard to see Assuncao getting in the way of these at this point in their respective careers.

Prediction: T.J. Dillashaw by Unanimous Decision

Cain Velasquez (13-2) vs Travis Browne (18-3) - UFC 200, July 9th

Cain Velasquez is in danger of becoming the 'nearly man' in the UFC's heavyweight division. He is a supremely talented heavyweight but, time and again, his body has demonstrated that it is not capable of holding up to the rigours of being a professional fighter. When he's fit (and at sea level) he's almost impossible to stop: a heady combination of wrestling, aggressive striking and relentless pace. It's proved to be too much for almost everyone he's faced.

Travis Browne has, for a long time, flirted with the top 5 of the UFC heavyweight division but has never seemed capable of making the step-up from prospect to contender. He's 2-2 in has last two bouts, dropping losses to Fabricio Werdum and Andrei Arlovski, and it's very difficult to see how he beats a healthy Cain Velasquez.

Prediction: Velasquez by TKO, Round One.


Jose Aldo (25-2) vs Frankie Edgar (20-4) - UFC 200, July 9th

With Jon Jones now removed from the card, this is the real main event of UFC 200. Aldo and Edgar have found themselves as supporting players in the Conor McGregor show over the last twelve months but, at some point early on Sunday morning, the future of the UFC's featherweight division will look a bit clearer.

The winner will bring with them some much needed clarity to a division that has been in disarray since McGregor has decided to pursue fights at lightweight and welterweight. The winner of this fight will be the clear and only true contender to McGregor's title when/if he returns to featherweight.

These two have fought before during Aldo's title reign and it was the Brazilian who got the best of things last time. On Saturday, however, it seems like the momentum is behind Edgar and he will look to underline exactly why he is the true number one contender for Conor McGregor's featherweight strap.

Prediction: Next to McGregor and possibly Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar has been the standout featherweight in the division for some time. Expect him to hand Jose Aldo his second successive loss, this time by Split Decision.

Miesha Tate (c) (18-5) vs Amanda Nunes (12-4) - UFC 200, July 9th

There has been something of a power vaccum in the women's bantamweight division since the belt was last wrapped around the waist of Ronda Rousey. Both Holly Holm and, now, Miesha Tate have held the title since Rousey was knocked unconscious by Holm in Australia last November and it's getting difficult to escape the notion that this title may well move around a couple of more times before Rousey re-enters the game.

Tate is a dogged competitor. Owner of a savvy submission game, it's her ability to withstand ferecious assaults which separate her from most of her peers. Her come-from-behind submission of then champion Holly Holm proved that she is dangerous no matter what round it is or how many points she is down on the scorecards.

If Tate is to win against challenger Amanda Nunes, you can be sure she will face some adversity doing so. Nunes is a fierce muay thai practioner and clearly Tate's superior on the feet. Tate will have to survive an early onslaught to keep in this one, as the longer it goes the more chance she has of winning.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes by TKO, Round Three.


Brock Lesnar (5-3) vs Mark Hunt (12-10) - UFC 200, July 9th

And, just like that, we have a new main event. Jon Jones continuing inability to be a dependable asset for the UFC has led to the Lesnar v Hunt match, which was originally booked as padding to the card to compensate for the loss of McGregor, being moved up to the summit of the event.

While we don't know this for sure at the time of writing as both camps will have to agree to it, it is likely that it will now be contested over five rounds instead of the three rounds it was originally scheduled for - and this should give Mark Hunt a greater chance of winning.

While Hunt is deservedly the favourite, Brock's best chance of winning is to come out in the first two rounds, secure takedowns and win the rounds with his abrasive top pressure game. Two extra rounds makes it much harder for Lesnar to implement this gameplan without exhausting himself and, as Hunt has show against exhausted opponents like Ben Rothwell and Chris Tuchsherer in the past, when a fight comes down to two tired men swinging at each other he has a natural advantage.

It says something about the UFC's event cancellations this year that we're on the eve of their biggest ever show and its featured attraction will be between a pro wrestler who hasn't fought in nearly six years and a 42-year old Samoan who is the 8th ranked heavyweight in the world.

While there is most certainly a 'freakshow' element to this fight and as a contest of skill, it is about as far from Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier as you can get, it will still draw some very impressive numbers when the UFC look at their bank account on Monday morning and, as any promoter would tell you, that's the name of the game when it comes to prizefighting.

Prediction: After surving Lesnar's wrath early, Hunt will start to gain momentum and should finish an exhausted Lesnar with strikes in round three or four.

SEE MORE: 'I Don't Get No Buzz Out Of That' - Joe Duffy Talks Relief At Shedding Conor McGregor Tag

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