After a weak event back in 2012, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Calgary, Canada with one of the most highly anticipated cards of the year.
UFC president, Dana White, will celebrate his 49th birthday on the same day the company returns to Calgary for the first time since the UFC 149 card. Back in 2012, the pay-per-view event suffered fight cancellations left, right, and centre. White promised to repay the Canadian fans by putting together ‘the baddest birthday card’.
We preview and predict the main card action…
Lightweight – Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier (23-5) vs Eddie ‘The Underground King’ Alvarez (29-5)
Former UFC lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez, rematches Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier in the main event of the evening. The two men first met in the Octagon at UFC 211. After a blistering first round of action, Alvarez hit Poirier with an illegal knee and the fight was ruled a no contest. In hindsight, Poirier believes the knee was intentional as he felt Alvarez was on his way to lose the fight. Finally, they will settle the score.
Since then, Alvarez defeated Justin Gaethje at UFC 218 in a fight of the year candidate. ‘The Underground King’ ate some huge shots and proved just how tough he is during the three-round war. Victory over Poirier would position him well for a title shot.
On the other hand, ‘The Diamond’ would almost guarantee a crack at the belt if he can defeat the former champion. Since the no contest, Poirier finished both Gaethje and ex-champion Anthony Pettis. Adding another former champion to his record would give the UFC no choice but to hand him a title shot.
It promises to be another exciting battle between two of the best lightweights on the planet. Poirier displayed his power in the first fight but was too recklessly searching for the finish and got caught himself. Should he stun Alvarez again, he needs to remain composed and pick his moments. This one is an incredibly hard fight to predict but I’m backing Poirier to continue his form.
PREDICTION: Poirier via third-round knockout.
Featherweight – Jose Aldo (26-4) vs Jeremy ‘Lil’ Heathen’ Stephens (28-14)
For the first time since 2009, Jose Aldo Jr will not be competing in a title fight in the UFC. His bout against Jeremy Stephens in the co-main event of the evening snaps a streak of 14 straight title fights. The former champion was finished twice by reigning champion Max Holloway in his last two bouts and will need to produce something special to be granted another shot anytime soon.
While Aldo has struggled, Stephens have been on a tear in the 145lb division. ‘Lil’ Heathen’ is riding a three-fight win streak including impressive finishes of Doo Ho Choi and Josh Emmett. A win over the ex-champ would no doubt position Stephens for a title shot; he will most likely face the winner of Holloway and Brian Ortega’s eventual meeting.
Aldo will have a lot of questions to answer, especially Stephens’ power during the early exchanges. If he can weather the storm and dictate the tempo of the fight, he could have a lot of success by making it a technical battle. The longer the fight goes, the more it favours the Brazilian. I’m backing Aldo to return to winning ways by securing a decision victory.
PREDICTION: Aldo via unanimous decision
REST OF THE MAIN CARD
Women Strawweight – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2) vs Tecia ‘The Tiny Tornado’ Torres (10-2)
A three-round fight will be unfamiliar territory for Joanna Jedrzejczyk who won’t be competing in a title fight for the first time since 2014. The Pole lost her belt to Rose Namajunas at UFC 217 after being knocked out in the first round and lost the subsequent rematch via unanimous decision. She was expected to clean out the division before losing the belt and move up to flyweight. Instead, she stays at strawweight in an attempt to recapture the belt.
She faces Tecia Torres who lost a unanimous decision against Jessica Andrade which snapped a three-fight win streak. ‘The Tiny Tornado’ holds a win over the current champion but victory over Jedrzejczyk would be her biggest victory yet. However, the odds are stacked against her.
Torres’ small frame could prove to be her downfall – Jedrzejczyk showed what she could do against a smaller frame fighter like Andrade; picking her apart with excellent Muay Thai. Torres has finished just one of her professional wins so doesn’t have the assets to put the Pole away. It should be a routine decision victory for the ex-title holder.
PREDICTION: Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision
Lightweight – Alexander ‘The Great’ Hernandez (9-1) vs Olivier ‘The Quebec Kid’ Aubin-Mercier (11-2)
Kicking off the main card action is a lightweight tilt between Alexander Hernandez and Canada’s own Olivier Aubin-Mercier. ‘The Quebec Kid’ finally seems to be putting it all together after stringing together four straight wins at 155lbs. His last fight was against Evan Dunham at UFC 223 where he win via first-round KO.
On the other hand, Hernandez remains an unknown quantity in the UFC. Drafted in as a last-minute replacement at UFC 222, he knocked out the tough Beneil Dariush in just 42 seconds to earn him a spot in the lightweight rankings. The Texan hasn’t fought since but has shown enough talent to make him a real prospect at lightweight.
It’s hard to pick against the hometown boy in this one.
PREDICTION: Aubin-Mercier via unanimous decision
What are your predictions for UFC Calgary?