Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title in the main event of UFC 224! In the co-main event, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Kelvin Gastelum compete in a battle with title implications. In a catch-weight bout, Brazilian jiu-jitsu star Mckenzie looks to improve to 7-0 in MMA when she faces Amanda Cooper. Plus, John Lineker takes on Brian Kelleher, Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida, and more!
UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington Live stream Online
THE PRELIMINARY CARD:
First four prelims on UFC Fight Pass, rest on Fox Sports 1.
Middleweight Bout: Markus Perez vs. James Bochnovic
Jeffrey Harris: Markus Perez, Decision
Robert Winfree: James Bochnovic, Decision
Welterweight Bout: Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev
Jeffrey Harris: Alberto Mina, Decision
Robert Winfree: Ramazan Emeev, TKO, Round 2
Middleweight Bout: Thales Leites vs. Jack Hermansson
Jeffrey Harris: Thales Leites, Submission, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Jack Hermansson, Decision
Welterweight Bout: Warlley Alves vs. Sultan Aliev
Jeffrey Harris: Warlley Alves, Decision
Robert Winfree: Sultan Aliev, Decision
Welterweight Bout: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Sean Strickland
Jeffrey Harris: Sean Strickland, Decision
Robert Winfree: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Decision
Lightweight Bout: Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein
Jeffrey Harris: Nick Hein, Decision
Robert Winfree: Davi Ramos, Submission, Round 3
Heavyweight Bout: Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Junior Albini
Jeffrey Harris: Olkesiy Oliynyk, Decision
Robert Winfree: Oleksiy Oliynyk, Submission, Round 1
Middleweight Bout: Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson
Jeffrey Harris: Cezar Ferreira, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Cezar Ferreira, TKO, Round 2
THE MAIN CARD:
Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort vs. Lyoto Machida
Jeffrey Harris: Neither guy are at the level they used to be at in the heydays of their career. This doesn’t have the makings of a modern MMA classic. This is more or less a showcase fight for the fans of Rio de Janeiro. Belfort is the hometown guy, and Machida is another legend from Brazil. I’m not expecting fireworks here. However, this is probably the most suitable match-up for both fighters based off their recent wins. Machida barely got by Eryk Anders. Vitor Belfort got a decisive win over Nate Marquardt last June, but it was a decisive win over Nate Marquardt in 2017. I think Machida is going to win. Both guys will probably be fighting in Bellator MMA sooner or later.
Winner: Lyoto Machida, Decision
Robert Winfree: Whoever lands first wins, neither man has much of a chin anymore and this entire fight is just depressing. I’ll go with Machida, I think Belfort tries to fight patiently and that plays into Machida’s game.
Winner: Lyoto Machida, Decision
Bantamweight Bout: John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher
Jeffrey Harris: This is a very good bantamweight match-up, and it has all the makings for a fun contest. I’m favoring John Lineker here. He’s had his issues in the past, but I see his speed and striking game being too much for Brian Kelleher. Eventually, Lineker is going to storm in and overwhelm Kelleher with his strikes. He will win a dominant decision or get the knockout here.
Winner: John Lineker, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Pretty decent bantamweight fight here, but I think Kelleher is out of his depth. Lineker will push a hard pace, cut the cage and force a brawl. Kelleher is a decent striker and opportunistic grappler, but I’m having a hard time seeing him take this one as Lineker is likely just better everywhere.
Winner: John Lineker, TKO, Round 3
Catchweight (123 lbs.) Bout: Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper
Jeffrey Harris: Mackenzie Dern is an incredible grappler and BJJ practitioner. However, she’s now getting way overhyped, and her Octagon debut wasn’t even that impressive. She’s undefeated, but she hasn’t really faced or defeated anyone of consequence. Her opponent was 0-2 in the UFC when they fight, and it was still a split decision. Dern is an incredible grappler, and I see Amanda Cooper giving her trouble in the stand-up department. Dern hasn’t really been tested there yet, and it’s going to be a problem for her going forward. The Mackenzie Dern hype train gets derailed here.
Winner: Amanda Cooper, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: This is designed as a showcase for Dern, but given her depressing lack of wrestling to compliment her world class jiujitsu it could turn into another wall and stall affair. Cooper has better striking, though Dern has been working on that as well, and is something of a live under dog but on the whole I don’t see much of a reason to pick against Dern.
Winner: Mackenzie Dern, Decision
Middleweight Bout: Ronaldo Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Jeffrey Harris: This is a very interesting fight for the middleweight division. Due to the current state of things, Kelvin Gastelum might find himself in a title situation if he were to pick up a win. The same for Jacare, despite him suffering losses to Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. At least the loss to Yoel Romero was in a very close fight with a questionable split decision. Kelvin Gastelum actually has quite a bit of power, good wrestling, and some strong boxing skills. And Jacare is getting up there in age. However, the Derek Brunson fight proves that Jacare still has something left in the tank, and he’s only lost to the top middleweights in the UFC. I’m going with Jacare here, and I see him using his grappling to control the fight and eventually pick up a submission.
Winner: Ronaldo Souza, Submission, Round 1
Robert Winfree: This is a really good fight, and a big one for both guys. Kelvin Gastelum has fast, accurate hands along with good power and solid cardio. Gastelum is a good wrestler but he’d be better served to avoid grappling with a wizard like Souza. Souza has decent hands, he’s clearly worked hard on them, but his bread and butter is still his grappling. I think Gastelum has a troubling habit of allowing his opponents to close distance and get their hands locked together around him. Even in fights he’s won, the Tim Kennedy bout springs to mind, Kennedy secured the clinch for almost the entire first round while Gastelum did little to combat it. If Souza gets his hands around Gastelum, Gastelum is in for a long night, and I tend to think that’s what will happen. Gastelum can certainly win this, he’s a very talented fighter, but he’s got a few habits he’ll have to have addressed in preparation for this fight and I can’t blindly assume he’s done so.
Winner: Ronaldo Souza, Submission, Round 2
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship Bout: Amanda Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington
Jeffrey Harris: I really don’t see any way that Raquel Pennington comes out on top here. I see this being a dominant and one-sided beatdown for Amanda Nunes. Pennington is a decent fighter, but she’s getting this fight after an extremely long layoff. Her last fight was in November 2016. Amanda Nunes dominates Pennington in this fight easily and finishes her.
Winner: Amanda Nunes, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: There is a path to victory here for Pennington, though it isn’t easy. The primary things Pennington has to do are push a high pace, bordering on the absurd, to truly test the cardio of Nunes and fight in the pocket. Pennington does her best work in close proximity, at distance she’s at a disadvantage and in the clinch she’s likely at a disadvantage assuming Nunes doesn’t tire, but the space between those distances is where Pennington has to fight to have success. Nunes is better at distance, is physically strong, and if she gets on top on the mat she can do some serious damage, though if she winds up on bottom things could get interesting. If Pennington can survive the fire from Nunes while pushing a good pace she might tire her out and take over late, but given how narrow that path is I don’t mind picking Nunes to retain.
Winner: Amanda Nunes, TKO, Round 2