After weeks without any UFC action the octagon will make an appearance tomorrow night in Rio de Janeiro, for UFC 224. The main event will feature Brazilian native, and current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Her opponent will be former TUF contestant, and number 2-ranked women’s bantamweight in the world Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. The co-main event will feature two top ranked middleweights both in title contention. Number 2 ranked middleweight Jacare Souza has his hands full as he gets set to take on number 5 ranked Kelvin Gastelum. Two MMA legends will also be fighting in the UFC for the very last time tomorrow night. Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort will take on Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. Now it’s time for my official predictions.
Amanda Nunes vs Raquel “Rocky” Pennington: it’s no secret that the women bantamweight division isn’t the deepest in terms of title contenders. It’s clear that Raquel Pennington deserves the next title shot, as she has climbed through the rankings. The Champion Amanda Nunes will be living out every Brazilian fighters dream, and main event a paper view in Rio de Janeiro. Amanda Nunes is one of the most skilled female mixed martial artists in the world today. Raquel Pennington is also very well rounded, so this could make for an interesting fight. The Brazilian crowd is always electric and it’s no secret the crowd will play a factor. Either one of these women can get over anxious and try to look for an early knockout. If both women do manage to stay composed I give the advantage to Nunes in just about everywhere inside the octagon. If it’s on the feet Nunes is one of the only bantamweights in the UFC that is capable of shutting the lights out with just one shot. If it goes to the ground Nunes has high-level Jiu Jitsu. Nunes can win this fight in numerous ways. The only way I see Pennington winning this fight is by surviving the early rounds, and hope Nunes tires herself out in the later rounds in order to pick up a win via decision. The way I see this fight going is Nunes winning via 4th round TKO.
Souza vs Gastelum: This is the most interesting fight on the card in my opinion. Standing at 5,9, Gastelum is an undersized middleweight. Despite his size he has some of the heaviest hands in the UFC. We’ve seen him KO top-level middleweights like Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, and Tim Kennedy. The only weakness we saw in him his past couple fights was his susceptibility to the submission. Jacare Souza arguably has the best jiu jitsu game in the UFC. If Souza gets you to the ground and gets a good hold on you, you know you’re in trouble. Souza also has good stand up, but I believe Gastelum’s boxing will be a problem for Souza. Gastleum needs to move his feet and work his jab, to try to keep Souza out of range so he doesn’t get takendown. If Gastelum looks like he did in his past couple performances I see him picking up the win in Rio. My Prediction for this one is Gastelum spoiling Souza’s night in Rio, and winning Via 2nd round TKO.
Belfort vs Machida: Both of these men are legends; both of them deserve to end their careers in their home country of Brazil. Belfort has been in the UFC since 1997. Belfort use to be one of the most intimidating fighters in the UFC but age caught up to him. Machida has been in the UFC since 2007. He was one of the best karate based fighters in the UFC. Both men prefer the fight to stay on the feet. I feel like both men are going to put it all on the line in their final appearance in the octagon. I don’t want to see either of these legends lose. My official prediction one for this one is Vitor Belfort going out on top, winning via Decision
Stephen Caloggero (@steveo_calo)