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UFC 208 Observer Panel Picks: Holly Holm guns for a new belt, Anderson Silva returns

UFC 208

We're in mid-February and UFC finally has its first pay-per-view of the year.

On Saturday at Brooklyn, NY's Barclays Center, former women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie will battle for the inaugural women’s featherweight title with Holm attempting to become the fourth two-division champion in UFC history.

Also on the card, former middleweight champion Anderson Silva will attempt to pick up his first win since 2012 as he faces top 10 contender Derek Brunson while in another middleweight bout, veterans Jacare Souza and Tim Boetsch will square off in an interesting style matchup.

Rounding out the main card is former light heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira going up against prospect Jared Cannonier, and what promises to be a fun lightweight tilt between Jim Miller and Dustin Poirier.

A lot of talk surrounding this card is about how well it will do on PPV. While it’s a fairly deep main card in terms of names, it is a weak main event which usually has more to do with how a show does than the depth.

Here's a look at the complete card, along with our panel picks for the main card fights. Listed alongside the fighter's names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. The picker's 2017 records is in parentheses, and we also have panel consensus picks and the bhow the betting favorites did:

  • David Bixenspan (9-1; .900) -- MMANews.com editor, Sherdog.com contributor, podcast host
  • Dave Meltzer (9-1; .900) -- Wrestling Observer founder
  • Mike Sawyer (8-2; .800) -- Tough Talk MMA
  • Favorites (8-2; .800)
  • Consensus Picks (8-2; .800)
  • Mike Sempervive (8-2; .800) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Steve Juon (7-3; .700) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks founder
  • Ryan Frederick (7-3; .700) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
  • John Pollock (6-4; .600) -- Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Paul Fontaine (5-5; .500) -- MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
  • Josh Nason (4-6; .400) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
  • Front Row Brian (4-6; .400) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host

> Inaugural UFC Women's Featherweight Championship: Holly Holm (12-2) vs. Germaine de Randamie (6-3)

Holm is looking to stop a two-fight losing streak in a weight class many feel is better suited for her. Her opponent’s only UFC loss was to reigning bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and she is better than her record would indicate.

Holm looked underwhelming prior to her title fight against Ronda Rousey, but couldn’t have looked better in knocking out Rousey for the gold. She also dominated Miesha Tate for four-plus rounds before falling prey to a late submission which cost her the title. She clearly lost to Valentina Shevchenko in her last fight, but Shevchenko went on to destroy Julianna Pena so that loss looks better in hindsight.

  • Holm #5 at women’s bantamweight; +113 betting underdog: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Fontaine, Sempervive, FRB, Nason, Meltzer
  • de Randamie #15 at women’s bantamweight; -120 betting favorite: Pollock, Bix

Anderson Silva (33-8) vs. Derek Brunson (16-4)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

Silva is regarded by many as the greatest MMA fighter in history, stemming from his long run as middleweight champion, but his title loss to Chris Weidman kicked off a stretch of five winless fights over a span of several years. 

Brunson is coming off a loss and despite the fading star power of Silva, this is still the biggest fight of his career. Between the two of them, they’ve had 19 stoppages in their 23 wins so this fight could be explosive.

  • Silva #18; +128 betting underdog: Frederick, Pollock, FRB, Nason, Bix, Meltzer
  • Brunson #11; -137 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Fontaine, Sempervive

Jacare Souza (23-4) vs. Tim Boetsch (20-10)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

Souza seemed set for a middleweight title fight before losing a controversial decision at UFC 194 to Yoel Romero. He’s one of the most dangerous submission fighters in any weight class but showed he also has KO power in his last fight when he knocked out Vitor Belfort.

Speaking of power, Boetsch has that in spades with knockout wins in each of his last two fights. That snapped a tough streak in which he’d lost six of his previous eight fights and seemed on the verge of being cut.

Souza still has hopes at a title shot and will need to get past a tough vet here in order to maintain his lofty ranking in the division. Boetsch has never been close to a title shot in his long career and this would be his biggest win should he pull off the upset. 

  • Souza #5; -500 betting favorite: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Fontaine, Sempervive, FRB, Nason, Bix, Meltzer

Glover Teixeira (25-5) vs. Jared Cannonier (9-1)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

This is a very interesting fight. Teixeira is never really mentioned when talking about the elite of the division but should be. He’s had just three losses in the last 12 years and they’ve been to Jon Jones, Rumble Johnson, and Phil Davis -- all top five fighters in the world. His first round KO loss to Johnson snapped a three-fight win streak in which he’d finished all his opponents.

Cannonier is a former heavyweight who made his UFC main card debut in December against Ion Cutelaba. He grinded out a decision there to pick up his second straight win in the fight of the night. This is by far the biggest fight of his young career.

  • Teixeira #6; -189 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Fontaine, Sempervive, FRB, Nason, Bix, Meltzer
  • Cannonier #151; +180 betting underdog: Frederick

Jim Miller (28-8) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5)
LIGHTWEIGHTS

When looking at the depth of this main card, it’s telling that these two are fighting in the opener when both have main evented UFC shows in the past. Miller is one of the longest tenured veterans in UFC and is still very active with four fights alone in 2016. He won the last three in his most impressive run since 2011.

Poirier is a former featherweight who had looked great since moving back to155 before being stopped by Michael Johnson in the first round of his last fight. Poirier holds a win over current interim featherweight champion Max Holloway but if he has his sights set on a title in his new weight class, a win here over Miller is a must.

  • Miller #17; +375 betting underdog: Fontaine, FRB, Nason
  • Poirier #23; -415 betting favorite: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Sempervive, Bix, Meltzer

Rest of the card:

> Belal Muhammad (10-2) vs. Randy Brown (9-1)
WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Muhammad #96; +124 betting underdog; lost two of his last three fights.
  • Brown #111; -132 betting favorite; on a two-fight win streak.

Wilson Reis (21-6) vs. Yuta Sasaki (19-3-2)
FLYWEIGHTS

  • Reis #6; -565 betting favorite; on a two-fight win streak.
  • Sasaki #43; +530 betting underdog; lost two of his last three.

Islam Makhachev (13-1) vs. Nik Lentz (27-7-2)
LIGHTWEIGHTS

  • Makhachev #78; -280 betting favorite; won two of his last three UFC fights.
  • Lentz #38; +263 betting underdog; on a two-fight win streak.

Ian McCall (13-5-1) vs. Jarred Brooks (12-0)
FLYWEIGHTS

  • McCall NR; +118 betting underdog; this is his first fight since January 2015.
  • Brooks #1 at men’s strawweight; -125 betting favorite; making his UFC debut.

Roan Carneiro (21-10) vs. Ryan LaFlare (12-1)
WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Carneiro #28; +257 betting underdog; 2-1 record since returning to the UFC in 2015.
  • LaFlare #38; -280 betting favorite; his only career loss was to Demian Maia.

Phillipe Nover (11-7-1) vs. Rick Glenn (18-4-1)
FEATHERWEIGHTS

  • Nover #75; +280 betting underdog; on a two-fight losing streak.
  • Glenn #137 at lightweight; -175 betting favorite; lost his UFC debut to Evan Dunham.

Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 6:30 p.m. ET and moves over to FS1 for that portion of the prelims at 8 p.m. The main card is on PPV and starts at 10 p.m. Ryan Frederick will be live cageside in Brooklyn covering the show. 

UFC 208 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes