The UFC kicks off 2016 on Saturday night for their traditional New Year's event from Las Vegas, Nevada with UFC 195, headlined by the UFC Welterweight Championship being defended when Robbie Lawler defends against Carlos Condit. The action kicks off with preliminary card bouts on UFC Fight Pass before moving over to FOX Sports 1 for more preliminary card fights leading into the main card on pay-per-view. The action will kick off on Saturday at 6:30 PM eastern time, and we will have coverage for you here on F4WOnline.com. Also on the card is a pivotal bout in the heavyweight division as Stipe Miocic takes on Andrei Arlovski. Let's take a deeper look into the night's card and present you five storylines to keep your eye on during UFC 195 on Saturday night.
1. Welterweight gold on the line in the main event
The first UFC event of 2016 is headlined by a title fight that could be an early contender for "Fight Of The Year" as the UFC Welterweight Championship is on the line. Robbie Lawler comes off his first title defense in 2015's "Fight Of The Year" against Rory MacDonald and gets another big challenge in the form of Carlos Condit, a former Interim UFC Welterweight Champion. This fight is a much anticipated one for hardcore fans as Lawler and Condit are two of the most exciting 170-pound fighters on the planet, which is a big reason why the fight was put together. Condit is just 2-3 in his last five fights and missed 14 months of action due to a serious knee injury, but it looked like he hadn't missed a step with a dominant win over Thiago Alves in May. It helped him leapfrog fellow contenders such as Tyron Woodley and Johny Hendricks, but the styles clash between Lawler and Condit is just too interesting to pass up. That could breed a war for the ages for the first main event of 2016.
Lawler is coming off of that war with MacDonald in July and has been in quite a few wars over the last few years. His comeback story is one for the ages- written off coming back from Strikeforce, he has gone 7-1 since then to become champion and has been involved in the last two "Fight Of The Year" winners. He has had a lot of mileage put on him since the beginning of 2014, and it will be interesting to see if that has caught up to him. Condit will come in with a masterful gameplan with coaching from Greg Jackson. Both men, at times, start slow, but both have the conditioning to go a full 25 minutes. Condit may be more technical on the feet, but Lawler has more power in his hands. Both men can end a fight at any moment with their striking, and both men are equally as tough to finish. Condit has a better ground game.
Needless to say, this has the makings of a war. On a card not big on star power, especially after the bonanza of fight cards in December, this is a fight fan's dream battle in a month of more solid UFC action. It should be a battle for the ages, and the man who walks out of the Octagon with the gold around his waist at the end of Saturday night will have gone through hell to get it, but will be a deserving champion.
2. A heavyweight title shot hangs in the balance
The co-main event bout is a battle in the heavyweight division that could determine the next man in line to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Current champion Fabricio Werdum defends against former champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 196 next month, but first, Stipe Miocic and Andrei Arlovski will step inside the Octagon and do battle. Miocic is coming off of one of the most dominant performances in UFC heavyweight history in his fifth-round TKO win over Mark Hunt in May. He set the record for most strikes landed in a UFC bout, landing 361 total strikes over the course of nearly 23 minutes. Miocic has won four of his last five fights, with the lone loss being a close bout against Junior Dos Santos that was an all-out war. Miocic is ranked third in the division rankings, and a win has him primed to finally score that title shot.
A title shot is something that many wouldn't have expected Arlovski to ever receive again. But, here he is, on the verge of earning one following wins in six straight fights, including four straight since returning to the UFC. He may have earned one had his win over Frank Mir at UFC 191 in September been more impressive, but that performance set him back just a bit and put him in a title eliminator position. Arlovski has held UFC gold before, and his comeback story is proof you can never count a fighter out in this sport. Training under Greg Jackson has done wonders for him, and Jackson could be leading him towards gold. He has a tough opponent ahead of him in Miocic, and both men are heavy-handed strikers. Arlovski's chin has held up after taking several beatings years ago, but Miocic lands with a lot of power and volume. This is going to be one tough test for both men, and the winner deserves a title shot.
3. Young, exciting fighters highlight the main card
Two potential barnburners highlight the main card on pay-per-view featuring some exciting prospects. In a welterweight bout, dynamic strikers Albert Tumenov and Lorenz Larkin will square off. Tumenov has won four straight bouts, and he looks like a big threat at 170 pounds after a dominant first-round knockout win over Alan Jouban at UFC 192 in October. Ten of Tumenov's last eleven wins have come by knockout, and he boasts serious power. Larkin also boasts serious power, and his striking is more flashy and comes from every angle. He has won two straight since moving to welterweight, both by knockout, and both earning him post-fight bonus awards. The move down is what Larkin needed after three straight losses, and he seems comfortable at 170 pounds. This fight is one that could send the winner into the top 15 rankings at 170 pounds.
In a featherweight bout, former TUF winner Diego Brandao will be looking for his third straight win as he looks to end the perfect record held by fast-rising prospect Brian Ortega. Ortega is undefeated in ten career bouts, though he has a blemish on his mark with a win overturned due to a drug test failure. He is coming off a third-round knockout win over Thiago Tavares in June in one of the best fights of 2015, and at 24-years-old, he has a bright future ahead of him. He hasn't had an easy road in recent UFC bouts with his second straight tough veteran fighter, and Brandao is out to prove he is no stepping stone. He has two straight first-round wins, but he has seemed to always falter when he has the spotlight on him. He does again with a main card bout, and Ortega will be out to prove that he is ready to be solidified as a title contender.
4. A big lightweight bout on Fight Pass
2016 looks like there will be a lot of emphasis on UFC Fight Pass with some big fights already planned for the digital network. It won't just be main events for exclusive events, but also big preliminary bouts being positioned on the network. That starts on Saturday with a lightweight title between Dustin Poirier and Joseph Duffy taking place on UFC Fight Pass. They were originally scheduled to headline the event in Dublin in October that aired on Fight Pass, but the fight was cancelled the week of the event as doctors wouldn't allow Duffy to fight after he had suffered a concussion one week prior to the event. Several fighters campaigned to fight Poirier on short notice, but he was pulled from the October event so the fight with Duffy could be rescheduled. They get their chance to throw down on Saturday night.
Poirier and Duffy are both exciting fighters with a lot of potential. Poirier has adjusted well in moving up to the lightweight division as he doesn't have the drastic weight cut, and his power has seemingly gotten better with the move up. Duffy has proven capable of finishing opponents in his two UFC bouts, but this is a giant step up in competition. Known as the last man to defeat Conor McGregor, Duffy is looking to carve himself a name as a threat at 155 pounds. He is a big favorite over Poirier, and that is very surprising considering Poirier has fought much tougher competition in his career. Poirier is another fighter who has faltered in the spotlight, and he has to prove that is in the past from competing at 145 pounds. These men can make a statement about the card very early on in the evening, and fans tuning in on Fight Pass not just for UFC 195, but for future events, are in store for a treat.
5. Mayday back in the bantamweight fold
After being out of action for just over two years, former bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald will be making his return to action in the featured preliminary bout on Saturday night. McDonald has been nursing hand injuries throughout his entire career, and hand and wrist surgeries cost him the last two years. He was last seen in December 2013 being submitted by Urijah Faber, one of only two losses in the UFC, the other coming to Renan Barao in a title fight in February 2013. McDonald is still just shy of his 25th birthday, and with him returning along with Dominick Cruz, the bantamweight division is getting a much needed input of exciting fighters.
McDonald will be taking on Masanori Kanehara, who is 1-1 in UFC competition. Kanehara is coming off a tough split decision loss to Rani Yahya in July. This is a perfect bounce back fight for McDonald, who is an exciting knockout artist with good well-rounded skills. The long layoff has cost McDonald in the rankings as he has dropped to eighth following the rise of such prospects as Thomas Almeida and Aljamain Sterling. Even though he has already fought once for the title, McDonald is still very young and his name should be propped in with those two as young fighters to keep an eye on in the future. With his injury issues hopefully behind him, he is primed to make a run and remind fans why he is a much hyped fighter at 135 pounds.
Full UFC 195 Fight Card, Betting Odds and Predictions
MAIN CARD (PPV- 10 PM ET/7 PM PT)
UFC Welterweight Championship: (C) Robbie Lawler vs. (#4) Carlos Condit
Betting Odds: Lawler (-110), Condit (-110)
Prediction: Condit by decision
Heavyweights: (#3) Stipe Miocic vs. (#2) Andrei Arlovski
Betting Odds: Miocic (-230), Arlovski (+190)
Prediction: Miocic by knockout in round 2
Welterweights: Albert Tumenov vs. Lorenz Larkin
Betting Odds: Tumenov (-240), Larkin (+200)
Prediction: Tumenov by decision
Featherweights: Diego Brandao vs. Brian Ortega
Betting Odds: Brandao (+190), Ortega (-230)
Prediction: Ortega by knockout in round 1
Lightweights: Abel Trujillo vs. Tony Sims
Betting Odds: Trujillo (+105), Sims (-125)
Prediction: Trujillo by knockout in round 3
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX SPORTS 1- 8 PM ET/5 PM PT)
Bantamweights: (#8) Michael McDonald vs. Masanori Kanehara
Betting Odds: McDonald (-550), Kanehara (+425)
Prediction: McDonald by submission in round 1
Welterweights: Kyle Noke vs. Alex Morono
Betting Odds: Noke (-300), Morono (+250)
Prediction: Noke by knockout in round 1
Women's Strawweights: Justine Kish vs. Nina Ansaroff
Betting Odds: Kish (-265), Ansaroff (+225)
Prediction: Kish by decision
Lightweights: Drew Dober vs. Scott Holtzman
Betting Odds: Dober (+140), Holtzman (-160)
Prediction: Holtzman by submission in round 2
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT)
Lightweights: (#12) Dustin Poirier vs. Joseph Duffy
Betting Odds: Poirier (+165), Duffy (-190)
Prediction: Poirier by knockout in round 2
Bantamweights: Joe Soto vs. Michinori Tanaka
Betting Odds: Soto (-110), Tanaka (-110)
Prediction: Soto by decision
Welterweights: Sheldon Westcott vs. Edgar Garcia
Betting Odds: Westcott (-160), Garcia (+140)
Prediction: Westcott by decision