UFC returns to "big" Fox tonight featuring a champion trying to make history.
In the Octagon's debut in Kansas City, MO, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will attempt to match Anderson Silva’s UFC record of 10 straight title defenses as he puts his title up against Wilson Reis. While this is Reis’ ninth fight in the UFC, it’s the first time the Brazilian will have ever fought on a main card.
In the co-main event, former title challenger Rose Namajunas takes on the former Invicta atomweight champion Michelle "Karate Hottie" Waterson while we also get a key middleweight tilt with overdue title challenger Jacare Souza vs. rising start Robert Whittaker, who comes in on a six-fight win streak.
For our other panel picks, we’re looking at a couple key prelim fights that will also air on Fox instead of FS1. Popular heavyweight Roy Nelson will attempt to hand former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov his first UFC loss as they square off, and in what could be a show-stealer, flyweights Tim Elliott and Louis Smolka go to battle. Elliott was last seen taking Johnson to the limit after he won his season of TUF.
If you're new here, our panel picks are listed below and listed alongside the fighter's names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. The panelist's 2017 records is in parentheses, and we also have panel consensus picks in addition to how the betting favorites did:
- Dave Meltzer (19-9; .679) -- Wrestling Observer publisher
- Consensus Picks (19-9; .679)
- Favorites (19-9; .679)
- John Pollock (19-9; .679) -- Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
- Mike Sawyer (19-9; .679) -- Tough Talk MMA publisher
- David Bixenspan (18-10; .643) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
- Steve Juon (18-10; .643) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
- Mike Sempervive (17-11; .607) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
- Ryan Frederick (16-12; .571) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
- Josh Nason (15-13; .536) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
- Paul Fontaine (13-15; .464) -- MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer
- Front Row Brian (13-15; .464) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
We are still waiting on picks from Dave Meltzer.
> UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) vs Wilson Reis (22-6)
Johnson is the first and only flyweight champion in UFC history and he’s run through all the top contenders, some more than once. Reis, on a relatively modest three-fight win streak over the lower end of the division, is the latest to try and topple him from his throne.
Johnson already seems to be looking past this fight as he’s made some overtures toward challenging UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt which honestly might be the best challenge for Johnson at this point. His last loss was to former 135-pound champ Dominick Cruz and he’s not only won 11 straight fights, but he’s looked completely dominant in doing so.
Johnson is the biggest favorite on the card and there’s not much doubt what the outcome will be here, either with the betting public or from our panel.
- Johnson #1; -700 betting favorite: Juon, FRB, Frederick, Sawyer, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Sempervive, Nason, Meltzer
> Rose Namajunas (5-3) vs Michelle Waterson (14-4)
One again, two of the most popular fighters in the 115-pound division get a featured fight on Fox. “Thug” Rose is coming off a tough split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who went on to put up a tough fight against division queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk. If not for one judge’s scorecard, she’d be on a four fight win streak.
Waterson, meanwhile, destroyed Paige VanZant in the biggest and most high profile fight of her career in the main event of a highly rated show on Fox. She’s now 2-0 in UFC and if she gets past Namajunas, she’ll likely earn a title shot.
- Namajunas #7; -122 betting favorite: Sawyer, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer
- Waterson #11; +114 betting underdog: Juon, FRB, Frederick, Bix, Sempervive
> Jacare Souza (22-4) vs Robert Whittaker (17-4)
There is a lot of intrigue in this fight. Souza is the most feared submission expert in the division and if not for a controversial loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 194, he’d be on an 11-fight win streak. Division champion Michael Bisping has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he has no intention of defending against Souza who just re-upped for eight fights with the company Friday.
Whittaker comes in with six straight wins and the New Zealander may be that country’s best hope for a UFC world title as Mark Hunt’s career nears the end. If he should pull off the upset, he may be the next top challenger that Bisping spends time ducking.
Whichever guys comes out of this fight with a win will certainly earn a title shot. Whether he gets it is a completely different story.
- Souza #5; -165 betting favorite: Juon, FRB, Frederick, Sawyer, Pollock, Fontaine, Sempervive, Meltzer
- Whittaker #7; +180 betting underdog: Bix
> Roy Nelson (22-13) vs Alexander Volkov (27-6)
This will be an interesting spectacle. Nelson is the most unlikely of heavyweight contenders with his terrible physique but he’s managed to carve out a successful career in UFC. Volkov looks like he’s built to be a champion but has lost some key fights in his career and did not look good at all in his UFC debut despite squeaking out a win over Timothy Johnson.
Nelson is on a mini career resurgence with two wins in his last three with the lone loss by split decision to rising contender Derrick Lewis. Volkov has won three straight, but two of those fights were in Russia against weaker opponents and his split decision win over Johnson in his UFC debut was generous at best. Prior to this win streak, he’s lost his last two fights in Bellator.
- Nelson #12; +131 betting underdog: Frederick, Sawyer, Fontaine
- Volkov #19; -140 betting favorite: Juon, FRB, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Nason, Meltzer
> Louis Smolka (11-3) vs Tim Elliott (13-7-1)
In that title loss to Johnson, there were moments in the first round where it seemed Elliott could pull off the biggest upset in divison history. He ended up losing a one-sided decision but his stock rose in return to the UFC despite the loss.
At one point, Smolka seemed to be on the verge of a title shot but with two straight losses, he could be fighting for his job here. The Hawaiian is one of the best finishers in the division with three stoppages in his five UFC wins. In a division where the champion has mowed through most of the top contenders, he could be just a couple wins away from that elusive title shot. At just 25 years old, there’s still a lot of time for him to get his career back on track.
- Elliott #10; -235 betting favorite: Juon, Frederick, Sawyer, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Nason, Meltzer
- Smolka #17; +225 betting underdog: FRB, Sempervive
The rest of the card:
> Jeremy Stephens (25-13) vs Renato Carneiro (10-0-1)
- Stephens #7; -167 betting favorite
- Carneiro #48; +160 betting underdog
> Tom Duquesnoy (14-1) vs Patrick Williams (8-1)
- Duquesnoy #19; -700 betting favorite
- Williams NR; +660 betting underdog
> Rashid Magomedov (19-2) vs Bobby Green (23-7)
- Magomedov #29; -330 betting favorite
- Green #61; +300 betting underdog
> Devin Clark (7-1) vs Jake Collier (10-3)
- Clark #66; -137 betting favorite
- Collier #70 at middleweight; +130 betting underdog
> Anthony Smith (26-12) vs Andrew Sanchez (9-2)
- Smith #40; +309 betting underdog
- Sanchez #33; -303 betting favorite
> Aljamain Sterling (12-2) vs Augusto Mendes (6-1)
- Sterling #17; -400 betting favorite
- Mendes #40; +365 betting underdog
> Nathan Coy (15-6) vs Zak Cummings (20-5)
- Coy #76; +420 betting underdog
- Cummings #34; -400 betting favorite
> Ketlen Vieira (7-0) vs Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-1)
- Vieira NR; +185 betting underdog
- Evans-Smith #16; -199 betting favorite
Action begins with the Fight Pass prelims at 4 PM EST and moves over to Fox at 6 PM EST. The main card continues on Fox at 8 PM EST, covered by our Ryan Frederick, who will be live at cageside.
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