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UFC 25th anniversary show: Predictions and memories

Get out your party hats and Royce Gracie t-shirts as it's the UFC 25th anniversary show, live from Denver featuring....not Gracie and probably not any of the original combatants on that fateful night so many years ago.

Let's face it: star-wise, this show isn't much of a celebration. Even with Frankie Edgar out with an injury, this is more of a "Well, there's a few good fights" show than anything else. 

Helping me discuss some of the questions about the event, in addition to a few historical ones, are our friends Ryan Frederick and Paul Fontaine.

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Full Card (FS1 and UFC Fight Pass)

  • Chan Sung Jung (aka The Korean Zombie) vs. Yair Rodriguez
  • Donale Cerrone vs. Mike Perry
  • Raquel Pennington vs. Germaine de Randamie
  • Beneil Dariush vs. Thiago Moises
  • Maycee Barber vs. Hannah Cifers
  • Mike Triziano vs. Luis Pena
  • Ashley Yoder vs. Amanda Cooper
  • Chas Skelly vs. Bobby Moffett
  • Davi Ramos vs. John Gunther
  • Devonte Smith vs. Julian Erosa
  • Joseph Morales vs. Eric Shelton
  • Mark de la Rosa vs. Joby Sanchez

What are you most looking forward to?

Ryan: The top two fights on the card. Zombie against Rodriguez (both out more than a year) is really a perfect return matchup for both and makes more sense than Frankie Edgar for Jung. As for Cerrone vs. Perry, that has fireworks written all over it. It also has the underlying story of Cerrone’s current feud with coach Mike Winklejohn, who will be in the corner of Perry, so there's lot of intrigue in that one as well.

Paul: I’ll go with the three women’s fights on the card as all three feature fighters at very different stages of their careers and could represent the past, present, and future of women’s MMA. You have a former title challengers in Pennington and a former champion in de Randamie on the main card, two highly touted prospects in strawweights Barber and Cifers, and two journeywomen who could be fighting for their UFC lives in Yoder and Cooper.

Josh: Same as Ryan, it's the main event and the co-main event. I don't think the results of either will make a huge difference going forward, but with a Cerrone loss, that would be five out of his last six which isn't good.

Anything being slept on?

Paul: Chas Skelly vs Bobby Moffett. Moffett really impressed on the Dana White Contender Series and Skelly is a post-fight bonus machine. This fight has action written all over it and could steal the show.

Ryan: I don’t know that it’s being slept on since she’s getting a lot of hype from the MMA media, but be sure to pay attention to the UFC debut of Barber. She has serious star potential, is just 20, and there are some serious expectations that she could be a future UFC champion. We should slow down that talk for now because she is way young and way early in her career. The potential is there though, and she should impress.

Josh: Not really. This is one where pretty much everything feels right in terms of importance and the push, so to speak.

Anything not doing it for you?

Josh: From a more macro view, this whole show is disappointing considering what it's supposed to represent. I'm a big fan of celebrations of milestones and achievements, so I hope the presentation at least tips its hat a bit more toward the fact UFC has been around for 25 years. The names on this show, however, make this feel like more of an afterthought than well-thought out presentation. I understand MSG was last weekend, but did they have to do an event every single weekend from here through the end of the year to lessen the pool they could use?

Ryan: Pennington vs. de Randamie as I think it will be the most boring fight on the card as the styles both have don’t mesh well together. The fact that both are coming off loads of injuries with de Randamie being out of action for 21 months will have a lot of impact on how they perform. It’s far from the best fight on the card.

Paul: The two flyweight fights on the Fight Pass portion are completely pointless since that division will cease to exist shortly. They might as well move up to bantamweight now and try to establish themselves in that division.

Where's the intrigue?

Ryan: The top two fights as they both could be late entries into the fight of the year race, and there’s intrigue in prospects like Barber, Devonte Smith, and Luis Pena. It certainly represents a lot of present and future aspects of the UFC, fitting for the 25th anniversary event.

Paul: All of the fighters that are making their UFC debuts like everyone Ryan mentioned as well as Thiago Moises. You’ve also got “Juicy J” Julian Erosa getting a second chance after an impressive run years ago on TUF. John Gunther and Davi Ramos looked very impressive when they debuted in UFC and hope to keep the momentum going with a strong performance.

Josh: The co-main event and whether it will be as entertaining as everyone hopes it will be. It's fun that they make these "fan service" fights, but sometimes they don't turn out as good as we'd expect. I hope this is an exception.

What will be people talking about most after the show is done?

Paul: It will be talk of Cerrone re-emerging as a possible title contender after he scores a minor upset and beats Perry. Cerrone probably takes the mantle formerly held by Michael Bisping as best to never hold a title and it won’t take much momentum for UFC to work him into a title shot.

Ryan: It will be talk of a title eliminator fight for the Korean Zombie, how much fun the Cerrone against Perry bout was, and the intrigue of what is to come for Barber, Pena, and Smith.

Josh: That the young kids made a good accounting for themselves up and down the show, and that people will be disappointed there wasn't more of a 25th anniversary feel to the show.

What’s been your favorite fight of the first 25 years of the UFC?

Ryan: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald 2. It had everything you want in a classic fight, and it happened to be on a major event. That one really stands out to me.

Paul: Michael Bisping knocking out Luke Rockhold to win the middleweight title. It wasn’t the “best” fight but it was certainly my favorite moment in all my years of being a UFC fan.

Josh: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson. We were all groaning at the build for that show, but that fight was just so great, so close, and so gripping. There's a reason many say it's the best fight in UFC history, which is arguable, but it's my favorite. I am every excited for the second one at the end of the year, assuming we don't get a damn injury or something.

What’s been your favorite memory of the first 25 years of the UFC?

Paul: Being in the crowd when Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. I was sitting at the very top row of the arena and wasn’t even sure if I’d seen what I’d just seen. Then, it was a mixture of joy and sadness sweeping over the entire crowd. The person I was next to and I just started jumping up and down and hugging and in the next section, while there were people who I assume were Brazilian with their heads in their hands and literally weeping.

An honorable mention would be walking through the MGM Arena after Conor McGregor knocked out Chad Mendes and taking over an hour to get through the arena and casino with the Irish fans singing constantly and drinking non-stop.

Ryan: It has been the rise of Conor McGregor. We haven’t seen a fighter in this sport transcend it the way he has, both in good and bad ways. But it always feels fun when he is around, and I hope he sticks around for a while because he makes this wild and crazy sport just a little more wild and crazy.

Josh: A few come to mind. The rise of the UFC in the first few years of the post-TUF era were something we'll likely never see again, but were so awesome to go through. To have friends and friends of friends interested in the sport and intrigued by this "new" thing was such a great feeling. I will never forget being at a party with 10 or so law school kids (my friend was at school, not I!) watching the TUF finale with Rich Franklin vs. Ken Shamrock as a headliner. It was such a mix of men and women and everyone was intrigued.

Another would be sitting with my friend Sully at a bar and watching the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen fight and the gut punch feeling when Sonnen lost. At the same bar, he and I watched the Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua classic. Now, he doesn't watch anymore which is indicative of how the content era just drove so many people away. 

Finally, I'd say some of the events I've covered and the people I've met. From my first show in Charlotte (Kenny Florian vs. the debuting Takanori Gomi!) to the first UFC event in Boston (Randy Couture vs. James Toney!) to the debut of FS1 to even Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou this year, it's been a fun ride and I'm looking forward to more in the years ahead. Maybe I'll even get out to Vegas one of these years...

Who wins?

Zombie vs. Rodriguez

Zombie: Ryan, Paul
Rodriguez: Josh

Cerrone vs. Perry

Perry: Josh
Cerrone: Ryan, Paul

Raquel Pennington vs. Germaine de Randamie

Pennington: Josh, Paul
de Randamie: Ryan