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UFC Fight Night 64: Gonzaga vs Cro Cop Preview and Betting Odds

By Ryan Frederick for WrestlingObserver.com

5 Storylines Heading Into UFC Fight Night 64

The UFC heads to Poland for the first time as UFC Fight Night: Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop 2 takes place from the Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland, airing on the UFC's Digital Network, UFC Fight Pass. The event takes place on Saturday, with a morning start time for the prelims for domestic residents, and an early afternoon main card start time. Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop headline the event, which will also feature UFC veterans Jimi Manuwa, Jan Blachowicz and Joanne Calderwood. Time for us to take a look at five different storylines as we preview the action forthcoming on Saturday.

1. Will we see a repeat of the first fight between Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop?

The finish of the first fight between Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop is across all of the UFC highlight reels. It is one of the top knockouts in promotion history. In a fight that many expected Cro Cop to win, it was Gonzaga who knocked Cro Cop out cold with a vicious head kick that sent Cro Cop crumbling to the mat in a weird position. That was on April 21, 2007, and here we are almost eight years to the day later, and it feels like the time is right for the two heavyweights to rematch as Cro Cop makes his return to the UFC for a third stint. Both mens' fortunes have been different since then. Gonzaga challenged for the UFC Heavyweight Championship following his win over Cro Cop, but came up short against Randy Couture, and he has gone 8-8 since the 2007 win, and he also is in another UFC stint. Cro Cop has gone 8-6 with 1 no contest in MMA since the first fight against Gonzaga, and he has also gone 7-1 in recent years as he ventured back into the kickboxing circuit. He has lost his last three fights inside the Octagon, all in spectacular fashion in being stopped. Gonzaga has been knocked out in his last two fights. The big question is whose chin will hold up? We are likely to see a knockout in this one, however it will be unlikely that the finish will be similar. But, crazier things have happened in the UFC. Someone is going to sleep.

2. Can Jimi Manuwa get back on track against Jan Blachowicz?

Jimi Manuwa came into the UFC in 2012 on a tear, having won eleven straight fights to start his career. Not only did he just win those fights, he won them in dominant fashion, with all of the wins coming by stoppage (ten knockouts and one submission), and nine of the wins coming in the first round. He then had three straight stoppage wins to start his UFC career, forcing the doctors to stop his first fight against Kyle Kingsbury, and making Cyrille Diabate and Ryan Jimmo succumb to leg injuries in his next two. He then earned his first main event fight when he took on Alexander Gustafsson in March 2014, and it also was the scene of Manuwa's first defeat as Gustafsson finished him in the second round. Manuwa has been out of action since then (in fact, he has been training with Gustafsson of late), and he returns to take on Jan Blachowicz, who will be appearing in the Octagon for the second time. Blachowicz sports an 18-3 record, including a stretch where he has gone 15-1 over his last sixteen fights, and is currently riding a six-fight win streak. He comes in with momentum following a first-round stoppage of Ilir Latifi in October, but it was his first knockout win in over four years. Both men have power in their hands, but the power of Manuwa may be too much for Blachowicz to handle. It will be telling if the 13 months out of action leads to any rust for Manuwa.

3. Will Joanne Calderwood stake her claim for the next title shot at 115 pounds?

This was to be an important event in determining who would be the next challenger for new UFC Women's Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. There were two scheduled strawweight bouts- Claudia Gadelha against Aisling Daly, and Joanne Calderwood against Maryna Moroz. Whoever came out most impressively of the four was likely to earn the next shot, and it would be a statement in front of the new champion, who will be in attendance in her native Poland. However, an injury forced Gadelha off of the card, and Daly was moved to a bout with Randa Markos at UFC 186, leaving the door open for Calderwood and Moroz to earn their shot at challenging for the title. Both women enter the fight undefeated as Calderwood sports a 9-0 record and Moroz is 5-0. Moroz was signed to fight Calderwood as Calderwood was begging for a spot on the card, but finding her an opponent was a tough task. That shows how tough of a fighter Calderwood is, but Moroz isn't backing down, and comes in having won all five of her fights by stoppage. Calderwood is the heavy betting favorite being a -550 favorite as of press time, and she is expected to win, but it will be no easy fight.

4. Who is on the hot seat and needs a win?

With this event being a European show with a lot of newcomers on the card, there aren't as many fighters fighting for their spot on the UFC roster. However, we will point out two that are firmly on the hot seat heading into UFC Fight Night 64. They are Seth Baczynski and Yaotzin Meza. Baczynski is in his second run in the UFC after being a competitor on season eleven of The Ultimate Fighter. He won his first four post-TUF UFC bouts, but he has since lost four of his last five, including two straight. He definitely needs to score a win over Leon Edwards or he will find himself fighting outside of the UFC when he fights next. Meza will be making his fifth appearance inside the Octagon, but he has scored just one win in his four UFC bouts. He is winless in his last two, with his most recent fight being a decision loss to Sergio Pettis in June. Meza will be fighting the debuting Damian Stasiak on short notice, as the fight was just announced on April 1, and he will be moving back up a weight class to 145 pounds after fighting his last three fights at 135 pounds. A third-straight defeat will almost assuredly result in his release from the UFC roster of fighters.

5. Who on the preliminary card is a fighter to keep an eye on?

There are a lot of unknown and debuting fighters competing on the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 64. There is another women's strawweight bout between Izabela Badurek and Aleksandra Albu, two women who will get more attention for their looks than for their ability in their UFC debuts. Brazilian Sergio Moraes competes for the first time since August 2013, looking for his third straight win, and he has gone through a series of opponent changes resulting in a fight against debuting Mikael Lebout, Moraes' third different opponent. However, I will be keeping my eye on Leon Edwards, who will be taking on Seth Baczynski in the featured preliminary bout. Edwards lost a close split decision to Claudio Silva in his UFC debut in November, but he had won eight of his nine professional bouts prior to that loss, and had earned five straight stoppage wins prior to signing with the UFC. Edwards has a lot of power and is facing an opponent, in Baczynski, who has been knocked out in two of his last four fights. Expect fireworks coming from the hands of Edwards.

Full UFC Fight Night 64 card, betting odds and predictions:

MAIN CARD (UFC Fight Pass- 3 PM ET/12 PM PT):

Heavyweights: Gabriel Gonzaga (16-9, 11-8 UFC) vs. Mirko Cro Cop (30-11-2 1NC, 4-6 UFC)

Betting Odds: Gonzaga (-170), Cro Cop (+150)

Prediction: Gonzaga by knockout in round 2

Light Heavyweights: Jimi Manuwa (14-1, 3-1 UFC) vs. Jan Blachowicz (18-3, 1-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Manuwa (-155), Blachowicz (+135)

Prediction: Manuwa by knockout in round 2

Welterweights: Pawel Pawlak (10-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Sheldon Westcott (8-2-1, 0-1 UFC)

Betting Odds: Pawlak (+165), Westcott (-190)

Prediction: Westcott by decision

Women's Strawweights: Joanne Calderwood (9-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. Maryna Moroz (5-0, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Calderwood (-550), Moroz (+425)

Prediction: Calderwood by decision

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass- 11:45 AM ET/8:45 AM PT):

Welterweights: Seth Baczynski (19-12, 5-5 UFC) vs. Leon Edwards (8-2, 0-1 UFC)

Betting Odds: Baczynski (-110), Edwards (-110)

Prediction: Edwards by knockout in round 1

Middleweights: Bartosz Fabinski (11-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Garreth McLellan (12-2, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Fabinski (-125), McLellan (+105)

Prediction: McLellan by submission in round 3

Welterweights: Sergio Moraes (8-2, 2-1 UFC) vs. Mikael Lebout (13-3-1, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Moraes (-370), Lebout (+310)

Prediction: Moraes by submission in round 1

Featherweights: Damian Stasiak (8-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Yaotzin Meza (20-9 1NC, 1-2 1NC UFC)

Betting Odds: Stasiak (-130), Meza (+110)

Prediction: Stasiak by submission in round 3

Heavyweights: Daniel Omielanczuk (16-4-1, 1-1 UFC) vs. Anthony Hamilton (13-4, 1-2 UFC)

Betting Odds: Omielanczuk (-165), Hamilton (+145)

Prediction: Omielanczuk by knockout in round 1

Women's Strawweights: Izabela Badurek (5-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Aleksandra Albu (1-0, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Badurek (+155), Albu (-175)

Prediction: Albu by decision

Lightweights: Marcin Bandel (13-3, 0-1 UFC) vs. Steven Ray (16-5, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Bandel (+150), Ray (-170)

Prediction: Bandel by decision

Featherweights: Taylor Lapilus (8-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Rocky Lee (3-0, 0-0 UFC)

Betting Odds: Lapilus (-210), Lee (+175)

Prediction: Lapilus by decision