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UFC 218 Observer Panel Picks: Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo II

UFC 218

UFC returns tonight for its second show of the weekend with an event that looks exciting on paper but probably won’t be breaking any box office records. Top to bottom, though, it’s one of the best shows of year headlined by a featherweight title rematch where Max Holloway defends the belt against longtime former champ Jose Aldo.

In the co-main, a future heavyweight title contender should emerge as up and coming prospect Francis N’Gannou hopes to extend a five fight UFC winning streak against MMA legend Alistair Overeem, making one last title run in the twilight of his career.

In a fight that promises to steal the show, and both competitors have said as much, TUF 26 coaches Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez will square off in a lightweight bout. In another main card fight with title implications, top flyweight contenders Sergio Pettis and Henry Cejudo meet in attempt to determine another victim for division kingpin Demetrious Johnson.

Rounding out the main card and our panel picks is a strawweight bout between former Invicta atomweight champion Michelle Waterson against Tecia Torres. Both are top contenders to the belt recently won by Rose Namajunas and the winner could be in line for a title opportunity.

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 as well as a line where we show how the betting favorites did:

  • Dave Meltzer (50-25; .667) -- Wrestling Observer publisher
  • John Pollock (50-25; .667) -- Co-host of John and Wai's Reviews
  • Favorites (50-25; .667)
  • Steve Juon (47-28; .627) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
  • Consensus Picks (46-28; .622)
  • Josh Nason (46-29; .613) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
  • Mike Sempervive (46-29; .613) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Mike Sawyer (46-29; .613) -- Tough Talk MMA publisher
  • Tom Lawlor (23-15; .605) – Co-host Filthy Four Daily; pro wrestling undercard fighter; UFC enhancement talent currently suspended due to wellness violation
  • David Bixenspan (45-30; .600) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
  • Ryan Frederick (43-32; .573) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
  • Front Row Brian (40-35; .533) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (38-37; .507) -- MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer

> UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway (18-3) vs Jose Aldo (26-3) II

Holloway KO’d Aldo in the third round of their first fight this past June and was initially scheduled to face Frankie Edgar in his first title defense. But when the former lightweight champion pulled out due to injury, Aldo was chosen to step in as he was training for a fight with Ricardo Lamas.

In a very unique stat, this will be Aldo’s 11th fight in UFC and they have all been title matches. Only Ronda Rousey, with eight title matches and no non-title bouts, is even close. He was getting the better of Holloway early in their first bout but gassed out, allowing the younger challenger back into the fight he eventually won.

Holloway has won 11 straight since losing a decision to current lightweight champion Conor McGregor and he’d love nothing better than a chance to avenge that loss some day in a different weight class. While that is unlikely for now, he’ll have to settle for attempting to defeat a bonafide MMA legend for a second straight time.

  • Holloway #1; -250 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine, Sempervive, Lawlor, Nason, FRB, Bix
  • Aldo #2; +255 betting underdog: Frederick

> Francis N’Gannou (10-1) vs Alistair Overeem (43-15)
HEAVYWEIGHTS

N’Gannou has taken the UFC by storm, winning five straight with five finishes in just over two years. He’s finished nine opponents in a row overall and if he can manage to beat long-time contender Overeem, it's likely he'll get the shot at champion Stipe Miocic.

Aside from a first round KO loss in his first and only UFC title shot, Overeem is on quite a roll himself. Sandwiched around that defeat are six wins, including four by KO. Three of those victories came against former UFC champions, including his most recent win over Fabricio Werdum.

This is your classic 'next big thing' vs. the fading legend, but we’ve seen the legend pull out a win before and if Overeem can manage to do that here, it would be quite a story.

  • N’Gannou #7; -208 betting favorite: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine, Sempervive, Lawlor, Nason
  • Overeem #2; +200 betting underdog: FRB, Bix

> Henry Cejudo (11-2) vs Sergio Pettis (16-2)
FLYWEIGHTS

Cejudo is a former Olympic gold medallist who burst onto the MMA scene with nine straight wins before running into Demetrious Johnson in a title shot that he probably took too early in his career. He was KO'd in the first round and then lost a split decision to Joseph Benavidez in his next fight. In his most recent fight, he KO’d recent title contender Wilson Reis and looked great in doing so.

Standing across the Octagon will be “The Phenom” Pettis, riding a four-fight win streak and basically the only top contender left who has yet to face Johnson. He will almost certainly get that elusive title fight with a win here while Cejudo could also get the nod with an impressive finish.

  • Cejudo #3; -269 betting favorite: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Meltzer, Sempervive, Lawlor, Nason, FRB, Bix
  • Pettis #6; +265 betting underdog: Fontaine

> Justin Gaethje (18-0) vs Eddie Alvarez (28-5)
LIGHTWEIGHTS

Gaethje, the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion, made his UFC debut in spectacular fashion with a win over longtime contender Michael Johnson in a fight of the year candidate that landed him two post-show bonus awards.

Alvarez is a former Bellator champion that shocked the world by winning the UFC title over Rafael Dos Anjos. He would go on to lose the strap to Conor McGregor. He followed that up with a strange no-contest against Dustin Poirier that was shaping up to be a hell of a fight before he landed illegal knees, causing the fight to be prematurely stopped. Both guys are promising to deliver a fight of the night performance.

  • Gaethje #7; -175 betting favorite: Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine, Sempervive, Lawlor, Nason, Bix
  • Alvarez #3; -165 betting underdog: FRB

> Tecia Torres (9-1) vs Michelle Waterson (14-6)
STRAWWEIGHTS

Torres, aka “The Tiny Tornado”, has won five of her six UFC fights with the only loss coming at the hands of current champion Rose Namajunas. She does hold a victory over the champ in a pre-UFC bout early in their respective careers and a third bout between the two would be a chance to settle that rivalry.

Waterson is somewhat undersized for this division but the former Invicta 105-lb champion started her UFC career with two straight submission wins before being stopped by Namajunas in a title eliminator bout earlier this year. At 31, she’s one of the oldest contenders in the division and she’ll probably need a decent winning streak to get back into title contention.

  • Torres #10; -225 betting favorite: Frederick, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine, Sempervive, Lawlor, Nason, Bix
  • Waterson #22; +220 betting underdog: Sawyer, Juon, FRB

**********

The rest of the card:

> Paul Felder (14-3) vs Charles Oliveira (22-7)
LIGHTWEIGHTS

  • Felder #20; +105 betting favorite
  • Oliveira #13; +110 betting underdog

> Alex Oliveira (18-4-1) vs Yancy Medeiros (14-4)
WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Oliveira #9; -218 betting favorite
  • Medeiros #34; +220 betting underdog

> Drakkar Klose (8-0-1) vs David Teymur (6-1) LIGHTWEIGHTS

  • Klose #88; +160 betting underdog
  • Teymur #59; -170 betting favorite

> Felice Herrig (13-6) vs Cortney Casey (7-4) STRAWWEIGHTS

  • Herrig #14; -120 betting favorite
  • Casey #11; +110 betting underdog

> Abdul Razzak Alhassan (7-1) vs Sabah Homassi (11-6) WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Alhassan #157; -240 betting favorite
  • Homassi NR; +220 betting underdog

> Dominick Reyes (7-0) vs Jeremy Kimball (15-6) LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

  • Reyes #54; -425 betting favorite
  • Kimball #53; +450 betting underdog

Angela Magana (11-8) vs Amanda Cooper (2-3) STRAWWEIGHTS

  • Magana NR; +415 betting underdog
  • Cooper NR; -440 betting favorite

Allen Crowder (9-2) vs Justin Willis (5-1) HEAVYWEIGHTS

  • Crowder #106; +195 betting underdog
  • Willis #56; -215 betting favorite

Action begins with the Fight Pass prelims at 6:30 PM EST and moves over to FS1 at 8 PM EST. The main card airs on PPV at 10 PM EST, and yours truly will have play by play coverage of the show.