Welcome to Midnight Mania! Tonight was a bit of a slow news night, so I thought I would offer 19 random prophecies for 2019, inspired by Sean Sheehan’s bold list, and MMAFighting.com’s championship predictions. I figured I also should make predictions that will mostly be hilariously wrong and expose me to endless ridicule. Here they are, then, in no particular order.
- TJ Dillashaw will beat Henry Cejudo, but the UFC flyweight division will hang around in limbo until the end of the year, with some flyweights fighting out their contracts. This is an easy one, Dillashaw is the favorite, though some don’t think he will even make it to fight night.
- Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier never fight a third time. Jones doesn’t want to move to heavyweight, ostensibly because DC hits harder there and would probably be more difficult to push around in the clinch, and Cormier ain’t cutting the 40 pounds to 205 again. They will talk and talk, but this one won’t happen, and it shouldn’t, especially not at light heavyweight.
- Cormier retires. Retirements are notoriously difficult for MMA athletes to pull off until long after their expiration date, but Cormier has a family to consider, and, more importantly, a number of bright possibilities in front of him as an analyst- he says he’s part of ESPN’s plans- and a commentator. Whether or not he gets the Lesnar fight, I really think he hangs up his gloves for good after one or possibly two more. His manager is predicting the opposite, though, so I could be wildly wrong.
- Dominick Reyes wins the light heavyweight title, either against Jon Jones or in his absence when Jones messes up or is suspended again. Gustafsson showed only that Jon has improved his range striking, but the way to beat Jones is still to kick with him. Reyes can do that. I think he washes Volkan Oezdemir, possibly one more opponent, and gets his title shot by year’s end.
- Ryan Bader wins the Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix, then defends his light heavyweight title. I would love to see Fedor win, but it doesn’t seem very likely.
- Holly Holm defeats Amanda Nunes by TKO- This is a particularly bold claim, given that Nunes just knocked out Cris Cyborg with ease. I think Holm pursues the same strategy she used against Cyborg- a lot of clinching- and in the later rounds, wears Nunes out, takes her down and finishes her on the ground. There is a high chance Nunes hurts her, but I’m gambling that Holm is tough enough to survive, and Nunes could very well drain her gas tank in an attempt to finish.
- Alexander Volkanovski beats Max Holloway to win featherweight gold- This is another bold claim, crazy even, given that Max just turned in the greatest ever featherweight championship performance. The thing is, I can remember the last time Holloway faced a wrestler, Dennis Bermudez. He messed Bermudez up for about two rounds, but Bermudez eventually found the takedown, and by the end was in firm control of the bout. Max has obviously improved tremendously since then, but Ortega did manage to surprise him with a couple brief takedowns, and Volkanovski is an infinitely better wrestler and pressure fighter than Ortega. Like Max, he is also a cardio machine, and shot for shot he hits harder than Holloway. I see them going back and forth, with Max’s body punching having an effect against the Australian’s high guard, but Volkanovski pulls away late to win a close but clear decision.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his lightweight title by beating Conor McGregor in a rematch, because the UFC is a stupid place where stupid things happen for money. McGregor wins one round again, slightly more competitive this time, but again gets finished. Unlucky, forgotten Tony Ferguson will probably have to take yet another fight not for the title, and lucky us, it will probably be Dustin Poirier, which is a fight for the ages. Maybe, just maybe, though, Ferguson catches a deserved break and fights for the title first, or gets McGregor next.
- McGregor retires. I don’t think he will remain retired forever, but if the UFC push him into an immediate rematch with Khabib, we could see him gone from MMA for a few years. I could see Nurmagomedov retiring with a win too, but its less likely than a McGregor exit.
- Francis Ngannou will win heavyweight gold, either after Cormier retires or against Cormier in his retirement fight. Ngannou had his prospect loss against Miocic, but he’s not even close to being done. If Cain makes it to the cage, Ngannou finishes him, setting him up for another title challenge.
- Robert Whittaker turns back Israel Adesanya’s first title shot, retains middleweight strap. Obviously this means he beats Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234, and Adesanya washes Anderson Silva. Whittaker has just a little too much footspeed and athleticism for Adesanya just yet, and wins a competitive decision. The two will meet again down the road.
- Jessica Andrade steamrolls Rose Namajunas, then loses to Tatiana Suarez, who ends the year as strawweight champion. The name of the game is wrestling. Andrade has it, but Suarez has it even more. The inevitable showdown between Suarez and Andrade will be as titanic a showdown as strawweight has ever seen.
- Aaron Pico wins the Bellator featherweight title– he’s arguably the most exciting prospect in all of MMA. 2019 should be his breakout year, and it will be interesting to see if he stays with Bellator, changes weight classes, or jumps ship to the UFC.
- Gegard Mousasi avenges his loss to Lyoto Machida– you know Bellator can’t wait to match the old karate master up with their champion Mousasi, who hates him. Machida is probably just a little too old to win this one the way he won their last bout.
- Kyoji Horiguchi wins the Bellator bantamweight championship in a rematch with Darrion Caldwell. I went back and forth on this one, because Caldwell was winning up until he lost, but I think the cage actually favors Horiguchi, who was having trouble standing up along the ropes in the ring. Caldwell could still end up wrasslin’ him, but I believe in the Gooch’s greatness.
- Shevchenko easily goes undefeated. No explanation necesssary.
- Woodley defeats both Covington and Usman to retain welterweight gold- if anyone is beating Woodley, its probably Covington, because Covington pushes a relentless pace that will either get him knocked out or wear Woodley down. I just don’t think that’s as likely as Woodley melting him.
- The UFC creates a 165-lb. division, moving welterweight to 175. I have no idea who will be champion, but GSP could come back for it, so that’s always fun.
- Last but most importantly, the UFC anti-trust lawsuit gets past summary judgement and goes to settlement. I went back and forth with this, because its purely an optimism pick. I can’t predict with any certainty how this will go, because whether the case survives summary judgment seems to depend mostly on how the judge values the model of the UFC’s expert, Topel, against the plantiff’s expert, Singer. The only people really paying attention don’t seem to be all that optimistic, but its a unique case, so its impossible to be certain. I don’t think summary judgment, which requires the judge determine that no jury could reasonably rule on behalf of the plaintiffs, is the correct call, but then, my view of anti-trust is not the view the legal system has taken since Robert Bork’s disastrous consumer welfare standard was implemented. This is a monopsony case, so it concerns the labor impact rather than the consumer impact, but if the judge’s decision follows that general pattern, it won’t be good for the plaintiffs. Still, I’m predicting an upset win for the fighters.
This rhyme would imply that Max is thinking of Khabib and McGregor next.
Anthony Pettis vs. Stephen Thompson, anyone?
Sometimes you forget that MMA really isn’t that close to ‘no holds barred’ until you see a ruleset that allows headbutts
For all those times you are playing basketball and need to punch your way through the defense.
Jon Jones and Anthony Smith seem like the most likely next fight
“Any time, any place, anywhere, I’m ready,” Smith said. “I’ll fight Jon this weekend if he wants to.”
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) January 4, 2019
Interesting piece of fighter art
They finally found an opponent in Gabi Garcia’s weight class.
Anderson Silva is sparring with kickboxers and Muay Thai specialists like Cosmo Alexandre to prepare for Israel Adesanya.
He’s also doing the Miracle on Ice goalie drill, but for head movement.
Always cool to see a fighter taking out a bad guy, Dillashaw shouldn’t count his third title before he gets his second, and Nunes is just being petty saying that she’ll make Cyborg wait two years for a rematch. She also said Cyborg has no power, which is also brutal.
Podcasts and Video
Sleep well, Maniacs! A better tomorrow is always possible. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @Vorpality