UFC 237: Analysis and Predictions

UFC 237 will take place on May 11th at the Jeunesse Arena in Barra da Tijuca, Brazil.  As far as PPV cards go, unfortunately this one is on the weaker side.  I’m really excited to see Rose Namajunes vs Jessica Andrade and Jose Aldo vs Alexander Volkanovski. However, the card doesn’t have a whole lot of depth beyond those two fights.  On the plus side, with several older vets on this card such as Silva, Nogueira, and Penn, I’m afforded the opportunity to write about some true legends of the sport.

Rose Namajunes vs Jessica Andrade

Namajunes (8-3) (Strawweight Champion)

Andrade (19-6) (#1 Ranked)

 This is a really exciting matchup.  Not only are Namajunes and Andrade both elite talents in their prime, but they also fight with aggressive striking styles which will likely result in fireworks in this matchup. 

This will be Rose Namajunes’s first fight in a little over a year.  She spent the last year recovering from a lingering case spinal stenosis apparently brought on by her time training with the Shevchenko sisters.  She won the strawweight belt back in November of 2017 with a stunning upset of then champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.  The two rematched in April of 2018, and the fight was considerably closer, but Namajunes still came away with a Unanimous Decision.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about Namajune is how much improvement she has shown over the last several years.  I remember watching her during her run on the Ultimate Fighter back in 2014 and thinking she was a talented but very limited as a fighter.  3 years later she knocked out the division champion.  If she continues to make leaps forward in her skill set like she has in the past, it’s easy to imagine her holding the belt for a long time.

For her part Jessica Andrade is riding a 3 fight win streak.  Her last win was a brutal KO of Karolina Kawolkiewicz in September of 2018.  I was fortunate enough to be at that fight in Dallas and I can tell you that it was one of the most brutal Kos I’ve ever seen in women’s MMA.  Andrade hits really really hard.  Like many Brazilian fighters, Andrade tends to be a bit of a brawler.  She likes to move forward and swing for the fences.

This is a really tough matchup to predict for a lot of reasons.  Both fighters tend to be happy to brawl, and in those exchanges I tend to favor Andrade.  I think she has a better chin and can hit harder.  That said, Namajunes tends to be a pretty smart fighter, and has a very high level striking coach in Pat Berry.  I have to think there have been a lot of conversations in training camp about staying on the outside and making this a technical striking match.  Namajunes has shown herself to be very good at listening to her corner and following a game plan, which I think will help her here.

Maybe my bias is showing through in having witnessed Andrade destroy Kawolkiewicz, but I can’t help but believe that Andrade is going to come in aggressive and land a big shot in the 1st round.  I think Namajunes will have every intention of staying at long range, but she’s going to get hit hard at some point and I’m not confident that she will respond well.  Andrade pulls off the upset here with a TKO that in many ways mirrors Namajunes / Jedrzejczyk 1. 

Andrade by 1st Round TKO

 

Jared Cannonier vs Anderson Silva

Cannonier (11-4) (#9 Ranked)

Silva (34-9) (#15 Ranked)

 It’s difficult for me to get my head completely wrapped around this fight.  Anderson Silva is considered by many, myself included, to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.  However he’s only won one mixed martial arts fight since surrendering his title back in 2013.  He doesn’t have the speed or chin that he used to posses in his former years, and has in that time suffered through a compound leg fracture, and multiple USADA violations.  I’m not sure why they’re putting Silva, a guy who only has a few fights left in his career, against a power striker like Cannonier.

 Cannonier, while also an older fighter at 35, looked incredibly sharp in his last fight.  His last fight was his debut at middleweight.  The division change seems like it’s been a good one for him as he seems to have retained all the speed and power he had at light heavyweight.  I don’t expect Cannonier to go on a title run or anything, particularly given how deep the division is, but I think he’s going to be a dangerous opponent for just about everyone in this division for years to come.

 I’m a huge fan of Anderson Silva, but I think he gets too much credit these days from people who remember how good he used to be in the late 2000s.  Yes, he recently had a strong showing against current interim title holder Adesanya, but I think that was Silva at his absolute best, and it doesn’t change the fact that he only has 1 win in the last 7 years.

 As long as Cannonier fights smart, and doesn’t go sprinting head long into counter-strikes a-la Forrest Griffin, I think this should be an easy outing for him.  He’s going to press harder than Adesanaya and he’s going to land.  Silva’s chin just won’t be able to hold up.

 Cannonier by 2nd Round TKO 

 

 Jose Aldo vs Alexander Volkanovski

Aldo (28-4) (#1 Ranked)

Volkanovski (19-1) (#4 Ranked)

This is another extremely exciting matchup that you could argue should headline this card.  The pound for pound great Aldo tries to carve out a path to another title shot again fast rising contender Volkanovski.  The winner of this fight will surely face Max Holloway later in the year for the featherweight title.

There is no question that Jose Aldo is the greatest featherweight fighter of all time.  For almost 10 years (2006 - 2015) he was undefeated in the weight class, continually crushing top contenders such as Mike Thomas Brown, Uriah Faber, Frankie Edgar, and Chad Mendes.  In 2015 his run was finally stopped by Conner McGregor with a brutal one punch knockout.  Since then, Aldo has lost two title fights to Max Holloway, but put together impressive wins over Renato Moicano, Jeremy Stephens, and Frankie Edgar.  Aldo may have slowed down a bit in his age, but it’s clear he’s still capable of beating the best the division has to offer.

By comparison, Volkanovski is a relatively unknown fighter.  This is pretty surprising when you consider that he hasn’t lost a fight in 6 years and is 6-0 since joining the UFC in 2016.  He’s coming off a 2nd Round TKO of perennial top featherweight Chad Mendes.  Volkanovski comes from a strong wrestling base but he tends to prefer to stand trade with most fighters.  This step up to fight Jose Aldo is a pretty large jump in competition level for him.

It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of game plan Volkanovksi brings into this fight.  If this fight  stays standing the entire time, I feel it will favor Aldo, but only slightly.  Both fighters are dangerous on their feet and while Aldo may have slowed in recent years, he’s still an extremely skilled technician. 

However, on the flip side, if Volkanovski comes in planning to use both his striking and wrestling games to keep Aldo off balance, I think this matchup becomes a lot more favorably to him.  Supposedly Aldo has great defensive wrestling, but I can’t recall the last time he was really tested in this regard.  He has fought so many high level strikers in the last several years, that I can’t help but wonder how much he’s actually worked on his wrestling.

For his part, I believe Aldo needs to maintain forward pressure throughout this fight in order to have the best chance to win.  If Volkanovski is fighting off of his heels the majority of the fight it will be very difficult for him to integrate takedown and clinch work. 

All this being taken into consideration, I think this is going to be a breakthrough fight for Volkanovski.  I believe he’s going to land effectively, back Aldo up, and use takedowns until the former champion is battered, bruised, and frustrated.  The next time we see Volkanovksi this, his name will be headline a PPV against Max Holloway.

Volkanovski by 3rd Round TKO