-110 Felice Herrig (10-6) vs. – 110 Kalin Curran (4-2)
Felice Herrig: “Lil Bulldog” Felice Herrig is defiantly the most well known 1-1 UFC fighter on the roster. Her popularity is due to her world class muay thai and her semi finalist performance on TUF to a small degree, to a larger degree she’s known for her creative (revealing) and inspiring instagam account.
Herrig’s muay thai is as good as anyone in the division (except Joanna) and her jiujitsu is better than average, training under BJJ whizz Jeff Curran. Her weakness is her lack of wrestling, a flaw painfully exposed in her last bout against Paige Van Zant. If she’s been able to improve upon her wrestling with one of the many elite wrestling coaches in the Chicago area, she will be able to make a run in the strawweight division.
Kailin Curran: 24 year old Hawaiian Kailin Curran’s three UFC bouts have played out very unusually. In her first two fights against Paige Van Zant and Alex Chambers she started out fast, almost getting the finish in both, but faltered in the third and was defeated by stoppage. In her third bout against Emily Kagen-Peters it was the exact opposite, lost the first two and pulled it out in the third.
Curran is long on talent but short on experience, she entered the UFC with only two professional fights, and is learning the ropes against the best women fighters in the world and will ultimately be a much better fighter for it in the long run.
The Fight: Curran’s training under all around MMA genius Ryan Parsons tells me Curran knows how to wrestle, we haven’t seen a ton of it yet, but it would be a smart move for her to turn this into a grappling match. However, I don’t see that happening until later in the fight. Herrig will out point Curran on the feet in the first two and spend the third sprawling and brawling. Herrig Unanimous Decision
Francis Ngannou (7-1) vs. Bojan Mihjilovic (10-3)
Francis Ngannou: Ngannou is filling the UFC’s giant French knockout artist void that Cheick Kongo’s departure created. Ngannou’s has used the Kongo sprawl and brawl style to a T in first two bouts, earning victories over Luis Henrique and Curtis Blaydes.
At 6 4″ 260lbs, Ngannou is a true heavyweight in a division where he will have a significant size advantage over many of his opponents. At only 29 Ngannou should be coming into his fighting prime and will be a nightmare match up for many heavyweights, especially smaller grapplers.
Bojan Mihjilovic: Mihjilovic will be the first Serbian to set foot in the octagon Saturday night. He earned his call up by plowing through the Serbian fight circuit with strong kickboxing and excellent upper body take downs.
Mihjilovic will be another fighter who would greatly benefit from a cruiserweight division. His 5 11′ frame that relays greatly on being able to muscle around his opponents will suffer against the bigger heavyweights.
The Fight: Mihjilovic will need to clinch Ngannou up against the cage and muscle him to the ground. This was the game plan of Ngannou’s first two opponents, who were both significantly better than Mihjilovic. Ngannou will dispatch of Mihjilovic in a similar fashion. Ngannou Technical Knockout 2nd round
-210 #6 Edson Barboza (17-4) vs. + 180 Gilbert Melendez (22-5)
Edson Barboza: Muay thai phenom Edson Barboza is coming off the biggest win of his career a decision victory over former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis. Barboza used superior foot work and vicious power to make the former champ look average.
Barboza has improved his defensive grappling tremendously due in part to the help of Ricardo Almeida and Frankie Edgar. If Barboza learns how to wrestle, he may be unbeatable, because there is not a single fighter in his division that will get the better of him on the feet.
Gilbert Melendez: The former lightweight Strikeforce champ has had a rocky transition to the UFC, he has gone 1-3 under the UFC banner, granted his opponents have all been top 10 and there have been a few close decisions.
“El Nino” has fallen out of the top 15 of the lightweight division due partly to inactivity and partly due to the talent pool of the division. Melendez is one of the best 10 lightweights in world and can get himself right back into the title discussion with a win over Barboza.
The Fight: Melendez will not be able to deploy the stand and trade game plane that he has implemented in his last few fights. His striking is vastly improved but striking with Barboza would be a catastrophe. Melendez’s strikes will serve only as set up for his take downs.
Melendez will be able to stay out of striking range and nullify Barboza’s power shots, while controlling Barboza against the fence and on the ground. Melendez Unanimous Decision
-210 #2 Holly Holm (10-1) vs. + 180 Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)
Holly Holm: “The Preacher’s Daughter” will be looking to rebound from her devastataing title match defeat to Meisha Tate, a fight she was thoroughly winning before being submitted in the fourth round. Holm’s first professional defeat was on the largest stage in the sport and should be a huge learning experience for this elite fighter.
Lifelong Jackson/Winklejohn product Holm has made the smoothest transition from professional boxer to professional mixed martial artist in the history of combat. Her striking is light years above the rest of the women in the sport. If she can get by Shevcenko, a dream fight against Cris Cyborg would be the biggest match up in Women’s MMA history.
Valentina Shevchenko: If anyone has the credentials to stand and trade with Holm it’s Shecvhenko, she is a former K-1 champ and a Russian master of sport in boxing, kickboxing and tae kwon do, among many others.
Her most recent loss was to current champ Amanda Nunes, in a fight where she lost the first two rounds before coming to life in the third and opening up on Nunes, almost getting the finish. However it was too little too late and it was Nunes who got the win and the title shot at UFC 200.
The Fight: This being a five round fight is a godsend to all MMA fans, a three rounder would have been a tease. The fight should be a striking battle for the ages, the two best strikers (able to make 135 pound) going toe to toe for five rounds.
Holm has the more functional striking background, her boxing will be able to keep her on the outside and away from Shevchenko’s dangerous clinch. Holm will win this in a technical five round striking masterpiece. Holm Unanimous Decision