+225 #11 Tarec Saffiedine (16-6) vs. -265 #5 LW Rafael Dos Anjos (25-9)
Tarec Saffiedine: Former Strikeforce Welterweight champion Tarec “The Sponge” Saffiedine narrowly lost a split decision to Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 207 this past December. The razor thin defeat was the second in a row for Saffiedine who previously lost a controversial decision to Rick Story in May of last year.
Saffiedine began his combat career as a Kickboxer and when he made the move to MMA he trained with Dan Henderson and Team Quest to pick up the wrestling aspect of the sport. The Belgian brawler now works with MMA coach extraordinaire Firas Zihabi at Tristar to put it all together. At 30 years of age if Saffiedine is going to become an elite fighter his time is now.
Rafael Dos Anjos: Former Lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos returns to the octagon following a eight month hiatus. Dos Anjos had a miserable 2016 losing his belt to Eddie Alvarez in July and his comeback fight to Tony Ferguson in November.
RDA will now try his hand at Welterweight after experiencing excruciating weight cuts in his last two bouts at 155. Dos Anjos’s rise from .500, middle of the card contender to juggernaut champion was seen as a little suspicious by many of MMA’s top pundits. Now under the extremely thorough USADA regime, Dos Anjos will have the opportunity to silence the critics that cried “PEDs”, or he may revert back to 2010 RDA that had his jaw broken by Clay Guida.
The Fight: Dos Anjos won his belt by out striking elite strikers like Pettis, Cerrone and Nate Diaz. Howeer Saffiedine is a larger more technical fighter than the previously mentioned fighters and he will have no problem winning a cautious, calculated kickboxing match. Saffiedine Unanimous Decision
+250 #7 Dong Hyun Kim (23-3-1) vs. -300 Colby Covington (11-1)
Dong Hyun Kim: South Korea’s top combat export the “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim was victorious in a very shaky win over Tarec Saffiedine at UFC 204. Kim narrowly eked by the Belgian Kickboxer and kept his three year unbeaten streak intact.
At one time Kim was one fight away from fighting for the belt, now 35 with only three fights in the last three years it will be interesting to see if there has been any skills deterioration. At his best the Judo black belt can mow through almost anyone in the entire division, but injuries to himself and opponents may have kept sidelined during his prime years to make a title run.
Colby Covington: Former Oklahoma State Wrestler Colby “Chaos” Covington picked up his third straight win beating Bryan Barbarena this past December. Covington ragdolled the unorthodox Barbarena easily winning every round on all of the judge’s cards.
The 29 year old American Top Team fighter is potential personified, each time he has stepped in the cage he has looked greatly improved from his previous fight. He has made no secret about what he intends to do in the cage, he shoots and in the rare case that he does not get the take down, he shoots again. As he works his way up the division Covington will have to tighten up his striking. One trick ponies do not find much success in the top 15, regardless of how good that trick may be.
The Fight: This Judo vs. Wrestling exhibition is the reason why MMA exists. Covington’s double legs vs. Kim’s uchi mata, Covington’s take downs will be there early, but he will need to stay out of submission trouble as the fight progresses. This will be a passing of the guard fight, Covington’s youth, speed and strength will be too much for the Korean veteran. Covington Unanimous Decision
+200 #8 Andrei Arlovski (25-14) vs. -235 #13 Marcin Tybura (15-2)
Andrei Arlovski: Former Heavyweight kingpin Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski was knocked unconscious by rising Cameroonian star Francis Nganou this past January. The loss was Arlovski’s fourth consecutive and difficult to watch.
All of Arlovski’s defeats in the past two years have come against top ten guys, this will be the first time in four years that he has fought anyone outside of the UFC elite. How Arlovski deals with Tybura will be a good measuring stick of what we should expect out of the 38 year old Belarusian in his final fights.
Marcin Tybura: Powerful Pole Marcin Tybura is widely considered one of the more intriguing Heavyweight prospects of the last few years. His last bout was a grueling three round affair with Brazilian Luis Henrique that Tyubra was able to finish with strikes in the third.
The former M-1 champion landed a devastating head kick knock out on Viktor Pesta that was one of the most brutal finishes of recent memory. Tybura is a legit talent and his recent training with Xtreme Couture in Vegas may be what he needs to take his game to the next level. His training in Poland with countrymen Kickboxing specialist Daniel Omielanczuk has paid off, his striking in the Pesta and Henrique fight was much improved from his debut against Timothy Johnson.
The Fight: Tybura has a head like a slab of granite and the power of a juvenile rhino. This combo with Arlovski’s past issues with staying conscious in the cage will add up to the biggest win of Tybura’s career. Tybura KO 1st
-550 #5 Holly Holm (10-3) vs. +420 #11 Bethe Correia (10-2-1)
Holly Holm: Former Bantamweight champion Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm is in danger of becoming MMA’s version of Buster Douglas. The Albuquerque native has gone 0-3 following her unforgettable 2015 championship knock out victory of the seemingly invincible Ronda Rousey.
The 35 year old Jackson/Wink Boxer is still a big draw exemplified by her headlining a card for the second time this year. If she has any hope of mounting another run at the title this fight is a must win for the blond bomber.
Bethe Correia: Former Bantamweight title contender Bethe “Pitbull Correia will make a quick turnaround after fighting Marion Reneau to a draw three months ago. The general consensus was that Correia lost to Reneau, but the vibrant Brazilian was able to sway her hometown judges with some post fight twerking.
Now 4-2-1 in the UFC the 33 year old Correia is slowly climbing back up the rankings with her aggressive striking and strong take down defense. However Correia’s reputation as a power puncher is somewhat unwarranted, in her ten professional wins only two have been finishes. This huge opportunity could launch her back in to the top five of the division.
The Fight: Correia’s path to victory in this fight is slim to invisible, her best weapon is her striking and Holm’s striking outclasses her by a mile. The one punch threat is always a possibility, but between Holm’s striking defense and Correia’s lack of power that is a very long shot. Holm will win every round leading to the fifth where she will finish off the badly beaten Brazilian. Holm TKO 5th