UFC 100, which occurred in July of 2009, has long stood out as the biggest card in UFC history. This Saturday night, that changes, as the landmark UFC 200 is scheduled to take over glimmering Las Vegas, Nevada.
Of course, the road to UFC 200 has been fraught with disaster. First, we lost the card’s originally planned main event—a rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. Then, we gained a new main event—a light heavyweight title rematch between champ Daniel Cormier and interim champ Jon Jones—only to lose it a few nights before fight night when Jones failed a USADA – administered drug test. Despite all the chaos that has littered the lead-up to it, however, UFC 200 remains the biggest card in UFC history.
Here’s a rundown on the event’s stacked main card, and what you can expect from its five dynamite bouts.
The Main Card:
A Tough Test For Tate
When it was announced that Jones had been pulled from UFC 200’s main event, Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt’s heavyweight bout—the card’s original co-main event—was bumped up to the headlining spot. When it was announced that Cormier would still be competing on the card against a new opponent, the UFC opted to push Lesnar vs. Hunt back down to the co-main event spot, and hoist Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes’ bantamweight title fight into the historic card’s main event spot. Why? I can’t say for certain, though I’m sure a good deal of thought went into this decision.
So, a bit about UFC 200’s unlikely main event:
A few years ago, during the height of the Ronda Rousey era, suggesting that Miesha Tate would win the women’s bantamweight title would have been downright laughable. When Holly Holm beat the breaks off Rousey to steal the women’s bantamweight crown, however, Tate’s winning the title suddenly looked much more possible. And when she challenged Holm for that title at UFC 196, that’s just what she did.
In the new main event of UFC 200, Tate will defend her title, though not opposite Rousey or Holm as many expected. Instead the new champion will look to fend off dangerous Brazilian contender Amanda Nunes.
A quick look at Nunes’ record quickly reveals the kind of fighter she is. With 9 first round wins among her 12 total victories (not to mention her near first-round finish of Cat Zingano) she specializes in the blitzkrieg. At UFC 200, when the title is on the line, we can expect the Brazilian to charge out of the gates with even more fury than normal. We can also expect her to bust Tate up early—perhaps even stealing the first round or two.
Yet Tate’s style is just as apparent as Nunes. And though that style boils down her strong grappling acumen and ever-improving stand-up skills, its most important feature is her heart. On several occasions in the past— the most recent example being her defeat of Holm—the new champ has rebounded from fairly serious adversity. She is more than capable of doing the same against Nunes.
Though no outcome is certain in the world of professional fighting, the most likely outcome of UFC 200’s women’s bantamweight title bout seems to be this: Tate weathers an early storm, probably enters the championship rounds with a bloody nose and some bruises, but ultimately finds a way to win. From there, she can look forward to a big ticket rematch with Holm, and perhaps even with a returning Rousey.
Lesnar Returns To A Nightmare Matchup
Back in June, during the UFC 199 broadcast, it was announced that the UFC had signed former heavyweight champion and current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar for a “one-off” fight at UFC 200. First, this Lesnar return was expected to fill the evening’s co-main event spot. Then, in the wake of Jones’ USADA-snafu, it was pushed up to the headlining spot. In the end, however, it was pulled back down to the co-main event. Regardless, though, the good news is that Brock Lesnar is finally returning to the Octagon. And that, fight fans, is a cause for celebration.
Considering Lesnar will be taking on the brick-fisted former kickboxer Mark Hunt, however, his return might actually be less a cause for celebration and more a cause for concern over his wellbeing.
For all his accolades in the Octagon, Brock Lesnar has clearly never enjoyed being hit. He barely escaped his UFC 116 bout with Shane Carwin with the title. In his next bout, he lost that title, crumpling under an assault of Cain Velasquez punches. In his next fight thereafter—the last time we saw him compete in MMA—he was doubled over by the striking of Alistair Overeem. And now, Lesnar returns after some four years away from the sport to fight Hunt, a man who, despite having the physique of a Big Gulp slurping truck driver, is arguably the hardest hitter in MMA history.
Of course, Lesnar’s path to victory is also quite clear. While he is a wrestler who has always been a bit behind the curve in the striking department, Hunt is a striker whose wrestling has always been his biggest weakness. If Lesnar wants to win this one, then, he needs to drag Hunt to the mat. The problem is that while Lesnar has been tearing it up in the scripted world of pro wrestling, Hunt has been sharpening all the tools in his MMA toolbox—including his takedown defense. Ipso facto, Lesnar is likely to have a hard time exploiting Hunt on the mat, while Hunt is likely to have a relatively easy time busting a notoriously fragile Lesnar up on the feet. Indeed, all signs point to a disappointing return for Lesnar—though the former champion has surprised on plenty of occasions in the past.
Cormier vs. Silva: The Fight Nobody Ever Expected to See
When it was announced that interim light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was being pulled from his scheduled title unification bout with undisputed champ Daniel Cormier, the initial suspicion was that poor, poor Cormier would be left with no opponent. In a blink, he’d gone from UFC 200 headliner, to a fighter who wasn’t even on the bill—and none of it was even remotely his fault.
Within minutes of the announcement of Jones’ UFC 200 removal, however, a slew of opportunistic fighters began to throw their names in the hat, offering to step up and fight the light heavyweight champion on just two days’ notice. Shortly thereafter, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Cormier would, despite the short timeframe, be given a replacement opponent.
In a twist that nobody could have anticipated, the spot opposite Cormier went to none other than former middleweight champion and arguable MMA GOAT Anderson Silva. Despite the fact that he has not won a fight since 2012, and the fact that he had gallbladder surgery less than two months ago, the MMA legend will fight Cormier in a 3-round, non-title light heavyweight bout… go figure.
So, what is this hastily arranged fight going to look like?
Well, for all Silva’s accomplishments, he’s a shell of the fighter he once was. Cormier, meanwhile, is at the peak of his competitive prime. Silva will also be the much smaller man in the cage. Cormier, after all, spent most of his early career at heavyweight. And finally, if Silva has ever had a real weakness, its been his wrestling. In Cormier, he’ll be fighting one of the best wrestlers—if not the best wrestler—ever to compete in MMA. So, while Silva is undeniably one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, UFC 200 does not seem like it will be a good night for him. Instead, he’s likely to be chucked around the Octagon like a ragdoll, and therefore unable to fire off with his horrifying accurate striking. In fact, it would not be shocking to see Cormier stop the former middleweight champ.
Is there a chance Silva pulls off the win? Of course. This is Anderson Silva we’re talking about. His opponents are in danger for every second they spend in the cage with him. Yet, while Silva is showing off some balls of steel by taking this fight on such short notice, all signs point to his being thrashed pretty severely at UFC 200—MMA legend though he may be.
Fighting In The Shadow of Conor McGregor
In a world where Conor McGregor didn’t exist, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar fighting for the featherweight title would be the biggest possible fight the division has to offer. When the two first fought back in early 2013, before McGregor had even signed with the UFC, it represented just that. Unfortunately for Aldo and Edgar, McGregor does exist. And it’s because of McGregor’s existence that Aldo and Edgar are fighting for interim featherweight gold instead of undisputed featherweight gold at UFC 200.
McGregor, as we know, is the current UFC featherweight champion. He earned that honor back in December of 2015, when he ended Jose Aldo’s six-year title reign streak in just 13 seconds. Yet McGregor has never been a fan of the cut to 145 pounds, and has always had his crosshairs set on glory in heavier divisions, so mere weeks removed from his featherweight title win, he moved up for a lightweight title bout with Rafael Dos Anjos.
As we all know now, that bout would never materialize. Instead, McGregor would fight Nate Diaz at welterweight—a bout he would lose.
Had McGregor won that bout with Diaz, it’s entirely possible he’d have returned south to featherweight to defend his title against Aldo or Edgar. Instead, however, the Irishman’s determination to avenge his loss to Diaz has resulted in the two being booked for an August rematch. This, in turn, has caused a contendership traffic jam at featherweight, as a handful of talented fighters are all chomping at the bit for title shots in a division with an absentee champion.
To combat the problems caused by McGregor’s absence, the UFC has paired Edgar and Aldo for an interim title bout at UFC 200. The winner of this bout will then be in position to defend the the title against other featherweight contenders while McGregor continues to play by his own rules at lightweight and beyond.
The problem with this, though, is similar to the one that has overshadowed Daniel Cormier’s light heavyweight reign. If Aldo wins, well, we know he’s already lost to the real featherweight champ, and so his new reign would be inherently hard to swallow. If Edgar wins, great, but how would he fair against the aforementioned real champ?
Indeed, Aldo and Edgar’s interim featherweight title fight is darkened by the shadow of Conor McGregor. That said, it is undeniably the best possible plan B for the division. So, who wins it?
Flip a coin. Aldo and Edgar’s first fight—which Aldo won by decision—was quite close. Considering the improvements Edgar has made since then, and the possibility that Aldo is distracted by his recent loss to McGregor, this one could be even closer. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the winner of this bout will be the clear-cut best fighter currently competing in the featherweight division. In the eyes of many fans, however, it will be hard to consider either man anything more than a runner-up until they defeat McGregor.
Questions About Cain
The fact that Cain Velasquez, one of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history, is kicking off UFC 200’s pay-per-view is a testament to how stacked the card actually is. Of course, Velasquez’s stock has taken quite a hit over the last few years—which is exactly why his UFC 200 bout with Travis Browne is such an interesting one.
After nearly two injury-plagued years on the shelf, Velasquez returned to competition last June, only to lose his heavyweight title to then interim champion Fabricio Werdum. To make matters worse, he was then bit by the injury bug yet again, which deprived him of his chance to reclaim the title from Werdum, and forced the heavyweight division to move on without him.
This Saturday, Velasquez finally has the chance to get back on track. Though this will mark his first non-title bout since May of 2012, he has the opportunity to burst back into relevance with a big win over long-time contender in Travis Browne. And most fight fans expect Velasquez to make the most of this opportunity by blowing Browne out of the water.
Of course, this bout is riddled with x-factors, the least of which, surprisingly, is Browne’s tremendous skill. Instead, the biggest questions about the outcome of this bout surround Velasquez.
In his last bout, for example, his vaunted cardio was nowhere to be found. Was this a one-time snafu, or will cardio issues plague the former champ again against Browne? It’s also hard not to wonder how Velasquez’s long-stretches of inactivity will effect him. He has, after all, fought just once in the last two and a half years. Indeed, if Velasquez’s cardio is not on point, and if he’s even slightly slowed down by ring rust, he could be in for an ugly, ugly night opposite Travis Browne.
The thing to remember here, is the way Velasquez rebounded from his first loss—a 2011 defeat to Dos Santos. He returned from that loss to bludgeon Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in one of the most frightening beat-downs in MMA history. If the precedent that fight is to be believed, it’s undeniably Browne who’s in for a rough night this Saturday. Yes, despite the cloud that has hung over Velasquez’s career for the past few years, he seems poised for an absolutely barbarous return to contendership at UFC 200. But only time will tell if this is the way things actually unfold.