UFC 208’s line-up is peculiar card for the organization’s first Pay-Per-View of 2017. The card has a few interesting fights but lacks any real blockbusters that would encourage anyone outside the most hardcore MMA fans to spend their money to watch it. The woman’s featherweight championship belt up for grabs, did not exist prior to the announcement of this card. Whether Holly Holm or Germaine de Randamie gets crowned the division’s inaugural champ is fairly arbitrary. The UFC tapped Anderson Silva in hopes of bringing in a few more casual viewers, and maybe he will. However, most fans would likely prefer to see a legend like Silva hang it up instead of becoming a gatekeeper fighter. Fans can only hope this card brings some action packed wars and unexpected outcomes like UFC 206 to make the card worth the investment. I will breakdown the fights on this card that I find the most interesting, along with some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (3rd) vs Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch (13th) (Middleweight 185lbs)
Preview: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza carries himself in such a cool demeanor both inside and outside the octagon many fans might not know he’s been an absolute tear his last 10 fights. Jacare has won 9 of his last 10 bouts, with his only loss coming in a controversial razor-thin split decision against the allegedly “performance enhanced” monster that is Yoel Romero. He enters his fight against Tim Boetsch looking to cement his already legit title hopes with another dominant victory against a top 15 opponent. The UFC has not found a way to market Jacare so he’s going to have to continue to let his fighting do the talking for him if he wants another chance at the belt. While Jacare is a heavy favorite in this fight, his opponent Tim Boetsch is able to knockout any opponent he faces anytime he’s fighting. Boetsch is a fan favorite because he comes to knock his opponent out or get knocked out, with no real other outcomes when he fights. Out of Boetsch’s last 6 fights, its only ended in a non-TKO/KO once and that fight ended in him getting submitted. Both men have similar height and reach, so Jacare will have to rely on his superior grappling & jiu-jitsu to corral “the Barbarian”. Jacare’s striking is also underrated, so I do not think he will get overwhelmed if he chooses to stand with Boetsch but I think it’s a risky move in that standing is the only way he could lose this fight. I expect Jacare to handle this fight with the same cold & calm demeanor in his previous bouts, and not care about fans wanting to see a highlight knockout. He knows Boetsch wants to stand and go to war with him, so look for multiple takedown attempts by Jacare early. Boetsch’s gameplane is simple: punch Souza, punch him hard, punch him until he goes to sleep.
Odds: Souza (-500) vs Boetsch (+385)
Prediction: Boetsch scares me at such unbalanced odds. I think Souza wins this fight relatively easily most nights, but Boetsch has that power allowing him to only have to connect one time to change the entire fight. I do not see any real value taking Souza at -500, I like this fight to end quickly so under 1.5 rounds at -175 I think has much more value & protects you against a Boetsch upset.
(Under 1.5 rounds -175)
Anderson “The Spider” Silva (7th) vs Derek Brunson (8th) (Middleweight 185lbs)
Preview: Anderson Silva is a living legend, but I do not want to see Anderson Silva fight anymore. He’s far past the point where his fights were “must see” events and he appeared as the human embodiment of Neo when he fought in the Matrix. Silva has not won a fight since 2012, and is 0-4 along with 1 no contest since that last win. Despite him having flashes of the old Silva in his last fight against Daniel Cormier, fans just have to come to terms with his career as a title contender are over. Despite the losses, the UFC did not give him an easy bounce back opponent in Derek Brunson. Despite coming of a knockout loss to Robert Whittaker in his most recent fight, Brunson is 5-1 in his last 6 fights with 4 of those wins coming by first round knockout. Both men have the power to knock the other out, however Silva’s may now must multiple strikes to knock out his opponent as we have not seen him get a finish in over 5 years. In recent fights against Cormier & Bisping, Silva would tag them with a signature strike that years ago would have left his opponent in a motionless heap; but both fighters were able to shake off those strikes which is not a good sign for his power aging well. Brunson sees this as a possible career defining win if he can destroy Silva on a main PPV card. He will not care about Silva’s legacy nor will the fear of fighting a legend deter him from fighting his usual aggressive striking game plan. Brunson has seen Silva get clipped and hurt by guys with less power than him, so he knows he can hurt Silva if he can get his hands on him. Silva’s game plan may look similar to the one he fought against Cormier in which he really focused on keeping his distance, and using his leg kicks to keep Cormier off of him. I think it’s a mistake if Silva tries to go to war with Brunson, his best chances are to use his world-class timing & precision striking to break him down over the three rounds. Silva needs to let a stoppage come to him organically, where I think Brunson’s style requires him to go hunting for one due to his explosive power. I think if this fight can get into the 3rd round that bodes well for Silva’s chance to get a victory, but getting to that 3rd round easier said than done against Brunson. Brunson just needs to make sure his head kick defense is sounds when he goes to rush Silva because he cannot afford to take one of Silva’s head kicks coming off his own recent knockout loss. I think this could end up being fight of the night if both guys are able to get some clean exchanges in the early rounds, and ends up with one man getting knockout out or stopped by the ref.
Odds: Silva (+125) vs Brunson (-150)
Prediction: The first round determines this fight. If Brunson can land a bomb on Silva, I think he puts the Spider to sleep for good. However, the one factor we won’t know until fight night is how well Brunson’s chin has recovered since his knockout loss. Many fighters are never the same after getting stopped like that, but they do not find that out until their next fight when a punch or kick that would have normally just stung them suddenly shuts their lights off. I definitely think Silva is a live dog at +125, especially if he fights like he did against Cormier, whose a bigger more powerful version of Brunson. I do not have a real strong lean in this fight but pushed I’ll take the legend getting plus odds against an opponent coming off a tough loss and hope the value pays off.
(Silva +125 via TKO)
Main Event (Women’s Featherweight Inaugural Championship 145lbs)
Holly “the Preacher’s Daughter” Holm vs Germaine “The Iron Lady” de Randamie (Featherweight)
Preview: The women’s featherweight division did not exist prior to this fight. I’m not sure why it will exist after this fight. I say that with sarcasm of course, because the main reason the 145lbs division came about was for Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino to reign & hopefully arrange a super fight one day against the 135lbs champ Ronda Rousey. Well Cyborg got popped for PEDs and Rousey effectively got retired by Amanda Nunes’s fists, so here we are with a 145lbs division no one really asked for. Both Holm and de Randamie are world-class strikers but their recent fights have done nothing to really earn a title shot. However, the UFC will not let something as silly as records or being deserving of a spot get in the way of them crowning a new division champion. Once you are able to get past the silliness of this being a PPV headlining fight, it does get interesting for fans who want to see two women with terrific skill sets go toe to toe. De Randamie is a Dutch kick-boxing legend and has been relatively successful in her MMA career despite not having any victories over any top-tier opponents. She appears most comfortable when she keeps constant pressure using a barrage of kicks & punches to overwhelm her opponents. Conversely, Holm looks her best when she can counter an aggressor with her precise striking & snapping jab she developed during her days as a world-class boxer. Holm has gotten into trouble when she becomes too tentative or finds herself on the mat or clinch. I expect De Randamie to utilize smart aggression while trying to avoid that lightning fast snap kick Holm has perfected to make aggressive fighters pay when they swarm her. De Randamie has a slight height and reach advantage which could complicate things for Holm if they both lapse into a one for one striking contest. Despite Holm’s pedigree as a counter-puncher Valentina Shevchenko laid the blueprint for de Randamie to copy by hitting Holm first and then moving immediately out of range to avoid her counter-shot. Shevchenko lulled Holm into complacency and by the time she realized she needed to get more aggressive the fight was over and she’d lost. I do not know if de Randamie can sustain that level of patience as she likes to take it to her opponents but if she can she should frustrate Holm with her length. Holm has to fight with some more urgency from the opening round. I expect her coaches at Jackson-Wink know she needs to pick up her pace earlier so she does not find herself trailing on the scorecards after the first couple of rounds & forcing her away from her gameplay to get those rounds back. Holm can successfully attack de Randamie if she picks her spots to engage first, and switch up her tactics to counter-strike her when de Randamie looks to push the pace after Holm attacks. However, if Holm thinks she can just wait to counter de Randamie all night and not force any action she could see another tedious unanimous decision loss like her last fight out. Holm needs to find a balance between her aggression & counters or de Randamie will take the first ever 145lbs women’s crown.
Odds: Holm (+115) vs de Randamie (-135)
Prediction: I think Holm’s impressive win over Rousey has covered up some really glaring holes in her game as an MMA fighter. She’s lost two straight to good not great fighters, and unless her opponent is just flying at her wildly she seems to struggle with imposing her will on her opponents. This spells trouble against a seasoned vet like de Randamie, whose disciplined and well-versed in fighting a counter-striker. I think she frustrates Holm all night with her length and kick boxing pedigree, and potentially gets a late stoppage as Holm realizes she’s down on the cards, and begins to take more risks leading to a strike that puts her down. Holm has knockout losses in her boxing career, so it’s not out of the question that she could get stopped against her first real striking threat outside of Shevchenko in her MMA career. Take de Randamie at near even money if you can find it.
(De Randamie via Unanimous Decision -135)
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (30-25-0) (-$147.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only
*Stats via www.UFC.com