Thank goodness Ronda Rousey did not get injured, because she is basically the only selling point of an otherwise weak PPV. Besides her "Trash-talker beatdown" match with Bethe Correia and what appears to be a tuneup fight for strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha, this event is mostly made up of, to borrow a phrase from Conor McGregor, "rookies and has-beens." I'm not trying to be disrespectful, since Shogun, the man who got me hooked on UFC to begin with, is fighting tonight. Nonetheless, even his best days are well behind him. Suffice it to say that a blockbuster card this ain't...
Here are my predictions for tonight's PPV:
Gadelha vs. Aguilar: I'm not that familiar with either fighter, but I find it very difficult to pick against someone who managed to go the distance with UFC strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. For that reason, I expect Gadelha to win by decision.
Winner: Claudia Gadelha
Silva vs. Palelei: This is easy. Palelei wins by KO. Without trt, "Bigfoot" can't seem to hang with the elite of the heavyweight division without getting crushed anymore. Even with trt, his biggest claim to fame was a come-from-behind upset over Alistair Overeem, whom, as Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell proved with subsequent KOs of their own, was seriously over-hyped to begin with.
Winner: Soa "The Hulk" Palelei
Struve vs. Noguiera: From a medical standpoint, Struve really needs to hang up the gloves. No sport is worth your life and with his heart condition, I strongly believe that that is what he is risking every time he steps into the cage. I see a submission victory for Minotauro here, although that may be more due to the health condition of his opponent than the skills of the Brazilian legend.
Winner: Minotauro Noguiera
Vieira vs. Lopes: I know nothing about either fighter so I will follow my gut and pick Vieira. Take it for what it's worth.
Winner: Reginaldo Vieira
Franca vs. Bruno: Another fight, another gut prediction. In this case, I pick Bruno. I probably should have tried harder to watch "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4." Oh well...
Winner: Fernando "Acougeiro" Bruno
Shogun vs. Little Nog: Shogun is the reason why I started watching the UFC, and rest assured, I will be rooting for him during this bout. That being said, Little Nog has been more successful as of late, beating Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans before getting smashed by Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. In contrast, Shogun has been KO'd by Dan Henderson and Ovince St. Preux after defeating James Te Huna, so as much as I hate to admit it, I believe "Little Nog" will take it via decision.
Winner: Antonio Rogerio "Little Nog" Nogueira
Rousey vs. Correia: A lot of people seem to believe that Bethe "Pitbull" Correia will pull a "Matt Serra vs. GSP" KO upset over "Rowdy." I commend Correia for her confidence and do believe she will throw everything including the kitchen sink at Rousey. But the facts just don't point to her winning the belt. Rousey has demolished the "Murderer's Row" of the women's bantamweight division: Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman, Sara McMann, and Miesha Tate (twice). Out of the bantamweight's elite, only Tate has taken her outside of the first round and that was on her second try. In contrast, Correia's best wins are a razor-thin division over Jessamyn Duke (who's 1-3 in the UFC against mediocre competition) and a lopsided beatdown of WMMA pioneer Shayna Baszler, whose time passed long ago. That, combined with a lengthy layoff due to eye surgery, makes a victory for the challenger seem rather difficult...
In my opinion, how this fight will play out depends on Rousey's strategy. If she sticks with the "Rousey smash!", go-for-the-kill-in-the-first-round tactic that has taken her to the top, then Correia will be just another name on her highlight reel. However, if Rousey decides to stick with her current plan to drag out the fight with Correia and, in her own words "make her suffer", that will probably backfire. In that case, we will end up seeing the female version of "Silva-Sonnen I", where Rousey gets brutalized for the majority of the fight before winning via a "Hail Mary" submission in Round 5 (most likely an armbar). Either way, when Rousey leaves the cage, she will be taking the belt with her.
On a side note, although Correia apologized and asked for forgiveness for her "suicide remark" taunt of Rousey, that was still a horrible thing to say to somebody. That's been compounded by the fact that Rousey's father took his own life when she was a child (Correia claimed that she was unaware of this). In my opinion, this definitely makes Correia the heel in this feud and I hope that Rousey does teach her a lesson, regardless of how long (or short) it takes. The forgiveness can come afterwards.
Winner: Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey