Finally, another stacked UFC PPV! As much as I am disappointed by the loss of Hendricks vs. Woodley (which was scrapped due to a weight cut which ended with Hendricks going to the hospital), there are still enough other matches to keep this card solid. Here are my predictions for each fight:
Eye vs. Pena: Julianna Pena is a tenacious, powerful monster who has crushed everyone who has gotten in her way since she was on "The Ultimate Fighter." I believe she is actually the greatest threat to Ronda Rousey at the moment, because, in addition to her ferocity, heart, and KO power, she has never failed a test for steroids (unlike a certain other "challenger" who's not even on UFC's roster). In contrast, Jessica Eye seems to have peaked with her decision victory over Sarah Kaufman in October of 2013 (which was overturned due to a failed drug test for marijuana). While she is a decent technical striker, she was manhandled for 2 out of 3 rounds in her match against Alexis Davis and dominated in her fight against Miesha Tate. In other words, she is currently in gatekeeper mode, and I believe that Pena will mow her down with ground-and-pound in Round 2 on the way to getting a title shot.
My prediction: Julianna Pena by TKO.
Benavidez vs. Bagautinov: I have never seen Bagautinov fight, but I have seen Benavidez, who would be flyweight champion if it wasn't for the much faster "Mighty Mouse." I see Benavidez staying at the top of the division by grinding out a decision victory with his wrestling.
My prediction: Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Jordan vs. Magomedov: I have to pick Jordan here, due to his UFC experience and that brutal headkick which took down Derrick Lewis in June. I do not see this going the distance: Jordan will probably KO Magomedov in Round 2.
My prediction: Shawn Jordan by KO.
Bader vs. Evans: Three years ago, I would have gone with Evans. However, the former champion has been on the shelf for 2 years due to injury and is 36, whereas Bader is 32 and on a 4-fight winning streak. For that reason, I think "Darth" Bader is finally going to earn a title shot with a decision win over "Suga" in his comeback tour.
My prediction: Ryan Bader via decision.
Cormier vs. Gustafsson: After dominating Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, it is clear that "DC" is the best light heavyweight other than Jon Jones. He arguably has the best wrestling technique in the UFC as well. That being said, at 36, he is fighting on borrowed time. Gustafsson, at 28, is in his prime, and spent three-and-a-half rounds brutalizing the guy who gave DC his first loss before getting robbed by the judges. At the same time, we can't discount the fact that Gustafsson was violently knocked out by "Rumble" in one round, whereas DC popped right back up after getting hit with the same overhand right and managed to wear Johnson down with wrestling before submitting him in Round 3. This fight comes down to strategy: if Gustafsson can use his boxing and footwork to keep DC at bay and drag him into the later rounds, then he will win by decision. If DC can close the distance early and go "Zangief" on "The Mauler", then he will win by submission. Personally, I believe that Gustafsson will be able to implement his game plan first and take the decision, albeit by the skin of his teeth, and set up a rematch to settle the score with Jon Jones (assuming "Bones" decides to come back to the UFC, of course).
My prediction: Gustafsson via decision.