The UFC is back in our lives! After what seemed like a several week hiatus for the McGregor vs Mayweather fight, the UFC returned last Saturday with a pretty sub par card in Rotterdam, so for me this feels like a long time coming for UFC 215. This is a very solid card with Demetrious Johnson going for the title defense record against Ray Borg and Valentina Shevchenko challenging Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight belt. Other top names on this card include Gilbert Melendez vs Jeremy Stephens, Neil Magny vs Rafael Dos Anjos, Henry Cejudo vs Wilson Reis and Sara McMann.
The card is also taking place here in Canada, at Rogers Place in Edmonton, which means there’s some great Canadian fighters including Sarah Moras, Gavin Tucker, Mitch Clarke, Kajan Johnson and Arjan Bhullar making his UFC debut.
The UFC 215 early prelims start at 6:30pm EST on Saturday and can be seen on UFC Fight Pass. Then the regular prelims begin at 8pm on TSN 5 and the PPV portion of the card gets underway at 10pm.
Below I’ve given my 3 plays for UFC 215. I’ll be using the best odds being offered from any of our recommended betting sites for each of my picks on this card. I expect Demetrious Johnson to win, but I won’t be betting him at odds of just 1.10. In the other title fight, I’m leaning towards Amanda Nunes, but once again I’m going to pass in respect to betting myself.
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Gilbert Melendez vs Jeremy Stephens
Melendez and Stephens is a great fight that I can’t see being unexciting. Both of these guys are going to come forward and bang. Melendez especially never takes a backwards step. I think that strategy will play dividends against Stephens, who is often able to bully lesser opponents on his way to wins. There’s a misconception that Stephens has this massive power in his hands, but he actually hasn’t earned a finish with punches since he knocked out Marcus Davis with a punch way back in January of 2011. His most recent two knockouts have been a head kick and a flying knee, both of which basically every fighter can finish with if they land clean. I do not expect Stephens to overpower Melendez in this fight and that will be an issue for Stephens.
Melendez will turn this into a war and those are the fights that Gilbert wins. He’s on a three fight losing streak, but his most recent loss was to arguably the best pure stand up fighter in the division in Edson Barboza and before that he lost a split decision to Eddie Alvarez (and Eddie always wins splits). I’m expecting a fight more similar to Melendez’s win over Diego Sanchez where he just out banged his opponent. Melendez will not give Stephens power as much respect as others and that will allow him to dictate the fight on his way to a decision win.
Play: Melendez 2.00 @ Bet365.com
Sara McMann vs Ketlen Vieira
I think Sara McMann is back to her best. Her last two wins over Alexis Davis and then Gina Mazany where both clinical performances where she looked incredible. McMann is really starting to use her Olympic level wrestling better than she has in the past and also has added a ridiculous arm-triangle choke that allowed her to finish her last two fights.
Ketlen Viera is no walk in the park having just beat Ashlee Evans-Smith, but she’s not on the same level as McMann and I fully expect McMann to stay in control on the mat and avoid Vieira’s submissions while working for her own.
Play: McMann 1.40 @ Bet365.com
Arjan Bhullar vs Luis Henrique
Bhullar is a former Olympic freestyle wrestler for Canada. He’s a top prospect in the heavyweight division and he makes his UFC debut at home in front of the Canadian fans in Edmonton this Saturday. Bhullar is the favourite in this fight, but I’m not so quick to sell Luis Henrique short. This is a massive step up in competition for Bhullar and there are some red flags that make me lean towards Luis Henrique winning this fight.
First of all, Henrique has looked decent in his UFC career going 2-2 in 4 fights. It’s still hard to know just how good Henrique is though because his two wins came over very weak opposition and his losses have come to top level strikers in Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura. That said all three of Henrique’s losses in his career have come via knockout and although Bhullar is decent on the feet he’s primarily a wrestler so Henrique won’t have to worry about being caught while standing.
Therefore this fight is very likely to get to the mat. Once there we’ll likely see Bhullar controlling the action. That said we have no idea how advanced Bhullar will be against submission attempts, and submissions are the primary way that Henrique likes to finish fights. In fact, Bhullar has only fought 1 guy who even has a submission victory on his record, and that was a 1-0 fighter.
At these odds I think the smart money has to be on Henrique finding a way to get a submission on the mat. Add in the other possibility that Henrique is able to get the better of Bhullar on the feet and I think Henrique is a solid play early on the card.
Play: Henrique 2.50 @ Bet365.com