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Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov:
Mike Drahota: I’m glad the flyweights are finally getting their due in the first-ever 125-pound pay-per-view (PPV) main event. Of course most, if not all, of that is due to Johnson’s dominant run through competition. Bagautinov is the last Top 5-ranked challenger left on “Mighty Mouse’s” hit list, and I think he’ll probably be crossed off by the time the dust settles in Vancouver. Johnson will push an insane pace as always, mixing up his game with lightning-fast strikes and transitions into creative takedowns. Brian Stann thinks Bagautinov can match Johnson speed-for-speed; I, however, do not. “Mighty Mouse” takes home a one-sided decision here.
Rory Kernaghan: Demetrious Johnson and Ali Bagautinov are set to collide at flyweight, and I didn’t have too much trouble picking this one. ‘Mighty Mouse’ is one of the most talented fighters on the planet, so I feel I might get a bit of grief for my choice. I think Bagautinov has the goods to beat Johnson. I don’t think he is the better all round martial artist, but I have a feeling that his heavy hands might surprise DJ. In what will be a great set-up for a rematch, look for ‘Puncher King’ to score the upset with a first round TKO.
Brian Cox: In my opinion Demetrious Johnson is the purest fighter in the UFC. His game is virtually flawless. In order to beat him, a fighter must first catch him, and that’s a tough thing to do. Johnson is not so much a fighter as he is part hummingbird. He is a master of both being there and not being there at the same time. No fighter in the business switches stances as easily, fluidly, and frequently, as “Mighty Mouse” does. By comparison, Bagautinov is more of a brute. He has a lot of power, skills and all areas, and appears to be more the Hulk to Johnson’s hummingbird. If Bagautinov can catch Johnson, he can win the fight – either on the feet or on the ground – however, I think Johnson’s effortless movement and pace will prove too elusive for the Russian “Puncher.” For those reasons, I’m picking Johnson to win the fight by way of unanimous decision.
Buster Evans: Despite arguably being one of the most well rounded champions in all of MMA, Demetrious Johnson takes on a stiff test tomorrow night in Ali Bagautinov, who has looked unstoppable so far in his UFC career. Bagautinov is as strong as they come at 125 pounds while also having elite grappling skills; add to that his extraordinary punching power and you have a tough match for anyone in the division. The champ has showed us he can handle big hitters and elite grapplers on their own with wins over the likes of John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez. But, he faces a master of both in the challenger, which is why I’m going with the upset. Bagautinov via round 2 TKO.
Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley:
Mike Drahota: This pivotal bout is probably the most important one of both fighters’ careers; they’ve got to fight like they know that to be true. With the shadow of Georges St. Pierre no longer lurking over his shoulder, MacDonald has the opportunity to assume the mantle his famous mentor held for so long. He’s got to get past Woodley to do it, so he’ll be looking to utilize his jabs, body kicks, and technical expertise to stifle the rushing power striking and takedowns of Woodley. “Chosen One” feels he is destined for a title shot, and he might get one if he can blast MacDonald in the first round. If he can’t, however, expect “Ares” to continuously wear him down with a very cerebral gameplan. The massively muscled Woodley has shown signs of gassing out, I’ll take the latter. MacDonald via unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald is a very influential welterweight bout, and I expect it to also be rather one-sided. Although we know that MacD has the goods to hang with the elite, he also can have problems with power punchers. ‘The Chosen One’ is about as heavy-handed as they come at 170 pounds, and I think he can work MacDonald. If he doesn’t gas out, look for “T-Wood” to get inside and work the body of the taller ‘Ares’, and score a convincing unanimous decision win.
Brian Cox: Tyron Woodley is a very large and scary looking welterweight. He possesses ‘walk-off’ power, ever-improving hands, explosive speed, and formidable wrestling. If he has a single hole in his game it’s probably his conditioning. As Woodley packs a lot of muscle he tends to tire as the fight wears on. His opponent, Rory MacDonald, is a very talented fighter and one that is considerably more technical when it comes to kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. And where MacDonald might not have Woodley’s power or wresting, he does have better cardio and that could prove a decisive factor if the fight makes it into the third round. I think either fighter can win this bout, but I’d say if Woodley doesn’t get a T/KO he’ll be hard pressed to get anything else. For me, I think MacDonald’s more developed kicking game, technical use of angles, and better cardio, will set his feet on the path to victory. For those reasons I’m picking Rory MacDonald by way of unanimous decision.
Buster Evans: With a possible title shot on the line, I expect Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley to be going all-out for the win tomorrow night. Despite alternating between wins and losses in his last few fights, “Ares” has put in solid performances against top competition. That can’t be said for Woodley, who has been in close fights with Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields prior to his win over Carlos Condit. “The Chosen One” is more than capable of picking up the win, but I’m going with the “Canadian Psycho” here for having more tools in his arsenal. MacDonald via UD.
Photo: Kyle Terada for USA TODAY Sports