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UFC 215 | Nunes vs Shevchenko II predictions

Valentina Shevchenko, right, trades punches with Amanda Nunes during their UFC 196 women's bantamweight mixed martial arts match, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. Amanda Nunes won via unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison) UFC 215
(AP Photo/Eric Jamison)

The UFC is back with its first pay-per-view offering since July 29, heading north of the border to host a solid card that will now have to move forth with half of the title fights it originally had planned for UFC 215.

Will Gilbert Melendez turn his UFC career around? Is Tyson Pedro’s rise to the top going to continue? Can Rafael dos Anjos make it 2-0 as a welterweight in the UFC? Will Amanda Nunes silence her doubters?

We try to answer these questions in our latest set of predictions for UFC 215.

Prelims

  • Adriano Martins def. Kajan Johnson via TKO
  • Luis Henrique def. Arjan Bhullar via decision
  • Mitch Clarke def. Alex White via decision
  • Gavin Tucker def. Rick Glenn via TKO
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Sarah Moras via split decision
  • Henry Cejudo def. Wilson Reis via decision
  • Sara McMann def. Ketlen Vieira via TKO

Main Card

Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez

An expected barnburner based on what sort of  respective histories these two men have, this bout may further cement the end of an era.

Melendez, while previously considered one of the best lightweights on the planet just four years ago, has fallen off badly since joining the UFC ranks. The former Strikeforce 155-pound champion is 1-4 since entering the Octagon, with his lone victory coming in an expected win over an always-overzealous Diego Sanchez. His other four bouts, all taking place against the elite of the lightweight division, have resulted in losses.

That string of defeats has since prompted the former champion to drop down in weight for the first time in his professional career, competing at 145 pounds at UFC 215 against Jeremy Stephens. At 35, there’s reason to believe Melendez’s first trip to featherweight won’t automatically result in a rejuvenation process.

Then again, he is facing Stephens, who has previously shown to struggle against competent wrestlers. Is Melendez willing to compromise an exhilarating contest to secure a much-needed win? We’re guessing yes.

Prediction: Melendez def. Stephens via decision

Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro

Predicting this fight will require one to decide whether or not they are on the Tyson Pedro Hype Train. With only two victories inside the UFC thus far, both coming against unproven competition, siding against the relatively inexperienced fighter would be the safer route to take. Especially considering he’s facing Ilir Latifi, who, if nothing else, is one of the more powerful fighters in this division.

But it’s also been a year since we last saw him, and things didn’t exactly go too well for him then. When incapable of securing takedowns, Latifi is forced to strike. That’s when being a 5-foot-8 fighter facing 6-foot-plus monsters becomes a problem.

Prediction: Pedro def. Latifi via submission

Neil Magny vs. Rafael dos Anjos 

Dos Anjos steps into the cage for the second time in his UFC welterweight career, taking on one of the least appreciated and most consistent contenders of this division. The former lightweight champion didn’t quite have the explosive ferocity that he once showcased during his run toward the top of the 155-pound ladder, earning a comfortable decision against a former Strikeforce champion in Tarec Saffiedine. Perhaps that was part of a planned attack to negate what strengths Saffiedine has as a striker, or perhaps that’s just a part of who dos Anjos is as a 32-year-old fighter in 2017.

Let us assume the former.

Magny has always done well when allowed to use his range and dictate the pace of the fight. Dos Anjos, previously capable of negating similar strengths from previous opponents, would be wise to employ a similar game plan to that of Lorenz Larkin at UFC 202. That is, press forward early, and prevent his much taller opponent from getting too comfortable.

Prediction: dos Anjos def. Magny via decision

Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko

We weren’t very high on Nunes’ chances to defend her title back in July when this rematch was originally booked. The two months that have passed since then haven’t done much to change our minds.

Nunes is easily the most dominant striker the women’s bantamweight division has to offer, one of few women capable of consistently earning first-round stoppages based on the sort of power she possesses in her hands. Ronda Rousey couldn’t take it, and neither could a historically durable Miesha Tate (who was pummeled before being submitted).

But, as we’ve seen in the past, Nunes is only that dangerous in the opening round. Of the six fights that have seen Nunes go beyond the first round, she is 3-3. She’s 11-1 in contests that ended in the first round.

And, as we saw last time out when these two first met at UFC 196 in March 2016, Nunes couldn’t put Shevchenko away in Round 1. And while she still managed to win Round 2, it is Round 3 that has us so intrigued for this five-round fight. Should Shevchenko survive the early onslaught, her technical abilities as a striker, and more well-rounded mixed martial artist, should begin to shine.

Prediction: Shevchenko def. Nunes via decision

 

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