We’re back again for the MMA DFS Playbook, this time for UFC 225. UFC 225 sets up shop at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. This is clearly the most stacked card of the year to this point, and I’m excited for these big fights. In the card’s headliner, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker makes his first title defense against Yoel Romero. The co-main event pits Rafael dos Anjos against Colby Covington for the interim welterweight belt. Now, let’s get to the picks.
Main Card (PPV)
Robert Whittaker ($9,100) vs. Yoel Romero ($7,100)
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Robert Whittaker takes on Yoel Romero in the headliner of the most stacked card of the year, and it will be rematch of their close fight from a little less than a year ago at UFC 213. That fight went down to the wire, with both guys winning 2 rounds before the 5th round decided the fight in Whittaker’s favor. The champ has been inactive since that bout, with Yoel Romero winning the interim title in the meantime with a brutal knockout of Luke Rockhold.
I don’t see this fight being much different from their first battle, as both fighters are the class of the division. I see this one likely going down to the wire again. Whittaker has power, but throws strikes at a high volume as well. His path to victory will be much like the first fight, where he’ll need to land at a distance on the bigger fighter. I also look for Whittaker to have to use his elite takedown defense (86% defense rate) against Romero, who will likely look to land a strong takedown at multiple points in the fight. As close as the first fight was, I can’t believe how big of an underdog Romero is here. He’s arguably the most explosive fighter in the sport, and has momentum while the champ has been inactive. I think Romero lands the harder shots, and out-grapples the champ for 5 rounds. Unless Romero completely tanks in the later rounds, I think the fight is his. The pick is Romero by unanimous decision.
Rafael dos Anjos ($8,200) vs. Colby Covington ($8,000)
The co-main event is also a title affair, with Rafael dos Anjos taking on Colby Covington for the interim welterweight championship. Since moving to 170 pounds, dos Anjos has been on a tear, winning all 3 of his bouts in dominant fashion. In his last bout against Robbie Lawler, dos Anjos continually beat the former champ in the exchanges, thoroughly impressing the MMA community who thought the former lightweight champ was finished following 2 straight losses to Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson. With Tyron Woodley recovering from shoulder surgery, he’ll turn his attention to the grappling-heavy Covington. Covington has won his last 5 bouts in a row, including wins over Demian Maia and Dong Hyun Kim. He’s garnered a lot of attention for his loud mouth, but is absolutely an elite competitor in this division.
I’ve read alot of banter online in the lead-up to this bout, with most fans not giving Covington much of a chance. Oddsmakers don;t feel the same way, as the bout is currently close to a “pick-em,” which is what i think this match-up truly represents. Covington may not be the most well-known fighter on the roster, but he’s going to make dos Anjos earn every bit of this fight. The Brazilian has a clear advantage in the striking game, and will undoubtedly look to make Covington pay there. However, if he gets over aggressive, Covington will certainly take him down and look to utilize his ground and pound from there. This is another bout I see going down to the wire. Match-up wise, I truly like Covington’s chances to stymie dos Anjos on the mat. I have been wrong picking against dos Anjos before, but I’m rolling with the American to get it done with his elite wrestling. The pick is Covington by decision.
Holly Holm ($8,900) vs. Megan Anderson ($7,300)
Megan Anderson finally gets her chance to compete in the UFC, and she’ll debut against former bantamweight champ, Holly Holm. Anderson has been either rumored or scheduled to fight featherweight champion Cris Cyborg numerous times, with the bout never coming to fruition due to one thing or another. She’ll finally make the walk, and it’ll be against an incredibly tough opponent in Holm. Both women are incredible strikers, and this should be a fun bout to watch. We’ll likely see the one of the highest skilled and most competitive striking battles in the history of the UFC’s women’s divisions.
While I believe Anderson is incredibly talented, and definitely UFC-caliber, I feel like her being thrown to the wolves right away may be a mistake in match-making. I’d like to see her get a fight or 2 under her belt before taking on the elites, but nevertheless, she gets Holly Holm here. Holm was competitive in her loss to Cyborg, giving the champ her toughest test to date within the UFC. She’s an elite boxer/kickboxer, and will give Anderson everything that she can handle. I think Anderson fights fire with fire and we see 3 rounds of high level kickboxing. There is no substitute for experience in big fights in the UFC, and I think Holly’s time with the UFC, coupled with her undeniable skill set leads her to victory here. She’ll use a stiff jab and crisp combinations to cruise to a unanimous decision.
Tai Tuivasa ($9,300) vs. Andrei Arlovski ($6,900)
In a heavyweight bout, Australia’s Tai Tuivasa will take on long-time UFC vet, Andrei Arlovski. Tuivasa is a perfect 2-0 in the UFC, and 7-0 in his MMA career. He gets his first real test against the former heavyweight champ in Arlovski. Tuivasa has proven to be extremely heavy-handed, and will look to earn his 8th straight win by knockout. Following a deflating 5-fight losing streak, Arlovski has rebounded with 2 straight wins over Junior Albini and Stefan Struve. the 43-fight veteran will look to halt the ascension of Tuivasa’s young UFC career.
As much as I have enjoyed watching Arlovski over the years, he could be looking at an extremely rough night. His ability to take shots has been extremely diminished over the many years of taking the punishment that comes along with this sport, and Tuivasa is absolutely going to test his chin. Arlovski always has a puncher’s chance but I think this one ends quick. In an early exhange, Tuivasa shuts the lights off for Arlovski, winning by brutal KO. I hope to see Arlovski walk away from the sport shortly after, as he has nothing left to prove in this sport.
Mike Jackson ($8,600) vs. CM Punk ($7,600)
Oh boy… where do we begin here? Former WWE superstar CM Punk makes his second appearance in the UFC following a debut that could only be described as “disastrous.” In his first bout, the UFC inadvertently found an up-and-coming star in Mickey Gall, who absolutely destroyed CM Punk within minutes. He somehow gets a second chance here, and it’ll be against Mike Jackson, who lost his only UFC bout to date against Gall as well. I can’t help but think that this is the fight that should have been made in the first place.
For me, this fight is just gross. I’m all for CM Punk giving MMA a go, but jumping right to the UFC without any martial arts background of any kind was a suicide mission. This fight against Jackson is something that should have happened somewhere on the regional scene, out of the spotlight. I can’t even imagine CM Punk bringing any kind of ratings boost at this point. For the fight itself, I envision both men trying to win on the feet. Jackson and Punk both seem to have a striking-first preference, especially with Punk training under Duke Rufus. As unimpressive as I found CM Punk’s debut, I was even more unimpressed by Jackson’s. In an ugly one, I’ll take CM Punk in an upset by decision.
Preliminary Card (FS1)
Curtis Blaydes ($8,500) vs. Alistair Overeem ($7,700)
In the featured preliminary bout on the card, Curtis Blaydes fights Alistair Overeem in a pivotal heavyweight showdown. Following a loss to Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut, Blaydes has gone on a tear, winning 4 bouts with a 5th win only nullified by a failed post fight drug test due to marijuana. He shut down fan favorite Mark Hunt in his previous bout, with most of his offense coming via the takedown. He wasn’t overly impressive in the win, but followed a game-plan that negated any opportunity for Hunt to win the fight. Overeem comes into this bout on the heels of yet another devastating KO loss, this time to Francis Ngannou.
This is an interesting match-up stylistically, as I’m positive both men will employ very different strategies. Blaydes will undoubtedly look to take Overeem down similarly to his bout with hunt, as I believe he’s out-gunned on the feet against the long-time veteran. Overeem will have to stay upright to be able to put Blaydes away inside the distance, and I believe that’ll be a tall order. I think this will be a close fight, but Blaydes will pull away late with his ability to drag the fight to the mat. I don’t believe he’ll do much damage to Overeem, but will do just enough to sway the judges in his favor. The pick is Blaydes by decision in a bout that could end up being an ugly one.
Mirsad Bektic ($8,800) vs. Ricardo Lamas ($7,400)
Mirsad Bektic gets a bout in his backyard, as the Russian transplant fights Ricardo Lamas in his adoptive hometown. Bektic returned to the win column with a “Performance of the Night” winning effort against Godofredo Pepey, winning by TKO in the 1st round. That followed his first professional loss, a shocker against Darren Elkins. Bektic put it on Elkins for 2.5 rounds, and was on his way to one the most dominant 3 round decisions we’ve ever seen, until Elkins mounted one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history. That loss halted a 4-fight win streak for Bektic to open his career. He’s 5-1 in the UFC in total, and looks to earn a win over Lamas, who represents the biggest name opponent he’s had in the UFC. Lamas was well on his way back to title contention until his previous bout, when he was knocked out cold against short-notice replacement, Josh Emmett.
This is a great bout that somehow found its way on the preliminary card. Bektic has looked incredible since his debut, and if not for the shocking loss to Elkins, he may have been in line for a title shot. While not known by the masses, he’s unquestionably one of the very best fighters in the featherweight division, and a force to be reckoned with. He blends a solid boxing game with incredible wrestling, making him difficult to gameplan for, as he does everything high level. Lamas is as game as they come, and represents a tough out for anyone. He also boxes and wrestles well, making this a very competitive and fun match-up on paper. I think Lamas’ last loss (a brutal one), coupled with the dominating fashion that Bektic how won his fights in, doesn’t bode well for Lamas in any way. It’ll be close early, but Bektic will use his power to gain the upper hand in the middle of the fight, and from there I think it’s smooth sailing to a unanimous decision.
Prelminary Card (Fight Pass)
Anthony Smith ($9,200) vs. Rashad Evans ($7,000)
At middleweight, Anthony Smith takes on long-time UFC staple, and former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. Smith is 3-2 in the UFC, and saw his 3-fight winning streak snapped in his previous fight against Thiago Santos when he succumbed to strikes in the second round of their bout in Brazil. While the loss was deflating, he had good momentum prior, with a huge win over Hector Lombard by KO. His opponent is a familiar face. Evans has been with the UFC since his days on the 2nd season of TUF, which aired in August of 2005. Since his time on the show hes competed in the UFC 22 times, losing his last 4 in a row. His better days are surely behind him, and there’s no doubt that retirement is quickly nearing.
This is an easy one to break down, and that is anything but good news for the former light heavyweight king. The 38 year old has seen his skills diminish drastically in the past few years. Couple that with a match-up against a guy who is in his athletic prime and who possess real power in his strikes, and this leads to a rough night for Evans. I think Smith batters Evans in the first round, before sealing the deal with a TKO finish in the 2nd round.
Joseph Benavidez ($9,000) vs. Sergio Pettis ($7,200)
At flyweight, the #1 ranked contender takes on #5 as Joseph Benavidez fights Sergio Pettis, in a UFC Fight Pass bout that could easily headline a Fight Night event. Benavidez fights for the first time since 2016, and is riding a 6-fight win streak. He’s 12-2 at flyweight, with the losses coming only to champion Demetrious Johnson. Though no one is clamoring for a 3rd bout with Johnson, it would be hard to deny Benavidez the opportunity with yet another win over ranked competition. Pettis comes into the bout looking for a rebound, as his 4-fight winning streak was halted by Henry Cejudo in December. A win over Cejudo would have likely led to a shot at Johnson, but now Pettis will have to regroup against another tough opponent.
It has to be tough to be in the predicament that Benavidez finds himself in. He’s clearly the best fighter at 125 pounds not named Demetrious Johnson, and winning a title seems out of the question while Johnson occupies the division. I have no doubt in my mind he wins this fight, and I don’t think it’ll be particularly close. Pettis is a talented kid, with plenty of career left in him, but Benavidez is just in another class. I look for Benavidez to shut down the striking game of Pettis, and he’ll wear him down on the mat for 3 rounds. Don’t be surprised if he holds his own on the feet as well. Benavidez outclasses Pettis for 3 rounds, taking home a clear-cut decision.