We're back with another great UFC pay-per-view this weekend, so that means another full look at the complete card with analysis and picks from Elias Cepeda. UFC 192 is headlined by light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier defending his belt against Alexander Gustafsson in an unpredictable and evenly matched contest.
The co-main event features two of the same division's top contenders in Ryan Bader and former champion Rashad Evans locking up. Below that, other top world title contenders Ali Bagautinov, Joseph Benavidez, and Rose Namajunas also fight.
It's a good one from Houston on Saturday, so get ready with our breakdown below, and then stick with us all weekend long for coverage!
Daniel Cormier (15-1) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (16-3)
This is such a great matchup precisely because it is so difficult to predict. Both are volume strikers, but Cormier is the more accurate, with a 49.7-percent striking accuracy rate, compared to Gustafsson's 37.3 percent, according to FightMetric.
The two-time Olympic wrestler Cormier has some of the best takedowns in the sport of MMA, but Gustafsson has underrated offensive and defensive wrestling ability. He boasts an 86.7-percent takedown defense rate, which he demonstrated by defending takedowns from Jon Jones and taking the then-champion down twice himself in 2013.
Gustafsson's length and great footwork could help him keep DC at bay a bit, while scoring with punches. However, Cormier is as good as it gets at working his way inside, and also showed that he can get the better of outside strike exchanges with a longer opponent in his own fight against Jon Jones.
If both men are at their very best, either is capable of winning this one on any given night. The real question will be, who will be at their best? Gustafsson was close to retiring after his brutal TKO loss to Anthony "Rumble" Johnson earlier this year, though he says the Cormier fight re-energized him.
Will Gustafsson be 100 percent, physically, after that bad knockout? He certainly looks as lean as we've ever seen him, so his usual cardio and muscle endurance will likely be in place.
With that said, Cormier is used to fighting longer fights than Gustafsson, and he's always shown great conditioning, as well. However, the champ has said that he's walking around lighter than ever before in his MMA career, now that he won't be able to rehydrate with intravenous therapy since the UFC banned the recovery method for fear of its ability to mask banned PEDs.
Will a lighter Cormier be a quicker fighter, or will his being smaller make Gustafsson's size advantage more pronounced? Also, whose body will recover better after only being able to hydrate orally?
Only time will tell.
With that said, we like Cormier's momentum and confidence coming off of a win, as opposed to Gustafsson's attempt to recover mentally and physically after a crushing loss in his last fight.
Prediction: Cormier by decision
Ryan Bader (20-4) vs. Rashad Evans (24-3-1)
Evans would likely be the smart pick to at least be the more fluid and quicker fighter in this bout, but that's without taking into consideration the fact that he hasn't fought in nearly two years, and has undergone multiple knee surgeries in that time. Bader, on the other hand, has been able to stay on his grind, rack up some wins, and will likely have less doubt in his mind, walking into the Octagon on Saturday.
Evans at his best could likely catch Bader on the feet or press him against the fence at score takedowns. Bader has a great chance to catch Evans before he shakes the rust off, however, and if he is aggressive he could very well put "Suga" on his heels and keep him there all fight long.
Both men have striking power, but we have to assume that Bader will have the superior conditioning here, since he's been the healthier and more active fighter of late.
If Evans is truly healed and confident, however, he can still pull this out if Bader lets him get into a rhythm.
Prediction: Bader by decision
Shawn Jordan (18-6) vs. Ruslan Magomedov (13-1)
This fight between heavy-handed and athletic big men will either end suddenly in a smashing exchange, or drag on for three rounds at a mostly low pace. If neither man falls due to the other's blows, it could become a war of attrition.
Magomedov is a bit more technical, but Jordan is the better athlete. We favor Jordan in a short fight and Magomedov if the fight goes longer.
Prediction: Jordan by second-round stoppage
Joseph Benavidez (22-4) vs. Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
This fight is great and will answer a lot of questions of who should still be considered a top flyweight title contender. Both men have lost to champion Demetrious Johnson, but if Bagautinov can win impressively, he'll make a great argument for another shot, sooner rather than later.
He's coming off a PED suspension, but if he used that time to heal and improve his skills, the Dagestani will be a handful for "Joe-Jitsu". It will likely come down to who the better wrestler is, first.
If that's even, striking on the feet will decide the fight. This could go at a fast clip for three rounds.
Prediction: Bagautinov by decision
Jessica Eye (11-3-1) vs. Julianna Pena (7-2)
Jessica Eye looked on her way to beating top-bantamweight contender Miesha Tate in July, before the former Strikeforce champion rallied and stole the decision. Pena looked fantastic on the ground in her long-awaited return this past April after recovering from a horrible leg injury.
Basically, we think that Eye wins this fight if she can keep it on the feet. If Pena can drag Eye to the ground, she'll likely be able to control things.
Both women are well-rounded and able anywhere, but Eye is by far the more comfortable and relaxed striker. That said, Pena hits hard and still charges forward with confidence and volume, as her 7.81 strikes landed per minute can attest to.
Similarly, Eye is solid on the ground, but she'll suddenly become the underdog if she finds herself on the mat, underneath Pena, whose mount retention and pressure is punishing.
Prediction: We think Eyes' experience and ability to move her feet while striking will help her win a decision
Yair Rodriguez (5-1) vs. Daniel Hooker (12-5)
Hooker may have the power striking advantage, but Rodriguez has great conditioning and is more unpredictable.
Prediction: Rodriguez by decision
Alan Jouban (11-3) vs. Albert Tumenov (15-2)
This can be a nasty welterweight fight. Not many U.S. fans know Tumenov, but he's a killer.
Jouban is capable of withstanding storms, however, and he may be the better-rounded fighter, at this point.
Prediction: Jouban by third-round TKO
Rose Namajunas (3-2) vs. Angela Hill (2-1)
Hill is ever-improving and a very sharp striker. Namajunas will want to get a hold of her and drag this fight to the ground.
Prediction: Namajunas by submission
Adriano Martins (27-7) vs. Islam Makhachev (12-0)
Martins has pop in his strikes, but Makhachev is stifling with his grappling and is a very good finisher on the ground.
Prediction: Makhachev by decision
Francisco Trevino (12-1) vs. Sage Northcutt (5-0)
Trevino has faced similar level competition as Northcutt, but just has a lot more experience doing it.
Prediction: Trevino by decision
Chris Cariaso (17-7) vs. Sergio Pettis (12-2)
Pettis will need to keep Cariaso off of him or catch him with a submission in transition on their way to the ground. Pettis has the clear advantage on the feet, but Cariaso is more experienced and may hold the grappling edge.
That said, Pettis improves so rapidly that he very well may be able to counter Cariaso's wrestling, at this point.
Prediction: Pettis by decision
Derrick Lewis (12-4) vs. Viktor Pesta (10-1)
Pesta is well-rounded and capable of grinding well, but Lewis is quicker and the explosive one-punch KO threat.
Prediction: Pesta by decision