As the UFC prepares to return to Singapore this weekend, a former champion and title challenger are both looking to get back into the win column in the main event.
Former women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm will try to bounce back after a trio of heartbreaking losses while facing the best of the best at both 135 and 145 pounds. Holm is still one of the most dangerous fighters on the roster and she'll attempt to prove that with her latest main event offering.
Meanwhile, Bethe Correia has always been considered a tough competitor, which she's shown throughout her UFC career, and now the Brazilian wants to start her climb back up the rankings with a win over a former champion in Holm.
Also on the card, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski takes on Marcin Tybura, while former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos makes his UFC debut at 170 pounds when he takes on former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine.
In today's fantasy preview, we'll examine these fights and many more to see who has the edge in the closest matchups, who looks like a lock to win and if there might be an upset brewing at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Correia.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Holly Holm vs. Bethe Correia
Holly Holm enters the main event on the toughest stretch of her fight career, but there's context to her three fight-losing streak that brings balance into the expectations for her main event against Bethe Correia.
Holm has only lost to the best of the best, including former champion Miesha Tate, in a fight where she was up on the scorecards before being submitted in the final round. She also has a loss to Valentina Shevchenko, who is about to fight for the title at UFC 213, and a very close decision defeat to Germaine de Randamie, who was the first ever women's featherweight champion. Now Holm certainly has some errors to fix, but she's still an elite fighter and this matchup will give her the opportunity to prove it.
Correia also looks to re-establish herself in the division following a draw in her last fight against Marion Reneau while putting together a 1-2-1 mark over her past four trips to the Octagon. Correia has an innate ability to push the pace in all of her fights and, outside of her lone loss to Ronda Rousey, she's never been finished during her career, so don't be surprised if this fight makes it to the judges' scorecards.
For Holm to win this fight, she has to find her range at some point during the opening round so she can establish her striking attack. Holm has only landed with 34 percent accuracy during her UFC career, but she's one of the most active bantamweight fighters in the world. Holm just needs to plant on her strikes and make sure they find a home on Correia's chin. Holm will enjoy a massive five-inch reach advantage, so that will certainly help.
It also assists Holm in her striking attack that Correia is so active with her own offensive output. Correia averages nearly five significant strikes landed per minute, so she has no fear going after her opponent with a flurry of punches and kicks. Correia is very active and has shown good conditioning in the past, so she won't fade away if this fight goes into the championship rounds. Correia's activity and ability to land punches could win her a round or two if Holm doesn't match her pace.
That being said, Holm is the better overall striker, and Correia's tendency to step forward with an aggressive style could give the former boxing champion the chance to show off her counter striking game. Much like her knockout over Rousey, Holm is well suited to dodge an opponent's aggressive offense and then counter back with a barrage of shots from the outside. Holm has outstanding footwork to boot, so it's tough to bet against her getting back on track in this fight.
Prediction: Holly Holm by unanimous decision
Andrei Arlovski vs. Marcin Tybura
Former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will look to avoid a five-fight skid when he takes on Marcin Tybura, who enters the fight off two straight knockout wins. Now Arlovski's recent struggles might look bad on paper, but it's worth noting that he's only lost to elite heavyweights, including the current champion, a former champion, a former title contender and arguably the hottest prospect the division has seen since Stipe Miocic first arrived in the UFC. Still, Arlovski losing three of the four fights by knockout is somewhat a cause for concern, especially when facing another power puncher like Tybura.
Tybura has turned things around with his most recent performances. including a very impressive head kick knockout over Viktor Pesta and another TKO win over Luis Henrique. The fight with Arlovski will definitely be the biggest step up in competition he's had in the UFC, which caused him problems in the past, with his only loss inside the Octagon coming to top 15 ranked Timothy Johnson.
Tybura has to show confidence and no timidity in this fight or Arlovski will eat him alive. When he starts unleashing his punches and kicks, Tybura is quite dangerous while racking up an 80 percent finishing rate in his career.
That being said, Arlovski is definitely in a must win situation and it feels like this will be the matchup to get him back on track. While his recent woes have put a halt to his hopes to compete for a title again one day soon, Arlovski is still a blistering fast heavyweight with nasty power in his hands. As long as Arlovski puts the pressure on early and never allows Tybura to get settled, he should be able to connect with a combination that will bring an end to the fight.
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski by knockout, Round 1
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
A pair of former champions meet in this intriguing welterweight matchup, as Tarec Saffiedine welcomes Rafael Dos Anjos to the 170-pound division. The former lightweight champion decided to make the move after dealing with increasingly tough weight cuts, and he hopes to find similar success as Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, who has become a top 10 welterweight since moving to the division.
At his best, Dos Anjos was a ferocious striker with serious fight finishing combinations that could overwhelm the best of opponents. Of course, Dos Anjos might have to be a little more wary unleashing those strikes at welterweight, where his opponents will be bigger and stronger, but it's his aggressiveness that can still be a major weapon at 170 pounds.
As for Saffiedine, he's experienced a roller coaster ride though the UFC, with a mixed bag of wins and losses. Saffiedine remains a very slick striker on the feet, with good leg kicks and an overall game that's solid enough to keep him in any fight. Saffiedine also has the experience edge competing with some of the best welterweights in the world, so he knows what to expect while this will be a new experiment for Dos Anjos moving up a division for the first time in the UFC.
Still, Dos Anjos just went five hard rounds with top-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson, so he's got plenty in the arsenal to unleash in this fight. As long as Dos Anjos doesn't get clipped early, which is exactly what happened in his title fight loss to Eddie Alvarez, he should be able to pressure Saffiedine with a constant barrage of strikes over three rounds to earn the win.
Prediction: Rafael Dos Anjos by unanimous decision
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
This featherweight matchup pits striker against grappler as Alex Caceres takes on newcomer Rolando Dy.
Dy is well known for his Muay Thai kickboxing skills as well as for coming from a traditional boxing background and he packs a big punch for a featherweight. Dy has a very technical skill set but he'll also drift into a brawl from time to time if the occasion calls for it. Dy has wrapped up submissions during his career as well, but there's little doubt he'll be looking to stand and trade in this matchup.
Caceres has actually worked tirelessly on his own striking game, and he's come a long way from his time on The Ultimate Fighter. That being said, Caceres has to know his grappling will be a big weapon in this fight, assuming he wants to put Dy on his back and make the UFC rookie suffer under him round after round. Caceres is a very slick grappler with an arsenal of submissions and he's well versed in setting up his ground game by using his strikes to get there.
If Caceres can avoid an early flurry from Dy, he should be able to work his way inside, drag this fight to the ground and then start looking for submissions. It's been over three years since Caceres got a submission victory, but this might be the time for him to pull one off again.
Prediction: Alex Caceres by submission, Round 2
Justin Scoggins will return to the flyweight division after one fight at 135 pounds, as he looks to get his weight cutting issues under control while turning to a division where he was once touted as a potential title contender. Scoggins is a massive fighter for the bantamweight division so it's understandable why he decided to move up a weight class, but now he's making his return, where he could be a serious threat to anybody in the top five rankings.
Scoggins is dangerous everywhere, but his ability to look for the takedown and then catch his opponents in the scramble might be his best weapon. Scoggins can also use his size to just out muscle fighters in the clinch while working to dominate the fight. Now Scoggins has only finished one fight in his UFC career, so it's tough to imagine him finding an opening to put Ulka Sasaki away, but it's possible
Sasaki is durable, so he won't go away easy, but it's tough to see how he deals with Scoggins' size and power over three rounds. Sasaki isn't a small flyweight by any means, but Scoggins should be able to use his superior skill combined with the size advantage to earn the unanimous decision win.
Prediction: Justin Scoggins by unanimous decision
Fresh off two straight knockouts, Li Jingliang will look to make it three in a row when he faces UFC rookie Frank Camacho.
Li has really started to come into his own in recent fights in the UFC while showing off some very heavy hands during his last few wins. Li also holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so he's no stranger to the ground game either. Now Camacho is a veteran with a 20-4 record, but he's actually stepping into this fight on short notice, which is never easy for a first time UFC fighter.
Camacho has earned plenty of knockouts during his career, but throwing hands with Li could be exactly what the Chinese welterweight will want after scoring big on the feet in his last pair of fights. Camacho is plenty tough, but it's even tougher stepping into this kind of a fight with less than optimal preparation. Look for Li to put the pressure on early before finding a home for his punches to put a stop to this contest before the final bell.
Prediction: Li Jingliang by knockout, Round 2
Former All-American wrestler Colby Covington has been asking for a step up in competition for a while, and now he'll get his opportunity when he takes on veteran welterweight Dong Hyun Kim.
Kim has been a stalwart of the welterweight rankings throughout his UFC career, mixing together a stifling ground game with a recently dazzling striking attack. Kim often times lulls his opponents into a false sense of security with his ability to start slow but then finish big. Kim is a master grappler with knockout power in his hands and he's faced an elite list of welterweights throughout his career.
Still, Covington's wrestling background could present problems for Kim, who is typically the fighter looking for the takedown while out grappling his opposition. If Covington can get inside Kim's range and plant him on the mat, it could be an opening for the unranked welterweight to make a big impact. Covington has worked tirelessly on not only getting his opponents to the mat, but then unleashing hell once he has them there. Covington's control is second to none and he'll likely try to take Kim down, push him against the cage and then start unloading a heavy barrage of punches.
Covington seems like the kind of fighter who could one day challenge for a spot amongst the top five fighters in the world, and this win would put him awfully close to that opportunity in the near future. Covington may not finish Kim, but he's got a great chance to go out and put on a show in his first real test against a top 10 fighter.
Prediction: Colby Covington by unanimous decision