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This is a fight more than a year in the making after Zingano finished Miesha Tate in her UFC debut, but the Coloradan suffered a knee injury that pushed her out of the fight with Rousey the first time around. Now with Zingano healthy again, plus picking up another win over Amanda Nunes, there's no doubt she's in the top spot to receive a shot at Rousey and the women's title.
Also on the card, another women's bantamweight bout gets showcased in the co-main event when former boxing champion turned mixed martial artist Holly Holm makes her long-awaited UFC debut against former Ultimate Fighter competitor Raquel Pennington.
Holm knows a win will put her in the top 10 of the women's division and likely staring down an eventual shot at the winner of the UFC 184 main event, but Pennington is as tough as they come and she will present a serious challenge to the UFC newcomer.
As we get ready for the UFC's return to Los Angeles with a stacked card this weekend, today's fantasy preview will help guide you through some of the key matchups. Who is a lock to win? Who might be on the verge of an upset? And which fights are down to the wire when making picks for this weekend's card? Let's dive into UFC 184: Rousey vs. Zingano.
These are the fights with the biggest chance of following through with the odds as the favorites become the overwhelming choice to walk away with a victory.
RONDA ROUSEY VS. CAT ZINGANO
There's little doubt that Cat Zingano presents one of the most intriguing matchups for Ronda Rousey since she became UFC champion in 2013. Zingano is a high-level grappler with a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with several knockouts on her record as well, including her UFC debut win over Miesha Tate. Zingano will actually have a two-inch reach advantage on Rousey and she has as much heart as any fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon because she's been down in both of her UFC fights early only to battle back and finish her opponents late.
Where that methodology fails is against a fast starter like Rousey, who comes out of the gates like a hurricane at mach five speed as soon as the referee says go. Rousey's average fight time in the UFC is 4:17 — more than five minutes below the UFC average. Rousey is an animal as soon as the fight starts and she's only been out of the first round one time during her entire career. Before anyone can start questioning Rousey's conditioning because she rarely goes out of the first round, in the lone fight where she did go to the third, the former Olympian was just as hard-charging and energetic as she typically is in the first.
Rousey is as dominant a champion as the UFC has right now and it's going to be hard to pick against her in any fight. Zingano's tendency to get beat up early and then show up late has worked well so far in her UFC career, but neither of those fights were against a devastating force of nature like Rousey.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey by submission, round 1
Alan Jouban will be fighting with something to prove this weekend at UFC 184, taking on Australian Richard Walsh after his last fight ended in controversy as he fell by decision to former Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner Warlley Alves. Jouban seemingly had the fight locked up after turning things around following a hard first round, but the judges still scored the fight for his opponent. Now Jouban has a shot at redemption although he has to be careful facing a stifling fighter like Walsh.
Walsh is primarily known as a grappler who averages 2.5 takedowns per fight, but his real power comes from the clinch where he's able to muscle opponents around the cage and work a dirty boxing game against the fence. Walsh does his best work when he can grind an opponent down to a nub over three rounds, but he may not be able to catch up to Jouban to ply that strategy this weekend.
Jouban is lightning quick on his feet and his blistering striking rate, where he lands 5.37 significant shots per minute, is tough for any fighter to deal with. Couple his striking rate with an incredible 52-percent striking accuracy and Jouban is going to be a tough matchup for anyone at 170 pounds.
As long as Jouban can use his reach advantage and keep Walsh on the end of his punches without getting locked down in the clinch round after round, he should be able to pick the Australian apart on the feet before landing the necessary combination to put this one away.
Prediction: Alan Jouban by TKO, round 3
There's no doubt Mark Munoz has struggled lately against the best fighters in the world at 185 pounds, but there's really no shame losing to names like Gegard Mousasi, Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida. While it's easy to take a shot at Munoz for his performances against the best middleweights, there's a laundry list of 185-pounders who would suffer the same fate against that murderer's row of talent.
On the other end of the spectrum, when Munoz faces fighters outside the top five or six in the world, he's a wrecking machine. Munoz is well-known for his tenacious takedowns and the ground-and-pound that's been nicknamed 'Donkey Kong punches' from the way the former NCAA wrestling champion loads up on each shot and swings down at an opponent like a sledgehammer being dropped on a cinder block.
Munoz may not be the biggest middleweight in the world, but his power will definitely come into play this weekend as he faces Roan Carneiro, who returns to the UFC for the first time in over six years. Carneiro has gone 7-1 since leaving the UFC, but he's also going up a weight class to face Munoz. Carneiro is a tough customer, but he's had some ups and downs when facing good fighters at 170 pounds. It's hard to imagine he's going to find a ton of success bumping up to middleweight and facing a legit top 15 opponent like Munoz.
Look for Munoz to gauge the distance early before launching into a takedown to put Carneiro down on the mat and trap him against the cage as he starts to unload some devastating ground-and-pound. If Munoz relies on his power and wrestling he will give Carneiro a very rude welcome back to the UFC.
Prediction: Mark Munoz by TKO, round 2
Derrick Lewis fell short in his first bid to crack the top 15 heavyweights in the world when he fell to veteran fighter Matt Mitrione, but don't give up on this top prospect yet because he still has all the talent in the world to one day be a threat to anyone in the division.
Lewis is a monstrous fighter for the heavyweight division with devastating power, especially on the ground, where he will absolutely maul an opponent. He lands 3.39 strikes per minute, with most of those taking place on the ground thanks to his three-plus takedowns landed per fight. Lewis is not only proficient at fighting on the ground, but he's really good in getting opponents on the mat, where he's so dominant. Lewis lands takedowns with just under 67-percent accuracy, which is more than 20 points higher than the UFC average.
Potts is best known for his submission game, so he's still dangerous off his back, but the South African fighter has struggled to lock up any kind of hold through his first few fights in the Octagon and things will probably only get worse for him against Lewis. Technically, Potts is a superior jiu-jitsu technician, but he'll be eating punches in bunches from Lewis every time he tries to grab an arm or a leg and there's no way he can endure the kind of punishment he'll be facing from “The Black Beast” on Saturday night.
Prediction: Derrick Lewis by TKO, round 1
These are the fights that are coming down to the wire going into UFC 184. It's a coin flip which fighter comes away victorious, so picking these matchups correctly could mean the difference between winning and losing.
HOLLY HOLM vs. RAQUEL PENNINGTON
Undefeated MMA fighter and former women's boxing champion Holly Holm will finally make her long awaited UFC debut this weekend, but she doesn't have an easy test to prove she belongs among the best fighters in the world at 135 pounds.
Holm will enter the Octagon on her first day of competition as the best boxer the UFC's women's division has ever known, but she's also managed to become a fierce kickboxer as well. Holm has developed a nasty head kick and overall kicking game to compliment her fast and powerful hands. Holm is also well-versed in the ground game, training with Greg Jackson and a litany of top fighters at his gym including UFC stalwarts like Jon Jones, Carlos Condit and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Holm is a heavy favorite to one day challenge Ronda Rousey for the women's title, but Pennington is no pushover and she'll give the UFC rookie all she can handle.
Pennington isn't remarkably good in any one area, but instead offers up a “Jack of all trades” chemistry with her fight style. She's a good volume puncher with 4.77 significant strikes landed per minute at over 53-percent accuracy. She mixes that with a takedown game where she puts opponents down 1.72 times per 15 minutes with great accuracy as well. Plus, Pennington showed in her last fight against Ashlee Evans-Smith - who is a big fighter for 135-pounds - that she can take some early punishment before dishing out a heaping handful of her own.
Holm remains the pick in this fight based on sheer talent and ability to strike better than probably 95-percent of the women in the UFC already. She's a knockout puncher with the patience to outpoint an opponent for three rounds as well. Holm will probably have to show how she works out of the clinch and reacts to takedowns against Pennington, but if she passes the test she'll walk out a winner on Saturday.
Prediction: Holly Holm by unanimous decision
Former Ultimate Fighter winner Tony Ferguson has really turned up the heat in his career lately, pulling off four wins in a row, including three by either knockout or submission. Ferguson seems like he's destined for a spot in the top 10, but he's facing one of the craftiest veterans on the roster this weekend as Gleison Tibau looks for his fourth straight victory in the Octagon.
Tibau is always going to be a measuring stick matchup for any lightweight hoping to crack the top 10 because he has a wealth of experience on his record and remains one of the biggest and strongest lightweights on the roster. Tibau is a monster on the ground, where he averages more than four takedowns per fight, and opponents find out in a hurry what it's like to have a massive lightweight on top of them.
Ferguson is more than capable of reversing things against Tibau with a slick submission game and tremendous patience just like he showed in his last fight against Abel Trujillo. In that matchup, Ferguson was facing one of the most aggressive and dangerous strikers at 155 pounds, but at no point did he panic or wilt under the pressure. Instead, Ferguson just played it smart, waited for Trujillo to open himself up and then he secured a submission in the second round. If Ferguson can show the same kind of patience against Tibau and wait for the right opening, he'll find a way to win rounds and eke out a decision.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson by unanimous decision
A few years ago this matchup between Jake Ellenberger and Josh Koscheck could have determined a No. 1 contender for the UFC welterweight title, but recently both fighters have fallen on hard times. It makes this matchup even more important as Ellenberger and Koscheck try to climb back into the welterweight rankings or risk being shut out forever with a loss at UFC 184.
Ellenberger remains one of the most powerful fighters at 170 pounds, with a dangerous mix of striking and wrestling at his disposal. He averages good output on the feet and displays incredible takedown defense, and that really becomes the key in this matchup with Koscheck.
The former Ultimate Fighter season one competitor remains one of the best takedown artists in the entire promotion with a blast double leg that rivals anyone in the sport. When Koscheck drives through an opponent's legs, he's nearly impossible to stop. The question then becomes, will Koscheck use his wrestling or abandon it because he's facing another high-level grappler like Ellenberger?
The fact is that there are a ton of questions about both fighters going into this matchup, but as tough as Koscheck's losses have been lately, he's been facing the best of the best at 170 pounds and nearly pulled off a win over former champion Johny Hendricks three fights ago. Ellenberger hasn't been facing slouches by any means, but his performances have been uneven and really hard to predict. His last fight against Kelvin Gastelum was almost shocking as Ellenberger struggled to put together any kind of offense or defense before being choked out in the first round.
If Koscheck shows up looking refreshed after sitting out for the last year to allow his body time to recover from a career full of bumps and bruises, he has the ability to mix things up and put Ellenberger down round after round to get the win.
Prediction: Josh Koscheck by split decision