IN THE OCTAGON

A.J. Hoffman: UFC 225 preview

CM Punk is on the UFC 225 card. Valerie Macon/Getty Images

UFC 225 is arguably the most interesting card of 2018 from top to bottom, assuming that it avoids a weigh-in day collapse like so many recent events. It features a little bit of everything, with a title fight, an interim title fight, heavyweight fights all but guaranteed to end in a knockout, former champions on the undercard, and even a pro wrestler. 

The 185 lb. title is on the line in the main event, with Robert Whittaker defending his strap against Yoel Romero in a rematch of their closely contested matchup last year. Whittaker basically laid out the blueprint to beating Romero in their last fight. Stick, move, and don’t stand in front of him long enough for him to knock your head off. Romero was frustrated by Whittaker’s movement, and though he landed some pretty heavy shots, he was never able to land the fight ender that he used to lay waste to the rest of the middleweight division. Romero won’t go down easy, but he will have to dig into his bag of tricks to show the champion some different looks. 

The co-main is an (unneccesary) interim title fight in the 170 lb. division for the right to fight Tyron Woodley later in the year. Rafael dos Anjos is a former lightweight champion who has yet to taste defeat since moving up to welterweight. He has built an incredible resume, with wins over Robbie Lawler, Donald Cerrone (twice), Neil Magny, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Tarec Saffiedine. Colby Covington has basically talked his way into this spot. He has won five straight fights, but his resume’ is not that of a title challenger. He is a wrestler who will look to make it a 25-minute grind-fest, which dos Anjos seems unlikely to fall victim to. 

Rumors of Andrei Arlovski’s demise have been out there for years, and it seems like every fight he takes brings out the experts saying it will be his last. Tai Tuivasa has the power to make that come to be. The matchup is interesting because Arlovski, a former heavyweight champion, has beaten the odds in his last two fights after losing five straight. Tuivasa is a monster who has finished all seven of his fights without ever seeing a second round. Either Arlovski pulls off the big upset, or the experts may end up right, and Tuivasa could put a final hurting on Arlovski. 

CM Punk (Phil Brooks) and Mike Jackson are probably the most unlikely duo to show up on a pay-per-view in recent history. Both fighters are 0-1, and both are admittedly more proven as entertainers than fighters, but it is at a minimum an intriguing fight. Jackson is an excellent boxer, but could struggle if the fight hits the ground. Punk is a bit of an unknown. He has been training for the last several years for this moment, and it all culminates here. Rarely do I have concerns of this, but considering the fight is in his hometown and it means a lot to the organization for him to succeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Punk get a nod on the scorecards, even if he isn’t deserving. 

The prelims are stacked, with Alistair Overeem taking on Curtis Blades, Charles Oliveira taking on Clay Guida, Joseph Benavidez facing Sergio Pettis and Ricardo Lamas taking on Mirsad Bektic. Former 205 lb. champion Rashad Evans will also fight on the prelims. 

PREDICTIONS:

Whittaker def. Romero by DEC

Dos Anjos def. Covington by TKO

Anderson def. Holm by DEC

Tuivasa def. Arlovski by KO

Brooks def. Jackson by DEC

Overeem def. Blaydes by TKO

Gadelha def. Esparza by DEC

Bektic def. Lamas by TKO

Coulter def. De La Rocha by TKO

Smith def. Evans by KO

Benavidez def. Pettis by SUB

Oliveira def. Guida by SUB

Santiago def. Ice by SUB

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