MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

UFC 218: Aldo-Holloway rematch highlights a stacked card

Jose Aldo looks to get back on track. mmafighting.com

UFC 218 takes place tonight in Detroit, MI at the Little Caesers Arena and presents a nicely stacked main card with a few hidden gems in the prelims. 

The headliner is a rematch between current 145 lb. champion Max “Blessed” Holloway (18-3) and the former division kingpin, Jose Aldo (26-3). Aldo didn’t lose a fight for nine years (2006-15) and came back from his stunning defeat to Conor McGregor with a fantastic performance against Frank Edgar. He then fought Holloway for the title, and looked like the Aldo of old in the first two rounds before fading and being finished in the 3rd round. Holloway has won 11 fights in a row, and is clearly in the prime of his career, but will have his hands full with Aldo, who is a faster striker with an advantage on the ground. The difference may be Holloway’s gas tank, which never seems to run low. 

The co-main event features one of the most experienced heavyweights in the world, Alistair Overeem (43-15-1 NC), taking on the young and hungry Francis Ngannou. Ngannou is hoping a win here puts him on the title radar, while Overeem is hoping for one last shot at the belt. Both men have serious knockout power, and it would be a shock if this fight went the full 15 minutes. Overeem’s chin has been exposed in the past, and Ngannou has finished 6 of his 10 wins via knockout. Overeem, of course, is one of the great knockout artists in the history of heavyweight martial arts, and Ngannou has not faced someone with his skill set in his rise up the rankings. 

Former US Olympian Henry Cejudo (11-2) take on Sergio Pettis (16-2) in a 125 lb. battle. Cejudo is a former title challenger who is trying to work his way back to another shot at Demetrious Johnson, while Pettis will look to shake up the division with his dynamic striking. 

The unbeaten Justin Gaethje (18-0) takes on former 155 lb. champion Eddie Alvarez (28-5-1 NC) in a battle of this season’s The Ultimate Fighter coaches. Gaethje is a pressure fighter who thrives on leg kicks and flurry punching to go along with excellent defensive wrestling. Alvarez is going to have to fight off his back foot, and will need to counterpunch effectively to have a chance here. Gaethje is the hot name, but Alvarez is the accomplished veteran looking to make another run at the lightweight crown. 

Tecia Torres (9-1) takes on Michelle Waterson (14-5) in the opening fight of the PPV card. Preliminary card highlights feature submission ace Charles Oliveira (22-7-1 NC) taking on slick-striking Paul Felder (14-3) and Alex Oliveira (18-3-1-2 NC) going up against Yancy Madeiros (14-4-1)


PREDICTIONS

Holloway by decision

Ngannou by TKO

Cejudo by decision

Gaethje by KO

Torres by decision

C. Oliveira by submission

A. Oliveira by KO

Teymur by KO

Casey-Sanchez by decision

Alhassan by TKO

Reyes by KO

Willis by decision

Cooper by decision

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Things are quickly changing. Composite photo by Jack Brame

Proving that things can always get worse, the Houston Texans(1-6) hit rock bottom losing to the Green Bay Packers 36-20 Sunday at NRG Stadium. The Packers (5-1) extended their winning streak at NRG stadium to 6-0.

All phases of the Texans defense failed to stop the Packers' marching orders. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was good for 23-34 throwing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores went to Davante Adams, who had a career day with 13 receptions for 196 yards.

With Gareon Conley still on the IR, defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver moved cornerback Lonnie Johnson to safety. The move did not pan out. The Texans played man coverage instead of zone, which led to Adams having his big day. Houston's corners stunk up the joint, too.

The offense wasn't anything to brag about, either. Quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to struggle with a lack of talent surrounding him. Is there a less effective running back tandem than David Johnson and Duke Johnson? While DeAndre Hopkins was having his 34th career 100-yard game for the Arizona Cardinals, running back David Johnson, who the Texans received in trade for Hopkins, delivered another lackluster performance, rushing for 42 yards on 14 attempts. Johnson is making $12 million this year and averaging less than four yards per carry. Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake (Arizona), Antonio Gibson (Washington), and James Robinson (Jacksonville) all are averaging more than four yards, and all three of their salaries combined are less than Johnson's. Sorry Houston, you won't see a return on the David Johnson investment.

Looking forward

The Texans franchise is clearly foundering. Former multi-untalented general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien didn't just leave a 0-4 record, he left a dumpster wildfire that may take the Texans years to extinguish. While other losing teams may be "Tanking for Trevor," the Texans are bereft of first and second round picks next year.

Last season, the AFC South saw the emergence of the Tennessee Titans and the division is even stronger now. If the New York Jets are in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and that plays out, current Jets' quarterback Sam Darnold could be heading to the Indianapolis Colts. The years of winning empty titles in a weak division are over for the Texans. Davante Adams' performance Sunday made one thing painfully clear to Texans fans: second-tier coaches directing third-tier players is a recipe for disaster.

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