So, there’s a FOX card tonight. The prelim slate is the weakest in FOX history.
The main card isn’t much better on paper. The headliner is a potential Women’s Bantamweight title eliminator, and the co-main features the return of a former Strikeforce and WEC champion Gilbert Melendez. The rest of the main card is filled out with a Heavyweight monster taking on a relative unknown, and a women’s fight that could be a lot of fun, but sadly, most people probably don’t care for.
On paper, this is arguably the weakest FOX card in years. But, with expectations so low, maybe we’ll wind up with a surprisingly good card? One can only hope.
Main card (8/7c, FOX)
Felice Herrig (10-6) vs. Kailin Curran (4-2)
First up on the main card is a women’s Strawweight bout eith next to no buzz surrounding it. Curran is 1-2 inside the octagon, although if not for a silly mistake she would’ve been 2-1. The of her wins have come via decision, which is exactly how each of her opponent’s losses have come. Herrig is fighting for the first time since last April, and is 1-1 inside the octagon. Twelve of her 16 fights have gone the distance. She tends to beat mid-level opponents, but never anyone who is elite. She should be able to beat Curran despite the rust, and Curran is far from elite. I’ll give the edge to the Lil’ Bulldog. Prediction: Herrig via decision.
Francis Ngannou (7-1) vs. Bojan Mihajlovic (10-3)
Francis Ngannou is a beast. All of his wins have come via finish, and he’s got some of the most brutal punches in MMA today. I wouldn’t say he deserves a main card FOX slot yet, especially against a newcomer, but it is what it is. Mihajlovic is no joke, having won ten straight fights. But this is a very tough debut for him, and I see him losing in emphatic fashion tonight. Prediction: Ngannou via tko, round 2.
Gilbert Melendez (22-5) vs. Edson Barboza (17-4)
Oh, what a fall from grace it’s been for El Niño. The former longtime Strikeforce champion came into the UFC in 2013, to much fanfare. His first fight for the promotion was an immediate title shot against Benson Henderson, in what turned out to be a decision loss for Melendez. He then participated in a Fight of the Millennium caliber bout against Diego Sanchez, but lost his last two fights, before testing positive for testosterone metabolites, thus resulting in a year-long suspension.
Now, Melendez is looking for redemption. He’s just 1-3 inside the octagon, after a 21-2 start to his career. He has 11 knockout wins, but more than half of his fights have gone the distance.
A loss for Melendez puts him dangerously close to pink slip territory. To avoid falling into that category, he must defeat a Taekwondo and Muai Thai black belt Edson Barboza, who’s won multiple fights due to leg kicks, and has one of the greatest headkick knockout finishes in MMA history.
This fight feels like a tossup. Yes, Melendez is on a slide, and hasn’t fought for a year. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s rusty tonight. But, Barboza has a history of failing when the spotlight is on him. He shocked many by beating Anthony Pettis in his last fight, but Pettis is on an incredible slide, and isn’t what he used to be. Sure, Melendez isn’t what he used to be either, but he’s still pretty damn good. Add in the reality that Barboza has alternated wins and losses in his last four, and I’ll just have to go out on a limb by predicting a continuation of that pattern. Prediction: Melendez via unanimous decision.
Holly Holm (10-1) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)
In the main event of the evening, a pair of female Bantamweights, who made their names through Boxing and Kickboxing, will take aim at a potential title shot. Holm shocked the world less than a year ago with her epic and dominant performance against longtime champion Ronda Rousey in November. She was on pace for a draw against Miesha Tate in March, before succumbing to a rear-naked choke in the final minutes. However, a win tonight likely grants her another title shot.
As for Shevchenko, the woman who went a whopping 58-2-1 in Kickboxing, will look to avenge her controversial loss against Amanda Nunes in her last fight with a win tonight. She may have had a pair of close fights inside the octagon, but has actually finished nine of her 12 wins.
On paper, this could be a long and testy striking bout. It very well might wind up being a lackluster affair. Both women have had some amazing finishes to their credit, but have also has some clunkers. I think it’ll be a close fight, and I’ll give the edge to the former champ. But, a Shevchenko win definitely wouldn’t surprise me. Prediction: Holm via decision.