UFC 228 returns to PPV tonight for what can best be described as “a show” from Dallas, TX.
Without any fanfare, let’s bring you a look at the card courtesy of yours truly, Paul Fontaine and Ryan Frederick.
Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley vs. Darren Till
Jessica Andrade vs. Karolina Kowalkiewiecz
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Brandon Davis
Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson
Abdul Razak Hassan vs. Niko Price
Carla Esparza vs. Tatiana Suarez
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamann
Geoff Neal vs. Frank Camacho
Charles Byrd vs. Darren Stewart
Diego Sanchez vs. Craig White
Jim Miller vs. Alex White
Irene Aldana vs. Lucie Pudilova
Jarred Brooks vs. Roberto Sanchez
What are you most looking forward to?
Paul: There’s a lot on this show, really. However, it would have been Nicco Montano finally defending her flyweight title and potentially seeing Valentina Shevchenko capturing UFC gold.
Ryan: I’m looking forward to the main event. People like to downplay Tyron Woodley as champion, but he is a smart fighter. However, Till has the edge in this fight in my eyes. He’s going to have the size advantage and with him making weight rather easily on Friday, I think that plays into Woodley’s head just a little bit. I feel like Woodley was fully expecting Till to miss weight. It’s an intriguing welterweight title fight.
Josh: Honestly, nothing. Gun to my head, I’d say Till-Woodley but I don’t like how this fight got made. Overall, there’s some names on this show, but I won’t be hitting the ‘Buy’ button for UFC 228.
Anything being slept on?
Paul: The two bantamweight fights on the FX prelims. Until recently, Jimmie Rivera was on a 20 fight win streak, the 29-year-old Aljamain Sterling was once thought to be the future of the division, former flyweight title challenger John Dodson has a win over current champ TJ Dillashaw, and the least known of the four bantamweights, Cody Stamann, has the quietest 17-1 record you’ll ever see. Sterling meets Stamann and Rivera faces Dodson and the winners of those fights could potentially have a title eliminator fight down the road. It’s notable that Rivera, in the middle of his long win streak, lost an exhibition fight to get on The Ultimate Fighter 14th seasons. The winner of that season? His opponent tonight, Dodson.
Ryan: I see the two bantamweight fights on the card being overlooked. They feature top-ten ranked fighters in Rivera, Dodson, Sterling and Stamann in what has become one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. The winners of the two fights could end up fighting next, and they are both solid fights. Also, the main card opener is a great fight between Alhassan and Price should be explosive.
Josh: Dodson-Rivera for the reasons Paul laid out. It’s easy to forget Rivera had a fight lined up with Dominick Cruz before injury put it on the sidelines. He’s right there in the title match mix and a win here should either get him that shot or perhaps even Cody Garbrandt or Raphael Assuncao depending on how the cards play out with Dillashaw.
Anything not doing it for you?
Paul: I’ll say it: the main event. Woodley bores me and Till should be fighting at middleweight. And why bother having Colby Covington fight for an interim title a couple months back if he was just going to be stripped for not making this show? The welterweight division has kind of been a mess since GSP vacated the title in 2013 and I couldn’t care less who wins this fight.
Ryan: The fight, to me, that had the least intrigue ended up falling off the card when Montano was forced out of the Shevchenko fight. I thought it was a foregone conclusion that Shevchenko was going to win the fight easily. It’s a shame the fight was taken off the card, but it wasn’t doing much for me.
Josh: As I mentioned before, the whole show. Not to be too negative, some of these fights could be better used other places. This feels like a quota show, not a can’t miss event.
What’s the intrigue with the show?
Paul: Despite me not personally caring about the result of the main event, it has to be who emerges from that fight. Another thing for those of us who follow the business of MMA is just how this show will do on PPV. With college football just getting going, a big boxing show airing opposite the event, and a month out of the biggest MMA show of the year with Conor vs. Khabib, a lot of casual PPV buyers may choose to skip this one.
Ryan: It’s what happens in the main event. It feels like it might be time for someone new to reign at 170 pounds, and it will see where Woodley needs to be when discussing the great fighters in the sport.
Josh: Whether size matters and whether Till is ready for this opportunity. I cringe a bit at the thought of another boring Woodley fight and the post-fight reaction if that happens.
What will be people talking about most after the show is done?
Paul: I fully expect Colby Covington to make some sort of appearance and challenge the Woodley-Till winner so there could be some buzz around that. Also, Tatiana Suarez is unbeaten and has the featured FX prelim fight. Another win for her could have people talking about a potential title shot at Rose Namajunas.
Ryan: I’m not sure anyone is going to be talking about much when this show is over. It’s going to be whoever wins the main event. I do see that we will have the next challenger for Rose Namajunas being determined, and I’m picking it to be Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Outside of that, not a whole lot will be talking points come next week.
Josh: That Woodley is better than given credit for, that Till is heading to middleweight, that Rivera is ready for bigger names, and that Suarez could be Namajunas’ biggest challenge to date.
Woodley vs. Till
Woodley: Josh, Paul
Andrade vs. KK
Andrade: Paul, Josh
Esparza vs. Suarez
Suarez: Paul, Ryan, Jos
Rivera vs. Dodson
Rivera: Josh, Ryan
Follow along with our live coverage tonight and check out Paul’s more robust picks on his site.