UFC 215 tips: Best bets for Nunes v Shevchenko in Edmonton
We're not prediction any stoppages, but a solid card promises a knockout night as the Octagon arrives in Canada.
Amanda Nunes v Valentina Shevchenko
Saturday night’s new main event is a rematch of a three-round fight from UFC 196 in March 2016, which Nunes won by unanimous decision.
The current women’s bantamweight champion dominated the first two rounds of that bout and deserved the victory, but showed signs of fatigue in the final five minutes and would have been glad to hear the final bell.
Since then, Nunes has steamrolled Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey with first-round finishes.
But the Brazilian clearly struggles the later a fight goes on.
Prior to her win over Shevchenko, she had lost her last three fights that had gone beyond the first round.
That would suggest she will need to knock her opponent out in this five-round bout, which is unlikely given that the Kyrgyzstani Muay Thai specialist has only been beaten once inside the distance – and even that was the result of an illegal kick.
Shevchenko has a 58-2 record as a kickboxer, and if she can withstand Nunes’ opening 10-minute onslaught then she should be able to take the title.
Neil Magny v Rafael dos Anjos
After beating Tarec Saffediene in his first fight since moving up to welterweight, former lightweight champion Dos Anjos is taking on a trickier test in the 30-year-old Magny.
The American has never quite challenged at the top of his division, but has beaten plenty of good welterweights and only lost to Demian Maia and Lorenz Larkin in 13 fights since 2013.
He’s fought once since losing to Larkin in 2016, when handily beat an out-of-sorts Johny Hendricks at UFC 207.
And his excellent endurance and uncanny ability to find a way to win in the late stages means he’s a very dangerous opponent.
Dos Anjos should, however, be able to neutralize Magny’s strengths on Saturday.
The Brazilian is the better striker of the pair, and should be able to find his way past Magny’s reach and fight on the inside, where the American is hugely vulnerable.
Magny’s chin isn’t great, and he could feasibly be put down by a big left hand from the southpaw.
The more likely outcome, however, is that Dos Anjos outboxes his opponent for at least two of the three rounds and comes away with a decision win.
Henry Cejudo v Wilson Reis
This is a decent fight between two flyweight contenders who have each lost to Demetrious Johnson in the past 18 months.
Cejudo was stopped by the champion in April 2016 and then lost a narrow decision to Joseph Benavidez in December, while Reis was submitted by Johnson five months ago.
While Reis’ title shot was perhaps his last chance of capturing the flyweight title, Cejudo looks to still have a big future in the division.
He’s currently ranked second behind Ray Borg, and should maintain that position by winning on Saturday night.
An Olympic gold medallist wrestler, he has the tools to stop Reis from taking this fight to where he’s most comfortable: the mat.
The American is also the superior striker, and will likely keep his distance and pick Reis off for a relatively comfortable victory.
Jeremy Stephens v Gilbert Melendez
These two fighters need a win more than anyone else on Saturday night’s card.
Stephens has fallen out of title contention after losing three of his last four fights, while Melendez has only fought five times since 2012, losing four.
The 35-year-old is moving down to featherweight for the first time in the UFC and has the superior pedigree of these two fighters, having held the Strikeforce lightweight belt on two occasions.
And, despite his age and recent inactivity, he’s the man to back on Saturday night.
Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza – all elite lightweights – are the only men to beat Melendez in eight years, while Stephens has lost to beatable opponents like Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira and Renato Moicano.
His huge punching power has visibly started to fade, and he’s clearly the inferior grappler here.
Melendez has never been knocked out, and should be able to take anything Stephens throws at him on the feet.
With some smart boxing and a couple of takedowns, he’ll take a decision win.