The Line Up
Lightweight Rafael dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz
Heavyweight Alistair Overeem vs. Stefan Struve
Heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Matt Mitrione
dos Anjos -240 / Diaz +200
Overeem -275 / Struve +235
Gonzaga +110 / Mitrione -130
3 Things You Should Know
1. Nate Diaz will end up fulfilling his own prophecy of living in Zuffa exile.
I never really cared for the Diaz brother schtick. It was cute at first. Like that unruly 3rd grader who doesn't want to eat his mashed potatoes. Instead he wants to turn those potatoes into a snowman. However, eventually his creativity begins to look a little sinister, until one day you're calling home because he turned his mashed potatoes into a food figurine of Mao Zedong.
Between using homophobic slurs on Twitter, and concocting typical self imagined conspiracies, Nate...who was once the more mature Diaz brother, is more or less in exile. This fight is just an audition for his bong walk into the sunset.
To be fair to Nate, he is coming off a win over Gray Maynard. However, he's facing an elite LW who has been spotless since 2012 with the exception of the number one contender, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Among his victims are names like Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone. dos Anjos still has an uphill battle to climb. His aggressive style plays into blunt force trauma of Nate's quantity attack. While RDJ is aggressive in the grappling department, and won't fear Nate on the ground, he'll certainly respect him. Which leaves the feet. One of the reasons why Nate is so different from Nick is that his striking exchanges aren't as quick, or clean. Nate didn't really develop his current striking style until Nick starting picking up big wins, so the late adoption of said strategy doesn't pay the dividends it has for Nick.
The biggest factor here is dos Anjos' movement. Nate plods along, getting smacked with leg kicks, and hoping for his opponent to offer their weaknesses up to him on a hookah platter.
RDJ should be able to work his angles, move in and out, land what are some of the best leg kicks in the division, and seal what will end up being a comfortable victory. Nate is 29, which means he could stay relevant if he wanted to. Believe me, I don't like defending Dana, but if Nate is looking to blame anyone for lacking financial security, he need only blame himself.
2. Alistair Overeem is as terrible as he's looked in the UFC because intangibles are harder to change than muscle fibers.
I had always been a critic of Overeem's career. Even in the midst of his K-1 success. I don't say "I told you so" because I don't wish Overeem success, and a healthy journey. Only that my powers of observation are not as slim as perceived, thus vindication soothes the soul. Alistair hasn't changed after all these years, no matter how much more pressure he can foster behind his punches. He's still the same guy who had to run away with his back turned to his opponent just to avoid a punch. The question is whether or not Overeem can finally get the right matchups to score him a much needed victory.
It's not a surprise to me that Overeem has faltered. However, it is a surprise to me that he's faltered so dramatically. After a certain point, you have to consider that if Antonio Silva and Ben Rothwell weren't the "right" matchups to get him winning again, then none are. After all, on paper these were big guys who liked to slug that would be forced to fight on the feet. Does Struve belong to that category?
It's hard to say. Struve hasn't fought since March of last year, where he lost to Mark Hunt. He was scheduled for another bout against Matt Mitrione a few months later, then had a medical problem that canceled it, and later that year his father died in October. Needless to say, times have incredibly tough on him.
He's got the fortitude to make this a dog fight, and wear Overeem down. Struve has never been a great striker by virtue of his inability to put together offense without fighting with his nose open, which as we've seen before, makes him great for Overeem to spit up and chew out like horsemeat. But all it takes is one exchange. If this bout were coming directly off the Hunt fight, I'd consider picking Struve. However, it's hard to know where his head is at, which was always screwed on a little loose anyway.
3. Gonzaga vs. Mitrione will live up to the "blink or you'll miss it" principle of prizefighting.
Finally a HW fight that is everything main card openers are designed to be. Mitrione is on quite the TKO streak but I was more impressed with Gonzaga in defeat than I was with Mitrione in victory. Gabe is still a little like Overeem in that he seems to struggle against pressure, generating offense too quickly, assembling defense a little too slowly. While this is a pick em fight all the way, I feel like Gonzaga still has that incredible straight right that keeps him in there against elite competition. Gonzaga rarely loses to mid tier fighters, and despite his southpaw stance, I suspect "Meathead" will still provide enough of a target to get rocked early. While his submission game is much improved, there's no way he hangs with Gonzaga long enough on the ground to merely stall. This is a solid fight to bet on, so don't hesitate.
dos Anjos by Decision
Overeem by TKO, round 2.
Gonzaga by TKO, round 1.