Next weekend, the UFC heads to Cleveland, Ohio for an event that hasn’t happened in the city in a very long time. UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend his world title against Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC 203. Miocic captured the title by heading down to Curitiba and knocking out Fabricio Werdum on home soil, and now the resurgent Overeem will be looking to accomplish the same feat heading into enemy territory. The co-main event of UFC 203 features the aforementioned Werdum in a rematch against Travis Browne. The Brazilian initially earned his heavyweight title shot with a dominant decision win over Browne back in 2014, and is hoping for a return to form to get right back in line for a title shot. Browne will be looking for his first top 10 win since blasting Josh Barnett with elbows all the way back at UFC 168. The other… “notable” fight at the top of UFC 203 is the MMA debut of former WWE champion Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk). Punk will be taking a fight against 2-0 Mickey Gall whose path to this bout has been documented on Fight Pass. The UFC has gone a step further with Punk, filming and airing a documentary titled ‘Evolution of Punk’ on Fight Pass leading up to the bout. For anyone who expects a high-level MMA bout here, they’re probably bound for disappointment. It should be a spectacle however, and the UFC is counting on Punk bringing the wrestling crowd in for some extra buys. Miocic is a slight -135 favorite against Overeem (+115), Werdum and Browne have seen the odds flip from their first bout, as Werdum is the -210 favorite this time with the comeback on Browne at +175. In the Punk/Gall bout, the attention Punk has received has not swayed oddsmakers or the betting public, as Gall is a healthy -300 favorite and the 38-year-old Punk sits at +250. The main card is rounded out by an excellent bantamweight fight between former champion Urijah Faber and the surging Jimmie Rivera, and a solid strawweight scrap between Jessica Andrade and Joanna Calderwood. The preliminary card features a standout flyweight bout between Ian McCall and Ray Borg, in addition to former women’s bantamweight title challenger Bethe Correia. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for the two remaining main card bouts as well as all ten preliminary fights today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check out all the opening lines below: ——————– UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, Ohio Main Card Pay-Per-View – 10pm ET
——————————- Preliminary Card Fox Sports 1 – 8pm ET
——————————- Preliminary Card UFC Fight Pass – 6:15pm ET
————————- Brad’s Analysis: Faber has been on a slight decline of late, but he’s still a quality bantamweight capable of hanging with anyone in the division and beating much of the top 15. In Rivera however, he faces an opponent who has a sharp boxing game and the ability to shut down Faber’s wrestling. If we start to see scrambles in this bout, that’s somewhere Faber will still have the edge and he could find a guillotine or make his way to Rivera’s back, however I think as the fight progresses as a whole Rivera will be able to throw more in combination and edge his way ahead. It will be competitive, but I’m going to lean slightly to Rivera. From a betting perspective, I think Rivera may end up too popular a choice for how close this fight will be, and we may see Faber as a dog in the +140 to +150 range, and that certainly presents some value. The last time a fighter really pressured Joanne Calderwood, she was rocked and then submitted by Maryna Moroz. Since then, Moroz has lost to Valerie LeTourneau and had unimpressive performances against Cristina Stanciu and Danielle Taylor. That doesn’t seem to bode well for Calderwood when she steps up against an even more aggressive (and far more talented) Jessica Andrade. The Brazilian will march forward with no respect for Calderwood’s power, land shots, and may even score another stoppage. Even Andrade’s grappling, which has given pause in the past, shouldn’t be an issue here. Calderwood is a capable wrestler but not a submission threat, and I expect Andrade’s takedown defense to be solid at 115. Jessica Eye is a more dangerous and proficient striker than Bethe Correia, but I’m really not sure that matters in this fight. Eye has had trouble pulling the trigger on more than one occasion now, something that is never a concern for Correia. Neither fighter is likely to resort to takedowns here — and even if they were, Correia has solid defense and poor takedowns of her own — so the fight will likely stay on the feet, and unless there’s a big change in philosophy from Eye I think she loses another decision due to a lack of volume. Michael McBride is going to have height and reach advantages on Nik Lentz, but those are about the only things going his way here. He’s recently been fighting above 155, and now he’s going to have to cut down to lightweight on a week’s notice to face a draining stylistic matchup. This will also be McBride’s first fight in 2016, and he only competed once in 2015 as well. His submission game is slick, but that could also lead to him embracing the grappling match that Lentz will certainly try to implement. We should see an increasingly one-sided Lentz decision as McBride fades in rounds two and three. It’s been 16 months since we’ve seen Brad Tavares in action, and 14 months since Caio Magalhaes has stepped foot in the Octagon, so this bout has a bit of uncertainty to it. However, if they stick true to their previous form, this should be a very winnable fight for Tavares. He’s a cleaner striker and better wrestler than Magalhaes, who has competed at a higher level throughout his career. I would anticipate that this fight will spend a considerable amount of time in the clinch, where Tavares outworks Magalhaes to a decision, and I can’t see this fight being too exciting. The best fight on the prelims, by far, is the flyweight bout between Ian McCall and Ray Borg. The hype on Borg has cooled significantly since he suffered his first loss to Justin Scoggins, but that was a stylistically horrible matchup for him. Against McCall, he’s going to face someone who will be far more willing to engage in a grappling match, especially given McCall’s troubles with hand injuries that could limit his striking ability. As long as McCall can grapple near 100% he should be the better wrestler than Borg, but that’s a real question mark at this point. If the line gets up past +200, Borg (or Borg by Decision) could be worth a play. Yancy Medeiros is the latest fighter to make the jump from lightweight to welterweight, and he’s facing an interesting stylistic matchup with Sean Spencer. Both fighters are similar in stature, but Spencer is simply physically larger. This fight shouldn’t have much grappling in it, as Medeiros is still yet to land a takedown in the UFC and has some excellent takedown defense of his own. The difference in this fight could very well be Medeiros’ lack of striking defense, which has plagued him throughout his UFC tenure. If he doesn’t possess a massive speed difference after moving up from lightweight, he could be in trouble and this could be a much closer bout than most anticipate. Francimar Barroso has shown excellent takedown defense up at 205, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep his bout on the feet against CB Dolloway. If he can, he still has to overcome his low output which is going to be tough. However, Dolloway has never had the most stout chin, so it may just take one shot from a 205er to change this fight. Unfortunately for Barroso, I don’t think that shot ever comes and Dolloway’s return to 205 is a success. Jason Gonzalez has never gone to a decision in his MMA career. The closest was when he lost on TUF to Abner Lloveras in a two-round exhibition bout. Against Drew Dober, he’s probably going to have to go to a decision if he wants to win, since Dober is tough to finish. For a guy who has never been that deep in a fight, Dober is a tough matchup because he doesn’t really fade at all. Even if Gonzalez comes out strong, I think Dober wins the second and third rounds to take a decision.