UFC 224: Hear Me Roar

Event: UFC 224
Date: Saturday, May 12, 2018; 10:00pm ET
Venue: Jeunesse Arena, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hey there! I'm Bruce, your new go-to for all things MMA. I'm a huge fan of the sport and am pretty involved in the local MMA scene. I started training BJJ in 2011 while serving in the military. I've met several people throughout my martial arts journey that have helped me see different parts of the game. I've helped with regional shows doing everything from cage setup, to judging fights, and even cornering fighters. Now that I'm done boring you with my background, let's get to what you really came for… UFC 224 picks.

Amanda "The Lioness" Nunes (-1000) faces off against Raquel "Rocky" Pennington (+600) for the Women's Bantamweight title in the UFC 224 main event. Nunes is riding a six fight win streak, including winning the title and two defenses. It doesn't look like she'll be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, things may have gotten easier for the champ with Valentina Shevchenko dropping down to the flyweight division.

Rocky has been on a four fight tear of her own despite starting her career a mediocre 5-5. Her last win was an impressive unanimous victory over former champ Miesha Tate at UFC 205. The only downside is that she is coming back from a year and a half layoff due to a broken leg. Ring rust is real folks. I feel the layoff combined with the fact they're in Brazil will be a factor.

Free Pick: Nunes via 3rd rd TKO

In the co-main event, we have Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (-150) taking on Kelvin Gastelum (+120). Jacare is coming off a huge win over Derek Brunson back in January. He's won 3 of his last 4, with the lone loss being to current middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker. He has since moved his camp to South Florida, and seems to be recovered from a shoulder injury suffered last year. Souza will bring his world class jiu jitsu game with him, but he'll have to get Gastelum to the ground first.

Kelvin Gastelum needs to figure out what weight class he wants to be in. He's in arguably the biggest fight of his career, yet he talks about going back down to 170 to face Tyron Woodley. He looked phenomenal knocking out Michael Bisping, but looked undersized against Chris Weidman. His boxing has been looking good lately, but I don't think he'll be able to deal with the size of Jacare.

Free Pick: Souza via 2nd rd Sub

Multiple time BJJ world champ, Mackenzie Dern (-260), makes her sophomore appearance against Amanda Cooper (+200). This will also be her first time on a main card, let alone a PPV. Although her first fight didn't go as expected, she hung in there and got the split decision win over Ashley Yoder at UFC 222. Dern has been staying active, as this will be her fourth fight in the past year. She also left the MMA Lab in AZ to train out of California.

Cooper has been alternating wins and losses since her TUF 23 Finale loss to Tatiana Suarez. At 3-3, all three losses have come by… submission. This doesn't look like a great match-up for her.

Free Pick: Dern via 1st rd Sub

There's a title fight on this card, but this may be the people's main event. Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (+210) will take on Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (-270). While their best days are behind them, both are Brazilian legends and former UFC champions. Vitor has been open about this being his last fight in the UFC (don't be surprised to see him in Rizin or Bellator). The Phenom has won just 1 of his last 4 fights (one was a NC overturned from a TKO loss to Gastelum), and that was against another fighter who retired recently (Nate Marquardt).

Machida hasn't been doing much better since dropping down to middleweight. He's 1-3 in his last 4 and 4-4 overall since dropping to 185. His last fight was a hard-fought win against up-and-comer Eryk Anders, so it looks like the Dragon might still have some fire in his belly.

Free Pick: (Toss-up) Belfort via 1st rd KO or Machida 2nd rd TKO