UFC 203 Observer panel picks: CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall…and other fights
For the first time in over two years, CM Punk will compete on pay-per-view. And for the first time in his life, it will be in a legitimate athletic contest.
And in case you didn’t notice, there are some other fights tonight at UFC 203 as well. Stipe Miocic makes his first title defense in front of his hometown fans in Cleveland, Fabricio Werdum starts his journey back to the title he lost to Miocic against Travis Browne, Joanne Calderwood returns to strawweight and takes on the surging Jessica Andrade in an important fight at 115, and the California Kid will attempt to remain relevant in the bantamweight division as he goes up against a man on an 18 fight win streak in Jimmie Rivera.
Our panel weighs in with their picks on the main card fights of UFC 203 below:
Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parentheses. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks
Josh Nason (57-38; .600) — Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com, WON Twitter guy
John Pollock (56-39; .589) — Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
David Bixenspan (56-39; .589) — Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
Ryan Frederick (56-39; .589) — WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
Favorites (53-42; .558)
Front Row Brian (53-42; .558) — MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
Mike Sempervive (53-42; .558) — Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
Consensus picks (46-38; .548)
Dave Meltzer (52-43; .547) — Wrestling Observer founder
Mike Sawyer (52-43; .547) — Tough Talk MMA
Steve Juon (50-45; .526) — MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer, Angry Marks founder
Paul Fontaine (47-48; .495) — MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
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UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (15-2) vs Alistair Overeem (41-14)
Miocic famously ended the Cleveland sports title drought when he stopped the aforementioned Werdum in May to become the new champion. Standing in his way of his first successful title defense is The Reem who receives his first UFC title shot after a long and storied career that features wins over five former UFC heavyweight champions (Werdum, Arlovski, Lesnar, Dos Santos and Mir). The challenger has looked better than at any point in his UFC career in his recent fights.
– Miocic (slight favorite): Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Bix, Nason, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine
– Overeem: FRB
Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1) vs Travis Browne (16-4-1)
Both of these guys are title contenders, and have redemption on their minds. Werdum was destroyed by Miocic in his home country and looks to rebound in front of Miocic’s own fans here. Browne ran into a mack truck in Cain Velasquez at UFC 200, and is only receiving this match due to an injury to Ben Rothwell. A win here is crucial to either guy’s future title hopes, and a loss may completely remove them from the equation. In short, this is a really important heavyweight matchup here.
– Werdum (moderate favorite): FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Bix, Nason, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer
– Browne: Frederick, Fontaine
CM Punk (pro debut) vs Mickey Gall (2-0)
All the focus for this show has been on this fight, and it will be interesting to see how both guys respond to the spotlight. Punk is certainly used to it from his days on the top of WWE, but this is new ground for Gall.
Gall actually has everything to lose here as theoretically he probably has 10-15 years of fighting ahead of him, while Punk could be one and done. He certainly couldn’t have more than five fights ahead of him. A win over Punk and all he did was beat an old non-athlete. A loss and it could end his career before it even starts. The oddsmakers aren’t giving Punk much of a chance, but he’s really made a career out of defying the odds.
– Punk: Fontaine
– Gall (huge favorite): FRB, Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Bix, Nason, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer
Urijah Faber (33-9) vs Jimmie Rivera (19-1)
This could be the show-stealer. Faber is an interesting case as he’s pretty much dominated every opponent he’s had in UFC, except for his many title fights. This is a fight he would usually be expected to win. But, he’s getting older and this time he’s going up against someone on an 18 fight win streak, including three in the UFC. Faber will likely never fight for a title again but he’ll probably be that roadblock that stands in the way of future potential contenders, of which Rivera is one.
– Faber: FRB, Frederick, Sawyer, Nason, Sempervive, Pollock, Fontaine
– Rivera (slight favorite): Juon, Bix, Meltzer
Joanne Caldwerwood (11-1) vs Jessica Andrade (14-5)
Both of these fighters have fought, and won, at a higher weight class in UFC and both are potential future contenders for champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Calderwood has looked really good since an upset loss at the hands of Maryna Moroz that made her look to the Tristar Gym in Montreal for a new gameplan. Since then she’s won two straight including a 2nd round KO over former title challenger Valerie Letourneau (at flyweight) in her last fight.
Andrade is also coming off a 2nd round KO in her strawweight debut after having a 4-3 record at bantamweight in UFC. It’s notable that even though Andrade is only 24 years old, she’ll have her ninth UFC fight, more than any woman in UFC history.
– Calderwood: FRB, Frederick, Juon, Sempervive
– Andrade (small favorite): Sawyer, Bix, Nason, Pollock, Meltzer, Fontaine
Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 7:30 p.m. ET and moves over to FS 1 for that portion of the prelims at 8 p.m.. The main card is on PPV at 10 p.m.
While you’re waiting, check out the following content, also related to the show:
DFS playbook –- Who to pick, who to avoid
And all of the #PunkWeek stuff from the F4W crew:
Kyle S. Johnson says that Punk’s “pipe bomb” promo led to his UFC debut
Mike DellaCamera thinks that Punk should never go back to WWE
Jeremy Peeples says that no matter what happens tonight, Punk is already a winner
Josh Nason and John Pollock talked about UFC 203, among other things, on Josh Nason’s Punch Out.
Yours truly looks at other pro wrestling stars who have tried MMA to mixed results
Peach Machine lays out a path for victory for CM Punk