UFC 224 takes place on Saturday in Brazil, so expect to see a heavy dose of Brazilian fighters with six on the main card. It will be the ladies who take center stage, though, as bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will defend her belt against Raquel Pennington in the main event.
Amanda Nunes vs Raquel Pennington – Women’s Bantamweight Championship Bout
Nunes (15-4) was supposed to fight featherweight champion Cris Cyborg but that fell through and now she’s taking on Pennington. Pennington (9-5) has been off since a unanimous-decision win over former champion Miesha Tate in November 2016, but she’s had trouble against top-level competition. That’s why she is a huge +400 underdog in this spot. Nunes, who is favored at -600, battled to a tough split-decision win over Valentina Shevchenko in September. Nunes will try to use her striking to keep Pennington at bay, but she can also go to the ground if the fight calls for it.
Ronaldo Souza vs Kelvin Gastelum – Middleweight
Souza (25-5, 1 NC), also known as “Jacare,” scored a head-kick win over Derek Brunson in January and enters with momentum. Gastelum knocked out former champion Michael Bisping in November, so both are in decent form. Souza is favored in this fight at -150, while Gastelum is rated at +120 in what could be the best fight of the night. Both have knockout power but Gastelum will want to keep this fight standing up as he wants no part of Souza, a world champion in jiu-jitsu and submission wrestling, on the ground.
Mackenzie Dern vs Amanda Cooper – Women’s Strawweight
Dern (6-0) picked up a split-decision win over Ashley Yoder in March and is still undefeated. She’ll take on Cooper (3-3), who knocked out Angela Magana in December. Cooper is a +185 underdog as her latest win was just her second in her last five fights. Dern, who is a -235 favorite, is being touted as the next big thing in the women’s realm of the UFC. She is a jiu-jitsu world champion, which could be bad news for Cooper, whose three losses have all come by submission.
John Lineker vs Brian Kelleher – Bantamweight
Lineker (30-8) won by unanimous decision over Marlon Vera in October, which allowed him to bounce back from his loss to T.J. Dillashaw. That loss was his only one in his last eight fights. Meanwhile, Kelleher (19-8) is also coming off a win – a victory over former champion Renan Barao – and has just one loss in his last 10 bouts.
Lineker is favored in this matchup at -250 over Kelleher at +195 but first Lineker has to make weight. He has missed weight five times in his career at both flyweight and bantamweight. Both men are well-rounded fighters who can go anywhere in the Octagon, but Lineker’s conditioning could be the key.
Vitor Belfort vs Lyoto Machida – Middleweight
A pair of Brazilian legends in the twilight of their career will open up the main card. Belfort (26-13, 1 NC) beat Nate Marquardt by unanimous decision in June, marking his first win in four tries. Meanwhile, Machida (23-8) won by split decision over Eryk Anders in February, which was also his first win in four fights. It would be a surprise if these former champions went the distance in this fight as their chins have deteriorated in recent years. Machida is favored at -260 to +200 for Belfort.