With nearly every fight being dead even in terms of betting odds, even oddsmakers feel that UFC 237 should be a closely contested and entertaining night of fights. Headlined by a Rose Namajunas title defense and two of the sport’s biggest historical stars fighting in their home country on their farewell tours, the building in Rio should be rocking. (Order the UFC 237 PPV here through ESPN+.)
To Dana White and the UFC’s credit, they didn’t serve up Anderson Silva or Jose Aldo easy fights and both men should be tested in their respective fights. Silva gets the hard-hitting Jared Cannonier, who actually used to fight at heavyweight before eventually making the drop down the middleweight. Aldo gets surging featherweight prospect Alexander Volkanovski, who has his eyes set on a shot at the belt.
The biggest story of the night is Rose Namajunas defending her belt against Jessica Andrade. Despite her lack of height, Andrade is one of the strongest female fighters on the entire UFC roster. She was a strong fighter, to begin with at 135 pounds but since making the drop down to 115, has been able to ragdoll any opponent put in front of her. Namajunas is a crafty submission specialist with a recently improved stand-up game making for a very interesting stylistic matchup.
With so many close fights that could go either way, let’s get into our picks and predictions for the UFC 237 main card.
(All odds courtesy of Oddsshark)
1. Rose Namajunas (+115) vs Jessica Andrade (-145) UFC 237 Prediction & Pick
Rose Namajunas finally turns her attention to the rest of the strawweight division after taking the belt from Joanna Jedrzejczyk and subsequently defending it in an immediate rematch. Long known for her slick work on the ground, Namajunas showcased an entirely different dimension to her game as she stood with the most dangerous technical striker in the division twice and came away victorious both times. On the back of drastically improved footwork and hand speed, Namajunas is much more comfortable controlling the fight on the feet than when she entered the UFC and her rounded out game makes her one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport.
However, Jessica Andrade should be no easy matchup. One of the strongest, if not the strongest, women in the UFC, Andrade is able to bully most opponents in the 115-pound division. She had a title shot against Jedrzejczyk, who was able to keep her at an arm’s length and pick her apart but looks to be a much better fighter in her two years since the last shot. With a smothering top game and heavy hands, Andrade will likely look to dictate the pace and location of the fight and take the fight to Namajunas.
Namajunas’ diverse skill set and Andrade’s smothering, advancing style should make for an incredibly interesting matchup. Even if Andrade gets Namajunas down, Namajunas possesses the skill on the ground to take advantage of any opening Andrade may leave. On the feet, Namajunas should look to follow a similar gameplan to Jedrzejczyk against Andrade. However, Andrade has one-punch knockout power and despite being the less technical fighter, could put Namajunas out at any moment.
Namajunas is one of the most composed and smartest fighters in the sport who wanted this challenge in Brazil – that says quite a bit about where her head is at. As scary as Andrade’s strength may be, Namajunas has been overlooked before yet continues to find crafty ways to rise to the challenge and come out on top. Expect more of the same here as Namajunas grinds out a tough decision victory.
Pick: Rose Namajunas (+115)
2. Jared Cannonier (-105) vs Anderson Silva (-125) UFC 237 Prediction & Pick
Longtime UFC pound-for-pound king and middleweight legend Anderson Silva makes a stop in Rio on his farewell tour. At 44 years old and just 1-3 in his last four fights, Silva’s best days are behind him. He still makes for entertaining fights and put on an incredibly fun show against the future interim champion, Israel Adesanya. While he lacks the explosive athleticism that made him unbeatable in his prime, Silva is still an incredibly effective striker with some of the best technical chops in the sport.
Jared Cannonier has had an interesting MMA career. Initially starting off as a 5’11” heavyweight, Cannonier has slowly dropped down in weight over the years and now finds himself fighting all the way down at 185 pounds. After a pair of losses at light heavyweight, Cannonier demolished David Branch in his middleweight debut and looks to have some of the heavier hands in the division. Cannonier likes using his hands and the fight should mostly stay on the feet.
Given the fact that both fighters like to stand and trade, there is a pretty slim chance this goes to the ground at any point. What should be the deciding factor in the fight is if Cannonier can repeatedly find ways inside against the bigger and longer Silva. If given the room to operate, Silva will simply stay an arm’s length away and pick Cannonier apart with ease en route to a decision win. If Cannonier can find a way inside on Silva, things get a bit more interesting as there isn’t any question as to if he has the power to put the aging Silva out.
Despite Cannonier’s significant power advantage, Silva is fighting in front of a Brazilian crowd and is desperate to pick up another win. He should have some of the heaviest crowd support on the night and will most likely stick to the gameplan, keeping Cannonier at bay while racking up points on the judge’s scorecards. Expect a Silva win via decision.
Pick: Anderson Silva (-125)
UFC 237 airs May 11 on ESPN+. You can order it here.
3. Jose Aldo (+125) vs Alexander Volkanovski (-145) UFC 237 Prediction & Pick
Another Brazilian MMA icon on the farewell tour, Jose Aldo makes another Rio appearance as he fights towards one more shot at the belt. The longtime featherweight king, Aldo defended the belt nine consecutive times before losing it at the hands of Conor McGregor. Aldo would eventually win the belt back before losing back to back fights to Max Holloway. However, Aldo has picked up a nice pair of wins since his losses to Holloway and despite confirming he would retire from MMA in 2019, could be in line for one more shot at the belt before the year is up with a win over Volkanovski.
Alexander Volkanovski is one of the most exciting up and coming prospects in the UFC. With an undefeated record in the octagon and an aggressive, heavy-handed style of fighting, Volkanovski makes for one of the more fun fighters to watch. He shouldn’t be afraid to stand and trade with Aldo and this fight has a relatively high chance to end early on. He does have a nice takedown game which could come in handy against Aldo and his lightning-quick hands.
Expect Volkanovski to come out pressuring Aldo but for Aldo to land some big counter shots while avoiding the bulk of the damage. If Aldo can steer clear of any Volkanovski takedowns, he should be able to win enough exchanges on the feet to win the fight. If Volkanovski is able to repeatedly land his takedowns, Aldo should be in for a long three rounds. While the fight could go either way, give me the underdog Aldo with the raucous home crowd behind him.
Pick: Jose Aldo (+125)
4. Thiago Alves (-110) vs Laureano Staropoli (-110) UFC 237 Prediction & Pick
Yet another aging Brazilian MMA icon, Thiago Alves gets the call at UFC 237. While not the same level of star as Silva or Aldo, Alves has long been a premier fighter for the promotion. Making his debut in 2005, Alves has fought a who’s who of UFC elite and even fought for the welterweight belt in 2009. Long regarded as one of the gatekeepers of the welterweight division, Alves still has his trademarked heavy hands despite his old age. However, he is just 2-4 across his last six fights and faces a tough challenge.
That tough challenge is Laureano Staropoli. Staropoli is a relative newcomer to the UFC and is making only his second appearance for the promotion. Staropoli won his debut against Hector Aldana via decision but is actually known for stopping all of his fights prior to the UFC. With almost all of those finishes coming via TKO, Staropoli has some dangerous hands and while he doesn’t have one-punch power, he is able to put opponents out with an overwhelming flurry of shots.
Especially with Alves’ best days behind him, we shouldn’t expect too much from the aging welterweight. He is coming off a bit of a surprise win against Max Griffin and does have the home crowd at his back but with a number of injuries throughout his career and the fact he has been fighting professionally for 14 years, Alves simply isn’t the same fighter he once was. Staropoli is an exciting young prospect and his explosive athleticism should prove to be too much for the sturdy, but worn down, former contender. Look for a Staropoli finish via TKO in the second or third round.
Pick: Laureano Staropoli (-110)
5. Irene Aldana (-370) vs Bethe Correia (+280) Prediction & Pick
Irene Aldana came into the UFC a highly touted prospect who had never let a fight go to the judges’ scorecards. While she stumbled out of the gate, losing her first two fights by decision, she would slowly find her feet again by picking up back to back wins over Talita Bernardo and Lucie Pudilová. Aldana is an aggressive fighter who primarily likes to keep the fight standing and do damage on her feet.
Bethe Correia was once one of the most feared women’s bantamweights on the planet. With a perfect 9-0 record headed into a title shot with Ronda Rousey at UFC 190, Correia was knocked out cold in 34 seconds. Since the loss, Correia has struggled to find her footing atop the bantamweight division and has seen herself slide down the rankings, going just 1-2-1 over her last four fights. Known for her ferocious striking, Correia will want to keep this fight standing as she looks to get back into the win column and make another climb up the bantamweight rankings.
All of the momentum in this fight is on Aldana’s side, as she is coming off back to back wins. Correia hasn’t won a fight since 2016 and although arguably the more talented fighter, hasn’t fought to her fullest potential in years. More importantly, Correia missed weight rather badly for the fight and might be a bit extra gassed from a brutal weight cut. Expect Aldana to pick up the win via KO or TKO in the later rounds.
Pick: Irene Aldana (-370)
UFC 237 airs May 11 on ESPN+. You can order it here.