The Ultimate Fighting Championship celebrates Independence Day this Saturday, July 5 (10 P.M. EST, Pay Per View), presenting its biggest fight card of 2014 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Headlining UFC 175 is middleweight champion Chris Weidman (11-0, 7-0 UFC), who will square off with Lyoto Machida (21-4, 13-4 UFC) in the evening's main event.
Weidman, 2013's MMA "Fighter of the Year," is a decorated wrestler and Jiu Jitsu practitioner with a tremendous fight IQ and disciplined striking. A product of Long Island's Serra-Longo Fight Team, Weidman, who is making his first Octagon appearance of 2014 after a pair of knee surgeries, earned the promotion's 185-pound title roughly one year ago, knocking out the legendary Anderson Silva at UFC 162, later defending the belt at UFC 168.
A former UFC light heavyweight champion, Machida has looked exceptional since dropping down a weight class, using his unorthodox Karate style and takedown defense to stifle and outclass opponents. Machida fights unlike any other athlete in mixed martial arts today, and in addition to phenomenal agility, he also possess one punch, and kick, knockout power.
"I know Chris Weidman is a tough guy, very well rounded, known for being a wrestler ... but I'm not too worried about Chris Weidman ... I'm focused on what I do well," explained Machida, through an interpreter. "With my distance and technique, it frustrates a lot of wrestlers because wrestlers' main focus a lot of times is to get their hands on me and try to get close and try to take me down, where my style and strategy is to keep my distance, use my distance well and attack."
It's difficult to pick against Weidman, the only man to defeat Silva inside the Octagon, twice, but after a pair of fluky finishes in his last two outings, expect another wild and memorable performance. While Weidman will control the contest early on, Machida will find a way to stymie repeated takedown attempts and score the KO/TKO win.
Co-main event: Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis
Women's bantamweight champion Rousey (9-0, 3-0 UFC) enters the Octagon for the second time in 2014, coming off an impressive TKO victory at UFC 170. An Olympic bronze medalist in Judo, Rousey has become one of the UFC's most dominant champions on account of her exceptional strength and pedigree on the mat.
Davis (16-5, 3-0 UFC), a BJJ black belt under Cesar Gracie, will attempt to become the first woman to unseat Rousey at the top of the rankings. Relying on her high level Jiu Jitsu, Davis, who is in the midst of a five-fight win streak, needs to find an opening on the ground in order to stop Rousey.
"The is actually gonna be the smoothest, easiest fight I've had in a while," commented Rousey. "I take these girls much more seriously than they could possibly take me ... I want it more. It's more important to me than it is to them."
Don't expect this one to take too long. Rousey has looked more and more impressive with every outing, and she should make quick waste of Davis via technical knockout.
Stefan Struve vs. Matt Mitrione
The lone heavyweight fight on the UFC 175 card, this matchup between Struve (25-6, 9-4 UFC) and Mitrione (7-3, 7-3 UFC) shouldn't take too long, as both athletes have a propensity for quick and brutal finishes.
Entering the Octagon for the first time in 16 months on account of a medically induced hiatus, Struve, who suffers from an enlarged heart and leaking aortic valve, is looking to make a statement in this comeback fight. Standing seven feet tall, Struve has only gone the distance once in his 31-fight professional career, assembling an impressive resume of knockouts and submissions.
Mitrione, a heavy-handed brawler, has not won back-to-back fights since 2011 and is looking for his second straight victory.
While a Struve is one of the feel-good stories of UFC 175 and the promotion's International Fight Week, look for Mitrione to utilize his athleticism and land an early knockout.
Uriah Hall vs. Thiago Santos
Another Karate practitioner, Hall (8-4, 1-2 UFC) rose to prominence on account of several devastating knockouts during his tenure on The Ultimate Fighter's seventeenth season, but was nearly cut from the UFC after losing a pair of lackluster decisions in his first two Octagon appearances. Hall eventually found his striking form on his third outing, earning a TKO victory over the now-retired Chris Leben.
Santos (9-2, 1-1 UFC), a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, looked sharp in his most recent contest, but having never been outside of the first round in UFC action, it's a bit too soon to tell if he's a legitimate threat at 185 pounds.
Hall will come out tentative in the first round and look to find his striking range with a bevy of kicks, keeping Santos at bay. Then, in the second frame, look for Hall to come to form and land the knockout blow.
Marcus Brimage vs. Russell Doane
It's been nearly a year since Brimage (6-2, 3-1 UFC), a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter season 14, was last seen inside the Octagon, suffering a first-round knockout at the hands of Conor McGregor.
Doane (13-3, 1-0 UFC), meanwhile, is coming off a submission win, his first with the UFC.
Expect non-stop action from these two bantamweights, with Brimage pushing the pace on the feet and Doane attempting to drag the contest to the ground.
Eventually, Doane will outlast Brimage, who is making his first appearance at 135 pound, en route to a decision victory.
Best of the Undercard
For the first time since in nearly a decade, three-time former bantamweight title challenger Urijah Faber (30-7, 6-3 UFC) will not fight on a promotional main card, taking on surging prospect Alex Caceres (10-5 1 NC, 5-3 1 NC) atop the UFC 175 prelims (8 P.M. EST, FOX Sports 1).
Faber, a decorated wrestler and former WEC champion, owns a significant experience advantage over Caceres, who is in the midst of a four-fight win streak (along with one No Contest after failing a post-fight drug test).
Caceres has looked impressive of late, but Faber is a significant step up in competition, and will prove to be too much to handle.
Look for Faber to pressure Caceres with strikes against the cage early and mount an unstoppable offensive battering. And while he's known for his submission finishes, Faber stops Caceres with punches.