UFC 200 promises to live up to grand hype

By The Rex Factor

UFC 200 promises to be the biggest sporting event of the year in Las Vegas – so it’s only proper that the event christens the new T-Mobile Arena that sits in the middle of the Strip.

Starting next fall, the expansion hockey team will be the chief tenant of the sparkling new arena, but on July 9, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will wrap a three-night extravaganza and celebration of fights with three belts being decided during the pay-per-view portion of the event.

While Conor McGregor won’t get to avenge his UFC 196 loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 200, the night is still chock full of stars on the card.

The main event is a rematch from UFC 182, as Jon Jones goes after the belt he lost due to out-of-ring troubles against Daniel Cormier. The light heavyweight belt will be on the line again, as Cormier became the interim champion after choking out Anthony Johnson on May 23, 2015 and then won a controversial split decision over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 last October. These two were supposed to meet at UFC 197 but Cormier was injured and had to pull out. This allowed Jones to outduel Ovince Saint Preux in an interim title bout in his first action since UFC 182. Ring rust aside, Jones is a roughly 3-to-1 favorite to unify the division by getting his belt back.

Miesha Tate will try to defend her women’s bantamweight belt against Amanda Nunes, a top contender in that weight class. This will be her first time defending the title; Tate has won five straight since being submitted by Ronda Rousey at UFC 168 a little over 18 months back. The first four were decisions before she won the belt from Holly Holm with a fifth-round rear-naked choke. Nunes has won five of her six UFC fights, four by first-round stoppages.

During the UFC 199 broadcast on June 4, it was announced that Brock Lesnar would make a return to fight in the UFC for the first time since 2011. Lesnar, a legend in wrestling for the WWE, will meet brick-fisted Mark Hunt in the sandwich battle between those two title tilts.

Lesnar has landed 55 percent of his takedown attempts in UFC fights, which ranks third in heavyweight history. He’s 5-3 with just one fight going the distance in the octagon. Hunt’s 12 UFC fights since 2010 have only gone to the scorecards twice, so there likely will be fireworks here. He has six knockouts in the last six years, which is tied with four others for most by a heavyweight in that span.

Also to be decided on the main card is the featherweight title. Jose Aldo lost that belt to Conor McGregor at UFC 194 last December but McGregor has been fighting at a higher weight class since then and will cede the belt to the winner of Aldo and Frankie Edgar, the former lightweight champion. Aldo defended his featherweight crown against Edgar in their first meeting at UFC 156 back in early 2013.

Edgar has won five straight since that fight but has lost three straight title bouts since going 3-0-1 in his first four when competing for the belt.

This is only the second time the UFC has put on fights on three consecutive days. Thursday’s UFC Fight Night 90 will be at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with the 12-fight card starting at 6:35 Eastern time. Friday’s Ultimate Fighter Finale 23 will be at the same venue, with an 11-fight card starting at 6:05 EDT. The 12-fight Saturday card starts at 6:35 EDT at T-Mobile Arena, with Fox Sports 1 picking up the coverage from 8-10 Eastern, right after the three Fight Pass Card fights and before the five PPV fights that will start around 10:10 EDT. Look for my best bets on the Saturday card later in the week.

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