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The UFC heads back to Brazil for UFC 224 on May 12. The main event features bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the heavy betting favorite, putting her belt on the line against Raquel Pennington.

The rest of the card features plenty of the best fighting talent to come out of Brazil, including Jacare Souza, Vitor Belfort and John Lineker.

If you don’t know who to bet or what will happen at UFC 224, we have your in-depth breakdown of the entire main card, including predictions for each fight.

2018 Prediction Record To Date
Straight Up Picking Favorites Picking Underdogs
14-10 11-8 3-2

Amanda Nunes vs Raquel Pennington

Amanda Nunes (-1000) is an explosive fighter with arguably the heaviest strikes in bantamweight history. That’s not to say she is a brawler, as Nunes has a great technical feel for striking, especially in terms of her footwork. Her natural gifts show up even more in grappling exchanges with Nunes being able to punish opponents in the clinch or on the ground. If she has a shortcoming, it is her cardio. “The Lioness” throws strikes with fight-ending intentions, which can cause her to gas – though she has been doing a better job controlling herself recently.

Raquel Pennington (+600) is a jack-of-all-trades type of fighter. “Rocky” is most comfortable when a fight is standing, working a consistent pace at distance or wearing down opponents in the clinch. Though many mistake her for a pure brawler – and she can be if the need arises – Pennington is actually much more technically sound than people give her credit for. She can get a fight to the mat from the clinch but she does tend to work better on her feet.

I’ve been hard on Pennington in the past, but I see a path to victory in this one for her. She needs to weather the storm and chip away at Nunes, hoping to capitalize on some questionable cardio from the champion. However, that is basically Pennington fighting a perfect fight. Nunes should win thanks to her power, explosiveness and killer instinct.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes (-1000) via knockout

Jacare Souza vs Kelvin Gastelum

Jacare Souza (-145) has one of the best ground games in MMA history. His technical acumen and aggression combine to form a nearly impossible attack for opponents to defend. Submissions are his forte but he is just as capable of getting top position and working heavy ground and pound. Jacare has developed an aggressive striking style that is meant to pressure his opponent against the fence to utilize his grappling skills. He doesn’t throw a lot of strikes, relying more on timing to burst forward.

Kelvin Gastelum (+120) overwhelms his opponent with his striking volume and athleticism, constantly working behind his jab. He is primarily a boxer in the standup game but his feet are also as dangerous due to his speed. Gastelum can use his athleticism to help grapple offensively at times but prefers to strike. That being said, his athleticism doesn’t help with his questionable wrestling defense, which has caused him problems against bigger fighters.

This fight scares me. Gastelum is fast and has heavy hands, both which should concern the aging Jacare. However, Gastelum’s poor grappling defense should lead to Jacare – once again – locking in a submission.

Prediction: Jacare Souza (-145) via submission

Mackenzie Dern vs Amanda Cooper

Mackenzie Dern (-250) is one of the most well-respected and highly decorated BJJ practitioners in the world. That carries over to MMA, of course, as Dern has some of the slickest submissions you will see if a fight goes to the mat. That being said, the rest of her game is still in the “green as grass” stages. Dern has plenty of power in both striking and grappling exchanges but her technique has yet to catch up.

Amanda Cooper (+195) is first and foremost a boxer. She pairs some nice footwork with quick, accurate strikes to slowly chip away at an opponent. “ABC” doesn’t own big one-hit knockout power but employs more of a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach. Her grappling is good offensively but she can struggle when a grappler takes it to her, with all three of her career losses coming via submission.

If this fight stays on the feet, then Cooper should easily overwhelm Dern with her technique. However, if it goes to the mat, Dern should be able to get the submission easily. I expect the latter.

Prediction: Mackenzie Dern (-250) via submission

John Lineker vs Brian Kelleher

John Lineker (-250) is a fist-throwing ball of energy. There is some technical boxing in his game, but Lineker generally wants to brawl. “Hands of Stone” looks to trap his opponent against the cage and start tossing haymakers, which would be disastrous if his chin wasn’t made of iron. You would traditionally expect a brawler to be a subpar grappler, but Lineker can hold his own both in the clinch and on the mat – through tenacity and technique.

Brian Kelleher (+195) is an active, pressure fighter. “Boom” has no problem taking a punch to give a punch if need be – but he always sets himself up in prime striking positions thanks to his very good footwork. He is constantly moving forward behind his strikes but is also always angling with his feet to trap his opponent. He is solid in all aspects of the fighting game but thrives at wearing down his opponent over time.

You have no idea how badly I want to predict Kelleher to win this. If he can do his best T.J. Dillashaw impression, he can defeat Lineker. But Lineker hits too hard and has a surprisingly effective counter-striking arsenal that doesn’t get enough credit.

Prediction: John Lineker (-250) via decision

Lyoto Machida vs Vitor Belfort

Lyoto Machida (-270) is one of the best counter-strikers to grace the Octagon. Machida looks to stay just out of his opponent’s striking range and throw some kicks until he sees his opportunity to explode in for a punching combination. However, he is 39, and his chin is clearly deteriorating. Along the fence, Machida is a confusing opponent to deal with thanks to his experience in karate and sumo. “The Dragon” has a black belt in BJJ but he would rather keep a fight standing.

Vitor Belfort (+210) is basically a glass cannon at this point of his career – with eight of his last nine fights ending with someone being knocked out. “The Phenom” still has speed in his strikes and tremendous power in his punches despite being 40. Volume isn’t his strong suit, as Belfort would rather just throw a powerful strike and explode when he wobbles his opponent. This feast-or-famine approach was fine when he was younger but his chin is failing him at this point.

Belfort can still land the knockout blow early but Machida should win this fight as long as he can keep his distance and weather any early storm his opponent brings.

Prediction: Lyoto Machida (-270) vs decision

UFC 224: Nunes vs Pennington Betting Odds
  • Amanda Nunes -1000
  • Raquel Pennington +600
Odds as of May 11 at Bovada
  • Jacare Souza -145
  • Kelvin Gastelum +120
  • Mackenzie Dern -250
  • Amanda Cooper +195
  • John Lineker -250
  • Brian Kelleher +195
  • Vitor Belfort +200
  • Lyoto Machida -260
  • Cezar Ferreira -105
  • Karl Roberson -125
  • Aleksei Oleinik +125
  • Junior Albini -155
  • Davi Ramos -140
  • Nick Hein +110
  • Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos -135
  • Sean Strickland +105
  • Warlley Alves -230
  • Sultan Aliev +180
  • Thales Leites +125
  • Jack Hermansson -155
  • Alberto Mina +160
  • Ramazan Emeev -200
  • Markus Perez -325
  • James Bochnovic +250