Dominick Cruz, Bantamweight champ, offers UFC 200 predictions

MMA’s top dog is going all in on Saturday with a stacked UFC 200 pay-per-view lineup at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, even if the main event was shockingly scrapped.

A light heavyweight title unification between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones is off due to Jones being flagged by USADA for a potential doping violation. By virtue of stacking the event with numerous high-level fights, UFC 200 remains a jam-packed fight card. Two title bouts, plus a can’t-miss heavyweight clash in the new headliner, should make for an exciting night.

To get ready for the big event, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz shared his thoughts on the big three matchups, and I’ve included my predictions as well.

Brock Lesnar (5-3) vs. Mark Hunt (12-10-1)

In a heavyweight showcase, former champion Lesnar returns from the professional wrestling world to face hard-hitting Hunt, himself a top 10 big man. Lesnar, who turns 39 on Tuesday, hasn’t competed in 4 1⁄2 years, but he is younger and more athletic than the 42-year-old New Zealander.

Cruz likes the idea of Lesnar coming back and bringing in a different fan base to the sport. However, he warns Hunt is not the type of opponent to be taken lightly, and Lesnar’s gas tank may not hold up for long.

“Mark Hunt will sleep you,” Cruz said. “… [Lesnar has] maybe one round in him, of cardio. And anything beyond that, Mark Hunt just has to weather the storm and he should knock out Brock Lesnar.”

I have to agree. Hunt has been in the rhythm of fighting and is a bad matchup. The ending will be violent regardless of who wins, but it should be Hunt in this case.

Miesha Tate (18-5) vs. Amanda Nunes (12-4)

Tate puts her women’s bantamweight championship on the line for the first time since stunning Holly Holm in March, while Nunes has won five of six to earn a title shot.

Tate, 29, has been at or near the top of the division since before the ascent of Ronda Rousey, and Cruz is pleased to see her in the spotlight after her gutsy victory in the spring.

“[Tate] deserves everything she’s got coming to her right now, the way she beat Holly Holm,” Cruz said. “She was losing that fight, but she found a way to win, and I have nothing but respect for that.”

Cruz thinks Tate will take advantage of the 28-year-old Brazilian’s tendency to tire as the fight goes on.

“I think that she just gasses Amanda Nunes out,” Cruz said.

That’s the most likely scenario as long as Nunes doesn’t put Tate on her back and in trouble early. Expect Tate to retain the crown in impressive fashion with a stoppage in the championship rounds.

Jose Aldo (25-2) vs. Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)

While champion Conor McGregor pursues his vendetta against Nate Diaz at welterweight, former champ Aldo and ex-lightweight kingpin Edgar, a Toms River, New Jersey native, vie for the vacant interim featherweight championship.

The two last faced off in 2013, when Aldo won a decision. But Cruz has a good feeling about the 34-year-old Edgar this weekend.

“I think Frankie has it this time.” Cruz said. “… There’s something about Frankie that’s just on right now. I can’t explain it.”

Cruz also believes the 29-year-old Brazilian’s loss to McGregor in December — his first defeat in 10 years — could have gotten in the Brazilian’s head and robbed him of his mystique.

“[Aldo] almost looked inhuman for so long that, once you see your humanity and people believe you’re human, it’s hard [to get that back].”

Takedowns will come easier for Edgar, Cruz believes, and gives him a path to victory. I agree with the champ and foresee the judges favoring Edgar’s performance in a competitive bout that goes the distance, setting up a potential main event against McGregor at Madison Square Garden in November.