Inside the Cage Blog
What a trying week for the UFC.
In an era of sports watching where the growth of a sport is mostly dictated by the stars that play them, MMA fans learned some shocking news regarding two of the UFC’s biggest stars. Apparently, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones wants to call it quits by the age of 30 (4-years from now) while UFC Welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre is already 50/50 on calling it quits and forgong the rest of his hall of fame career.
I’m not jumping off the ledge quite yet calling this a Michael Jordan circa 1993 or Barry Sanders move, but the notion the both “GSP” and “Bones” are thinking of hanging it up while still in their primes is a bit concerning for a sport and promotion looking to grow to over 50 events in 2014 and eventually become a mainstream entity.
Still, Jones has at least a few more fights on his radar before he can even hint at a move to heavyweight and eventual retirement; a fight with Glover Teixeira looms in March with a likely rematch against Alexander Gustaffsson to follow.
And whatever is tempting GSP to consider retirement will likely be washed away after he learns what the UFC will pay him for a rematch against Johny Hendricks.
In other news, the UFC bypassed on the signing of Ben Askren, the former Bellator Welterweight Champion that is unbeaten in MMA. Instead of opting to resign with Bellator or try his skills with the World Series of Fighting, the “Funky” one is likely headed to One FC in Asia.
I wonder how Askren’s “Fro” will work in the Asian market.
Speaking of Asia (or the Eastern Hemisphere), the UFC heads to Australia for another global show, airing on Friday night on Fox Sports One.
Now to the fights:
Mark Hunt (9-8) vs No. 4 Antonio Silva (18-5)
The main event features cult icon Mark Hunt against “Big Foot” Silva that has quick finish written all over it, an obvious assumption based on the track records of both heavyweights.
The fact is that Hunt and Silva have no choice but to fight each other. Their last three losses combined have been to the champion Cain Velasquez (2x by Silva) and the former No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos (Hunt). Plus, every significant heavyweight on the roster seemingly has a fight booked over the next three months.
Silva is Bigfoot, plain and simple. He is one of the only heavyweights in the world forced to cut down to the 265-pound limit. His cranium is the size of the planet Jupiter and his hands are the size of Andre the Giant.
I’m not trying to make fun of Silva. He is just that huge and his size is a distinct advantage when inside the cage. Time after time he’s been able to get on top of his opponents and rain down hammer till his opponent quits and he’s also taken advantage of his sure size in the standup to knockout some of the divisions best, like Alistair Overeem at UFC 156.
Speed has always been the downfall to Silva, who was just out paced by both Velasquez and Daniel Cormier.
Hunt will not posses the speed that Velasquez or Cormier bring. He will bring knockout power similar to Silva, a skillset that has not only lead to Hunts super fandom, but his impressive career as a K-1 Kickboxing champion, plus knockout victories over Chris Tuchscherer, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve. He also has an unbelievable chin, something that will be tested against Silva.
If there is an Achilles heel, it actually might be the heel of Hunt. Or arm. Or leg.
Of Hunt’s eight losses in his MMA Career, six have some via submission. While he has shown improvement in his grappling against Struve and Ben Rothwell, none of those opponents come close to Silva’s skillset or size on the ground.
My prediction: Hunt will hurt Silva early in the fight, but in the end it will be a submission victory for Silva.
Antonio Silva by submission (Rd 1)
No. 9 Shogun Rua (21-8) vs James Te Huna (18-6)
Shogun was the most ballyhooed acquisition from Pride when he signed with the UFC in 2007. Granted Shogun put an early stop to the nonsense known as the “Machida Era” and won the UFC Light Heavyweight Title in May of 2010, his career in the Octagon has fallen short of expectations.
Currently riding the 1st two fight-losing streak of his career, Shogun enters the fight against Te Huna at a crossroad in his career. Following his most recent loss to Chael Sonnen, there were hints that the former Chute Boxe fighter might be headed for middleweight. Despite being just 32, I think it’s more likely of Shogun calling it quits then dropping down in weight.
When he's on, he’s on. Shogun has finishes in every one of his UFC wins; his berserker style of striking coupled with his jiu-jitsu skills on the ground are a load for anyone to handle. Yet, one has to wonder if the loss to Sonnen along with the wars against Alexander Gustafsson, Dan Henderson and Jon Jones have weighed too much on the Brazilian.
That is why this fight is more about Te Huna. The power punching New Zealander will be fighting in front of his hometown fans, won’t have to deal with the complexities of travel and is one of the toughest to finish in the UFC. He’s only suffered losses to Gustafsson and current title challenger Glover Teixeira. The interesting note is that both losses have come via submission and both early in the fight. In fact, Te Huna has only gone once to the judge’s scorecards in the Octagon. Is Te Huna legit prospect or a middle tier fighter at 205?
Outside of his power, I don’t see where Te Huna has the advantage.
I think Shogun (depended on his mindset) gets back on track and submits Te. Huna.
My prediction, Shogun via submission (Rd 2)
Ryan Bader (16-4) vs Anthony Perosh (14-7)
In another matchup of light heavyweights, you have to feel bad for Ryan Bader and love Anthony Perosh. Bader should change his name from “Darth” to “Bad Luck Chuck”.
A sure fire prospect because of his background as an All-American wrestler at Arizona State, knockout power and hype coming from a winning season on the Ultimate Fighter, Bader has all the makings of a champion in MMA.
The issue is that he’s been caught. And submitted. And caught. And Knocked out. And spoon-fed. And knocked out.
The spotlight will not be on him as much in this fight and he’ll look to get the knockout loss to (Glover) Teixeira, which happened in Brazil a few months ago, quickly out of his memory bank. He’ll have to do it against Perosh, an Aussie MMA legend who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt fresh off a 14-second knockout the last time he was in the cage. “The Hippo’ is a legend and veteran of the Sydney fighting scene, likely to ever motivated to knockoff the American.
Once again, the time zone change is a factor and hopefully Bader will be adjusted. I believe he will and will use combinations and takedown to control Perosh, likely finishing him in the second round.
My prediction, Ryan Bader via TKO (Rd 1)
Pat Barry (8-6) vs Soa Palelei (19-3)
Fan favorite Barry meets the “Hulk” in a fun heavyweight contest. Barry is an outstanding kick boxer with gruesome leg kicks where as Palelei has won nine fights in a row despite being criticized for his last performance, a UFC-TKO victory in August.
Once again it’s another hometown advantage, this time for Palelei. Unlike the instances with Silva, Shogun or Bader, I do think that the travel could affect Barry. It was actually reported earlier in the week that Barry specifically requested to never fight in Australia when he signed with the UFC.
It seems the brass don’t care about Barry’s request, nor do I. Barry is the smaller and more athletic of the two heavyweights. He also should be the better-conditioned fighter in the cage.
I think Barry jumps the hurdle and scores the unanimous decision victory.
My prediction, Barry via decision.
Dylan Andrews (18-5) vs Clint Hester (8-3)
Andrews and Hester do battle in a middleweight contest of two former Ultimate Fighter competitors. Andrews, who is a boxer and wrestler, comes into the contest on a six fight-winning streak while Hester is a former bro boxer having won his last four. Both won their UFC debuts impressively, but I think Andrews is just the better all-around fighter.
My prediction, Andrews via TKO (Rd 3)
History will be made this Saturday night when the Ultimate Fighting Championship celebrates 20-years in the fight business with UFC 167, headlined by a welterweight title fight between Georges St. Pierre vs Johny Hendricks, plus a co-main event of Rashad Evans vs Chael Sonnen.
It’s hard to believe that it was only twenty years ago when a little known Brazilian by the name of Royce Gracie introduced the world to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submitting some of the toughest “tough men” on the planet, all in front of 2,800 people at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.
Although most fans will say their introduction to the sport of mixed martial arts was several years later when Forrest Griffin bested Stephan Bonnar in the Ultimate Fighter Finale,’ some still considering that the best fight ever in the UFC, the sport has been around for two decades.
Other fans will point to the buyout of the Pride Fighting Championships, the Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz rivalry or even the recent 7-year deal that the UFC struck with the Fox Sports Network as their introduction to the sport.
In reality, it’s all of these things. Just like your major sports of the NFL or NBA, it did not happen overnight. It had to establish an audience, stars, rivalries and eventually find a home to broadcast across the planet.
The UFC now has that. Today the Ultimate Fighting Championship can be seen in over 150 countries, in 22-different languages and has set foot in arenas and venues across the globe. Corporate sponsors such as Nike, Burger King and Budweiser have dipped into the sport and names like Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Ronda Rousey have become household athletes even for your non-MMA Fan.
For the next twenty years, who knows? My hope is that MMA is adapted as an Olympic Sport and the open-air soccer stadium show, with over 100-thousand fans, gets accomplished.
Now to the fights for Saturday night:
Georges St. Pierre (24-2) vs No. 1 Johny Hendricks (15-1)
St. Pierre, the reigning welterweight champion of the world, looks for his ninth consecutive title defense and eleventh win in a row when he meets the number one contender Hendricks, who is on his own streak of six in a row.
St. Pierre is one of the most accomplished MMA Fighters in history and is a sure-fire hall of famer when he decides to retire. His real talent is showcased in his ability to force opponents into uncomfortable situations. Having no amateur background in any sports, St. Pierre has out wrestled All-American wrestlers, out boxed amateur boxers and has submitted some of the better jiu-jitsu practiconers in the sport.
His MMA wrestling is top notch and his jab is one of the best in the game; just ask Josh Kosheck.
Really, there are only two areas St. Pierre might be lacking, his chin; if you can catch him or his mental game. St. Pierre has gotten caught before, seen in his KO loss to Matt Serra or most recently against Carlos Condit; but he survived that encounter. Since there is so much buildup to this fight and even talk of St. Pierre calling it quits should he be successful, it adds to the pressure.
Not that Johny Hendricks can’t bring it and stop St. Pierre’s years of dominance. Many pundits believe that Hendricks is the toughest challenge to date for GSP, a former Oklahoma State All-American wrestler with knockout power in both hands. Think Dan Henderson 2.0.
Hendricks has strength, size and hands during his six-fight win streak. He has powerful takedowns and is a beast right out of the gate. Plus, he’s had crushing knockouts over Martin Kampmann, Jon Fitch and Amir Sadallah in his career; if he catches Georges it could be lights out.
That’s the question. Will he catch St. Pierre? Or will GSP execute yet another brilliant game plan, likely looking to strike Hendricks from the outside and attempting takedowns when they seem reasonable, most likely late in rounds. Plus, will Hendricks’ stamina, which has been in question, make it to the championship rounds? During his run, St. Pierre has only finished two opponents, when he took the title from Serra and when he forced BJ Penn to not answer the bell for round 5.
My prediction, I think St. Pierre wins again and takes the decision.
No. 4 Rashad Evans (23-3-1) vs No. 6 Chael Sonnen (29-13-1)
Two fan favorites in Evans and Sonnen agreed to meet to help beef up this card. Evans is in bad need of a win, probably of the dominant variety while Sonnen might have some resurgence to his career while also having his next fight booked, a grudge match with rival Wanderlei Silva.
Will the real Rashad Evans please standup? That’s the question on everyone’s mind when the former light heavyweight champion steps into the Octagon. Will we get the fighter that blitzed through Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell or the tentative safe fighter that eked out a decision against Dan Henderson yet lost an uninspiring contest to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Evans has great wrestling that cannot be disputed. We’ve also seen him showcase knockout power and he will clearly be the better striker when he steps in with Sonnen. He’ll also likely be the more powerful wrestler and better-conditioned fighter in the cage.
You might say that Sonnen has had a resurgence in his career, but he’s only on a one fight win streak, a recent 1st round submission victory over Shogun Rua. The only losses Sonnen has suffered recently are to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. His style is difficult to the deal with, marching right at his opponent looking for the takedown. His striking is subpar and he’s been caught getting “Cute” a few times in the octagon. Yet, for Sonnen, a fight is a fight and I think he sees big fights, big paydays and a possible another crack at the title on the horizon.
This fight should be a grappling war of attrition and I think that Sonnen earns the decision victory by outworking Evans over 3-rounds
No. 3 Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs No. 10 Robbie Lawler (21-9)
This fight could very well be a No. 1 contender fight in the welterweight division. MacDonald, the training partner of St. Pierre, is the new breed of MMA Fighter, a young 24-year old phenom that has skills in every area. He’s become one of the better grapplers in the division and has been able to execute game plan after game plan in wins over Jake Ellenberger, BJ Penn and Mike Pyle.
Against Lawler, he meets a man who has truly resurged since reentering the UFC. No longer does the carefree 21-year old that burst onto the UFC scene back in 2002 exist. Now is a veteran, smart fighter that still has knockout power and is looking to kill you when he enters the cage. He’s won two fights in a row since debuting back at welterweight in the UFC and will look for the kill again against MacDonald.
The style matchup is very similar to that of GSP vs Hendricks. If Lawler catches MacDonald, his lights go out. If Rory gets the better of the “Ruthless” one, he should earn the submission victory.
My prediction, MacDonald via submission (Rd 2)
Josh Kosheck (19-7) vs Tyron Woodley (11-2)
Former title contender Josh Kosheck meets former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in a critical fight for both guys. Kosheck makes his return after his knockout loss to Lawler while Woodley is looking to get his second win in the UFC following a close decision loss to Jake Shields.
At one time, Koshceck was the best athlete in MMA. His athleticism coupled with great takedowns and an overhand right made him a difficult customer for anyone. He’ll try and use that again against the Woodley, who also uses his background in wrestling to his advantage.
This fight could also be a war of attrition and Kosheck has shown the tendency at times to fail when the spotlight is on him. He’ll need a win to likely remain employed by the UFC.
I think he retains his position. My prediction, Josh Kosheck via decision.
No. 7 Tim Elliott (10-3-1) vs Ali Bagautinov (11-2)
The main card is kicked off by a couple of flyweights in Elliott and Bagautinov. Elliott is a precision striker that is well rounded in all areas while Bagautinov is another sambo fighter from Russia that looks to take your head off.
This should be a fun, fast paced fight, but I think that Elliott survives an early onslaught and gets the victory.
My prediction, Tim Elliott via TKO (Rd 3)
The UFC will head to it’s home away from home Saturday night with UFC Fight Night 32, headlined by two former champions in former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort against former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight & Pride two divisional champion Dan Henderson.
The UFC, whose base is in Las Vegas, might as well call Brazil home. Including Saturday night will have hosted seven events in Brazil and have planned close to double that in 2014.
At Saturday night’s event, the South American country gets one of it’s prodigal sons in Belfort, born in Rio de Janeiro,
and currently positioned as the number one contender in the middleweight division. Henderson is a sure-fire hall of famer that has won titles in every organization he’s been a part of except for the UFC. He’s one of the most recognizable faces in MMA and holds a victory over Belfort back in 2006, a unanimous decision victory at Pride 32.
Earlier in the week, Tim Kennedy won in the main event of Fight Night for the Troops 3 with a first round knockout of Rafael Natal while last Saturday, Eddie Alvarez reclaimed the Bellator Lightweight Title with a split decision victory over Michael Chandler. The bigger news is Alvarez, who once again put on “Fight of the Year” performance with Chandler and the trilogy fight that is now planned for the top tier lightweights could be the fight that Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney uses as his catapult into the Pay Per View arena.
That is a story for another day. Now to the fights.
Vitor Belfort (23-10) vs No. 6 Dan Henderson (29-10)
There should be a No.1 next to Belfort’s name, but this fight is being contested at 205 pounds and not 185. The reason, Belfort has decided to stay busy while waiting for the result of the UFC 168 rematch between UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman and former champion Anderson Silva. But he won’t fight again at 185 pounds until he fights for the title, so he takes the fight with Henderson to extract revenge from that 2006 fight.
The fighter known as “The Phenom” has been on a roll. Since his front kick KO loss to Silva back in February of 2011, he’s won four of five, only losing a short notice title fight up a weight class against light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones. His last two fights have both been head kick knockouts over top 5 middleweights Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. He’s looked stronger, faster and better since the Silva fight and his time spent with the Blackzillians in Boca Raton has clearly paid off.
The only knock on Belfort has been the controversy around his usage of TRT, which has prevented him from fighting in the states since August of 2011. He’s gained an exemption for usage again, as has his opponent in Henderson for Saturday’s fight.
The fighter known has Hendo is in the midst of the first two fight losing streak of his career since consecutive losses to Silva and Rampage Jackson in 2007 and 2008. Hendo is a former Olympic wrestler and can knockout anyone on the planet if he lands his famous “H Bomb” right hand. He’s incredibly difficult to take down, is impossible to finish and has excellent work in the clinch
This fight should be very entertaining early as both fighters come out as fast starters. The question is if both fighters can keep the pace for five-rounds. Belfort has never lost in Brazil and his only losses have been to current or former champions, like Henderson.
I’m going off the board on this one and taking Hendo for the decision win.
My prediction, Henderson via decision.
The other fights on the card are very similar to previous Brazil cards, featuring Brazilians vs foreign talent where the natives hold a 59 to 20 advantage in fights.
Cezar Ferriera (4-2) vs Daniel Sarafian (9-3)
This fight was supposed to be the finale of the original Ultimate Fighter Brazil until Sarafian withdrew from the fight and was replaced by Sergio Moraes.
Ferriera is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who also trains in Boa with the Blackzillians. He also comes from a wrestling background and has very good submissions from his back. Against Sarafian, he also meets an accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioner with wrestling and boxing skills. The one big different is that Sarafian has faced stiffer competition between the two.
For me, this is a very even fight, but I believe Sarafian is just a little better in every area.
My prediction, Sarafian via decision
Rafael Calvalcante (11-4) vs Igor Pokrajac (25-10)
A couple of light heavyweight bangers are on this card with the Calvacante and Pokrajac matchup. Calvacante is a former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion that has knockout power in both hands. He likes to stand and trade against all of his opponents and has a feel for the finish; all of his eleven wins of come via knockout.
Against Pokrjac, he meets a boxer and wrestler and has been “run of the mill” in his UFC career. The training partner of Mirko Cro Cop has gone 4-5-1 in his UFC career and likely will find a pink slip with another loss.
So, this fight becomes a kickboxing match, and Calvalcante is the faster and more powerful fighter. I see the Brazilian, benefitting from fighting in his home country, getting the early knockout.
My prediction, Calvacante via TKO (Rd 1)
Paulo Thiago (15-5) vs Brandon Thatch (10-1)
Another matchup of a Brazilian and foreigner is on this card, this time in the welterweight division. Thiago, who works for the Brazilian military police during his down time, is a jiu-jitsu black belt that posses outstanding grappling skills and has shown knockout power before, debuting with a KO victory over perennial contender Josh Kosheck. However, he’s fallen on hard times of late with notable victories over David Mitchell and Michael Prazeres, basically fighters no longer in the UFC.
Thiago will need to use his grappling skills and get this fight to the ground early, as Thatch is a blitzkrieg who is an outstanding kick boxer with all of his wins coming by way of 1st round KO. He burst onto the scene with a head kick KO of Justin Edwards and has been a top tier talent on the regional scene for quite sometime. Thatch’s father, Charlie Thatch, is a renowned Karate champion and the younger Thatch is now training at the Grudge Training Center.
Here’s the question, does Thiago get this fight to the ground or will Thatch “Dispatch” the Brazilian.
I go with the ladder. My prediction, Thatch via TKO (RD 1)
Rony Jason (14-3) vs Jeremey Stephens (21-9)
The fight card begins with a fun featherweight fight between the original Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner Jason vs the UFC veteran Stephens. Jason, outside of his title of Ultimate Fighter Winner, is known for two things: wearing a Jason Mask to the cage and his flare for the dramatic.
The Brazilian is extremely unorthodox that is always looking for a finish, throwing flying knees, kicks and a variety of submission. He’s always wanted to put on a show for the his brazilin counterparts in the audience and is currently unbeaten in the UFC.
Against Stephens he meets a veteran of 16 UFC Fights. This will be “Lil Heathen’s” second fight in the featherweight divisional and thusly, Stephens has some of the biggest power in the division and has been knocked out only once in his UFC career. He’s a banger, loves to duke his opponents into wars on the feet and usually ends up in a bloody war.
Jason should be quicker to the draw and if he’s smart will also look to showcase his skills on the ground. I think Jason kicks off the card in style with an impressive victory over the American.
My prediction, Jason via submission (Rd 2)
In a dramatic turn of events, Bellator Fighting Championships won’t make their debut on PPV, but rather offer a stacked fight card free on Spike TV. As last Friday brought the news that former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz was out of his main event fight against Rampage Jackson, and the main event for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney was gone, the move made sense
In the end, it’s going to be one of the smartest moves Rebney has made at the helm of Bellator. The significance of Ortiz vs Jackson, another former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, is that there is none.
Jackson lost his last three before leaving the UFC and Ortiz is 1-7-1 in his last nine fights. The solo fact that they never fought while being consensus Top 12 light heavyweights since 2006, plus the promotion of the co-main event rematch between Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler vsformer champion Eddie Alvarez was Bellator’s drawing power to go to PPV.
And it would have failed. Consider that a similar card, UFC 161, did 150,000 buys on pay-per-view, and that featured fights like Dan Henderson vs Rashad Evans, Roy Nelson vs Stipe Miocic; certainly a similar card to Saturday night’s fight.
So, with Ortiz pulling out with a neck injury, Rebney moves a card with the aforementioned Chandler vs Alvarez, plus two other title fights featuring King Mo and Pat Curran. A card that would have originally lost money now should gain some followers without the cost of the promotion.
Now to the fights.
Michael Chandler (12-0) vs Eddie Alvarez (24-3)
The last time that Chandler and Alvarez were in the cage at the same time, it was the greatest mixed marital arts fight I’ve ever seen. Granted I was spoiled to be cageside at Bellator 58 when Chandler choked out Alvarez in a 4-round war that saw back and fourth rounds with near finishes in every round.
Chandler has certainly improved his striking since his the last time against Alvarez and his wrestling has always been top notch
Alvarez is a great fighter in every area and should have some aide training with the Blackzillians in South Florida for this fight. The one hiccup could be Alvarez’s time away from the cage, his last appearance coming over a year layoff in battles with Bellator over his contract.
Still, I think that Alvarez takes the fight and reclaims his standing as the face of Bellator.
My prediction, Alvarez via unanimous decision.
King Mo (11-2) vs Emanuel Newton (21-7)
If Chandler vs Alvarez was the fight of the year in 2011, the original fight between Mo and Newton could have been the upset of the year when Newtwon landed a spinning back fist in the first round, putting Mo flat on the canvas. He went on to win the Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament, but because of injury to current champion Attila Vegh, meets Mo again for the interim light heavyweight title.
The two have verbally sparred for months since the incident, with Mo calling Newton “lucky” and his spinning back fist as “feminine”. For Newton, the win over Mo was the biggest of his career. The Shark Fight and Maximum Fighting Championship veteran is well rounded, but won’t shock you with any particular skill set. Along with Lawal, he holds notable victories over UFC veterans James McSweeney and Rodney Wallace.
Against King Mo he fights a former Strikeforce Champion and All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State that posses both great wrestling skills and knock out power. If Mo plays it smart, he’ll look to take this fight to the ground and utilize his ground & pound, some of the best in MMA. The double leg takedown has always been an efficient tool for Mo. The only times he’s been in trouble is when he’s been too reliant on his striking skills, seen in his previous loss to Newton as well as Rafael Calvacante.
Despite Mo’s tendency to showboat, I believe that he’ll play it smart against Newton, take the fight to the ground and finish off Newton.
My prediction, King Mo via TKO (Rd 2).
Pat Curran (19-4) vs Daniel Straus (21-4)
A third title fight is on the card featuring one of the best featherweight fighters in the world in Curran versus the tough wrestler from Cincinnati in Straus.
Curran may be unheralded, but shouldn’t be for too much longer. Aside from Chandler and Alvarez, I believe Curran is another fighter on the Bellator roster that could compete in the UFC. He’s as well rounded as they come and has only one loss, to Eddie Alvarez, since 2009; and that fight was at lightweight. Lately, Curran has shown his evolution as a fighter with both submissions and TKO wins to his credit. Plus, he’s handled opponents off all variety: strikers, grapplers, and wrestlers.
Against Straus he meets an accomplished wrestler who is on quite a streak, winning his last 5 fights and 17 of 18. The two met before in 2009, a second round TKO win for Curran at a Chicago regional show, well before either got to the mainstream.
Straus is tough, but I think Curran is a Top Ten Featherweight and should get his second victory over Straus
My prediction, Pat Curran via TKO (Rd 4)
Joe Riggs (39-14) vs Michael Bronzolis (15-5)
The show’s other feature fight is the Fight Master Finals, the Bellator Reality series that tried to emulate both the Ultimate Fighter and The Fighter.
Riggs is a very accomplished MMA Fighter that has very good top control and used his experience to roll to the finals. Brozolis is a wrestler and athlete that also has had fights against top-level fighters.
Despite rolling on the show, Riggs has fallen short in some big moments in his career and I think it happens again.
My prediction, Bronzolis via split decision.
Ultimate Fight Night 30
There is no debate, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez is the “Baddest” man on the planet. He also can be considered the greatest UFC heavyweight of all-time, a title bestowed upon him after his second dismantling of Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 166.
The “BMOP” title is usually reserved for the heavyweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the way the Velasquez nearly turned dos Santos into a cast member of the Walking Dead, plus the fact he set history by becoming the first heavyweight champion to successfully defend his title twice earns him the right.
The champion controlled the fight from start to finish once again working dos Santos up against the cage and using a variety of strikes from elbows and knees to straight lefts and rights. In the end, dos Santos required 11 stitches, an overnight hospital stay and most importantly, being sent to the back of the line in the UFC title picture.
For Velasquez, a likely matchup with Fabricio Werdum is on the horizon while in the co-main event, Daniel Cormier will likely drop down to light heavyweight following his 3-round unanimous decision over Roy Nelson.
Not to be outdone, the Fight of the Night and possibly the year saw Gilbert Melendez survive the “Mexican war” against Diego Sanchez to once again put “El Nino” in position to challenge for the UFC Lightweight Title.
No rest for the ware as the UFC returns to action Saturday with UFC Fight Night from Manchester England. The main event features the middleweight debut for Lyoto Machida against Mark Munoz, while the co-main event features Ross Pearson vs Melvin Guillard.
Lyoto Machida (19-4) vs No. 5 Mark Munoz (13-3)
The former light heavyweight champion Machida makes his 185 pound debut after a recent 3-3 run at 205 pounds. There are several interesting things at play here: Machida is taking this fight on 3-weeks notice after Munoz original opponent Michael Bisping pulled out with an apparent eye injury. Plus, Machida and Munoz are friends, former training partners and have extreme familiarity with each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
For Machida, it’s do or die in the drop to middleweight. He looked significantly bigger than Munoz leading into the fight and his counter striking karate style is a difficult matchup for anyone he’s in the cage with. Plus, he has excellent takedown defense and is a black belt on the ground.
For Munoz, the double leg takedown will be key. If the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” can get the fight to the ground, his top position is some of the best in MMA. If he were to get the “Dragon” on the ground in the mount, the former Oklahoma State wrestler will look to rain down hammer fists looking for the stoppage.
The problem is the distance that Munoz will be forced to close. Machida works from the outside and has been a huge problem for wrestlers; just look at Machida’s knockout of Ryan Bader.
Despite the familiarity of each others game, I expect Machida to be quicker, smarter and should take the fight.
My prediction: Lyoto Machida via decision
Ross Pearson (17-6) vs Melvin Guillard (48-13-3)
Pearson is a former Ultimate Fighter winner that flirted with featherweight before returning to the lightweight division, winning two fights in a row. He’s heavy in the pocket and has developed his all-around game to be a tough out against anyone in the UFC.
Guillard might be the most talented athlete in the sport, has explosive power and when he’s mentally right, is one of the best lightweights in the world.
However, that is the first question I ask. Guillard has switched teams recently, joining up with the American Top Team in Florida to prepare for this fight. He knocked out Mac Danzig his last time out, but lost four of five prior to that.
Guillard should win this fight, being quicker to strike and has enough power to put Pearson’s lights out. The question is also fatigue, will Guillard be able to keep pace or will he tire out like we’ve seen in fights before. I think that's the difference.
My prediction, Ross Pearson via submission (Rd 3)
Jimi Manuwa (13-0) vs Ryan Jimmo (18-2)
In a contest of light heavyweight prospects, the unbeaten Manuwa meets Jimmo in a fight where the winner will take a dramatic step up in competition next.
Manuwa is a tremendous striker with size; finishing all of the 13-fights he’s had in his career, including his first two in the UFC. His muay-thai training has led, to this point, to be unchallenged in his MMA career. That is impressive considering his last win was over Cyrille Diabate, a renowned striker with tremendous amounts of talent.
Jimmo is a freak athlete who trains in South Florida with the Blackzillians. He made a shocking UFC debut, knocking out Anthony Perosh in 7-seconds. Since then, he’s split his two other UFC contests. Will Jimmo stand and trade with Manuwa? If he does, it will be a short night for the Edmonton, Alberta native. If he takes the fight to the ground, we’ll see if Manuwa has any skill set outside of striking.
Jimmo has been in the cage with bangers before and I think he stays there. Not a smart decision
My prediction: Manuwa via TKO (RD 1)
Norman Parke (19-2) vs Jon Tuck (7-0)
Parke won the lightweight title on the Ultimate Fighter season “The Smashes”. He has good top control and grappling, plus trains with renowned jiu-jitsu specialist Robert Drysdale.
Tuck is unbeaten in his MMA career, has knockout power and skills on the ground.
My prediction, Parke via unanimous decision
Alessio Sakara (19-10) vs Nick Musoke (10-2)
I’m not sure how Sakara is in the UFC. He is 6-7-1 in his UFC career and has beaten only one current fighter on the roster, Thales Leites and that was a split decision victory 4-years ago. He has talent and has shown ability to weather storms and knock his opponents out.
Musoke is the third opponent this fight has had with both Tom Watson and Magnus Cedenblad pulling out because of injury. Not much is known about Musoke, but he has a cool nickname.
My prediction, Musoke via TKO (RD 2)
Phil Harris (22-10) vs No. 5 John Lineker (22-6)
Harris and Lineker kick off the main card and it should be a walk in the park.
My prediction, Lineker via TKO (Rd 2)
As your typical sports fan, I can appreciate the best athletes the world of sport can offer. It’s true that my affinity is for the Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls, White Sox and University of Illinois Fighting Illini, but the best intrigue me as well. I enjoyed Tom Brady and Drew Brees doing their thing last Sunday. Although my co-host Frank Zaffere (@realfrankz) would argue against it, but I do enjoy watching Lebron James perform.
For those that share my passion, UFC 166 is your bag. The main event features the two best heavyweights in the world, current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and consensus No. 1 contender and former champion Junior dos Santos.
Also on the card, fan favorite Roy Nelson throws down with unbeaten Daniel Cormier, plus former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and the original Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez meet in a critical lightweight battle
It’s a stacked fight card.
UFC Heavyweight Championship: Cain Velasquez (12-1) vs. No. 1 Junior dos Santos
Both fighters hold a victory over the other, but in completely different ways. Dos Santos won the title from Velasquez back at the inaugural event on Fox, knocking out the former All-American wrestler in the 1st round. Just over a year later, Velasquez took the title back from “Cigano”, dominating the Brazilian for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Velasquez fights at an unrelenting pace and his takedowns are second to none. He took down dos Santos at will in their last fight and also tagged the former champion several times throughout the fight.
For those that look at both fights, the ladder seems to be the more telling of how the third one will go down. Dos Santos has a great takedown defense and is the best boxer in the heavyweight division, but Velasquez seems to be on another level. The champions’ one Achilles heel is his chin.
For that, I’m picking dos Santos with the upset. I think the Brazilian will be ready for what Velasquez brings and will catch the champion going in for a takedown, ending the fight.
My prediction, Junior dos Santos via TKO (Rd 2)
No. 2 Daniel Cormier (12-0) vs. No. 9 Roy Nelson (20-8)
Cormier has announced his intentions to move down to the light heavyweight division, win or lose, following this fight. The former Olympic wrestler has improved his striking, but his true talent lies in the clinch game. He’s bullied everyone he’s been in the cage with, including former UFC Champion Josh Barnett.
He’ll have to control Nelson exactly there, as “Big County” has a cannon for a right hand and his chin is made of granite. If the fight goes to the ground, I don’t expect Nelson to be threated as the former Ultimate Fighter competitor is a black belt on the ground. The problem is that we have yet to see if Cormier can be rattled and he should cruise to a victory.
My prediction, Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision
No. 2 Gilbert Melendez (21-3) vs. Diego Sanchez (26-5)
Melendez makes his second appearance in the Octagon after his split decision loss to then lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Prior to that, Melendez had put together a seven-fight win streak. He fights at an unbelievable pace, using a healthy combination of boxing and wrestling, never being finished in his MMA career.
Against Sanchez he meets another unrelenting former wrestler that is never in a boring fight and posses a well-rounded game for both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. The former title contender has gone through some tough times of late, battling depression, injuries and a 3-3 record in his last six fights. Plus, against top competition (like Melendez), Sanchez has fallen short.
The safe play is on Melendez, but I never (EVER) pick against Diego
My prediction, Diego Sanchez via split decision.
Gabriel Gonzaga (15-7) vs. Shawn Jordan (15-4)
Another pair of heavyweights in Gonzaga and Jordan is a part of UFC 166 and this one could see a quick finish
Gonzaga is a former title contender that burst onto the scene several years ago with a highlight reel knockout of Mirko Cro-Cop. Gonzaga is a heavy handed Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt whose top game is some of the best in the division.
Jordan is a former LSU football player that turned to MMA in 2009. He posses tremendous athleticism and has ended his last two fights in vicious fashion. The athleticism and overall improvement should be enough for Jordan to pull of the victory over Gonzaga.
My prediction, Shawn Jordan via TKO (Rd 1)
No. 2 John Dodson (15-6) vs. Darrell Montague (13-2)
The card begins with flyweights Dodson and Montague. “The Magician” Dodson is a former title challenger that is the only man to really challenge current kingpin of the 125 pound division Demetrious Johnson. Montague makes his UFC debut on the strength of a four fight win streak. He has faced some stiff completion before, but I believe Dodson is just the better overall fighter.
My prediction, John Dodson via unanimous decision.