It’s amazing to think that after over ten years of Zuffa owning not only the UFC, but for a time the WEC and now Strikeforce, events were never canceled due to injuries or changes that made a card less palatable to the fans. Yet somehow, with the cancellation of November 3rd’s Strikeforce event, we’ve seen three canceled Zuffa events in the span of two months. UFC 153 easily could have been headed to a similar fate if not for the intervention of one Anderson Silva.
I don’t mean to make Silva out to be a hero here- he is getting paid, last time I checked, and the fighters and UFC execs alike are in this to make money, of course. Still, it’s hard to criticize this card for being likely unworthy of your PPV dollars when the fact that the card is even happening is a surprise.
This is also a good time to praise the UFC’s hype machine. I saw various folks on Twitter remarking at how the UFC had managed to convince them that Stephan Bonnar actually has a chance- however small- to beat Silva. For the umpteenth time, the UFC deserves credit for making an initially underwhelming matchup into a fairly anticipated one.
Demian Maia vs. Rick Story
Maia and Story both got back on track earlier in 2012, with Maia benefiting from a rib injury to Dong Hyun Kim that brought and end to their bout, while Story won a unanimous decision over Brock Jardine.
Maia’s 47-second fight wasn’t long enough to give us much of an indication as to how he’ll fare at 170 pounds, but he looked like he cut the weight fairly well and as this is his second welterweight bout, he should have the process down by now. He’ll unquestionably be looking to take this fight to the mat, even if he does have some belief in his slowly-emerging standup technique.
Story is likely the better standup fighter, as he sticks to basic one-two combinations and other simple techniques, but uses them well. He’s effective in the clinch, even though Maia has shown that he can even maneuver Chael Sonnen to the mat when he’s in close, so I wouldn’t bet against Maia using a crafty trip to bring the fight to the mat at some point.
Story might be the safe pick- I can see him outlanding Maia on the feet, and if he goes for takedowns and can stay out of trouble, he’ll score points with the judges, too. However, I think Maia will surprise people by doing better than expected in all areas of the fight and finally notching another submission win, which would be the first time Story has ever been finished, by the way.
Prediction: Maia by submission
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
This is a rematch from just two months ago, as an accidental eye poke from Davis rendered Prado unable to continue and resulted in the bout being ruled a no contest. There’s not much to take away from the 1:28 we saw in the cage, other than that Prado is very confident standing with Davis, as he probably should be.
Davis has always had tremendous wrestling augmented by his physical gifts, but his standup has come along even slower than expected, which has stunted his growth a bit. He was given a “too much, too soon” fight with Rashad Evans where he didn’t look like he had much to offer the former light heavyweight champion, though Evans didn’t put him away, either.
Still, getting takedowns is absolutely key to Davis’ chances of success here and in his other fights, as well. For that matter, I think he’ll succeed in bringing Prado to the mat fairly regularly. The question is whether he will get clipped in the moments when the two are standing. However, I think his generous reach advantage will help him stay out of trouble, even if his standup is still very much a work in process.
Davis takes this one, with a submission win being possible due to Davis’ excellent use of position to set up safe, high-percentage submission attempts. I think a decision is a more likely outcome, though.
Prediction: Davis by decision
Jon Fitch vs. Erick Silva
This is an excellent “up-and-comer vs. veteran” matchup, with Silva making the leap to take on a guy who has been the consensus #2 welterweight in the world off and on for several years now. Only recently has Fitch started to really show some signs of slowing down, as he’s had trouble with injuries in addition to his knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141.
Silva will unquestionably be the more dynamic and dangerous fighter here, but Fitch’s single-minded approach to grinding down opponents will be quite a test for the youngster. Movement will be key here as Silva will need to circle away from the cage and keep his back off the fence while landing shots when the opportunity presents itself.
One question here is whether Fitch can wear down Silva, who has not had very long bouts in his UFC tenure. He went to decision four times in Jungle Fight and other regional shows, but not all decisions are created equal, and keeping Fitch off of you for 15 minutes will wear you down very quickly.
I think Fitch is going to be able to force the fight into a proverbial phone booth regularly enough to frustrate Silva and get points for control from the judges. Silva is pretty good off of his back, but Fitch is incredibly crafty and hard to submit on the mat. Fitch has a few more big wins in him, this will be one of them.
Unless Dan Miragliotta is the ref, of course. I’m serious. Imagine Standin’ Dan reffing a Fitch fight in Brazil against a Brazilian fighter? If Dan refs, my pick is Silva.
Prediction: Fitch by decision
Fabio Maldonado vs. Glover Teixeira
The original matchup here was Teixeira vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, which would have been a fun fight. Teixeira made some headlines this week by saying that while he won’t ask for a fight with Jon Jones yet, he already thinks he could beat him. Those are bold words, and he’ll need to maul Maldonado the way that he did Kyle Kingsbury in his UFC debut to back them up.
Maldonado has excellent boxing skills and will look to work the body on Teixeira when the two are at a close proximity to one another. However, behind his great standup is a glaring weakness to all things grappling that Teixeira will be likely to expose, especially after he gets a taste of Maldonado’s hands. Teixeira’s standup is very good, too, but there’s no reason to take Maldonado on where he is most dangerous.
I expect that both fighters will have their moments while standing and exchanging, but what will separate the two will be what happens against the cage and on the mat, where Teixeira will have a decided edge.
Prediction: Teixeira by submission
Ed Herman vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Herman is the perfect opponent for Nogueira at this point, as he will be a great litmus test for where Nogueira stands now. Nogueira should undoubtedly beat Herman if he’s got anything left in the tank, and a loss would certainly indicate that Nogueira’s days as a top heavyweight are over.
While Herman is not the type of fighter that should beat someone like Nogueira, he does present a problem with his power. Nogueira sometimes takes too much punishment in his fights and trusts his chin a little more than he should, which could could cost him if Herman lands a solid shot with the kind of power he packs.
However, Herman can be a little outlandish with his offense and thus leaves openings for opponents. Nogueira is a capable striker himself and will also certainly take the opportunity to put Herman on his back if he overextends himself. From there, it will be a matter of time before Nogueira has Herman tapping out.
Prediction: Nogueira by submission
Stephan Bonnar vs. Anderson Silva
The most interesting aspect of this fight will be whether or not Bonnar can make the distance. Bonnar has been compared to Rocky Balboa in the lead-up to this fight, to which some people have pointed out that Balboa didn’t even beat Apollo Creed in the original Rocky film. Perhaps the comparison is more appropriate than people think, though; Bonnar will have surprised everyone if he makes it the full fifteen minutes here.
There’s reason to think that he can. He’s very durable and has never been finished. He even went the full fifteen minutes with Jon Jones as Jones was tearing his way through the light heavyweight division on his way to being the champion. Furthermore, he’s much bigger than Silva and should be strong in the clinch, if he can get the fight there. Finally, Silva is sometimes a slow starter, which could allow Bonnar to get through a round or two right off the bat.
The problem with that, though, is that Bonnar is an aggressive fighter and likely won’t let Silva dance around and get acclimated at his own pace. In that way, he may be his own worst enemy, as his aggressiveness could force Silva to kick it into high gear right off the bat, the way that his friend Forrest Griffin did before his ill-fated encounter with “The Spider”.
Bonnar needs to move his head, stay light on his feet and throw quick combinations of a couple punches at a time. He has to resist the urge to chase Silva, which will just pull him off balance and give Silva a chance to counter. What would make this fight interesting is if Bonnar was able to get the fight to that mat. That I’d like to see.
Can Bonnar make it the distance? Sure, he can, but I think Silva puts him away inside the fifteen-minute time limit tomorrow night. Can Bonnar win? Come on, now. Outside of the same freak chance that any professional fighter has to pull off an upset in any particular fight, he really doesn’t.
Prediction: Silva by KO/TKO