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UFC 160 Preview

By on May 23, 2013

UFC 99 Mixed Martial ArtsUFC 160 certainly focuses on the big boys, but there are some other pivotal fights taking place outside of the heavyweight division, too. In particular, a couple of important lightweight bouts and another look at rising light heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira stand out, and those bouts all take place on the main card, to boot. Here are my thoughts on all five main card bouts on this weekend’s UFC card.

Donald Cerrone vs. KJ Noons

Donald Cerrone has been a high quality fighter in recent years, with his only legitimate losses coming to Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, and most recently, Anthony Pettis. That won’t console Cerrone much, as he aspires to wear the lightweight championship, of course. To do so he’ll need to start winning against those top-tier opponents.

Fortunately for Cerrone, Noons is the kind of fighter he hasn’t been likely to falter against. Noons has been a good enough fighter in his career (his victory over Nick Diaz stands out in particular) but will not be a bonafide contender in the UFC. Even though his all-around game has evolved some, he’s still pretty much a one-note fighter. He’s a good puncher. I won’t say good “boxer”, because though he has boxing experience, he shows a troubling unwillingness to avoid being punched in the face.

It’s Noons’ subpar defense that will put him in danger during standup exchanges with the dangerous Cerrone. Noons throws his combinations and punches more technically than Cerrone, but “The Cowboy” is no slouch himself. Cerrone is more dynamic and unpredictable, thanks to his excellent kicks. Both often prefer to counter-strike and are not high-volume strikers, which could lead to a more methodical fight in the early goings.

On the mat, it’s all Cerrone. Cerrone is great with submissions and is fairly adept at taking down opponents, so he could likely drag Noons to the mat if he chooses to. Still, I see that as unlikely since Cerrone does enjoy a good standup battle, and this fight was made for just such a bout. Cerrone takes this one.

Prediction: Cerrone by KO/TKO

TJ Grant vs. Gray Maynard

What a difference a few months makes. Not long ago, Anthony Pettis, exasperated at his inability to get a title shot, decided to drop to featherweight and take on Jose Aldo instead of continuing to wait for a shot at UFC lightweight gold. Now, with Benson Henderson having put Gilbert Melendez in his rear view, Maynard and Grant fight for the chance to face Henderson next.

I’m not downplaying Maynard’s deservedness- hell, I had him ranked #2 until Melendez’s great showing against Henderson- but what’s up with Grant? Yes, he’s won four fights in a row, but none of his opponents were top ten fighters. They were all quality opponents, but in a division that’s been so hard to get a title shot in, the idea that he’s suddenly one fight away is strange.

If he can beat Maynard, I’ll gladly say he’s earned the shot, though. Maynard is as tough as they come; he’s one of the better wrestlers in the UFC and ridiculously strong for 155 pounds. He’s also got punishing punching power to go with boxing technique that has come along nicely in the last few years.

The way to beat Maynard is to be quick, fend off his takedown attempts and use footwork to keep your distance. You don’t just want to avoid his takedowns, you also want to keep him from pressing you against the cage, muscling you around, and wearing you down. I don’t think Grant is savvy enough to execute that gameplan for three rounds, though he’s tough enough to go the distance.

Prediction: Maynard by decision

James Te Huna vs. Glover Teixeira

Teixeira’s win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was impressive, but you wouldn’t have known it from the reaction. So many people expected Teixeira to just roll right over an unmotivated Rampage that they seemed to be let down when instead, Teixeira had to go all three rounds to beat Rampage in a surprisingly competitive fight. Nonetheless, Teixeira is the real deal.

Te Huna is a good fighter as well, though he’s more under the radar than Teixeira. He has won five of his last six, only losing to Alexander Gustafsson while racking up wins against the likes of Igor Pokrajac and Joey Beltran, among others.

Te Huna has a nice all-around skill set, although “polished” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of him. Still, he has a lot of power, and will likely test Teixeira’s chin in striking exchanges. Teixeira is a solid striker, but I think his biggest advantage here will be on the mat. He could take Te Huna down and grind him out a bit, which would go a long way towards letting him get a late finish.

While Te Huna’s gas tank is pretty good in standup fights, I think that might change if he is forced to wrestle with Teixeira repeatedly. Let’s assume he does so, and goes on to get a late submission victory when Te Huna gives up a choke in order to avoid Teixeira’s ground-and-pound assault.

Prediction: Teixeira by submission

Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt

Dos Santos is 9-1 in the UFC, and it just so happens that one loss was in his last fight (and second defense of the UFC Heavyweight Championship). Cain Velasquez may have established a blueprint for beating dos Santos, but it’s not one Mark Hunt is equipped to follow. Hunt is a brawler, a banger. He’s got prodigious power in his hands, and a ridiculously sturdy chin. Along with it, he has a suspect (although greatly improved) ground game and takedown defense that has been adequate, but isn’t going to set the world on fire.

Still, this is a dangerous fight for dos Santos. Anytime you face someone who has one-punch knockout power like Hunt does, you’re in danger, and that’s doubly true when you’re a standup fighter yourself.

Could dos Santos try to take Hunt down? Sure. I don’t know that he will, though, and if he fights smart, he shouldn’t have to. Instead dos Santos needs to dance with what brought him, and that’s his clean, technical boxing attack, branded by many as the best in MMA today.

He’ll need to stay away from stuff like his famous lead right uppercut, which leaves him exposed, and cling to combinations and footwork to keep Hunt from zeroing in on his chin. Single punches or standing in front of Hunt will not serve him well at all. If dos Santos makes a mistake, Hunt will be all over it.

A guy like Hunt, who went from street brawler to K-1 World Grand Prix champion and later came into the UFC with a losing record only to win four fights in a row (and counting), doesn’t care what your record is or what the odds are. If dos Santos messes up, he ends up on his back. I’m gonna call for the upset here and say that Hunt’s amazing chin keeps him in this one until he lands a nasty shot out of nowhere that changes the fight and takes him to a UFC heavyweight title shot.

Prediction: Hunt by KO/TKO

Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Cain Velasquez

Well, they don’t come easier to predict than this one, do they? We saw this fight almost exactly a year ago, and the only thing that’s changed is the age of the participants and the fact that Velasquez is once again the UFC’s heavyweight champion.

I could beat around the bush for several paragraphs, but why bother? Here’s the deal: Velasquez has learned his lesson about messing around with opponents in their areas of strength. He’s going to take this fight down, and he’s going to do it right away. From there, he’s going to brutalize Bigfoot from the top position, as Bigfoot’s defensive guard is simply not up to par against the ground-and-pound attack of a fighter like Velasquez.

I mean, we’re supposed to think Silva has a shot because he beat Alistair Overeem? He’s a completely different type of fighter than Velasquez. Not only that, but he didn’t take Bigfoot seriously and ended up gassing later on, which are two things that you can count on Velasquez not doing.

Prediction: Velasquez by KO/TKO

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