If all goes as planned, UFC Fight Night 24 should present us with several memorable bouts. The best opportunities lie on the main card, which features a rematch of one of the best MMA fights in recent memory, as well as another glimpse at a light heavyweight prospect not named “Jones” or “Bader”. Here are my thoughts on the four main card bouts that will air on SpikeTV tonight.
Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung
Jung has had some tough times since the brawl with Garcia that made “The Korean Zombie” a fan favorite. The tough times really began immediately after the bell rang to end the third round, as Garcia was given a decision that many believe he did not rightfully earn (Garcia has since done it again with Nam Phan). A loss to George Roop via a highlight reel head kick knockout continued the bad news.
Jung now says that he’s changing as a fighter, and wants to leave the brawling days behind. He spent time training with Urijah Faber and the rest of Team Alpha Male, which may translate to a few more takedown attempts this go-round. However, I still think Jung will be unable to resist duking it out with Garcia throughout this one, and we will be in for another lively bout, even if it doesn’t live up to the first one.
I thought Jung won the first fight between the two, and I don’t think a lot has changed for this one. Other than Jung possibly getting a couple of takedowns to help nudge the judges in his direction, this should be a very similar fight, and hopefully this time the judges will get it right.
Prediction: Jung by decision
DaMarques Johnson vs. Amir Sadollah
Johnson made a good enough showing of himself on The Ultimate Fighter, but has been a so-so 3-2 in his official UFC tenure. He’s one of your “jack of all trades, master of none” fighters that won’t really blow you away, but certainly belongs on the big stage. Sadollah, on the other hand, presents very clear strengths as well as a clear weakness. He is an excellent technical striker who does not get carried away with slugging it out, but breaks down opponents systematically. He’s also dangerous off of his back with submissions, but gives up takedowns too easily at times.
If Johnson wants to win this one, he has to pressure Sadollah. Technical strikers who favor a variety of strikes and combinations featuring kicks need room to operate, and Johnson will be foolish to provide any. He may be able to get takedowns or wear down Sadollah if he dedicates himself to doing so, and would then obviously have to be cautious to avoid being submitted by Sadollah, who has the better jiu-jitsu of the two.
In the end, I just think that Sadollah simply has too many ways to win here. He’ll be able to wear Johnson down with punches and kicks while avoiding the mat for the most part, and should be able to capitalize with a victory either by decision or a late TKO.
Prediction: Sadollah by decision
Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson
Both of these men will be extremely motivated tonight, as Hardy is coming off of a disappointing loss and Johnson is coming off of a long layoff. Hardy was not “exposed” by any means in his knockout loss to Carlos Condit, unless by “exposed” you mean “proven to be human”. Live by the sword, die by the sword and all of that. Johnson, meanwhile, has questions surrounding him that mostly have to do with concerns outside of the cage. Is welterweight still the proper weight class for him? Will he be ready to step in and compete at a high level?
I doubt that many would argue that Hardy is the more accomplished technical striker. He has pretty good power as well, though maybe not as much as people tend to assume. Johnson is more powerful for sure, both in terms of striking power and strength in the clinch and on the mat. However, standing with Hardy for long would likely be a gamble, as Johnson must rely on landing a perfectly-timed shot as Condit did, or he will be getting the losing end of most exchanges as long as he strikes with Hardy.
What I’m counting on here is for Johnson to feel the effects of the long layoff and a big weight cut as the fight goes on. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Johnson win the first round, but he should fade as the fight goes on, allowing Hardy to come back in style by landing some good shots and finishing the fight opportunistically.
Prediction: Hardy by KO/TKO
Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Davis is at this point the most promising prospect in the light heavyweight division (it’s hard to call Jones or Bader “prospects” at this point), and will continue to develop before our eyes as he faces his biggest test, Lil’ Nog himself.
You have to feel for Nogueira a little bit, who has followed up an undeserved win against Jason Brilz by being thrust into a gatekeeper role, whether on purpose or not. If Davis is able to beat Nogueira as Ryan Bader did, it will be more and more difficult to see Nogueira as a legitimate top ten light heavyweight.
Nogueira is certainly the better all-around fighter, but Davis is such a physically talented fighter that it likely won’t matter. This may be the kind of fight that makes many fans cry “foul”, as Davis isn’t likely to stack up the highlight reel moments here. He’ll likely get takedowns early and often and work his way to a decision victory in the process. However, that’s exactly what he should be doing at this point, and he is smart enough to know that.
Where Davis will be in danger is if he indulges in the standup game with Nogueira for too long or decides to get too greedy on the mat. Though Nogueira is unlikely to sweep Davis, he certainly could capitalize on a mistake in order to secure a submission. Still, Davis has a good head on his shoulders and understands what he needs to do to win. Though he won’t do it with exclamation points like Jon Jones has, Davis will be every bit as impressive in his own way as he shuts down Nogueira tonight.
Prediction: Davis by decision