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UFC Fight Night 26 Preview

By on August 15, 2013

chael sonnenYou could make a strong argument that UFC Fight Night 26 represents the best card of the month in MMA, even though it’s not a pay-per-view. With four top ten fighters competing in the main card alone, along with two more on the prelims, there is a lot of talent to go along with a pay-per-view level draw in Chael Sonnen headlining the whole thing. Let’s take a look at the main card bouts.

Uriah Hall vs. John Howard

John “Doomsday” Howard has long been a talented fighter, though consecutive losses to Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves, and Matt Brown spelled ruin for his first UFC run, which ended in mid-2011. After compiling a 6-1 record outside of the Octagon, Howard returns to face the highly-touted Uriah Hall. Hall, of course, brings a lot of hype into the fight but failed to finish an excellent run on The Ultimate Fighter 17 when he dropped a split decision to the comparatively unheralded Kevin Gastellum in the live finale.

Hall will be far more dynamic in most of his fights than his opponents, but Howard is still very dangerous. He packs plenty of power in his hands and is likely stronger than Hall, too. That is the difference that I expect to matter the most, as Howard (who is somehow a big underdog here) will be able to use his size and strength to neutralize Hall en route to a decision.

Prediction: Howard by decision

Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle

Two “hard-nosed veterans” (I know, quite a cliché) will meet in this one, though I think Brown has the decisive edge as he is just a little bit better in nearly every area of the game. Furthermore, while Brown has shown himself to be susceptible to submissions in his career, he finishes nearly everyone he beats and Pyle is someone who can be overwhelmed with strikes.

Brown’s striking will be the key factor here, although if the fight happens to hit the mat, I could see Pyle using his ground game to give Brown some trouble. Still, I think that Brown will prove himself to be the better fighter with accurate punches and timely wrestling to keep the fight standing, if need be.

Iuri Alcantara vs. Urijah Faber

Alcantara is a name many fans might not easily recall, despite having fought in the UFC five times already. In those fights, he’s gone 3-1 with a no contest, though he has largely been relegated to the prelims. Now he will step way up to face Faber, who has won two in a row since losing to Renan Barao at UFC 149. Faber has not lost a non-title fight since 2005, which gives you an idea of how he fares against all but the toughest competition in the world.

While I expect Alcantara to put up quite a fight, Faber will simply be too athletic for him, and there’s no way Alcantara will keep the fight standing for long. Faber will not look to strike too much here, and though Alcantara’s jiu-jitsu can be dangerous at times, Faber’s submission defense is world class, too. I think Faber wears Alcantara out later on and gets the stoppage.

PredictionFaber by KO/TKO

Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem

I felt bad for Browne when he lost by TKO to Antonio Silva when he suffered a leg injury, especially because everyone acted as if Silva had simply demolished him when in actuality, Browne was just covering up because he knew he couldn’t continue. I think Browne would beat Silva in a rematch, by the way. Then I felt bad for Gabriel Gonzaga, who suffered the wrath of a returning Browne in April.

Now, Browne faces Overeem, who is the poster child for underachieving in a division historically full of underachievers. Overeem also gave a fight away against Silva, though he lost not due to injury but his own hubris, choosing to mock Silva instead of putting him away early, then gassing late and getting finished himself by the big man.

I think in this fight, Overeem won’t make that mistake. Though he is a frustrating talent to follow, I nonetheless believe in his ability and think he will out-strike Browne. Browne may have some success if he can close the distance, but even then, Overeem is very strong. My main concern in picking Overeem is that if Browne can tough out the early onslaught, he will surely have more gas in his tank and could finish the fight late. Nonetheless, I’ll go with the former Strikeforce and K-1 champion.

Prediction: Overeem by KO/TKO

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Chael Sonnen

With all of the excitement over this bout, it’s easy to forget that these guys have lost four of their last five combined fights. Sonnen, of course, has lost consecutive title fights across two separate divisions, although he gets a pass when the fighters he has lost to may go down as the top two MMA fighters of all time. Meanwhile, Shogun has alternated wins and losses going back to 2009 and hasn’t won back-to-back fights since he beat Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell at UFC 93 and 97, respectively.

Despite being older, Sonnen has more left in the tank at this point. Shogun has seen a lot of wear and tear over the years, and his knee surgeries have left him as a different fighter than the explosive, aggressive competitor he used to be in his Pride days. Furthermore, Shogun has never been known for having the best takedown defense, although his striking has been able to keep wrestlers from shooting recklessly over the years. Sonnen is not the best fighter at mixing takedowns with strikes, but his wrestling is so great (and his shot is so quick) that it often doesn’t matter.

Once on the mat, Sonnen is very good at controlling opponents, although his submission defense has obviously not been a strong suit in some of his fights. Shogun is a competent jiu-jitsu player, but submissions off of his back certainly aren’t his best area. Unless Shogun can keep this fight standing, he loses a unanimous decision, and I don’t think he can do that.

Prediction: Sonnen by decision

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