It’s been six weeks since the last UFC event, which seems like a long time now that we regularly have a live event every one or two weeks. Of course, if you were a fan in the pre-TUF days and regularly waited 2-3 months between pay-per-views without any TUF, Bellator, Strikeforce, or random MMA events on HDNet to hold you over, you know that six weeks isn’t bad. (Also, we used to have to walk six miles to our local gym to “train UFC”…uphill BOTH WAYS!)
Still, though…six weeks is too damn long.
Fortunately, at least for those of us who have had our arms twisted enough to get Fuel TV, we have a crapton of fights to look forward to this weekend, and quality ones at that. With a half dozen fights on Facebook and another half dozen on Fuel, there’s plenty to get pumped about. Furthermore, since the fights are in Sweden and are live in North America during the early afternoon, there’s nothing keeping you from getting sloshed later on Saturday night! See? Everybody wins.
I’m keeping with my recent tendency to focus on main card fights, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a fighter on the prelims, Eric Wisely. Eric went to my high school and though he had a tough time against Charles Oliveira (the remarkable calf slicer submission, remember?), he’s a very talented fighter and I fully expect him to give a great performance this weekend against Jason Young. He’s the first fight on the Facebook prelims; that’s just another reason to log on and check out the full card, dear readers.
On to the main card!
Brad Pickett vs. Damacio Page
Both of these borderline top ten fighters are still looking for their first wins in the Octagon, but that’s about where the similarities end between the two.
While Pickett is comfortable throwing combinations of technically-sound strikes, Page has power and thus, likes to be a free swinger, often looking for the ever-elusive “big shot”. The problem here is that Pickett will not allow Page the daylight to operate, and if Page isn’t effective early, he’ll wear down as the fight goes on. I think Pickett grinds out a victory here and takes a step in the right direction.
Prediction: Pickett by decision
DaMarques Johnson vs. John Maguire
Johnson has not lived up to the promise he showed in The Ultimate Fighter, posting a record of just 4-3 in the UFC. Meanwhile, Maguire debuted at UFC 138 with a very sturdy decision win over Justin Edwards, and he looks to be the latest English fighter to succeed in the Octagon.
Johnson has all the tools, with decent athleticism, good striking and good positional grappling, but he suffers from mental miscues from time to time. From wilting a bit when pressured to getting caught in submissions he shouldn’t, it’s the mental side of the game that often lets Johnson down when he is otherwise physically up to the task.
I have a sneaking suspicion that a motivated fighter like Maguire who has already shown a willingness and ability to take down opponents and grind them down from advantageous positions could take advantage of Johnson’s tendencies. Johnson may have the advantage early, but watch for Maguire if Johnson can’t get the job done in the first round.
Prediction: Maguire by submission
Diego Nunes vs. Dennis Siver
Nunes gets tasked with taking on another former lightweight who’s dropped a weight class when he faces Siver. I have no idea how Siver plans to make 145 pounds unless he drops some muscle mass, as he has a physique that could maybe be most closely compared to Sean Sherk.
Nonetheless, everyone thinks that dropping or ascending a weight class is the answer to career stagnancy these days, so here Siver is, joining fellow former roadblocked lightweights Kenny Florian and Tyson Griffin at featherweight. If the weight cut doesn’t kill him or deplete him more than expected, Siver has the kind of standup to frustrate Nunes.
Siver uses unorthodox techniques (look for at least one spinning back kick per round) that keep his opponents from getting comfortable, and Nunes isn’t the most aggressive fighter, so he may give Siver a good target now and then. Nunes may look for the takedown, but Siver is so strong and blessed with such good balance that I don’t know that it would work out for him. Siver takes a decision here.
Prediction: Siver by decision
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Paulo Thiago
No disrespect to Bahadurzada, but Thiago must feel like he’s on vacation after fighting perennial top ten welterweights like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann for much of his UFC career. In his seven UFC fights, Thiago has faced five fighters who have graced the welterweight top ten.
Meanwhile, Bahadurzada has won six straight against competition that is decent, but not near Thiago’s level. When he faced higher level fighters like Kazuo Misaki and Jorge Santiago in Sengoku, he was submitted fairly quickly.
What really doesn’t bode well here is that Bahadurzada throws caution to the wind when he fights, while Thiago has the composure and technical skills to take advantage of just such a fighter. He’ll counter on the feet and use openings to take Bahadurzada down, where it will be just a matter of time.
Prediction: Thiago by submission
Alessio Sakara vs. Brian Stann
This may end up being the most visually appealing fight on the card, as these two should largely engage in standup theatrics. Sakara is obviously loved by the UFC, as evidenced by his not being cut when he lost 4 out of 6 fights a few years ago, as well as the UFC’s tendency to give him appealing style matchups on a frequent basis.
While Stann is a tough fighter, he’ll at least play Sakara’s game. Of course, comments by Sakara that he thinks he has a better ground game than Stann seem to hint that there may be more here than meets the eye. Let’s hope we’re wrong, because quite frankly, nobody wants to see Stann and Sakara go all ADCC on us. We want to see a war, and you can bet Stann will want the same thing.
If Sakara is basing his opinion on Stann’s ground game on the Chael Sonnen fight, it’s a mistake. Sonnen can make many good fighters look silly on the mat, and Sakara surely can’t be expected to follow that blueprint. No, I expect that Stann’s strength, power and technique sees him through here.
Prediction: Stann by KO/TKO
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva
How I wish it was Brandon Vera taking on Silva. Not because it’d be a better fight, mind you, but just because of the grudge match angle. I’m a sucker for a good grudge match, and I know Vera was not happy with being made a fool of against Silva when they fought the first time.
Oh, well. If anything, Silva ends up with a much more difficult fight now, as Gustafsson is one of the best prospects the UFC has to offer, a burgeoning top ten fighter.
I’m tempted to take Silva in an upset here, as people seem to have forgotten that he’s a fighter to be reckoned with and someone who has only been beaten by truly elite fighters in the UFC. However, I think Gustafsson will be able to counter Silva’s aggressiveness with his reach and clean standup technique. Silva may have a slight advantage on the mat, but Gustafsson can likely use his takedown defense to stay vertical, too.
It will be a tough fight for Gustafsson, and Silva just may catch him, but I think the young prospect wins a hard-fought decision here.
Prediction: Gustafsson by decision