After a controversial and quite frankly, stupid outcome to their brilliant first fight, flyweights Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson will fight once again to determine who will move on to the UFC Flyweight Tournament final against former two-time bantamweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez.
Unfortunately, this fight will be only three rounds with a “sudden death” fourth round if necessary, just as the first one was. Hopefully, it won’t be necessary, because we all know how hard it is to add up three numbers of a value of 10 or less. If it sounds like I’m still annoyed by this, well, that’s because I am. I think we are too quick to forgive ridiculous errors and mistakes in this sport, which is how I justify holding grudges against judges, refs and other officials for exceedingly long periods of time. On with the picks!
Scott Jorgensen (#4 BW, 13-5) vs. Eddie Wineland (18-8-1)
In a strange and rather gimmicky move, the UFC allowed the fans to vote for a fight to open up the main card. They wisely chose this one, although the other choices (Seth Baczynski-Lance Benoist, Mike Pierce-Carlos Rocha) made the decision obvious for most fans on name value alone.
Nevertheless, this is a great fight and presents plenty of dangers for both fighters to be aware of. Namely, Jorgensen needs to be at least somewhat wary of Wineland’s concussive striking power- particularly in his right hand- while Wineland must be careful not to allow Jorgensen to use his strength during clinches, inside exchanges and grappling portions of the bout to wring the life out of him like we’ve seen him do to other opponents.
While Wineland has more pure punching power, Jorgensen is no slouch in the striking department. He not only has good fundamental combinations, but can throw the lead right confidently and with good speed/power. He will need to do so to keep Wineland from getting too comfortable and to ultimately close the distance so he can fight on his terms.
As strong as Jorgensen is at 135 pounds, Wineland is likely just as strong, though the grappling edge Jorgensen has will allow him to use his strength better on the mat. Still, Wineland will be hard to control and take down from the clinch, so Jorgensen will have to be crafty in his takedown attempts. Wineland may be able to stand once taken down, too.
All in all, it is somewhat risky to pick Jorgensen here, but there is no safe pick in a fight like this. I’ll take Jorgensen as the fighter who I believe is the best all-around competitor in this matchup, as I think he’ll win a competitive decision here.
Prediction: Jorgensen by decision
Josh Neer (33-10-1) vs. Mike Pyle (22-8-1)
Thought I wouldn’t call them “journeymen” to their faces (particularly in the case of Neer, who seems rather grumpy on a good day), the term perfectly fits these two talented veterans, who have each fought everywhere and then some. Pyle has eight fights in the books in his UFC career, with a 5-3 UFC record (including a 4-1 record in his last five fights), while Neer is in his third UFC stint and has won six in a row, including two in the Octagon.
With veteran fighters like this, not a lot changes over time in terms of either their approach or abilities. You can expect Pyle to be who he is: a control-based fighter with good grappling and solid all-around skills, while Neer will certainly be the better striker, as well as someone with a very good defensive guard that can work for submissions now and again.
I’m tempted to say that Pyle will get the better of this one, because he is certainly the safe pick. I can see him outwrestling Neer the way that someone like Kurt Pellegrino did a few years ago. However, Neer is the better striker, and the margin of talent is more lopsided there than in any other area of the fight. I think Neer will slip some strikes past Pyle’s somewhat-porous defense; the strikes will be enough to either wear Pyle down and give Neer a chance to finish or to override Pyle’s periods of top control to give Neer a decision victory.
Pyle must resist the urge to play around with Neer standing up. His best approach is to be single-minded in his pursuit of takedowns, all the while ignoring the coaxing of Neer and the pleading from the fans to put on an exciting standup fight. If he does so, I’ll end up regretting this pick for sure.
Prediction: Neer by KO/TKO
Charlie Brenneman (15-3) vs. Erick Silva (13-2)
Similarly to the previous fight, Charlie Brenneman will be looking to grind out yet another decision win in his UFC tenure, while Erick Silva will be trying to stay upright while looking to land game-changing strikes against his opponent.
Silva would be 2-0 in the UFC if not for the controversial disqualification he received at the hands of Mario Yamasaki for blows to the back of Carlo Prater at the end of their UFC 142 bout. That had to leave a bad taste in his mouth, and it had to be hard for Silva to let the result of that 29-second fight stew for five months while awaiting his return to the Octagon. In fact, Silva has fought just 69 seconds in the Octagon, which represents all of his in-cage time since the end of October, 2010.
That is a huge contrast with Brenneman, who shocked everyone when he defeated Rick Story as a late replacement at UFC Live 4 in June of 2011, but still has not finished anyone in his four UFC wins. Brenneman has had trouble with aggressive, powerful strikers like Johny Hendricks and Anthony Johnson, and will be in trouble against Silva if he doesn’t score takedowns early and often.
However, his attack is so predictable that as long as Silva doesn’t overcommit, he should do well in terms of takedown defense. Furthermore, the striking will be extremely lopsided as Silva’s dynamic range of attacks will keep Brenneman guessing as he looks for opportunities to bring Silva to the mat. That approach will yield to desperation as Brenneman realizes he is losing and getting knocked around a bit, which means we could see a telegraphed shot that leads to Silva landing something nasty.
Though Brenneman is the better wrestler, he also faces danger on the mat, where Silva has shown earlier in his career to be a dangerous opponent with pretty good submission acumen. No matter what, he will have enough trouble taking Silva down that he will end up getting rocked and finished at some point.
Prediction: Silva by submission
UFC Flyweight Tournament Semifinal
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (#3 FLW, 14-2-1) vs. Ian McCall (#1 FLW, 11-2-1)
Both men were impressive in their UFC flyweight division debuts, but McCall gave a better account of himself, with seemingly limitless cardio, good speed, excellent wrestling and an uncanny sense of what to do at what time to win the fight. Unfortunately, the powers that be messed up their meager duties and denied us a fourth round to one of the best fights of the year so far.
So, the fighters had to completely repeat their training camps to do this all over again, and McCall is unquestionably brimming with confidence going into this one. And why not? He had Mighty Mouse quite clearly on the ropes near the end of their first bout, punishing him on the mat and even finding time to gesture for the crowd.
Early on, Mighty Mouse kept McCall off balance with speed, footwork, and good longer-range boxing, but McCall had a decisive edge when in close. Both will have studied the tape of the first encounter religiously and will fight hard to maintain their respective advantages, but I think McCall will dictate this fight and continually find ways to get in close on Johnson.
While Johnson has the standup tools to win a decision against McCall in a pure standup fight, McCall has more power and is a better threat to take his opponent down, which will lead to distraction on the part of Johnson. Furthermore, when they hit the mat in their first fight, Johnson had no real success escaping bad positions or simply standing up to get back to where he wants to be. I expect this one to be more of the same, though trending toward a more lopsided win for McCall this time around.
Prediction: McCall by decision