One of the biggest grudge matches in UFC history goes down this weekend as the UFC returns to the world of Pay Per View for UFC 148.
There have been some notable grudge matches before; Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir, Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz and Rashad Evans vs. Jon Jones all come to mind, but this one may be the biggest of them all as Anderson Silva once again defends his middleweight title against Chael Sonnen.
The middleweight championship bout caps off what was once an amazingly stacked card, but has been hampered by injury problems. Still the main card features a number of big names and a few intriguing match-ups and if there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the past, it’s that grudge matches do big business for the UFC anyways.
As mentioned the card is headlined by a UFC Middleweight Title Bout between champion Silva and challenger Sonnen. The Co-Main Event features the trilogy bout between Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz in what is supposed to be Ortiz’s final bout before retirement. Middleweights Cung Le and the returning Canadian Patrick Cote battle on the main card, as will the new and improved, slimmer version of Demian Maia as he drops to the Welterweight class for the first time to battle Korean wrestling specialist Dong Hyun Kim. Rounding out the six-bout main card are a pair of bouts featuring the smaller weight classes as Chad Mendes looks to get back into Featherweight title contention with a bout against Cody McKenzie and a potentially explosive Bantamweight bout between Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Rafaello Oliveira vs. Yoislandy Izquierdo
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Rafaello “Tractor” Oliveira is a Brazilian fighter who now trains with the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey and the Knoxville Martial Arts Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee. Oliveira is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who does his best work on the mat. His striking isn’t awful, but he’s been handled on the feet by nearly every UFC Lightweight that he’s faced. He holds a professional record of 14-5, including a 1-4 mark in the UFC, so he’s likely fighting for his job on Saturday night.
Yoislandy “Cuba” Izquierdo is an American fighter from Hialeah, Florida but originally hailing from Havana, Cuba. He is a striker, who was fairly impressive in his UFC debut, despite eventually losing. He is a member of the Young Tigers Gym in his hometown. Izquierdo’s striking is technical and he is very aggressive, as he was constantly moving forward in his octagon debut. He actually showed fairly decent takedown defense in the first round of that bout, but he showed some serious liabilities on the ground once the fight got there. He holds a professional record of 6-1, with the lone loss coming in his UFC debut.
Analysis and Prediction: This is your classic striker vs. grappler match up. The stand up fight favors the Cuban-American as his technical striking is far superior to that of Oliveira. Izquierdo looked completely clueless on the mat against Reza Madadi in his UFC debut, but he showed good takedown defense in the first round. If Oliveira can’t get the fight to the mat, he’s probably getting knocked out, and I don’t think he can get the fight there. Yoislandy Izquierdo via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: John Alessio vs. Shane Roller
John “The Natural” Alessio is a Canadian fighter from Vancouver, British Columbia. He is a veteran of the sport of MMA who will be competing in his 50th career bout on Saturday night. He has competed for a number of major MMA promotions including UFC, WEC, PRIDE, MFC and DREAM. He now resides and trains out of Las Vegas, Nevada at the Xtreme Couture Gym. Alessio is a fairly well rounded striker but does his best work in the stand up department. Alessio holds a career record of 34-15, including 25 wins via stoppage.
Shane Roller is an American fighter from Bixby, Oklahoma. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Oklahoma State University, where he was a three-time All American. He is a member of the Team Takedown Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Roller prefers to use his wrestling skills to earn takedowns and grind away on his opponents from top control. Roller’s stand up isn’t technically sound, but he packs a hell of a punch. He throws looping punches, which leaves him susceptible to counters from quick opponents, but if he is able to land those punches, he can definitely end someone’s night quickly. Roller holds a career record of 10-6.
Analysis and Prediction: Roller was one of the hottest prospects at Lightweight coming out of the WEC when they merged with the UFC. He defeated Danny Castillo, Jamie Varner and gave Anthony Pettis all kinds of problems with his wrestling. However, in his last four fights in the UFC, he’s looked pretty slow and broken down. His striking looks sloppier than usual and he’s getting beaten to the punch a lot. Alessio isn’t a strong enough wrestler to keep Roller off of him for three rounds, if that’s the route Roller goes for, but Alessio should be able to torch him on the feet. Alessio throws tighter punches and is more technical. Judging by recent performances I’ll take Alessio by Decision. John Alessio via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Constantinos Philippou vs. Riki Fukuda
Constantinos “Costa” Philippou is a fighter from Limassol, Cyprus. He is a striker who trains out of the Serra-Longo Fight Team in Long Island, New York. Philippou also has excellent sprawl as he showed in his last bout against Court McGee, where he was able to stuff almost all of McGee’s takedowns and neutralize his wrestling edge. He is a former professional boxer and employs a traditional boxing approach to his striking, preferring to use his hands instead of mixing it up with kicks and knees. Philippou because of his boxing background does however make excellent use of his jab and has stellar footwork inside the octagon. Philippou has a career record of 10-2.
Riki “Killer Bee’ Fukuda is a Japanese fighter from Gifu, Japan. Fukuda has a strong wrestling acumen and was actually a collegiate wrestler in his home country of Japan. He has fought for a number of major Japanese MMA Promotions including Shooto, Pancrase, DEEP and K-1, he also dabbled in Japanese Pro Wrestling for a short while before focusing on MMA. He is a member of the Team Grabaka Gym, fighting out of Tokyo. Fukuda has decent striking, but does his best work by taking his opponents down and smothering them from top position. He holds a professional record of 18-5.
Analysis and Prediction: Philippou looked excellent in his last bout against Court McGee where he was able to completely negate his opponent’s wrestling. He is facing a very similar fighter in Fukuda, and will likely be looking to employ a similar game plan. Philippou’s one glaring weakness has been his cardio, as he often punches himself out and gasses down the stretch. If he paces himself slightly better for this bout I think he can easily neutralize Fukuda’s takedowns and out-box him to a decision victory. Constantinos Philippou via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Melvin Guillard vs. Fabricio Camoes
Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard is one of the most hit-and-miss fighters in the UFC. Depending on which Guillard shows up he can be one of the most feared opponents in the Lightweight division, or he can be a cakewalk for a focused and dialed in opponent. Guillard is a member of the Blackzillians, training out of Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Florida. He is one of the biggest and physically strongest fighters in the Lightweight division and is probably the most athletically gifted in the division as well. He has massive knockout power in both of his hands and is extremely quick and light on his feet. His kryptonite remains the ground game, as his poor submission defense has accounted for 9 of his 10 career losses. Guillard has a professional record of 29-10-2 with 1 No Contest.
Fabricio “Morango” Camoes is a Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter from the Gracie Humaita team in San Diego, California. Camoes is a top-level grappler who has competed in a number of submission grappling tournaments all over the world. His striking is fairly rudimentary, so he relies on his ground game to win bouts. He is a very aggressive grappler, who constantly looks to pass guard when he’s on top and is constantly forcing sweeps and scrambles if he is caught on the bottom. The majority of his wins come via Submissions, and he holds a career record of 14-6-1.
Prediction and Analysis: This bout really doesn’t need or deserve high-level fight intelligence to break down. What this is going to come down to is whether or not Camoes can get this fight to the ground without Guillard obliterating him on the feet. Camoes isn’t physically strong enough to use brute strength, and Guillard is likely the better wrestler of the two, so unless his plan is to pull guard and not get smashed by Guillard as he tries it, I’m not sure what he can do to pull off an upset. Guillard smashes. Melvin Guillard via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Gleison Tibau vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Gleison Tibau is a Brazilian fighter from Rio Grando do Norte, who now fights out of Coconut Creek, Florida. He is a member of the American Top Team with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Tibau is also an excellent wrestler who can use brute strength to make up for any technical shortcomings in the wrestling game. He is also one of the largest fighters in the Lightweight division who is rumored to weigh up to 180 pounds on fight nights. Tibau’s striking has been constantly improving since his octagon debut and he now is able to throw crisp boxing combinations and is much more adept at protecting himself in the stand up game. Tibau holds a career record of 25-7, but is 7-2 in his last nine with the only two losses being decisions to Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Khabib “The Eagle” Numagomedov is a 23-year-old fighter from Makhachkala, Russia. He has a well-decorated background in combat and sport Sambo and is a black belt in Judo. Although his wrestling skills are far from elite, he is a capable grappler whose experience in Sambo and Judo allows him to have some levels of success even against wrestlers more talented than himself. He throws his strikes with power but is very sloppy and leaves himself open to counters, which could be dangerous against a big puncher like Tibau. Nurmagomedov holds a perfect professional record of 17-0, with most of his wins coming in his home country of Russia.
Analysis and Prediction: Tibau is a very dangerous fighter for anyone in the Lightweight division. His size and strength alone make him a tough test for even the top fighters. His many improvements in striking and wrestling have made him an even tougher test. Nurmagomedov looked impressive in his UFC debut and has the tools to go far in the UFC. However, his striking isn’t at the level it needs to be to hang with Tibau, which means he needs to get this fight to the ground. Tibau is big and strong and doing that isn’t going to be easy, especially if he can’t set up his shots well with his striking. The Russian might have some moments, but I think Tibau takes a 29-28 Decision. Gleison Tibau via Unanimous Decision
[amazon_link id=”B003VQO54M” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]UFC 117: Silva v. Sonnen DVD[/amazon_link]
[amazon_link id=”B002U6CJQA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ] UFC: The Ultimate 100 Greatest Fight Moments[/amazon_link]