The UFC returns to the Pay Per View airwaves this weekend with a massive card featuring five bouts all in the Heavyweight division (see what I did there?). After a number of highly entertaining and not to mention free bouts featuring the lighter weight classes at UFC on Fox 3 and UFC on Fuel TV 3, the UFC brings nearly 2500 pounds of fighting this Saturday! Saturday! Saturday! (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, check out the awesome old school promo video for UFC 146 that was created by the promotion. http://youtu.be/1o7yp6JpsSE)
Headlined by a Heavyweight Championship bout between reigning champion Junior dos Santos defending his title against newly minted number one contender Frank Mir. In co-main event action former champion Cain Velasquez looks to right the ship and work his way back towards the UFC title when he takes on the debuting Antonio “Big Foot” Silva. Rounding out the main PPV card are three more Heavyweight tilts including: Stefan Struve taking on late replacement and undefeated in the UFC Lavar Johnson, undefeated records are on the line when Strikeforce import Shane del Rosario battles Stipe Miocic, and fan-favorite Roy Nelson battles Dave Herman.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Mike Thomas Brown vs. Daniel Pineda
Daniel “The Pit” Pineda is an American fighter from Dallas, Texas. Pineda is a Muay Thai fighter with a wildly aggressive style. Pineda is a member of the 4 oz. Fight Club in Houston, Texas. Pineda is an interesting case of fighting style, he’s extremely aggressive, winging wild punches and haymakers at anything that’s stupid enough to stand in front of him. Add to that fact that he’s an extremely capable grappler with 13 submission victories and he’s definitely a handful for any fighter to deal with. Pineda owns a career record of 17-7 and has finished every one of his victories by TKO or Submission.
Analysis and Prediction: In the past I would take Brown in a second. His style is custom built to throw off renegade brawlers like Pineda. However, his more recent bouts have been a mixed bag, and he’s looked far from the dominant fighter that he once was. Still the fact remains that if he follows a tight game plan he has the wrestling and boxing skills to handle Pineda and grind him out for three rounds. You never really know which Mike Brown will show up, but if the fighter that once defeated Urijah Faber shows up, he should win this one. Mike Thomas Brown by Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Light Heavyweight Bout: Kyle Kingsbury vs. Glover Teixeira
Kyle “Kingsbu” Kingsbury is a 30-year-old American fighter from San Jose, California. He is most notable for his stint on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality television series. The former NCAA football star has made a relatively smooth transition to MMA, however he was dealt a significant thrashing in his last bout at the hands of Stephan Bonnar. Kingsbury is a well-rounded fighter who’s striking is solid and has a decent wrestling game, likely due to his background as a Defensive tackle. He is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose and owns a career record of 11-3, with 1 No Contest.
Glover Teixeira is a Brazilian fighter, who has long been one of the top Brazilian prospects to never fight in a major American MMA promotion. Teixeira is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has won the Brazilian ADCC trials in his weight class in the past. He also owns incredible kickboxing skills with big power in all of his strikes. Teixeira is currently riding a fifteen fight-winning streak with notable victories over Ricco Rodriguez, Marvin Eastman and Marcio Cruz. Despite his Brazilian heritage, Teixeira actually trains in The Pit in San Luis Obispo, California under the tutelage of John Hackleman (the trainer of former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.) Teixeira owns a career record of 17-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite running up a nice win streak inside the Octagon, Kingsbury was absolutely exposed in his last bout against Stephan Bonnar. Although the world expected a brawl, it became apparent to everyone early in that fight that Kingsbury could not stop Bonnar from taking him down, so Bonnar rode that to victory. Glover Teixeira is a highly touted prospect with better wrestling and better striking than Bonnar, expect a similar show to the clinic Bonnar gave Kingsbury, but Teixeira finds an opening to stop this one. Glover Teixeira via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Jacob Volkmann vs. Paul Sass
Jacob “Christmas” Volkmann is an American fighter from Fergus Falls, Minnesota. A former Welterweight in the UFC, he lost his first two bouts at the weight class before making the cut to Lightweight. Since that drop he has gone 5-0, although his steady stream of grinding decision victories, seems to have him stuck on the undercards. Despite all that, another win should at least guarantee him a shot at the top ten Lightweight fighters in the UFC, and with it a shot at some TV time. Volkmann is a former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler from the University of Minnesota who has translated those wrestling skills well to the game. Although his striking remains relatively raw, his wrestling and top control is top notch. A member of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy he owns a career record of 14-2.
Paul “Sassangle” Sass is an English fighter born in Liverpool, England. At only 23-years old and currently undefeated he is one of the UK’s top fighters. Sass has an outstanding ground game, whose stand up is fairly limited. However, his grappling ability is top notch. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt currently owns eleven of his twelve career victories via submission, his favorite of which is the Triangle choke which he has used to finish over half of his opponents, most in the first round. Sass is a member of the Team Koabon Gym in Liverpool and owns a career record of 12-0.
Analysis and Prediction: This bout could be a highly entertaining high-octane, quick paced grappling show, or it could be turned into a slow, dull and boring wrestle fest. I expect that the boo-birds might come out for this one. Neither guy is known for their striking skills, although Sass is probably the more talented of the two. Volkmann will certainly take the bout to the ground, but Sass is extremely talented and dangerous from the bottom. If Volkmann relies that, he’s going to be extremely careful on the mat, causing the pace to slow, if Sass can make him work from the bottom, than he’s going to create openings where his lights out Jiu Jitsu can create submission opportunities. Because of an extended layoff due to injuries, I think Volkmann rides another decision here. Jacob Volkmann via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Welterweight Bout: Dan Hardy vs. Duane Ludwig
Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy is a 30-year-old English fighter and a former UFC Welterweight title challenger. Since earning that shot however, he has hit a skid and is currently on a four-fight losing streak. Hardy is a kick boxer and not much else, his wrestling skills and grappling skills are basically non-existent. He does have the ability to end someone’s night with one big power punch, but for someone who’s whole game relies on striking, he isn’t even that great at his one skill. Still, he is a favorite fighter of UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, so he is still employed, but who knows if that will last after a five-fight losing streak. Hardy owns a career record of 23-10.
Duane “Bang” Ludwig is an American fighter from Denver, Colorado. He is a former professional kick boxer and a longtime veteran of the MMA game. Combined Ludwig has over 80 career combat bouts spread between pro kickboxing and pro MMA. Not surprisingly Ludwig relies on his Muay Thai skills in nearly all of his fights. Ludwig has been constantly working on his grappling skills, but he is still not nearly refined as a top level MMA fighter should be nowadays. Luckily for him the ground game is unlikely to be a factor in this bout. He holds a professional MMA record of 21-12.
Analysis and Prediction: I’ll just go ahead and say it, neither one of these guys is ever going to even come close to earning a title shot in the future. However, this is surely on the card to please fans. Both fighters prefer to stand and brawl and that’s what they’re expected to do come Saturday night. I’m not of the opinion that Hardy is vastly overrated, although he was the beneficiary of the UFC marketing machine making him look impressive in video footage for his fight against GSP. Still Ludwig is on the tail end of his career and Hardy should still have some time in the cage. Hardy probably needs a win here more as well. Dan Hardy by Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Middleweight Bout: Jason Miller vs. C.B. Dollaway
Jason “Mayhem” Miller is one of the UFC’s most colorful personalities. An entertainer first and fighter second, Miller has enjoyed success outside of the cage as the host of the MTV reality television Bully Beatdown. He is also notable as one of the coaches of the last season of The Ultimate Fighter to be aired on Spike. Mayhem is a talented grappler with decent takedowns but fairly basic striking skills. In his last bout against Michael Bisping he fared well in the first round before gassing out and being pummeled the rest of the way. It is worth noting that Mayhem actually went five rounds with then Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields, and was competitive in the latter rounds, so cardio usually isn’t an issue for Mayhem. Miller is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and along with Tom Lawlor is known for some of the most entertaining cage entrances in the UFC today. Miller’s professional MMA record is 27-8 with 1 No Contest.
C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway is an American fighter who is best known as a finalist on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Dollaway relies mainly on his wrestling in his bouts, preferring to take his opponents down and grind them out from top position while avoiding the striking department as much as possible. Although his striking has improved since his time on the show, he is still fairly one-dimensional as a boxer, with basic combinations and not a whole lot of varied offense. He owns a career record of 11-4.
Analysis and Prediction: In the last performance from both of these fighters they let excellent first rounds get away from them due to gassing horribly. For Dollaway that seems to be the norm, for Miller it’s not. I’m guessing an extended layoff hurt Miller’s cardio and since I’ve seen him go for five hard rounds, I have more faith that he can fight for a full three rounds. I expect a wrestling heavy attack from Dollaway in the first, but as he fades later in the fight Miller picks him apart on the feet and eventually secures a fight-ending choke in the third. Jason Miller via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza vs. Jamie Varner
Edson “Junior” Barboza is a Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is a former professional Muay Thai kick boxer who has lethal striking skills, with a wide variety of kicks and punches. Barboza is also very well rounded and has strong grappling skills, including a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Barboza is probably best known for his last bout, a highly entertaining back and forth scrap with Terry Etim that he eventually won with a highlight reel knockout with a spinning wheel kick. Barboza is undefeated as a professional mixed martial artist owning a career record of 10-0 with eight finishes.
Jamie “C-4” Varner is an American fighter from Phoenix, Arizona. Varner is a former WEC Lightweight Champion who is actually making his octagon return in this bout a as a late replacement for the injured Evan Dunham. Varner struggled near the end of his WEC career, but since his release from the promotion has gone 3-1, with three stoppage victories. Varner is a wrestler first and foremost, who uses takedowns to control the pace of his bouts. His striking skills are actually not bad either, although he’s somewhat slow, he more than makes up for it with a lot of power. Varner recently made a switch in training camps and now trains with AMA Fight Club in Whippany, New Jersey. Varner owns a professional record of 19-6-1, with 2 No Contests.
Analysis and Prediction: This was a much more enjoyable and entertaining match before Evan Dunham was injured. However, this is what we have now. Varner is likely going to want to get this bout to the ground quickly, unfortunately for him Barboza has excellent sprawl and a punishing Thai Clinch, making anyone unsuccessful at taking him down pay the price. He’s also taller than Varner and will have a significant reach advantage in the fight. Add to that fact that he’s the better striker and fights well at range and you can expect that it’s going to be a long night for Varner. Expect another KO for the highlight reel of Barboza. Edson Barboza via KO in Round Three
Preliminary Card (FX): Featherweight Bout: Diego Brandao vs. Darren Elkins
Diego “Ceara” Brandao is a Brazilian fighter from Manaus, Brazil. He was the winner of the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a fairly well rounded fighter who trains with Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He dominated during his time on The Ultimate Fighter stopping all of his first three opponents with TKOs in the first round of each bout. He then won the finale via arm bar after being rocked by punches, showing his impressive composure and ability to remain calm even under intense pressure. It’s a bit of a strange spot for his first bout after winning the show to be on a PPV undercard, but he is still a highly entertaining fighter with some decent upside. He owns a professional record of 14-7.
Darren “The Damage” Elkins is an American fighter from Hobart, Indiana. Elkins was a state champion wrestler in high school and uses a traditional wrestling based approach to fighting. His striking is fairly basic, as he offers not a whole lot more than basic one-two combinations and leg kicks. However, on the mat he has become quite a handful at 145-pounds. He has strong submissions and although his submission defense looked poor earlier on in his career, he looked very impressive in his most recent bouts at fending off submissions from talented grapplers like Teiquan Zhang and Michihiro Omigawa. Elkins as career record of 13-2.
Analysis and Prediction: I will say that when I saw this betting line I nearly laughed myself out of the chair. Brandao is heavily favored and the only reason is his win of The Ultimate Fighter. Though I think he is talented and dangerous, Elkins seems like a fighter tailor made to beat him and is a tough match up coming straight off of the show. Elkins is a smothering wrestler with solid submission defense. Brandao should be favored as he has the better, more powerful striking, but his grappling isn’t likely to bail him out in a wrestling match. If he’s taken down it could be a bad night for the Ultimate Fighter winner. I think I smell an upset. Darren Elkins via Split Decision
Main Card (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve is a Dutch fighter from Beverwijk, Netherlands. At 6’11” and over 250 pounds he is an absolutely huge fighter who is a handful for anyone to deal with. At only 24-years-old he is still continuing to fill out his massive frame and looks improved at fighting to his full size, by using a strong jab and showing improved striking defense. He is also a highly talented grappler with 15 submission victories on his resume, the ground game is definitely an area that favors the big Dutchman. Struve owns a career record of 23-5.
Lavar “Big” Johnson is making a quick turnaround for this fight, fighting on just under a month’s rest and just under two weeks of notice. Johnson is an American fighter from the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California who is 2-0 since debuting in the UFC, both of those bouts being first round knockouts. He is a huge power puncher with strong striking skills, his ground game however is another story. On the mat he is basically terrible, in his most recent bout he was taken down, controlled and nearly submitted on the ground by Pat Barry, someone who is definitely not known for his grappling prowess. Still Johnson is a highly entertaining fighter with a fan friendly style, he has a career record of 17-5.
Analysis and Prediction: I was scared when I heard Struve’s first interview after Lavar Johnson was named as the replacement for the injured Mark Hunt. “I think my stand up is better than his,” was the quote. And although that may be true, Johnson is a huge puncher and that’s been Struve’s kryptonite in the UFC as big punchers before like Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson have stopped him. However, he followed that up by saying he wasn’t an idiot and that he was taking this fight south. Johnson looked terrible against Pat Barry on the ground, and Struve is significantly more dangerous on the mat than Barry. The fight starts standing, so it’s hard to count out Johnson’s big power punches, but if Struve gets this fight to the mat at any time, Johnson is getting submitted. Stefan Struve via Submission in Round One
Main Card (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Stipe Miocic vs. Shane del Rosario
Stipe Miocic is a Croatian-American fighter from Euclid, Ohio. Miocic is a rare blend of talents as he is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler who also won the Golden Gloves title as an amateur boxer in his home state of Ohio. Miocic is a member of the Strong Style Fight Team in Independence, Ohio. He is a highly touted prospect, who is extremely athletically gifted. In addition to his NCAA Wrestling skills and Golden Gloves championships, he also played Division 1 baseball in college and received interest from numerous MLB teams. His decision to stick with fighting has been a successful one though, as he is undefeated with an 8-0 record, with only the very tough Joey Beltran surviving to a decision.
Shane del Rosario is like his opponent a top undefeated prospect in the Heavyweight division. The 28-year-old from Hacienda Heights, California is a former professional kick boxer who has also added an impressive grappling game to compliment his striking. Del Rosario has trained extensively with Team DeathClutch and it has improved his wrestling abilities significantly. He is excellent at working for takedowns through the clinch and through trips. From there he is able to pass guard effectively and mixes in his ground and pound well enough to create submission opportunities. This is del Rosario’s first fight in nearly two years, after a terrible car accident nearly ended his career. Numerous surgeries on his back have occurred during his time off, and despite his claims of health, it’s hard to judge how something that major, as well as ring rust might affect him. His pro record is 11-0.
Analysis and Prediction: Both of these guys are red-hot prospects, and I like many others would have preferred to see them battle other main card fighters rather than each other. I think del Rosario is actually the better fighter, the only reason I’m not all over him is because of his recent layoff. Back injuries are nothing to joke about as Shane Carwin’s career can attest to. Since Miocic has dominated four opponents since del Rosario’s last fight, I think he may be too much for the Strikeforce import to handle. Stipe Miocic via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
Roy “Big Country” Nelson is the rotund fan favorite fighter who is most notable as the winner of the Heavyweights only tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a former IFL Heavyweight Champion, as well as the winner of the 2007 IFL Heavyweight Grand Prix. A bit of a loner, Nelson is known for spending the majority of his training camps training himself, but he trains primarily in and around Las Vegas, Nevada. Nelson is a BJJ black belt with smothering top control, a powerful overhand right and an incredibly durable chin. In fact Nelson has been stopped only once in his career and most recently survived three rounds of hellacious beatings from Frank Mir, Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum. Nelson has a pro record of 16-7.
Dave “PeeWee” Herman is the beneficiary of some untimely injuries and the gimmick of having an all Heavyweight main card. After some initial card shuffling, Nelson was expected to face Gabriel Gonzaga but an injury opened the door for Herman who is returning after a TKO loss to Stefan Struve. Herman is a 27-year-old fighter from Columbia City, Indiana who now trains out of Temecula, California with Team Quest. Despite his wrestling based training camp, Herman prefers to stand in the pocket and trade. He has big power in his punches and has knocked out 15 of his career opponents. He uses his wrestling and grappling skills more as a means of escaping back to his feet rather than to smother his opponents. He holds a career record of 21-3.
Analysis and Prediction: Herman is simply a slugger and a brawler. He hits hard, but that doesn’t matter to Roy Nelson’s chin, which wouldn’t even go out when Junior dos Santos was teeing off on it. Herman is fairly inexperienced on the ground and would rather make dumb statements like “Jiu Jitsu doesn’t work against me,” rather than work on getting better. If Nelson is smart, he takes this fight to the ground in a hurry. Nelson is a capable striker in his own right, and probably has the power to KO Herman standing, but on the ground he can simply smother Herman and work towards a TKO finish in the second round. Roy Nelson via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
Cain Velasquez is a Mexican-American fighter and is the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He has been in a number of high-profile UFC bouts including defeating Brock Lesnar for the UFC title and losing that title to Junior dos Santos on the first UFC on Fox event. Despite that setback, Velasquez remains one of the sport’s best Heavyweights. He has heavy hands, impressive cardio, solid wrestling and grappling abilities and is extremely quick on his feet for a Heavyweight fighter. He is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy where he is teammates with Strikeforce Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier, who was also the last man to defeat Silva, so he should have a strong game plan heading into Saturday night. Velasquez has a career record of 9-1, with his only loss being the aforementioned setback against dos Santos.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva is another one of the major acquisitions from Strikeforce’s heavyweight roster. The Brazilian born fighter from Paraiba, Brazil he is an absolutely massive fighter, who used to fight at well north of 300 pounds in the Super Heavyweight division. He is a Muay Thai kick boxer, with black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo, giving him a well-rounded fighting style. His career-defining fight happened in 2011 against Fedor Emelianenko, when he was able to out grapple the famed Russian on the mat and pound him out for an eventual TKO victory. Silva is a member of the Black House/ X-Gym fight team where he is training partners with Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Junior dos Santos and the Nogueira brothers. He holds a career record of 16-3.
Analysis and Prediction: I hate to get preachy rather than offer real insight into a bout, but if any of you haven’t watched Daniel Cormier vs.. Antonio Silva do it now. Velasquez is basically a smaller, lighter, quicker version of Daniel Cormier, who probably hits harder. Silva is simply too slow and too plodding to be competitive against top-level fighters nowadays. His striking defense is poor and if Brock Lesnar couldn’t outwrestle Velasquez, I don’t think Silva can either. Velasquez earns an impressive knockout in Round One, solidifying his space as a top contender. Cain Velasquez via KO in Round One
Main Event (PPV): Heavyweight Championship Bout: Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
Junior “Cigano” dos Santos is the reigning and defending UFC Heavyweight Champion. Dos Santos is a Brazilian fighter from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Although he holds the rank of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, we have rarely seen his groundwork, which may end up being a key to this bout. His stand up however remains his bread and butter. He has tight, crisp boxing and he throws very accurate and quick combinations inside the cage. He also hits with a ton of power, with only two of his opponents surviving to a decision (And in both of those bouts, both fighters were damaged significantly over the course of the bout.) Dos Santos is simply a wrecking ball inside the cage, he prefers an offense-minded attack over that of a defensively sound traditional boxer. Instead of covering up to avoid damage, dos Santos would rather return fire with his punches and know that his chin can hold up and that he can land the big shot against his opponent. Junior holds a professional record of 14-1, and has never been defeated in the UFC.
Frank Mir is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion who was originally scheduled to fight Cain Velasquez in the co-main event. A failed drug test to original number one contender Alistair Overeem opened the door for Mir to step through. Despite the late change, the bout works well for the UFC as there is a factor of revenge for dos Santos as Mir has defeated his coach Antonio Nogueira in devastating fashion twice, becoming the first man to TKO Nogueira and the only man to submit Nogueira. Mir is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and probably the most dangerous grappler in the Heavyweight division. Although his striking has improved over his career, it’s still fairly basic and not nearly on the same level as the Champion; dos Santos. Mir will likely look to cover up and wade through some early punches and look for a Thai Clinch. From there Mir can use his size to throw knees and look for a takedown. The ground game is his best bet against someone as unproven on the mat as dos Santos. Mir holds a pro record of 16-5 with over ten years of experience in the sport.
Analysis and Prediction: This is a terrible stylistic match up for Mir. Dos Santos is extremely tough to work to the ground, hits like a freight train and will likely be the quicker fighter in the cage on Saturday night. For Mir, it’s all about tight defense. Junior is all offense, throwing bombs at all times, this leaves his chin open for counter punches frequently. Unfortunately to take advantage of that, means you have to open yourself up to his incoming punches. Expect Mir to cover up and try to move forward and close the distance relatively quickly against dos Santos. Although dos Santos is a great boxer, he prefers more of a traditional boxing stance than a more balanced for MMA Muay Thai approach. I think if Mir can get close enough to clinch with dos Santos he can work some dirty boxing and look to get the fight to the mat, which is his best path to victory.
Dos Santos also has excellent uppercuts, he’ll need them on fight night. When Mir tries to get in close for a clinch and dirty boxing, dos Santos needs to fire back with big uppercuts. Mir will leave his chin tucked, but exposed if he initiates a clinch and a well-timed uppercut will definitely have what it takes to turn Mir’s lights out. I have a hard time imagining that Mir is the first fighter to test dos Santos on the ground, simply because I think it will take a more talented wrestler than Mir to work dos Santos down and keep him there. Standing this bout heavily favors dos Santos, but on the ground everything starts going for the challenger. Still I expect a fairly one-sided, one-round thrashing for the champ. Junior dos Santos via KO in Round One