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UFC Live: Cruz Vs. Johnson Analysis & Predictions

UFC LiveThis Saturday the UFC returns to your airwaves, continuing their fall assault on television viewers. But fear not, there will be no damage to your wallet this weekend, no they’re saving that for next weekend. This Saturday night the UFC makes it’s first live appearance in Washington, D.C. This also marks the final event to be broadcast on Versus for free, before the UFC makes it’s anticipated switch to network television with the UFC on FOX in November.

Interestingly enough the UFC is headlining this event with a free title fight, although there has been little fanfare leading into this weekend’s exciting match up. Unfortunately, the rest of the card is a little bit lacking in star power, but with some of the names included on the card, there is sure to be a few brawls worth the price of admission (free.)

As mentioned, the card is headlined by a Bantamweight Championship Bout as Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson takes on champion Dominick ‘The Dominator’ Cruz. In the Co-Main Event Heavyweight sluggers collide as kick boxer Pat Barry takes on the towering frame of Stefan Struve. Anthony Johnson will see if he can shed thirty-some-odd pounds to make the Welterweight limit of 170 pounds, before taking on Charlie Brenneman; who is making a rise after defeating Rick Story on one-day’s notice in his last fight. A much-anticipated rematch rounds off the Versus TV main card as Mac Danzig seeks revenge against ‘Handsome’ Matt Wiman in a bout that is eighteen months in the making.

As always, even if the fights don’t seem all that exciting, there’s always the option of throwing down a little bit of cash to make the fights a little bit more interesting. Here’s a look at some of the bouts that I’m interested in this weekend. As always, all lines are the current best available market lines from Best Fight Odds (www.bestfightodds.com)

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Walel Watson (EV) vs. Joseph Sandoval (-110)

Walel “The Gazelle” Watson is a fighter from California. He is making his UFC debut on the strength of eight wins in his past nine fights. Watson is a 27-year-old grappler who has shown a decent ability to strike and has shown a strong ability to finish. In ten professional bouts Watson has never made it to a decision. In fact, Watson has never even been in the third round. He has a pro record of 8-2, with 7 wins by way of Submission.

Joseph Sandoval is also making his UFC debut. He is a relative newcomer to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and has been fighting professionally only since April of 2010. He has grown a bit of hype however, as he has reeled off a 6 fight winning streak to open his career. During that span he has proven an exciting fighter with a strong striking game. He has earned three career wins via Decision, two via KO and one via Submission, mostly under the Shark Fights banner.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: I haven’t seen a whole lot from either fighter as their YouTube selections have very sparse content. However, from the limited amount I have seen Sandoval looks to be the more well-rounded fighter. Watson, is likely the stronger grappler, but Sandoval has shown decent enough wrestling for me to believe that he can keep the fight standing and exploit his edge. I don’t like to bet on two guys I know very little about, so I’m not touching this one. As for a prediction I’ll take Sandoval. Joseph Sandoval via Unanimous Decision.

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Josh Neer (-250) vs. Keith Wisniewski (+225)

Josh “The Dentist” Neer is a 28-year-old veteran fighter from Des Moines, Iowa. Neer is a former Miletich Fighting Systems fighter, who has recently switched camps to the Des Moines MMA Academy. He is a decent wrestler with strong kickboxing skills and a propensity to brawl with his opponents. He often uses his wrestling skills to keep the fight upright against his opponents. Despite being only 28-years-old he has over 40 career fights on his resume, and has amassed a career record of 31-10-1. He has proven himself to be a very tough fighter, being stopped by Knockout only once in 42 career fights.

Keith “The Polish Connection” Wisniewski is also a veteran of the sport, although his exposure to UFC fans should be significantly less than his opponent. He trains at the Duneland Vale Tudo Gym in Indiana. He is a strong grappler who throughout the years has made strides to make his game more well-rounded. He still however favors the submission game, with 15 career victories via Submission. Wisniewski holds a career MMA record of 28-12-1 and is entering this bout on a six fight winning streak.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: Unfortunately, I think that this line is fairly well-set. Wisniewski likely has a slight grappling edge, but won’t be able to unleash his full potential underneath the strong ground and pound of Neer. Neer also holds the edge in wrestling, so he should likely be able to dictate where the fight goes and will likely prefer to stand and trade against Wisniewski. On the feet, he has a decided advantage that he will likely exploit, en-route to a stoppage in the third round. No bets, but I’ll take Josh Neer via Third Round TKO

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Shane Roller (-180) vs. TJ Grant (+170)

Shane Roller is a 32-year-old former College Wrestling standout who transitioned to MMA in 2007. Roller fights out of the Team Takedown gym in Las Vegas, Nevada alongside Jake and Jared Rosholt and Johny Hendricks. During his college wrestling career, Roller was a three-time All American at Oklahoma State University. Roller uses his strong wrestling extensively in his fights, using takedowns and ground and pound to earn rounds against his opponents. He has a career record of 10-4, with most of his losses coming to the elite fighters of the Lightweight division.

TJ Grant is a Canadian fighter from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Grant is a strong grappler with a solid Muay Thai Kickboxing base. Grant is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He trains at the Fit Plus gym in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Grant has decent striking ability, but has shown a weakness against wrestlers who are able to control him on the ground. He is making the cut to Lightweight for the first time in this fight. Overall, Grant has a career record of 16-5, with 12 wins via Submission.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: I actually like a small bet on the favorite in this fight. Roller is a strong wrestler and although his stand up is somewhat lacking, he should be able to out-wrestle Grant. Roller has struggled against the elite fighters of the Lightweight division, which Grant is not. This will be a good litmus test to see what kind of skills Roller has and if he has made any improvements to his overall MMA game, but it’s ultimately a fight tailor made for him to win. Just a small bet for me, but I’ll take Roller. Shane Roller via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Mike Easton (-345) vs. Byron Bloodworth (+305)

Mike “The Hulk” Easton is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai fighter from the DC area, so he may have a bit of “home-field” advantage in this one. Easton trains out of the Alliance MMA gym in Temple Hills, Maryland. He is a black belt in BJJ and was a former Ultimate Warrior Challenge Bantamweight champion before signing with the UFC. He is making his UFC debut coming off of what was likely his biggest win to date over Chase Beebe. Easton holds a career record of 10-1.

Byron Bloodworth is a relative newcomer to the sport of MMA, making his debut less than three years ago. He is entering the fight on three-fight winning streak, but is taking the fight on extremely short notice (in fact, he missed weight at the weigh-ins today, due to his lack of prep time.) He took this fight only four days ago, giving him barely a work-week’s notice to make his UFC debut. His YouTube channel has very little insight to offer, save for an impressive Highlight Reel KO via Flying Knee. He holds a pro MMA record of 6-1.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: This fight is probably a good fight if you don’t mind laying a bit of juice. Easton is a legitimate threat at 135 pounds and has a lot of experience in the fight game. Bloodworth is taking this fight on short-notice, isn’t as well experienced and likely isn’t as far along in his overall game as Easton. This could be a bit of a letdown spot though, Bloodworth will probably go for broke early and swing for the fences. Easton should be able to weather the early storm before taking over later in the first round and then stopping Bloodworth in the second. Just a small bet though, because it’s a lot of juice. Mike Easton via TKO in Round Two.

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson (-175) vs. Paul Sass (+160)

Michael “The Menace” Johnson is a 25-year-old fighter from St. Louis, Missouri. He is probably best known to fans as the runner-up on The Ultimate Fighter: GSP vs Koscheck. He is a wrestler with decent boxing skills to compliment. He is a member of the Springfield Fight Club, which is a Gracie Barra affiliate gym, based out of Springfield. Johnson bounced back from his loss in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter with a TKO victory over Edward Faaloloto at the last event on Versus. Johnson has a career record of 9-5 with a significant number of losses by way of Submission.

Paul “Sassangle” Sass is an English fighter from Liverpool. He is a member of the Next Generation MMA Gym. At 23-years-old he entered the UFC with a lot of hype as one of Europe’s most promising prospects. Sass is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, with improving stand up skills. He holds a brown belt in BJJ and has had some success in European Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments. Sass holds an undefeated professional record of 11-0, with 10 wins via Submission.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: The general betting public seems to be backing the underdog in this one and it’s not hard to see why. Sass is a stellar grappler with underrated stand up technique, while Johnson is a decent wrestler with over-rated skills and a weakness against Submissions. I hate siding with the general public, as it seems like a huge trap, but it’s hard to argue with the logic. Johnson doesn’t have the ability to finish Sass and on the ground, he’s a huge liability to make a mistake and put his head where it doesn’t belong, leading to a choke. Paul Sass via Submission.

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Lightweight Bout: Yves Edwards (-165) vs. Rafaello Oliveira (+150)

Yves “The Thugjitsu Master” Edwards is a fighter from Nassau, Bahamas. He is a veteran fighter, with nearly 60 fights on his professional record. Edwards has backgrounds in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and boxing, in fact he holds a 2-0 professional boxing record. He is a very experienced fighter who has faced a number of elite fighters throughout his career and has fought for nearly every major fighting organization. He now trains with American Top Team in Texas. Edwards has a career record of 40-17-1 and is returning after a highlight KO loss to Sam Stout in his last fight.

Rafaello “Tractor” Oliveira is a Brazilian fighter, who trains at the Knoxville Next Level Training facility in Knoxville, Tennessee. Oliveira is a grappler and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. Oliveira was previously in the UFC, but was released after going 1-2 in the promotion. He then returned to the regional fight scene and won four straight fights, before being brought back into the UFC as a late-replacement to fight Gleison Tibau. In that fight, he was submitted via Rear Naked Choke and was the first submission loss of his career. Oliveira has a pro record of 14-4.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: I like Edwards in this one and I think the line is being slightly clouded because of his last performance. Getting knocked out in highlight fashion never does anything good for your image and I think that is causing people to think this fight may be closer than it truly is. Oliveira is a strong grappler, but Edwards is a wily veteran who has been grappling since before Oliveira was born. Edwards also has an edge in the stand up department and due to his MMA experience, he will likely have the edge in wrestling. I think Edwards will likely have the edge anywhere this fight takes place, so I’m willing to lay the bit of juice on Edwards. Yves Edwards via Unanimous Decision.

Main Card Bout (Versus TV): Lightweight Bout: Matt Wiman (-205) vs. Mac Danzig (+195)

“Handsome” Matt Wiman is a fighter from Denver, Colorado. He is probably best known to casual fans as a former cast-member of the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He currently trains at the Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym in Arvada, Colorado. Wiman is a wrestler and a grappler with strong cardio. He mixes takedowns with very active and very aggressive ground and pound to wear down his opponents and search for submission openings. He holds a professional record of 13-6, with losses to the stronger fighters in the Lightweight division.

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Mac Danzig is from Cleveland, Ohio and is best known as the winner of the sixth season of the Ultimate Fighter. He has had mixed results since winning his contract with the UFC however. He is a strong grappler with decent boxing, but has shown poor cardio in some of his past fights. He trains with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and with PKG Training and Performance in LA. He actually has a career loss to Wiman in the past, although it came via controversial finish, when the referee ruled that he was choked unconscious, despite him being clearly conscious and immediately protesting. Danzig has a career record of 20-8-1 with ten wins via Submission.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: Standing the edge likely goes to Danzig who possesses faster hands and better technical knowledge. On the ground, Danzig may be a slightly better grappler, but it will mean little from the bottom under the relentless ground and pound of Wiman. The wrestling edge goes to Wiman, who has better takedowns and a nasty top game. Overall, I think this fight will be a few quick exchanges before Wiman can time a takedown and then work his ground and pound on Danzig. Danzig is tough and won’t be finished as easily as the last time, so this one is likely destined for the scorecards. I think the line is well set, so I won’t be betting, but for a prediction, I’ll take Wiman. Matt Wiman via Unanimous Decision.

Main Card Bout (Versus TV): Welterweight Bout: Anthony Johnson (-185) vs. Charlie Brenneman (+190)

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is a wrestler and boxer who is extremely large for the Welterweight division. It is rumored that Johnson cuts from over 200 pounds, losing thirty or more pounds to make the Welterweight limit of 170 pounds. He is a good wrestler with strong takedowns and good takedown defense. He is also extremely large and strong for a Welterweight, which makes him difficult to control, but has also affected his cardio in the past. Johnson trains at the American Kickboxing Academy under the tutelage of Cung Le. Johnson has shown a weakness against strong wrestlers who are able to control him on the ground, but has also shown huge KO power in both his hands and his feet. He holds a professional MMA record of 9-3.

Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman is returning to the Octagon after his “Rocky-like” victory over Rick Story at the last UFC event on Versus. Brenneman was the winner of the first season of the Spike TV show Pros vs. Joes. He is a former collegiate wrestler who uses those skills, as well as his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt skills to outwork his opponents on the ground. Brenneman is a member of the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey. Brenneman holds a career record of 14-2.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: A lot of people are thinking that Brenneman can pull off another big upset in this one. I’m not so sure. Brenneman is likely the better wrestler technically, but he’s not overly large for a Welterweight and Johnson is probably the biggest guy in the division. With only a slight edge in wrestling skill, that edge might be easily negated by the size and strength advantage of Johnson. Standing the fight isn’t even close as Johnson has more speed, more power and more technique. I think if Brenneman can get on top of Johnson, he has the ability to win the fight, by riding out top control with ground and pound. But if he can’t get on top, it might be a long night for him, or a short one depending on how long it takes Johnson to land the kill shot. I think the line is well-reflective of the true odds of the fight, so I’m not betting it, but I think Rumble rolls in this one. Anthony Johnson via TKO in Round One.

**ALSO: Remember our conversation last time about Arbs? Good, because there’s another great shot here. Bet 185 on Johnson to win and $100 on Brenneman to win and hope for the upset. If Johnson wins (Lose $100 and Win $100) then you break even. If Brenneman pulls off the upset you win $5 (Lose $185 but win $190) Who doesn’t love free money?!

Main Card Bout (Versus TV): Heavyweight Bout: Pat Barry (-170) vs. Stefan Struve (+170)

Pat “HD” Barry is a striker with solid kickboxing skills, but a terrible sense of game planning. The 32-year-old is from New Orleans, Louisiana, but fights out of the Roufusport Gym in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Barry is a former professional kick boxer with a record of 18-6-1. In MMA competition he has been somewhat plagued by his short stature and his ineptitude on the ground. At only 5’11” he is one of the smallest Heavyweight fighters in the UFC. He holds a pro MMA record of 6-3.

On the other side of the cage will be Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve, who lives up to his nickname and is the tallest fighter in the UFC at 6’11”. Struve is a Dutch fighter from Beverwijk, Netherlands. During this fight he will enjoy a height of advantage of a full foot and a reach advantage of almost ten inches. Struve has solid Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills, holding a purple belt. He also has decent Muay Thai skills, although he has a few pitfalls. One of those pitfalls to his stand up game is his desire to block punches with his face, instead of using solid defensive techniques, Struve often allows himself to be punched far too often, this has been the cause for all of his UFC losses. His other downfall is his ability to use his size well in fights, he doesn’t “fight big” as they say. Instead of using leg kicks and his jab to keep opponents away from him and dictate range, he gets in close and allows himself to be tagged by the power punchers of the division. He holds a professional MMA record of 21-5.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: I actually like the underdog in this one. Struve has admitted in interviews that he is aware of his downfalls and says that he has taken steps to remedy this. Barry is the better striker, but will need to overcome significant obstacles to get inside against Struve (provided Struve wasn’t lying in his interviews.) The other scary thought is Barry’s awful grappling skills. If at any time this fight hits the mat, it won’t take long for Struve to use those long legs and arms to lock up some kind of submission on the usually clueless Barry. However, Barry can throw bombs and Struve has proven that he doesn’t mind taking a punch on the chin, but has also shown that sometimes those punches can turn off his lights. As it is, I’ll take a shot with Struve as the underdog, I actually think it should be slightly closer to even, and would even lean to him being a favorite if he had shown the ability to use his range better in previous fights. Stefan Struve via Submission in Round Two.

Main-Event Bout (Versus TV): Bantamweight Championship Bout: Demetrious Johnson (+390) vs. Dominick Cruz (-440)

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is 25-year-old fighter from Madisonville, Kentucky. Johnson is a wrestler with developing stand up skills, who uses his speed and wrestling skills to win fights. He moves quickly and throws punches that often confuse his opponents, before switching levels and shooting for lightning fast takedowns. On the ground he uses control and ground and pound to wear out his opponents and win rounds on the judge’s scorecards. Johnson trains at the AMC Pankration Gym in Seattle, Washington under the tutelage of Matt “The Wizard” Hume. Johnson holds a professional record of 10-1, with his lone loss coming under the WEC banner to Brad Pickett.

Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz is the reigning and defending UFC Bantamweight Champion. He is a 26-year-old fighter from Tucson, Arizona who now trains at Alliance MMA in San Diego, California. Cruz is a very well rounded fighter who meshes a number of martial arts disciplines to create his own unique style. He has crafty footwork from boxing and attacks from all angles while standing. Cruz is not a power puncher, instead choosing to throw combinations that damage through accumulation instead of searching for the one knockout punch. Cruz is also a strong wrestler who uses his skills both offensively (to earn takedowns and ground and pound his opponents) as well as defensively (to avoid being taken down by his opponents and to scramble back to his feet quickly, if he is taken down.) Like his opponent, Cruz has tasted defeat only once in his career, although he has done it against significantly tougher competition. The champion has an MMA record of 18-1.

Betting Analysis and Prediction: I’m not going to touch this fight because I think the line is fairly well set. There is no solid game plan out there for beating Cruz, but it’s going to involve controlling the pace and the range of the fight, which is extremely tough to do against the combinations that Cruz is able to throw at all angles, before retreating to safety. You also need to pressure Cruz and move him backwards and force him to retreat, instead of allowing him to move freely and dance around. Johnson doesn’t have near the stand up abilities to hurt Cruz standing, so he’s going to need to close the distance and earn a takedown. Easier said than done as the strong wrestlers of Team Alpha Male like Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber have proven largely unsuccessful at doing it so far. I expect Cruz to put on another great performance and show how exciting the lighter weight classes can be. Johnson is a gamer and will likely be around for all five rounds, but I don’t think he can do enough against the champion to take three of those five rounds. As it is, I expect Cruz to do his usual, dance around the outside while throwing combinations from all angles and basically outworking and out-striking Johnson straight to a clean sweep on the scorecards. No bets, but for a prediction, I like the champ. Dominick Cruz via Unanimous Decision.


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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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