The last time I was this excited about a middleweight title fight, Anderson Silva got knocked out cold and lost the belt.
Now, almost exactly a year later, the man who took the title from the then-consensus G.O.A.T., Chris Weidman, is set to defend that very same belt against Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, one of Silva’s friends and training partners, who many believe may indeed have what it takes to best “The All-American.”
For the second time, Ronda Rousey will also defend her women’s bantamweight title in the co-main event slot, this time against Alexis Davis, who has quietly gone 3-0 in the promotion since signing over from Invicta in June of last year. A Cesar Gracie Fight Team member, she has a terrific Brazilian jiu-jitsu background that may give Rousey some unprecedented difficulties.
Though this pay-per-view sports some certainly fun matchups – most notably the heavyweight tilt between returning daddy longlegs Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve and Matt “Don’t Call Me Meathead” Mitrione – I still find it quite curious that they opted to place #2-ranked bantamweight Urijah Faber vs. #12-ranked Alex Caceres as the televised prelims main event in favor of boosting Marcus Brimage and Russel Doane – two unranked fellow 135 pounders – to the opening PPV slot.
Does Faber have somewhere to be afterwards? Did they have room for only one Urijah/Uriah and chose Uriah Hall as a selling point instead of Faber, who has proven a draw time and again? I’m honestly having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
If, like me, you have been unfortunate enough to buy into the UFC’s online subscription program, UFC Fight Pass, there once again exists little reward for your dedication: a “whatever” matchup between Luke Zachrich, who got knocked out in 44 seconds in his UFC debut, and The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 also-ran Guilherme Vasconcelos (who really should just give up on trying to hide his receding hairline with his bangs and just embrace the baldness); and a middleweight scrap between Kevin “King” Casey (re-signed after capturing the Resurrection Fighting Alliance middleweight belt) and Bubba “The Fighting Texas Aggie” Bush, whose only notable opponent, Andrew Craig, knocked him out.
Enough with the preamble do-si-do. On with the predictions!
Middleweight (185 lbs.) Title Fight – 5 Rounds
(C) Chris “The All-American” Weidman [11-0]
#3 Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida [21-4]
Of all the title fights laid out ahead, when I sat down to look at every next title challenger’s odds at unseating their divisional champion, I gave the highest chance of success to Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida:
Stylistically, this is an extremely intriguing contest. Mark Munoz, their only opponent in common, was equally embarrassed by both on the way to a knockout loss. Although Machida undeniably holds the advantage in experience, Weidman, who holds a degree in psychology from Hofstra University very well may be among the most strong-minded in the game today.
Distance will play an enormous role in this bout. As long as Machida is able to keep just outside of Weidman’s reach, he can perform as he normally does, with baiting feints, quick entries and elusive escapes. His sumo background will once again likely come into play, as Weidman’s MMA wrestling has proven, time and again, to be among the most effective we’ve ever seen in the UFC. Despite the fact that Machida is coming down from light heavyweight, he’ll still likely be the smaller fighter when they meet on fight night. That being said, there are few faster than “The Dragon,” and though he’s verging on the second half of his 30s, the move to middleweight seems to have reinvigorated him.
Both have the ability to knock out their opponent, both are highly skilled on the ground and both have proven themselves capable of rising to the occasion in one of, if not the most, intense situations in combat sports.
One important distinction between Lyoto and his friend Anderson is showboating. While Silva often taunted and teased his in-ring adversary, Lyoto seldom does. He may keep his hands low, but his guard is never down. It is for that reason that he could possibly pose a bigger threat to Weidman than did Silva.
If you’re going to watch one fight this year, folks, this might be the one to tune in for.
Lyoto Machida’s chances of defeating Chris Weidman: 55 percent.
I stand by my pick. Bolstering that is the fact that Weidman has never gone the championship distance in his career and, furthermore, he’s been visibly tired en route to a three-round decision. Comparatively, Machida has looked absolutely dynamite at his new home at 185 pounds and lost little steam in his five-round contest with Gegard Mousasi earlier this year.
Weidman is probably too smart to charge in guns a-blazin’ on the real-life Ryu from Street Fighter, but we should see some vintage Lyoto that’ll prompt the Machida Era, Version 2.0.
Lyoto Machida defeats Chris Weidman by unanimous decision.
Women’s Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Title Fight – 5 Rounds
(C) “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey [9-0]
#2 Alexis “Ally-Gator” Davis [16-5]
Honestly, the best part right now for me about a card featuring two title fights is that I can go to the well twice in one post! In regards to Rousey/Davis:
Some interesting things to note: Davis has never been submitted, she hasn’t been legitimately put away since 2007 (the first of two times former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman defeated her) and she trains with the rough-and-tumble “Scrap Pack” (comprised of Nick and Nate Diaz, Jake Shields, Josh Neer and Gilbert Melendez) at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The last tidbit, aside from dropping some fun names, also denotes an interesting thread of coincidence, considering Rousey herself has trained on numerous occasions with that very camp.
While Davis’ grappling credentials are wholly legit (she’s a black belt in both Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as well as a former Canadian Open grappling champion), she still will likely fall short against Rousey, whose elite judo has proven time and again to be her greatest asset, as it allows her to decide – even against elite grapplers like fellow Olympian McMann – if, when, where and how she will eventually go to the ground. Add to that Rousey’s still-developing but already nuanced striking game and she’s a tough outing for anyone at this point. Though Davis is certainly game and should provide some unique moments in their bout, she has little more than a puncher’s chance against the champion.
Alexis Davis’ chance at defeating Ronda Rousey: 15 percent.
Yeah… I don’t think I need to add anything to that.
Ronda Rousey defeats Alexis Davis by submission.
Heavyweight (207+ lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
#12 Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve [25-6]
Matt “Meathead” Mitrione [7-3]
Sent to the sidelines as a result of a leaky heart valve, Stefan Struve is finally back after more than a year’s layoff following a TKO loss to Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt, and I couldn’t be any giddier.
Sure, it’s doubtful that he’ll ever be champion with his careless style and refusal to use his immense reach to proper advantage, but you can’t argue that with a 25-6 record sporting 23 victories by way of either knockout or submission and six losses that have never been by way of the judges’ scorecards that he’s not among the most exciting fighters in the division.
Matt Mitrione, who like fellow TUF alum Amir Sadollah has seen his entire mixed martial arts career unfold on the biggest stage possible, is a rather one-dimensional heavy-handed slugger with the wherewithal to throw straight and accurate strikes as opposed to looping and open ones (like his opponent). He’s lost three of his last five fights and isn’t too terrific in any one particular area, but he’ll make it a fight for Struve, at least in the early goings.
Thing is, Struve hits just as hard and has far more places to take the bout. The one thing “Meathead” has going in his favor is the fact that Struve might exhibit some ring rust. How keen he is to capitalize on that, should it appear, will be the deciding factor for him. I won’t be placing money on the former NFL defensive tackle.
Stefan Struve defeats Matt Mitrione by TKO.
Middleweight (185 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Uriah “Prime Time” Hall [9-4]
Thiago “Marreta” Santos [9-2]
The enduring question persists: will Uriah Hall ever live up to the promise he showed on The Ultimate Fighter? In the quest to find the answer’s latest chapter, we have Hall facing Thiago Santos, a fighter tailor-made for him.
Santos, an aggressive striker who hasn’t been fighting nearly as long as his opponent, prefers to stand and trade above all else, as is evident by his five knockout victories.
Hall, whose kryptonite thus far has, with the exception of #10-ranked Costas Philippou, been wrestling-based opposition, will have no such difficulties with Santos in that department on fight night.
These two dudes are going to throw heavy until one of them is staring at the lights. For Hall, who has inarguably faced tougher competition, this will likely be a (second) coming out party of sorts.
Uriah Hall defeats Thiago Santos by knockout.
Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Fight – 3 Rounds
Marcus “The Bama Beast” Brimage [6-2]
Russell Doane [13-3]
The last time we saw Marcus Brimage, he had his lights shut out by Irish rising star Conor McGregor on the online prelims of UFC on Fuel TV 9: Mousasi vs. Latifi back in April of last year. Until that point, Brimmage, who trains at American Top Team in South Florida, had been undefeated in the promotion, earning three consecutive decisions against increasingly more difficult opposition.
Apparently the loss was enough for the diminutive 5’4” fighter to drop to a more suitable weight class, and he’ll be making his bantamweight debut in the UFC this Saturday.
Russell Doane is a name most fans will not be acquainted with, as his only other appearance in the UFC was on the UFC Fight Pass exclusive event, UFC Fight Night: Saffiedine vs. Lim back in January. The well-rounded Hawaiian won his debut fight against Brazilian One FC standout Leandro Issa by triangle choke with one second remaining in the second round and now finds himself on the pay-per-view opener of one of the most anticipated cards of the year.
Not a bad upgrade.
Provided his weight cut goes smoothly, Brimage should find a much better home for himself at bantamweight. Unfortunately, he’s still rather undersized at 135 pounds, and Doane – no stranger to the division – will likely welcome him with another loss.
Russell Doane defeats Marus Brimage by submission.
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