Another weekend, another MMA event. They have been coming thick and fast lately and the deluge of high profile events isn’t stopping, which is a great thing for any MMA fan. This saturday we are back in Las Vegas for UFC 132 and another title is on the line – this time in the Bantamweight grudge match between one time featherweight king Urijah Faber and the defending champ Dominick Cruz. These two have beef as Cruz took an immediate dislike to Faber and when they were due to meet at Featherweight (a fight that Faber won, handing Cruz his ONLY career defeat) Cruz went round defacing fight posters and voicing his contempt of the champ. Now the roles are reversed and it is Faber who is hunting the gold and Cruz who sits on top of the 135lbs rankings.
Second billing on the card is given to a fight that makes me smile when I think of it how it will go down: Wandy vs Leben. This isn’t going to be pretty, but it is going to be awesome. These two are going to throw down until someone falls down and I can’t wait to see it. The other high-profile matchip on this card is the fight that for many will be the obituary to a former greats career. Tito Ortiz – winless since 2006 – will face off against Ryan Bader, a fighter who has only tasted defeat once in his career (against the champ Jon Jones) and who is not massively to a certain Mr Ortiz when he was at the peak of his powers. It is always fun to watch Tito get punched in his big-old melon head, so this is another one I am very much looking forward to.
The Sotiropoulos vs Dos Anjos fight should get the juices flowing of those fans (like me) who love to see high quality grappling in MMA and this card is also noteworthy for it’s abundance of lower weight-class fights. For me the lighter weight classes always deliver the more exciting fights and if this holds true for Saturday – with 8 fights all taking place at 155lbs or lower – then we should have more than a few fight of the night contenders.
Donny Walker 15-6-0 vs. Jeff Hougland 9-4-0 – Bantamweight.
Two newcomers to the organisation that I know very little about, so the stats will have to tell the story of how I predict this fight. Hougland is riding a big 8 fight win-streak with a 4 year break in the middle. He favours the ground game and is a quick finisher. Walker is on a 7 fight streak himself and is dropping down to 135 having been the former champion of NAAFS (North American Allied Fight Series apparently – i know, me neither…. i had to google it!!) at 145 before signing with Zuffa. Its a tough call to pick who will win here, Walker has lost 4 by submission and Hougland clearly loves a nice sub himself, but then the majority of Houglands losses have been submissions and Walker has won 8 of his that way. I’m leaning towards making the pick in favour of the better experience and less patchy record of Walker, but in my uncertaintly I elected to ask the magic 8 ball app on my ipod “will Walker win”. The answer: “my sources say yes”. So there you have it. Walker by err…. oh shit the 8 ball doesnt do ways to win….ah well. Submission it is then. Walker sub rd 2
Andre Winner 12-5-0vs. Anthony Njokuani 13-5-0 – Lightweight
This is looking like a must-win fight for Winner, who started his post-TUF octagon run brightly enough but was blanketed by Lentz and dominated by Siver to go 2-2 for the promotion. He has a steady, fluid boxing style and racks up points on the feet without being much of a KO artist. In Njokuani he is facing a bona-fide KO machine. Njokuani is a much more explosive striker than ‘Dre but the Brits excellent footwork and punching speed should see him hanging in there, despite a small deficit in reach against the Nigerian. However as the fight progresses I think it swings in favour of Njokuani. Winner may find his best chance being on the floor as Njokuani has been vulnerable to submissions before. I hate picking against British fighters and I’ll be cheering Dre on all the way, but I just think Njokuani will edge him out here. Njokuani Decision
Brad Tavares 7-0-0 vs. Aaron Simpson 8-2-0 – Middleweight
Tavares looked great last time out in his demolition of Phil Baroni. Simpson should prove to be a more wiley opponent though and if Tavares wants to keep his unbeaten record he is going to have to fight a smart fight and look to negate the clear wrestling advantage of his opponent. Tavares may be the more technical striker and if he can control the distance he could get something out of this fight, but the more likely outcome is that he finds himself on his back and being controlled by Simpson for the majority of the bout. Simpson Decision
Brian Bowles 9-1-0 vs. Takeya Mizugaki 14-5-2 – Bantamweight
Former champ Bowles is a teak-tough fighter with a scrappy style. Mizugaki is no stranger to a war or two either and is the far more experienced man and fought a tough battle against Miguel Torres for the belt before Bowles took it from the mulletted one. Since plying his trade on US soil, Mizugakis career has followed a L-W-L-W-L-W pattern and – unfortunately for him – it looks like this pattern will continue as he hits a brick wall in the shape of Bowles. I think the two fighters will mix it up for all three rounds and won’t be afraid of going toe-to-toe in a slug-fest but Bowles comes out of this with the nod from the judges. Bowles decision
Rafael dos Anjos 14-5-0 vs. George Sotiropoulos 14-3-0 – Lightweight
2 BJJ black-belts collide in a fight to make Joe Rogan cream his Eddie Bravo underwear. Sotiropoulos suffered a shock loss to Denis Siver in his last match snapping a great UFC win streak of 8 with 5 submissions. He needs to make a statement in this fight and should be given the opportunity to do just that: Dos Anjos hasn’t fought in nearly a year, since injuring his jaw in his last match against Clay Guida, and he is also stepping in at late notice. Dos Anjos isn’t exactly reknowned for his great wrestling or KO power and so Sotiropoulos should have time to get comfortable at stand up range and use his improving striking to set up the takedown. When this hits the mat is when Dos Anjos comes into his own, but I do think on past performance that Sotiropoulos is a better grappler. Im liking Sotiropoulos for the finish here, with a potentail submission of the night performance. If that prize is going to come from any of the fights on the card, it’ll be this one! Sotriopoulos sub rd 2
Melvin Guillard27-8-2 (1 NC) vs. Shane Roller 10-3-0 – Lightweight
Still only 28 years old, Guillard has been around for ever. Guillard 2.0 (the Jackson Version) however, has only been with us a relatively short time and it is only now that his raw potential has started to be moulded and channeled under the expert guidance of MMA’s “yoda”. If any fighter is proof of the Jackson effect and his ability to get the best out of his guys, its Guillard. Since joining Jacksons he is 4-0 and most recently smashed Evan Dunham inside 3 minutes for a KO of the night bonus. Roller will be a test for Guillard but one which he should pass with flying colours. Roller is a great wrestler but is more of a grinder and if he struggles to get hold of Guillard he is going to be exposed badly in the standup department. Roller will know he has to get a handle on Guillard and GUillards brief will be to stick the jab and move around to frustrate his opponent. Guillard could just pull out the big KO here, but if it doesnt come then he is almost certain of the decision nod. I’m going for the late KO. Guillard KO round 3
Dennis Siver 18-7-0 vs. Matt Wiman 13-5-0 – Lightweight
Both fighters are experiencing a UFC renaissance right now. Both riding 3 fight win streaks with decent wins over tough opposition. Siver arguable had the biggest win of his career in a surprising decision victory over George Sotiropoulos in which he stuffed the takedown attempts and dominated the standup. Siver is 7-1 in the UFC since returning to the promotion after a pretty dismal 1-3 record in his first run. He has also been the busier fighter by far racking up 7 fights since 2009. Wiman is a super tough guy and hard to put away with only 1 stoppage loss in 18 fights. However he does struggle with physically super0ior fighters and Siver, with his compact frame and huge upper body strength definitely falls into this category. He has some devastating kicks, particularly his spinning back kick which is deadly accurate and made to look effortless when he throws it. Wiman definitely has his work cut out in this fight and needs to make use of his reach advantage and not be a target for the kicks of Siver. On paper, Wiman is the better wrestler, but as evidenced in his fight against Sotiropoulos – Siver is improving in this area all the time. I’m liking Siver in this fight, I think it will go the distance, but Siver will edge the standup and make things tough for Wiman in the clinch. Siver decision
Carlos Condit 26-5-0 vs. Dong Hyun Kim 14-0-1 (1 NC) – Welterweight
Carlos Condit came into the UFC much-hyped and was given a rude-awakening in his debut fight against Martin Kampmann in a rock-em sock-em matchup. Since then he has gone 3-0 and scored huge KO agaist Dan Hardy in his last outing (although I still think if Hardy’s punch was one inch more accurate and a split second faster that could have been a double KO!). A former WEC welterweight champ, he is a tough, scrappy fighter but this could be a bad match up for him. In fact Kim is a bad match up for pretty much anyone. He is not an exciting fighter, but he is effective. I have christened him the “Korean Blanket” as his style is pretty much to smother and out grapple his opponents en-route to uneventful decision wins. He uses his elite Judo to great effect but it makes for horrible viewing. Condit has the power to damage on the feet, but in 16 fights Kim is undefeated – thanks to Karo Parisyan’s positive drug test. Against Nate Diaz he was uber-effective in the first 2 rounds and endured a comeback attempt by Diaz in the 3rd to take another decision win. All the signs for me point to another dominant but disappointing win for Kim, unless Condit manages to find a way to land that one punch. Kim Decision
Tito Ortiz 15-8-1 vs. Ryan Bader 12-1-0 – Light Heavyweight
There isn’t much to say about this fight really apart from it is essentially a passing of the torch – or it would be if Tito’s torch wasnt extinguished 5 years ago. Too many injuries and issues outside the octagon have lead to the decline of one of the sports early greats and enduring characters. Bader is too strong, too fast and too good to get caught by anything that Ortiz has to offer. Yes he was man-handled by Jones but Jones is a freak-athlete and would twist Ortiz into a pretzel much quicker than he did Bader. Bader has serious power in his hands and actually far better wrestling credentials that Tito. Expect to see Tito mount some semblance of an offence in the first and fade rapidly aftewrwards. I think Bader can get Tito on his back in the later rounds and may even beat him inside the 15. Tito is still a tough guy to put away, but father-time is knocking on Tito’s door and it might be time to hang up his gloves now. Bader TKO round 3
Wanderlei Silva 33-10-1 (1 NC) vs. Chris Leben 25-7-0 – Middleweight
I LOVE this fight. It is going to be a lot of fun and a real crowd pleaser. This is all about who lands the big shot first. Wandy has shown the signs of a fighter who has been in too many wars, yet he still manages to hang in there by virtue of his out and out toughness. This will only be his second fight at middleweight and his opponent is a big punching aggressive banger. I think Leben completely underestimated Brian Stann in his last fight and he won’t make the same mistake in this one – he’d be a fool if he did. He had a brilliant 2010 rebounding from 2 straight losses to go 3-0 with a fight of the night and a KO of the night. As I type this I’m still not 100% decided on who takes it, but I have to pick someone. I think Leben may be the dark-horse here and I’m picking him to find a fight ending shot late-on. Leben KO round 3
Dominick Cruz 17-1-0 vs. Urijah Faber 25-4-0 – UFC Bantamweight Title
This is a shoe-in for fight of the night. Both men have an intense dislike for one another and Faber is the only man to hold a win over the champ. Losing this fight is unthinkable for both men: For Cruz it would be another loss to his most hated rival and for Faber it would mean the unenviable “honour” of being the first man to ever lose 4 championship shots in a row in major MMA events. As a man who is used to having some kind of gold strapped round his waist, that must hurt Faber a lot. From only his 3rd professional fight right up to 2008 he always had a belt and in his professional career he has been Gladiator Challenge lightweight champ and KOTC bantamweight champ simulataneously, he then lost the Gladiator Challenge belt but won the Featherweight belt for the WEC whilst still the BW champ at KOTC. He remained the KOTC until he vacated due to his WEC commitments and he successfully defended the WEC gold 5 times.
Cruz hasn’t had this kind of glittering career but he is a legit champion and virtually impossible to put away. Faber managed it by capitalizing on a mistake as he was being taken down by Cruz managing to catch a guillotine. Something tells me that same mistake wont be made by the champ again. Its hard to give an obvious edge to either fighter in this match. Both men are good wrestlers with effective standup styles. Cruz has amazing movement on the feet and superb cardio. Faber loves to use his strikes to set up powerful takedowns and then smash his opponents on the mat or find a way to get his arms round their neck and choke them out. This is going to be a truly epic 135lb fight and whoever wins will rightfully be the number one in the world. Fabers strength may give him an edge but that will only count if he can keep the pace of Cruz. Faber has been 5 rounds 3 times and lost 2 of those. Cruz on the other hand has been the full 25 in his last 2 fights and won both. I think this one will go the full 25 and in so many cases you have to really beat the champ to be the champ. Im not sure Faber will do enough to fully convince the judges and so I think Cruz takes it. Cruz decision
***************** UPDATED WITH RESULTS*********************
Jeff Hougland vs. Donny Walker – My Pick:Walker Sub rd 2 Actual:Hougland Decision
Anthony Njokuani vs. Andre Winner – My Pick:Njokuani Decision Actual:Njokuani Decision
Brad Tavares vs. Aaron Simpson – My Pick:Simpson Decision Actual:Simpson Decision
Brian Bowles vs. Takeya Mizugaki – My Pick:Bowles Decision Actual:Bowles Decision
George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael dos Anjos – My Pick:Sotiropoulos Sub rd2 Actual:Dos Anjos KO rd1
Melvin Guillard vs. Shane Roller – My Pick:Guillard KO rd3 Actual:Guillard KO rd1
Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim – My Pick:Kim Decision Actual:Condit KO rd1
Dennis Siver vs. Matt Wiman – My Pick:Siver Decision Actual:Siver Decision
Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader – My Pick:Bader TKO rd3 Actual:Ortiz Submission (Guillotine) rd1
Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben – My Pick:Leben KO rd3 Actual:Leben KO rd 1
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber – My Pick:Cruz Decision Actual:Cruz Decision