UFC Fight Night Predictions
Now this is how you help launch a new network!
The UFC has stacked the deck for their debut show on Fox Sports 1, returning to Boston’s TD Garden Arena with an impressive 13-fight line-up that includes six entertaining match-ups on the main card.
With three bouts on Facebook followed by five hours of live action the new home of the UFC, fight fans will definitely get their fill on Saturday.
Mauricio Rua (21-7-0) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-13-1)
There are sure to be plenty of people that point to Sonnen being finished in consecutive contests (and three of his last four) as their reason for choosing Rua, but “The Gangster from West Linn” was fighting for UFC gold in each of his last two outings, so let’s not pretend he’s been losing to schleps.
Rua had little to offer Alexander Gustafsson in his last outing, but remains a dangerous threat as long as the fight is contested on the feet and in space. Unfortunately for the former light heavyweight champion, I don’t think Sonnen will give him time to get comfortable, find his range, and start throwing kicks and punches.
For his various shortcomings when it comes to submission defense and big moments, Sonnen remains an outstanding wrestler with very good conditioning, and he’ll be quick to close the distance, put his head in Rua’s chest, and bring this fight to the ground. Even if he can’t put “Shogun” on the mat repeatedly, the constant pressure and grueling wrestling battle will wear out Rua, and Sonnen will settle into “lather, rinse, repeat” mode for the final two rounds, cruising to a decision win.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen by Unanimous Decision
Alistair Overeem (36-12-0) vs. Travis Browne (14-1-1)
One fighter is looking to prove he belongs amongst the division’s elite, while the other is trying to show he still deserves to be considered in that group.
Overeem didn’t look like himself in his February loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Though he controlled the first two rounds, the blistering power he showed in previous outings wasn’t there, nor was the sculpted, chiseled physique. After announcing his presence on the UFC heavyweight landscape by quickly dispatching Brock Lesnar, consecutive losses would be a devastating blow to Overeem’s career.
And I think that’s exactly what is going to happen.
Browne is one of the more athletic and well-rounded fighters in the heavyweight division, using his movement and length to stay out of harm’s way, and possessing the ability to do serious damage with moves we don’t often see from fighters his size. His Superman punch knockout of Stefan Struve is still one of my favorite highlights of all-time. Sorry Stefan.
“Hapa” has the ability to hang with Overeem, and the power to hurt him if he touches his chin. For all Overeem’s immense talents, he’s never quite been able to take a good shot, and somewhere along the way, the Jackson-Winkeljohn Fight Team representative will connect, and earn the biggest win of his career.
Prediction: Travis Browne by Technical Knockout, Round 2.
Urijah Faber (28-6-0) vs. Yuri Alcantara (28-4-0)
As solid as Alcantara has looked since moving down to bantamweight, the Brazilian veteran hasn’t shared the cage with someone as talented and experienced as Faber in quite some time; perhaps ever.
Since losing to Renan Barao last summer, “The California Kid” has bounced back with consecutive submission wins over Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen, continuing his extended run of success in non-title fights. That run should remain intact here.
Faber is the more complete fighter, and far too savvy to get caught by Alcantara. Don’t be surprised to see the former WEC featherweight champion return to his wrestling roots a little more in this one, mixing in takedowns with quick combinations en route to the 29th victory of his career.
Prediction: Urijah Faber by Unanimous Decision.
Mike Pyle (25-8-1) vs. Matt Brown (17-11-0)
These veteran welterweights have combined for nine wins and zero losses over the last two years, and collide this weekend with a spot in the upper echelon of the 170-pound ranks on the line. Both have solid finishing instincts, but also tend to get touched up in their fights, so this one could come down to who is able to capitalize on the first opening that gets presented.
Pyle’s ability to finish on the ground makes him the pick for me. As much as I think these two will stand arm’s length apart early in the contest, “Quicksand” will find a way to put Brown on the canvas -- maybe after he hurts him -- and get the finish. Regardless of how good Brown has looked of late, you can’t overlook the fact that nine of his 11 losses have come by way of submission.
Though he’s fallen in love with his hands lately, the savvy 37-year-old veteran will play to his greatest strength (and Brown’s biggest weakness) and get the win on the ground.
Prediction: Mike Pyle by Submission, Round 1.
Uriah Hall (7-3-0) vs. John Howard (20-8-0)
As entertaining and impressive as Hall was competing inside the Ultimate Fighter house, he was hesitant in the finale, and came out on the wrong side of a split decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum. Though he’s the hyped prospect getting a showcase opportunity in this contest, I’m siding with the hometown underdog making his UFC return.
Howard was a game welterweight in his first stint with the UFC, posting four consecutive wins before dropping bouts to Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves, and Matt Brown. While fighting at middleweight is far from ideal for his size (he’s just 5’7” tall; Hall is 6’ tall by comparison), his aggressiveness and the fact that he’s fighting at home with hopes of making a permanent return to the UFC roster.
Hall needs space to unleash the full power of his arsenal, and Howard won’t give it to him. He’ll press forward behind heavy punches from the outset, and out-work the Ultimate Fighter finalist to earn a victory.
Prediction: John Howard by Unanimous Decision
Joe Lauzon (22-8-0) vs. Michael Johnson (12-8-0)
Much like the last time he fought in Boston, I expect Lauzon to have a quick night at the office, and to depart the venue with a Submission of the Night bonus check in his back pocket.
Johnson had a nice run going into his fight with Myles Jury, but he’s now dropped two-in-a-row, and Lauzon represents a step up from the fighters that have beaten him recently. “J-Lau” keeps him honest with the jab, gets in on a leg, brings it to the ground, and secures the tap, and I don’t think he’ll have much trouble doing it either.
Prediction: Joe Lauzon by Submission, Round 1.
Michael McDonald (15-2-0) vs. Brad Pickett (23-7-0)
This is an insanely good fight that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, which shows how stacked this card is.
Pickett looked sharp earning a decision win over Mike Easton in April, and McDonald enters off his interim bantamweight title fight loss to Renan Barao in February. These are two of the top 10 135-pound fighters on the planet, and they should pair for an entertaining back-and-forth affair.
As much as he failed to make in-fight adjustments against Barao when they fought in London earlier this year, I’m still picking McDonald. Pickett is a good stylistic match-up for him -- someone that will stand in the pocket and exchange, and I like McDonald’s power as the deciding factor in that battle.
Prediction: Michael McDonald by TKO, Round 2.
Conor McGregor (13-2-0) vs. Max Holloway (7-2-0)
I think Holloway is a very good prospect -- he’s still just 21 and already has five UFC appearances under his belt -- but McGregor is in an entirely different category.
“The Notorious” is one of those up-and-comers on the leaps-and-bounds progression chart -- someone who looks demonstratively better with each subsequent appearance, and whose skills continue to improve and impress as he keeps moving up the ladder.
Holloway is an aggressive striker, and that will be his downfall, as McGregor will cut angles, launch precision counters, and drop the young Hawaiian to extend his winning streak to 10 and keep the hype train rolling.
Prediction: Conor McGregor by TKO, Round 1.
Mike Brown (26-8-0) vs. Steven Siler (22-10-0)
This might be the toughest fight to handicap on this card, simply because Brown has been out of action for nearly 15 months. On paper, the former WEC featherweight champion profiles as the type of grinding grappler that could wear out Siler much like Darren Elkins did, but how will that time on the sidelines impact his performance?
For that reason, I’m siding with Siler here. I’m not super-confident about the selection, but Brown was seriously contemplating retirement not too long ago. Coupled with the extended layoff, I just can’t bring myself to pick him. Siler is a durable young fighter with a wealth of experience, and he’ll press forward early, taking the fight to Brown.
It might not be pretty, but I think TUF 14’s “Super Steve” gets the victory.
Prediction: Steven Siler by Unanimous Decision
Diego Brandao (17-8-0) vs. Daniel Pineda (18-9-0)
This one is similar to the McGregor-Holloway fight for me -- I like Pineda as a prospect, but I have even greater expectations for Brandao, and I think we’ll see the difference in potential on display here.
Brandao’s win over Pablo Garza in April was the most complete and dominant performance we’ve seen from the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter; he came forward, closed the distance, and he was smooth and quick to the finish when the fight hit the floor.
Pineda is tough, and looked very good in his last outing, but Brandao is the more explosive and more complete fighter of the two, and he should earn his third consecutive victory here.
Prediction: Diego Brandao by Submission, Round 1.
Cole Miller (19-7-0) vs. Manny Gamburyan (12-7-0)
Cast members on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, Miller and Gamburyan are likely battling for a place on the roster going forward here.
Miller bounced back from an 0-2 start to his UFC featherweight career with a first-round submission win over Bart Palaszewski last time out. It was the first time in some time that he fought to his strengths, using his length to avoid taking damage early, and bringing the fight to the ground to secure the finish.
Gamburyan is a powerhouse, but he’s at a significant size disadvantage here, and provided Miller sticks with what worked last time out, I can’t see the former WEC title challenger coming away with the victory.
Miller uses his length to land strikes from range, and controls the action on the canvas with his jiu-jitsu if necessary.
Prediction: Cole Miller by Unanimous Decision.
Ovince St. Preux (13-5-0) vs. Cody Donovan (8-2-0)
St. Preux is an impressive athletic talent – a former linebacker for the University of Tennessee Volunteers – but he has a shallow gas tank, and Donovan is the type of aggressive fighter that will challenge his conditioning from the outset.
“Donnybrook” is the more well-rounded of the two, and the longer this fight goes, the more it swings in his favor. Donovan will turn this into a grind early, and open up with hands once St. Preux gets tired on the way to securing his second consecutive UFC victory.
Prediction: Cody Donovan by Unanimous Decision.
Ramsey Nijem (7-3-0) vs. James Vick (4-0-0)
Vick is a TUF 15 alum finally getting his debut bout on the big stage, but he’s taking a big step up in competition against Nijem, and will come away from this bout with his first professional loss.
Nijem looked good winning three straight before getting stopped by Myles Jury back in April, and should be able to bounce back here. I expect this to be quick and easy for “Stripper Ramsey,” who has superior wrestling skills and outstanding conditioning.
Look for him to hit a takedown early and start opening up with punches, finishing with a rear-naked choke when Vick gives up his back.
Prediction: Ramsey Nijem by Submission, Round 1.