UFC 163: Aldo vs. Zombie predictions
One week after returning to Seattle for the second time in eight months, the UFC heads back to Brazil for the fourth time this year, bringing a 12-fight event headlined by a featherweight championship bout between Jose Aldo and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung to the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
Jose Aldo (22-1-0) vs. Chan Sung Jung (13-3-0)
Having Aldo defend his title in Rio is a great idea, as the last time it happened, he knocked out Chad Mendes with a picture-perfect knee at the end of the first round, and then took off into the crowd for one of the best post-fight celebrations in recent memory.
While his four UFC appearances have produced three decision wins, Aldo remains one of the most electric strikers in the sport – someone capable of frustrating opponents with his speed or power, and always a threat to finish the fight in a flash.
A match-up with Pettis carried much more intrigue, simply because “Showtime” was set to move down the scale from lightweight, which would give us a better indication of where Aldo stands in comparison to the upper echelon of talent in the 155-pound ranks. Many believe a move to lightweight is inevitable for the 26-year-old Brazilian champion, and seeing how he matched up with someone as gifted as Pettis would have been incredible.
Instead, he’s taking on Jung in what feels like an opportunity that was too good for “The Korean Zombie” to pass up, but perhaps one that comes at the wrong time.
Jung hasn’t fought since submitting Dustin Poirier last May. While he’s shown considerable improvements since losing to George Roop and is always game, stepping into the cage with the dominant champion Aldo off a 14-month lay-off is far from ideal.
But even if Jung weren’t carrying some “ring rust” into this match-up, Aldo would still be the overwhelming choice to win this fight in impressive fashion.
Simply put, Aldo is just “too everything” for Jung: too fast, too powerful, too technical, too explosive.
Jung’s current three-fight winning streak is built on performances where he was able to capitalize on mistakes made by over-aggressive opponents. He was technically superior to Leonard Garcia and used his advantage on the ground to get the submission win. He landed a stiff counter when Mark Hominick threw an ill-advised hook early. He was able to land inside of Poirier’s looping power shots, and connect on a choke when they hit the canvas in the later stages of the fight.
Aldo isn’t going to give him same opportunities.
The champion is the more technical striker, and will keep the challenger off balance by mixing things up on the feet and punishing his lead leg, as he’s done to several other opponents in the past.
And I think he’ll get a finish.
Aldo is a showman, and has a sense of the moment, as he showed when he darted into the crowd last January. Rather than pick Jung apart for 25 minutes, I expect Aldo to look to end this early, and I think he’ll have success. After a steady diet of leg kicks to start the fight, the champion will go upstairs, catch Jung clean, and collect the knockout victory, much to the delight of the partisan Brazilian crowd.
Prediction: Jose Aldo by Knockout, Round 2
Lyoto Machida (19-3-0) vs. Phil Davis (11-1-0)
Call me crazy, but I really like Davis in this fight, even though Machida is a clear step up in competition, and incredibly difficult to defeat.
Most opponents allow Machida to dictate the terms of the bout – he circles on the outset, engages only when he sees an opening, and gets back outside before he’s in any kind of danger. It’s a great approach, and one he has perfected over the years, but I just don’t think Davis will allow him to fight that way.
The two people that have cleanly beaten Machida – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Jon Jones – did so by stalking “The Dragon,” cutting off the cage, and forcing him to deviate from his usual approach, and I expect Davis to do the same.
The Alliance MMA product is a tremendous grappler and continuing to improve his striking. While I envision Machida having success early as Davis looks to find a way inside, “Mr. Wonderful” will eventually get his hands on Machida, and turn this into a grappling match, and I like the former Division I National Champion wrestler from Penn State in those exchanges.
It may not end up being the most action-packed fight of the night, but it’s one that will produce a new title challenger in the light heavyweight ranks, something we’re always in need of with Jon Jones atop the division.
Prediction: Phil Davis by Unanimous Decision
Cezar Ferreira (5-2-0) vs. Thiago Santos (8-1-0)
Ferreira – better known as “Mutante” – won the middleweight competition on Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and is Vitor Belfort’s prized protégé. He collected his first UFC win last June before being forced to withdraw from a May bout with C.B. Dollaway. He returns here against late replacement Santos looking to duplicate the performances put forth by his mentor Belfort earlier this year.
With a little over two weeks to prepare, it’s hard to see how Santos can win this fight. “Mutante” has a solid all-around skill set, has faced superior competition, and has the benefit of a full training camp with “The Blackzilians” behind him.
Prediction: Cezar Ferreira by TKO, Round 1.
Thales Leites (20-4-0) vs. Tom Watson (16-5-0)
Leites returns to the UFC for the first time in more than four years, stepping in with the self-proclaimed “Most Entertaining Fighter” in the sport. Unfortunately for Watson, I don’t think he’s going to be able to back up his claims in this one.
Though he’s been competing outside the Octagon in recent years, Leites remains a Top 20 middleweight, and that should shine through here. Watson is at his best when opponents are willing to trade leather with him, but Leites will be quick to get inside, get this to the ground, and showcase his superior grappling skills.
Watson has an average gas tank at best, and the trip to Brazil won’t do him any favors. Late in the fight, Leites takes advantage of his fatigued opponent, sinks in a submission, and collects the tap.
Prediction: Thales Leites by Submission, Round 3.
John Lineker (21-6-0) vs. Jose Maria Tome (33-3-0)
When the UFC announced they were introducing the flyweight division, hardcore fight fans looked forward to seeing Lineker in the Octagon. At the time, the Brazilian was in the midst of a 13-fight winning streak that included seven finishes.
After dropping his promotional debut to Louis Gaudinot in May 2012, UFC fans have gotten to see the real “Hands of Stone” in his two most recent outings. Following a decision win over Yasuhiro Urushitani in November, Lineker scored a knockout win over Azamat Gashimov in May, and looks to make it three-in-a-row here.
I think he will.
As much as Tome is an experienced competitor, he’s built a large chunk of his record taking on less talented competition. Now he’s stepping up to face Lineker as a late replacement for Phil Harris, and facing a fighter that seems to have found his comfort zone once again.
Lineker is an aggressive striker and quick starter, which should produce a flurry of action early, and a thunderous ovation from the audience in Rio when he connects with the fight-ending haymaker.
Prediction: John Lineker by TKO, Round 1.