There might not be a fight with more potential for violence than Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown and the UFC is gifting all of us with it for free Saturday on FOX (8 p.m. ET). The winner gets a title shot against Johny Hendricks next. And if someone isn’t staring up at the ceiling well before this one goes five rounds it’ll be a complete shock.
The rest of the main card is loaded, too — not just with exciting fights, but bouts that are pivotal in their respective divisions. Title chances will be earned Saturday night and there’s a solid chance everyone at the SAP Center in San Jose will go home happy.
Unfortunately, some of these guys (and girls) have to win. So we’ll pick those here:
Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown
Robbie Lawler is the favorite against Matt Brown for a reason.
If you could just trick your buddies who aren’t MMA fans into watching this one fight, you might convert them. That’s how good this main event could be. Lawler and Brown are two of the most exciting fighters, not just in the welterweight division, but in the history of the UFC.
Brown has won seven in a row, all by finish. How does that even happen in today’s era? Lawler was one stuffed takedown away from beating Johny Hendricks and becoming the UFC welterweight champion. Neither guy knows how to back up. They both move forward. They both throw hard. The probability for a knockout is very high.
Oh, now we have to pick who’ll win? Ugh. That’s not fair. Lawler is a little more explosive, a little more athletic and man he has looked incredible lately. Not that Brown hasn’t, but Lawler has done it against better competition. Brown could be one good Lawler kick to the body away from losing in the first round. He could also knock Lawler out in the first round, too. So, there’s that.
Prediction: Lawler by second round knockout
Anthony Johnson vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Anthony Johnson should be all smiles after beating Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Everyone is a winner already, because it seems like Nogueira really will make it to Saturday. The hangup with Lil’ Nog lately has been that he seems to withdraw from more fights than he actually competes in. In the past year, Nogueira has been tied to fights with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustafsson. None of them went down.
This one, though, seems like it will and, to be honest, maybe that isn’t the best of news for Nog. Johnson is the bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic fighter. Also, younger. Nogueira, at 38, is eight years older and has not fought since February 2013. Meanwhile, Johnson is coming off a browbeating of Phil Davis in April.
The path to victory seems slim for Lil’ Nog. You can’t completely rule out a guy who has a victory over Rashad Evans within the last two years. However, what will he be able to accomplish against Johnson? Davis wasn’t able to take Johnson down and Johnson is an explosive, technical striker. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be a great night for the Brazilian.
Prediction: Johnson by second-round knockout
Clay Guida vs. Dennis Bermudez
Dennis Bermudez is facing someone very similar to himelf in Clay Guida.
Bermudez is kind of like a younger, stronger, more explosive version of Guida — minus the trademark shaggy hair. The Long Island native is on a six-fight winning streak and really on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender. Guida, though, will be his toughest test to date. The uber-energetic Jackson’s Gym product never gets cheated. Very rarely does anyone dominate him and he’s as tough and durable as they come.
The question becomes, though, how does Guida win this fight? He’s not going to be able to grind Bermudez out. Bermudez is far too athletic and he’s too good of a wrestler to let Guida push him up against the cage or rough him up on the ground. Guida will have to outbox Bermudez and maybe he’s capable of that. But Bermudez should be able to close the distance, get his hands on Guida and slam him a couple of times. That’s probably how the fight will go.
Prediction: Bermudez by unanimous decision
Josh Thomson vs. Bobby Green
Josh Thomson is in for a heck of a scrap against Bobby Green.
Thomson was initially supposed to fight Michael Johnson on Saturday, but Johnson got hurt two weeks ago and Green stepped in. That’s not necessarily good news for Thomson. Green might not be as technically sound as Johnson is, but he’s tougher and more athletic. Green also has the added incentive of fighting for his brother, who was murdered in May, and his newborn daughter. He’s a willful guy, brimming with desire to be one of the best lightweights in the world.
Thomson has been that for the better part of a decade. He’s far more experienced than Green and was already training to peak Saturday, while Green thought he’d be fighting in mid-August. Green is also coming off a badly broken ankle. Thomson probably should have gotten the decision nod over Benson Henderson in a close fight back in January on FOX. He’ll likely walk away with one of those here. But look for a Fight of the Night-type of battle.
Prediction: Thomson by unanimous decision
Sleeper Fight of the Night?
The entire main card is filled with bouts that can be Fight of the Night. There isn’t a potentially boring fight on the bill. But the best one might actually be on the prelims. Jorge Masvidal meets Daron Cruickshank to headline the FOX part of the preliminary draw and both guys are incapable of being boring.
Cruickshank is a head-kick knockout specialist and he comes at opponents with unorthodox — and effective angles. Masvidal is a hard-nosed brawler from Miami given serious polish from American Top Team. If the two stand and trade, Cruickshank has the slight advantage. But if it gets messy — scrambles, transitions, grappling — Masvidal will probably win and vault himself higher in the lightweight rankings.
Debuts and returns
Kyle Kingsbury has not fought since September 2012 and was effectively retired from the sport after three straight losses. But he’ll make his return in his hometown of San Jose against the up-and-coming Patrick Cummins. Kingsbury is just 32 years old, so he’s hardly over-the-hill. It’ll be interesting to see whether ring rust plays a factor. Cummins is still very raw, but is a fantastic wrestler. If he can get things to the ground and keep them there, he’ll be in good shape against the better striker.
The first two fights feature four athletes making their UFC debuts and they’re all very much worth watching. Gilbert "Durinho" Burns, a protégé of Vitor Belfort and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, takes on Swedish prospect Andreas Stahl, who trains with Alexander Gustafsson. Both are undefeated.
In the second women’s strawweight bout ever, Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Julianna Lima, who would have been on The Ultimate Fighter 20 had she spoke fluent English. They’re both prospects in the brand new 115-pound division and Jedrzejcyzk is the favorite out of Poland.