Main Card:

Anderson Silva Vs Demian Maia

We’ve had to wait along time for Anderson Silva’s next middleweight title defense – almost a year to the day in fact – but finally after Vitor Belfort withdrew due to injury, Demain Maia finds himself thrust into an unexpected title shot in Abu Dhabi.

Maia is only two months removed from his last fight, a unanimous decision victory over Dan Miller at UFC 109 which got him back to winning ways after losing for the first time against Nate Marquardt in August of ’09. Silva on the other hand hasn’t fought since the summer of last year when he stepped up to light-heavyweight to school Forrest Griffin on the art of striking.

Many fights are described as being a ‘classic striker vs grappler match-up,’ but those words have perhaps never been more true than in this fight with Silva being widely regarded as the best striker in MMA, while Maia is arguably the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to compete in the sport.

That means that both men have a possible route to victory, but common sense suggests that Silva is the more likely to succeed here. Every fight starts standing, and when you have the kind of stand-up skills that ‘The Spider’ possesses, that’s bad news for whoever is standing across the octagon from him. He is currently unbeaten in his previous 10 visits to the octagon, knocking out four of his opponents along the way, with only one of the ten making it to the final bell.

Maia has worked hard on his striking, but he still has a long way to go in that department as he found out last year when he put his skills to the test against Marquardt and was promptly knocked out just 21 seconds later. If he decides to do the same against Silva he might not even make it that long.

So Maia’s best bet is to get this fight to the ground – and certainly there is some evidence that such a strategy could be effective. Dan Henderson and Travis Lutter for instance both had some success on the mat against the Brazilian, but due to the prowess with his fists and feet it’s perhaps overlooked that Silva does have a solid ground-game, and it’s worth pointing out that both Henderson and Lutter ended up being submitted.

Prediction:

If anyone can pull of a submission against Silva it’s Maia, but it will be problematic to get into range to take him down without getting tagged or pulled into the muay thai clinch. Even if he does succeed in getting to the mat Silva is crafty enough on the ground to make life difficult for him. What is for sure though is that in a five round fight Silva is going to have the opportunity to connect with something meaningful on the feet, and when he does it’s game over for Maia.

I’m going for Anderson Silva to win by KO in the second round.

BJ Penn Vs Frankie Edgar

Aiming to make the fourth successful defense of his lightweight title belt and continue to build a legacy as one of the greatest fighters to compete in the sport, BJ Penn takes on a hungry Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar who feels it’s his time to become champion.

Edgar’s 12 fight professional record has just one blip, a decision loss to Gray Maynard two years ago, but he’s defeated an impressive collection of talented lightweights such as Jim Miller, Tyson Griffin, Spencer Fisher and Sean Sherk along the way, making it hard to begrudge him the opportunity to fight for the title.  Penn has been there and seen it all though, having fought the best throughout his career, fighting at both 155lbs and 170lbs.

What makes this a fun fight is that both Penn and Edgar have well-rounded skills and can adapt to wherever the fight goes. Edgar is a bundle of energy, and he may look to test Penn’s gas-tank if he can take this into the later rounds. He also has the better wrestling of the two which could provide him with opportunities, but in reality he’ll have a hard time getting past Penn’s gravity-defying takedown defense, and on the mat he’ll have to contend with the submission threat that will come from his opponents vastly superior BJJ skills.

Therefore Edgar may look to keep this fight on the feet where he has had success in the past, and Penn would certainly be happy to oblige him in that regard. The Hawaiian is one of the best boxers in the sport with good power, excellent head movement and the ability to be dangerous in the pocket and deliver precise counters. Edgar is a good boxer himself and may fancy his fast hands, combinations and movement to counteract him, but Penn is likely to get the upper-hand in the exchanges, and possesses a granite chin if he does not.

Prediction:

Edgar is a talented and likable fighter that’s enjoyable to watch but BJ Penn is a special talent, and a cut-above the rest of the lightweight division, and will once again prove it on the night. I expect him to win the stand-up battle in the early rounds and then look to close out the fight by submission.

I’ll go for BJ Penn to win by submission in the third round.

Matt Hughes Vs Renzo Gracie

In a clash of the veterans, 43 year old Renzo Gracie finally gets the chance to avenge Royce Gracie’s defeat at the hands of  former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes back in 2006.

Gracie has not been active in the cage in recent years though, last having fought in 2007 for Elite XC against Frank Shamrock in a bout that ended with his opponent being disqualified. Though not to the same extent Matt Hughes has also tapered down his fight schedule, appearing roughly only once a year at this point in his career.

Despite his inactivity Gracie is still highly regarded. In the world of jiu-jitsu he is a legend, and is often regarded as the best MMA fighter in the Gracie clan. At the same time, by today’s standards, he is not a particularly well-rounded fighter and does not have an especially impressive record. In fact he’s only won four out of ten fights since 2000.

It’s likely that Gracie’s only real chance of victory in this fight will be on the mat. That’s just as well as Matt Hughes is unlikely to deviate from his usual plan which is to take his opponent down and work his ground and pound. Hughes is not as one-dimensional as Gracie though as he proved in timely fashion by almost submitting Royce Gracie in ’06, and as we’ve seen in the past a wrestler with enough knowledge to avoid offering up potential submission opportunities for their opponents often emerge victorious.

Prediction:

I can’t see past Hughes here. I’ll admit the ease with which he defeated Royce Gracie is hard to forget, but also when you factor in that Renzo is 43 and hasn’t fought in over three years things don’t look good for the Brazilian.

I’m taking Matt Hughes to win by TKO (ground and pound) in the second round.

Terry Etim Vs Rafael Dos Anjos

One of the UK’s most promising prospects Terry Etim gets his first opportunity to fight on the main card of a UFC event against Rafael Dos Anjos in one of the more evenly matched fights on the main card.

Etim is currently on a four fight win-streak, picking up two ‘Submission of The Night’ awards in his last two appearances, while Dos Anjos has laid down back-to-back wins after losing his first two bouts in the octagon.

Dos Anjos is primarily a BJJ fighter, but he’s no slouch on his feet either. Etim has similar attributes, though he cites a background in Luta livre, a Brazilian martial artform that is something of a hybrid encompassing both stand-up aspects with submission grappling.

Personally I believe Etim has the edge in the stand-up with a fluid mix of punches and kicks that makes good use of range due to his natural reach advantage. The battle on the ground is more difficult to decipher and it will be intriguing to see how it will play out.

There are question marks over the quality of Etim’s work when his back is to the mat and that is likely to be something Dos Anjos will look to test, but at the same time the Brazilian hasn’t produced a finish in four appearances in the octagon, and Etim has never been stopped in his career.

Prediction:

This is certainly a close fight, but I have to go with Etim who could become the UK’s next big thing if he can make an impression here. I expect him to win the stand-up battle, and also be competitive when the fight goes to ground. He’s also a proven finisher – only three of his sixteen fights have went the distance, while the jury is still out on Dos Anjos in that regard. Despite that I think Dos Anjos is probably tough enough to take this to a decision, but Etim will have done more to impress the judges.

I’m opting for Terry Etim to win by decision.

Kendall Grove Vs Mark Munoz

TUF season 3 winner Kendall Grove enters into his 10th UFC fight on Saturday against ‘The Filipino Wrecking Machine’ Mark Munoz who, despite being 32, has had just eight fights in his MMA career to date.

Munoz UFC career got off to an unfortunate start in March last year when he was knocked out by Matt Hamill, but he’s since rebounded with two wins after a drop down to 185lbs. Meanwhile Grove also went 2-1 in 2009, most recently defeating Jake Rosholt at UFC 106.

On the feet Grove has natural advantages in his height (6ft 6″) and reach, and that meshes well with his muay thai striking base. Unfortunately he also has a questionable chin, and while Mark Munoz is not a refined striker, he does possess the kind of power that could take advantage of that.

Munoz real strength is his wrestling though, and in his last fight against a similar opponent in Jake Rosholt, Grove showed that he can be taken down and controlled in that way. On that night Grove’s BJJ came to the rescue just in the nick of time as he used his long limbs to secure a triangle choke victory.

The question then becomes whether Munoz can avoid a similar fate when he inevitably takes him down? That’s tough to say for sure, but what we do know is that Munoz has become part of the Black House team where he helps teach the likes of Junior Dos Santos wrestling, and in return there’s no doubt that BJJ experts like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will have been drilling his submission defense in preparation for this fight.

Prediction:

Not an easy fight to call, especially since Grove can blow hot and cold. Overall though considering that I felt Grove was in fairly deep water with a wrestler like Rosholt until he slapped on the submission in his last fight, I think Munoz can learn from his mistakes and execute an improved version of the same gameplan to defeat him.

I’ll take Mark Munoz to win by TKO in round 3.


Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)

Alexander Gustafsson Vs Phil Davis
Paul Taylor Vs John Gunderson
Nick Osipczak Vs Rick Story
DaMarques Johnson vs Brad Blackburn
Paul Kelly Vs Matt Veach
Jon Madsen Vs Mostapha Al Turk

LEAVE A REPLY