Another major night of UFC action is almost upon us and we’ve got a full preview and set of predictions for you below.
Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn
On Saturday night Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn will hope to decide once and for all who is the undisputed lightweight champion. Last time out was an exceptionally close striking battle with Edgar edging it on the judges scorecards, though many disagreed with the decision.
If the pre-fight interviews are anything to go by then Penn is fired up to avenge that loss, though he has had some unusual methods of preparing, stating that he’s been, “resting hard.” That’s a concern given that his cardio has often been questioned in the past, and Edgar will make him pay in the later rounds if he’s not 100% ready physically.
Having said that there’s no doubts that ‘The Prodigy’s’ been in fine form all week long and genuinely seems enthusiastic about the fight – a stark contrast from last time out where he seemed to lack motivation and produced a lethargic performance.
Meanwhile Frankie Edgar’s interviews have been more straight-forward and predictable, and I believe the same will be true of his performance on Saturday night as he opts for the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ strategy. That means continuing to use his speed, footwork and angles to pepper the former champion with punches while remaining an illusive target. He also had success with his takedowns last time out, and that should be another go-to move for him in order to rack up points on the scorecards.
As for Penn, I expect to see a less lethargic and more pro-active performance, using angles to close down Edgar and attempting to unleash his superior boxing to win the exchanges. I also feel that his ground game could be key in this fight. He has world class jiu-jitsu skills which were essentially ignored last time out, but if he can either take the fight to the floor, or use Edgar’s inevitable takedowns to work off his back, then opportunities to finish the fight should arise.
I was amongst those who felt that Penn won the first fight, even though he didn’t look at his best. By contrast Edgar put in as good a performance as we’ve seen from him, and I don’t expect him to be able to outdo that. With Penn appearing in a much better place mentally I think we’ll see an improved showing from the Hawaiian that will eventually result in him becoming the first man to tap out Edgar.
BJ Penn to win by submission in Rd3.
Randy Couture vs. James Toney
It’s been a long time coming, but finally we get to see two decorated legends of MMA and boxing collide. Of course it has to be taken into consideration that neither are in the prime of their careers though, with James Toney being the “younger” of the two at 42, while Randy Couture takes on the wily old veteran role at the age of 47.
Couture’s gameplan for this fight is well established – use his wrestling to get this fight to the ground as quickly as possible in order to neutralize Toney’s boxing. If he can do that then the fight is essentially over, but how he goes about this is crucial. Couture is not generally the type to double leg a fighter from the center of the octagon. He prefers to bully them up against the fence, work his dirty boxing and then go for the takedown.
Dirty boxing against Toney is a risky strategy though given that the boxer loves nothing more than to be pressed up against the ropes fighting nip and tuck from the inside. Therefore I suspect if he does get into this range Couture will simply look to tie him up and take him down, leaving his offensive strikes until he’s safely on the floor.
Closing the distance will be tricky though as Toney will be looking to make his strikes count, and he’s perfectly suited to doing just that. He may be ageing but ‘Lights Out’s’ punches are still deadly accurate and come from angles you didn’t see coming.
While I believe Toney’s KO power has been overstated (he’s never put anyone to sleep as a heavyweight, and historically he’s been more of a volume puncher), Couture’s chin is very weak at this stage in his career, and he’s been floored numerous times in recent fights. If Toney connects with his chin or rips into his midsection it could produce instant results.
Cardio is also going to play a significant factor in this fight assuming it goes longer than most people are expecting. Toney weighed in at a rotund 237lbs earlier, and that’s going to produce a lethargic performance and an extremely limited gas tank. When it comes to stamina boxing and MMA are world’s apart as Toney will quickly find out, especially against Couture who has just been tested as having the cardiovascular fitness of a 20-29 year-old elite athlete.
Incidentally, I don’t have any real faith in Toney having significantly developed any meaningful MMA skills. The fact that he ditched Rampage Jackson’s Ex-coach Juanito Ibarra early in his camp in favor of the unknown and inexperienced Trevor Sherman coupled with his weight suggests he’s not taken this as seriously as he should have.
If it wasn’t for Couture’s weakened chin I’d see no real way that Toney could win this contest. Even factoring that into the equation the deck is still stacked firmly in ‘The Natural’s favor with Toney requiring likely to have just one chance to land one definitive punch. I think Couture will pepper Toney with a leg kick or two to distract him before getting the takedown, softening up with some ground and pound, and then sinking in a submission of his choosing to finish.
Randy Couture to win by submission in Rd1
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard
In a battle for No.1 contendership in the lightweight division, Kenny Florian takes on Gray Maynard in a very interesting encounter. Based on his record Maynard should already have a title shot – seven wins on the trot is an impressive haul by anybody’s standard, but with six of them being by decision, and the lost two being split decisions, he’s not yet made a definitive statement at 155lbs.
Meanwhile Florian is looking for his third shot at the lightweight crown after coming up short against BJ Penn and Sean Sherk in the past – his only two losses in 11 fights at 155lbs. In stark contrast to Maynard, ‘Ken-Flo’ has carved a career as a finisher, with only two of his last ten fights ending by decision.
Florian is a very well rounded fighter, with a pleasing blend of boxing and muay thai in the striking department backed up by a well developed jiu-jitsu game and an all-round intelligent approach to fighting. Recently he’s also been developing his wrestling, but it’s still not up with the best in the division, and that could pose a problem here.
Maynard has built his success in the UFC around his wrestling game, which largely accounts for his propensity for decision victories as he grounds his opponents into the mat for three rounds. Recently he has been working hard on his striking, and it’s certainly improved, though it’s yet to produce devastating results inside the cage.
Florian is the more complete fighter here and has more ways to end this bout definitively, but the wrestling aspect will be a concern and Maynard won’t be easy to finish. Florian’s speed and movement will make it difficult for Maynard though, and the wrestler’s recent desire to test his striking could play into his hands as Ken-Flo is undoubtedly a far superior technician on the feet. I like Florian to stay busy and provide enough of an active threat on both the feet and the floor to claim a win on the judges scorecards.
Kenny Florian to win by decision.
Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis
In this potential ‘Fight Of The Night’ contender Nate Diaz looks to claim his second victory at welterweight after a move up from the 155lb division, while Marcus Davis seeks to add to his previous win early this year while continuing to distance himself from a disappointing two fight losing streak last year.
Diaz looked impressive in his 170lb debut earlier in the year against Rory Markham, with the weight gain appearing to add a previously lacking power to his punches. When you add that into his already impressive jiu-jitsu record that’s accounted for eight of his twelve career victories, that makes him a legitmate threat at welterweight.
Despite having originally entered into the sport after starting out as a pro-boxer, Davis won’t fear going to the ground having developed a reasonably solid jiu-jitsu game, but ideally he will relish the chance to put Diaz to the test in the striking realm. At his best Davis is a real handful on his feet and should have a technical edge over Diaz, but he’ll have to contend with a significant height and reach disadvantage which his opponent will make full use of.
I think at the age of 37 Davis is starting to show the signs of slowing down a little, while Diaz appears reinvigorated at 170lbs. I like Diaz to use his length to his advantage, keeping Davis at range and out of his rhythm. If that doesn’t prove to be successful however then he still has a strong plan B with his jiu-jitsu which is clearly superior to Davis.
Nate Diaz to win by submission in Rd3
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda
Demian Maia looks to make amends for a disappointing display against Anderson Silva at UFC 112 when he returns against fellow Brazilian Mario Miranda who, like Maia, went 11 fights before suffering his first ever loss. Having said that though, unlike his opponent, most of his Miranda’s wins came outside the UFC.
Maia rose to prominence as one of the most talented BJJ practitioners ever to transition into MMA, and I believe that after recently diverting into the stand-up realm, he’ll be eager to get back to his roots here. Miranda too is highly skilled in the jiu-jitsu realm, but make no mistake, Maia is on a different level.
Miranda will have the advantage on the feet though. He has a a solid muay thai skill-set that will pose a genuine threat, particularly in the clinch, while, despite working hard to improve it, Maia’s stand-up is still fairly pedestrian and is unlikely to have caused his opponent many sleepless nights.
If Miranda can keep this fight standing then he’s in with a very good chance of pulling off an upset as he is a talented fighter. I don’t think he will manage to do so though. Maia has only lost to two of the best fighters the 185lb division has to offer in Silva and Marquadt, and I think he’ll show that he still deserves to be in the middleweight upper echelon as he gets the win over his fellow Brazilian here. Eventually Maia will find a way to get the fight into his world, and from his bewildering arsenal of BJJ techniques he’ll tie his countryman in knots.
Demian Maia to win by submission in Rd2
Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger
Dan Miller vs. John Salter
Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz
Nick Osipczak vs. Greg Soto
Mike Pierce vs. Amilcar Alves