Another big night of MMA action is almost upon us, with Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Jon Jones taking center-stage as they battle it out for the 205lb strap, but there’s a number of other quality bouts filling up UFC 128’s fight card that should provide plenty of entertainment in New Jersey.
See below for our full preview and predictions.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Jon Jones
This is a fascinating 205lb title fight which should reveal if Jon Jones really is a next generation star, or whether ‘Shogun’ still rules the roost at light-heavyweight.
Shogun is truly an elite muay thai striker with KO power in both his punches and kicks, and will undoubtedly give Jones his toughest test yet on the feet. Shogun will be giving up three inches in height and a huge 8.5 inches in reach to Jones, but he’s shown against Lyoto Machida in the past that he can fight at range effectively, and as in their first fight, leg kicks could be a key factor here.
Jones has so far not proven to be a devastating striker on the feet, but his unorthadox, and ever-increasing arsenal of strikes, coupled with the largest reach in the entire UFC roster, makes him a very dangerous fighter indeed. His real forte is wrestling though, and that just happens to be Shogun’s weak sport.
So far no-one, including seasoned wrestlers, has been able to cope with Jones powerful, technical, and varied range of takedowns, and Shogun would do well to avoid the clinch or risk being air-mailed to the mat. The ground battle could be interesting though. Jones has some of the most active and dangerous ground and pound in the sport, with his reach allowing him to throw elbows almost like punches.
His BJJ is questionable at this early stage in his development though, and Shogun is a black belt which could open open up doors for submissions or sweeps to get on top of Jones, and the champion has some vicious ground and pound of his his own if that happens.
Cardio is another key factor to consider. Jones has never been five rounds, in fact he’s only gone a full three rounds twice in his career to date and he’s also only had six weeks to prepare for this title fight. That could make things interesting, but really Shogun has the bigger issue here given that he’s been out for most of the past year due to knee surgery, and he’s struggled in the past after long lay-offs.
Prediction: I favor Jones here for two reasons in particular – reach and wrestling. I think Shogun’s style is bettered equipped to deal with the reach differential than most fighters, but it’s still going to make it difficult for him to connect on a regular basis. Really though I think Jones will be looking to take Shogun down, and I don’t think anybody has the takedown defense to stop him right now. Shogun won’t be put away easily, but in the end I see a sustained ground and pound assault from Jones bringing an end to this fight.
Jon Jones to win by TKO in round 3.
Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland
One of the biggest fights from the WEC contingent since the merger, much of the focus here is whether Faber can establish himself as a star in the UFC, but there’s also title implications at 135lbs for the eventual winner.
Striking wise this fight is competitive, but I do feel Wineland has the technical advantage. He’s very crisp, mixes his strikes up well, has genuine power and utilizes good footwork and angles. Faber is no slouch however, and his fast hands and movement will make for some exciting exchanges.
Faber is the more well-rounded fighter though, and he’s likely to take advantage of that here. Already a strong wrestler, at 135lbs that should be even more evident, and I see him looking to use that often in this fight. On the ground he stays busy, excels in scrambles, and provides a major submission threat.
Wineland is far more comfortable on his feet, but he’s not completely out of his element on the mat. He has been susceptible to chokes in the past though, and that happens to be Faber’s speciality so he’ll have to be on his guard at all times.
Prediction: This will certainly be a fun fight between two exciting fighters, but while Wineland is dangerous on his feet, Faber simply has more ways to win here, and I think he gets it done by submission in the second round.
Urijah Faber to win by submission in Rd2
Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus
Off the back of an impressive six-fight winning streak in the UFC, lightweight contender Jim Miller takes on Kamal Shalorus who’s yet to taste defeat in his nine fight career.
Miller is a well-rounded fighter who’s as tough as they come and pushes a relentless pace. Solid on his feet, his real strength lies on the ground where he combines strong wrestling with black-belt level BJJ. While he has the ability to finish, may of his wins come from simply grinding down his opponents.
Meanwhile Shalorus is often reckless with his striking, swinging for the fences with wild, looping punches from the opening bell. While dangerous if he connects, this does make him predictable, and also leaves him running almost on empty later on if the fight goes the distance. The Iranian is also notable for having seemingly terminator-like durability and is more than happy to take a punch or two in order to give one back.
What he also possesses is remarkable wrestling ability, though he often chooses not to use it. His takedown defense is also lightning quick and he may well use that to attempt to keep this fight standing.
The Olympic level wrestling that Shalorus possesses makes this an interesting encounter. The Iranian’s cardio is a major concern though, and against a relentless competitor like Miller I think the cracks will begin to show eventually. I see Miller being able to adapt his strategy as required to wear him down over three rounds and grab the decision victory.
Jim Miller to win by decision.
Dan Miller vs. Nate Marquardt
Jim’s brother Dan Miller also fights at UFC 128 after stepping in at short notice to fight perennial middleweight contender Nate Marquardt.
Marquardt is a tough opponent at any time, let alone with just a week to prepare. He’s dangerous in all aspects of the game, with good striking, dominating top control and a serious submission game. After a lackluster performance last time out that brought about criticism from Dana White I’d expect to see Marquardt come out aggressively on this occasion.
Like his brother, Miller is a tough customer who’s strength is in grappling though he can stand and trade when required. It’s tough to see an area in which he excels compared with Marquardt though, so he’s going to have to rely on his natural grit and determination to make the difference here.
I don’t see Miller winning, but he’ll be a tough nut to crack. I suspect Marquardt will demonstrate that he’s a better all-round fighter over the course of three competitive rounds to get the nod from the judges.
Nate Marquardt to win by decision.
Mirko “Cro Cop” vs. Brendan Schaub
Cro Cop Vs Schaub is very much the case of a seasoned veteran on the downward slope of his career Vs a young up and comer still looking to make his name in the sport.
There’s more than enough evidence to suggest that Cro Cop just simply isn’t the fighter he once was. Gone is the fear factor that surrounded him during the PRIDE era, gone are his legendary head-kicks, and gone is the killer instinct that made him one of the most celebrated strikers the sport has ever seen. In his place is a fighter who simply seems to be going through the motions.
Meanwhile Schaub is a relative novice standing next to an experienced campaigner like Cro Cop, but he’s a natural athlete who’s learning fast and making a name for himself in the heavyweight division. His boxing is looking good, keeping things simple but effective, and he also appears comfortable when the fight hits the deck, either on top or on his back.
If anyone is going to take this fight to the mat I expect it to be Schaub, but for the most part I expect this to be a stand-up battle, and I just feel Schaub is the hungrier fighter and will really take this fight to the Croatian. A stoppage is possible, but I’ll go with a decision win here.
Brendan Schaub to win by decision.
Luiz Cane vs. Eliot Marshall
Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Njokuani
Ricardo Almeida vs. Mike Pyle
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Gleison Tibau
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian Loveland
Nick Catone vs. Constantinos Philippou
Raphael Assuncao vs. Erik Koch