Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs. Matt Hamill
Promoted to the headline bout after Edgar Vs Hamill was scrapped due to injury, this is a big fight for both men, with Rampage close to a title shot, and Hamill looking for the most notable win of his career.
Striking wise ‘Rampage’ has the upper-hand here with his boxing, possessing genuine KO power in his hands and a solid defense to back it up. Hamill is a little more ponderous, less technical and has holes in his defense, but he does have decently heavy hands too and will mix things up a little more with kicks as well as punches.
Where Hamill will attempt to gain the upper-hand is in the wrestling. That’s his strong suit, and he does have good strength and a solid double-leg takedown, and if he can get Rampage down then he can profit from it as the former champion is weak of his back.
Let’s not forget that Rampage has wrestling in his arsenal too though, and while he rarely chooses to use it offensively these days it should aid him as he looks to stuff Hamill’s takedowns and keep the fight standing.
Hamill likes to stand and trade, and that could be his downfall here. I believe his gameplan will be to try to takedown Rampage, but if his early attempts are stuffed then I suspect he’ll slip too easily back into the striking realm and be made to pay the price by his harder hitting opponent.
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson to win by TKO in Rd2
Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson
Mir and Nelson have been acting like best friends in the lead-up to this fight, but with both having aspirations to get right into the title mix ASAP, rest assured both will be going all out for a win on Saturday night.
This will be a competitive fight wherever it happens to go. Standing Mir is technically the more sound striker, delivers decent power and has good footwork these days along with a reach advantage over Nelson. He doesn’t respond particularly well to being hit though, often freezing up instead of getting out of harms way and regrouping.
That could be a problem as Nelson is the opposite, being able to withstand great amounts of punishment and still pressing forward looking to land his favorite weapon, his powerful overhand right. Mir is a big heavyweight these days though at 265lbs and so it remains to be seen whether Nelson’s stout jawline can withstand his biggest shots.
On the mat both men are well versed in jiu-jitsu, while Nelson edges the wrestling. I’m not convinced they will be overly eager to go to ground here, but if they do it’s the kind of match-up that could end in a stalemate as they cancel each other out skill-wise.
Conditioning could be a factor to look out for. Nelson’s physique is somewhat deceiving, he has a better gas tank than his belly would indicate, while Mir is still relatively new to fighting at 265lbs and if Nelson pushes the pace it will test his own staying power.
It’s a close fight and I can certainly see Nelson emerging with his hand raised, but I can’t shake the overall impression of him that he tends to come up a little short against top level fighters. He won’t be able to rely on a size advantage to get him through against Mir, and I think the former champions extra finesse on the feet will allow him to take a decision victory.
Frank Mir to win by decision.
Stefan Struve vs. Travis Browne
This is very much a battle of the heavyweight giants with Browne finding himself in the unusual position of being the smaller man at 6ft 7″, with ‘The Skyscraper’ towering over him at 6ft 11″.
Standing, Struve is very much a product of his homeland, being a Dutch style kickboxer. With his length and reach that should be a dangerous combination, but while his combinations are good and he has plenty of heart, he still struggles to put distance between himself and his opponent and use his natural gifts to his best advantage.
Struve is a better striker than Browne though who tends to have a ‘bull in a china-shop’ approach to offense, charging forward with reckless abandon, attempting to displace technique with raw power. Struve’s chin is often there to be hit, but he’ll see a lot of Browne’s strikes coming and has the ability to counter him.
On the ground Struve has a definite advantage in the submission game and has shown himself to be capable off his back. Therefore I’d expect Browne to be happier to keep this fight on the feet and look to land a fight ending blow from there.
If the fight goes into the later rounds then keep an eye on Browne’s gas tank as he tends to struggle to keep up his bullying style for the full 15 minutes which could leave him in trouble if Struve survives the early enslaught. It should also be noted that Struve is expected to weigh in heavier than in the past which could be a good thing given his relatively lanky frame, but could also effect his cardio.
Prediction: Struve has been troubled by aggressive, big hitters in the past so Browne has a real chance here. Struve is a young and improving fighter though, and I like the changes he’s making – putting more weight onto his frame, training with K-1 star Daniel Ghita and working on using his reach. I have my reservations, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and say he gets the win if he plays it smart – i.e not being dfrawn into a toe-to-toe brawl with Browne.
Stefan Struve to win by decision.
Jorge Santiago vs. Brian Stann
Santiago has been making waves in Japan as the champion of Sengoku, but he’ll still have to prove himself in his second spell in the UFC against a tough first opponent in former marine Stann who’ll have extra determination going into this one given that it’s on Memorial Day Weekend.
Santiago’s muay thai makes him a very tricky customer in the striking realm as he can end your night with a knee as easily as a punch or a kick. His chin is suspect though. Stann isn’t as versatile with his offense, but he is evolving under Greg Jackson’s tutelage, and what he does have naturally is big power, an asset that’s paying dividends after his recent move down from 205lbs.
Santiago is comfortable taking the fight to the floor, and he has proven himself on numerous occasions to have a dangerous submission game and a willingness to use it. Stann on the other hand favors the stand-up game and has struggled from his back in the past.
This is a tricky one. Santiago’s recent record is impressive, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past the UFC is a whole different ball game. Meanwhile Stann looks better at 185lbs and is undoubtedly improving at Greg Jackson’s camp. I still feel that Santiago is the more well-rounded fighter though and will have more ways to win.
Jorge Santiago to win by submission in Rd3.
Thiago Alves vs. Rick Story
Alves and Story were shifted up to the main card after a card reshuffle, and that’s probably just as well as this is a solid fight that deserves to feature more prominently.
There’s no question that Alves will be weilding the greater striking arsenal in this match-up. His muay-thai skills are well documented with all eight-limbs posing a threat and his leg kicks being particularly devastating. Story is tough and he can trade leather at a decent level, but on this occasion he’d be well advised not to as he’s not in Alves league.
What Story can do though is use his wresting ability and tenacity to push the pace and take this fight to places Alves won’t be comfortable – either on the mat or against the cage. That’s what he excels at, and it’s lead to five consecutive victories which suggests it’s a tried and tested formula.
Alves has good takedown defense though and while he’s not a danger from his back he has shown a decent ability to get back to his feet when given enough time. He needs to keep this fight standing as much as possible though, and make it count when he’s in his comfort zone.
Story will be a real handful for Alves, but while he is a talented fighter he’s not quite in the league of a Jon Fitch or GSP who are the only two fighters to have defeated Alves in the past five and a half years in the Octagon. With that in mind I’m going to opt for the ‘Pitbull’ here to show why he’s such a highly regarded striker.
Thiago Alves to win by TKO in Rd2
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson
Tim Boetsch vs. Kendall Grove
Michael McDonald vs. Chris Cariaso
Gleison Tibau vs. Rafaello Oliveira
Cole Escovedo vs. Renan Barao