UFC 136 takes place in Texas tomorrow night with two title fights topping the bill, and we’ve got our preview and predictions for you below.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
On Saturday night the Edgar Vs Maynard saga will finally come to an end as the two men battle it out for a third time.
The last fight between them played out mainly on the feet and both men had their moments. In the early stages it was clear that Maynard was the harder hitter, though his problem was that he didn’t have the one punch KO power to switch out Edgar’s lights definitively. To his credit Edgar also showed a good chin and stellar recouperative abilities to hang in there, and in the later rounds it was his speed, accuracy and endurance that allowed him to edge Maynard in a number of the later rounds.
So for Edgar this time round it’s important to be on his guard, use the skills he already possesses to remain an elusive target and not be too reckless in the early stages when Maynard will be at his most dangerous standing. Meanwhile Maynard will also need to be mindful of the fact that he burned himself out in the first round last time out, and so he should be better conditioned this time and will work at a more measured pace.
Over and above that I think Maynard will be looking to mix things up a lot more on Saturday night. He almost completely dispensed with his wrestling skills back in January – the very thing that helped him defeat Edgar the first time they fought – but I don’t believe he’ll make the same mistake this time round. While Edgar is a better wrestler himself now, Maynard is still going to be considerably bigger and stronger on the night and can use that to his advantage.
Edgar’s previous strategy of striking mixed in with occasional takedowns was smart and I expect more of the same from him, but it’s whether he can stuff Maynard’s own takedowns or quickly scramble to his feet if taken down that I believe will be the key to his chances of keeping the belt around his waist.
Such a hard one to call. I believe Edgar is the better all-round striker (and the more complete fighter) and I’d be a little surprised if he gets in the same amount of trouble he did last time out on the feet. Having said that Maynard is the bigger, stronger wrestler and if he uses that to his advantage this time round then I believe he can become the next lightweight champion.
Gray Maynard to win by decision
Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
After just one bout at featherweight veteran UFC campaigner Kenny Florian gets his third title shot against the younger, highly touted champion Jose Aldo.
Aldo is a fearsome striker – fast, explosive, aggressive and deadly with all eight limbs. When he’s on form, which is more often than not his punches and kicks flow very fluidly and can leave his opponents uncertain about what’s coming next.
Florian has developed into a well-rounded striker himself, originally being more of a muay thai specialist with notoriously razor-sharp elbows, but has since embraced more of a boxing based style, working nicely from behind the jab. He’s not as unpredictable as Aldo, not as hard a hitter, and certainly not as fast, particularly at this stage of his career.
Wrestling isn’t either fighter’s strong suit, but they are both very adept on the mat. While we haven’t seen him go there too often Aldo is a BJJ specialist, particularly offensively. The same applies to Florian, though there’s more evidence that he has holes defensively, and overall I’d give the edge to the Brazilian here.
Conditioning will be an interesting factor look out for in both fighters if this fight goes to the later rounds. Aldo had a rough weight cut last time out and appeared to gas in the last round, while Florian also looked drained in the final round of his fight after making his first cut to 145lbs. I do expect both to have made adjustements this time around, but Aldo’s youth and the fact that he’s been five rounds in two of his last three bouts is certainly in his favor.
I’d never count Florian out. He’s a well-rounded fighter with the intelligence to pull off an upset, but it is a big ask against one of the world’s best fighters who happens to be 10 years younger than him while fighting below his optimum weight limit. I believe this could be Aldo’s toughest test yet, but I see him shaking off Florian’s attempts to get him to the floor and using his speed and precision striking to lead him to victory.
Jose Aldo to win by TKO in Rd4
Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
Sonnen and Stann collide in a bout that many expect will establish the next No.1 contender at 185lbs.
Sonnen is best known for his wrestling, but his striking is somewhat underrated. Though he’s not a power puncher, he has solid fundamental technique and does a good job of piecing together basic, but effective combinations. Stann on the other hand packs KO power in his punches, particularly since his drop down to 185lbs, and is durable so he’ll be more than willing to engage in a firefight with his opponent.
Therefore Sonnen’s smart enough to realize that his best option in this fight is to attempt to get the former war hero down to the mat, and he has the wrestling skills to do it. If he does get Stann down then he’ll be in a very good spot as he has stifling top control and gives little away, steering clear of big ground and pound assaults that could lead to him losing position, in favor of busy but “safe” striking that keeps the referee from calling a stand-up but isn’t likely to result in a devastating finish.
Stann’s ground game is improving, but he’s clearly outmatched in the wrestling department and he doesn’t yet have the submission arsenal to really test Sonnen’s own weakness for chokes. His best chance here is to attempt to sprawl and brawl.
Generally Sonnen is very well conditioned, but the fact that he’s been out for 14 months is a cause for concern, particularly since he’s now 34 and is going up against a well trained fighter who should be good to go for three full rounds. He’s mentally strong however and I don’t see it being a major factor.
I think Sonnen’s long layoff will only further convince him that the best plan is to take Stann to the floor and attempt to grind out a decision victory. This is something that’s shown himself to be adept at, and I think it’s certainly achievable against somebody with Stann’s primarily striking based skill-set.
Chael Sonnen to win by decision.
Melvin Guillard Vs Joe Lauzon
It’s no secret that Guillard is at his best on the feet. Arguably the most lethal striker in the division he’s got vicious power, is extremely fast and has a natural killer instinct. Combined with a solid chin that makes him a very hard man to beat in a strictly striking based battle.
Lauzon doesn’t have anything like Guillard’s fearsome punching power, but he is a sound technical boxer and has been known to overwhelm some opponents when he’s in the right frame of mind and goes in aggressively. Such a strategy would be ill-advised against Guillard though.
Instead it’s clear that Lauzon’s key to victory is to take down Guillard and use his vastly superior BJJ skills to force the tap. That could be easier said than done though as Guillard is a little less reckless these days on the feet and has improved his takedown defence significantly under Greg Jackson’s tutelage, while Lauzon isn’t a takedown specialist.
Lauzon needs to get Guillard down to win this bout in my estimation, and I suspect he’s going to have to weather an early storm in order to do so, lulling his opponent into a false sense of security by striking with him before catching him off guard with a takedown. If successful I do believe J-Lau has the ground-smarts to get a submission, but it’s a dangerous strategy and with the form that Guillard is in right now I can see him landing fight-ending blows during the stand-up exchanges.
Melvin Guillard to win by TKO in Rd1.
Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia
These two featherweight competitors will engage in a rematch after Garcia was controversially given the nod last time out.
We know what to expect from these two, and that’s an almost exclusively stand-up based battle. Phan is unquestionably the more technical striker and shows precision in his striking, with his frequent work to the body being particularly slick. Being comfortable using both his hands and feet he has a lot of tools to work with, but is held back somewhat by having to rely on volume striking since he’s not a hard hitter, and his chin is also on the weak side.
Garcia is almost literally the complete opposite of Phan in regards to striking. He’s wild, reckless, swings from his hips with single power shots and can endure plenty of punishment and still somehow remain standing.
It’s not pretty, but it’s a style that makes him appear as if he’s always going all out to win and often catches the eyes of the judges. In reality though, despite swinging for the fences the truth is that he rarely lands with his big haymakers which can often be seen from a mile away and so his fights generally end up ending by decision.
Conditioning wise, Garcia will slug on for the full three rounds, but his power punching style means he’s often running on fumes by the third round, while Phan is generally able to keep up a good pace for the full fifteen minutes.
Phan should really have won their last encounter and he can only hope to do the same thing again – steering clear of Garcia’s big shots and picking him apart with his own quicker and more precise shots – and hope that the judges have their glasses on this time around.
Nam Phan to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Joey Beltran vs. Stipe Miocic
Aaron Simpson vs. Eric Schafer
Steve Cantwell vs. Mike Massenzio
Darren Elkins vs. Tiequan Zhang