The UFC’s busy schedule continues on Saturday night with UFC 139 and we’ve got our full preview and predictions for you below.
Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
UFC 139 may have been overshadowed by the UFC On FOX show last weekend, but there’s plenty to get excited about including this strong main event pairing of Hendo Vs Shogun.
Both men excel in the striking department. Henderson’s is unlikely to surprise an opponent with his variety of strikes, but if he can find a home for a his right hand, which he has an uncanny knack of doing, then that could be all it takes as he has been blessed with remarkable natural punching power which is backed up by one of the best chins in the business (though there have been signs in recent fights that he’s not invincible in that regard.)
Shogun’s output is far more varied, technical, setting up vicious kicks with hard punches mixed in with elbows and knees to keep his opponents guessing, and he’s got excellent timing. Like Hendo he also hits hard, is durable and has the killer instinct if he smells blood.
Elsewhere, the wrestling advantage goes to Henderson and if he chooses to use it he could certainly have some success taking Shogun down and working ground and pound. Jon Jones significantly dented the Brazilian’s armor doing this and Henderson could do likewise.
He will have to be wary of Shogun’s jiu-jitsu though, something he has been susceptible to in the past including against his opponent’s former team-mate Anderson Silva.
Shogun’s stamina and overall physical health is a factor here, particular as this one will be fought over five rounds despite not being a title fight. He’s had a lot of time out over the past few years due to knee injuries and subsequent surgeries which have taken their toll. On the other hand Hendo is generally fairly well conditioned, but at 41 he may start to feel the pace in the later rounds, especially if Shogun is able to chop away at his legs throughout.
Tough one to call as it’s easy to visualize either man winning here. I’m not sold on Shogun during his tenure in the UFC though and that’s the basis by which I’m leaning slightly towards Henderson, who’s been remarkably consistent despite his age, on this occasion. Shogun’s varied offense may well pose problems for Henderson early, but he’s always got a puncher’s chance to end the fight at a moment notice and his wrestling to fall back on if the going gets tough, including clinch-work against the cage. In the later rounds I expect Shogun to tire and that’s where Hendo can capitalize. I picture him hurting Shogun on the feet and then finishing the job with ground and pound sometime in the second half of the fight.
Dan Henderson to win by TKO in Rd4.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le
Two of the most exciting strikers in MMA line-up in the co-main event of the UFC 139 event.
Striking wise the two men are polar opposites. Silva is famed for his ‘beserker’ style, tucking his chin and swinging for the fences with looping punches and if he connects it could mean lights out for Le who doesn’t have the strongest chin. He also has an excellent muay thai clinch which could be effective, though we rarely see it in action these days for reason’s best known to Silva himself.
Le has far more finesse with his strikingand can work well from a distance, using his lazer-accurate, picture-perfect arsenal of kicks to keep the Brazilian at bay. Silva’s chin has proven to be vulnerable these days which will spur Le on, though he isn’t packing much single-punch power and may struggle to catch him off guard with a head kick.
While he rarely takes the fight to the ground, Silva actually has decent takedowns and solid BJJ skills which would offer him an advantage over Le if he chose to use it. It’s not in his nature to do so, but with his career potentially on the line here if he doesn’t win according to Dana White then who knows what might happen.
This is another fight that could go either way. I favor Le if it goes the distance, but if Silva can land during one his trademark frenzied flurries then it could be game over. The truth is that Silva has become a more cautious fighter these days, and that’s even more likely to happen on Saturday night given that he’s under a lot of pressure to win and has the memory of getting KO’d by Chris Leben in just 27 seconds last time out. I think this plays into Le’s hands as he can work from outside and pick Silva apart with kicks on his way to a decision win.
Cung Le to win by decision.
Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles
Faber and Bowles will battle it out on Saturday night knowing that a win should put them next in line for a revenge match against current bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz.
While wrestling is Faber’s foundation his striking is also of a very good standing, and his quick hands, energetic style and unbending will have caused significant problems for many of his past opponents. Bowles is another of the division’s top strikers though and is particularly adept at throwing punches straight down the pipe and has solid fundamentals and decent power.
One of Faber’s best attributes is his ability to switch from striking to grappling seamlessly and I expect him to look to mix things up quite a bit in this fight. Bowles is a good wrestler too, but Faber is quicker and is terrific in the kind of fast-paced scrambles that he often finds himself caught up in. Both have good submission skills, but both are well versed enough that it won’t be easy to get the other to tap.
Conditioning isn’t a problem for either of these fighters, but if it does turn out to be a three round war I’d expect Faber to be the fresher of the two men and pushing the pace going into the final round.
I like Faber here. He might have come up short in a number of title attempts lately, but beyond that he’s still got what it takes to give everyone else an extremely tough fight. Of course it shouldn’t be forgotten that Bowles is a former WEC champ himself, but I’ve not been overly impressed with him of late and it doesn’t help that he’s continually having trouble with breaking his hands. I see Faber dicatating the pace and where the fight goes and coming out on top on the judges scorecards.
Urijah Faber to win by decision.
Rick Story vs. Martin Kampmann
Story and Kampmann are two fighters who’ve flirted on the edges of title contention at 170lbs in the past, and both will see this as a fight that can put them back on that track after recent losses.
In the stand-up department Kampmann is the better of the two men here, utilizing his muay thai strikes efficiently and effectively. He’s good enough to either pick off opponents from range, while also having the composure and counter-striking to come off best in a close-range battle with all but the very best strikers.
Story has shown that he’s no slouch in the stand-up game either, though he’s not nearly as technical or versatile as the Dane. He relies more on just being aggressive, pressing forward with straight punches and having a willingness to take a few shots to land his own.
Really though, Story’s at his best when he’s using his strikes to either set up clinch-work against the cage or take his opponent to the mat. From either position he’s a tireless worker and is continually applying pressure.
Kampmann’s ground game is surprisingly good given his striking pedigree, but he’ll have trouble finding the space and the opportunity to unleash submission attempts against Story’s stifling top control so he’d be wise to be focusing on his takedown defense instead and try to keep this one standing instead.
Kampmann has a decent chance if he can keep this one standing and pick off Story from range, but that’s easier said than done. Story is a bundle of energy and won’t be easily dettered as he presses in on ‘The Hitman’ and looks to stifle his offense and rough him up in the clinch and on the floor. I just don’t see him getting the kind of room he needs to operate and Story will end up grinding out the win.
Rick Story to win by decision.
Stephan Bonnar Vs Kyle Kingsbury
Bonnar and Kingsbury kick off the main card looking for the kind of performance that could move them closer to more meaningful fights at 205lbs.
Bonnar’s love of striking is well established. He’s not a particularly hard-hitter, but his willingness to engage in toe-to-toe slug fests coupled with a strong chin can pay dividends and he can mix things up with kicks too when the mood takes him. His biggest flaw with this strategy – apart from having a tendancy to block strikes with his jaw – is that he cuts very easily.
Kingsbury isn’t the most fluid striker around, he’s still a little stiff with his output and his defense is suspect, but he’s a big, strong 205lb’er who will stand and trade and it would be a mistake to try to eat to many of his punches. He’s also developed a solid clinch game which he uses well to fire off dangerous looking knees to the head and body.
While Bonnar is most likely to want to keep this fight standing, Kingsbury has his wrestling to draw on as well. He’ll have to be wary of Bonnar’s submission skills of his back, but at the very least the option to score takedowns at opportune moments in the fight is in his favor.
If the fight is gruelling and goes into the third round then Look for Kingsbury’s output to become more lethargic and labored, while Bonnar will bite down on his gumshield and continue pushing forward regardless of how tired or banged up he may be feeling, and that mental toughness is certainly one of his greatest assets.
I think that for significant periods of this fight Kingsbury will indulge in the stand-up battle with Bonnar which is risky given his defensive deficiencies. I think he’s tough enough to take it though, and give enough back in return to keep the fight competitive. Mix in a few takedowns along the way and that should be enough to just sneak a win on the cards.
Kyle Kingsbury to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Ryan Bader Vs Jason Brilz
Michael McDonald vs. Alex Soto
Chris Weidman vs. Tom Lawlor
Nick Pace vs. Miguel Torres
Gleison Tibau vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Danny Castillo vs. Shamar Bailey
Matt Brown vs. Seth Baczynski