A unique, all-heavyweight main card awaits us at UFC 146 tomorrow night and we’ve got our predictions for all the nights big fights for you below.
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
These two heavyweights have certainly made their intentions clear in the build-up to this title fight with JDS looking for the KO while Mir is aiming for a submission win.
It makes sense. Mir is a good striker with knockout power, but he’s slower and less than dangerous than his opponent, and more importantly he doesn’t react well to getting hit hard which means a prolonged stand-up battle is a major concern for his chances of winning.
On the ground though Mir certainly has the edge. There’s talk that dos Santos has a very good BJJ game, but we’ve never seen it and considering that Mir just broke his mentor ‘Big Nog’s’ arm last time out, he could lay claim to being the best submission specialist in the division.
The problem for Mir will be getting the fight to the mat in the first place. JDS has very good takedown defense and takedowns are not his strong suit. He’s claimed that he’ll clinch and look to pull guard, but now that the Brazilian is aware of that strategy he’ll be looking to keep this fight at range, and has the footwork and sense of distance to do that.
Cardio could be a factor here. Mir is bigger than he used to be and does tire in the later rounds so a full five rounds could be challenging. I don’t believe dos Santos is a cardio machine either and does tend to be less dangerous as the fight goes on as he tries to conserve energy, but I still think he’ll be lighter on his feet in the later rounds.
Like a lot of other people I’m favoring JDS here due to his striking advantage and Mir’s tendancy to come undone mentally when he’s rocked. I think he’ll be a little cautious in the opening round as he looks to avoid the takedown threat, but then get the job done in the second.
Junior dos Santos to win by KO in RD2.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Cain Velasquez
‘Bigfoot’ claims he wasn’t mentally focused on his last fight with Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce, but says he’s 100% focused on Velasquez and he’ll have to be against the former heavyweight champion who wants to bounce back into title contention ASAP.
Silva is a big specimen indeed and will enjoy a height and reach advantage over Velasquez, but while he’s a little slow with his stand-up, he actually moves fairly well for his size. His striking is a little predictable though and he’s not an especially hard puncher (even Andrei Arlovski’s notoriously weak chin survived three rounds with him!) though so Velasquez could have some success as he’s a versatile striker who pieces his combinations of punches and kicks together well and will have a speed advantage.
Wrestling wise Velasquez has a major advantage and his ability to push a frenetic pace and stifle opponents could be a big factor here. On the mat he’ll need to be careful though as despite his size ‘Bigfoot’ is surprisingly mobile and has very good jiu-jitsu meaning that both sweeps and submissions are a possibility.
Cardio wise Velasquez has always been at the top of the game, though it’ll be interesting to see how his relative lack of fight time and injury problems affect his performance. Silva goes along ok at a measured pace, but if Velasquez is able to press the action I think he’ll struggle.
Velasquez is just the better all-round fighter here and I think we’ll see him terrorize Silva with his pace and wrestling which will give the Brazilan no room to work his BJJ. It’ll take a while to break down ‘Big Foot’ but I think there’s a chance he can still get a finish by ground and pound late in the fight.
Cain Velasquez to win by TKO in Rd3.
Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
‘PeeWee’ Herman will enjoy an advantage of five inches in height and four inches in reach in his fight with Nelson this weekend, but he’ll give away a significant amount of weight to ‘Big Country’ and may struggle to put a dent in his notoriously cast-iron jaw.
Herman’s eclectic and eye-catching striking style is fun to watch, but Nelson has the capacity to walk through that and land more straight-forward 1-2 style punches that can switch his opponents lights out. He also works effectively with dirty boxing from the clinch which could be a way to contain Herman in this fight.
While he almost completely shy’s away from it these days Nelson also has a superior ground game. His takedowns are fairly rudimentary, but once on the mat he uses his weight advantage extremely well to gain complete control over his opponent and offers a submission threat into the bargain though his ground and pound is curiously understated rather than devastating.
Herman’s speed and movement are his only real advantages here and I think whether it’s on the ground or more likely on the feet, Nelson will find a way to end this fight inside the distance.
Roy Nelson to win by KO in Rd2.
Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
A last minute change of opponent for Stuve after Mark Hunt pulled out doesn’t really offer him an advantage as Johnson is just as, if not more, dangerous.
Striking wise Struve continues to fail to use his height and reach effectively and he’ll struggle to keep his distance from Johnson tomorrow night who has a big wingspan himself, giveing up only 3.5 inches to the Dutchman despite being 7 inches smaller at 6ft 4″.
When given space and time to get comfortable Struve can put together nice combinations of punches and kicks, but he often forgoes his defensive duties in order to do so and that leaves his weak chin exposed which heavy-handed strikers have exploited in the past. Johnson certainly has the power to do likewise, and he’s also good at closing down opponents and working them over against the cage which could work very well against Struve.
One major advantage Struve does have however is in the submissions department and that just so happens to be Johnson’s achilles heel. Struve isn’t particularly great with takedowns though so he’s going to have to figure out some way to get him to the mat, and sooner rather than later.
If Struve gets this fight to the mat then he should win comfortably, but I’ve seen him taken out by too many hard-hitting heavyweights to be confident that he’ll be able to do so. I think Johnson will come out hard and fast in the first round and land a bomb on Struve’s chin that he can’t recover from.
Lavar Johnson to win by KO in Rd1.
Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic
These two are the two least high-profile heavyweights on the main card, but nevertheless I think this is a really interesting match-up between two up and coming prospects in the division.
del Rosario is an excellent stand-up fighter with a versatile arsenal of punches, kicks and knees that he weaves together very effectively. He’s not neccessarily a one-hit finisher, but his combinations can quickly wear down his opponents. Miocic is good on the feet too, being a skilled boxer who packs a good amount of power and like his opponent is light on his feet so this should be good to watch, though I’d give del Rosario the edge overall for his versatility.
Miocic is the better wrestler of the two and is the more likely to be working takedowns into his game, though he’ll have to be careful if he does so as del Rosario has the advantage in the jiu-jitsu department so again it should be an interesting battle wherever the fight goes.
The big concern for del Rosario is that this is his first fight in well over a year after suffering herniated discs from a car accident that at one point threatened to end his career. How well he’s recovered from that and how much ring rust he has could play a significant role tomorrow night. Despite appearing to be in good shape Miocic tired in the later rounds of his first UFC fight too, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to take advantage if this fight goes the distance.
This should be a very close fight, but I was impressed with del Rosario before his injury and thought he looked a very promising fighter so I’m going to gamble on him coming out on top here over three rounds, but it could easily go the other way.
Shane del Rosario to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Mike Brown vs. Daniel Pineda
Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. CB Dollaway
Edson Barboza vs. Jamie Varner
Diego Brandao vs. Darren Elkins
Paul Sass vs. Jacob Volkmann
Dan Hardy vs. Duane Ludwig
Glover Teixeira vs. Kyle Kingsbury