The UFC’s final live show on Versus takes place on Saturday night and you can check out our preview and predictions for it below.
Dominick Cruz vs. Demetrious Johnson
For the first time on Versus the UFC brings a title fight as bantamweight belt holder Cruz takes on the diminutive ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson.
Cruz has proven to be a puzzle that’s hard to crack for his fellow 135lb contenders for the past few years, and the primary reason is unique striking style. Nobody moves quite like Cruz…perhaps lightweight champ Frankie Edgar gets close, but ‘Dominator’s’ tireless footwork, stance switches and in-and-out style are largely unique. Like Edgar the one thing he lacks is knockout power, but he breaks down opponents through the sheer volume, variety and speed of strikes he throws over the course of five rounds.
Johnson’s stature puts him at an immediate disadvantage in the striking department – at 5ft 3″ tall he’s giving up 5″ to Cruz, though only 2″ in reach. He makes up for that though by being exceptionally fast, and like Cruz he’s a tireless worker. The stand-up game isn’t his strong suit and he’s not a power puncher, but he’s capable and certainly a tough nut to crack.
Where ‘Mighty Mouse’ really excels is with his wrestling. He has a lightning quick takedown ability and very good technique to go with it, and his size doesn’t stop him from doing a fine job of controlling the fight from top position, with both ground and pound and submissions being a viable option.
So this will be an interesting test for Cruz on the ground, but he has the skills to cope, with his movement for one thing making him hard to shoot in on in the first place, while his takedown defence is generally very good and he’s excellent in scrambles.
I think this is another winnable fight for Cruz. Johnson is a worthy contender, but I don’t think he’s any better than the likes of Faber, Benavidez and Jorgensen who’ve come before him (though perhaps faster). I don’t think ‘Mighty Mouse’ has the stand-up technique to really combat Cruz’s style, and think that while he might have some successes taking him down he’ll struggle to keep him their for long or deal the kind of damage that will swing the fight in his favor.
Domnick Cruz to win by decision
Pat Barry vs. Stefan Struve
This heavyweight fight will be something of a spectacle given that there’s a full 12″ height differential between the two men, the largest in UFC history according to Joe Silva.
That fact is going to pose problems for Barry who’s the smaller man here and will also give up 8.5″ in reach, but it’s not an unsurmountable task for him. For one thing, at 5ft 11″ he’s used to being the smaller man in the heavyweight ranks, and his favored weapon is leg kicks which are arguably the most devastating in the division and bodes well against a taller man with long, lean legs. While he favors kicks he’s also got heavy hands as both Cheick Kongo and Mirko Cro Cop can testify having been dropped in their fights with him.
Struve also struggles to use his physical gifts effectively, never quite appearing to have mastered the long range he needs to be fighting at, and without that he leaves himself vulnerable as he’s been proven to have a somewhat fragile chin and doesn’t protect it as carefully as he should. That said he is a gritty competitor, has good kickboxing skills, and trains with some of Holland’s best strikers. He’s also continue to slowly fill out his frame, now coming in at 261lbs, 6lbs heavier than his last outing.
The key to this fight for Struve may not be in the stand-up however despite his size advantage as he holds a definitive advantage on the ground. He’s a proven finisher with submissions from both his back and on top, and is only aided in this regard by his long limbs. On the other hand Barry is inexperienced and uncomfortable on the ground so he has to avoid going to the mat at all costs.
This is a tough one. If it stays on the feet I actually like Barry to come out on top, but if Struve plays it smart and takes the fight to the floor then it’s hard to imagine him not emerging with a victory. The problem with Barry’s strategy on the feet is that chopping away at Struve’s legs, while effective, will take time to really pay dividends and I think will eventually force Struve’s hand to taking this fight to the floor where a submission victory surely awaits. If Barry can find a way to connect with Struve’s chin before that on the feet though then it could be lights out for the Dutchman.
Stefan Struve to win by submission in Rd2
Anthony Johnson vs. Charlie Brenneman
This is a fight between two welterweight contenders who could go on to bigger and better things with a victory here.
In the stand-up department Johnson is the clear favorite here. He’s a very dangerous striker as is highlighted by the fact that five of his six UFC victories have ended by some form of knockout. At 6ft 2″, with a 78″ reach and coming in north of 190lbs come fight night he’s also a nightmare in terms of reach, strength and power for his welterweight opponents.
That includes Brenneman who comes up 4 inches short in height and daunting 8 inches in reach for this bout. Striking is not his strong suit anyway, but facts like these make it clear that he has to find a way to get Johnson down sooner rather than later.
He certainly has the wrestling pedigree to do that as he showed which his upset win over Rick Story last time out, but the problem will be finding a way to close the distance safely and effectively without getting caught in order to get the takedown. he’ll also have to deal with the fact that Johnson is not only stronger, but also despite primarily being a striker also has a wrestling background of his own and will be using that to stay upright.
If he can be taken down Johnson is somewhat vulnerable to submissions, but that’s not generally Brenneman’s M.O and he’s likely focus more on positional control mixed with some ground and pound thrown in for good measure. His best bet will be to drag this fight in the deep waters of the later rounds when the brutal weight cut that ‘Rumble’ puts himself will be starting to take it’s toll.
I’m not convinced that Brenneman will have a great deal of success taking Johnson down, or be able to put him away if he does get him on his back. On the other hand, if Johnson sees an opening on the feet he’ll exploit it, and he has fight ending power in his fists. I can see him doing just that either late in the first or early in the second round before fatigue becomes a factor.
Anthony Johnson to win by KO in Rd1.
Matt Wiman vs. Mac Danzig
Wiman and Danzig meet for a second time after their original scrap was ended controversially when the referee incorrectly asserted that Danzig had passed out during a choke hold.
Wiman is the better stand-up technician of the two, fighting at a faster tempo, being more dynamic and owning a harder chin. Danzig seems more labored by comparison, but has decent technique and showed with a KO over Joe Stevenson in his last visit to the Octagon that he’s also got some power too, though that may flatter to deceive somewhat.
Both men are perhaps at their best on the ground though, with Wiman doing a good job of transitioning from striking to takedowns and then laying down some of the most active ground and pound assaults in the divison, while also being good in scrambles and being submission savvy.
Danzig is a skilled and intelligent grappler in his own right though and will be a real threat with submissions. The fact that Wiman had him down and in a potentially fight ending submission last time out will surely be a concern going into this bout however.
I can see Wiman having his hand raised again here, though I don’t expect it to end as quickly second time round. I think Wiman’s pace is key here. That was the difference for me last time out – Danzig struggled to adjust to the tempo and found himself overwhelmed before he had time to adjust. He’ll be better prepared this time out, but I still think he’ll struggle to keep up as Wiman pushes forward relentlessly and as a result will lose out on the judges decision.
Matt Wiman to win by decision.
Prelims: (predicted winners in bold)
Yves Edwards vs. Rafaello Oliveira
Michael Johnson vs. Paul Sass
Mike Easton vs. Byron Bloodworth
Shane Roller vs. T.J. Grant
Josh Neer vs. Keith Wisniewski
Walel Watson vs. Joseph Sandoval