Previews and Predictions
It seems like there has been a UFC card every weekend recently, not that I am complaining. Last weekend we were treated to a great card, where three of my four predictions were correct, not to toot my own horn or anything… After a great bantamweight title fight last weekend we are treated to not one, but two more title fights this weekend. Looking past the title fights, we have two matchups that have major title shot implications. The winner of the Chael Sonnen v. Brian Stann booking is looking at facing Anderson Silva for his belt; while competitor Melvin Guillard will be paying close attention to the Main Event because he may be next in line for a shot at the strap.
Prelims (Aired on Spike TV)
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (13-2) v. Jeremy Stephens (20-6)
In his last bout, Pettis was stifled by Clay Guida’s superior wrestling ability. On Saturday Showtime will be looking to further establish himself in the lightweight division with a win over Stephens. Stephens is no pushover though, he is 4-1 in his last five bouts and will look to use his heavy hands to further derail the up and comer Pettis.
Prediction: Pettis is a gifted striker, as is Stephens. This should be a great stand-up battle. I really expect the young Pettis to rebound after his loss to Guida. Pettis by Decision
Demian Maia (14-3) v. Jorge Santiago (23-9)
Here we have a match up of two fighters with incredible Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. Maia is regarded as having one of the strongest ground games in MMA, while Santiago has obtained twelve of his twenty-three wins by submission. On Saturday, these two will be looking to take the fight to the ground in order to utilize their submission skills.
Prediction: Maia is another favorite here at Moai Martial Arts. With bias aside, I still expect Maia to outclass Santiago on the ground. Maia by Submission.
Main Card (Pay-Per-View)
Leonard Garcia (15-7-1) v. Nam Phan (16-9)
This featherweight fight is a rematch of the controversial split decision that Garcia won at the The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale. Neither competitor has had much luck in the cage recently. Phan is on a two fight losing streak, one being the controversial loss to Garcia, the other to former champ Mike Brown. Garcia is 1-2 in his last three fights, with his only win against Phan. He was the victim of the first twister submission in UFC history when he lost to Chan Sung Jung in March of 2011.
Prediction: Both fighters will be looking to rebound after recent losses, as well as put the controversial decision of their last booking in the past. I believe Garcia will be in top form in order to prove the judges were right in awarding him the split decision victory at the TUF 12 Finale. Garcia by Decision.
Joe Lauzon (20-6) v. Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard (29-8-2, 1 NC)
Another booking that is a classic striker versus grappler matchup. Of Lauzon’s twenty wins, sixteen have come by decision. Whereas Guillard is just the opposite, nineteen of his twenty-nine wins have come by knockout. Guillard is a rising star in the lightweight division, after overcoming some speed bumps outside of the Octagon, Guillard has put together a five fight win streak. The recent hot streak in the cage has put him in the talk for a possible shot at the title. Lauzon is 2-2 in his last four bouts. He will certainly be looking for a submission win on Saturday, as The Young Assassin has proved susceptible to a tap out, with seven of Guillard’s eight losses have come in that fashion.
Prediction: Guillard has looked highly impressive lately. He dominated wrestler Shane Roller with his striking, and will look to do the same to the grappling focused Lauzon. If Guillard can keep Lauzon on his feet, The Young Assassin will have a decisive advantage. Guillard by KO.
Chael Sonnen (25-11-1) v. Brian Stann (11-3)
I am not a Chael Sonnen fan, I will say that now. From his elevated testosterone levels, to his money laundering schemes, the guy just annoys me to no end. I am also a red-blooded patriotic American. Therefore I can tell you that I will be pulling for Marine Captain Brian Stann on Saturday night. Stann is one of the great stories of MMA. Stann was a decorated infantry soldier in Iraq, with some of his accomplishments being praised by then President George W. Bush. This fight serves as a number one contender’s bout for a shot at Anderson Silva’s middleweight belt. We all know that Sonnen gave Silva the business for four rounds in their match at UFC 117, and Silva miraculously submitted Sonnen in the fifth and final round to retain his belt. Though that performance is marred to me by Sonnen’s failed drug test and Silva’s rumored rib injury entering the fight. Sonnen is highly ranked throughout the MMA community, but I am not truly convinced with his skills.
Prediction: After over a year out of the cage, and now regulated testosterone levels, I do not know if Sonnen will be the same fighter we saw against Silva. He will certainly be facing a solid test against Stann who has won his last three bouts, none of them going to decision. This prediction may be more with my heart than my mind (similar to when I picked Rampage to beat Jon Jones…) but I think Stann outlasts Sonnen to create a great storyline for the next middleweight title bout. Stann by decision.
Featherweight Championship Fight
Champ Jose Aldo (19-1) v. Kenny Florian (15-5)
Back in July when I published my top ten rankings, Jose Aldo came in at number three. Clearly I think highly of his skills in the cage and believe him to be one the top fighters in the world. His next title challenger on Saturday is none other than Kenny Florian A.K.A. KenFlo. I feel as though Kenny may have earned this title shot through all of the publicity work he does for the UFC, as well as his notable positive public image. Kenny is a great face for the UFC, and with his recent move to featherweight, putting his name up against the less notable Aldo is a great way to promote one of the organization’s newest divisions. Kenny seemed to never be able to get over the hump during his tenure in the lightweight division. He would go on great runs defeating contender after contender, but when his time for a title run would come, he somewhat folded under the pressure. This move to featherweight may be a last shot at Championship gold for KenFlo, and sadly, I believe that Jose Aldo is the last person he would want to face to realize his title dreams. Aldo is an absolute phenom in the cage, his strikes come lightning quick and hit like a Mack truck. I have a feeling this could be a short trip to the cage for the co-host of MMA Live on ESPN…
Prediction: Florian is ten years older than Aldo, and he still has less cage experience than the champ. Florian will always be a positive influence in the MMA community, but his days as a title contender may be numbered. Aldo has been an absolute dynamo in the Octagon, and I expect him to continue this trend on Saturday. Don’t blink your eyes during this one, it could end quicker than Ron Artest’s run on Dancing with the Stars. Aldo by Knockout. Aldo retains Featherweight belt.
Lightweight Championship Fight
Champ Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) v. Gray Maynard (10-0-1, 1 NC)
I never thought Frankie Edgar had a shot when he faced BJ Penn for his title at UFC 112. I never thought Frankie Edgar had a shot when he faced BJ Penn AGAIN at UFC 118 to defend his title. I was wrong… Frankie is not your prototypical UFC champion. He does not finish fights in exhilarating fashion, he does not have a cartoonish ego outside of the cage, nor does he have a prior career as a professional wrestler… (But you can check out his reality TV career here). Edgar simply grinds out victories in the cage; he does whatever he can to win a fight. No one would ever question Frankie Edgar about his heart or determination when he enters the cage. He has ridden that heart and determination to the top of the lightweight division, and on Saturday he faces the only fighter that has proven to be able to derail that heart, Gray Maynard.
Gray Maynard has never lost in his MMA career. His career resume features a No Contest where judges determined Maynard and his opponent were not fit to continue a bout, as well as a draw in a title fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 125. Saturday will be the third time that Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard have fought. Maynard has seemed to always have the edge in the cage against Edgar. He utilizes his size advantage and wrestling prowess to control the gritty, gutty Edgar. Maynard is one of the most gifted wrestlers in the UFC, and on Saturday I think he will further prove this point. Dana White has said that no matter the outcome, this will be the last fight in the Edgar/Maynard saga. The winner here will hold bragging rights for quite some time.
Prediction: Gray Maynard has been the only fighter to confuse, control, and conquer Frankie Edgar in the cage. In the last installment of their trilogy, I think Maynard emerges as the new UFC Lightweight Champion. Maynard by Decision. Becomes new UFC Lightweight Champion.
As always, enjoy the jam-packed card on Saturday! If your opinion differs from mine, feel free to share it in the comment section.