The UFC seems to be just cranking out events lately, eh? After this past weekend’s debut on Fox, with Junior Dos Santos becoming the new Heavyweight Champion in astounding fashion, the UFC comes up with another great card. There are seven former Champions on the card, with six of them facing off against each other in the final three fights of the night. We will see a Bantamweight showdown between former champs Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles, the winner likely earning a title shot against Champ Dominick Cruz. The booking of Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le has MMA fans across the globe salivating, as these two strikers will look to connect with combinations early and often. The main event of the evening marks the return of Dan Henderson to the UFC. After leaving the organization amidst contract disputes, Henderson went on to win the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title. He returns to the UFC to face off against former UFC Light Heavyweight Champ, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, who is looking to win and stand alone atop the division in order to earn a shot at reclaiming his belt. UFC 139 is an absolutely stacked card from top to bottom, so on to the preview…
Quick Note about the Prelims: I highly advise MMA fans out there to check out the prelim fights streaming on Facebook. All you have to do is ‘Like’ the UFC and you will gain access to the stream of some top-notch bouts. Miguel Torres is facing Nick Pace on the undercard, and Torres is one of the most talented fighters in MMA. His WEC Bantamweight title run from 2008-2009 is stuff of legend. I fully expect him to defeat his opponent Nick Pace, most likely by submission.
Televised Preliminary Fights:
Michael McDonald (13-1) vs. Alex Soto (6-0-1)
No, not that Michael McDonald… McDonald is a young fighter being only 20 years old, but don’t let his age fool you. He has been in the fight game since 2007, and is always a contender for Fight of the Night honors. His well-rounded skills in the cage have put him on a six-fight win streak, with two of those wins coming in the UFC. His opponent, Alex Soto, is a late replacement for the card. Soto is an Army veteran and former Dolphin trainer. I do not know if Soto’s well-rounded and respectable skills outside of the cage can match McDonald’s when the bell sounds.
Prediction: McDonald is a young, promising fighter growing up before our eyes within the organization. Though Soto is undefeated, this will be his first fight in a major promotion. It may not be a very warm welcome. McDonald by Decision.
Ryan Bader (12-2) v. Jason Brilz (18-4-1)
After his UFC 119 win over Lil’ Nog, the stock on Ryan Bader could not have been higher, but following two consecutive submission losses to Bones Jones and Tito Jameson Ortiz, Bader has found himself at the bottom of the barrel in the Light Heavyweight division. Opposing him on Saturday will be fellow collegiate wrestler Jason Brilz. Brilz is 1-3 in his last four bouts, with two consecutive losses to Lil’ Nog and MMA journeyman Vladimir Matyushenko. Bader needs to get back on track in the Octagon if he wants to reclaim his spot as a contender for the light heavyweight belt.
Prediction: Bader has an incredible amount of raw talent. He shouldn’t let his two losses derail his bright future in the organization. I think he attempts to prove a point on Saturday and uses his heavy hands to defeat a fellow wrestler. Bader by KO.
Stephan Bonnar (13-7) v. Kyle Kingsbury (11-2 1 NC)
We all know that Stephan Bonnar will be fighting in the UFC until he needs a walker to climb into the cage because of his landmark bout with Forrest Griffin, but Bonnar has seen somewhat of a resurgence in his last two fights. He avenged a loss to promising prospect Krzysztof Soszynski with an impressive knockout at UFC 116, and he earned a decision over Igor Pokrajec at the TUF 12 Finale. Instead of another member of the Eastern Bloc, Bonnar faces TUF vet Kyle Kingsbury on Saturday.
Prediction: Kingsbury is relatively inexperienced against top competition, and I expect Bonnar to use his ring savvy to grind this one out against Kingsbury. Bonnar by Decision.
Martin Kampmann (17-5) v. Rick Story (13-4)
This is an intriguing welterweight bout. Story was putting together an impressive six-fight win streak before his decision loss to Charlie Brenneman in June. Though due to scheduling conflicts, Story took the bout with Brenneman on one day’s notice and was not truly prepared for the bout with the rangy wrestler. Story looks to get back on track against Martin Kampmann who is 2-3 in his last five bouts. Following decision losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Kampmann finds himself free falling in the division rankings. These two should put on a great show looking to cement themselves back at the top of the division.
Prediction: Story was on a great run before an odd fight booking put him in a tough situation against Brenneman. I feel as though he will get back on track on Saturday. Story by Decision.
Urijah Faber (25-5) v. Brian Bowles (10-1)
Here we go. Every fight from here on out pits one former champion against another. This bantamweight fight will also determine the top contender for a shot against Dominick Cruz for his belt. Both fighters also have recent losses to Cruz that they would love to avenge by taking his belt. Both fighters have looked impressive of late, besides his decision loss to Cruz, Faber has been on his game earning various fight bonuses for his performances in the cage. Bowles has looked sharp as well. Besides his Bieber-esque hair cut, he has put together two strong wins over top contenders in the division. This will be an all out war on Saturday. These two 135 pounders will come out swinging in the first minute and won’t stop until the final bell.
Prediction: Both fighters have amassed most of their wins by submission; therefore, I think this fight will end with someone losing the blood flow to their brain. That being said, I need to pick one of these contenders to get in the position to put that choke in place… People hate Faber, they hate that he ends up in K-Swiss, commercials (with one of the most hilarious characters on television today), and on the cover of UFC videogames without showing much in the cage. I think he proves them wrong on Saturday and earns another shot at Cruz’s belt, promising a championship bout that will not disappoint. Faber by Submission.
Wanderlei Silva (33-1-1, 1 NC) v. Cung Le (7-1 MMA, 17-0 Kickboxing)
This is every MMA fan’s dream. Two legends that are going to start throwing haymakers as soon as Michael Buffer stops shouting nonsense and the cage door closes. Le isn’t as prevalent on the MMA scene as much as a world- class striker should be, but that is because he has been devoting time to making cinematic classics such as 2010’s Tekken and 2009’s bluntly titled Fighting. Le’s kicks are lethal, but the vicious assaults that ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva handed out in his Pride days have earned him millions of loyal fans across the globe. The truth is though, that those assaults have been few and far between in the UFC. Silva is just 3-6 in the organization, and his most recent time out against Chris Leben ended in just 27 seconds when Leben sent Silva to the mat with a devastating punch. This quick KO and recent string of less than stellar performances has led to some MMA fans question whether Wanderlei still belongs in the ring. I feel as though fans will always root for him no matter what, as they hope for him to reclaim some of the magic that he had many years ago. We saw recently with Cro Cop that this magic just does not come back to aging brawlers, and it may be in the fighter’s best interest to hang up the gloves.
Silva and Le provide a match-up that isn’t often seen in the UFC today with the organization being overrun by wrestlers and kids who have been training in ‘MMA’ since they fell out of the womb. Silva is a brawler throwing ‘punches-in-bunches”, while Le is an undefeated kick boxer whose kicks seem to come out of nowhere to connect with his opponent’s heads. If you watched Le’s last fight against Scott Smith, he controlled Smith by landing devastating kicks to the body, but when these kicks staggered Smith and knocked him down, Le did not seem to have the killer instinct to smother Smith and end the fight. This has me questioning Le’s conditioning and punching power. Le knocked Smith down with body kicks on multiple occasions but never truly delivered the finishing blow to end the fight. Le just threw soft shots to Smith’s head to eventually get the ref to end the fight. This is where Wanderlei may be able to reclaim some of his past glory.
Prediction: Wanderlei is in great shape of late, but I don’t think his chin is what it used to be. I mean, Chris Leben? Really? Le is just way too strong of a striker for Wanderlei to deal with at this point in his career. Even if Wandy does land some decent shots, I think Le will be able to land that one shot that puts Wandy on the floor. Le by KO.
Dan Henderson (28-8) v. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (20-5)
This number one contender’s bout for Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title is sure to be a slugfest. The main event Saturday features a matchup of two Pride legends who oddly never met while fighting in Japan. Though Henderson did defeat Shogun’s brother Murilo Rua in 2001. It is absurd that Henderson is still in contention nearly ten years after that fight, but that just proves how great of an athlete Hendo is.
Both of these competitors have been near the top of their respective divisions in the past few years. Shogun defeated a line of UFC Hall of Famers to earn a shot at Lyoto Machida for the title in late 2009. After a highly contested first contest where Rua lost by decision, Rua earned a rematch and decimated Machida to win the strap. Rua then subsequently lost the title to current Champion Jon Jones in a similarly crushing fashion. Rua came back to avenge his loss to Forrest Griffin by repeatedly bouncing Forrest’s head off the canvas with his fists.
On the other side of the cage will be forty-one year old Dan Henderson. After losing to Anderson Silva in early 2008, Henderson is 6-1, with his only loss coming by decision to Jake Shields. While in the Strikeforce organization for his last three bouts, Henderson has rattled off victories against ‘Babalu’ Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante, and Fedor Emelianenko. By defeating Cavalcante, Henderson won the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title, but he later vacated the title in order to seemingly retire the once great Fedor Emelianenko this July.
Both fighters are truly at the top of their games. Each are eager for a shot at the young, inexperienced, but freakishly talented Jon Jones for his title. These two will be ready to go to war on Saturday; I highly doubt this one goes to the judge’s scorecards.
Prediction: Shogun has only truly been knocked out one time, and that was by none other than Jon Jones. In turn, Henderson has NEVER been knocked out. Henderson has moved away from his wrestling roots in recent years and become dependent on the frag grenade that is attached to the end of his wrist, but it seems to be working for Hendo, just ask Michael Bisping. Shogun will be looking to scrap on his feet as well, as he has won 17 of 20 bouts by knocking out his opponent. Though if the fight does end up on the ground, I would assume Hendo has the edge due to his wrestling prowess. The old guy’s cardio has become suspect in recent years, just check out his bout with Jake Shields, as Hendo was gassed early in the first round. This is a near impossible fight to call. Vegas says Shogun has the edge, but both have a puncher’s chance. My scientific MMA mind tells me that if the bout goes one round, it would be because Hendo knocked Shogun’s head off, if it goes three, I would believe Shogun would be able to grind out the decision. But you are reading this for my pick, and here it is… Hendo by KO!
I really think the last two bouts on this card are toss ups. These were the opinions I came up with, if you think differently let me know in the comment section. Enjoy the fights!