New Channel. Same Octagon.
Well, well, well… We are a house divided here at Moai Martial Arts. One of us will be in attendance at this Saturday’s so-called UFC Fight Night 26: Sonnen v. Shogun, while the other one of us will be here surrounded by 12 of his best friends from High School and copious amounts of adult beverages. Both of us have pretty solid weekends planned, but only the boss man will get to see the likes of Joe Lauzon, Urijah Faber, Alistair Overeem, and Shogun Rua get paid to fight in a cage with his own two eyes. Make sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages for some inside scoops from Boston from the head honcho!
Aside from updating you on our various whereabouts for this landmark UFC card, I figured I will treat you to the typical preview of this superb lineup of fights. Zuffa pulled out all the stops to launch FOX’s new 24/7 sports network with one of, if not the best, free MMA card of all time. I mean when guys like Mike Brown, internet legend Conor McGregor, and Michael Macdonald all find themselves on the prelims, you know the UFC has stepped up their booking game after the last few events lacked big name draws. Looking at the Main Card, it is built for non-stop excitement for the new FOX Sports 1 crowd (If you can’t find the new network on your TV Guide, FOX SPORTS 1 is going to take the place of the SPEED Channel that you never watched.) There are no notable ‘point fighters’, ‘wall and stall’ culprits, or ‘lay and pray’ offenders on this card and that is just fine with me. This network launch allows the sport to be seen by millions of new eyes and I am all for putting on entertaining and exciting fights for the masses. Check out my preview below!
Prelims on Facebook (Picks in BOLD)
Ramsey Nijem v. James Vick
Cody Donovan v. Ovince St. Preux
Manvel Gamburyan v. Cole Miller
Prelims on FOX Sports 1
Props to the UFC Facebook page for these handy images to make my write-up look all sorts of official. Diego Brandao is the Ultimate Fighter 14 winner and I really like him to take this one over ‘The Pit’ Daniel Pineda. Pineda has a sampling of submission wins on his resume, but Brandao has the Black Belt ground skills to neutralize any ground attack. Brandao has also shown a versatile arsenal by collecting nine knockouts in his 25 fight career. Brandao wins by submission.
Even with a recent win over the aforementioned Daniel Pineda, former WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown seems to be at a crossroads in his lengthy MMA career. Brown is 37 and has had a bumpy road since his move to the UFC. His road doesn’t get any smoother when he runs into young gun Steven Siler on Saturday. Brown has the resume to make any fighter think twice about getting in the cage with him, but I think his time may have run out. Siler wins a dominant decision.
This is where I start getting pretty damn jealous of Mr. Bossman. Watching the ‘King of Dublin’ Conor McGregor fight in Boston is going to be an absolute spectacle. McGregor almost has insurmountable hype surrounding him entering his second fight in the UFC, but if you listen to the kid talk, it is hard not to believe in his cause. Halloway is super talented, but McGregor is going to seize the moment and earn a TKO victory for the Emerald Isle.
In case you forgot (I did…) Michael McDonald is coming off an interim Title loss to Renan Barao back in February. Brad Pickett seemed to be on the brink of a title shot due to living up to his nickname ‘One-Punch’, but then went 1-1 in two awkward split decisions against Eddie Wineland and Mike Easton. Both of these guys like to stand and bang and the winner here remains relevant at 135. The more experienced Pickett takes a decision in this one.
Main Card on Fox Sports 1
There is no better way to kick off a UFC card in Boston than with a Joe Lauzon fight. If you have ever had the chance to watch J-Lau fight, you know he provides more excitement per second than damn near any fighter in the sport. His opponent, Michael Johnson is no slouch, but is coming off two tough losses. I expect Joe to be a huge hometown favorite and put on a show for the Boston faithful. Johnson has been submitted 6 times in his career, Lauzon will make it 7.
How do you follow up the excitement of a Joe Lauzon fight? Throw video game character Uriah Hall in the cage with a dude like John Howard that will willingly stand and bang with the TUF ‘monster’. After a three fight losing streak in the UFC, Howard was cut in 2011. He has cleaned up the local circuit as of late with a plethora of KO’s, but Hall will make up for that lack of killer instinct he showed in his TUF 17 Finale loss with a vintage Hall KO.
Speaking of Stand and Bang, next up Matt Brown looks to win his sixth in a row against wily vet Mike Pyle. Pyle himself is on a four fight win streak and a win on FOX Sports 1 will propel either fighter closer to the top of the division. I have a hard time not rooting for Brown and his last win against Jordan Mein proved to me he belongs towards the upper levels of the weight class. This could very easily be the Fight of the Night. Brown takes the decision and shoots up the 170 lb. ladder.
Urijah Faber (28-6) v. Yuri Alcantara (28-4, 1 NC)
You probably know who Urijah Faber is, but have a hard time putting a face to Yuri Alcantara. On recognition alone, you may not think Alcantara deserves such a high profile spot against a star like Faber, but the Brazilian BJJ black belt has been cleaning house in the lower weight classes for three years now (He even boasts a KO win over top 145 contender Ricardo Lamas) There is certainly a case for Alcantara to be in this fight, but the real case that MMA fans will be talking about after this one is Urijah Faber’s role in the Bantamweight title picture. To me, Faber seems like the Sisyphus of MMA. He perpetually reaches the zenith of the division and earns a title shot but is only sent rolling back down the ladder again with a crushing championship defeat. Ever since losing his WEC Featherweight belt in 2008, Faber has fought for other titles four times and lost them all. Other than those losses, he has looked like an absolute monster winning seven times and finishing six of those fights.
Even in 33 career fights, Alcantara has never seen anyone that sports the talent and experience that Faber does. Since this isn’t a title fight, the Sisyphus of California will likely earn a dominant win. Faber’s wrestling will allow him to get Alcantara’s back and slap on his patented rear naked choke for the submission win.
Alistair Overeem (36-12, 1 NC) v. Travis Browne (14-1-1)
As the boys over at the Co-Main Event podcast said, this fight might have the most talked about weigh in in the history of the sport. Whether Overeem shows up on the scale looking like He-Man or a doughy offensive lineman, the Internet will be abuzz with the Dutch striker’s physique. Since Overeem showed up notably “softer” before his fight with Bigfoot, many Internet commenters believed that Alistair stopped taking whatever brand of horse meat he was ingesting and thus his skills have since been diminished. If you ask me, Overeem simply didn’t take the fight with Bigfoot seriously. He thought he could waltz in to the arena and pump up the crowd and in turn knockout the sluggish Bigfoot. He won the first two rounds, but that last round was pure blasphemy by the Demolition Man. He should have beaten Bigfoot, and he knows it. The same can be said for Overeem’s opponent on Saturday Travis Browne.
In his October 2012 fight with the behemoth Brazilian, Browne blew out his leg and was significantly hampered in his movement. This allowed Bigfoot to land his ham hocks on Browne’s chin and earn a TKO victory. Without that knee injury, Browne was well on his way to defeating Bigfoot and asserting himself atop the Heavyweight division. So what will happen when these two men who should have both beaten Bigfoot tangle on Saturday? I think we finally see the Overeem we have been waiting for. The guy that we all thought would run through Brock Lesnar’s Heavyweight division when he was signed in 2011. Overeem is no spring chicken and he has a ton of miles on him, this is his chance to achieve his goal of obtaining the ever elusive UFC gold. This is truly the final test for Overeem, but having watched way too much bootleg PRIDE and K-1 Youtube footage of the guy, I still think he has what it takes to make a run in the UFC. Overeem will start that run by knocking out Travis Browne in the Second Round.
Chael Sonnen (27-13-1) v. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (21-7)
When this was announced as the Main Event for the FOX Sports 1 launch, I am sure I wasn’t the only one with some reservations. Sure, Chael can sell the hell out of a fight, but when it comes to actually fighting? He can be like watching paint dry. He could go out there and throw Shogun on his back for five rounds and leave many new fans with a bad taste in their mouths about the sport. Now, putting Shogun in this fight makes all the sense in the world, for the last ten years, the named ‘Shogun Rua’ has been synonymous with ‘awesome fights’ in the MMA lexicon. I don’t think ‘company man’ Chael will resort to laying on top of Shogun for the entire fight, but it is a legitimate possibility we have to be ready to accept. If this thing stays standing for any period of time, I see the Freddie Roach trained Shogun knocking Sonnen senseless. If Chael tries some of that spinning stuff he threw at Anderson, Shogun could end this thing quick. For some reason, likely his wrestling prowess, Chael has been a steady Vegas favorite ever since this fight became official. I am going to go against the wise guys for once and pick the underdog Shogun by a third round TKO.
Make sure to check out Twitter for any inside updates from fights! Enjoy the fights!