If you’re an avid MMA fan like yours truly, you have been yearning for this weekend of fights for some time. After tolerating skimpy cards from the world’s largest MMA promotion over the last few months, we finally get a card that is worthy of our attention from start to finish. As July 4th is upon us, this is the one weekend a year when the pop culture world at large actually pays attention to this little sport we call MMA. With Ms. Rousey’s newfound Hollywood stardom, there are going to be an unprecedented amount of eyes on this grandiose event. Let me break it down for you in the preview!
Prelims on Fox Sports 1 (8 PM)
Urijah Faber v. Alex Caceres
Now if you are a loyal reader you would have noticed that I stopped devoting space to the recent UFC preliminary fights. I made that decision as a commentary on the quality of the match-ups being presented to fight fans. Though, when a certified superstar like Urijah Faber is featured on the undercard it is worth noting. Faber is filling this role to get as many eyeballs on the prelims as possible, and therefore hopefully turn some of those viewers into PPV purchasers.
Faber last saw action against Renan Barao, where he lost via a quick TKO. I thought the referee pulled the trigger a little early but you can’t argue that Faber was getting outclassed prior to the stoppage. As for Caceres, he put together a surprising submission win over surging star Sergio Pettis in January. Faber is the 11-1 favorite, thus Vegas has done their homework on the former WEC Champ. He wins every fight that doesn’t involve a belt, usually in dominant and flamboyant fashion. That’s a law, like dinosaurs or water. Look for Faber to lock in his trademark guillotine choke and get back to his winning ways. Faber by submission.
Main Card on Pay Per View @ 10 PM (Vegas favorite in Italics)
Marcus Brimage v. Russell Doane
You can thank those two notorious juice monkeys for this fight being bumped up to the PPV card… Vegas sees this as a pick ’em fight and you would be hard pressed to find a pundit that disagrees. Brimage may be a slight favorite because of his greater name recognition, but that doesn’t mean squat come fight night. Based purely on activity, I’m going with Doane by decision here. Even though Brimage is a likeable character, he hasn’t seen the cage since last April. Ring rust is real ladies and gentleman. Doane by decision.
Uriah Hall v. Thiago Santos
We know Uriah Hall has all of the tools to be an absolute superstar in this sport. His striking is straight out of Tekken and he has the look that MMA marketers dream of. Yet, he has shown that he has a conscious and isn’t the cold blooded killer that Dana White’s TUF hype promos led us to believe. After losing two lackluster decisions where it seemed as if Hall couldn’t pull the proverbial trigger, Uriah beat the living heck out of a ragged and over the hill Chris Leben. Putting away TUF Brazil cast member Santos will prove that Hall belongs in the discussion of the division’s elite. Santos has shown susceptibility to the finish and hopefully Uriah Hall seeks one out. Hall by TKO.
Stefan Struve v. Matt Mitrione
Now if this isn’t the feel good story of the weekend, I don’t know what is. Struve’s career was thought of to be over when doctors discovered a rare heart defect. After much deliberation and treatment, Struve has been cleared to return to action. MMA fans should rejoice not just for Stefan’s well being, but for the Heavyweight division itself. Struve is the only ranked Heavyweight under the age of 30. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself!
It seems like ages ago when Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve engaged in that epic slugfest where Hunt ended up cracking Struve’s jaw and knocking a tooth through the side of his mouth. That was in March of 2013. Here we are in July of 2014, Struve may not have fought in the cage in over a year, yet he has fought to prolong his career. One has to wonder what kind of mental toll those trying months put on Struve’s mindset entering Saturday.
Opposing the towering dutchman will be the Meathead himself, Matt Mitrione. Mitrione seems to be in a perpetual cycle of winning one fight impressively, then dropping the next without as much as a whimper. His power will always be his best weapon, but you never know what kind of shape he will be in when he hits the cage. In an ideal world with a 100% healthy Stefan Struve, I don’t see this as much of a contest. Struve has gone through too much for this story to end now. He has faced off against the top of the division and succeeded, as long as his health issues don’t hinder him, Struve works out a TKO from distance. Struve by TKO.
Women’s Bantamweight Championship
Champion Ronda Rousey v. Alexis Davis
When you read the title of this blog, who did you think I was referring to? Rousey or Weidman? That may be a mystery that is never revealed, yet I will still share some of my feelings on the subject (as this fight is a mere formality…). Rousey is the biggest star in the UFC. No one, not Jon Jones, not Cain Velasquez, can turn as many heads towards the MMA spotlight as she can. She is a dominant champion with a personality to boot. Hollywood loves her, ESPN loves her, Dana White loves her. She has the looks and the skills to challenge Chuck Liddell as the pop culture representative of MMA.
As for this fight, the ‘distraction’ talk can be put to bed. Rousey has personally said that this has been her most relaxed camp to date in her UFC tenure. That scares me for Alexis Davis’ safety. If you watched Alexis Davis fight Jessica Eye at UFC 170 and thought, “One of those women can beat Ronda,” I want some of what you were smoking…
Davis is the first BJJ black belt to take on Rousey, still she hasn’t been able to really utilize her ground skills against the rest of the Bantamweight division. Davis has seen three straight decisions, and this one won’t be going to the judges, that’s for sure. Ronda’s judo is otherworldly. I don’t care who Davis trained with, who her husband is, or how many belts she has. Ronda is going to toss her on her butt in the first round and snatch an arm. Truthfully, if you predict anything else, you are trying to be some sort of MMA hipster contrarian. Rousey by armbar.
Champion Chris Weidman v. Lyoto Machida
If Chris Weidman was seeking a definitive win to legitimize his title reign, Lyoto Machida is not the opponent to get it against. Machida has as history against American wrestlers. He has the ability to bait the hard-headed grapplers into his range and land precision strikes that often land with serious pop. Randy Couture, Ryan Bader, and Mark Munoz all felt the brunt of these attacks. Still, I’m not so sure Weidman will become a fourth victim of Machida’s trap.
First of all, Weidman is a far superior athlete compared to those three. Phil Davis gave Machida fits with his speed and ability to cut off angles. Weidman isn’t necessarily quick, but he can explode and connect with blinding speed (See Silva I). Second, Weidman is stronger than all of the wrestlers that fell to The Dragon. Dan Henderson and his old man strength proved to stifle Machida’s movement, yet the judges did not believe that was worth a victory… Chris Weidman is the toughest opponent Machida has seen since a young Jon Jones. Power, athleticism, and grappling all favor the New Yorker on Saturday night. Still, Machida has the ability to frustrate and fire like no other.
I see this fight going two possible ways. The first scenario plays out much like the first Weidman/Silva scrap. Weidman will surprise Machida and land a big shot early that certifies the Long Islander as the true 185 king. The other possiblity resembles a typical Machida fight. He will dance around the outside and pick his spots to sting the increasingly frustrated Weidman. The Dragon will connect often, but do little damage. This evasive style will allow him to win 3 rounds on the judges scorecards and Machida Era 2.0 will begin.
Officially, I have to side with the first option. If Chris Weidman could dominate Anderson Silva twice, I think he has the ability to do the same to Lyoto Machida. He will grab a hold of the prancing Dragon and land a clean shot from the clinch that extinguishes his fire. Weidman by KO.