It’s about time.
This Saturday (Nov. 19, 2011), Pride FC legends Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua will collide inside the Octagon in what very well may be a 205-pound number one contender eliminator match in the UFC 139 main event.
In addition, former bantamweight champions Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles will go head-to-head for another crack at Dominick Cruz, while Strikeforce sensation Cung Le will return to the cage after more than a year away to face one of the most beloved fighters in history: the legendary "Axe Murderer," Wanderlei Silva.
UFC 139: "Shogun vs. Henderson" will take place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., and be available to watch on pay-per-view (PPV), beginning at 9 p.m. ET on fight night.
Follow me into the extended entry for a breakdown of the five fights that comprise the Facebook portion of the under card:
185 lbs.: Tom Lawlor vs. Chris Weidman
Everyone loves a showman.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) class clown Tom Lawlor (7-3, 1 NC) -- legendary for his hilarious weigh-in impersonations -- looked on the verge of being cut as he stepped into the cage against former title challenger Patrick Cote at UFC 121 back in Oct. 2010. Despite upsetting C.B. Dollaway in less than one minute at UFC 100, Lawlor had dropped two straight. Thankfully for fans of the eccentric The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran, he controlled the Canadian brawler on the ground and secured a unanimous decision. Now a year removed from the cage because of injury, "The Filthy Mauler" is out to prove that the middleweight division hasn’t passed him by.
Chris Weidman (6-0), a former All-American wrestler and jiu-jitsu prodigy, was given one of the unfriendliest UFC debuts to date, taking on deadly Italian striker Alessio Sakara on just two weeks’ notice. Weidman, who has given recent ADCC Absolute champion André Galvão one of his toughest grappling matches to date, easily handled Sakara, cutting him up badly en route to a dominant decision. After nearly tearing grappling specialist Jesse Bongfeldt’s head off at UFC 131 (also on short notice), "All American's" hype train is at full speed, and he has every intention of running over anyone, like Lawlor, unfortunate enough to find himself on the tracks.
This may be oversimplifying things a little, but the result of this fight seems fairly straightforward:
What is Lawlor good at? Wrestling and chokes. What is Weidman good at? Wrestling and chokes. And who is better at both those things?
Probably the multiple-time All-American who gave Andre Galvão a closer fight than Rousimar Palhares after only a year of jiu-jitsu training. This is just a stylistic nightmare for Lawlor, who not only will have even less of an experience advantage than the last couple guys Weidman fought, but who also hasn’t fought in a year. I don’t think this is even going to be close, actually. Look for Weidman to get Lawlor down early, latch onto his neck, and squeeze Lawlor into submission in short order.
Prediction: Weidman via first round submission
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Lightweight leviathan Gleison Tibau (24-7), who for reasons I don’t understand chooses not to use his very awesome real name (Janigleison Herculano Alves), has been knocking at the door of contendership for quite a while, but has never managed to take that final step. Though his losses to Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller weren’t exactly disastrous, the American Top Team product still has yet to break into the elite. Recently, though, he’s been on the right track, scoring a decision win over Kurt Pellegrino and a dominating submission of Rafaello Oliveira. Against dos Anjos, he’ll look to put together a third consecutive win for the first time in his UFC career.
Rafael dos Anjos (15-5), coming back from a nearly year-long layoff after getting his jaw broken by Clay Guida, was not expected to be anything more than a roadblock for big-time prospect George Sotiropoulos at UFC 132, himself coming off a decisive loss to Dennis Siver. Shockingly, the Brazilian, who had but a single knockout win up to that point, crushed the Aussie grappler with a right hook in less than one minute. This wasn’t the first time dos Anjos had played spoiler -- a year earlier he submitted English prospect Terry Etim with a beautiful armbar in the second round of their UFC 112 showdown. Riding high on a wave of momentum, crushing Tibau would put Rafael dos Anjos in a great spot in the murderous UFC lightweight division.
Tibau is a phenomenally frustrating fighter to watch. He has big power, a significant size advantage over 90 percent of the division, a very effective grappling game and a complete inability to utilize them with any sort of consistency. He was giving Jim Miller some problems in their fight, but was unable to muster consistent offense after the first round. Plus, the Pellegrino fight could have gone either way.
Dos Anjos, on the other hand, has looked excellent since eating one of the nastiest uppercuts in UFC history against Jeremy Stephens. In addition, while I’m of the firm belief that there is no such thing as a lucky punch, if he fought Guida 10 more times, I highly doubt that jaw-breaking hook "The Carpenter" landed would land again. Also, even with the broken jaw, dos Anjos was still arguably winning the fight before being "submitted."
With all that said, I’m still throwing my lot in with Tibau.
All things being equal, take the guy with better wrestling. Dos Anjos is a phenomenal jiu-jitsu player, but he seemed entirely unable to fight back against Guida once he was put on his back. Granted, there are very few people out there who can fight back with Clay Guida in full Snuggie-mode, but considering he’ll face an absolute giant with a relentless takedown attack, I have my doubts as to his offensive efficacy. Plus, his best stand up weapon -- his leg kicks -- may be neutralized by the threat of a takedown from Tibau.
I’m very much looking forward to this fight -- it should be entertaining no matter where it goes,. But, I expect Tibau to maintain top control long enough to secure a narrow decision.
Prediction: Tibau via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Miguel Torres vs. Nick Pace
Mighty, fallen, etcetera etcetera.
Former bantamweight deity Miguel Torres (39-4) hasn’t been having the best few years. Not only was he brutally knocked out by Brian Bowles and carved up by Joseph Benavidez, he has also gone 1-1 in the UFC, scoring a dull decision win over a massively outsized Antonio Banuelos and being narrowly defeated by Demetrious Johnson in a bout that had many questioning the current scoring system. Nevertheless, a loss is a loss, and considering he’s had three of those in his past five fights, he simply cannot afford another.
Nick Pace (6-2) hasn’t been doing much better. After getting manhandled by Demetrious Johnson in his WEC debut, the Tiger Schulmann fighter missed weight for his first UFC bout, and despite submitting Will Campuzano with a never-before-seen no-arm triangle, was denied "Submission of the Night." While he was actually NOT the one who missed weight in his subsequent bout against Ivan Menjivar, he was unable to overcome the striking prowess of the "Pride of El Salvador." Now 1-2 under the ZUFFA umbrella, he could very well be fighting for his job against the former WEC champion.
Dear UFC brass: there is a right way and a wrong way to treat a promising prospect. Throwing him in against two consecutive top-tier bantamweights is the latter. Granted, Torres hasn’t been setting the world on fire lately, but considering that all three of the guys he lost to wound up fighting for the title, I think he’s still a pretty dangerous opponent for everyone.
Plus, you could easily make the argument that he won the Johnson fight, as he had "Mighty Mouse" in all sorts of trouble from his guard. Pace is a solid grappler, but there’s a pretty freaking big difference between submitting Will Campuzano and handling a well-travelled jiu-jitsu expert like Torres. He doesn’t have the startling power of Bowles or the blitzkrieg wrestling of Benavidez or Johnson, and even if he does manage to get Torres to the ground, I doubt he’ll be able to overcome the former champ’s guard work. The experience gap will just be too much for Pace, who’s going to find himself caught in a nasty triangle sometime in the early going.
Prediction: Torres via first round submission
170 lbs.: Matt Brown vs. Seth Baczynski
"Come back with your shield or on it."
Welterweight striking machine Matt Brown (12-10) went to the judges in his last fight with John Howard. Considering he’d only ever won one fight that went past three rounds, this was a new experience for the veteran. Prior to this effort, "The Immortal" had lost three straight, all by submission, and looked to be at a point where not even his balls-out style could keep him employed. Luckily for fans of the scrappy brawler, the win over Howard gave him a reprieve, one he intends to take full advantage of against Baczynski.
While the title of "unluckiest man on TUF 11" went to Kyacey Uscola, who had his pecker mangled by feral dogs, Baczynski (14-6) was the runner up. Near the end of the first round of his fight with Brad Tavares on the show, "The Polish Pistola" inadvertently soccer kicked his foe, losing the fight via disqualification. In their battle on the show’s finale, the two went back-and-forth for three rounds, with Tavares eking out a questionable decision. After two impressive stoppages on the regional circuit (including one that saw him come back from a broken arm in the first round to knockout his opponent), though, he was invited back and demolished Clay Harvison on short notice. He’ll need more of the same to survive the nasty striking of Brown.
I’ll grant that Brown didn’t exactly get submitted by scrubs -- Brian Foster, Chris Lytle and Ricardo Almeida are all noted grapplers. Still, eight submission losses is a pretty hard statistic to ignore, and as good as he looked against Howard, "Doomsday" executed one of the more boneheaded gameplans in recent memory by completely abandoning his vaunted punching and kicking power in favor of repeated, impotent takedowns. Baczynski hasn’t been fighting the cream of the crop, but his grappling should be more than enough to overcome Brown’s questionable submission defense. There’s always the chance that Brown will blast Baczynski standing before he gets the chance to bring it to the ground, but I simply can’t, in good conscience, pick a guy with that many submission losses over someone I know to be a solid grappler. Whatever happens, this fight ought to be excellent -- all but one of their combined 26 wins have come via decision. This fight’s going to continue two trends: Matt Brown never being in a boring fight, and Matt Brown getting submitted before the third round.
Prediction: Baczynski via first round submission
Just another wannabe TUF guy?
Shamar Bailey (12-4), Junior dos Santos’s first pick on TUF 13, had some pretty lofty expectations to meet, and seemed on his way to doing so after smothering Nordon Asrih for two rounds. Unfortunately, he went on to lose a decision to Chris Cope and, despite grinding out Ryan McGillivray on the show’s finale, may find himself on the chopping block after getting completely outclassed by Evan Dunham. Now having lost three of his last four fights and not possessing the most crowd-pleasing style in the world, a dominating win over Alpha Male’s lightweight representative may be necessary for his continued employment.
Castillo (11-4), a WEC veteran whose biggest highlight in that organization was a brutal head kick loss to Anthony Pettis, looked on the right track toward establishing himself as a credible contender after easily outclassing Joe Stevenson. Several takedowns and a veritable cavalcade of D’arce attempts from Jacob Volkmann, however, knocked "Last Call" down to size. With Chad Mendes fighting for a title in 2012 and Urijah Faber facing off against Brian Bowles for another shot at Dominick Cruz, Castillo has a high bar to clear if he wants to properly represent Alpha Male, and a domination of Bailey would be a good first step.
Dunham is a phenomenal fighter despite his beatdown at the hands of Melvin Guillard, so there’s no shame in dropping a decision to him, but Bailey has been consistently underwhelming. He went on the show in the midst of a two-fight losing streak, and he really has demonstrated no skills besides a solid wrestling game.
Despite the loss to Volkmann, who I consider very underrated, Castillo is a very good fighter. While he’s generally faltered at the upper level of competition, Shamar Bailey is not at the upper level of competition. Castillo also has a solid wrestling game, honed by the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes, and his striking is nothing to scoff at. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if Shamar managed to "Fitch" his way to another unanimous decision, but there’s a pretty significant gap between the two in every other area, one that I don’t think Bailey will be able to overcome. Look for Castillo to control the bout on the feet, generally breaking even with Bailey when he tries a takedown and racking up enough point to take home the decision.
Prediction: Castillo via unanimous decision
See you then.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 139, beginning with the preliminary card bouts on Facebook scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.