UFC Fight Night 24 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC Fight Night 24: "Nogueira vs. Davis" is set to go down tomorrow night (March 26, 2011) live from the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on Spike TV. In addition, we'll also provide up-to-the-minute fight recaps of the live Facebook stream beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Leading the charge into "Emerald City" is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a career-defining match-up. Will "Lil' Nog" be able to adjust his game to compensate for the righteous wrestling of opponent Phil Davis? Or will "Mr. Wonderful" send him to his second consecutive loss and straight out of the 205-pound title hunt?

In welterweight action, Anthony Johnson returns from knee surgery and an extended layoff to throw hands with British banger Dan Hardy. Can "The Outlaw" take advantage of "Rumble's" cage rust? Or will Johnson come back with a vengeance and regain some of the momentum he lost after getting submitted by Josh Koscheck?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.

I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking:

205 lbs.: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4) vs. Phil Davis (8-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: PRIDE never die? Well, it's certainly on life support. There isn't much left from the old guard these days, especially after the shellacking "Shogun" Rua took at the hands of Jon Jones back at UFC 128. That brings us to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, one of the sport's better light heavyweights in terms of balance between great striking and great jiu-jitsu.

Unfortunately neither of them seem to matter when he's faced with a great wrestler.

After a highlight-reel knockout of Luiz Cane at UFC 106 in his Octagon debut, "Lil' Nog" was outworked by Jason Brilz in his sophomore effort at UFC 114. Yes, he squeaked out the split decision win, but I don't think there's anyone not named Nogueira that was comfortable with the result of the judges' scorecards.

At the time it was easy to blame his performance on the late change in opponents (he was originally booked opposite Forrest Griffin), but his subsequent showing against Ryan Bader exposed his inability to handle high-level wrestling.

Turns out the Brilz performance wasn't a fluke after all.

That's bad news for the Brazilian, because Phil Davis is a more accomplished wrestler than both Brilz and Bader -- and he's made a career out of schooling UFC veterans on the ground.

In fact, he took Brian Stann down like a Paterson car burglar in his UFC debut just over a year ago. True, the "All American" wasn't exactly known for his wrestling, but Davis also demonstrated his "Wonderful" submission skills by tapping out Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 112) and Tim Boetsch (UFC 123).

I don't think it's any revelation to say that Davis wins this fight 10 times out of 10 if he enters the cage with the mentality that he's going to double-leg Nogueira from bell to bell. And why not? Georges St. Pierre does it to grind out the win against dangerous strikers (see Alves, Thiago) and make no mistake about it, Noggy is one bad dude on the feet.

Bad enough to win the 2006 and 2007 Brazilian Super Heavyweight Championship as well as a bronze medal in the 2007 Pan American Games, so this is hardly the place for Davis to see how far his striking has evolved.

How does this fight play out?

Well, Davis is younger, faster, stronger and too "new school" (thanks Bones) for Rogerio to keep up. Submissions are always a threat when you mix it up with a Nogueira but he couldn't seal the deal against Brilz and Bader and I don't believe he'll do it here either.

He's still too durable to finish, but Nog is going to get worked for the better part of three rounds. PRIDE is dead -- and Saturday night will be just another funeral.

Betting lines (as of March 25):

Davis: -280 ((Bet Now))

Nogueira: +210 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Davis via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Anthony Johnson (8-3) vs. Dan Hardy (23-8)

Nostradumbass predicts:  This is a tough call. On paper, I think Johnson wins this bout. He's got the size and the power to wreck just about anyone in this division and he's been paired with the perfect opponent, a cocky striker who likes to stand and trade.

What gives me pause is the baggage he's carrying into this fight. Johnson has a hard enough time making weight when he's active and now he's coasting in from a 16-month layoff and a walk-around weight of 235 pounds just a few months ago.

Even if he makes weight, that kind of drop can have a toxic effect on your body's ability to perform at a high level. Let's also keep in mind that conditioning issues are prevalent in any extended layoff and Johnson underwent knee surgery which all but guarantees no cardiovascular training for a good portion of his absence.

That's my typical wordy and long-winded way of saying he's likely to run out of gas by the end of the first round and that could be all the edge Hardy needs.

Of course "The Outlaw" has some baggage of his own.

In addition to getting KTFO by Carlos Condit in front of a hometown crowd last October, he's spent the better part of this camp obsessing over a rematch with "The Natural Born Killer."

Not a good strategy when you're facing an assassin like Johnson.

We also don't what kind of lasting effect the Condit loss will have on the Brit. Dan Henderson once told me in a dream I had where I actually got fighters to return my calls that when a guy gets creamed that badly, one of two things usually happens: They either fight more timidly or they start getting knocked out with greater frequency.

Will Hardy fall victim to one of those two scenarios?

"Rumble" has a decent wrestling background but I doubt he resorts to it and Hardy proved in the GSP fight that he's resilient enough on the ground to stay out of any real danger.

Comparing baggage to baggage, I think I have to take Hardy.

I believe he's too arrogant and too stubborn to come in any differently than his last fight and that may actually work to his advantage. Johnson has a much bigger hill to climb and his physical conditioning is going to catch up with him in this fight sooner rather than later.

Unless he turns the lights out in the opening frame, he's likely to "Crumble" (thanks Doomsday) somewhere late in the final round.

Betting lines (as of March 25):

Johnson: -190 ((Bet Now))

Hardy: +155 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Hardy via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Leonard Garcia (15-6-1) vs. Chan Sung Jung (10-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Fight of the decade, part deux. Right? Not so fast. SB Nation's Brian Hemminger does a great job of summarizing why the Garcia vs. Jung rematch won't live up to the frenetic pace of the first.

And you can blame George Roop.

From the "Korean Zombie's" post-fight blog, following his devastating knockout loss at WEC 51: "Aldo vs. Gamburyan" back in September 2010:

"Returning to the hotel ... after seeing the fans ... and the smirk from George (Roop) ... the pride I once had for fighting 'Zombie Style' has been shattered. I'm going to change. It's okay if you take away my Korean Zombie title. It's okay if everyone boos me. It's okay if no one in the world ever cheers for me again. For everyone who has supported me thus far, that I have let down ... I make this promise to you ... that I will never fight with the same style, ever again."

Sounds like we can expect a different "Zombie" this time out.

That should work in his favor seeing as how Leonard Garcia, despite his years at Jackson's MMA and deep pool of talented training partners, basically spends fifteen minutes trying to play Whac-a-Mole with his opponent's face.

The "Bad Boy" hasn't finished a fight since 2008 (a span of seven fights) but his aggression and forward movement have been known to tip the scorecards in his favor (see Phan, Nam).

Still, Jung is a better fighter than he's shown in his past couple of fights.

The South Korean was impressive under the DEEP and SENGOKU banners going 4-1 with three finishes and I believe he'll return to form as a UFC employee. I predict he enters this contest with a competent gameplan and gives Garcia plenty of room to lunge and hurl.

It may draw oohs and ahhs from the crowd, but it will also draw openings for Jung, who will intelligently and defensively work his way to a split decision victory.

Betting lines (as of March 25):

Jung: -115 ((Bet Now))

Garcia: -115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Jung via split decision

170 lbs.: Amir Sadollah (4-2) vs. DaMarques Johnson (12-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veterans Amir Sadollah (TUF 7) and DaMarques Johnson (TUF 9) will throw hands in what should be a very entertaining scrap between two hungry welterweights.

Sadollah has been up and down in his short UFC career. After his impressive win over CB Dollaway at the TUF 7 Finale, he returned from injury to get knocked silly by the hard-hitting Johny Hendricks at UFC 101.

Back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Phil Baroni and Brad Blackburn followed, but once again he was derailed when "Stun Gun" Kim outworked him en route to a decision loss at UFC 114.

He would eventually get back on his horse and rebound with a unanimous decision victory over Peter Sobotta at UFC 122. In fact, every win he's had (save for Dollaway) went to the scorecards.

I'm pretty sure that streak ends tomorrow night.

Like Sadollah, Johnson has been hot-and-cold since graduating from the Spike TV reality show. The only difference is he either finishes his opponents -- or gets finished.

He suffered a major setback at UFC on Versus 2 when he was pounded out by Matt Riddle but immediately bounced back with an impressive submission win over Mike Guymon earlier this year.

Does he have the tools to beat Sadollah?

It's hard for me to pick against Amir, even with the late change in opponents, because he's proven to be a much more cerebral fighter than the rest of his class.

I think he's a more complete fighter than Johnson in every way.

DaMarques has good submission skills, no question, but Sadollah has the superior striking and his Muay Thai is outstanding. If it stays on the feet (and I believe it will), I expect a close first round followed by a not-so-close second and finally, a finish in the third and final frame.

This is the fight for Sadollah to emphatically break his streak of decisions.

Betting lines (as of March 25):

Sadollah: -260 ((Bet Now))

Johnson: +200 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Sadollah via technical knockout

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC Fight Night 24: "Nogueira vs. Davis."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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