Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just hours away from pressing a damp cloth against the parched lips of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans everywhere, who've been thirsting for caged combat ever since the world's largest fight promotion did its thing overseas back in February.
While tomorrow night's (April 14, 2012) brouhaha is not a full blown pay-per-view (PPV) event, like next week's UFC 145: "Jones vs. Evans" extravaganza, it's the next best thing.
And it's free!
UFC on FUEL TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva" will mark the promotion's Swedish debut, with a well-rounded fight card headlined by native son Alexander Gustafsson, who's sure to have Stockholm's Ericsson Globe Arena on its feet when he trades punches with Brazilian bruiser Thiago Silva.
Also dropping bombs on the televised main card is middleweight ambassador Brian Stann, who wants to dishonorably discharge Alessio Sakara from the 185-pound title race and get himself back into contention before the year's out.
But that's not all.
We'll get into the meat and potatoes of the "Gustafsson vs. Silva" fight card, including predictions for all six FUEL TV match-ups, after the jump.205 lbs.: Alexander Gustafsson (13-1) vs. Thiago Silva (14-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Thiago Silva is a bully with a ground game. Not just any ground game, either, but the kind of oppressive top control that can break a lot of fighters. His ruthless attack inside the cage, coupled with his menacing disposition outside of it, has given him an air of invincibility that I believe he's yet to earn.
Just look at his record.
He doesn't own one victory over an active UFC fighter. His last three wins came at the expense of Keith Jardine, Antonio Mendes and Houston Alexander. He dominated Brandon Vera at UFC 125 to kick off his 2011 fight campaign, but had that result changed to a "no contest" when he pissed in a cup and the damn thing caught on fire.
And I haven't even gotten to his bad back.
Or his 13-month layoff, which is going to be his undoing tomorrow night. Even when he was active, he was basically a one round fighter. That's what happens when you go balls-to-the-wall from bell to bell and he's a little on the thick side anyway.
But let's not place all the blame on Silva.
He's not losing this fight -- Alexander Gustafsson is winning it -- if that makes any sense. While it's been exciting to watch his progress, it does come with a word of caution. He beat Matt Hamill like a rented mule at UFC 133, but "The Hammer" was already pondering retirement before the bout.
He also knocked out Vladimir Matyushenko, thanks to "The Janitor's" decision to use his chin as a battering ram. I don't want to go crazy over his submission loss to Phil Davis because I believe it was an error in gameplanning, not ability, that cost him that fight. That was a time when "Mr. Wonderful" was still relatively unknown and his wrestling probably caught "The Mauler" by surprise.
So how does he win?
The Swede has fantastic hands, and as we saw in the Vera fight, Silva can't hang when it becomes a technical striking match. The Brazilian needs to close the distance and bully his foe to be effective and it wouldn't surprise me to see him win the opening frame.
Unfortunately by the second bell he'll be out of gas, betrayed by his ailing back and an extended absence, allowing Gustafsson to work him over for the next 10 minutes en route to a convincing unanimous decision win.
Prediction: Gustafsson def. Silva via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Back in 2007, I did an interview with Alessio Sakara and I gotta tell you, he's a really cool guy. Unfortunately he's never been able to make any kind of noise inside the middleweight division. It also doesn't help when you pride yourself on being a boxer and then get knocked out by Drew McFedries, Houston Alexander and Chris Leben.
What do all of those guys have in common?
They hit hard. I mean really hard. Guess who else hits really hard? Yep, Brian Stann, the "All American" who may find himself "in the mix" with a win tomorrow night in Sweden. He actually has a lot in common with "Legionarius," aside from their mutual love for the stand-up game. Both fighters saw their three-fight winning streak go up in smoke in recent months against fantastic wrestlers.
There won't be any of that here.
Sakara has heart, or "Italian Pride" or whatever you want to call it. He also has pretty decent hands. But he's going to try and figure out a way to apply technique in the face of brute strength -- and he's going to fail. I expect Stann to end this one in brutal fashion not long after the opening bell.
Prediction: Stann def. Sakara via knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Siyar later, alligator. There are two things that spell certain doom in the Nostradumass column. One of them is the extended layoff and the other is the Octagon debut. Bahadurzada has given us the best of both worlds.
There's no question he's talented and sports a fantastic record, but he's spent the last 10 years beating people you've never heard of or just don't care about. His last fight came almost a year ago against Tommy Depret in Russia, to give you some kind of indication of what he's been up to lately.
And just to throw it out there, his last two defeats came by way of submission.
That's bad news against a guy as dangerous as Paulo Thiago, whose stock plummeted after getting yessed to death by Diego Sanchez at UFC 121. It was his second straight loss but to be fair, outside of David Mitchell at UFC 134, there's hardly been a fight where he's had it easy.
Bahadurzada's got skills and this will be a competitive fight, but I don't think he'll be able to handle the vaunted BOPE-a-dope style, which will have him tapping midway through the second stanza.
Prediction: Thiago def. Bahadurzada via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: In the above prediction, I mentioned two things that spell certain doom in the Nostradumbass column. I may have to amend that to three, taking into consideration Dennis Siver's featherweight debut.
I know I'm not the only one who was puzzled by the German kickboxer's decision to head south for the winter and if this was a lightweight affair, I'd have Siver all day. After all, he's 8-2 in his last 10 contests at 155-pounds with wins over Matt Wiman and George Sotiropoulos.
Instead of dropping 10 pounds and going through the rigamarole of a difficult weight cut, he probably should have tightened up his submission defense, which betrayed him against Donald Cerrone at UFC 137 last October. Maybe he thinks he'll be faster at the lighter weight but he might find out, much like Mike Swick did when he dropped from 185, that speed doesn't do you much good if you don't have any power.
And he has a stiff test right out of the gate.
Diego Nunes might not have the striking pedigree his opponent has, but he makes up for it by being a much more well-rounded fighter. His closely contested loss to Kenny Florian last June proved he can hang in there with the smartest fighters and his win over Manny Gamburyan at UFC 141 proved he can tussle with the strongest.
This is his night.
Siver will come out light on his feet and certainly dazzle us with some flashy kicks and fancy-shmancy striking, but he'll be cooked in about two minutes, having compromised his endurance at the expense of his new weight class. Once he does, expect "The Gun" to unload on him and take advantage of a curdled and turtled German, who eventually taps out from a rear naked choke.
Sorry Siver fans, don't hasst the player -- hasst the game.
Prediction: Nunes def. Siver via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: Remember when DaMarques Johnson was going to be "that guy" coming out of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 9? While he failed to live up to the hype, getting choked out by James Wilks in the June 2009 live finale, he did manage to bounce back with two straight wins.
Since then, he's gone 2-2 while molding Clay Harvison into a knockout victim at UFC on FOX last November. In short, he's been consistently inconsistent, leaving you wondering each time just which Johnson he's going to show you (tee hee).
I think he's in trouble here.
John Maguire, while not exactly a household name here in the states, has been a heart attack on the European circuit, stringing together six straight wins including a unanimous decision over Justin Edwards in his UFC debut last November.
Clowning TUF veterans seems to be his specialty (see Amasinger, Dean).
With the debut jitters behind him and a consistent track record against reality show stars, I think he takes it to Johnson in their 170-pound scrap, taking advantage of his opponent's suspect cardio in the latter part of the fight and sinking in a fight-ending choke.
So let it be written, so let it be dumb.
Prediction: Maguire def. Johnson via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: Picking submission of the night is going to be tough if all my predictions come to pass, as I see this one ending in a tap as well. A pick like that is a byproduct of the loss column under Damacio Page, who's been whipped six times with five of them coming by way of surrender.
Tomorrow night will be no different.
I know "One Punch" is 1-2 over his last three fights, but getting outworked by Scott Jorgensen and schooled by Renan Pegado is nothing to be ashamed of, those are two of the division's top fighters -- and he also has wins over Demetrious Johnson and Ivan Menjivar to balance things out.
And Page is already on the ropes, having lost two straight.
Against "The Angel of Death," I expect Pickett to execute a nuts-and-bolts gameplan: Set up the shot and take it. Once it gets to the floor I think it will only be a matter of time before he can wear his foe down and look for an arm -- assuming he doesn't get KTFO by trying to do too much, too early.
Prediction: Pickett def. Page via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FUEL TV 2, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts online at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action beginning at 3 p.m. ET on FUEL TV.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FUEL TV 2 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Gustafsson vs. Silva."
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.