This time, it's very, very personal.
Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and the only man to give him a challenge in the past six years, Chael Sonnen, will battle once more in the headlining bout of UFC 148, going down this Sat., July 7, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both men have promised gratuitous quantities of violence.
Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin will also look to settle the score in their trilogy's rubber match while Patrick Cote returns to the Octagon as a replacement for the upgraded Rich Franklin against Cung Le.
Yesterday, we previewed the three bouts that comprise the Facebook/FX portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on FX from "Sin City."
Let's get cracking:
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau (25-7) vs. Habib "The Eagle" Nurmagomedov (17-0)
ATT representative and part-time minotaur Gleison Tibau finally broke his jinx and managed to put three straight wins together, taking out Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 139 in an entertaining slugfest. The victory was Tibau's seventh in his last nine. Impressively, despite being only 28-years-old, it will have been six years from his UFC debut this November. Tibau owns wins over Terry Etim, Jeremy Stephens, and Kurt Pellegrino in addition to the aforementioned victory over dos Anjos.
While his 16-0 record raised questions as to whether his skills or weak opposition were the cause, Nurmagomedov impressed in his UFC debut, outwrestling Iranian wrestling standout Kamal Shalorus before finally submitting him in the third with a rear-naked choke. The win marked Khabib's eighth in the previous 12 months. At only 23-years-old, Habib has a very bright future ahead of him, particularly if he can clean up his striking.
I was very impressed with Nurmagomedov's wrestling against Shalorus, especially considering the latter's documented prowess in that area, but it's hard to put all that much stock in it on account of Shalorus having no other weapons at his disposal. Tibau isn't the cleanest striker, but his sheer size and power make him dangerous on the feet, not to mention the fact that he's probably the best grappler Habib has ever faced.
While Habib's double leg is lethal, his sloppiness on the feet has me worried, especially since I don't see him taking Tibau down without an ability to effectively set up his shots. I think Habib can go very far in MMA, but someone as powerful and well-rounded as Tibau is too much, too soon at this point. Tibau via sprawl-and-brawl.
Prediction: Tibau by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard (29-10-2) vs. Fabricio "Morango" Camões (14-6-1)
While his win over Jeremy Stephens at UFC 119 could charitably be described as questionable, Guillard looked like a world beater in first-round knockouts of Evan Dunham and Shane Roller. Unfortunately, massive overconfidence spelled doom for him against Joe Lauzon in a fight that lasted all of 47 seconds. Lauzon apparently failed to choke that problem out of Guillard, as one too many flying knees gave Jim Miller the chance to take him down and submit him as well. This marks Guillard's second two-loss streak in the UFC, the first of which happened in 2007.
Camões was released from the UFC after going 0-1-1, but was right back on the promotion's radar just two fights later, when he upset Efrain Escudero under the Tachi Palace Fights banner. He returned to the organization back at UFC on FX 1, a card headlined by none other than Guillard, and submitted the debuting Tommy Hayden four minutes into the first round. The win put him at 10-1-1 over his previous 12 fights.
There is literally only one question to consider here: can Camões take Guillard down without getting his face turned into a sack of broken cartilage and regret? It's honestly that simple. Camões has very little chance with Guillard on the feet, the latter's questionable chin notwithstanding, and Guillard is the biggest sucker for the rear naked choke since Frank Trigg retired.
Sadly for "Morango," I think Guillard has this. When he isn't being a buffoon in the cage, he's nothing short of terrifying on the feet and has underrated wrestling prowess. He was battering Miller standing and doing a great job staying there until his love for the flying knee got him in over his head. Guillard via hurt.
Prediction: Guillard by first-round knockout
185 lbs.: Constantinos "Costa" Philippou (10-2) vs. Riki Fukuda (18-5)
After losing his short notice debut against Nick Catone, Serra-Longo product Philippou immediately turned around and rattled off three straight wins, scoring decisions over Jorge Rivera and Court McGee with a knockout of Jared Hamman sandwiched in between. The Catone loss was "Costa's" only defeat since his debut, after which he stopped six opponents, including five by knockout.
After getting robbed against Nick Ring, injuries from a car accident forced Fukuda to wait almost a year to the day for his second chance at UFC glory, and he took that opportunity with gusto, battering Steve Cantwell with his characteristic grinding assault. The win put Fukuda, a former training partner of Kazuo Misaki, at 8-1 in his previous nine with wins over Murlio Rua and Ryuta Sakurai in that time. Fukuda has knocked out seven opponents and only ever been stopped once, back in 2006 in his sixth pro fight.
Philippou has exceptional talent, and should be able to deny Fukuda's wrestling ability for a while, but he has one huge problem that has plagued him all throughout his UFC tenure: he fades late. Against someone with the size, strength, and tenacity of Fukuda, that simply won't do. I admit I had the same thoughts about "Costa's" fight against McGee, but Fukuda strikes me as even more capable of exploiting this weakness, which allowed Court to take the third round despite having his wrestling neutralized.
Philippou may have success early, but Fukuda is tough as nails, and the momentum should start shifting in his favor early enough in the second round for him to get the decision based on his pressure and wrestling assault.
Prediction: Fukuda by unanimous decision
Oh, I do love me a grudge match.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 148, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 6:45 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 Saturday night.
See you then, Maniacs.