Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is all set to kick off its UFC 149: "Faber vs Barao" pay-per-view (PPV) event from the Scotiabank Saddledome this Saturday night (July 21, 2012) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in an effort to plug a couple of holes atop the bantamweight and middleweight divisions.
With reigning 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz on the injured reserves, Urijah Faber and Renan Barao will slug it out in the main event to see who gets to wear the division's Interim strap until he returns.
Will "The California Kid" finally gets his hands on UFC gold?
Also looking for answers in the middleweight division is UFC President Dana White, who was less than anxious to name a new division number one contender (Sorry, Mr. Weidman) until the smoke cleared from the Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch fight.
Would a victorious "Shango" land first dibs on Anderson Silva's title?
There's a lot to sort through on tomorrow night's main card and as luck would have it, your old pal Nostradumbass is here to help you separate fact from fiction.
Have a look.
Nostradumbass predicts: Renan Barao, like Hector Lombard before him, has a lot to prove in tomorrow night's show. He's another one of those International enigmas that's managed to rack up a zillion wins over people you've never heard of and can't pronounce.
Don't believe the hype.
He's obviously a talented fighter and to his credit, he's cast aside some of the division's tougher opponents, but if you want to make me believe you can stymie Urijah Faber and take home the strap, you can't coast to decision wins over Cole Escovedo and Scott Jorgensen.
This could come down to conditioning.
Whether you like him or not, there's no denying "The California Kid" is one of the best fighters in his weight class and he can match the Brazilian in both speed and power. His wrestling is also top shelf and when we talk about cardio, Faber could probably run from his home in Sacramento to the Scotiabank Saddledome and still have enough gas left over to go five rounds on fight night.
That's how he wins this fight.
The problem for Barao is this bout will be too evenly matched for him to get away with the relaxed offense he enjoyed in his stint against "Young Guns" as the contest wore on, and in a five rounder, he's going to be in serious trouble.
I'm not suggesting Faber will secure a finish, but will likely lose the first two rounds and still remain fresh enough to win the remaining three.
Dominick Cruz, your trilogy awaits.
Final prediction: Faber def. Barao via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: The UFC has done an admirable job of trying to convince mixed martial arts (MMA) fans that Tim Boetsch is a formidable threat to Hector Lombard, but that veil of disguise hasn't stopped us from seeing the silhouette of their marketing mustache.
Boetsch is getting murdered.
That whole He's undefeated as a middleweight! battle cry is all well and good, and it also happens to be true, but I'm not breaking out the party hats for a guy who needed the judges to give him wins over fellow journeymen Kendall Grove and Nick Ring.
Granted, "The Barbarian's" comeback win over Yushin Okami earlier this year was both thrilling and reason to stand and cheer, but let's also not forget he was getting lit up for two and a half rounds before his Japanese foe forgot how to circle left.
And "Thunder" is no "Lightning."
The knock on Lombard is that he's beaten 31 nobodies to amass such an impressive win streak. Even if that's true, that's twice the amount of nobodies Boetsch has beat, so all things being equal, he's still the favorite to win on fight night.
My concern for Lombard is that aside from being a muscle-bound welterweight who punches like Major Jackson Briggs, his insane bloodlust and rapid-fire first frames can get him in trouble if the fight drags on to later rounds. Fortunately for him, Boetsch is likely stand toe-to-toe and make this a gun fight, where a Cuban bullet will end his night somewhere inside the first two minutes.
Sooner or later we're going to see "Shango's" Olympic-caliber Judo, but it won't be in Calgary.
Final prediction: Lombard def. Boetsch via knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Shawn Jordan would really like to win this fight and finally be known for something other than "that guy who injured Brian Stann." He comes billed as a competitor that beat Lavar Johnson but that was by submission and I think we all know that Johnson to a submission is like an ant to a magnifying glass.
Pounding out British bodybuilder Oli Thompson didn't really dazzle me either.
With 12 finishes in 13 wins -- nine of them by knockout or technical knockout -- it's easy to see why they call him "The Savage," but he gives up a tremendous amount of size against Cheick Kongo and I just don't think he's going to do enough to thwart the Frenchman's assault.
Not that Kongo has been lighting the world on fire.
The reason I pick him is because he's fought the best in the world. He doesn't beat the best in the world, but on the rebound, he proves he can still overcome most mid-card marauders, something Matt Mitrione learned the hard way at UFC 137 last October.
Rinse and repeat.
Kongo has good wrestling and a barely passable ground game, but more importantly, he has a history of defeating up-and-comers as well as down-and-goers. Jordan will enter the Octagon on Saturday night as the former -- and likely leave as the latter.
Final prediction: Kongo def. Jordan via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Brian Ebersole has 50 wins. Think about that for a moment. That's more wins than most guys have fights. Maybe all those shots to the dome can explain his desire to flaunt the hairrow, but even if it doesn't, I'm never picking against this guy until I see him lose inside the Octagon.
Hasn't happened yet.
That's because Ebby has a high fight IQ, which allows him to make adjustments inside the cage and attack -- or defend -- accordingly. T.J. Waldburger punched him like Buddy Revell punched Craig Mattey in the school library, but he still came back to win that fight.
Skill is no substitute for experience.
I'm sure you can say all kinds of nice things about James Head, and they would probably be true, but I'm looking at a guy with 10 professional fights, who's 1-1 in the UFC, against a guy with 75 bouts to his name and a 4-0 Octagon record.
Head's chances are currently idling on the corner of Slim & None.
I do think this will be a spirited affair with Head giving as good as he gets, both in the stand-up and on the floor, but eventually the battle-tested "Bad Boy" will do what he's done since his UFC debut against Chris Lytle early last year, and that's find a way to win.
Final prediction: Ebersole def. Head via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: Riddle me this: How does a 6-3 fighter who is 1-3 over the past 18 months find his way onto the pay-per-view portion of a UFC fight card? Well, considering everything that's happened to the UFC 149 line-up, we should be glad Matt's not in the co-main event.
I won't deny he brings it.
Riddle has the nickname of "Deep Waters," which I can only assume means he has a penchant for dragging fighters into later rounds and tiring them out before turning on the jets and unleashing hell. Unfortunately, five of his six wins consist of four decisions and one disqualification.
But hey, "Deep Waters" sounds cool.
It's hard to analyze a fighter who just shows up and fights, which is what we expect them to do, but Riddle has a Leonard Garcia-ish tendency to abandon any semblance of technical prowess in favor of a bar fight. The only real question for me is, will Chris Clements oblige?
"The Menace" seems to have found his groove, stringing together five straight wins after an up-and-down start to his career. More importantly, he's finished four of those five by way of knockout or technical knockout. True, he squeaked past Keith Wisniewski in his promotion debut last April, but I can't get on a guy for having the jitters during his first time out.
In the end, Riddle will want a fight and Clements, who's finished off 10 opponents in 11 wins, will give him one. I'm not sure we'll see the judges in this curtain-jerking affair. Hell, we may not even see a second round.
Final prediction: Clements def. Riddle via technical knockout
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 149 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Faber vs. Barao."
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.