Ok folks, this has all the makings to be the fight of the year and everything else on the card is pretty much just the foreplay before the action. That's understood. Still, we have to get through the foreplay and we may as well try and enjoy it. There are a few great fights on the card, and some tricky picks to make.
A little disclaimer again: I've been picking less reliably than Jens Pulver's recent fight record, so take everything I have to say with a shaker of salt. Having said that, I'm going to finish first on this card and drink your tears when you lose.
[Note: MMAplayground favourite denoted with *]
Fucked if I know. Although Oliveria has just five losses, four have come in the UFC, with his only win in the big show coming against John Gunderson, who is currently beating the fuck out of washed up UFC stars. Doesn't inspire much confidence, does it? The Cuban, on the other hand, handed Reza Madadi a vicious ass-kicking on the feet at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden, before finally being taken down, where it was revealed he has the ground game of James Toney.
If it stays standing, the Cuban is likely going to beat the ugly out of Rafaello, which will be difficult given his current complexion. I've got to go with Patrick Stumberg on this one. I just don't think the Brazilian has what it takes to get this to the ground.
Izquierdo by TKO round 2
Prelim on FX
Poor Alessio. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride in the UFC. And just like a bridesmaid, Alessio has been put on his back and fucked. Hard. Alessio lost his UFC debut to Pat Miletich back when ThePride was still getting his calcium intake from his mother, then followed that up with a pounding to Diego Sanchez at UFC 60. He got another chance in the Octagon, thrown against then-killer Thiago Alves. And his last meeting against Mark Bocek was another unfortunate matchup against a man who had no problem holding him down.
Here's the thing though. Alessio has a ton of upside when he can keep upright. He's 10-2 in the past three years, with wins against legitimate competition like Chris Clements and, um... others. Alessio might not have a lot of time left in his MMA career, so he's going to want to make the most of this likely last opportunity against another man at death's door, Shane Roller. Shane's on an 0-3 skid, which is sort of bullshit since he had Michael Johnson pretty much done in his last fight, but nevertheless it's a bad situation.
There's no question Shane's going to want to take this to the ground. The question is whether Alessio does enough damage on the feet inbetween the takedowns to warrant the judge's nod. I'm going to risk all better judgement and say that he will.
Alessio by unanimous decision
Hooboy, this one is tough. Serra-Longo fighter Philippou has looked fantastic lately, knocking off TUF scrub Court McGee with a great display of standup, knocking the stupid out of Jared Hamman, and squeaking out a win against old man Rivera. But the problem is Japanese fighter Riki Fukuda has looked just as good, easily beating Nick Ring (despite the judge's error) and Steve Cantwell after the man predictably gassed.
But based on what we've seen from each, you've got to think Philippou is the guy in the better camp, who has faced better fighters, has bigger power, and a better gas tank (slightly). Fukuda has a chin that should withstand Philippou, but I see the bald freak landing bigger shots, and using that Longo boxing to wear Fukuda. I don't see this going to the ground any more than it did in the McGee fight.
Philippou by unanimous decision
Honestly, this isn't as easy to pick as you'd think. Although Melvin should be able to dance around and batter Camoes, the Brazilian hasn't been knocked out since 2000 when ThePride... well, you know the joke. And before that, none other than Anderson Silva in 1997. Meanwhile, Camoes has found success recently, beating fringe UFC fighter Efrain Escudero, and finishing Tommy Hayden in Guillard's favourite of all moves, rear-naked choke.
The thing is, you know Guillard is going to out bouncing, jumping, flying knees, winging punches, and Camoes honestly did not look that fast in his last fight. If Guillard wins this, it will be early when he's still aggressive. If Camoes gets this to the ground, however, it's good night Dolly.
If you want a hint, despite Guillard's many shortcomings, the man has never gone on a three fight losing streak.
Guillard by TKO round 1
Lightweight: Gleison Tibau* (25-7) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (17-0)
Let's face it, Tibau is a freak. A middleweight competing in the lightweight division, he's on a three-fight winning streak, beating fellow Brazilians with Rafael in their names, and the retired Kurt Pellegrino before that. He's big, strong, has submission skills, and decent standup. But he's got nothing on young Khabib.
The 23-year-old Russian fighter waltzed into the UFC and proceeded to lay a smackdown on Kamal Shalorus with a brutal uppercut in the first round that left the fighter hurt the rest of the fight. Khabib is the whole package. In his 17 fights he has six knockouts, seven submissions, and four decisions. Before Shalorus he had six finishes in the first round.
For a lightweight fighter, Khabib might just have the biggest power punch in the division. We'll see. Nobody's been able to knockout Gleison Tibau since Nick Diaz, but Khabib has the power to do it.
Nurmagomedov by TKO round 3
It's no surprise Mike Easton is the favourite here. He has an aggressive style, mean mugs during the whole fight, and throws everything into his punches. Having said that, we've learned that sometimes less is more. Despite Easton's war with Jared Papzian, it was Dustin Pague who showed the weakness that Easton could not, or would not, find.
Menjivar, meanwhile, brings a lifetime of experience to the cage, not to mention a neat little winning streak. After getting lit up by John Albert on the feet in his last fight, Ivan turned it up a notch and finished him on the ground. His elbow knockout against Charlie Valencia two fights ago was also a beauty.
This will be a standup war, certainly, but if it needs to go to the ground, Ivan is more than capable there. This is supposed to be Easton's run to a title shot, but I think his party gets spoiled.
Menjivar by split decision
C'mon son! This is a huge mismatch. McKenzie has one trick, a very good trick, but he already showed it to Team Alpha Male, and that team already happens to be amazing at the guillotine. Cody also has a huge problems with his chin, especially in the first round. Mendes is more than experienced enough to touch that chin, and then if it goes to the ground he's strong enough to ensure he doesn't land in full guard even if he does fall into the guillotine. This fight should not last very long.
Mendes by KO round 1
Boy, if this fight had happened a few years ago I'd say there's no hope for Kim. Since his only chance is to use his Judo to bring it to the ground where he will very effectively lay and pray, you would think Maia will have many opportunities to use that third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Yeah, here's the problem with that...
Maia has had seven consecutive decisions in the UFC. He's a decision machine. He hasn't had a sub since Chael Sonnen was getting triangled again in 2009. He couldn't sub Marquardt, which is fine since he's also a black belt. But he couldn't sub Dan Miller, Mario Miranda, Kendall Grove... the list goes on and on.
Kim, meanwhile, faced one of the elite grapplers in the UFC with Nate Diaz and was never in any danger at any time whatsoever. This is pretty much an easy one to predict.
Kim by unanimous decision
Let's face it. Le isn't UFC material. He might have been back in the day, but he's 40 now. He made Wanderlei Silva look good, but once a fighter stays away from his deadly kicks, it's pretty much a case of wearing him down and finishing him once he gasses. Le's opponents have largely obliged him by standing in front of him. Cote would be a fool to do that.
The 32-year-old Cote has matured since being booted from the premier promotion, winning four straight, and getting a KO in his last outing. Although Cote is no wrestler, it should be obvious he has to take this south and pound out Le on the ground. Like Alessio, Cote knows this is his last chance to stick with the UFC and make a run at something worthwhile. And although nobody can argue Cote deserved a shot against Anderson Silva, he's also got enough skill to hang with most people in the division.
When Cote was in his prime, he was murdering opponents in the first round. Although Le will likely survive the first, I think Cote will ground and pound him out in the second.
Cote by TKO round 2
Yeah, yeah, the trilogy. Nobody cares. This is more a fight of who's fallen farther from grace. Look, Tito is pretty much done. He probably wants to win, but he doesn't have what it takes to stand and bang with Griffin. And you know Forrest isn't going to get taken down and lay there for five minutes. Ortiz can't bring the power that will make Forrest wilt, so there's only one logical conclusion. Tito gets battered for three rounds.
Griffin by unanimous decision
Middleweight Championship: Anderson Silva* (31-4) vs Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
Many people think Silva's submission of Sonnen in the fifth round of their last fight was a fluke. And maybe so. But there are two issues here. First, Silva was injured during that fight. Second, Sonnen's TRT levels were off the charts. Neither should be as much of an issue in this one. Added to that fact you've got an angry Silva, and I expect the Brazilian to come out swinging. Hard.
Yes, we know Sonnen will bumrush the takedown, wading through punches to get Silva on his back. And Silva does not historically have good takedown defence. But I also believe the last fight was something of a fluke that Silva never landed anything brutal. I firmly believe Silva's pinpoint accuracy will be a factor here. When one of his trademark brutal blows lands, Sonnen will stagger, doubt will creep in, and he'll get finished. Just like Hendo. Just like Okami. Just like everybody.
Silva by KO round 2
That's it. Good luck, ya'll.