Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is finally ready to pull the trigger on its upcoming UFC 162 pay-per-view (PPV) fight card, featuring a middleweight championship main event pitting 185-pound deity Anderson Silva against undefeated challenger Chris Weidman.
Will we witness the end of "The Spider?"
One person who has separation anxiety -- at least when it comes to lightweight gold -- is former 155-pound kingpin Frankie Edgar. He's trying to find the featherweight "Answer" this weekend in "Sin City." The question is, can he defeat Charles Oliveira and snap a three-fight losing skid?
Not if "Do Bronx" can do work.
Elsewhere on the card, the Filipino formerly known as "Fat Bastard" will try to come heavy against the barbaric Tim Boetsch, while Tim Kennedy tries to make sure his first UFC paycheck -- no matter how tiny it is -- won't be his last at the expense of Roger Gracie.
Protect ya' neck.
Last but not least, Cub Swanson will continue his threatening climb back up the 145-pound ladder by stepping on Dennis Siver, who undoubtedly has title hopes of his own after compiling six wins in his last seven contests. There's a lot on the line tomorrow night in Vegas, so let's dive right in, shall we?
Nostradumbass predicts: Regulars of my column will know I like to pick against Anderson Silva whenever he steps foot inside the Octagon, simply because he's one of the best fighters in the world and my "Spider" predictions would be about two sentences if I played it straight prior to his recent scraps.
Stephan Bonnar? C'mon, son.
Obvious trolling aside, this time I'm picking against him because I really believe his time has come. But it's also important to note that it's not because I've magically become enamored with a fighter possessing just nine bouts on his professional record, but rather because Chris Weidman can dump and hump his way to victory with relative ease.
Let's not pretend that Silva doesn't get taken down at will.
Travis Lutter was able to ground the Brazilian at UFC 67 and even had him mounted, firing off some ground and pound. If "The Serial Killer" hadn't nearly offed himself trying to make the 185-pound weight cut, who knows how that fight would have ended?
Don't talk to me about injured knees, when Silva has been readily taken down since day one.
It's the same reason Dan Henderson -- who won the opening frame against Silva at UFC 82 -- was unable to capitalize on his advantageous position. Chael Sonnen would have done it at UFC 117, had he not thrown it all away by choking in the waning minutes.
The counter to that argument, of course, is that Silva still came back to win. Not only win, but finish off his opponents.
Can't really dispute that.
You don't win 6,472 fights inside the Octagon by getting lucky and on the feet, it's a mismatch. But we're talking about a wrestler who was good enough to beat Ryan Bader and Phil Davis -- both light heavyweights -- on the collegiate circuit, before making a mockery of the Grappler's Quest competition in 2007.
He was equally impressive in Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC), despite losing to Andre Galvao in 2009.
Those are the kinds of grappling credentials that guys like Sonnen and Henderson, both fantastic wrestlers, just don't have. They made up for it in experience, but missed opportunities on the ground to do what two previous opponents have done, and that's submit "The Spider."
Silva is not invincible.
Four losses sound like ancient history because they are, but I also believe that like Mike Tyson in his prime, most of Silva's recent opponents were defeated before they ever stepped foot inside the cage. Imagine trying to train for the Brazilian and all you have to go on is his the UFC 101 laugher?
It's easy to get psyched out.
But that's not happening with Weidman. Maybe he's naive, or perhaps just young and dumb. But he's not going to haphazardly shoot in fear of getting tagged. He's going in there like a bulldozer -- full steam -- and dragging his foe to the ground. He certainly has the size to do it. Assuming the layoff and recent shoulder surgery don't betray his cardio, there is no reason to dismiss the possibility of an upset, and I won't
Nothing lasts forever, not even "The Spider's" web.
Final prediction: Weidman def. Silva via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Anyone else get the feeling that UFC really wants Frankie Edgar to get a win? He may be the best fighter to ever lose three in a row and to his credit, he's consistently faced the best competition in the world. And don't get me started on that Ben Henderson rematch.
In addition, there are worse things in the world than getting outstruck by Jose Aldo.
Anyway, I have a hard time building a legitimate case for Charles Oliveira. Not only was he submitted by Jim Miller, he got KTFO by Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson. It's not like he's losing to scrubs, mind you, but he looked positively dreadful in the process.
It's a mental thing.
I'm pretty sure "Do Bronx" could submit any fighter in his weight class -- Edgar included -- but he gets rattled way too easily. The Brazilian works best when he controls the tempo and has a chance to work at his pace. I could easily see him getting frustrated by "The Answer's" peek-a-boo offense.
Even if it does go south, Edgar is much too wily to silver-platter one of his limbs.
I don't think it's insulting to Oliveira to call this Edgar's comeback fight, nor to indicate that it has been booked that way. Charlie's name still has a little pop to it and as far as his career trajectory goes, he really has nothing to lose here.
He's fighting one of the best guys to ever compete at 155 pounds and tomorrow night, Edgar starts a campaign to prove he's the cat's meow at 145, as well.
Final prediction: Edgar def. Oliveira via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: It's always difficult to fight the temptation to pick a fighter based on his name. After all, Roger Gracie is ... well, a Gracie, and he's capable of submitting anyone in the world, having tapped Ronaldo Souza, Fabricio Werdum and Robert Drysdale.
He's a bad dude.
How his success on the grappling circuit translates to wins inside the Octagon remains to be seen. Sure, he's already compiled a 6-1 record inside the cage, but submitting "names" of yesteryear, like Kevin Randleman and Trevor Prangley, don't really tell us much.
A knockout loss to Muhammed Lawal tells us he's better off at 185 pounds.
Gracie is a huge middleweight at 6'4" but keep in mind he was taken to the scorecards against Keith Jardine. That indicates to me that a crafty veteran with a Greg Jackson gameplan -- and Tim Kennedy fits the bill on both -- can weather the storm and try to do work.
And Kennedy is no dummy (he just has a big mouth).
The frisky Fort Bragg fighter is a formidable foe and to his credit, has hung in there with the best that Strikeforce had to offer, like the aforementioned "Jacare," as well as then-division champion Luke Rockhold. His cardio will be his greatest asset, as the towering Brazilian will likely fade in the latter part of the fight.
A quick tempo, as well as even quicker feet, keep Kenendy out of danger and let him escape "Sin City" on points.
Final prediction: Kennedy def. Gracie via split decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Cub Swanson has been busy these past couple of months. In addition to winning fights, he's been yapping about getting another crack at Jose Aldo in the near future because well, he wants a do-over, much like Vitor Belfort wants a mulligan for getting planished by "The Spider."
Tough spot to be in.
But if he keeps winning fights, sooner or later he's going to have to be taken seriously. But my concern heading into tomorrow night is that he already views himself as the number two guy in the division and that Dennis Siver, in spite of his talent, is just another day at the office.
It is this mental error that costs him the fight.
Swanson has fallen in love with his boxing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but if he spends the better part of 15 minutes looking for the knockout punch, he's going to end up losing on points. Siver has done a nice job in recent bouts of mixing things up.
He's known for his kickboxing, but he's snuck in a few takedowns when the situation has called for it.
Cubby has never been comfortable on his back and like the aforementioned Oliveira, does well when he controls the pace of the fight. I don't think he's going to have the walk in the park that he expects on Saturday night and will find out the hard way what happens when you start believing your own hype.
Final prediction: Siver def. Swanson via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: One of the things that has impressed me most about Mark Munoz over the past year has been his composure. He kinda fell apart after the Weidman massacre and that's not unusual for a top competitor. Winning and losing is like life and death.
And a little part of him died last July.
The good news is, it was the part he didn't need. Surgically repaired and mentally focused, he enters the Octagon tomorrow night with a chance to get right back into the mix by dispatching Tim Boetsch. On paper, "The Barbarian" has an edge.
A dull edge, but an edge nonetheless.
Part of that comes from having competed twice while Munoz was on the sidelines, wiping his nose. But let's be frank, his past couple of "wins" are not exactly the stuff of legend. He took advantage of Hector Lombard's Walking Dead audition, and was able to jaw-jack Yushin Okami after getting knocked around for the better part of three rounds.
Losing to Constantinos Philippou did little to excite me.
But cage rust is a real thing and he won't need a period of adjustment. He also has a better chance of going the distance since Munoz really has no way to replicate a live, three-round fight, no matter what he does in practice. The question for me is, how many takedowns can Boetsch stuff?
The answer may go a long way in predicting a winner. It wouldn't surprise me to see "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" get hurt early, only to come back and wrestle his way to a decision. It may not be the prettiest of performances, but it's better than getting knocked out of the title hunt for good.
Final prediction: Munoz def. Boetsch via split decision
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 162 card on fight night (Sat., July 6, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 162 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Silva vs. Weidman."
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.