Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to make its long-awaited return to "Beantown" with this weekend's UFC Fight Night 26 fight card, which airs live on FOX Sports 1 from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, on Aug. 17, 2013.
It may not be a pay-per-view (PPV) and no titles are on the line, but this card is still a pretty big deal.
That's because the promotion is making its first appearance on FOX Sports 1, after sports programming was booted from the FX Channel in favor of pretentious dramas and goofy comedies. And you know what they say about first impressions...
That's why tomorrow night's combat sports extravaganza features a main event between two of the most recognizable stars in all of mixed martial arts (MMA), former middleweight number one contender Chael Sonnen and his light heavyweight opponent, ex-PRIDE smasher Mauricio Rua.
Speaking of which...
Longtime international superstar Alistair Overeem looks to rebound from his embarrassing knockout loss to Antonio Silva, facing another heavyweight contender who knows a thing or two about getting stepped on by "Bigfoot," Travis Browne.
That's just two of the whopping six fights scheduled for free TV.
With that in mind, let's not waste any more words talking about what is, and instead start talking about what will be. That means winners, losers and a bunch of tasteless dick jokes that you probably won't laugh at. But you keep coming back anyway, so why stop now?
On with the show!
Nostradumbass predicts: On paper, this is a great main event. Not because of the way Mauricio Rua matches up against Chael Sonnen, but rather because they are both "names" that put butts in seats, albeit for different reasons. "Shogun" is the hero, while "The American Gangster" is the villain.
And if you hate Sonnen now, just wait until Sunday morning.
Like many longtime fans, I'm easily seduced by the memories of Rua's work in PRIDE. But for the purposes of this column, I have to be a bit more realistic and come to terms with the fact that he's got the gas tank of my Pop-Pop's old Briggs & Stratton push mower.
And Chael is not dumb enough to turn this into a kickboxing match.
The former middleweight does one thing and he does it very well. He takes good strikers to the ground and beats on them long enough to grind out a decision. True, his Achilles heel is Brazilian triangles, but once this fight reaches the second stanza, Rua won't have the energy to do anything but turtle.
Always bet a horse by his record.
There hasn't been much from "Shogun" in the past three years that gives me reason to think otherwise. His two wins during that span include a knockout over Forrest Griffin, whose jaw is about as durable as the glass that keeps you from pulling an elementary school fire alarm, and a technical knockout victory over Brandon Vera, who put his cardio on layaway heading into their FOX fight.
I know what you're thinking.
That sloppy, bar-room brawl against Dan Henderson may have entertained the bang-happy bozos who boo grappling exchanges, but it didn't do the Brazilian any favors in the rankings. Sonnen doesn't need to be the better fighter, he just needs to be the more conditioned fighter.
Several knee surgeries, as well as a string of uninspired performances, leaves one option for Rua tomorrow night. He can either clip Sonnen on the way in and pound him into irrelevancy, or spend 15 minutes on his back, fruitlessly reaching for a kneebar that will never come.
I'm picking the former.
Final prediction: Sonnen def. Rua via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Those Maniacs with the misfortune of following my predictions column over the past few years will know I can saddle REEM's sack with the best of 'em, but even the elite huggers like myself have loosened their grip after the "Bigfoot" fiasco.
"Demolition Man" got demolished.
Part of Alistair Overeem's problem is that he had been paired off against sub-par strikers in so many bouts, it was difficult for him to not get complacent. When you go from K-1 strikers like Tyrone Spong and Peter Aerts, to MMA fighters like Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee, leaving your hands at your waist is completely understandable.
I still beleieve the Dutchman is one of the top fighters in this division, but that doesn't make Travis Browne any less formidable. "Hapa" has power as well as crafty submissions, but let's just go ahead and say it: The biggest win of his career is against Stefan Struve, or perhaps Gabriel Gonzaga.
Ya' know, depending on who you believe is the suckier fighter.
Overeem is more experienced, has fought better competition and is just flat-out the more accomplished striker. Unless he does something dumb (again), I find it hard to envision a scenario where Browne takes home the win. Competitive fight?
Not for long.
Final prediction: Overeem def. Browne via knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Urijah Faber has that mental block. You know those guys in baseball, who go 5-5 with two home runs and six RBIs when their team is leading by eight runs? But hits a little dribbler to second when the game is tied with bases loaded?
For some reason, he can't get over that hump when he's in a title fight, because he looks like the best guy in the division against everyone else. Seriously, watch his bouts against Scott Jorgensen, Ivan Menjivar and Brian Bowles, then compare them to the Renan Barao, Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo fights.
Yes, I understand the latter bunch are the better fighters.
But "The California Kid" looks lost when the title is on the line. His timing is off, his attacks are tentative and he just can't make anything come together. Fortunately for him, no belts are on the line in Boston.
That's bad news for Brazilian terror Yuri Alcantara, who is a talented and well-traveled bantamweight (as well as an adept finisher), but his biggest win to date is a stoppage against Ricardo Lamas a few years back in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
Not gonna cut it.
Especially when you consider that "Marajo" was taken down five times by Hacran Dias at UFC 147, a fight Alcantara lost by unanimous decision. That doesn't leave me with much confidence in regards to stopping Faber, who may not be stronger fighter, but will undoubtedly be quicker and more aggressive.
Barring a flash knockout, Faber should be in cruise control for most of this fight.
Final prediction: Faber def. Alcantara via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: I know all the cool kids are swinging from Joe Lauzon's Boston ball-bag, and deservedly so, but this could turn out to be the real "Fight of the Night" with two welterweights who went from yawn to brawn in a matter of two short years.
What the fuck happened to Matt Brown?
I seem to remember him going 1-4 and getting subbed in all four losses, then I turn around and he's a 170-pound animal, beating the shit out of guys like Mike Swick (sniff) and Jordan Mein. There comes a time when you can no longer attribute a fighter's success to "having a good performance."
Brown may not be "Immortal," but he's definitely for real.
So too, is Mike Pyle, who is an older version of his opponent. Also a late bloomer, "Quicksand" has sunk the competition in seven of his last eight fights. Key losses to Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald cannot be overlooked and he's been known to find himself in trouble from time-to-time (see Story, Rick).
But he's also got 16 submissions in 25 wins.
That means this fight will end one of two ways, with Brown taking home Pyle's head, or Pyle taking home Brown's arm. I can only hope it doesn't happen in the opening frame, because I'm interested in seeing just how crazy these exchanges can get once the cage door is finally locked.
Not to sound wishy-washy, but this one is a coin toss.
Final prediction: Brown def. Pyle via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Losing The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 was probably the best thing to happen to Uriah Hall, this way he can get that loss out of the way and free himself of the burden of being THE NEXT ANDERSON SILVA. Having said that, I think it's also wise to keep things in perspective.
It's not like he was KTFO by Kelvin Gastelum.
Instead, Hall was flustered and ineffective, likely due to the bright lights and big city, which allowed his more-focused opponent to capitalize on openings that might not have existed if the former Ring of Combat (ROC) star had managed to keep his emotions in check.
But I believe that's water under the bridge.
John Howard was bounced from the promotion after losing three straight, but has since earned himself a second look by beating the crap out of regional talent, racking up a 6-1 record with five finishes. He has three times the experience as his opponent after a nearly 10-year career.
In short, don't expect him to just roll over.
The bad news for "Doomsday" is that the New Yorker is the faster fighter and more dynamic striker. The good news is, Howard is durable enough to last all three rounds and won't fold up like a cheap chair the second the kicks start coming. We should get an entertaining scrap, but one I believe goes to Hall on all three scorecards.
Final prediction: Hall def. Howard via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: For a minute, it looked like Michael Johnson had found his groove and was on his way to doing great things inside the division. It helped that he defeated the heavily-favored Anthony Ferguson, followed by a lights-out knockout of Danny Castillo.
Easy come, easy go.
He took that momentum and gave it all back with consecutive losses to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi, having been finished by the latter earlier this year in Sweden. That makes it hard to ignore that glaring number on his record, as "The Menace" now has eight losses.
So too, does Joe Lauzon, but "J-Lau" offsets them with 22 wins and 12 "Fight of the Night" bonuses.
And in case you missed what happened the last time Lauzon fought in Boston, re-watch his fight against Gabe Ruediger to witness one of the most one-sided ass kickings in UFC history. I can't ever remember a fighter being so in tune with the crowd.
Will history repeat itself?
I believe it can. I think people forget how hard Lauzon hits, something Melvin Guillard found out at UFC 136 before being strangled into submission. Johnson is a scrappy, athletic lightweight who at times is "good," but if you think you're walking into "Beantown" to beat "J-Lau," your ass had better be "great."
Sorry, MJ, but you're not.
Final prediction: Lauzon def. Johnson via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 17, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX-Sports televised under card bouts and then main card action, which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 26 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Shogun vs. Sonnen."
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.