The last time Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) held a fight card in United Arab Emirates (UAE), it was headlined by an embarrassing jackass. As luck would have it, the world's preeminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has finally returned to Abu Dhabi, only this time it brought a f---ing moron.
You've got to play the hand you're dealt, I suppose.
Hot-and-cold heavyweight icon Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will try to recapture some of his former glory when he trades leather in the main event against fellow struggling veteran Roy Nelson. The loser could find himself booted from the top 10.
That's not all.
Japanese import Tatsuya Kawajiri will try to crush featherweight "Carpenter" Clay Guida in the co-main event, while Ryan LaFlare looks to remain undefeated against John "Doomsday" Howard in welterweight action. Rounding out the four-fight Fight Pass main card is a 155-pound tilt pitting Ramsey Nijem opposite Beneil Dariush.
Let's get this over with.
265 lbs.: Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (34-8-1) vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson (19-9)
Nostradumbass predicts: Since Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira choked out Tim Sylvia over six years ago, he's gone 3-4 inside the Octagon. To make matters worse, all four of those losses have been brutal finishes. His wins? Two of the three are no longer UFC fighters.
In fact, "Minotauro" hasn't beaten anyone currently ranked in the top 10 since 2006.
That's not to suggest that Roy Nelson has been lighting up the division. Like the Brazilian, half of his wins under the ZUFFA banner have come against fighters who are long since gone and the other half aren't good enough to be ranked among the top 10.
Where does that leave us?
Nogueira was a great heavyweight who experienced a sharp decline in speed, power and durability after 15 years of abuse. Nelson was never great, but can take a punch, has a stifling ground game and packs TNT in his right hand. That hasn't changed and it's why I'm picking him to win.
When fans say they expect to see the "old Nogueira" in Abu Dhabi, they don't mean it as a compliment.
It's not outrageous to suggest that "Big Country" would have been out-boxed and out-grappled by the Nogueira from PRIDE. But that fighter no longer exists. Instead, Nelson gets a shriveled-up version of a man who may be one or two head bouncers away from adult diapers.
Final prediction: Nelson def. Nogueira via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (30-14) vs. Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri (33-7-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: In late 2011, Clay Guida was ranked No. 6 in the world at lightweight, fresh off a win over Anthony Pettis, and the proud owner of a four-fight winning streak, one that included three finishes.
So what the hell happened?
It's difficult to say, but since then, "The Carpenter" is just 1-3 and coming off a technical knockout loss to Chad Mendes at UFC 164 last August. I know 32 years old isn't exactly ancient these days -- his opponent is 35 -- but there are a lot of miles on those tires.
Until he proves otherwise, I think his best days are behind him.
That could be bad news against a "Crusher" like Kawajiri, who was ice cold right around the same time Guida was red hot. The difference is, the drop to featherweight turned the former DREAM deity into a killer, evidenced by his six consecutive wins.
Five of which ended by way of knockout or submission.
In addition, we don't know how Guida is going to respond to the first knockout loss of his career. Even if he returns unfazed, he still has a weakness in his submission defense. His best chance here is to use constant pressure in hopes of tiring out his opponent.
I have a feeling he'll get choked out instead.
Final prediction: Kawajiri def. Guida via submission
170 lbs.: John "Doomsday" Howard (22-8) vs. Ryan LaFlare (10-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: One thing we've gathered after his 10 years in the fight game is that John Howard is one tough son-of-a-gun. He's also made a habit of playing spoiler, evidenced by wins over Uriah Hall and Siyar Bahadurzada. What hurts him is not having a signature finish.
I know it sounds like an odd critique for a guy with 15 finishes in 22 wins, but bear with me.
"Doomsday" is good at capitalizing on mistakes or taking advantage of position when the fight is going his way, but he doesn't have a go-to finisher like Dan Henderson's "H-Bomb" or Ronda Rousey's armbar. That hurts him because his bag of tricks is like a bag of potato chips.
Looks big until you open it and see it's half empty.
That's going to be a problem against LaFlare, who is perfect since making his UFC debut just over a year ago, but has failed to secure a finish in three trips to the Octagon. That has more to do with the level of competition on the big stage, but it doesn't take away from his other skills.
Namely, his wrestling and frenetic pace. His first round against Court McGee was enough to cast a shadow of doubt over this fight -- particularly against a heavy-hitter like Howard -- but I still believe he takes home a sweep on the judges' scorecards because Doomsy has trouble winning fights he can't control.
Final prediction: LaFlare def. Howard via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Ramsey Nijem (8-4) vs. Beneil Dariush (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to lean in favor of Ramsey Nijem when we talk about his skill set. What he lacks in technical prowess he makes up for in aggression, putting his head down and charging forward with guns blazing. But it's hard to overlook the fact that he hasn't beaten anyone worth mentioning.
Seven fights into his Octagon career, he should probably be farther along than he already is, especially since he had a chance to work the kinks out during The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13. But the reality is, he's just 1-2 over the last year-and-a-half and I'm not sure he's going to perform much differently tomorrow than he has been doing in recent appearances.
The counter to that, of course, is that Beneil Dariush is still wet behind the ears. He's undefeated and riding high off his submission win over Charlie Brenneman at UFC Fight Night 35 back in January, but there isn't a body of work that screams "contender."
But he's gotta start somewhere...
I think if he can handle his opponent's size and not get lulled into a bar fight, he has a pretty good chance of ending this by way of submission. Sooner or later, Nijem is going to revert to his wresting and when he does, it wouldn't surprise me to see an errant limb get locked up and torqued.
Final prediction: Dariush def. Nijem via submission
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 39 fight card on fight day, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at noon ET, right on through the main card -- also on Fight Pass -- which is slated to begin at 2 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 Fight Night 39 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Nogueira vs. Nelson."
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.