After six months on the sidelines, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones returns to defend his title against division number one contender Glover Teixeira, in the UFC 172 pay-per-view (PPV) headliner set for Saturday night (April 26, 2014) inside the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.
Can the Brazilian finish what Alexander Gustafsson started last September?
In the UFC 172 co-headliner, Phil Davis tries to preserve his spot in the division pecking order against the dangerous stylings of Anthony Johnson, who fought his way back into the promotion by kicking the shit out of everyone on the regional circuit.
"Rumble" even broke the jaw of a former UFC heavyweight champion in the process (pic).
Elsewhere on the card, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold looks to inch his way closer to a 185-pound title shot at the expense of Tim Boetsch, who probably won't be fighting for a title anytime soon, but has a cool-sounding nickname and hits like a cement truck.
Good enough for a PPV main card? Heck yeah!
There are two more fights in the light and featherweight divisions, but I think I've done enough yapping. Let's skip the remaining potatoes and get right to the meat.
205 lbs.: Jon "Bones" Jones (19-1) vs. Glover Teixeira (22-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I don't think it's any secret that Jon Jones is the best fighter in mixed martial arts (MMA). That said, I'm of the opinion that every fighter will lose sooner or later, but that all depends on the opponent. Is Glover Teixeira that guy?
I know the Brazilian is a talented fighter and it's true that he hasn't lost in over nine years. But that's because he hasn't been tested in over nine years, either. Is that where we're at in the light heavyweight division? A win over Ryan Bader gets you a title shot?
It only worked for Jones back in 2011 because A) Bader was undefeated (12-0) and ranked No. 5 and B) Rashad Evans blew out his knee and had to pull out of his "Shogun" Rua title fight, opening the door for "Bones."
These days, "Darth" (16-4) is generously ranked at No. 9 in the official UFC rankings and that's Teixeira's lone win over a top 10 opponent. I don't want to punish Tex for the matchmaking because ultimately, that's not his call. But at the same time, I can't reward him for wins that are good, but not great.
How can I pick him against Jones when I haven't seen him deal with someone as fast as Rashad Evans? Or as big as Alexander Gustafsson?
Those are two huge tests that G-Tex was able to avoid, leaving me with too many unknowns to make a legitimate case for an upset. I also have a hard time believing he can land a one-hitter quitter when he's giving up close to nine inches in reach.
Think about that for a second.
I know the close call against "The Mauler" has clouded our vision, but let's not forget that Jones was not just beating the rest of the light heavyweight division. He was destroying it. It's just too difficult to overcome his size and he loves to break guys down with his kicks, oblique and otherwise.
Expect to see the "Rampage" gameplan in full effect here.
"Bones" is going to maintain the distance and soften up the legs. Sooner or later, Teixeira is going to get frustrated, throw caution to the wind and go for broke, which will probably get him dumped on his head -- Greco-Roman style -- and elbowed into oblivion.
This one isn't going to end well.
Final prediction: Jones def. Teixeira via technical knockout
205 lbs.: Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis (12-1) vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (16-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm excited to see what a healthy, properly-condition Anthony Johnson can do in the UFC light heavyweight division. What I'm not excited to see, is him fight Phil Davis, for the simple fact that he's probably going to lose.
Davis is the court jester, not the village idiot.
The reason he stood with Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159 is because he understood that "Pezao" -- one of the best submission fighters in the world -- was a below-average striker with no knockout power. If he tries to dick around on the feet against a monster like "Rumble," they'll be cleaning him off the canvas with a sponge.
And he knows it.
That's why he's going to turn this into WrestleMania. Johnson is no slouch on the ground, having captured a 2004 NJCAA national wrestling championship at 174 pounds, but that's the kind of pedigree that has you ragdolling a shrimp like Dan Hardy (UFC Fight Night 24), not a muscular NCAA Division-1 national champion out of Penn State.
On the feet, it's a mismatch. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the ground.
Davis has 10 fights inside the Octagon and zero knockouts. Since I think we all agree that's not changing tomorrow night in Baltimore, Johnson has to figure out a way to keep himself off the floor and time those takedowns, so he can at least land something of merit before falling on his keister.
In a 15-minute contest, I don't think he'll gas and get submitted, since he no longer has to cut 70 pounds a day before the fight. I can, however, see him getting dumped and humped en route to a sweep on the judges' scorecards.
Calling all boo birds...
Final prediction: Davis def. Johnson via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch (17-6) vs. Luke Rockhold (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Like him or loathe him, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold did what all great fighters do when they lose and that's come back with a vengeance. He might not get the respect from UFC fans -- especially after going to la-la land against Vitor Belfort -- but he holds wins over "Jacare" Souza and Tim Kennedy, who are ranked No. 4 and No. 6 in the 185-pound division.
Why is he fighting Tim Boetsch?
That's a great question. In fact, I'm not even sure what "The Barbarian" is doing on a PPV main card, because he's done nothing over the past two years that I would call impressive. He's 1-2 over his last three and you can make an argument that he lost the CB Dollaway fight.
Prior to that?
He was able to squeak past a spaced-out Hector Lombard via split decision, because "Lightning" was wandering around the cage like Travis Walton after he got off the mothership. That came on the heels of a technical knockout win over Yushin Okami, in a fight he was clearly losing.
Tough guy? Absolutely. Powerful puncher? Just ask "Thunder."
My issue is that Boetsch started his UFC career over six years ago and here we are in 2014 and he's not ranked in the top 10. That's probably because he loses to guys like Mark Munoz and Costas Philippou. Without the technical acumen to compliment his raw power, he's a sitting duck.
Rockhold is simply too well rounded and comes from a more accomplished fight camp.
In addition, he's a huge middleweight and will not be pushed around by the former 205-pounder. That means "The Barbarian" is going to have to land a lights-out haymaker at some point throughout their 15 minute affair, or risk getting beaten up on the feet, or taken down and choked out.
I don't like his chances.
Final prediction: Rockhold def. Boetsch via submission
155 lbs.: Jim Miller (23-4) vs. Yancy "The Kid" Medeiros (9-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I think a lot of fans were quick to write off Jim Miller after the thrashing he took against Pat Healy at UFC 159 last year in New Jersey, but I don't think the loss was all that surprising. While the decision was changed to a "no contest," we can't change the fact that it happened.
Trying to overcome big, strong wrestlers has been a problem for Miller throughout his career, as evidenced by losses to Gray Maynard and Ben Henderson. While the New Jersey native can do five rounds without breaking a sweat, he's on the smaller side in this age of mammoth lightweights.
But Yancy Medeiros is not the kind of hulking opponent that has me worried.
"The Kid" showed promise in his win over Yves Edwards -- overturned for pot -- but keep in mind the "Thugjitsu Master" has 20 professional losses. Prior to that, Medeiros lost to Rustam Khabilov when his thumb went into business for itself. Where does that leave us?
I can't build a credible case for an upset here because all I know about Medeiros is that he's good at beating up bums in "The Aloha State," and knocking out 37-year-old veterans on the downside of their careers. Until he registers a victory over someone in the top 15, I have to play it safe.
And Miller is a proven commodity.
If he can survive a striker with Melvin Guillard's speed, or submit a grappler with Charles Oliveira's jiu-jitsu, I'm not sure there is anything "The Kid" can show him that he hasn't already seen. Miller will be in his face and dragging this one to the floor early and often.
Sooner or later he's going to catch a limb.
Final prediction: Miller def. Medeiros via submission
145 lbs.: Andre "Touchy" Fili (13-1) vs. Max "Blessed" Holloway (8-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Andre Fili does not have much to show in terms of accomplishments, unless we want to award his success by association. "Touchy" is a memeber of Team Alpha Male, a gym that consistently churns out top contenders.
Is Fili one of them?
He certainly looked like it with a UFC 166 technical knockout win over Jeremy Larsen. While he missed wieght for his Octagon debut, it was on super short notice and he gets a free pass. Outside of that, there isn't much on his resume -- outside of a string of wins over regional talent -- to let us know where he's at.
We'll find out tomorrow.
Max Holloway is quietly seven fights into his UFC career and has already faced a slew of tough guys, including Dustin Poirier, Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor. Unfortunately, they've all been losses, so do we award him points for at least fighting some decent competition?
That would weight heavily in his favor if he was fighting someone other than Fili, who has yet to prove himself by any stretch of the imagination, but looks to be a very promising prospect with power in his hands and a suffocating ground game.
It won't be an easy win, but I'm sticking with "Touchy" by way of mug-and-slug.
Final prediction: Fili def. Holloway via unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 172 fight card on fight night (Sat., April 26, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, 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 172 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Jones vs. Teixeira."
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.