PRIDE never die!
Two of the biggest standouts from the legendary Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) era are back in action this Friday afternoon (April 11, 2014) when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with UFC Fight Night 39: "Nogueira vs. Nelson" on Fight Pass.
In the main event, former Pride FC Heavyweight champ "Minotauro" Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 winner Roy Nelson in what may be the last bid at contendership for both veterans. Plus, in the co-main, Shooto legend Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri will face longtime Octagon veteran Clay Guida in a Featherweight fracas.
We looked at the first two of five Fight Pass "Prelims" under card matches set set to serve as appetizers right here. Let's see if the remaining trio suit your palate.
265 lbs.: Jared Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
Jared Rosholt (9-1) earned a victory in his Octagon debut, but the sailing was anything but smooth early on as he was badly rocked by former basketball standout Walt Harris. Showing impressive resolve, "The Big Show" nonetheless weathered the storm and took home the next two rounds, extending his current win streak to five.
He was originally scheduled to begin his 2014 campaign in January against Alexey Oleinik before the latter suffered a late injury.
Daniel Omielanczuk (16-3-1) competed just once in 2013 after a nine-fight 2012, debuting against former Josh Barnett victim Nandor Guelmino. The Pawel Nastula understudy struggled in the middle portion of the fight, only to put Guelmino to sleep in the third with a big left hand.
Nine of his 16 wins have come by submission, eight of those coming in 2012.
Rosholt’s upper ceiling will likely be determined by his jaw, which has struggled to take hits from some of the division’s bigger punchers. Luckily for him, Omielanczuk does not number among them, instead excelling in top position courtesy of his Judo.
Against a wrestler of Rosholt’s caliber, that’s not somewhere he’s likely to find himself.
Both are below-average strikers and on the slow side, so it’s hard to call a winner there. Rosholt should have no trouble dictating position as needed and has the top game to stay out of trouble. The big man is just too good a wrestler for Omielanczuk to work his aggressive submission game and ought to have little difficulty grinding out a decision.
Prediction: Rosholt via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford
After a 1-1 start to his UFC career, Rani Yahya (19-8) quickly found his groove, winning three straight. Despite much of the fight taking place on the mat, Yahya struggled with UFC newcomer Tom Niinimaki his last time out, spending too much of the fight on his back to earn the judges’ nods.
Yahya, who has 15 submissions to his credit, will return to Bantamweight for the first time since losing a decision to Takeya Mizugaki in April 2010.
Having the part of your brain that knows your current location punched out of you on national television isn’t the best way to get the public’s hopes up, but Johnny Bedford (19-10-1) quickly made an impression in the UFC proper, stopping Louis Gaudinot and Marcos Vinicius in "Brutal" fashion. Unfortunately for him, late replacement and former teammate Bryan Caraway overcame a big size disadvantage to choke out Bedford last April.
Bedford stands four inches taller than Yahya and has ended fifteen fights inside the distance.
Bedford has tapped out nine times and Yahya is to necks what Roy Nelson is to chili dogs; therefore, this seems cut-and-dry. Unfortunately for Yahya, Bedford is also a gigantic Bantamweight with solid thump in his hands and superior wrestling. He bashes the body very well and should be competent enough to stay on his feet and wear down Yahya.
If Yahya gets on top of him, he’s going to tap him out quickly. However, I believe Yahya will struggle to get Bedford to the mat and -- as in many of his recent performances -- fade in the third round. Unlike Mizuto Hirota and Josh Clopton, though, Bedford isn’t going to let him get away with it.
Bedford grounds him and lands enough unanswered strikes to get the stoppage.
Prediction: Bedford via third-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Thales Leites vs. Trevor Smith
Following his loss to Alessio Sakara and subsequent release from UFC, Thales Leites (22-4) earned his way back by winning six of his next seven bouts, beating the likes of Dean Lister, Jesse Taylor and Tor Troeng. He has thus far justified the decision to bring him back, dominating Tom Watson and Ed Herman in his last two appearances.
He has stopped thirteen opponents by way of submission.
Trevor Smith (11-4) did not quite get the win in his Octagon debut, but nonetheless earned some fans in a hard-nosed brawl with Ed Herman. His sophomore performance, while less electrifying, did earn him a win and break a 1-3 slump at the expense of Brian Houston.
Like Leites, Smith tends to end fights on the ground, nine of his wins coming by choke or keylock.
I’m having a hard time seeing this as anything other than a mismatch. Leites is the more technical and powerful striker, the superior grappler and looks to be the better wrestler as well. Smith doesn’t seem to have an advantage in any area of MMA -- he’ll get chewed up if he tries to wade forward with haymakers again and he’s not a good enough wrestler to stay off his back.
Frankly, Leites wins this however he wants. He can bust Smith up with strikes or ground him and dominate from top position. Either way, he gets the decision after Smith manages to survive but offer little else.
Prediction: Leites via unanimous decision
Quality Heavyweight scrap and solid match ups from top to bottom.Not a bad way to get your weekend started.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 39 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, right on through the main card -- also on Fight Pass -- which is slated to begin at 2 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 38-23