Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will try something new today (Sat., May 31, 2014), hosting two mixed martial arts (MMA) events on two different sides of the globe on the same day for the first time ever.
First, it will be air UFC Fight Night 41: "Munoz vs. Mousasi" from Berlin, Germany, before staging an event later in the evening, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" Finale from Sao Paulo, Brazil..
Neither card really is that strong on its own, but together -- with a combined 23 bouts -- there are bound to be some impressive performances. Starting out with some picks from UFC Fight Night 41, let's take a look at some of the most likely top performers at these events:
Mark Munoz (Fighting Gegard Mousasi): Mousasi's downfall tends to be his grappling, which happens to be Munoz's strong suit. Had Munoz not had his fight with Tim Boetsch, I probably wouldn't be picking him here, but in that fight he showed improvements to his old game that will pay dividends against a man he shouldn't try competing with at striking range. Munoz showed raw strength and aggression that I just don't think Mousasi will be able to manage, and I think Munoz will finish him with some of his infamous ground-and-pound.
C.B. Dollaway (Fighting Francis Carmont): Take away the odd decision loss to Boetsch and Dollaway could be on a four-fight win streak heading into this bout. Dollaway has been around longer than Carmont and I think he edges him everywhere, to be honest. They're both comparably athletic, but Carmont seems a little overrated and Dollaway seems to have more to win here. I think he beats Carmont and does so impressively.
Sean Strickland (Fighting Luke Barnatt): Barnatt isn't all that impressive and he certainly lives up to his nickname "Bigslow." I think Strickland is faster, sharper and has more to win, as well as having more promise going forward. Barnatt is tough, but he's gonna be taking on someone who's gonna be beating him to the punch repeatedly.
Tom Niinimaki (Fighting Niklas Backstrom): Niinimaki impressed me with how he handled a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace like Rani Yahya, being completely unafraid to enter his guard and look to advance position. He's a well rounded fighter and a good athlete, and he's riding a 12-fight win streak. Backstrom will have his hands full in his Octagon debut.
Iuri Alcantara (Fighting Vaughan Lee): Alcantara is one of those fighters who is incredibly talented, but just never cracked the top of his division. His style blends ferocity and technicality. He is also very athletic. Lee is not all that great, and I think his big defensive flaws are going to lead to an early stoppage at the hands of the well-rounded Brazilian.
Andy Ogle and Maximo Blanco: Two pretty odd fighters, in all honesty. Ogle was decent at best on his season of TUF, but he's grown a lot and surprisingly has been competitive with some pretty good fighters. I'm not sure what he ever did to Joe Silva to deserve the match ups he's been getting but he certainly hasn't looked far behind opponents like Charles Oliveira and Cole Miller. What makes his style effective is the pressure he exerts on opponents, as well as a big heart and fairly well-rounded skills. Blanco is a headcase -- he's been disqualified twice in his career and probably should've gotten the same result after kicking Pat Healy repeatedly in the head to escape a submission attempt. That said, he's a skilled fighter -- if not a little wild -- and he'll put up a good fight against an opponent like Ogle. This is a fight between two aggressive fighters, and I think it'll make for a great fight.
Now onto TUF: "Brazil 3" Finale ...
Stipe Miocic (Fighting Fabio Maldonado): This fight shouldn't have been scheduled. I just hope Maldonado doesn't retain permanent damage from this fight. He has nothing to offer Miocic ... anywhere ... and he's the smaller, less athletic fighter.
Demian Maia (Fighting Alexander Yakovlev): Another pretty odd booking, as No. 8-ranked Demian Maia fights unknown Russian UFC debutant Alexander Yakovlev. UFC has made some pretty ridiculous match ups on its Brazilian cards to boost Brazilian fighters, but this is ridiculous. Maia is going to submit Yakovlev ... quickly.
Rony Jason and Robbie Peralta: This is a fight between two explosive and exciting featherweights that like to strike. Jason won TUF: "Brazil 1" impressively and has built up a 4-1 record in the promotion. Peralta is known for his knockout power and aggressive approach, and a very solid chin. Both men are coming off big technical knockout victories and I think we'll see both go for broke in this big fight.
Overall, these cards aren't all that special, especially TUF: "Brazil 3" Finale. That said, between the two cards, there's bound to be entertainment and some big performances that will make some of these fights worth watching. Although this night is historic for UFC, neither event is can't-miss.
We'll see who stands out this weekend.