Big things! Small packages!
No, I'm not talking about the skinny jeans I wore to the UFC 173 pool party (helloooo Cupcake), rather the 125-pound main event that pits Demetrious Johnson against top division contender (by default) Ali Bagautinov. Can flyweights move the pay-per-view (PPV) needle?
We're about to find out.
Elsewhere on the UFC 174 main card, which takes place on Sat. night (June 14, 2014) inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Rory MacDonald will state his case for a welterweight title shot against the increasingly lippy Tyron Woodley.
It's finish or filibuster, according to the UFC head cheese.
For a fair, balanced, and unbiased look at tomorrow night's fights, go elsewhere. For conjecture, unsubstantiated facts, and plenty of bad puns, keep reading.
125 lbs.: Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson (19-2-1) vs. Ali "Puncher King" Bagautinov (13-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I was in a big hurry to write this one off as a squash. Then TJ Dillashaw had to go upset the bantamweight apple cart and prove that nothing is guaranteed in mixed martial arts (MMA). But can Ali Bagautinov replicate "The Viper's" performance?
I could, however, see him follow in the footsteps of Rustam Khabilov and find success early, only to tire and fade before getting put out to pasture. What possible case can I make for the upset? Recycling a bunch of Soviet soda cans in the international circuit -- like the 0-5 Vitaly Maksimov -- is not exactly the stuff of legend.
In addition, "Puncher King" has just one finish in three UFC wins, and that came over the unheralded Marcos Vinicius Borges Pancini, who was subsequently shit-canned and is now mired in a four-fight losing streak.
Johnson, meanwhile, continues to get better with each fight.
His unanimous decision win over John Dodson proved the "Mouse" has a "Mighty" heart, and he followed that up by strangling John Moraga, before stunning Joseph Benavidez by way of first-round knockout. That's the only time in 24 professional fights that "Joe Jitsu" has been finished.
Johnson -- who was good enough to fight for the title at bantamweight -- is quicker, more conditioned, and just has too much experience against top competition to be troubled by the Dagestani's attack.
Round four sounds about right.
Final prediction: Johnson def. Bagautinov via submission
170 lbs.: Rory "Ares" MacDonald (13-2) vs. Tyron "The Chosen One" Woodley (16-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm still trying to figure out why so many fans are juggling the pearls from Rory MacDonald's clam in the wake of his UFC 170 win over Demian Maia. OMG bro Rory Mac IS BACK! Did we watch the same fight?
"Ares" was out-struck and out-wrestled.
And for once, I didn't just trust the voices in my head and actually looked it up right here.
The reason he won the fight -- despite laying an egg in the first round -- is because Maia emptied his tank and had nothing in the second half of the fight. A guy who took Jon Fitch down at will was shooting from six feet away, slowly, so I'm sorry for not being over-the-moon when it comes to "Ares" performance.
And the one before that was a loss to Robbie Lawler.
This isn't a Canadian smear campaign. The kid obviously has talent. But he continues to demonstrate a complete and utter lack of urgency inside the cage. Remember the BJ Penn fight? He could have finished that if he wanted to. Jake Ellenberger?
Let's forget that stinker ever happened.
I'm harping on it because I believe it's going to cost him this fight. I know all the cool kids like to bag on Tyron Woodley for getting Streets of Rage 2'd by Nate Marquardt, but he did what any great fighter does and came back stronger. I've also heard the complaints about his "win" over Carlos Condit.
Injury leaves the finish a little open-ended, but I was cageside for that fight (thanks Reebok!) and "The Natural Born Killer" was getting worked.
I'm also not going crazy about "The Chosen One's" cardio. I know some fans don't want to hear this, but just because Joe Rogan said it, doesn't mean it's true. Guys sometimes dump their load in a close fight, it happens, but the fact that Tyron Woodley is shaped like a challah bread does not guarantee fatigue.
Unless MacDonald ends this one early via Canadian blitzkrieg, he's going to lose by way of mug-and-slug.
Final prediction: Woodley def. MacDonald via split decision
205 lbs.: Ryan "Darth" Bader (16-4) vs. Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (12-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: If Rafael Cavalcante wrestled in college, he'd be Ryan Bader. These two are essentially fighting themselves tomorrow night in Vancouver, as they are nearly identical in a lot of areas, including height and reach.
"Feijao" has more knockout wins to his name, but also has more knockout losses.
When you live by the fist, you die by the fist. So the real question for this light heavyweight showdown is which strategy Bader will employ. His right hand is good enough to finish the best of them and he might have stopped Glover Teixeira had he not been so goddamn reckless.
If he uses his wrestling, he wins this fight.
Cavalcante could find himself out of breath in the second half of the fight. Partly because he hasn't seen a round two since Tebowing was popular, but mostly because he'll empty his tank trying to get off the mat after "Darth" drags him to the floor.
But if it remains upright?
I'm sticking with the power-punching Brazilian. To his credit, Bader has done a great job of blocking significant strikes since graduating from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8. Unfortunately, it doesn't count when you're doing it with your mouthpiece.
Final prediction: Cavalcante def. Bader via knockout
265 lbs.: Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski (21-10) vs. Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub (10-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: What's frustrating about a guy like Andrei Arlovski is that he has all the tools to be a high-level competitor. But he's one of these fighters who just forgets everything he's ever learned the second the cage door closes, ignores his coaches, and plays it his way.
The results speak for themselves.
When I was in St. Louis for his Strikeforce debut, Arlovski was in the hotel lobby all week holding court, joking around and laying on the couch, while Brett Rogers was in the basement punching a wooden pallet. Not surprisingly, "The Pitbull" got KTFO, because he thought it was an easy lay up.
If you don't respect your opponent, at least respect the game.
I think his attitude has changed quite a bit over the years but I'm not sure if his fight I.Q. has. Every fighter loves the knockout, but with his Sambo background -- coupled with the fact that he can benchpress a Volkswagen -- it's unfortunate he doesn't go to the ground more often.
The good news is, it may not matter.
Brendan Schaub is quick and athletic, but his defense sucks and he's been knocked clean out in all three of his losses. I understand that getting clubbed by "Big Country" is enough to topple a rhino, and maybe we give him a pass on Ben Rothwell, but going to dreamland against a 57-year-old Nogueira?
He's in trouble.
I would not, however, call it a foregone conclusion.
Arlovski's chin is like a game of Don't Break The Ice. Sometimes you can tap away for a few minutes and be fine, while other times it only takes one shot to collapse. But Schaub is accustomed to out-boxing guys like Chris Tuchschererererer and Chase(d out of UFC) Gormley.
The cream of the crap.
Arlovski is too big and agile to get taken down, like "The Hybrid" did to avoid the bombs from "Big" Lavar Johnson, which means this one turns into a firefight. And as with any shootout, it's all a question of who lands first.
Final prediction: Arlovski def. Schaub via knockout
205 lbs.: Ryan "Big Deal" Jimmo (19-3) vs. Ovince St. Preux (15-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: I know Ryan Jimmo was a (wait for it) BIG DEAL in Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC), but his Octagon run has been a tad underwhelming. Sure, he has two knockouts to his name, but stopping a guy in his forties and then smashing a radio disc jockey does not scream "title contender."
He also holds losses to James Te Huna (now a middleweight) and Jimi Manuwa.
At 32 years old, I'm just not sure what to expect from the Canadian slugger at this stage of his career. What I do know, is that whatever he plans on doing, he had better do it fast. That means toppling the new-look Ovince St. Preux this weekend in Vancouver.
Could be problematic.
"OSP" has always been one of those guys who was a tough out, because of his size and athleticism. While being a standout collegiate athlete might have been good enough to plow through the minor leagues, it's not going to grease many axles in UFC.
Fortunately for the Tennessean, he wasn't content with being "good" and has worked very hard to be "great," finding himself re-energized after an ugly loss to Gegard Mousasi in late 2011. The results have been sensational and enough to propel him to five straight wins.
It hasn't been against top competition, but it's no worse that what Jimmo has been doing.
Both men have been mixing it up in the middle-of-the-pack and only one has struggled. I'm not a big subscriber to homefield advantages, and I think St. Preux -- if he's able to keep it upright -- takes a close fight by landing more significant strikes.
Final prediction: St. Preux def. Jimmo via unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 174 fight card on fight night (Sat., June 14, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX 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 174 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Johnson vs. Bagautinov."
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.