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UFC Fight Night 18 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC Fight Night 18: "Condit vs Kampmann" is set to go down TONIGHT (Wednesday, April 1) at 8 p.m. ET on Spike TV from the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET.

To get us pumped for the festivities, MMAmania.com Editor and Senior Writer Jesse Holland (that’s me) will be breaking down the main event matches and revealing each fighter’s keys to victory.

If you’re looking for an unbiased and objective examination of each contest, then I’m happy to report you will be extremely disappointed.

Why else do you think I would depose the former contributors and take this act solo like the selfish blowhard you already know me to be?

But enough about me … at least for the time being.

Let’s get cracking:

Carlos "Natural Born Killer" Condit (22-4) vs. Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (14-2)

The last man to hold the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) welterweight title, Carlos Condit, is finally making his UFC debut after the WEC recently dissolved its 170-pound division. The "Natural Born Killer" last appeared on the WEC 35 card in August 2008, where he successfully defended his title (yet again) with a fourth round TKO over Hiromitsu Miura. It was Condit's eighth win in a row and probably one of the better fights of 2008. Like most fans, I believe Condit is ready for the step up in competition, but the UFC welterweight division is a mosh pit of ridiculous talent. And his first opponent is as tough as they come. The "Hitman" recently had his nine-fight win streak snapped after getting wrecked by Nate Marquardt at UFC 88 back in September 2008. It was apparently a wake up call for the Danish kickboxer that perhaps he is better suited to compete in a division 15 pounds lighter. He rebounded by destroying Alexandre Barros at UFC 93 and would no doubt love to be Condit's unwelcoming committee. Despite Condit's talent, I just don't see him getting past a guy who was able to hang at 185, defeating middleweights like Jorge Rivera and Thales Leites. Kampmann hits hard -- really hard -- and he's no slouch in the submissions department either. Condit also has to overcome the jitters of a UFC debut -- he's under tremendous pressure to prove the WEC elite aren't minor leagues and that he can roll with any of them. He's been on the big stage but until you've worked a UFC show (never mind headline one), you don't know what you're in for. By the time he figures it out, he'll be staring at the lights courtesy of Kampmann.

Keys to victory:

Condit: You have 13 submissions but Kampmann has never been tapped. There is no WEC 170-pound class to fall back on so this is for all the marbles.

Kampmann: You don't want to lose to someone from the WEC, no matter how good they are. What better message than to submit a guy who is known for his submissions. Just remember to let go, we don't need another McFedries incident.

Prediction: Kampmann via KO

Ryan "Darth" Bader (8-0) vs. Carmelo "The Fury" Marrero (10-2)

Winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 8, Ryan Bader, is back to (hopefully) prove he's putting a little more mixed in his martial arts. "Darth" — who is an accomplished collegiate wrestler from Arizona State University (ASU) — showed his punching power in the TUF 8 Finale, finishing Vinicius Magalhães (who is one step above Kyle Maynard in the striking department) with his fists to capture the 205-pound season crown. The Arizona Combat Sports product took out Kyle Kingsbury, Tom Lawlor and Eliot Marshall en route to the finals -- but in my opinion never dazzled anyone in the process. Neither did Rashad Evans, the winner of TUF 2, and now "Sugar" is wearing the 205-pound strap. I guess that's what I'm hoping to see from Bader: Forward progress. Dry humping Marrero en route to a decision victory is the fastest way to tarnish that TUF gold and alienate the fans. We know he can wrestle, now we need to know he can strike at a higher level to prove he can run with the big dogs -- and that may not be so easy against "The Fury." Marrero is a three-fight UFC veteran who used his wrestling skills and takedowns to upset Cheick Kongo via split decision at UFC 64, however that victory was short lived. He went on to lose his next two bouts against Gabriel Gonzaga and Wilson Gouveia, which of course featured a drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight (as well as a drop from the UFC roster). He would have much better luck outside the Octagon, compiling a solid record with zero defeats (4-0) and one "No Contest." Toppling Bader would be a great way to prove the UFC was right in bringing him back. Like Darth, this can't be just about the wrestling. No question it's the bread and butter for each fighter, but one is starting their career and the other is restarting it -- a finish is of the utmost importance. Two of Marrero's last three wins have come via tapout, so Bader needs to watch his back (literally). I'm taking Bader here because I think he's the better wrestler and will tire Marrero out by the second and finish him, proving he's not just another TUF guy -- or that maybe he is?

Keys to victory:

Bader: Watching two wrestlers struggle for top position is like watching a pioneer rub two sticks together to try and start a fire. We're not paying for this event and it's up against LOST. Swing hard.

Marrero: A wrestling stalemate isn't as bad as two mat technicians demonstrating the true definition of bad striking. While Bader is looking for the knockout, replicate that sweet ankle lock you pulled off against Chuck Huus in Concho.

Prediction: Bader by TKO

Tyson "Peter" Griffin (12-2) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (11-3)

Tyson Griffin is a decision monster, going the distance in his last six fights and winning four of them. Despite his frequent trip to the scorecards, fireworks always seem to follow him. In fact, he’s been rewarded with several "Fight of the Night" bonuses. Perhaps the only thing keeping him out of serious title consideration is his inability to finish. A seventh straight decision, even if it's a dominating win, could make him a very tough sell to fickle fans -- if he isn't already. Griffin is good on the ground and good on his feet, but I wonder if he has trouble in his head committing to one or the other. I understand it's mixed martial arts, but he needs to find his identity with a big finish to recapture some of the magic from his early days. There was a time when Griffin was 8-0 with eight finishes, and he seems to be going in reverse career wise. Don't think that isn't lost on Dos Anjos, who might be willing to take a few more chances if he feels like he can see a third round. In fact, getting out of the first could have an impact on the mental game for both fighters. The Gracie Fusion grappler is a legitimate threat to anyone on the ground, but something tells me that Ken Masters-inspired Shoryuken from Jeremy Stephens at UFC 91 will make Rafael a little gun shy. Get ready for Griffin to have his coming out party, as he dominates the Brazilian and smashes his way to his first finish since choking out David Lee at UFC 63.

Keys to victory:

Griffin: Dos Anjos may still be haunted by the ghost of uppercuts past, so charge him and finally commit to the finish. A big one and your back on pay-per-views with talk of making a run at the top.

Dos Anjos: If Griffin feels like he can't finish you, he won't. He isn't immune to the criticisms about his decisions so use any over-aggressiveness to work for a submission. Keep your head down.

Prediction: Griffin via TKO

Junie "The Lunatic" Browning (3-0) vs. Cole "Magrino" Miller (14-3)

Junie Browning made a name for himself as the most controversial contestant on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) since Chris Leben. Unfortunately he was also a foul-mouthed drunk who everyone wanted to see get his ass kicked (including Dana White). Junebug however, may have had the last laugh, demonstrating some nice stand-up and improved cardio in his submission win over fellow castmate Dave Kaplan at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 8. Browning also seems to now be on the straight and narrow after his tumultuous alcohol-induced stint on the mixed martial arts reality series. Perhaps he can once and for all realize the potential that was being wasted on booze and backstabbing. He’ll have to have his submission defense in check however when he faces "Magrino." Like Browning, Miller was a talented up-and-comer who fell just short of the TUF finals, eventually succumbing to Joe Lauzon after being rattled with an illegal punch to the back of his head in the TUF 5 semifinals. Since his UFC debut in June of 2007, Miller has gone 3-1, including an impressive submission victory over exiled lightweight Jorge Gurgel at UFC 86. This fight is won or lost on the conditioning of Junie. If the same Browning that dismantled Kaplan comes into this fight well trained and mentally focused, he's going to run right through Miller, who I like as a person but I think may be easily broken inside the cage. However if Junie fell off the wagon and went back to his old ways, he'll be submitted in the second round. Like Dana, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's spot on. Browning by mauling.

Keys to victory:

Miller: I'm looking over your record (which is impressive) for that big win and I don't see it. What I do see is a TKO loss to Jeremy Stephens. If Junie is on point you may need that Gurgel triangle to bail you out.

Browning: All he has for you is his jiu-jitsu. Unfortunately it happens to be very good. Keep the pressure on and fight intelligently like you did against Kaplan.

Prediction: Browning via TKO

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC Fight Night 18.

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Wednesday’s event.