UFC 139: "Henderson vs. Shogun" is all set to blow the roof off the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, tomorrow night (Nov. 19, 2011) at 9 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.
Diving headfirst into the "Shark Tank" is Dan Henderson, who has spent the last 10 years smashing his way through the ranks of PRIDE, UFC and Strikeforce. His list of accomplishments is almost as long as his list of victims, which spans three weight classes and multiple title reigns.
Will he finish Mauricio and go up 2-0 on the Rua brothers? Or is "Hendo" just a pit stop on the way to "Shogun's" second UFC light heavyweight title run?
Another former Strikeforce champion takes center stage this weekend when Cung Le, who held the 185-pound strap, takes on former PRIDE smashing machine Wanderlei Silva. Will the San Shou striker dull the blade of "The Axe Murderer?"
Or is Wandy going to Jardine him in front of the San Jose faithful?
There will certainly be a lot to talk about on fight night, which is why you should be following our UFC 139 results and live play-by-play starting with the Facebook live stream at 6 p.m. ET.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
We still have to try and figure out how this thing goes down. In addition to my main card predictions, I'll also weigh in with my two cents on all the preliminary card fights.
See you on the other side.
205 lbs.: Dan Henderson (28-8) vs. Mauricio Rua (20-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's hard to pick against Dan Henderson in this fight but I'm doing it anyway. Not because I'm riding Rua's Brazilian ball bag, but rather because I know what happens to "Hendo" when he can't land the big punch.
It hasn't happened much lately, because he's been lucky enough to detonate the "H-Bomb" on opponents who wanted to stand and trade. But let's not forget that before he walloped Rafael Cavalcante and Fedor Emelianenko, he too, was idling at the Queer street crosswalk for several seconds.
I'm not sure if the granite chin is still as legendary as it once was. Henderson has an impeccable resume but he's also 41 and taken his share of abuse. Part of that comes from abandoning his wrestling-based offense in favor of knocking fools out.
When it works, he's as dangerous as anyone. When it doesn't, he's going to a split decision against Rich Franklin, or losing to Quinton Jackson on points. I'm not overly concerned about the knockout, but over the course of a five round fight, he just won't do enough to win the decision, if it goes that long.
While he wastes three of the five rounds looking for the light switch, "Shogun" will be the busier, more accurate fighter. It pains me to have to pick Rua because you never know when those knees are going to implode and it seems like he's always pulling onto Route 66 with a quarter tank of gas, but I think he's going to be in shape (or at least in shape enough) to make it to the finish line like he did against Machida.
Fans hoping for fireworks might be disappointed, as I predict a lot of stalking and circling. There is a mutual respect on both sides but when they do get their hands dirty, I see Rua doing more -- and doing it more often -- but it also wouldn't surprise me to see him sucking wind to close out the fight.
Prediction: Shogun Rua def. Dan Henderson via split decision
185 lbs.: Cung Le (7-1) vs. Wanderlei Silva (33-11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: So, how many fight fans out there think Chuck Liddell should still be fighting? I'm sorry, please speak up, I can't hear you over the crickets. He shouldn't be. Why? Because since the latter part 2006, he's lost five fights and been knocked clean out in four of them.
So has Wanderlei Silva.
Actually, I'm wrong, he's lost six fights since late 2006, one more than "The Iceman." And yet we cheer for Wandy and egg him on. After all, he's the beloved "Axe Murderer!" A pioneer, a legend and soon-to-be vegetable.
I'm sure it's impossible to discern from my diatribe who my pick is for tomorrow night's co-main event, so I'll go ahead and tell you, it's Le. He's no spring chicken either and he's got the cardio of Greg Valentino, but he also hasn't spent the past 15 years using his head for a pinata.
In addition, he's the more technical striker.
Silva is deadly in the clinch and has nasty Muay Thai, but his captain caveman attack is going to expose him to the most dangerous kicks in the game. Scott Smith once told me in a conversation with Larry Pepe that I stole and passed off as my own that getting kicked by Cung Le was like fighting blindfolded. You just don't know when they're coming or from what angle.
And they were hard enough to break Frank Shamrock's arm in 2007.
I also won't overlook the night Silva almost died from getting kicked in the head by Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. So what does all this boil down to?
I'm an MMA fan just like the rest of you and I like Wandy too. He's a great ambassador for the sport and treats his fans better than anybody. But that doesn't mean jack-squat when they close the cage door and it's impossible for me to pick a fighter who is 2-6 under the UFC banner with four KO losses.
Le by sweet chin music.
Prediction: Cung Le def. Wanderlei Silva via knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: Urijah Faber is the pick here, but let's not go too crazy and say it's a lock because it isn't. He should win, but there are a couple of areas that concern me. I can't shake the Mike Brown fight. True, it was at featherweight, but Brown's wrestling and heavy hands were enough to give Urijah the fits.
That brings me to the Eddie Wineland bout.
"The California Kid" needs his wrestling to get it to the floor. He's got good (but not great) hands and he usually wins the striking exchanges because he's so damn fast. That's true in this fight as well, but Saturday night has to be about the gameplan because dicking around on your feet against a guy like Bowles is a recipe for disaster.
And if Bowles can shuck a few shots like Wineland did, this could get real interesting, real fast.
Or not. His win over Miguel Torres, at the time, was monumental. Now? Not so much. He was also lit up by Dominick Cruz in a losing effort. You can blame the busted hand, but then you take away the striking problems and introduce health problems.
Either way, it's still a compelling match-up. I like Faber by points because he has the experience, the momentum and the talent to win this fight. All he has to do is stick to the gameplan.
Wrestling and top control for three rounds. Get 'er done.
Prediction: Urijah Faber def. Brian Bowles via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Stephan Bonnar is bulletproof. Maybe it has something to do with his role in the rise of mixed martial arts following his epic war against Forrest Griffin at the inaugural TUF Finale. Or maybe it's because he's just so damn likeable.
Of the fighters who have been busted for steroids, "The American Psycho" is probably the least affected in terms of public opinion. He's also one of the few competitors that can drop three straight and not have a well-dressed man show up at the door of his career with a Walther PPK.
So what does this have to do with UFC 139?
Well, Bonnar is a survivor. On paper, he loses to Kingsbury. "Kingsbu" is a younger, more athletic Bonnar and more importantly, he's gotten better each time out, whereas his opponent is the same rough-and-tumble S.O.B. in every fight.
We also saw what kind of heart Kingsbury has in the wake of his bloody war against Fabio Maldonado.
If I stop thinking about lesbians for a hot minute and actually play this contest out in my mind, I see the kind of fight that pleases the bloodthirsty savages who erupt in approval when two guys go for broke. While the smart money says Kingsbury pulls away in the latter part of the fight due to his edge in wrestling, I'm still picking Bonnar via heroic intangibles.
Prediction: Stephan Bonnar def. Kyle Kingsbury via split decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Longtime readers of this site are well aware of my disturbing man-crush on Martin Kampmann. He's got terrific striking and grotesquely underrated grappling. I would call him a complete fighter -- except he does some really dumb shit inside the cage.
Like when Jake Shields was so exhausted he couldn't even keep his hands up and Kampmann went for a takedown. Or when Paul Daley left himself open for a takedown and Marty decided to stand and bang. Or when, well, you get the point.
As much as I want to pick "The Hitman," I need to first believe he'll play to his strengths and fight his fight and not his opponents. He's great at defending takedowns, but I still believe it's only a matter of time before Story gets one.
That's how he wins this fight.
Kampmann will spend too much time on his back looking for the submission and this is a three-rounder. Every minute counts. On the feet, he's the superior striker but if Thiago Alves, Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger couldn't knock Story out, neither will he.
And when it comes to judging, landing ten jabs still doesn't equate to one takedown.
Look for Kampmann to control the stand-up, only to grow too comfortable in the process and get taken down. He'll have an active guard, but it won't do anything but run out the clock.
Marty will suffer the "Horror" of yet another unanimous decision loss.
Prediction: Rick Story def. Martin Kampmann via unanimous decision
Preliminary card quick picks:
205 lbs.: Ryan Bader vs. Jason Brilz: Brilz is most effective when he can dominate in the wrestling. Against Bader, that threat is neutralized. That means it's a stand-up war and after watching him go limp against Vladimir Matyushenko, I think it's only a matter of time before "Darth's" right hand transforms him from 205-pound prospect to Rebel scum.
135 lbs.: Alex Soto vs. Michael McDonald: Fight of the Night. McDonald hasn't been the finisher he was pre-UFC, but this kid can scrap. So too, can Soto, but I'm leaning towards the former because he's had the tougher road to travel. "Mayday" by UD.
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. Rafael Dos Anjos: Dos Anjos is a ruthless grappler with decent power, but Tibau looks like a heavyweight that cuts to 155. Close fight, but Tibau takes the decision via epic mugging.
135 lbs.: Miguel Torres vs. Nick Pace: I've seen Pace compete in Ring of Combat and he's for real. Unfortunately I'm not sure he's got the experience to deal with Torres, who will pick him apart in the stand-up and work him on the ground. Torres by umulletous decision.
185 lbs.: Tom Lawlor vs. Chris Weidman: I hope Tom Lawlor never gets cut because he makes the weigh-ins worth watching. Expect him to give Weidman all he can handle; however, the two-time Division I All-American wrestler is going to win this one on points, though he'll likely look worse for the wear while doing it.
170 lbs.: Seth Baczynski vs. Matt Brown: Despite surviving the Zuffa pink slip after dropping three straight, Brown is not as "Immortal" as his moniker suggests. He has something to prove in this fight but will get himself choked out following a careless bumrush.
155 lbs.: Shamar Bailey vs. Danny Castillo: Bailey has dropped three of his last four and failed to look impressive, even during his TUF 13 stint. He does have a helluva chin, which is why he makes it to the scorecards against the gritty Castillo, but it will be the "Last Call" for his UFC career after a unanimous decision loss.
That's a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 139: "Henderson vs. Shogun."
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.
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