2014 is coming to a close and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is clearly going out with a bang; meaning, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are taking it from behind with a mediocre FOX Sports 1 card featuring a couple of squash matches.
But when you do 50 events per calendar year, I suppose they can't all be winners.
Questions remain about how much longer we can expect Lyoto Machida to stay at the top, and to help us answer that unsolicited inquiry is wrestle-boxer CB Dollaway. "The Doberman" proved to be a tough out at 185 pounds, but so did Mark Munoz.
And everyone (except Munoz) remembers how that turned out.
Elsewhere on the card, which takes place tomorrow night (Sat., Dec. 20, 2014) inside Jose Correa Arena in Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil, former bantamweight kingpin Renan Barao gets what on paper looks to be an easy lay up against Mitch Gagnon.
Or Gags could upset the apple cart and make myself (and a few others) look even dumber.
With that said, it's time to break down the UFC Fight Night 58 main card to see who has themselves a merry little Christmas ... and who wakes up without any presents.
Ahem ... drums please.
185 lbs.: Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (21-5) vs. CB "The Doberman" Dollaway (15-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: Here's a number for all you "stats" guys: NINE. That's how many current and former UFC champions Lyoto Machida has faced in his career, not including the two former Strikeforce titleholders he was matched against.
"The Dragon" has been swimming with sharks since day one.
What do we talk about when we discuss CB Dollaway? Guys, I really think he should have won that decision against Tim Boetsch. That alone should give you an idea of the huge chasm that separates these two fighters. Machida -- the only man to finish Rashad Evans in 23 fights -- has looked terrific since dropping to middleweight.
Even in his loss to Chris Weidman, the way he turned it on in the final frame, had me wondering what would have happened if there was a round six.
I'm trying to envision a scenario where Dollaway wins and uh ... I'm struggling. Is he going to out-strike him? LOL. I won't argue that he's a better wrestler, but trying to shoot on Machida is like trying to catch those damn chickens in Zelda's Ocarina of Time.
And this is probably a good time to point out that Dollaway has never gone five rounds, while Machida has done it twice in his last two fights without even batting an eyelash.
I'm sure we'll get two rounds of cat and mouse, but eventually Dollaway is going to make a mistake. Until that happens, I just can't imagine what he can possibly do to Machida that "The Dragon" hasn't already seen -- and overcome -- from better opponents.
Final prediction: Machida def. Dollaway via technical knockout
135 lbs.: Renan "Barao" Pegado (32-2, 1 NC) vs. Mitch Gagnon (12-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I wasn't as aghast as some of my colleagues when it was announced that Renan Barao was being "punished" with a match up against the talented but unheralded Mitch Gagnon. The Brazilian already beat the shit out of most of the guys in the top 10, so it was time to look elsewhere.
And to his credit, the Canadian has won four straight with three finishes.
The downside is that he was also submitted by Bryan Caraway, so it's not like he's proven to be invincible. As we found out at UFC 173, no one is, but I'm inclined to think that Barao was expecting the same thing everyone else was -- a quick rout over the inexperienced TJ Dillashaw.
This contest is not unlike the main event. Gagnon has faced some pretty tough guys in his career, but Barao has fought -- and finished -- the best in the world. From what I've seen in their respective performances, the ex-champ is the better striker, as well as the better grappler.
Plus, he's got a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after the UFC 177 weight-cutting debacle.
That's bad news for Gaggy.
Final prediction: Barao def. Gagnon via submission
205 lbs.: Antonio Carlos "Cara de Sapato" Junior (4-0) vs. Patrick "Durkin" Cummins (6-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Had this bout taken place next Dec. instead of tomorrow, I probably would have been more inclined to favor Antonio Carlos Junior. I was impressed with his heavyweight run through TUF Brazil and he looks to be a future contender after dropping to light heavyweight.
By then, he will have learned how to deal with a blanket like Patrick Cummins.
That's what makes this fight so valuable for him, even tough I expect him to lose. "Durkin" is not going to win any gold gloves for his stand-up inside the cage, but he does a better-than-expected job of using his strikes to set up -- and often times complete -- his powerful shot.
Once it gets to the floor, it's his world.
I know fans have a hard time forgetting that humiliating defeat to Daniel Cormier, but "DC" does that to guys in the top 10, even when they get a full camp, so Cummins gets a pass from me. More importantly, the mat rat has since racked up a pair of wins and looks to have finally found his sea legs.
I can't say the same about the Brazilian ... yet.
Final prediction: Cummins def. Junior via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Rashid "Highlander" Magomedov (17-1) vs. Elias "XuXu" Silverio (11-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Fight of the night? That may depend on your definition of "fight." In a combined 29 professional bouts, they have just two submission wins. That means tomorrow night's slugfest will play out primarily on the feet.
So basically we have ourselves a kickboxing match.
I'm okay with that, so long as it's technical. While I don't think we're in danger of a sloppy bar fight considering the level of talent involved, I am dismayed by the amount of punishment Elias Silverio takes, often times when he doesn't need to.
Couple that with Rashid Magomedov's pinpoint accuracy and I think the question heading into the latter half of the fight will be whether or not we get a finish. Since "XuXu" has just one across his last five bouts and "Highlander" doesn't have any through his previous six, I'm not feeling overly optimistic.
Final prediction: Magomedov def. Silverio via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Erick "Indio" Silva (16-5) vs. Mike "Biggie" Rhodes (6-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Erick Silva is eight fights into his UFC career and is not even ranked in the top 15, despite the fact that he's marketed that way. I don't know if you can call him a bust, but 4-4 with two knockout losses in 14 months doesn't exactly scream "contender."
Neither does beating Mike Rhodes.
The good news is, "Indio" puts on some pretty entertaining fights. He's a little too reckless at times and has the gas tank of a Tamiya Hornet, but you'll get a helluva first round. Rhodes has yet to be knocked out so I expect him to give as good as he gets and to be fair, "Biggie" had an impressive run on the regional circuit, one that ended with a win over welterweight's resident cutie-pie Alan Jouban.
But going winless in 2014 over middle-of-the-pack competition has me worried.
If Silva can come out patient and calculated -- like he did against Takenori Sato -- an early finish would not surprise me. Regrettably, I have to bet a horse by his record, and an early blitzkrieg powered by the Brazilian cheers will leave him sucking wind, allowing the well-rounded Rhodes to recover and pound his way into the judges' favor.
Final prediction: Rhodes def. Silva via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Renato "Moicano" Carneiro (8-0-1) vs. Tom "Stoneface" Niinimaki (21-7-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Here's hoping Tom Niinimaki doesn't get KTFO tomorrow night because the last thing you want is to end up with a meme to call your own. [Photo of Niinimaki unconscious] "Calls himself 'Stoneface' LOL". The Finnish phenom has come in like a lion and appears to be one loss away from going out like a lamb.
That said, I don't expect his chin to be in any danger in Brazil.
That's because Renato Carneiro hasn't knocked anyone out in eight career fights and prefers to do his dirty work on the ground. Not that it makes him any less dangerous, but I'm wondering what kind of output we can expect on relatively short notice.
"Moicano" cut his teeth in Jungle Fight and looks to be a solid prospect, but I'm leaning toward Niinimaki by the slimmest of margins based on big-game experience and a desperation to stay employed. Expect a spirited contest on the ground that ends with a lot of boos from the Brazilian faithful.
Final prediction: Niinimaki def. Carneiro via split decision
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 58 fight card (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time 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 Fight Night 58 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Machida vs. Dollaway."
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.