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UFC Fight Night 61 predictions, preview, and analysis

Esther Lin

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is going head to-head-with WWE Fastlane this Sunday night -- OH NOES -- with UFC Fight Night 61, featuring a heavyweight main event between Antonio Silva and Frank Mir on FOX Sports 1 from inside Gigantinho Gymnasium in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.


That means a half-dozen mixed martial arts (MMA) fights along with a half-dozen commercials -- per fight -- starting at 8 p.m. ET on the cable television network. That's right after the "Prelims" wrap on UFC Fight Pass (5 p.m. ET) and FOX Sports 1 (6 p.m. ET).

So, who gets the job done tomorrow night in Brazil?

Let's find out.

265 lbs.: Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (18-6-1) vs. Frank Mir (16-9)

Nostradumbass predicts: I was having trouble picking a winner for this fight and when I mentioned that to a colleague, his response was, "Well, ask yourself, who sucks less?" It's a shame that it's come to that, but let's face it, this bout is only headlining because the original main event -- Rashad Evans vs. Glover Teixeira -- was felled by injury.

Over their last five appearances, Frank Mir is 1-4, while Antonio Silva is 2-2-1.

When I look at this fight, I see a fighter who is completely shot -- even with the extended time off -- facing a fighter who can't get out of the way of his own head. Part of why Silva gets knocked out so easily is because the target is so damn accessible.

Well, sort of.

There's a reason guys like Andrei Arlovski and Daniel Cormier could drop "Bigfoot," while Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt could not: speed. The pair of Cain Velasquez massacres stand on their own and don't really fit into the equation here because in reality, Cain slaughters everybody.

Frank Mir is no Cain Velasquez.

The former heavyweight champ is the same fighter he's always been: a submission ace with the strength of a gorilla -- which is why he breaks limbs instead of bending them -- along with a big right hand and an uncanny ability to stay calm under fire.

Unfortunately, his most glaring weakness is Silva's biggest strength.

Unless Mir can drop a surprise bomb like he did against Cheick Kongo, I have a feeling he's going to get bullied into the fence by his even stronger foe, which means a grotesque replay of the Shane Carwin fight, but hopefully with a much quicker stoppage.

Final prediction: Silva def. Mir via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (15-2) vs. Michael "The Menace" Johnson (15-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: There was a chance Michael Johnson would have been cut with a loss to Joe Lauzon in 2013, right around the time of the UFC bloodletting, but instead he scored a convincing unanimous decision win, which he followed up with two consecutive victories, including a knockout over the notoriously-durable Gleison Tibau.

"The Menace" 2.0?

I'm not sold just yet. He's made tremendous improvements since graduating the reality show proving ground and he's always been lightning fast, but you can also argue that A) Lauzon is shot as a fighter, B) Tibau has putrid striking, and C) Melvin Guillard is struggling to win fights on the regional circuit.

Barboza is the superior fighter ... but that damn beard.

That's a huge concern going into this contest, because Johnson has power and the Brazilian went rubbery on a jab from Donald Cerrone. In addition, Jamie Varner stopped him back in 2012, probably because Barboza can't shake those bad habits when it comes to defense.

Leave your head out there and someone is bound to hit it.

Johnson won't be faster than his opponent, nor will he find success on the outside. He needs to make this fight ugly and look for the finishing blow. If not, I believe Barboza is going to do more -- or at least look like he's doing more -- and become the judges' sweetheart after 15 minutes of striking.

Final prediction: Barboza def. Johnson via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: "Smile'n" Sam Alvey (24-6) vs. Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira (8-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Sam Alvey -- who once had a fight end in a no contest because it started raining (lolz) -- is the type of combatant who shows up to fight, even if he fails to dazzle you with any kind of technique. That makes this an interesting pairing, because Cezar Ferreira is just the opposite.

I do not have high hopes for this fight.

That's unfortunate, because "Mutante" is the total package. If he competed with a little more ferocity -- or at the very minimum a little more urgency -- then he would likely be climbing the 185-pound ladder. Instead, he gets Alvey, who is going to bang, bro.

You would think the "Smile'n" one would have the distinct advantage, having already compiled 30 professional fights. But an early exit on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 followed by a unanimous decision defeat to Tom Watson makes it hard to jump on the bandwagon.

If Ferreira comes out and controls the center of the Octagon, he's got this fight locked up. If he tries to play keep away, running from the ghosts of CB Dollaway, then we're likely to get 15 minutes of stick-and-move.


Final prediction: Ferreira def. Alvey via split decision

155 lbs.: Rustam "Tiger" Khabilov (17-2) vs. Adriano Martins (26-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: This fight makes total sense, because Rustam Khabilov and Adriano Martins were both supposed to be a big deal in the lightweight division -- until they were finished by Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone, respectively -- a pair of guys who are a big deal in the lightweight division.

Khabilov was submitted by "Smooth" while Martins was KTFO by "Cowboy."

One advantage the Brazilian has over his Dagestani dance partner is the fact that he already rebounded -- violently -- by putting Juan Manuel Puig out to pasture last July. Unfortunately his best attribute, the stand up, is going to be shut down by the relentless output of the opposing ground fighter.

Khabilov, a talented Sambo specialist, has a history of suplexing fighters right through the canvas.

Unless Martins can drop a well-placed bomb, I suspect he's going to be pushed into the cage and mugged for the majority of their three-round affair. He's got the size and strength to keep from getting finished, but not the technique to turn the tide.

It won't be pretty.

Final prediction: Khabilov def. Martins via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Iuri "Marajo" Alcantara (31-5) vs. Frankie Saenz (9-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this pairing. Iuri Alcantara has 36 pro fights, is ranked No. 8 in the UFC bantamweight division, and is riding a three-fight winning streak after coming up short against Urijah Faber in late 2013.

His reward is ... a natural flyweight?

To his credit, Frankie Saenz has won five straight, but his one and only win inside the Octagon came against Nolan Ticman (I'll wait while you look it up). That doesn't leave me with much optimism for the competitiveness of this bout, especially with the Brazilian enjoying home field advantage.

Not that it's a blowout.

Even after 12 years in the fight game, "Marajo" can't seem to keep himself from being taken down. That could prove to be problematic against a former collegiate wrestler like Saenz. The question now becomes, what can the Arizonian do with it once he gets the takedown?

Not much, I'm afraid.

Final prediction: Alcantara def. Saenz via submission

170 lbs.: Santiago "El Rasta" Ponzinibbio (19-2) vs. Sean "Tarzan" Strickland (15-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: Santiago Ponzinibbio has one of those international fight records that makes him look like a certified killer, racking up big wins in promotions like "Monster Black Combat," which sounds like one of those pornos your friends warn you about.

Since coming to the big stage, he's 1-1 and looked a little rough around the edges. Sure, he took Wendell de Oliveira Marques to the woodshed last September, but "The Machine" was making his Octagon debut after a ho-hum run on the Brazilian scene.

I'm not breaking out the party hats just yet.

Not to suggest Sean Strickland is ready for the top 10, but I do believe he's a more refined fighter heading into their welterweight showdown. I thought "Tarzan" looked a little flat in his UFC debut and his drop to 170 pounds will likely leave him at an advantage, even against a fighter as massive as Ponzinibbio.

What you see is what you get.

This fight is going to play out on the feet and the Brazilian is too poor defensively to stay off his ass for very long. Assuming Strickland doesn't make a mistake going in for the kill, a convincing finish from top position would not surprise me.

Final prediction: Strickland def. Ponzinibbio via technical knockout

That's a wrap.

Remember that will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 61 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised prelims and main card, slated to begin at 6 and 8 p.m. ET, respectively.

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 61 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Bigfoot vs. Mir."

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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