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UFC Fight Night 134 predictions, preview, and analysis

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It’s a special Sunday (July 22, 2018) edition of Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) “Fight Night” this weekend as the promotion heads to Germany, looking to bring some joy to a country gutted by World Cup failure the only way it knows how.

Leading the mixed martial arts (MMA) charge are light heavyweight finishers “Shogun” Rua and Anthony Smith, who rarely see the judges and have a habit of producing highlight-reel finishes. We’ll also see a crossroads fight between Glover Teixeira and Corey Anderson in the same division, plus The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil 3” veteran Vitor Miranda against newcomer Abu Azaitar and a healthy collection of European finishers to round out the main card.

Nostradumbass has spent the last three months infiltrating a Colombian drug cartel and is about to usurp its leader, so I’m back on main card duty. We’ve got your Prelims here and here, plus some odds analysis right here. Let’s see what Hamburg has to offer us.

205 lbs.: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-10) vs. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (29-13)

I’m going to take off my “Pride Never Die” hat for a minute here.

I’m perfectly aware that “Shogun” is a shadow of his former self. Physical decline, knee issues, his tendency to slug it out even when he should be mixing in his knees and leg kicks, and general wear-and-tear have rendered him an average fighter whose ranking only exists because light heavyweight is the most top-heavy division in the UFC. Knocking out Gian Villante, whom I considered the organization’s biggest underachiever before Justin Scoggins rolled around, isn’t going to change my mind.

All he’s really got left is his punch, and while that could be enough against “Lionheart,” I doubt it will be. Smith’s durability has looked a lot better in recent years, his only stoppage loss since 2013 coming from Thiago Santos’ horrifying body kick, and he has the gas tank and volume to capitalize when opponents wear themselves out trying to overwhelm him in the early going.

Shogun has been increasingly reliant on his takedowns in recent years, an area in which Smith still struggles, but that’s a calorically expensive strategy that I’m not sure he can maintain for 25 minutes at the age of 36. He needs the early finish, otherwise Smith is going to put him through the grinder once his gas tank runs out.

The potential for a stunning highlight-reel finish is still there, of course, but I can’t trust Shogun’s durability, gas tank, or gameplanning anymore. Smith drops the first couple of rounds to repeated takedowns before butting the hurt on a fading Rua in the championship rounds.

Prediction: Smith by fourth-round TKO

205 lbs.: Glover Teixeira (27-6) vs. Corey “Overtime” Anderson (10-4)

It legitimately feels weird to think about how Teixeira has spent six years in the UFC and fought 14 times. Some nostalgic part of my brain still thinks of him as that one guy with visa problems tearing up the Brazilian scene and showing up on every “best fighter outside the UFC” list.

Time flies.

Even if he’s 38 and on the downslope, though, this is a very winnable fight for him. Teixeira has by and large done well against wrestlers and, even when he does get taken down, tends to scramble up extremely quickly. Anderson’s standup, while ever-improving, isn’t dangerous enough to crack the Brazilian’s increasingly shaky jaw and he’s not going to out-cardio a guy who’s gone five hard rounds before.

Teixeira’s original opponent, Ilir Latifi, presented a considerable threat thanks to “The Sledgehammer’s” brutal punching power. Anderson, by contrast, is going to struggle to bring it to the mat on his terms and lacks that threat of one-punch annihilation. Teixeira’s sprawl and vaunted right hand give Anderson his fourth UFC knockout loss.

Prediction: Teixeira by first-round knockout

185 lbs.: Vitor “Lex Luthor” Miranda (12-6) vs. Abu “Gladiator” Azaitar (13-2-1)

Fun fact: Azaitar was supposed to debut almost a year ago against Siyar Bahadurzada, which would have been an absolutely wild slugfest. While this doesn’t have the same visceral potential, it’s definitely a more interesting fight from a stylistic perspective.

If you’ve never seen Azaitar fight, he throws looping punches and heavy single kicks while waiting for the opportunity to secure a takedown. He’s got decent power, having finished the iron-tough Jack Marshman with strikes, but there’s no nuance to his striking offense. Worse, he’s not that great a wrestler either offensively or defensively, having wound up on the bottom more than once against the 11-10-1 Danny Davis Jr.

What makes this interesting is that his flaws match Miranda’s strength and vice-versa. Miranda is a lethal kickboxer with serious power in all four limbs, but he’s patient to a fault in the standup and has an underdeveloped wrestling game. Both of these men have the tools to destroy the other if they play their cards right.

The deciding factor could be that Azaitar has been out of action since 2016 and has an energy-inefficient style, while Miranda can go all three rounds. The German hits a few early takedowns, but ultimately burns himself out and leaves himself open to Miranda’s sledgehammer strikes.

Prediction: Miranda by third-round TKO

265 lbs.: Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (28-10) vs. Marcin “Tybur” Tybura (16-4)

Can someone please convince Struve to retire for his own sake? He’s been knocked out seven times and has yet to fix any of the gaping flaws in his game after nearly a decade in the Octagon. He got outwrestled by what’s left of Andre Arlovski for God’s sake.

I would prefer he remember his own name by the time he turns 40.

“Tybur” isn’t as immediately dangerous as Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, or Alexander Volkov are, but he’s a skilled and well-rounded striker with the wrestling to put Struve on his back as needed, and for all the talk of how dangerous Struve’s guard is, the only people he’s submitted from there are Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson, both of whom have the submission defense of an intoxicated wombat.

Without the ability to keep Tybura at the end of his reach, the takedowns to put him on his back and unleash his legitimately dangerous top game, or the durability to withstand the Pole’s bigger shots, Struve’s outlook looks grim. His only real hope is to outlast Tybura the way Derrick Lewis did and put him away late, but without “The Black Beast’s” strength, he’s going to have a lot more trouble draining Tybura’s gas tank from the bottom. “Tybur” pieces him up on the feet, backs him to the fence, and takes him down as many times as needed to get the decision.

Prediction: Tybura by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese (12-2) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (8-2)

In all honesty, this matchup probably has the greatest Fight of the Night potential of any of the main card bouts. Both men are athletic dynamos with serious stopping power and aggression for days. They’re also fonder of power punches than jabs, so don’t expect the tentative potshotting we sometimes get when two big hitters duke it out.

The X-factor here is Diakiese’s wrestling, which he is more than happy to fall back on if things get too hairy on the feet. Haqparast was so eager for the knockout against Marcin Held that he surrendered takedowns in all three rounds, and while Diakiese is nowhere near the Pole’s equal on the jiu-jitsu front, he’s far more dangerous in the standup, which should compromises Haqparast’s takedown defense.

The lower-case x-factor, however, is Haqparast’s youth and time at quality gyms like Kings MMA and Tristar. At 22 years old, he could easily have improved exponentially in the year since his UFC debut. There’s a cliché about making assumptions, though, so I’ve got to go with what I’ve seen. A one-punch knockout either way would not surprise me at all, but expect Diakiese to win enough exchanges and spend enough time on top to secure the decision.

Prediction: Diakiese by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: David “Sagat” Zawada (16-3) vs. Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts (15-3)

I cannot, for the life of me, find any recordings of Zawada’s KSW bouts. He’s fought some very solid opposition, including future promotional champion Borys Mankowsi and UFC vets Andreas Stahl and Maciej Jewtuszko, so there’s plenty of good footage out there. I just can’t find and/or access any of it.

Looking at some older tape, he looks like a trip-focused grappler with decent standup and good stopping power on both the feet and the ground. It’s a good skillset and should carry him to a decent UFC run. Not sure it’s enough against Roberts, though.

The Brit suffers from a shaky chin, which gives all of his fights an air of danger, but he should be able to match Zawada wherever the fight goes and has the advantage of a full training camp. Sorry I can’t offer more substantive analysis, but I can only work with what I’ve got. Roberts wins a fun, competitive decision.

Prediction: Roberts by unanimous decision will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 134 fight card on Sunday (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard at 10:30 AM ET and continuing on with the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” at 12:00 PM ET. The main card itself begins at 2 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 134, click here.