UFC on Versus 6 Preview: Johnson vs. Cruz

nullThe main event of UFC on Versus 6 is for the UFC Bantamweight Championship with Dominick Cruz defending his UFC title for the second time against Demetrious Johnson.

The fight is a rare championship bout on free television, as the card airs on Versus this Saturday at 9PM ET.

Here is a look at both fighters heading into this title bout.

Dominick Cruz (18-1): The bantamweight champion is coming off his toughest fight to date, a unanimous decision win over Urijah Faber at UFC 132 back in July. The fight was exciting and very competitive, but allowed the champ to avenge his lone loss in his career. Cruz’ style is very difficult to prepare for as he uses very elusive footwork to work in a combination of punches and kicks and then get out of danger. He also has a very explosive wrestling background, which he tends to use late in rounds to secure 10 points with the judges. Cruz has shown the ability to take a punch when hit, and stuff opponents takedowns with great ease.

Demetrious Johnson (9-1) – Johnson has quickly surged up the bantamweight rankings, winning his last four fights in the Zuffa Organization since losing his debut with the brand to Brad Pickett back in April of 2010. His win streak has included the likes of Damacio Page, Kid Yamamoto, and Miguel Torres. Johnson has a strong wrestling base that has worked to his advantage, as he has been able to keep opponents on their back. While he has some good striking, he has a very short reach and probably will struggle to land clean strikes on the mobile champion. Johnson’s best bet to win will be to get Cruz against the cage and use his strength to force him to the ground. The more this fight is fought with distance, the worse his chances are.

Who will win? – I think Johnson has some promise, but this is not a good matchup for him and I am not quite sure he is ready for a title shot. He has not beaten any of the top four bantamweights in Cruz, Faber, Joseph Benavidez, or Brian Bowles. This is a big step up in competition and the fight is on a big stage. I see Cruz controlling the fight with his style and winning by decision once again.

UFC 135 Picks and Predictions

nullUFC 135 kicks off an amazing two-month span for the premiere MMA organization.

The card features a light heavyweight championship bout and a number of exciting fights.

Here are my picks for the main card bouts.

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship – Jon Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-8) – Jones faces his biggest challenge to date in his young MMA career while Rampage is looking to stay in the spotlight of the UFC. There are some big questions here as Jones has yet to face any adversity in the octagon or really have his chin tested. Jackson has big power in both his hand, and if he can get inside the reach of Jones, he can knock him out. However, Rampage is somewhat one dimensional, using just boxing to win fights. I have no doubt that Jones has the ability to get Jackson to the ground if he so chooses. I think he will use his kicks and jabs to keep Jackson uncomfortable in the beginning and then eventually get the fight to the ground where I see him finishing Jackson with ground-and-pound strikes. Look for Jones to win this one in the third round.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Matt Hughes (46-8) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-5) – Hughes was originally scheduled to face Diego Sanchez, but an injury forced Koscheck into the mix. Hughes had a better chance of beating Sanchez in my opinion as I don’t see him being able to wrestle Koscheck to the ground. Koscheck seems to be the better wrestler and the better striker in this fight. Koscheck’s only issue is that he is a wild striker, so he could leave himself open to a counter by Hughes. Hughes doesn’t have great power, but Koscheck doesn’t have a great chin. Still, I see Koscheck doing enough to earn a decision win over the UFC Hall of Famer.

UFC Heavyweight Bout – Travis Browne (11-0-1) vs. Rob Broughton (15-5-1) – Browne appears to be a rising star in the heavyweight division. He has some great striking as he uses his powerful fists and mixes in nice leg kicks. Broughton is tough, but I think he is the sacrificial lamb in this fight to push Travis Browne into the MMA spotlight. Look for Browne to win by TKO in the first round.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7) – Gomi fought Nick Diaz years ago in an amazing fight and I see this bought being just as exciting. The big issue with Gomi is that he tires easily and that will allow Diaz to get him to the ground and secure a choke. I like Nate Diaz to win by rear-naked choke in the third round of this one.

UFC Heavyweight Bout – Ben Rothwell (31-7) vs. Mark Hunt (6-7) – Hunt was promising back in the day, but he just doesn’t have the skills to compete with most in the UFC. I see Rothwell overwhelming him early in the fight and getting a TKO finish with a flurry of punches in the first round.

UFC Fight Night 25 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC Fight Night 25 takes place on Saturday night from New Orleans with a solid card of four free fights.

Here is a look at which fighters I like on Saturday, and why.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Jake Shields (26-5-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (25-5) – Shields is coming off the loss of his father, which may affect his performance, but I think this is his fight to lose. Ellenberger is a rising star and clearly the better striker, but he is taking a big step up in competition. I see Shields being able to work in his takedowns and grappling control to earn a tough decision victory.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Court McGee (12-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-1) – This is a classic striker vs. grappler match up, and I like the grappler to prevail. Yang has big punching power, but I see McGee getting this fight up against the cage where Yang will be neutralized. From there, look for McGee to grind out a few takedowns and eventually secure a choke in the later rounds.

UFC Featherweight Bout – Jonathan Brookins (13-3) vs. Erik Koch (12-1) – Koch is considered the favorite according to the oddsmakers, but my pick goes with Brookins. He needs a lot of work in his striking, but his grappling takes a back seat to nobody in the division. I see Brookins taking a few punches early, but eventually getting inside Koch and using a judo throw or roll to get the fight to the ground. From there, I expect Brookins to work in a choke to get the win.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Alan Belcher (15-5) vs. Jason MacDonald (26-14) – Belcher makes his return after more than a year off and he has a lot to fight for. He was a rising star in the division prior to his eye injury and he should have the skills to get past MacDonald, who is somewhat one dimensional, with a great submission skill set. Look for Belcher to pick apart MacDonald on his feet and avoid the ground game as he gets a decision win.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Picks & Predictions

nullThe semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix take place on Saturday night and also a pair of intriguing side bouts.

Here are my picks for the four bouts that will be featured on tonight’s Showtime card.

Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals – Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov – I think Barnett will be smart and handle Kharitonov similar to how he did Brett Rogers. Look for Barnett’s wrestling to eventually lead to a submission finish in the second or third round.

Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals – Antonio Silva vs. Daniel Cormier – Silva vs. Overeem would have been a bigger draw for Strikeforce, but now their champ is with the UFC. Still, Silva has shown some improving skills and I think he will be able to handle Cormier, who is still developing his skills. Cormier can wrestle, but Silva is stronger and should have better conditioning. I look for Silva to out-strike and out-grapple Cormier to earn a decision victory.

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship – Ronaldo Souza vs. Luke Rockhold – Rockhold is a nice little fighter, but Souza should have no trouble with him. The submission wizard should find a way to work his magic in this fight and force a tap. Rockhold hasn’t faced a lot of tough talent and is just proof that Strikeforce doesn’t have much of a middleweight division.

Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Bout – Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie – King Mo hasn’t fought in over a year and young Roger Gracie is off to an impressive start to his career, submitting the likes of Trevor Prangley and Kevin Randleman. Lawal is going to want to keep this fight standing, but he has a strong wrestling background that may ultimately lead to his demise. I see the better-conditioned Gracie using his skills to get the fight to the ground and choking out the former Strikeforce champ.

UFC 134 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC 134 takes place on Saturday night from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and has an exciting main card.

Here are my picks for tonight’s featured bouts.

UFC Middleweight Championship – Anderson Silva (28-4) vs. Yushin Okami (27-5) – Okami has the right skill set to actually pull off this upset, but he lacks the one thing that he truly needs to win …. aggression. Chael Sonnen had success against Silva by coming out fast and not letting Silva get settled in. If you watch Silva’s fights, he likes to take the first two minutes to dance around and develop a timing for his opponent. Once he has found it, he starts to dance a little and that is when the fight is usually over. Okami can’t let Silva get comfortable, but I fear he will. For that reason, I see Silva scoring a knockout in the second round.

Light Heavyweight Bout – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6) – Griffin won the first fight and I think he wins the second. I think this is a bad matchup for Rua because Griffin is a “dog” that will keep coming at him and push a pace that Shogun can’t handle. I see Rua tiring again in the middle of the fight, which will allow Griffin to control the fight on the ground and with his boxing. I pick Griffin by decision in an upset.

Heavyweight Bout – Antonio Minotauro Nogeuira (32-6-10 vs. Brendan Schaub (9-1) – I love the heart that Nogueira has, but I think his chin has taken a beating over the years and eventually Schaub will catch him with a knockout punch. Nogueira has the edge on the ground if the fight goes there, but he lacks the wrestling ability to takedown the likes of Schaub, who is a strong and burly heavyweight. I pick Schaub to win this fight by knockout in the first round.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Ross Pearson (14-4) vs. Edson Barboza (8-0) – Pearson is a tough fighter that likes to scrap, but it would be difficult to prepare for the type of leg kicks he will see against Barboza. After being hit with a few of those, it can completely throw a fighter off his game. For that reason, I see Barboza winning by decision as he will land the most effective strikes and control the pacing and style of the fight.

Light Heavyweight Bout – Luiz Cane (12-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0) – Cane has been an all-or-nothing fighter as of late. His last three fights have ended in the first round, two of them saw him getting knocked out. In this fight, he takes on a fighter in Nedkov that can go to the ground and stay standing. If Cane can keep the fight standing, I think he can win, but he doesn’t have great technical skills, and I think that opens the door for Nedkov to get him to the ground and control him. I will take Nedkov to win his debut by decision in this one.