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.

UFC on Versus 5 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC on Versus 5 takes place this Sunday night and the main card has five very interesting bouts. Here are my picks for the contest.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Dan Hardy (23-9) vs. Chris Lytle (40-18-4) – Hardy and Lytle should put on quite a show. Both men like to slug it out and give something exciting for the fans. However, once this fight gets heated, I expect some grappling to take place. Lytle has a clear edge in that category, which is why I like him to win by decision. Lytle can take a punch, while Hardy can’t stop a takedown.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Jim Miller (20-2) vs. Ben Henderson (13-2) – This should be a great fight. Miller is on the verge of earning a lightweight title shot while Henderson is a former WEC champ. This should be primarily a grappling exhibition, and I think Miller is just a little bit better than Henderson in that department. I could see Henderson sneaking in a choke, but ultimately, my pick goes with Miller by decision in a great contest.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Charles Oliveira (14-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (15-3) – This should be another great fight. Both men are tremendous grapplers. The key in this contest will be striking. Oliveira thinks he has some good striking, which is never a good thing for a grappler. If he attempts to exchange with Cerrone, “The Cowboy” will pick him apart. Cerrone may not have knockout power, but he will be able to control the fight. I see Cerrone winning this fight by decision thanks to his boxing and ability to stay out of submissions.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Amir Sadollah (6-2) vs. Duane Ludwig (28-11) – Sadollah is a great grappler and has good muay thai striking, but Ludwig has one-punch power. I think Sadollah will ultimately win by submission, but he has to avoid that early surge from Ludwig. After the early surge, Sadollah should be able to push a pace that Ludwig can’t keep up with. I see Sadollah winning by choke in the third round.

UFC 133 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC 133 takes place on Saturday night from the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia.

The card is somewhat tame for the UFC as of late, but still has some exciting fights.

Here are my picks for the five bouts on the main card.

Light Heavyweight Bout – Rashad Evans (20-1-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (17-8-1) – In this rematch, I like Evans to win. Ortiz is taking the fight on short notice and Evans has evolved much more since their first meeting. Evans should have a striking edge and probably has more explosive takedowns. My pick is for Evans to win by decision.

Middleweight Bout – Vitor Belfort (19-9) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3) – Akiyama has a style that could pose problems for Belfort, but I ultimately see Belfort winning by TKO in the second round. Belfort has to stay out of the clinch and off his back, which I think he will find a way to do.

Welterweight Bout – Dennis Hallman (65-13-2) vs. Brian Ebersole (47-14-1) – This is a fight of two war-torn veterans of MMA. Both men have excellent grappling ability and respectable striking. I expect this to be a war, but I ultimately see Hallman coming out on top due to his past competition and experience in the UFC.

Middleweight Bout – Jorge Rivera (18-8) vs. Constantinos Philippou (7-2) – Rivera is a tough guy, but I don’t think he has the skills to really compete at a high level in the UFC. Philippou is unproven, but I expect this hungry fighter to get past Rivera by TKO with some ground and pound in the second round.

Welterweight Bout – Rory MacDonald (11-1) vs. Mike Pyle (21-7-1) – Pyle is a great grappler, but so is MacDonald. I think MacDonald has the better striking and is just the overall more-skilled fighter. Look for the young Canadian to continue to rise up the rankings with a decision win over the one-dimensional Pyle.

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson Picks & Predictions

nullStrikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson takes place Saturday night and here are my picks for each of the five main card bouts.

Heavyweight Bout – Fedor Emelianenko (31-3-1) vs. Dan Henderson (27-8) – This is a tough fight to call, but I like Fedor to bounce back and get over his losing streak. I think his size will be too much for Henderson, as he has similar wrestling skills but improved submissions. Both pack a good punch, but Fedor looks like he is in good shape for this fight and will be able to push a faster pace. Give me Fedor to win in the third by submission.

Women’s Welterweight Championship – Marloes Coenen (19-4) vs. Miesha Tate (11-2) – I like Coenen to win this fight by submission in the later rounds. I don’t expect either to land a big strike and expect the fight to be primarily on the ground. There, I look for Coenen to neutralize Tate’s wrestling ability before finding a way to sneak in a submission.

Middleweight Bout – Robbie Lawler (19-7-1) vs. Tim Kennedy (13-3) – Lawler has a pretty obvious weakness against ground fighters, so I think Kennedy should win this one with some ease. Lawler will swing big early, but that will open him up to a takedown, and eventually a submission. I will take Kennedy in the second by choke.

Welterweight Bout – Paul Daley (27-10-2) vs. Tyron Woodley (7-0) – Like Lawler, Daley is somewhat one dimensional, which should allow Woodley to get the win. This will be a big test for Woodley, but I like him to win by TKO with ground and pound as Daley will struggle to hit his big punch.

Welterweight Bout – Scott Smith (17-7-1) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (10-2) – Smith is a dangerous striker and an exciting fighter, but he lacks the all-around skills to compete at the highest level. I look for Saffiedine to control the fight on the ground and get a decision win over Smith.

UFC 132 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC 132 takes place Saturday night from Las Vegas with a stacked card.

The main card features five exciting bouts and here are my picks for the contest.

UFC Bantamweight Championship – Dominick Cruz (17-1) vs. Urijah Faber (25-4) – In this rematch I see Cruz winning by unanimous decision. His movement and wrestling will be too much for Faber to deal with. Cruz is a much different fighter than the one that met Faber before and I expect his footwork to pose problems for Faber and his explosive takedowns will be too much for Faber to stuff.

Middleweight Bout – Wanderlei Silva (33-10-1) vs. Chris Leben (21-7) – In this battle of strikers, I like Silva as I think his striking is a little more diverse. I think Silva’s chin is a little weaker, but I expect Silva to land the big punch first. Leben has a big heart, but he has struggled against strikers in the past. Look for Silva to win by second round TKO.

Light Heavyweight Bout – Tito Ortiz (16-8-1) vs. Ryan Bader (12-1) – This should be Ortiz’ final bout with the UFC as I see Bader winning by decision. I think the fight should be competitive, but Bader’s athleticism and combination of wrestling and striking should be too much for Ortiz, who will have to score takedowns in order to win.

Welterweight Bout – Carlos Condit (26-5) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (14-0-1) – This should be a very close fight, but I like Kim to remain unbeaten. His size and strength should be too much for Condit. I see Kim putting his weight on Condit against the fence and then scoring some judo throws and takedowns to control Condit. Look for Kim to win by decision.

Lightweight Bout – Dennis Siver (18-7) vs. Matt Wiman (13-5) – Siver is a short, compact striker that is hard to get to the ground because of his low center of gravity. I see Wiman struggling to get the fight to the ground, and that will allow Siver to out-point Wiman with his striking. My pick is Siver by decision.

UFC Live 4 Picks & Predictions

nullThe show must go on!

Despite all the chaos surrounding Nate Marquardt and the main event of UFC Live 4, the event will still take place on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET.

Here are my picks for the four main card bouts.

Heavyweight Bout – Cheick Kongo (25-6-2) vs. Pat Barry (6-2) – As much as I would like to see Barry win this fight, I think Kongo’s experience and grappling ability will pay off. Barry has the clear edge in terms of technical striking, but I expect Kongo to push Barry against the cage and win the clinch battle and also score some takedowns to get a decision victory.

Welterweight Bout – Rick Story (13-3) vs. Charlie Brenneman (13-2) – This is a tough spot for Rick Story as it is really lose-lose. He now fights a lesser opponent on 24 hours notice, and that guy is fully prepared for a war, since he was originally scheduled to fight on the card anyway. Brenneman has everything to gain in this fight. Still, I suspect Story will have the skills to control the fight and earn a tough decision.

Welterweight Bout – John Howard (14-6) vs. Matt Brown (13-10) – I am actually going to predict an upset in this one and go with Brown. Brown has done well against strikers and Howard has struggled lately against guys that can pack a punch and negate his striking. Brown also can mix in some takedowns and put on relentless pressure. I will take Brown to win by submission in the third round.

Heavyweight Bout – Matt Mitrione (4-0) vs. Christian Morecraft (7-1) – I like Mitrione to continue his rise up the ranks. He really has a nice diverse striking style that is tough for opponents to counter. I don’t suspect Morecraft has the striking or the grappling to really stop Mitrione from winning this fight. Give me the meathead by decision.