Happy Fourth of July weekend to everyone! Hopefully most of you are recovering from the disappointing end to the USA’s run through the World Cup and are now celebrating the holiday with friends and family.
The UFC, well actually the sport of MMA, wants you to celebrate as well, with three MAJOR fight cards taking place this week. The UFC is attempting to garner attention off of the World Cup with outlining a “Country vs Country” theme to its promotion of UFC 175 this Saturday night.
However, the story of the weekend might actually be taking place Saturday afternoon when unbeaten lightweight Nick Newell challenges Justin Gaethje for the World Series of Fighting lightweight title live on NBC.
Newell, who trains in South Florida, was born with a condition called congenital amputation on his left arm, which stops past his elbow. Yet, Newell has defied all odds and garnered both an accomplished amateur wrestling and now MMA career. He'll have a shot at a major promotional title this Saturday.
Both Newell and Gaethje are top tier lightweight prospects and may find themselves being offered contracts by the UFC in the very near future.
Now to the fights on Saturday night.
Chris Weidman (11-0) vs No. 3 Lyoto Machida (21-4)
For the first time in over a year, Weidman prepares for an opponent not named Anderson Silva in his second title defense, this time against former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
Weidman, the soft-spoken former All-American wrestler from Hofstra University, was thrust into the spotlight one year ago when he knocked out the previously impenetrable Silva and went on to defeat him a second time via TKO this past December.
Weidman possesses all the skills to prosper as the middleweight champion for a long time. He has tremendous athletic ability and is a devastating striker, showcased in his TKO victory over Mark Munoz; not to mention his wrestling skills have transitioned well to MMA. He’s also an extremely intelligent fighter and has surrounded himself with some of the best coaching talent in the business; Ray Longo and former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra.
He’ll need that strategic advantage against Machida, a karate expert that won the light-heavyweight title several years ago. “The Dragon” is certainly difficult to game plan against; he has a unique stance inside the Octagon and looks to couple a striking attack of counters and blitzing combinations. He’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, so he’ll be comfortable if Weidman decides to take this fight to the ground.
Machida has really found success when’s he frustrated opponents, forcing them to rush in (See his fight vs Ryan Bader). He does have a tendency to have a boring fight, waiting for his opponent to strike.
Weidman showed confidence, patience and poise vs Anderson Silva. That should be difference against Machida.
My prediction, Weidman via decision
Ronda Rousey (9-0) vs No. 2 Alexis Davis (16-5)
The fighter that I believe is the face of MMA, unbeaten women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey returns to the Octagon, looking to defend her title for the fourth consecutive time against Davis, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has won three in a row in the UFC.
Rousey is everywhere. She is starring in movies, she is making appearances on TV, she’s appearing in magazines and oh, she’s also dominating the sport of women’s MMA. Nine MMA fights, nine finishes including her most recent against former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann. Rousey’s style is to press forward, use one of her now famous judo throws to get you on the ground and submit you. She’s improved her striking and has an outstanding clinch game, with an uncanny ability to transition the fight to the ground.
As a champion, you always face new challenges. This will be the first time Rousey fights a legit black belt on the ground who may be able to prevent Rousey’s armbar and other submission attempts.
Struggling early in her career against more experienced fighters and dominant strikers, Davis has been able to put together this recent 3-fight run by dictating the pace and direction of each one of her fights. Her submission skill set is typically so far advanced than her opponents, she’s been able to best former title challenger Liz Carmouche and top ranked Jessica Eye along this current run.
Still, Rousey is not only another level of an opponent, she’s on another planet,.
My prediction, Rousey via submission (Rd 1)
No. 12 Stefan Struve (29-6) vs Matt Mitrione (7-3)
Everyone loves a comeback story, it’s the “American way”, right?
That’s why the heavyweight title between Struve and Mitrione gets the high billing on this fight card, but it’s the Dutch Struve that is making the comeback.
In August of last year, Struve was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve, meaning that his aortic valve only has two leaflets instead of three, causing an enlarged heart. Shelved for sometime while he was treated, Struve received news and doctor clearance this past April to fight again.
When healthy, Struve is a monster heavyweight, standing 6’11 and using his reach both on the feet and on the ground. He’s fought 13-times in the Octagon, making his debut as a 21-year old. His only losses, former champion Junior dos Santos and top ranked heavyweights Mark Hunt, Travis Browne and Roy Nelson. His jab is a great weapon and if this fight were to go to the ground, Struve has a strong finishing rate; 16 of his 25 MMA wins have come via submission.
There is no way to tell how Struve will perform, having been on the sidelines since March of 2013. Which is why a matchup with Mitrione, one of the most unpredictable personalities in the sport, is a perfect return bout.
The former NFL Football player and competitor on the Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights season has had mixed results in the UFC. He’s a great athlete with KO power, but has never been able to fully put together a strong run of performances in the UFC. His entire professional career has taken place in the Octagon and he has now committed to fully training in South Florida with the Blackzillians.
I like comeback stories and I think the reach advantage will be too much for Mitrione to handle.
My prediction, Struve via TKO (Rd 2)
Urijah Hall (9-4) vs Thiago Santos (9-2)
The complex, yet always devastating Hall returns to the Octagon against Santos, an Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2 competitor.
Hall was billed as the “next big thing” on his season of the Ultimate Fighter, yet lost to now welterweight Kelvin Gastelum. When he’s right, Hall is a spectacular striker whose variety and power make him a threat every time the fight is on its feet. He may have finally righted the ship with his last victory, a TKO finish of Chris Leben.
Santos practices capoeira, a form of “dance fighting” that emulated in both Brazil and Africa. He is not as talented as a striker as Hall, but I’m siding with Santos here just because I don’t believe in Urijah’s ability to get out of his own way.
My prediction, Santos via decision
Marcus Brimage (6-2) vs Russel Doane (13-3)
The fight card opens with the powerhouse Brimage taking on Hawaiian striker Doane in a bantamweight contest. Brimage is making is debut at 135 and showcased his power at 145 with victories over Jimy Hettes and Maximo Blanco. What he lacks in striking, Brimage is a powerful grappler that will look to get on top of Doane and get the finish.
As mentioned before, Doane has a healthy dose of muay thai and boxing at his disposal, plus can work a submission.
I think Doane, who has gained some momentum, likely gets it.
My prediction, Doane via TKO (Rd 2)
Return to: Inside the Cage Blog