UFC 160 Preview

Good afternoon to my friends from the Interwebs, this is Lucas Kinser bringing you my first post since graduating from college with a BA in Journalism. Took my 6.5 years, but hey, better late than never!

It’s been many months since a fight card had me as excited as UFC 160. When was the last time a pay per view event featured a pair of bouts featuring current or former UFC Heavyweight titlists as well as a No. 1 contender bout for a different weight class?

UFC 74 on August 25, 2007. Randy Couture defended his belt vs. Gabriel Gonzaga, Frank Mir defeated Antoni Hardonk on his road back to title contention and GSP beat Josh Kosckeck to earn an interim title shot vs. Matt Hughes.

So let’s go through the fight card and prognosticate what may happen, shall we?

All odds are based on Bovada.lv numbers from Thursday, May 23 around noon.

All statistics are based on results from Fightmetric.com  

Cain Velasquez (c, -750) vs. Antonio Silva (+425)

Let’s face it…the last fight between these two was a landslide. When Velasquez and Silva fought at UFC 146, the champ got a quick takedown vs. “Bigfoot” and slammed 28 significant strikes from dominant positions to force Josh Rosenthal to dive in and protect a bloody, beaten Brazilian.

So is there any chance the rematch goes any better? Yes.

Bigfoot has made a career out of winning when the odds are stacked against him. He owns, in my opinion, two of the five biggest upsets in Heavyweight history: His TKO vs. Fedor and brutal KO of Alistair Overeem. He packs serious power in his hands and can knock out just about anyone in the division.

But to do so, he’ll have to catch Velasquez with a lucky punch. Only one man has ever done that (Junior Dos Santos), and he has twice the hand speed of “Bigfoot.”

I think Silva will learn from the first fight and try to say on his feet longer than the few seconds he did at UFC 146. But in the end, it will be Velasquez using his dominant top control to pound out the big man.

Results: Velasquez via KO/TKO

Junior Dos Santos (-450) vs. Mark Hunt (+325)

The ultimate wild card of this event, Dos Santos and Hunt are the most feared strikers of their division, but for two very different reasons. Dos Santos is a talented, technical striker who uses combinations to break his opponents down. In his UFC career, he never lost a bout in which he landed more significant strikes than his opponent, including a 130-40 margin vs. a comparable opponent in Roy Nelson.

Mark Hunt, however, uses is one-punch power and impeccable timing to earn flash knockouts at the drop of a hat. The former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion has only been knocked out once in his career despite battles vs. legendary strikers like Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva, both of whom he defeated.

It took one powerful strike from Cain Velasquez to knock Dos Santos off his game en route to a sloppy defeat. If Hunt can replicate that strategy, he may have the same result.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I think Hunt could land that one blow. Remember, despite being six inches shorter than his opponent, he hold just a three-inch reach disadvantage and ranks ahead of Dos Santos in both strikes absorbed per minute and has the takedown defense (70%) to keep this fight on its feet if things go wrong for the Brazilian. Fat guys are on a hot streak the past couple years, so let’s roll the dice and see what happens!

Results: Hunt via KO/TKO

Glover Teixeira (-310) vs. James Te-Huna (+240)

A legend of Brazilian regional MMA, Teixeira takes an 18-fight win streak into the Octagon Saturday, including wins vs. numerous UFC veterans before reeling off three wins inside the Octagon. A powerful striker who trains with Chuck Liddell, he’s also competed at Abu Dhabi and holds a submission grappling win vs. Dean Lister. All in all, he’s a true mixed martial artist.

But Te-Huna is no pushover, either. The New Zealand native has never been knocked out despite going toe-to-toe with Hector Lombard. A winner of four straight in the UFC, his only defeat came against top prospect Alex Gustafsson via submission. In fact four of his five losses have come from subs, including a pair of RNC’s.

Four of Teixeira’s five submission wins have come via choke, so if the Brazilian can’t knock out the iron-chinned Pacific Islander, he’s got a second out to make this a short fight, aided by his 80% takedown success.

Results: Teixeira via Submission

Gray Maynard (-210) vs. T.J. Grant (+170)

This one doesn’t need much explanation. Maynard’s goal is to get this fight on the ground and smother his opponent, looking for opportunities to strike while advancing his position on top.

Maynard has recorded at least one takedown in nine of his 12 fights, including at least five in three bouts. On the contrary, Grant has been out-taken down 18-1 in his three UFC losses to Dong Hyun Kim, Johny Hendricks and Ricardo Almeida, all decision losses.

Expect Maynard to take a similar approach and ground out a cautious decision.

Results: Maynard via Decision

Donald Cerrone (-325) vs. K.J. Noons (+250)

An intriguing bout between a pair of fighters at the crossroads of their careers, Cerrone and Noons are both coming off losses (despite most of the media saying Noons should have won his decision vs. Couture). These former title contenders are looking to work their way back to the top, but they stand in each other’s ways.

Both men are accomplished strikers with different backgrounds: Cerrone utilized a dangerous combination of Kickboxing and BJJ, often wearing his opponents down with his striking to set up a choke. Noons, on the other hand, possesses crisp boxing and Kempo karate skills, holding a combined 23-4 professional record in both. Not known as a submission fighter, he does have excellent defensive skills both on his feet and on the ground.

While evenly matched on the feet, this fight should come down to the ground game. Cerrone rarely attempts takedowns, but a telling stat is that he’s never lost a fight where he landed two or more takedowns, resulting in three subs and two decisions. However, Noons in 4-3 in fights he allows just ONE takedown, dropping those three by decision. That’s enough evidence for me.

Results: Cerrone via Decision

Other predictions:

Rick Story (-150) vs. Mike Pyle (-120)                                     Story via KO/TKO

Dennis Bermudez (-275) vs. Max Holloway (+215)           Holloway via Decision

Colton Smith (-225) vs. Robert Whittaker (+175)               Smith via Decision

Khabib Nurmagomedov (-285) vs. Abel Trujillo (+225)   Nurmagomedov via Submission

Stephen Thompson (-160) vs. Nah-Shon Burrell (+130)  Thompson via KO/TKO

Brian Bowles (-280) vs. George Roop (+220)                        Bowles via KO/TKO

Jeremy Stephens (-230) vs. Estevan Payan (+180)             Payan via Decision

For more updates and info about the world of sports, follow me on twitter at @LucasKinser. Looking forward to a great weekend of fights!