By: William Holmes
The UFC comes back to Las Vegas with another pay per view card, this time featuring a bantamweight title fight as its headliner. Former featherweight champion Urijah Faber takes on current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in a rematch of their 2007 fight which saw Faber won by submission. The undercard features such stalwarts as Silva, Leben, Ortiz, Bader, and Condit. The following is a preview of the title fight, and every other fight on the undercard.
Donny Walker (14-6) vs. Jeff Hougland (9-4); Bantamweight
Both Hougland and Walker are making their UFC debuts in the night’s opening matchup. Hougland started off his career 1-4 before winning eight matches in a row. Hougland’s past five matches have finished in the first round. Walker is currently riding a seven match winning streak, and has fought the likes of Cody Stevens, Cub Swanson, and Jeff Curran. Somebody’s winning streak has to end in this bout, and in a fight between two relative unknowns, I have to go with the fighter who has fought the toughest opponents to date. I expect Walker to win this fight by decision.
Anthony Njokuani (14-5) vs. Andre Winner (12-5-1); Lightweight
Former Ultimate Fighter finalist Andrew Winner takes on WEC veteran Anthony Njokuani. Njokuani has lost three of his last four fights after defeating overhyped prospect Chris Horodecki. Njokuani has a very strong stand up game, and it may not be wise for Winner to try and test him on his feet. Njokuani’s ground game is suspect at best however, and three of his losses have come by way of submission. Andre Winner is 2-3 in the UFC, but lost his last two fights to the very tough Dennis Siver and Nik Lentz. He was at a disadvantage against Siver because he fought as a last minute replacement. Winner has yet to be knocked out in his career, as he is a very tough fighter. I expect Winner to test Njokuani’s gas tank and win this fight by a very close decision.
Brad Tavares (7-0) vs. Aaron Simpson (8-2); Middleweight
Aaron Simpson was on a tear until he ran into Chris Leben in June of 2010. After that fight he dropped a decision to Mark Munoz in a fight that saw him fade late. He was able to bounce back from that with a win against Mario Miranda. Simpson badly needs this victory if he wants to regain the luster he had prior to his loss to Leben. Tavares is currently undefeated, and was able to defeat a faded MMA legend in Phil Baroni in his second UFC fight. Simpson will be Tavares’ toughest fight to date. Even though Tavares has yet to taste defeat, his skill set is still incomplete, and he has yet to face the high quality wrestler that Aaron Simpson is. I expect Simpson to take Tavares down early and often, and pound him out on the ground. Simpson has shown flashes of brilliance, and I expect those flashes to return on Saturday night.
Brian Bowles (9-1) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (14-5-2); Bantamweight
Former WEC champion Brian Bowles takes on former title contender Takeya Mizugaki in what should be a fight of the night candidate. Mizugaki was first brought state side in 2009 to take on then Bantamweight champion Migues Torres on a televised WEC card that was supposed to be a showcase fight for Torres. Mizugaki however opened up a lot of eyes and put on a hell of a fight, and even though he lost, he pushed Torres to the limit. Since then, Mizugaki has gone 3-2 under the Zuffa banner, defeating jiu jitsu ace Rani Yahya and losing to Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgenson. Bowles knocked out Torres in 2010 to win the Bantamweight title, but lost it in his next fight on a TKO due to doctor stoppage because of a broken right hand to current champion Dominick Cruz. Bowles bounced right back after that defeat with a guillotine submission victory over Damacio Page. Mizugaki has heart and will stay in the pocket and exchange, but I think Bowles is on another level than Mizugaki, and I expect Bowles to finish Mizugaki by TKO in the second round.
George Sotiropoulos (14-3) vs. Rafael Dos Anjos (14-4); Lightweight
In February of this year, fans were talking about George Sotiropoulos possibly contending for the UFC lightweight title provided when he defeats Dennis Siver in his home country of Australia. Dennis Siver however had other plans, and upset Sotiropoulos in a unanimous decision victory. Sotiropoulos hopes to regain some lost momentum and takes on the tough Rafael Dos Anjos in this lightweight bout. Dos Anjos has gone 3-1 in his last four fights, and is not shy about trading on his feet. Dos Anjos’ jiu jitsu is good, but not as good as Sotiropoulos’. Dos Anjos does hold the edge on his feet and if he can keep the fight standing, he should pull off a decision victory. That is a very big if however, and Sotiropoulos should still be considered an elite fighter in the lightweight decision. I expect Sotiropoulos to eventually take this fight to the ground and pull off a submission victory, likely early in the third round after Dos Anjos begins to tire.
Melvin Guillard (45-9-3, 1NC) vs. Shane Roller (10-3); Lightweight
Melvin Guillard is an incredible athlete who’s overall MMA game has improved greatly over the years. Since his return to the UFC in 2008, he has defeated the likes of Dennis Siver, Gleison Tibau, Jeremy Stephens, and the very tough Evan Dunham. Shane Roller has won five of his last six fights, defeating the likes of Thaigo Tavares, Jamie Varner, and Anthony Njokuani. Roller is a good fighter, but he is not a great fighter, and does not have the raw athletic ability and power that Guillard has. In Roller’s last fight against Tavares, he was getting pounded until he pulled off the come from behind victory. It is unlikely that Guillard will give Roller that chance to come from behind and pull off an upset. Guillard should win this fight by KO in the first or second round.
Dennis Siver (18-7) vs. Matt Wiman (13-5); Lightweight
Dennis Siver’s record is very deceptive, and his last victory over Sotiropoulos was very impressive in that he was able to keep the fight standing. Mat Wiman’s best chance to win this fight is to use his wrestling and take it to the ground. Siver is another fighter who’s skills have improved over time, and his wrestling has greatly improved. If Sotiropoulos is unable to take Siver down, I doubt Wiman will be able to take him down. Siver should slowly pick Wiman apart and cruise to a decision victory.
Carlos Condit (26-5) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (14-0-1); Welterweight
In a fight that will surely have future title implications, undefeated South Korean Dong Hyun Kim takes on former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Since fighting for the WEC and Zuffa, Carlos Condit has gone 8-1 including a devastating knockout of former title contender Dan Hardy. Kim has gone 5-0 in the UFC, including a hard fought victory over former TUF winner Nate Diaz. Condit will be Kim’s toughest fight to date, and will likely be Kim’s first loss. Kim comes from a very strong Judo background, but his stand up game is average at best. Condit has an excellent all around game, and underappreciated stand up game. I expect Condit to pick Kim apart on his feet, and this has potential fight of the night written all over it. Condit should win this by decision.
Tito Ortiz (16-8-1) vs. Ryan Bader (12-1); Light Heavyweight
This fight may be Tito Ortiz’s swan song. Tito is still a very good fighter, but he is no longer at the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. He’s had some very tough and close losses over the last few years, including losses to Machida, Hamil, Griffin and Evans. He was once known as a ground and pound machine, taking fighters down and pummeling them against the cage. However, the fight game has passed him by, and higher level wrestlers have since entered the sport and surpassed Tito in the ground and pound game. One such fighter is former TUF winner and Arizona State wrestler Ryan Bader. Bader lost his last matchup against the ultra talented and current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but other than that one fight he has performed very well in the UFC. Bader has very heavy hands, and has shown the ability to change tactics when the fight warrants it. I have a hard time seeing Tito win this fight, even though I want to see him stay in the UFC since he was one of my favorite fighters in the early days of MMA. Bader’s wrestling is stronger than Tito’s, and his standup is more crisp and powerful than Tito’s. Bader should take this fight by decision, leading to Tito’s release from MMA’s premier organization.
Wanderlei Silva (33-10-1, 1NC) vs. Chris Leben (21-7); Middleweight
This fight will not go to a decision. I cannot imagine a situation where two of the UFC’s most violent and exciting competitors are unable to finish each other. Former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva has not fought since February of 2010, taking a close decision victory over Michael Bisping. Prior to that victory Silva had gone 1-5, losing tough fights at higher weight classes to Lidell, Jackson, Cro Cop, Henderson, and Franklin. The drop in weight class should help Silva’s game, and he has had plenty of time for his body to heal from some of the brutal wars he has been in. Leben is always very dangerous, and has a legendary chin. Leben had a brutal loss to Brian Stann in January of this year, but prior to that he was on a tear, beating the likes of Aaron Simpson, Akiyama, and Jay Silva. Do not change the channel or use the bathroom during this fight, as either fighter could win it by KO, but I expect Silva to get back to his winning ways with a 2nd round KO.
Dominick Cruz (17-1) vs. Urijah Faber (25-4); Bantamweight
Cruz has been dreaming of this fight since he last lost to Faber by submission in March of 2007. That fight however was over four years ago, and this fight is taking place in an entirely new weight class. Cruz has certainly improved as a fighter since then, and his fighting style of popping his opponent with combinations than evading any counters may not produce exciting KO finishes, but it has been extremely effective. Faber was once the poster boy of the WEC, and after losing to Mike Brown twice and Jose Aldo, Faber wisely made the decision to drop to bantamweight. Since going to 135, Faber has defeated Mizugaki and former WEC champion Eddie Wineland. Cruz will likely find it much more difficult to avoid counters from Faber than from other fighters, and I expect Faber to encounter similar results in this matchup as their last one. Faber will win this fight, likely by 3rd or 4th round submission.