By Jaime C. Feal
A huge matchup goes down tomorrow night in Las Vegas as pound for pound king Anderson “The Spider” Silva defends his middleweight title against undefeated #1 contender Chris Weidman. The co-main event features a features a featherweight clash between former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and jiu-jitsu specialist Charles Oliveira. Also on the card is a solid matchup between strikers Denis Siver and Cub Swanson, and both Roger Gracie and Tim Kennedy make their UFC debuts.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Roger Gracie (6-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Tim Kennedy (15-4, 0-0 UFC)
Two former Strikeforce fighters get their first crack at a UFC win, and the style clash could not be more pronounced. Roger Gracie, an ADCC champion, is one of the best grapplers on the planet, and easily in the top 3 best grapplers in MMA. Tim Kennedy can’t match Gracie’s jiu jitsu skills, but he is better everywhere else, and has been talking tons of smack heading into this matchup.
An expert in hand-to-hand combat, Kennedy will need to keep this fight standing so he can dictate the terms of the fight. Kennedy’s wrestling will be tested as Gracie will no doubt be looking to take the fight to the floor. With such a mismatch in grappling pedigree, Kennedy doesn’t figure to last long if the fighters hit the mat. The undefeated Gracie figures to face the most adversity yet in his MMA career, but expect him to survive early before capitalizing on an opening later.
Prediction: Roger Gracie wins by submission, Round 2.
Featherweight Division (145 lbs.):
Dennis Siver (21-8, 10-5) vs. Cub Swanson (19-5, 4-1 UFC)
Matchmaker Joe Silva was smart in pitting two of the featherweight division’s best strikers against each other in this one. Dennis Siver, the German kickboxer who has arguably the best spinning back kick in the game, brings his powerful striking arsenal into the Octagon once again on Saturday night. Standing in his way is Cub Swanson, who has performed above expectations in the UFC and is slowly positioning himself towards a title shot.
Swanson, although he doesn’t have as much power in his strikes, has the better hands and boxing experience. Swanson has a significant height and reach advantage, and he will need to use it well to jab and stay away from Siver’s kicks. Swanson has been seemingly improving with every fight, employing solid gameplans, good footwork, crisp, technical boxing, and cage savvy. Expect the trend to continue, although not without a few scares from Siver along the way.
Prediction: Cub Swanson wins by unanimous decision.
Featherweight Division (145 lbs.):
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (15-4-1, 9-4-1 UFC) vs. Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira (16-3, 4-3 UFC)
After receiving an immediate title shot against Jose Aldo and coming up short, Frankie Edgar looks to get back on track in the ultra-competitive UFC featherweight division. Edgar faces jiu-jitsu specialist Charles Oliveira, who has some of the deadliest submissions in the game. Oliveira is a master of leg locks, and the speed in which he has tapped out some of his foes is downright scary.
Edgar, however, is far too experienced and well-rounded to get caught in an early submission by Oliveira. A standout wrestler in college, Edgar will have no problems keeping this fight standing. Although Oliveira is taller, Edgar is much stronger for the division. Oliveira simply does not have the muscle, strength, or wrestling to get Edgard down.
This match then becomes a stand up fight, and Oliveira is at a severe disadvantage in this department. Edgar has always displayed crisp footwork, boxing, and head movement, deftly moving in out of range to frustrate his opponents. This was evident in both his victories over BJ Penn, a man with much more striking prowess than Oliveira. Edgar will make “do Bronx” look out of his element Saturday night, demoralizing the Brazilian en route to his first win in the UFC featherweight division.
Prediction: Frankie “The Answer” Edgar wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Middleweight Championship (185 lbs.):
Anderson “The Spider” Silva (32-4, 15-0 UFC) vs. Chris “All-American” Weidman (9-0, 5-0 UFC)
Anderson Silva puts his middleweight strap on the line for the first time since successfully defending against Chael Sonnen in Las Vegas on the 4th of July weekend one year ago. Once again, Silva faces the worst possible stylistic matchup for him; a dominant wrestler with ground and pound. Weidman is undefeated, but untested: He blew through Mark Munoz without any trouble whatsoever. Because of that, Weidman has a lot of hype behind him, but we’ve also never seen him take a hard punch or kick.
Silva is likely to deliver those type of shots. The Muay Thai master possesses a lethal arsenal of knees, kicks, punches, and elbows. His creative counter-striking style is a nightmare for anyone to deal with, and Weidman will no doubt want to get this fight to the ground early and often. Chael Sonnen showed that Anderson Silva can be taken down, especially when Silva is aggressively coming forward. Weidman no doubt has the ability to take Silva down with a very solid wrestling pedigree. The question is, however, will Silva be cautious and focus on takedown defense, or will he aggressively come forward and expose himself to being taken down?
For what it’s worth, Vegas has Silva as about a 2:1 favorite, making Weidman the most formidable challenger odds-wise that Silva has seen in some time. That said, Silva has no personal grudge or animosity against Weidman like he did against Sonnen. Because of this, we are likely to see the more cautious and calculated version of Anderson Silva. Expect Silva to be tentative early, keeping his distance, measuring his strikes, and defending the takedown. While Weidman may have some success with a takedown or two, Silva will really make him work for it, ultimately waiting for the big opportunity to land the killer strikes later in the bout.
Prediction: Anderson “The Spider” Silva wins by TKO, Round 3.