By Jaime C. Feal
FOX launches their new sports network tomorrow, and the main attraction for the first day of the “Fox Sports 1” channel will be the UFC. The Octagon takes center stage as all the preliminary fights and main card fights will be shown on the same channel for the first time ever. An incredibly stacked card that would normally be worthy of a pay-per-view is being given to fans for free, and now that Fox Sports 1 has negotiated a deal with every major provider including Time Warner, DISH network and the like, fans won’t want to miss this great opportunity to watch high-quality MMA.
Bantamweight Division (135 lbs.):
Urijah “The California Kid” Faber (28-6, 4-2 UFC) vs. Iuri “Marajo” Alcantara (28-4, 3-1 UFC)
Fan favorite Urijah Faber is a staple in the UFC promotion, and has an unmatched record in non-title fights. Faber has never lost a non-title fight in the WEC or UFC, meaning he only falters against the champions of the divisions he competes in. Faber employs a wrestling-based style, bringing fast-paced pressure and tremendous cardio. Faber has a great motor and seemingly never tires; in a three round fight such as this the pace “The California Kid” can put on will be frenetic.
Faber faces a game challenger in Brazilian Iuri Alcantara, who is experienced and well-rounded. Alcantara is coming down from the featherweight division and is looking to use his size to his advantage. Faber, of course, once came down from the featherweight division as well, and therefore the size is equal in this fight. Alcantara has a BJJ black belt and very solid striking skills, but the question will be whether he can keep Faber off him.
Faber will be constantly looking to take Alacantara down and ground and pound him. While Alcantara does possess a dangerous guard, Faber’s bread and butter is his wrestling, and it would be unlikely for him to get in a standup war. Alcantara has never faced the wrestler that is the caliber of Faber, and his takedown defense will really be tested in this fight. Expect Urijah to do what he does best and grind his way to a win through takedowns and top-control.
Prediction: Urijah “The California Kid” Faber wins by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Alistair “The Reem” Overeem (36-12, 1-1 UFC) vs. Travis “Hapa” Browne (14-1-1, 5-1-1 UFC)
Overeem, once pegged the future heavyweight champion after destroying Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut, has had quite the fall from grace. After sitting out a lengthy time due to testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone, Overeem failed miserably in his return to the Octagon when he got caught and knocked out cold by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in February. Despite the setback, Overeem remains a major player in the UFC Heavyweight division, and he looks to get back on track tomorrow night against Travis Browne.
Browne is also a striker like Overeem, but his game is built more around footwork and speed, whereas Overeem is about pure power. Browne himself looked like he could be poised to make a title run, until he as well faltered against Antonio Silva. Now these two beaten behemoth strikers collide and fireworks are expected. Vegas has Overeem as the favorite given his experience, pedigree, and superior technical striking.
Remember, Overeem has won K-1 World Grand Prix, a pure kickboxing tournament with the elite of the elite in striking. However, Overeem’s superiority in striking could also prove to be his downfall: It was overconfidence that cost him so dearly against Antonio Silva, as he refused to put his hands up to defend against punches or give any respect to the striking game of his opponent.
Provided Overeem takes this fight seriously, and employs a methodical approach, he should cruise to victory. If, however, he thinks reputation and name alone will get the job done and he goes into the fight over-confident, Browne has the tools to catch him and score a big upset. Overeem has just been taught that harsh lesson in his last fight; don’t expect him to make the same mistake in back-to-back bouts.
Prediction: Alistair “The Reem” Overeem wins by TKO, Round 2.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (21-7, 5-5 UFC) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-13-1, 6-6 UFC)
The main event of the evening pits former PRIDE Grand Prix and UFC Light Heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua against the greatest trash-talker the sport has ever seen in Chael Sonnen. The country of Brazil has repeatedly been badmouthed by Mr. Sonnen, and he has no shortage of angry Brazilians ready to beat him up, including Shogun Rua. The fight is a classic wrestler vs. striker matchup, as Shogun is almost a pure Muay Thai fighter, and Sonnen a pure takedown specialist.
Rua honed his skills at the famed Chute Boxe academy, which rewards relentless aggression, and is known for training at 100% force, meaning training partners get knocked out regularly. Although Shogun is no longer with Chute Boxe, his aggressive ways never left him, and he is always one to want to stand up and trade strikes with his opponents, a tendency that cost him dearly against Jon Jones.
Sonnen, of course, has the complete opposite game plan to that of Rua, and will want to get the fight to the mat early and often. Rua is much more skilled than Sonnen as a striker. Shogun has vicious knees, hooks, and an array of strikes that has put legends of the game, such as Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida, down and out. Sonnen would be incredibly foolish to stand and trade with Shogun, so he will shoot for many, many takedowns.
Although Rua knows Sonnen is repeatedly going to try to put him on his back, the question is, can he prevent it? The answer to this question will define the fight. Sonnen has traditionally had more success in beasting his opponents with strength in the clinch and power doubles when he is fighting at middleweight: With this fight being at light heavyweight, and Sonnen being generally slow with his footwork and movement, Rua has the advantages needed, and should come out on top.
Prediction: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua wins by TKO, Round 3.