What's up MMAF? It's been a long time since I've done one of these (UFC 94?) and with all the predictions floating around, I decided to do my own again, so here it comes!
Mirko CroCop vs "Big" Ben Rothwell
This fight is incredibly hard to predict for me. While I see the former IFL HW champ as being extremely overrated, I also see CroCop as past his prime and it's very hard to predict if he's going to come back in the correct mental state and physical shape to destroy people like the CroCop of PRIDE did. CroCop is very obviously the better striker in this fight when he shows up. He has KO power in each of his hands as well as MASSIVE KO power in the left leg of his. CroCop has fantastic TDD and a VERY good scramble, too. If CroCop shows up like he should, he should utterly DOMINATE this fight in my opinion. I think CroCop WILL show up, too, coming off that big fiasco after his Al-Turk and leaving the UFC, I think he'll want to redeem his honor in the fans eyes. I see a newly motivated CC coming in, controling the stand-up and stuffing takedowns on his way to a second round T/KO stoppage.
Ryan "Darth" Bader vs Kieth "The Dead of Mean" Jardine
Another hard-to-predict fight. Jardine has this really weird style of fighting where he tends to leave his chin exposed and has a very, very unorthadox striking style. Bader, on the other hand, has a very classic boxing style even if he swings wide on all his punches. The thing is with Bader though is that he also tends to leave his chin up after the first couple minutes of a fight or round. Bader obviously has the wrestling advantage in this fight, but Kieth is no slouch when it comes to TDD or his ground game. Kieth has a solid guard to help him keep from taking damage, but Bader has a relentless wrestling style and I'm not sure if Jardine's guard will hold up against it early. However, in his last fight, Bader showed an extreme lack of cardio against Schafer and I think that is the deciding factor of this fight. Jardine may look tired at times, but you can never really tell because of his style, and even when he looks tired he's still putting up pressure and coming forward. I think as long as Jardine can make it out of the first round of this fight (which he'll most likely lose), he takes this fight by a come-from-behind UD with the two later round solidly won.
George Sotiropolous vs Joe "Daddy" Stevenson
This fight has been the subject of high debate here on the forum, but I think George has his number. George is a VERY high level grappler and has some decent boxing. While his striking may be a question mark, his grappling is not. He's an ADCC veteran (being eliminated by Marcelo Garcia, who is also the only man to defeat Demian Maia), a BJJ black belt and has shown a knack for adopting him submission game to MMA. His boxing should allow him enough defense standing and he should have enough reach to keep Joey at bay with his jab and trigger Joey to try and take it to the floor later on. Stevenson, while having some solid defense and a good sub game of his own, has been submitted by almost every high level BJJ player he's fought outside of Nate Diaz. I'm thinking George via submission, RNC rd 2.
Michael "The Count" Bisping vs Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva
Oh man, one of my favorite fights on the card by far. Totally hyped on this fight, but I digress. I think this fight is going to end up being nothing but stand up, there may be the occasional take down attempt from The Count, but I don't think it will be fruitful and if it is, Wand will be able to stand up fairly quick. So striking, these two fighters have DRASTICALLY different style. Bisping is a very technical, accurate kick boxer, while Wanderlei tends to have a wild, wide swinging and powerful Muay Thai game. Bisping being the counter puncher in this fight, I think has the advantage. Bisping has solid footwork and great angles to keep him away from Wanderlei's in-your-face style. I think, using this game plan of stick and move, Bisping can work his way to a decision win. The Count via UD.
The Main Event
Cain Valasquez vs Antonio "Minotauro" Rodrigo Nogueria
And finally we come to the main event of the evening! This fight is HUGE in the HW standings of the UFC. The winner of this fight is solidified at #3 HW in the UFC and presumably gets the next shot at the Heavy Weight Champion. My breakdown of this fight is as Follows:
Cain has some HUGE power behind his hands, some great technical boxing with some great hand speed but lacks movement. He's also in phenomenal shape and is a fantastic wrestler.
Nogueria is a living legend. He has some good boxing with great movement and counters, but I think he lacks the speed Cain has. As we all know, Big Nog is a stud on the ground being the submission wizard that he is. He also has one of the biggest hearts and hardest chins in MMA, so expect him to fight any fight until the very end, even if he's losing handily.
This fight is razor close for either fighter. I think Nogueria can win the stand-up as his boxing is better from a technical stand point. We rarely see Big Nog throwing wild, looping punches. The thing is that Cain also has some serious recovery power as we saw against Kongo, so I don't think either fighter is getting finished on the feet. On the ground, it's dead even. Nog can finish on the ground with his massive list of submissions, even off his back he seems to lock them out of nowhere when he gets a chance. Cain, as I stated, is a fantastic wrestler with very good top control and some solid GnP. So where does this fight stand if both fighters are equal on almost all terms? It comes down to control in my opinion. I think Nogueria is too complacent being on his back and looking for submissions, which in the UFC works against him in a big way. I think, if Cain can avoid Nog's submission game, he should be able to take Nog down, retain top control and grind his way to a UD.
Feel free to tell me what you think about the breakdown and my predictions