Today one of the greatest fighters of this generation, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will look to break his own record and defend the belt for the seventh time. Jones will face a stiff test, in the heavy handed and well rounded Glover Teixeira, who is on a 20 fight win streak since losing to Ed Herman in 2005. Jones, who should be undefeated, as his only loss came when an illegal elbow opened a cut on Matt Hamill, the cut bled into Hamill's eyes preventing him from seeing the ref, the ref asked Hamill who is deaf if he could continue, and the ref stopped the bout without consulting with the doctor. That ref, the infamous Steve Mazzagatti, who will inevitabely become a topic of discussion in future articles, did several things wrong, including stopping a bout due to injury without consulting a doctor, asking Hamill if he was done when he is deaf and had blood pouring into his eyes, Hamill also had a injured shoulder that contributed to his inability to continue, the cut was not entirely due to the foul and the 12 to 6 elbow is a fickle rule dictating allowable angle of an elbow strike, but these are all issues for another discussion entirely. I mention this to make one point clear, no one has figured out Jon Jones in an MMA fight, Alexander Gustafsson came close last fight, winning two rounds of the five at UFC 165 and hurting Jones significantly, but Jones showed his championship heart once again. Jones is a puzzle that has never been solved, is constantly evolving, and with his unique combination of long range, unorthodox striking, dominant wrestling and effective submission game, he is a threat virtually everywhere.
Jones looked unbeatable for most of his career, until Gustafsson had him hurt, won 2 rounds and took him down in Jones' last fight. Teixeira will look to further investigate this lack of invincibility that was discovered by Gustafsson, especially in the striking game. On paper, Teixeira is a very strong challenge to Jones, as he has true knockout power, he is a decorated wrestler from Brazil, and he has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While these credentials are impressive, they have not transferred perfectly to the octagon, as Teixeira doesn't rely heavily on wrestling, only 6 of his 22 wins have came by submission and he was tagged by Ryan Bader in his last fight en route to his impressive knockout victory, showing that his defense is penetrable. Teixeira will look to stop Jones early, as 3 of his 5 UFC wins have come in the first round and only 1 has gone the distance. Jones will likely use his reach to avoid the striking game of Teixeira early, use his range and unorthodox attack to tag and wear him down, wrestle Teixeira onto his back whenever he wants to land blows without the threat of being knocked out, and will finish with a TKO in the third round.
The co-main event is a light heavyweight bout between the number 4 ranked Phil Davis, and the returning welterweight turned light heavyweight, Anthony Johnson. Davis is a strong wrestler who's credentials transitioned to the octagon well, owning a sole loss to Rashad Evans over 2 years ago. Davis has a strong BJJ game to compliment his wrestling, and has developed good striking as well. Johnson is a monster who owns a startling 11 of his 16 wins by knockout, with 8 of those coming in the first round, and is on a 6 fight winning streak with 4 of those coming by way of knockout since weight troubles and a loss to Vitor Belfort at a catchweight earned him a pink slip from the UFC. Johnson had a strong amateur wrestling career, much like Davis, that hasn't transferred to the octagon quite as well, but owns far more dangerous striking, breaking Andrei Arlovski's jaw en route to a unanimous decision and needing barely 2 minutes to knock Mike Kyle out cold in his last two fights. Davis has no contest wins over Vinny Magalhaes and Wagner Prado who are now cut from the UFC roster and a controversial decision win over Lyoto Machida since his 50-45 loss to Rashad Evans. While Davis did show he can hang with Machida in his last outing, 13 of 13 media members scored the fight for Machida, who outstruck Davis 27 to 21 in significant strikes, and was only taken down by Davis twice out of 10 attempts. Davis can be hit, and despite his advantages in wrestling, submissions and cardio, I think based on his recent tirade of insults aimed at Jon Jones, he is overlooking Johnson. I will choose Johnson to get the upset knockout in the first round, making a vicious statement that he is a beast looking to take the division by storm.
The third fight on the main card is Luke Rockhold facing off against Tim Boetsch. Rockhold was a hot prospect when he came over from Strikeforce, where he held the middleweight title, and after stumbling in his UFC debut and losing by knockout to Vitor Belfort he scored a TKO win over Costas Philippou with a nasty kick to the body. Rockhold also holds wins over Jacare Souza and Tim Kennedy in Strikeforce, who are both becoming top contenders in the middleweight division in the UFC, and going undefeated since losing to Rockhold. Boetsch holds wins over Yushin Okami, Hector Lombard, and C.B. Dollaway, but the latter two wins came by split decision. Okami was dominating Boetsch before a flurry at the start of the third round left Okami slumped against the cage, and Boetsch lost to Costas Philippou and Mark Munoz between his wins over Lombard and Dollaway. Based on common opponents, win streaks and skill sets alone this bout should be a safe bet for Rockhold, and while nothing in MMA is guaranteed, I see Rockhold overwhelming Boetsch in the first round.
The second fight on the pay per view card is Jim Miller against late replacement, Yancy Medeiros, who takes this fight on a mere 7 days notice. Jim Miller is a gritty lightweight known for his resilience, fast pace and high level submission game, earning a first round armbar win over Fabricio Camoes in his most recent bout, and a kneebar win over dangerous submission specialist Charles Olivera back in 2010. Miller has 3 wins, 2 losses and 1 loss turned no contest in his last 6 bouts, only stumbling to contender Nate Diaz, former champion Benson Henderson, and Pat Healy before he tested positive for marijuana metabolites and the bout was turned into a no contest. Miller has wins over Camoes by armbar, Joe Lauzon in a unanimous decision that became the fight of the year for 2012, and Melvin Guillard by rear naked choke in the first round. Medeiros had a 9 fight winning streak upon entering the UFC and dropping a decision to Rustam Khabilov. Medeiros recovered with a knockout win over Yves Edwards that was later changed to a no contest after testing positive for marijuana, and will be looking for his first UFC win against Miller. I don't see anything that provides much hope in the game of Medeiros against a tough veteran like Miller, and I see Miller getting a submission in the first round, an upset is always a possibility, but I think it is very unlikely in this bout.
In the opening fight on the pay per view card, Max Holloway will be facing Andre Fili. Holloway at only 22 years old has 4 wins in the UFC, and of his 3 losses, one came in his debut against the tough Dustin Poirier, one came by split decision against Dennis Bermudez and one came by a unanimous decision to hot prospect, Conor McGregor. Holloway has looked dominant outside of those setbacks, and all of the fighters he lost to are now ranked in the top 15 in the featherweight division. Holloway most recently got a TKO win over Will Chope, who was released from the UFC for past domestic issues after the loss. Fili is on a 9 fight winning streak, but has only had one fight in the UFC, and in his debut scored a TKO over Jeremy Larsen. The win came against Larsen at the end of a 3 fight losing streak. While Fili hasn't been tested enough to make a strong prediction in his favor, Holloway has proven to be a tough task for anyone even at the age of 22, he is constantly improving, and I expect him to welcome Fili to the big leagues with a win over the UFC rookie by unanimous decision.
Just like in my last main card predictions article I covered any bouts on the preliminary card that I viewed had the potential to be on the main card for most other events, and on this card I saw one prelim bout that met that criteria, and it is the “main event of the prelims” Joseph Benavidez facing Tim Elliot. Benavidez is ranked second in the UFC flyweight rankings and has proven to be an elite finisher in a weight division that is known for fights going to decision. Benavidez was recently knocked out cold by champion Demetrious Johnson, and looks to bounce back against the eighth ranked Tim Elliot. Benavidez was on a 3 fight winning streak before losing to Johnson, with two of those wins coming by TKO, and Elliot most recently lost a decision to Ali Bagautinov after having a two fight winning streak against Louis Gaudinot and Jared Papazian. I don't see Bagautinov being able to stop the power, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu of Benavidez, and I see Benavidez getting a TKO in the second round.
What are your thoughts on these fights set to air on Fox Sports 1 and pay per view tonight? Please comment below with any ideas and feedback.