This weekend marks another International Fight Week for the UFC, and there couldn't be a more packed weekend of fights and fighting content crammed into a few short days. Also known as Red, White and Fight Week across Fox Sports 1, some of the events that are scheduled for this week are a self defense class, HIV awareness clinic, movie showing, ultimate media day, an art exhibit, a pool party, a Brazilian party, TUFF-N-UFF fights, a 5k run featuring UFC fit stations, a soccer viewing party, a special UFC tonight, Lion Muay Thai fights, the Fan Expo, fireworks, a concert, wrestling matches, 2 weigh ins and of course the 2 fight cards, UFC 175 on Saturday night and the Ultimate Fighter Season 19 Finale on Sunday night. With the overabundance of UFC fights recently, as in a short 4 week span there have been 6 UFC cards, 2 of those being double headers with 2 events in the same day, and only 1 of those being a pay per view card. This weekend marks another double header, although the fight cards will both be in Las Vegas and will be on two separate days. With the abundance of fights coming up and the common questionable arrangement of the fights on the cards, I'd like to provide predictions and a pre-fight analysis for some of the bigger fights coming up on this exciting weekend.
The biggest fight of the weekend is unquestionably Chris Weidman defending his middleweight championship belt against confusing Karate fighter and former light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. Weidman is the undisputed, undefeated champion of the middleweight division who will look to expand beyond the shadow of Anderson Silva, as despite handily beating the long-time and now former champion Silva on two occasions, many critics view the first fight as lucky knockout capitalizing on Silva’s taunting style, and the second fight as a fluke injury. Weidman may never answer all of the critics, but he will have the opportunity to silence many if he dominates Machida. Machida has beaten a murderer's row of fighters at light heavyweight, and came down to middleweight to win 2 straight fights. Machida wasn’t given any easy fights at this new weight class, as he knocked Mark Munoz out cold and dominated Gegard Mousasi for 25 minutes. Machida has proven many times that his range makes takedowns easy to predict and stuff, leaving openings to capitalize on with his precision counterstriking. While this strategy may seem like a good strategy to employ against a strong wrestler in Weidman, I think Weidman’s wrestling is too good, he has shown too few weaknesses to bet against, and he will dominate the fight on the feet and floor however he wants, en route to a ground and pound TKO victory in the third round.
A close second and arguably a tie for the biggest fight of the weekend is Ronda Rousey defending her women’s bantamweight championship against Brazilian and Japanese Jiu Jitsu black belt Alexis Davis. Rousey is the only other champion in the UFC besides Weidman who boasts an undefeated record, and much like Weidman she has not showed little weakness while showing a large amount of versatility, finishing all of her fights besides 1 by armbar. Rousey’s most recent fight against Sara McMann was a TKO victory in just over a minute, and the victory marked the first time that Rousey didn't have the opportunity to show off her strong judo and grappling abilities, as the entire bout was contested on the feet. Many people predict that Davis' black belts in Brazilian and Japanese Jiu Jitsu will enable her to avoid the infamous Rousey armbar and maintain some control in the grappling exchanges, providing a stylistic matchup that will force Rousey to fight on the feet. While Rousey is considerably more comfortable in judo and grappling exchanges, Rousey has proven that her stand up is top notch for the division as well, and she should be able to dominate the fight wherever it goes. I predict that Rousey will do exactly that, dominating Davis at range with strikes, closing the distance when an opening presents itself, using judo to get Davis to the ground and locking up an armbar late in the second round.
The fight immediately before the two title fights is a heavyweight bout that will showcase the return of Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve, coming back after taking over a year off due to a heart condition to face the Ultimate Fighter Season 10 Alumni, Matt Mitrione. Struve was diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve that led to an enlarged heart, and had no choice but to take time off, unsure of his future in MMA, Struve managed to avoid a career-ending surgery with rest and medication and has now been cleared to return to fighting against the always tough Mitrione. Struve is a submission artist with sloppy, yet damaging striking who has only gone to decision once in his 31 fight career. Mitrione has only seen the final bell on 2 occasions, and owns 6 of his 7 wins by way of knockout. While Struve has the tendency to go to sleep with a big shot, I think his massive reach accompanied by his 7' tall frame will be enough to keep Mitrione at distance enough to avoid shots, land his own to get Mitrione to the ground, and work for a submission. Struve has 3 times the number of fights that Mitrione has, 14 wins by submission and Mitrione was submitted by Brendan Schaub just last fall. I think Struve will find a submission in the first round, and will look to climb back up the ladder towards the top of the heavyweight division.
The second fight on the pay per view card pits vicious striker Uriah Hall against Thiago Santos. Hall came as a highly touted prospect from the Ultimate Fighter Season 17, but has been on and off in the cage in his UFC career, first annihilating everyone he faced in the Ultimate Fighter house, going on to lose 2 boring decisions in his first 2 fights on the big stage in the UFC and then beating the durable Chris Leben so bad at UFC 168 that he quit after the first round and retired from the sport soon after. Santos is a considerably smaller name than Hall who came through the Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2, coming up short to the eventual season winner Leonardo Santos and failing to make it to the final match like Hall did on his season. Santos has finished all but 1 of his wins and has only lost twice, once by knockout and once by submission. Santos has been finished by strikes before from a fighter not nearly as touted as Hall, and if Hall shows up he should have no problem running through Santos. I predict that Hall will do just this, and will finish Santos in the first round with strikes, possibly earning him a ranking in the top 15 of the middleweight division.
The other notable fight on the UFC 175 card is the main event of the prelims, featuring Urijah Faber fighting Alex Caceres. Faber is ranked at number 2 in the bantamweight rankings in almost every list out there, as he has only lost in title fights and Renan Barao is ranked at number 1 since he isn’t the champion and has handily beaten Faber twice. Outside of those 2 losses, Faber has looked nearly unstoppable, winning 4 fights in 2013, 3 of those wins coming by way of submission. Caceres has only dropped 1 split decision since coming down to bantamweight, he would be on a 5 fight winning streak if one of his wins wasn’t overturned due to a failed drug test that showed trace amounts of marijuana in his system and he most recently beat Sergio Pettis. While Caceres likely got this fight due to his win over Pettis, and Sergio having a big name since his older brother, Anthony, is the UFC lightweight champion, Sergio is just 20 years old, likely belongs at flyweight and Caceres took advantage of his inexperience. Caceres will not be able to do that with a veteran like Faber, and I expect Faber to hurt Caceres with a flurry of strikes, get Caceres to the ground from there and finish the fight with a choke in the first round, keeping Faber in no-mans land in the bantamweight division and forcing Caceres to climb back up the ladder at a much slower rate.
The day after UFC 175 will feature the Ultimate Fighter Season 19 Finale headlined by former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar facing former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn. Edgar won the lightweight title from Penn back in 2010, and in a rematch immediately following came out on top again. Penn struggled to string together wins following losing his lightweight belt, and has gone 1-2-1 since fighting Edgar for the second time, with his lone win coming against aging hall of famer Matt Hughes. Edgar has had 2 fights at featherweight since moving down after losing 2 title bouts to the larger former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, and in those 2 featherweight bouts he lost a close decision to champion Jose Aldo and dominated Charles Oliveira. Penn’s last 4 fights were at welterweight, and he has never fought at featherweight before in his career. Edgar and Penn have shared a total of 50 minutes together in the cage thus far and know each other very well, the familiarity combined with Penn’s venture into this new weight class will likely play to Edgar’s favor. Penn is rumored to be very small coming into his featherweight debut, and his known problems with cardio will likely become an even bigger issue with the big drop in weight. Edgar already known how to beat Penn, and I expect that he will do much of what he has done in the first 2 fights to earn an clear unanimous decision and send Penn into retirement.
While there are a few other fights on the Ultimate Fighter Card that have some implications on their respective divisions, and 2 Ultimate Fighter Finals fights, Edgar vs. Penn is the only fight that could drastically change the landscape of a division and since Dana White openly said this is the worst season of the Ultimate Fighter in history, I don’t have high expectations for most of the finale. Dana White is the president of the UFC and has been for over 10 years, and if he says that fights suck and the fighters from this season don’t care, I can’t expect fireworks from the season’s finale.
What are your thoughts set to air tonight? Please comment below with any ideas and feedback.