It’s the first pay per view of the “No More PPV Draws” era. I’m not feeling any buzz about this from hardcore or casual fans. Since Lesnar, GSP, Liddell etc have moved on, there isn’t one fighter that seems able to bring the UFC a strong (700k+) butyrate. We’ll see how it develops but despite having an array of incredible fighters, perhaps the best roster in history, there are very few real stars capable of moving the needle one way or another.
There’s Rousey but the buzz for her next fight with colourless Sara McMann is non-existent. Jon Jones hasn’t pushed past 400,00 buys and Cain Velasquez has serious charisma issues. The jury is out on whether Chris Weidman can carry big PPVs on his own but time will tell as to whether he got the rub from beating Silva twice or not.
The underlying story of UFC 168 was that Silva, Rousey and Tate all outshone Weidman despite him looking dominant against the man considered the greatest of all time.
Anyway, no more depressing talk, on with the predictions.
Bantamweight Title Renan Barão (31 – 1) vs. Urijah Faber (30 – 6)
We all know what the story is here. It’s Urijah Faber’s last chance at a major world title. He’s nearly 35, in a division with much faster men and yet still managed to beat four men impressively in 2013.
Since losing to Barão in July 2012 he hasn’t lost one second of his next four fights. He submitted Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgenson and most impressively, former title contender Michael McDonald. In the McDonald fight he brutalised a younger, stronger fighter and finished him with the Alpha Male signature guillotine. Perhaps his most impressive performance was brutalising Iuri Alacantra on UFC’s inaugural FS1 show. He took down and battered a highly regarded BJJ black belt earning a 30 – 26 score on two scorecards. His game has come on greatly since recrituing Duane Ludwin as the Alpha Male head trainer.
Despite all this, Faber hasn’t won a title fight since June 2008 when he beat Jens Pulver in five rounds. Since then he’s gone 0 – 5 in title fights. He coming up against a man who hasn’t lost since 2005 on an improbable 21 bout winning streak. After being upgraded to the full UFC champion after Dominick Cruz pulled out of this fight, one would suspect that Barão would want to put his stamp on the belt.
Barão is a killer, capable of making any fighter look bad. His win against Eddie Wineland showed his versatility and speed. He’s a fighter who will hold that belt for a long time regardless of what happens against Faber. Barão’s finishes of Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett showed how good his BJJ is. To quote Joe Rogan, he took Pickett’s back like a ghost and finished him with a slick near naked choke. All Faber needs is an arm around the chin though.
It comes down to this: Has Faber improved enough in the last 18 months to be competitive with Barão. If he has, he has all the tools to defeat the champ.
Prediction: Barão. How do you pick against someone with that level of winning streak?
Featherweight Title José Aldo (23 – 1) vs. Ricardo Lamas (13 – 2)
Aldo is on a 16 fight win streak. Lamas hasn’t lost since dropping to featherweight and finished three of four fights since then.
The Countdown special was in spin overdrive describing how even though no one knows who Lamas is, he’s the toughest test for Aldo. Not buying it.
I’m not saying that Aldo is going to breeze through him because he’s not. He’s looked vulnerable against lesser fighters (Mark Hominick ‘sup) but has defeated every person that’s faced off with him since 2006.
Prediction: Aldo. Lamas has skills but you can’t bet against Ado until he loses and this ain’t the time.
Heavyweight Frank Mir (16 – 8) vs. Alistair Overeem (36 – 13)
It’s loser leaves town time in the real main event. Both guys are on losing streaks and it’s been made clear that one of them is for the glue factory.
Overeem has a habit of mentally breaking in his fights. He was winning both his recent fights but managed to fuck it up each time. He was beating Bigfoot Silva to the punch in every exchange and even took him down with a sweet belly-to-belly suplex. In the third the two men bonked heads in trying to engage, Overeem took the worst of it and got knocked out badly. In his most recent fight with Travis Browne, the Reem had Browne badly hurt from body shots but gassed himself out and got knocked out with three successive front kicks.
Mir has struggled in his last three, losing badly by TKO to Junior dos Santos and Josh Barnett. He also lost a lacklustre decision to Daniel Cormier where he was unable to do anything. His last win was the classic submission of Antonio Noguiera in December 2010 where he broke the Pride legend’s arm with a kimura.
Both guys have shown a poor gas tank in recent fights showing both an ability to finish and be finished in the early rounds. I believe the fight hinges on the wrestling game. If Mir can get Overeem down early, he should be able to smother him and take an arm home. If not, I don’t fancy Mir in a striking battle with Overeem.
Prediction: Mir. Even with Overeem’s takedown defence I can see Mir pull this one out SOMEHOW. He has shown more ability to come back from adversity than Overeem and that’s what I’m basing this on.
Flyweight John Lineker vs. Ali Bagautinov
So Lineker nearly missed weight again. Sound. Lineker despite missing weight three times in his last five has been walking through guys lately. He’s on a four-fight win streak with three TKOs in 2013 alone. I’m expecting him to come out and try and smother Bagautinov from the outset.
Bagautinov is one of these guys that can do anything. He has an extensive Sambo and freestyle wrestling background as well as a pro boxing fight. He opened the main card at UFC 167 and had an exciting showing in beating Tim Elliott.
Prediction: Lineker via TKO. I just feel he has too much power for the flyweight division to handle.
Lightweight Jamie Varner (22 – 8 – 1 – 2) vs. Abel Trujillo (11 – 5 – 1)
This is my personal main event. After being released from the WEC in 2010 he had an inconstant run on the indies before taking a last minute fight against Edson Barboza at UFC 146. He defeated Barboza in the first round countering his brutal leg kicks with hard right hands and winning himself a job for the foreseeable future. He had two awesome fights with Joe Lauzon and Melvin Guillard before losing a tough decision to Gleison Tibau.
Trujillo has been putting on wars since joining the UFC. His two fight series with Roger Bowling produced great fights. He’s never had a defining win against a name opponent so this is a huge fight for him.
Predication: Varner. He was my favourite fighter in the WEC and I just refuse to pick against him.