I’ve been looking forward to this show for months. While it is headlined by a rematch of an earlier, not closely contested fight, I’m not one to discount the possibility that it could be one of the best cards of the year. It is packed with excellent matchups and meaningful fights. The free portion is excellent as well, but I will only be previewing the PPV portion and dropping in thoughts about the free fights at the end. Let’s get to it!
UFC Heavyweight Championship Fight: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (18-4) vs. Cain Velasquez (c) (11-1).
Everyone remembers how the first fight turned out, right? Velasquez used his superior wrestling to take Silva down and took him apart after Silva was cut. While I don’t think it’s certain to happen again, it’s a very likely scenario. Silva has shown very little progression in his takedown defense, as evidenced by Alistair Overeem scoring a takedown on him in Round 2 of their February bout. Perhaps he did not perceive Overeem’s wrestling to be a threat, but after what happened against Velasquez the first time, I expected him to seal that hole in his game. It appears he has not. While Silva has a distinct power advantage on the feet, Velasquez has the ability to get the fight off the feet, and to the ground where he can do serious damage to Bigfoot. I expect that will happen again, and the fight will eventually be stopped due to an accumulation of damage. Velasquez is much too talented a fighter to be beaten by somebody with a hole in their game as large as takedown defending. As long as he’s 80-100% healthy heading into his fights, he should remain champion for quite a long time.
My Call: Cain Velasquez wins via brutal ground and pound 2nd round TKO.
Heavyweight Fight: Junior dos Santos (15-2) vs. Mark Hunt (9-7).
There are a few things regarding this fight that give me serious pause when making a prediction, of course that means it’s a hell of a matchup. I’m slightly concerned about Junior’s wider punches against a strong counterpuncher like Hunt. Having reviewed a bunch of video, it seems like Junior is able to be hit by a more precise, straighter puncher, like Hunt. I don’t know if he’ll get hurt, but he can be hit. Another thing that has to be made clear is that Hunt’s chin is excellent, but certainly not beyond reproach. He can be knocked down and out. All things considered, this should turn out to be a great fight with a lot of action. I think Junior dos Santos is going to win a decision. It seems to be a common opinion that dos Santos will use his wrestling to drag Hunt to the ground and submit him, but that isn’t mine. I don’t think he can take Hunt down. I don’t think either fighter can knock out the other one, but dos Santos is extra aggressive and that will be to his benefit in the judges eyes.
My Call: Junior dos Santos wins via decision.
Light Heavyweight Fight: Glover Teixeira (20-2) vs. James Te-Huna (16-5).
I’m looking forward to this fight more than any other on the card and it is far better than the originally scheduled bout (Bader vs. Teixeira). Both fighters are strikers with heavy hands and a history of doing big damage to their opponents. They are also both rising quickly up the UFC’s 205 pound ladder. I believe that Glover is a better grappler, but Te-Huna is a strong wrestler and I don’t foresee the fight heading to the ground. Most likely, it will be decided on the feet where Te-Huna holds two distinctive advantages. One is his chin. He’s taken some heavy shots from Ryan Jimmo and Joey Beltran, but weathered the storm and took decisions in both of those fights. Even in dominant performances by Glover, he has gotten tagged with big punches and not handled them all that convincingly. Second advantage for Te-Huna is his one punch power. Glover is a guy who can accumulate punches and hurt his opponents, Te-Huna is one who can hit a fighter with one shot and knock them out. As such, I’m going to pick Te-Huna. I believe the fight will be contested in close quarters, and as such Te-Huna holds the advantages that can lead to him finishing the fight. This isn’t a very popular prediction, but one that I believe strongly in. Glover would be best suited to take the fight to the ground, I’m unsure he will, thus that’s my call.
My Call: James Te-Huna via 2nd round TKO
Lightweight Fight: Gray Maynard (15-1-1 1NC) vs. TJ Grant (20-5).
This is going to be a close bout. Grant has been fighting on the preliminaries for the last four years and will finally get a chance to fight on a UFC main card. Grant is hungry for a win whereas Maynard has been to the top before. Apparently this is also a #1 contender fight. Thing don’t always work out that way though, so not a lot of stock is going to be put into that aspect. What it really comes down to is whether or not Maynard decides to use his wrestling, or if he decides to continue the trend of standing up and throwing wild punches that he has maintained in his last few fights. I think he’s going to use his wrestling, but TJ Grant is a very good fighter off his back. If Maynard doesn’t take Grant down, Grant could drop him and get a knockout finish or win a decision. I think Maynard’s going to win a decision with use of his wrestling and smothering top game.
My Call: Gray Maynard via decision
Lightweight Fight: Donald Cerrone (20-5) vs. KJ Noons (11-4).
Once again, another strong matchup put together by the UFC. Noons is a good striker, but I don’t think he’s the type of fighter who generally gives Cerrone trouble. KJ’s striking isn’t that fluid, for starters. While his footwork is underrated and could prevent him from being taken down, I do believe Cerrone will look to get the fight to the ground where he is a far superior grappler. Noons has strong takedown defense, so it certainly will not be easy. If the fight does get to the ground, Cerrone should take control of the bout and win a decision or advance position on Noons and submit him. There isn’t any potential result on this card that would surprise me, but a Noons win via TKO would be pretty close.
My Call: Donald Cerrone via 1st round submission
Preliminary Card Notes
– Mike Pyle is a very good fighter, but Rick Story is just a little bit better. Story’s boxing is excellent and he does a great job pressing the action. I think he’ll win that one.
– Bermudez vs. Holloway is a sick matchup. I like Bermudez via decision.
– Don’t care about Colton Smith. Sorry.
– It’s a downer for Khabib Nurmagomedov to take a step backward and face somebody who isn’t proven against greater competition. I’m not going to back Abel Trujillo, or any other fighter who beats women. I hope Khabib knocks him out.
Really looking forward to this one, it’s the best card the UFC has put together in some time, and the best they have scheduled as well. If you have any thoughts about the card, discuss it on our forums or in the comments section below!