Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira
Questions: Can Nik Lentz's grinding style slow down the dynamic Charles Oliveira? How has Oliveira's overall defense progressed, and how does he respond to his first career loss?
Answer: Nik Lentz was showing some success, landing hard and taking Oliveira down before getting knocked down and having to escape several bad positions. Oliveira still showed weakness in his striking defense, and also in his fight IQ and composure, but still looked very impressive overall and looked like he was outclassing Lentz until the illegal knee landed, bringing the exciting fight to an end without a conclusion.
Result: I think it's fitting that I had no prediction for this fight, as it was the only fight on the card that had no outcome. Da Bronx looked great early, but lost his head and mindlessly kneed Lentz, who had a knee very obviously on the floor.
See the rest of my questions answered, and predictions vs results after the jump:
Questions: We now know that Stevenson has successfully made 146, but how does he respond to the cut? Does he appear as physically imposing after losing the ten pounds? Will this be his last fight for the time being in the UFC? With Javier Vazquez being primarily a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, does he appear to have superior grappling skills to Stevenson? Will he have improved in his deficiencies after getting soundly beaten by Mendes?
Answers: I don't think the cut had any effect on Stevenson. He looked like the same gunshy and confused fighter that we've seen emerge before. He looked no more physically imposing, actually looking like his normal self, so it's clear he's a natural featherweight. I do not think this will be his last fight in the UFC, despite it being his fourth straight loss. I think they give him one more chance. Javier Vazquez throughly controlled the grappling aspect of the fight, with the exception of a tight inverted armbar that he escaped. Vazquez's offensive wrestling looked like it surprised Stevenson. He appears to have really worked on that aspect of his grappling repertoire since the Mendes loss.
Prediction: Stevenson by decision
Result: Vazquez by lopsided decision. It almost looks like Joe falls victim to performance anxiety in the cage. He used to take it to his opponents, but now just carries a strange smile while getting soundly worked over by his opponent. He's still young, so maybe all he needs is a temporary break from fighting. As he has quite a large family, I don't see this happening. Vazquez looked great, and the only thing that took from his performance was the strange showing Stevenson put forth.
Questions: Will this new crop of lightweights-turned featherweights make Manny Gamburyan reassess his ability to find success in the 145 lbs division? A few months ago, we were told to forget everything we knew about the featherweight division, and it appears that we are now seeing this theory become more and more evident. Gamburyan is an excellent fighter, but much like Joseph Benavidez faces a great deficiency when it comes to reach; only now his judo skills and strength might appear lesser against another thick featherweight in Griffin. Does Manny look like he may want to consider a move to bantamweight? Much like with Joe Stevenson, we know that Tyson has successfully made the cut to featherweight- will his gas tank suffer? How has his body type changed with the 10 pounds shed?
Answers: Gamburyan was very competitive with Tyson Griffin in the early goings of the fight, bringing the fight to the floor on multiple occasions, so it appears that he has no physical deficiencies at featherweight. Griffin won the fight, but at no point did Manny seem overwhelmed, so I see his future staying at 145. Tyson didn't have his best showing, but his kickboxing has definitely improved in his time in the UFC, with his leg kicks in my opinion being the major difference on the score cards.
Prediction: Tyson Griffin by decision
Result: This fight went close to how I imagined but it took much longer than I expected for Griffin to start outworking Gamburyan- who looked very game, especially in the first round.
Questions: After dropping three straight, will Matt Brown prove he has the abilities to compete in the shark tank of the UFC's welterweight division, or will he just be chum to get John Howard back on track? How does Howard respond after his lopsided loss to Thiago Alves, and did preparing for Martin Kampmann help his preparation for the replacement Matt Brown?
Answers: Matt Brown looked excellent tonight, showing fantastic takedown defense against a very physically strong John Howard, even when having his body completely in the air. He was on the receiving end of some brutal leg kicks, but eventually used his jab and Howard's fading gas tank to gain the victory. John's striking looked fantastic in the opening frame, before he began looking for powerful slams. Why he abandoned his leg-chopping strategy, I don't think we'll ever know. But I know this- the "Immortal" has new blood in the UFC, and as a fan that is great news.
Prediction: John Howard by decision
Result: Matt Brown by decision. Howard's leg kicks were dominating the standup in the first round, and then he surprisingly decided to wall and stall Brown, constantly exerting energy by attempting to pick Brown up over his head for a takedown. Brown looked like a better version of his normal self, and capitalized on Howard exerting so much energy, so early. I now wonder what the Kampmann versus Howard fight would've looked like.
Questions: Seeing as Brenneman's only wins are over two fighters no longer in the UFC, will this step up to the top 5 Story be too much, too soon for Charlie? Can he capitalize on the greatest opportunity of his career in being promoted to a co-main event against a top-ranked opponent? Does the quick turnaround and definite disappoint in no longer facing Nate Marquardt affect Rick Story's mentality in the cage? If Story does not find success in taking Charlie down, will his take-to-give style put him at risk in the cage?
Answers: Obviously, no. Brenneman's wrestling and submission awareness kept him on top, in position, and enabled him to take the first two rounds and avoid being finished in the third, giving him a victory over a top 5 welterweight. I think it's obvious that he CAPITALIZED. Rick Story looked overtrained, and definitely not like someone who expected to be sprawling for an entire fight, but it's like he said in the post fight press conference- he has to train for every situation in every camp, and be ready for anything. He definitely failed in his early takedown attempts, but it was surprising to see Brenneman put him on his back without much of a fight.
Prediction: Story by second round finish
Result: Well, Story had a few close submission attempts in the second, and having convincingly lost the first round I thought my prediction may just come true. No such luck, and Story could not correct any of the problems with his takedown defense during the fight. He seemed too content to slowly work for submissions off his back, rather than doing everything in his power to get the fight to his feet. Brenneman, on the other hand, looked absolutely amazing and gave us one of those grinding type of underdog performances that has every fan on their feet. He never looked intimidated and showed great composure in some bad positions.
Questions: What does this fight say in terms of relevancy in terms of larger heavyweights in the 207-266 lbs division of the UFC? Does Morecraft have the tools to be successful in the UFC? Most importantly in my mind- How much progression has Matt Mitrione shown in his skillset, and will this win prove him credible to compete in the higher echelon of the division?
Answers: Matt Mitrione proved that he is a fantastic athlete, despite still having problems with getting taken down. As I said in my breakdown, however, he shows a good ability in getting the fight back to his feet. Morecraft is a very large guy who seems durable, but he was unable to mount offense when he had the fight on the floor, and got picked apart on the feet. Mitrione's left hand landed flush on Morecraft's chin almost every time, and it seemed like just a matter of time before his put Christian away. I think the fight that was mentioned on the post fight show, against Cheick Kongo, is an excellent next step for Matt.
He has big power in both of his hands, is adept at regaining his feet, and shows above average and improving technicality in all areas of the sport. Not only that, but he shows complete composure in all situations. I think Mitrione makes a statement in this fight, ending the fight via second round KO.