I decided to throw this one up before my annual year end awards column, just in case anything something "of the year" happened. So be sure to stay tuned for that, which will most likely go up the day after this card. It's been quite the year. Check the link out for the accompanying pictures and overall aesthetic experience.
I love this time of year for MMA. We always get a slew of cards. Japanese MMA gets to act like it still matters. There’s always a big UFC headliner. And is there a better feeling as a new father/family man/rabid MMA fan than spending New Years Eve with the fam and waking up the next morning to a buffet of fights to catch up on as you slurp coffee and wipe eye boogers? I think not.
I’m not going to predict what might happen on the UFC 155 undercard, a slate of fights that features both Todd Duffee AND Leonard Garcia. My only ironclad prediction is that Garcia will get trashed by Max Holloway and STILL somehow keep fighting for the UFC. I’m not sure who Garcia has naked pictures of, but it must be someone important.
Before this fight gets my breakdown, I must admit that I never saw Belcher and Okami’s first fight, which took place waaaay back at UFC 62. The only blip I’ve seen from the fight was when Okami had Belcher’s back and Belcher front flipped out of it, basically trying to cripple Okami. He was so happy that he was even able to attempt this that he smiled and pumped his fist, even as Okami maintained the position. However, I think it’s safe to assume that both men are completely different fighters now.
Alan Belcher, fresh off an impressive TKO of Rousimar Palhares, looks to establish his footing as a middleweight contender as he rematches Okami. This is noteworthy because a scary injury (detached retina) not only derailed Belcher’s first UFC run, but also potentially his career. To see him pick up right where he left off, against a dangerous opponent no less, was spiriting.
Yushin Okami has the perfect style to beat Belcher, though. Excellent top control, smothering ground and pound, and good enough boxing from the southpaw stance to keep Belcher honest. Lots of solid jabbing from Okami will pile up the points for him. I’m sure Belcher will have a couple of dazzling striking moments, but Okami should methodically wear him out with a mix of takedowns and boxing (Belcher has always been pretty hittable) to notch a decision win.
Melvin Guillard is one of those guys that Zuffa should never, ever release, no matter how many consecutive losses he accumulates. He’s such an explosive fireplug of a striker that it gives him a chance against anyone. Lightweight champ Ben Henderson would easily submit Guillard and possibly even KO him 9 out of 10 times, but that one time Guillard won would probably be more memorable than the other 9 he lost.
Anyway, Guillard said a bunch of semi-retarded things after this fight was postponed due to Varner becoming ill and vomiting repeatedly backstage. He claimed that Varner was “scared.” Of course he was; it’s an MMA fight. But, A) He’d quit MMA if he didn’t want to overcome that fear and kick your ass and B) Why give him extra motivation for UFC 155? Nobody ever said Melvin Guillard was the smartest guy in the world.
That being said, I like Guillard in this one, even though he’s always a threat to get tapped. Varner does some of his best work to the body, and I think he’ll be able to land those big hooks, but Melvin is too fast and powerful. Melvin counters a Varner hook with a right of his own and puts him away with strikes before the conclusion of the first round.
Chris Leben is coming off of his eleventy billionth drug suspension, and you guys aren’t going to believe this, but he says it’s been the best training camp of his career. We’re going see see an all new Chris Leben come December 29th. Just once, I’d like to hear a guy say in an interview, “I’m not improving, and I had a shitty training camp where I got my ass handed to me every day by multiple training partners, but my family needs to be fed. What more do you want?”
If Leben comes out displaying Demetrious Johnson’s movement and Dominick Cruz’s setups, then I’ll eat a vat full of crow. Chris Leben is what he is; a brawler with big power, and a giant target for superior strikers to practice on.
Is Derek Brunson a guy that could potentially pick apart and outpoint than Chris Leben? No. He is not. Brunson doesn’t offer much in the way of offense, and this will spell his doom here, as Leben wades in with almost unparalleled regularity. Brunson might get a takedown or two, but Leben will slug his way to a knockout midway through the second round.
The immediate thought that comes to mind when one thinks of Tim Boetsch is him literally ragdolling David Heath back in the day. That was just a throttling. The image of poor David Heath (few guys got their asses kicked more thoroughly during their UFC tenure) crash test dummying across the cage like a bag of sand is an everlasting one. David Heath, wherever you are … Happy Holidays.
That rabid, aggressive version of Tim Boetsch is long gone, replaced by a much more conservative fighter that uses his wrestling and kicks to gain the upper hand.
Costa Philippou is on a 4 fight winning streak. The problem? The wins were against Jorge Rivera (retired), Jared Hamman (a threat to get seriously hurt in any fight), Court McGee (he’s Court McGee) and Riki Fukuda (the only decent win on this list). He beats people with the power in his hands and his boxing technique, but he doesn’t really bring anything to the table that Boetsch hasn’t seen before. Since Boetsch has improved both his overall mental approach as well as his endurance, he should be able to put together a game plan to beat Costa. Boetsch by decision.
This fight looks more exciting on paper than the originally scheduled Lauzon-Maynard fight, which Maynard had to pull out of because he was so scared of Lauzon that he retired from MMA and signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Shake Weight. Jokes! Jokes. He got hurt. Of course he did. Making sure you’re paying attention.
Lauzon has historically been a guy who comes out like a house on fire and then fades in the later rounds. However, in his fight of the year candidate with Jamie Varner, this wasn’t the case, as he waged a back and forth battle with Varner before submitting him in the third round with a triangle choke. Jamie Varner isn’t a cardio machine or anything, but it was encouraging to see the beginning of a third round in which Lauzon was the fresher fighter.
I see this fight with Miller being a competitive one, especially on the feet, where both men should assert themselves with punches. On the floor, submission attempts will be plentiful, but I can’t shake the feeling that Lauzon is going to get tapped late by Jimmy Miller. Miller by late submission in a fight of the night candidate.
Junior Dos Santos (9-0 UFC) vs. Cain Velasquez (8-1 UFC)
There’s a small part of my brain that believes Dos Santos has Velasquez’s number, sort of like George Foreman had Joe Frazier’s number. The style matchup seems perfect for him; he’s a superior boxer fighting a guy that doesn’t move his head when he punches, he has fantastic hips and takedown defense, and he doesn’t put himself in situations that could be counterproductive to his bottom line. He seems like a guy that you’re going to have to beat at his own game, and Velasquez isn’t there yet.
However, there’s a much larger part of my brain that feels like it knows even less about what is to be expected from these two then before they fought for the first time last November. The two best heavyweights in the world fighting for only 64 seconds? Get real. And yet, that’s how it happened.
Velasquez still has holes in his standup, like his awkward kicks and sometimes reckless nature. It’s strange, because what makes Cain so deadly with his wrestling and ground and pound is also what makes him fallible when he’s on his feet. The guy just never leaves 5th gear.
If Velasquez is able to ground Junior for any prolonged period, it will be surprising. This is because Cain never stops throwing strikes on the floor, and Junior is adept and quick when it comes to getting up. This is far from the lumbering, stationary giant that Velasquez most recently put in the hospital.
I like Dos Santos to win again, but the fight will go awhile this time, and will see Dos Santos really showcase his boxing. I see Dos Santos landing his combinations and putting Cain away with a barrage of punches sometime during the championship rounds.
Happy holidays, everyone.
Last event: 5-1
Overall record: 28-15