UFC 145 is a strange looking collection of fights. You have Stephen Thompson, a fighter that you can pencil in as Joe Rogan's next big "You know, there ARE good things about karate. It's all a matter of putting together skills around your karate base that can make a tough fight for any opponent" anecdote. You have Maximo Blanco making his promotional debut, which is going to be a nail biter for any athletic commission bigwig. You even have another appearance by Efrain Escudero, who will most assuredly disappoint us by fighting to his detriment.
On the main card, simply put, you have some big underdogs. This is due to the star power of the main even between Jones and Evans, which I will shamelessly refer to you here if you missed my take. When you see a card like this, your natural inclination is to wonder what underdog is going to pull of a big upset. Honestly, I don't think any of them will. This card could very well be a horror show. However, what's the fun in that? Here's how I think the main card plays out ...
Ben Rothwell vs. Brendan Schaub
The last time the Octagon was graced by the presence of Ben Rothwell, he was fighting at altitude. The results were ... grisly. Like, Ichi the Killer grisly. Tom DeBlass gassed pretty damn hard in Sweden last weekend, but there were circumstances there; he took the fight on ten days notice; he was battling jet lag; and he was fighting Cyrille Diabate, a guy that you usually have to really murder in order to beat him.
By the second round of his fight with Mark Hunt, Rothwell was moving about as fluidly as C3PO. I'm certain that I'm spending way too much time yakking about how tired he was ... but, I mean, this was a fight where Mark Hunt almost armbarred a good heavyweight.
(Which would have been one of the greatest moments in MMA history, by the way. What could possibly top that? Cheick Kongo fighting a clean fight? Royce Gracie leaving a fool stretcher bound with one punch? Also, I think the fact that Joe Rogan saw Hunt go for the armbar and immediately started excitedly coaching him on how to finish it speaks volumes. Like he instantly understood how huge it would have been.)
Rothwell is still a good heavyweight, but there are serious questions about not only his endurance, but his ability to perform even when he's fresh. He's just not a guy that's going to set your world on fire. He's a grinder, and I don't think he's the kind of striker that could put one on the chin of Brendan Schaub and blow him away.
Schaub is a bit of a stiff. Rodrigo Nogueira flattened him, something he hadn't done since he caught Sanae Kikuta all those years ago. Kikuta is basically a middleweight. So ... yeah. Brendan Schaub isn't good at taking punches.
Like many other fights on this card, this is quite simply a bounce back fight for a relatively popular fighter, and that's precisely what I expect out of Schaub here. He'll be able to stifle any Rothwell attempt to bring the fight to the ground, because Ben seems to be a bit shopworn at this point. He's a tough guy, and I don't think Brendan will finish him. But this fight has all the makings of a 30-27 for Brendan Schaub. He'll win this fight via punching Rothwell's midwestern dome. Schaub by decision.
Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio
I'm truly fascinated by John Alessio's "after 47 pro fights, I'm finally hitting my stride" quotes. Maybe it'll end up being similar to a few years ago when the eternally crotchety Tom Coughlin inexplicably loosened up, started cracking jokes and scheduling bowling nights, and immediately won the Super Bowl.
He also might end up being the same old John Alessio, a guy that has one of the best jabs in the business, can be drawn into a firefight where he's definitely hittable, and has been known to get stuck playing guard because his defensive wrestling isn't exactly the bees knees. On top of that, he's coming off of a thrilling yet grueling performance against a buzzsaw of a fighter in Ryan Healy.
Mark Bocek isn't going to draw Alessio into the aforementioned firefight, because beyond a decent straight right, he's someone that wants to grapple at all costs. And grappling is something he's better at than Alessio. He's coming off a workmanlike win against World of Warcraft veteran Nik Lentz. This fight got hammered for being "boring", but to me, there was alot of interesting action that took place. You had Bocek's underrated top position game clashing with Lentz's savvier-than-you'd-expect guard game. Granted, the fight didn't have you leaping off the sofa, but I went away from that fight really, really impressed by Bocek's relentlessness on top.
I think Alessio gets tapped here. I'm sure he'll find some measure of success on the feet, but he doesn't quite have the wrestling chops to deal with someone like Bocek. I can understand why Zuffa gave Alessio another shot, but he's in water that's a bit too deep here. Bocek will wrap up his signature rear naked choke after wearing John Alessio out on top. Bocek by submission, round three.
Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
Little known fact: Miguel Angel Torres is undefeated since he made his "rape van" tweets. Of course, he also hasn't technically, you know, had a fight, but that's beside the point. When I heard Torres was fired for making those tweets, I was beside myself, for two reasons. One was that I knew there was no way it would stick. Two ties into one; because I knew it wouldn't stick, I also knew that there was a solid chance that we'd get the Roger Goodell-Michael Vick routine from a few years ago. You know, where Torres is essentially forced to apologize, and where we as fans sit back with our imaginary Freudian pipes and go "Well, he handled his mistake like a man, he admitted he did wrong, and he deserves another chance", as though we're all psychologists. That whole routine grows old.
But now that we're through it, we get a thrilling Torres-Michael McDonald scrap that has Fight of the Night written all over it. McDonald is a young gun that I honestly like as a prospect more than Rory MacDonald (more on his later). He's a good striker with an excellent sense of when to throw his punches. Even though he can get a bit wreckless, I like him to beat up Torres if the fight hits the ground. Torres will always make it interesting, especially off of his back.
The one thing that gives me pause when picking McDonald is the jab of Miguel Torres, which he's shown a willingness to trust in recent fights. I don't remember McDonald ever throwing a jab, and with Torres' reach, he might be able to ding up Mayday from range. Don't rule this out.
This is going to be a good one. Basically, it comes down to this question: can McDonald draw Torres into a slobberknocker? If he can, I love him to land big punches on Torres and possibly finish him. I see some crazy scrambles happening, some great guard work from Torres that probably won't help him because some judges are still idiots, some feverish punching exchanges occuring, and Miguel Torres' cornerman telling him to use his jab every round as he's sitting on his stool wondering why he's getting beaten to the punch. McDonald by decision.
Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
Okay. You're Che Mills. You've been one of Europe's top welterweights for years, you have rock solid standup, and you finally make it to the UFC. If that weren't cool enough, you get to make your debut against a guy whose entire reputation is that he yells during fights to try to distract people from the fact that he's a terrible mixed martial artist. Of course, you blow through him, because again, he's terrible. What caliber of guy should your next UFC bout be against?
While you're considering that, pretend that you're Rory MacDonald. To go the full 9, adopt a Canadian accent and start saying things like "yeah, he was kickin my ah-ss". You're a man-child that has passed every test so far except Carlos Condit, the interim champ. You're coming off of two impressive wins; one was a fight with Nathan Diaz where you threw him around the cage like an Ultimate Ball (I'd be remiss if I didn't weave an Ultimate Ball reference in here somewhere); the other was against ground wizard Mike Pyle, whom you promptly took to the ground and basically hurt his feelings. These are two quality wins, two wins that basically walk up to you and say "I should be fighting a top ten guy next."
The answer to the first question is Jake Hecht, or someone else in that phylum (Hecht was the only one I could find that doesn't already have a fight coming up, but you get the idea.) The answer to the first question is NOT Rory MacDonald, a guy I'm not especially high on, but also someone who is making huge leaps and bounds on his journey to a 170 pound title shot.
(Which isn't a lock, by the way. Rory Mac has beastly skills when it comes to his wrestling and ground work. There's no question. But this guy is still a bit stiff on his feet, and he's still 3 fights away from a title shot, in my opinion. In fact, he's 4 fights away, because beating Che Mills doesn't really represent much beyond "he beat a good, overmatched welterweight.")
Seriously, I'm baffled by the GSP quotes that he's moving to 185 because he doesn't want to fight Rory Mac. Really, Georges? Talk about putting pressure on a guy. I think a good, hard striker like Thiago Alves could really hurt Rory, and until he starts fighting guys like Hendricks, Koscheck, Ellenberger, and the like, I'm not ready to christen him at the next big thing at 170.
That being said, Rory is going to smash Che Mills. As I alluded to, Che could find success on his feet, but I think this is going to be one of those fights where every round starts with Che going ballistic trying to land that one big shot because he knows he's behind, only to have Rory take him down again. Mills is tough, and I don't see a stoppage. Rory by decision.
Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
I'm going to come out and speak my mind: they should have just named this weekend's card "UFC 145: Saturday Night Raw". Most of the main card matchups were made with the intention of putting some guy over. The reason I'm focusing on this viewpoint is because it's really pretty difficult for Joe Silva and Sean Shelby to put a card together these days with these intentions being so obvious. I mean, do you really think Zuffa would give a hoot if anything bad happened to Eddie Yagin? No. They want Mark Hominick to go gangbusters here, because when (if?) he does, then that validates his title shot and erases (maybe?) his previous 6 second loss to my man the Korean Zombie.
Eddie Yagin is a former prospect. For years, the talk in Hawaii was that there was this Eddie Yagin guy that was going to make it huge someday. It never totally worked out, but Yagin did have a nice victory over Joe Soto, and in doing so earned his long coveted shot in the UFC. He was promptly beaten up by Junior Assuncao, who in currently unemployed. Basically, he's a good first UFC fight for an up-and-comer, not a guy that should be on main cards fighting someone of Mark Hominick's caliber.
But, here we are. I, like many others, was pretty surprised at how he went out against Chan Sung Jung. For such a technically sound boxer to just leave his head exposed like that was a pretty epic brainfart, and he paid for it dearly. I don't see any way that something like that happens again, especially in this fight. Mark Hominick is just too good.
He might end up playing guard for a bit in this fight, because I don't think Yagin is going to enjoy standing and banging with him. Then again, those Hawaiians have definitely been known to go out of their shield. But Yagin is thoroughly outclassed here. I think Hominick comes out and starts doing Hominick things: throwing pinpoint jabs, digging to the body, and finishing with hard left hooks. Mark by knockout, second round.
Enjoy the fights.
Also, in case anyone missed it, here's my Jones-Evans breakdown: http://mmamovement.blogspot.com/2012/04/jon-jones-vs-rashad-evans-breaking-it.html