Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
UFC 152 boasts a card that unlike UFC 151, won't be cancelled for its lack of depth should the main eventers fall victim to either injury, or shoddy management. The preliminary fights are not necessarily stacked, but there's depth to be had in the land of daft updates, and instagram-approved inertia.
The welterweight and bantamweight divisions are places where action is rarely stagnant. And the facebook fights in Canada promise some good old fashioned knuckle dragging the way Don Cherry intended.
I apologize in advance for not being as good as Dallas Winston. But where I lack in Mr. Winston's perceptive analysis, uncanny wisdom, and eccentric but other-wordly posters, I will make up for in meager scrutiny, and stale movie references. But seriously...
The very first facebook fight is also one of the more high profile fights in the welterweight division in journeyman terms. In fact, this might have been the co main event on a card like UFC 151 (I had to double check to see if that actually was the case).
Noke played the part of the cagey veteran on TUF 11, and has done so his entire career. But where once he could be counted on to be crafty, and reliable, he's quickly becoming inconsistent, and sloppy. Noke is on a two fight losing streak, both against guys who dominated him despite relatively even odds.
Brenneman has had similar 'plateauing pains'. He wasn't on the WW radar until beating the upstart Rick Story. He then followed up that impressive victory by getting kicked in the face, and subsequently strangled: a KO loss to Anthony Johnson and a RNC defeat to Erick Silva, respectively.
There's a light contrast of styles here. Both guys do their work on the ground, just in different respects. Noke has a 42% submission rate, while Brennemen has a 53% decision rate, grinding out victories with stifling top control. There's nothing arbitrary and misplaced about these numbers the way Goldie would articulate ("He's never lost a fight twice in a row!"). Instead they speak to each fighter's effectiveness when doing what they do best.
While Noke is good with submissions, his most accomplished work is not from his back. He's certainly capable, but I would compare Kyle's ground game to Daniel Roberts...a fighter who Brenneman successfully controlled for three rounds. Like Roberts, Kyle is not the kind of lights out submission grappler that can work passed the top game of a wrestler who knows how to defend submissions.
Wrestlers like Brenneman (the Fitch archetype) are typically only caught when they are desperate because they can't match their opponents on the feet, or when they're put on their back and end up squirming too much to get out from underneath. Noke doesn't have enough power to connect on Brenneman (who was still lucid after taking a figurative bat to the face), or the wrestling to to make Charlie squirm underneath.
My prediction: Charlie Brenneman by grinding, fan-displeasing decision.
Zombie Prophet's gif making, and more analysis after the jump...
Both BW's are coming off tough losses. Gagnon was defeated in a high octane scrap with Bryan Caraway, while Watson played the part of the Everlast bag against T.J. Dillashaw. Both guys are a bit better than their performances might indicate.
Gagnon has that kitchen sink mentality. He's got heavy hands, but the instincts of a wrestler, which puts him in counterintuitive places...like switching from rocking a guy on the feet to a double leg. In the gif above, we get an example of yet another weakness: his gas tank, and lack of defense. Against Rejean Groulx, Mitch (the one coming forward like a George Romero extra) attempts to close the distance with little regard for head movement (and eats several shots as a result). For Watson, these are the things he'll want to look out for. As you can see in the gif directly below the Gagnon scrap, Walel is adept at creating openings for his submissions:
Watson is not incredibly gifted in that regard, but he's competent enough, especially considering Gagnon was all but choked out against the inferior Groulx in the 2nd round of their fight with only the bell to save him. Mitch's best opportunity will be on the feet where he's got good raw power...making this a difficult bout to predict. In the end, I think Watson weathers the storm to catch Gagnon.
My prediction: Watson by RNC, round 3.
Our 2nd WW bout pits TUF alumni against Norway. Both guys are coming off wins. Baczynski is quietly having a very good run, undefeated in his last five fights including a win over the reliable Matt Brown. Thoresen, meanwhile, has cut his teeth in England at the Ultimate Warrior Challenge. As seen below, Thoresen's best asset is on the ground, where his gymnastics background proves useful.
He's got very good hip movement, and doesn't need a whole lot of space to trap his opponent's arm. On the feet, he's got a good sense of distancing. He's willing to fire a jab instead of leaving himself open by throwing 'bolos', and does a pretty good job of clinching in the transitions to get the takedown. Joaquim Hansen's influence is certainly felt.
The question is, will those assets manifest themselves in victory against a WW whose size is his greatest asset. To be sure, Bacyznski will be the bigger guy in there. Seth's strength is using his weight to push around his opponent. He's got a strong right hand, and on the ground...well, he's got moves:
As you can see here, he does a good job of maintaining his balance after his opponent tries to juke him in order to break back control. Although you don't see the rest, Bacznski is able to successfully score a triangle choke in the ensuing scramble.
Though he's capable, this is not where Seth wants to be against Simeon. Although it does mean he's not a fish out of water on the ground. However, I can't help but see what we've often seen when Seth fights a WW with minimum credentials: Baczynski imposing his will. Thoresen is still largely unproven, and I don't think his experience against unknowns in the London underground will prepare him for Seth's physical strength, and skill.
My prediction: Seth Baczynski by decision.