Spotlighting a rematch -- this time for UFC heavyweight gold -- between Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva, UFC 160 goes live on pay-per-view this Saturday night (May 25, 2013) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Velasquez-Bigfoot rematch is among 5 blockbuster bouts slated for the featured card and, as usual, the FX Channel (8:00 p.m. ET) and Facebook (est. 6:30 p.m. ET) share the preliminary card broadcast.
The entire UFC 160 lineup is listed below and followed by previews, predictions and analysis for the quartette of fights on the FX prelims.
UFC 160 Pay-Per-View Card
FX Preliminary Card
Facebook Preliminary Stream
Ewww ... trying to predict a Mike Pyle fight. This guy's unquestionably talented and definitely seems to have hit his stride lately, but he's been all over the board since day one of his MMA career.
His pro-MMA debut against light-heavyweight Quinton Jackson is well documented, and surviving to a 3-round decision in Pyle's first night of fighting speaks volumes to his toughness and ability. Somehow almost sustaining his insane level of competition right out of the gate, Pyle took on Jon Fitch in his sophomore effort and finished the former longtime #2 welterweight with a 1st-round choke. Fighting to a draw with rugged Russian Andrei Semenov in his 4th fight is also impressive, as Semenov had already racked up 26 career fights, a 1-1 UFC record and finished Ricardo Almeida.
But -- and here's my point, dude -- after that assembly of extraordinary feats in his first 4 outings, Pyle was then guillotine choked in the 1st round by ... "Valdas Pocevicius," who presently flaunts a 33-31 record. While we all despise the icky-ness of MMA Math, it just seems like Pyle has undergone rather extreme highs and lows, or has been consistently inconsistent. Exhibit B: he's currently soaring on a 7-1 clip in the UFC, having fallen only to youthful juggernaut Rory MacDonald in that sequence, yet Pyle was tapped out in the 1st-round of his Octagon debut courtesy of a Brock Larson arm-triangle. I mean, don't get me wrong -- Larson's a hard-nosed scrapper and an easy fight for no one, but it's eery to recall how quickly and easily he dusted Pyle.
This theme was on display in the larger part of Pyle's recent 3-fight win streak, in which he was getting backed up amidst Josh Neer's sudden surge of heavy leather but ultimately knocked him out for only the 2nd time in Neer's 45 career turns, and, in Pyle's last performance, did the same with a beautifully timed knee from the Thai plum to stem the hail of punches, knees and elbows James Head was drenching him with.
Rick "The Horror" Story has had a few ups and downs of his own, but the archetypal wrestle-boxer has been pretty reliable throughout his 12 UFC ventures (8-4 UFC record). The luster of Story's Octagon tour can be found in the 6-piece roll he strung together after losing his debut to lanky Brit John Hathaway; a blaze that include big-name wins like top contender Johny Hendricks and long-time divisional assassin Thiago Alves.
Story's boxing is exemplary, especially for a wrestler. His stance is tight, his punches are crisp, fast and straight and he maintains excellent balance while unleashing combinations. Story also has a strong grasp of cage generalship and footwork, as detailed in the Judo Chop published after the Alves win. While he's still a bear with control in the clinch, Story opts for more traditional single and double leg attempts from outside whereas Pyle has a smooth arsenal of trips and throws from the clinch. In a head-on wrestling match up, I think the edge goes strongly to Story.
Really, the striking comparison should favor Story a bit as well. He might not have the fight-ending knockout power that Pyle's wielded lately, but his overall fundamentals and technique are more complete than Pyle's fiery but erratic tendencies. Pyle will enjoy the same level of advantage with his submission grappling -- though he's been curiously tapped out by lesser grapplers, Pyle's offensive submission skills are voracious and his scrambling/transitions are downright deadly.
Story will endeavor to pick Pyle apart with tightly laced combinations while interchanging level drops for takedowns, or playing the game of faking level drops to set up head strikes, and vice-versa to set up takedown attempts. Pyle will look to unload his power from outside (watch out for his monumental overhand right) and, if he can stuff takedowns and stay standing, work his clinch takedowns when Story corners him and connects against the cage.
The betting lines favor Story by a thin margin, which I think is fair considering Pyle's streaky characteristics, both overall and in finite sequences inside the cage. If anything, Pyle has shown a rare knack for turning the tables in the blink of an eye and embodying the type of fighter you can never count out. I'll also lean towards Story for his reliable consistency, but he's in trouble if Pyle can initiate scrambles, latch onto his back in the clinch or get on top in grappling exchanges.
My Prediction: Rick Story by decision.
TUF 14 runner-up Dennis Bermudez has cemented his tremendous heart and stifling wrestling abilities in almost every spotlight performance. There's no question that heart and the cliche "warrior spirit" are his strongest assets, and seem to be the biggest factor in all of his UFC wins. As a Division 1 wrestler, Bermudez qualified for the national tournament and, in MMA, has the strength and athleticism to bury opponents with overwhelming takedown prowess. The untempered brawler also attacks with a wild but effective set of thunderous fists.
Hawaiian Max Holloway, the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, is about the exact opposite. Bermudez is wide and stocky; Holloway is tall and lanky. Bermudez chucks reckless leather on the feet; Holloway is a polished and diverse technician who stalks methodically. Bermudez is a top-side wrestler and Holloway has a fluid submission grappling game.
This match-up favors Bermudez. Holloway is on an entirely different level in the striking game and his length could cause fits, but he won't be able to plant his feet and load up any power because Bermudez' takedowns will be an ever-present concern. I believe Holloway has the submission savvy to submit Bermudez or at least threaten enough to initiate scrambles or escapes, but I just think the chances are better that Bermudez can let a few bombs bounce off his chin, impose his wrestling game and stave off submission attempts for a decision win.
My Prediction: Dennis Bermudez by decision.
I'm anticipating this match-up almost as much as any other. Combat Sambo champion Nurmagomedov has lit the Octagon afire by tearing through a trio of reputable lightweights in Kamal Shalorus (3rd-round sub), Gleison Tibau (closely contested unanimous decision) and Thiago Tavares (1st-round TKO).
Blackzilians rep Abel Trujillo made a statement in his UFC debut against standout wrestler Marcus LeVesseur, matching the hulking wrestler in the clinch/takedown department before battering him with a scathing succession of knees to the body. Though Nurmagomedov is a little more well-rounded overall, Trujillo still brings 3-dimensional skills to the table with mean striking, powerful wrestling/control and an effective submission game.
I feel like this will be a battle of pure toughness. Both are hard-nosed scrappers, but Nurmagomedov is a little more tactical and complete whereas Trujillo maximizes his chances with raw and unflinching brutality. This should be a battle of will from the get-go, with Nurmagomedov looking to sight in his long punches from outside on the fringe and Trujillo endeavoring to shrink the gap and batter the Russian at close quarters with volatile in-fighting and a rugged clinch and top game.
Though I'm on board with Nurmagomedov being the favorite, I'd put the lines a tad more competitive than the betting odds reflect. Nurmagomedov has the momentum but Trujillo is an animal with a good chance to play spoiler.
My Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov by close decision.
At this point, while it might not be pretty or exciting, I think it will take someone special to overcome the asphyxiating wrestling game of TUF 16 winner Colton Smith. Robert Whittaker, who won the welterweight echelon of the TUF: Smashes series, has the potential to be the exception. He's a confident prospect (22-years-old) with a balanced finishing ratio (5 subs, 4 TKO's) and good fighting instincts.
However, I don't think his chances of thwarting Smith's takedowns are any better than that of Mike Ricci, who has a similarly diverse skill-set and more experience. I expect Whittaker to go balls-out and take chances in order to score major damage or finish betwixt the requirement of being technically defensive in order to avoid spending 15 minutes on his back. It's definitely possible but, for the purpose of prediction, the chances definitely favor Smith here.
My Prediction: Colton Smith by decision.