UFC 132 Quick Picks
If ever there was a card that hearkened back to the days of the WEC, this is it. Of course the main event plays a large part of that, as Faber was a huge part of the organization and Cruz was its Bantamweight champion when the UFC absorbtion took place. There are other connections found throughout as well. Co-main eventer Chris Leben fought twice in the WEC (prior to Zuffa ownership) and Carlos Condit was the WEC Welterweight Champion when that division was merged into the UFC. On the undercard, which has seemingly become the home for most of the WEC imports, we find former Bantamweight Champion and contender Brian Bowles and Takeya Mizugaki, respectively. Former WEC Lightweights Shane Roller and Anthony Njokuani will also be taking part in separate bouts on the undercard.
Will all this imported flavour from the blue cage make for the second exciting UFC card in a week, or are in we for more of the lacklustre cards we’ve been seeing recently? Perhaps more importantly, how the fans receive all of these newer names will determine when we next see a Bantamweight or Featherweight fight in a headlining role in the UFC.
Dominick Cruz (c) vs. Urijah Faber
I hope at this point everyone realizes that their first fight is far too old, and Cruz was far too young in his career, for it to play a prominent role in how this fight will look. There are a couple things you can take from that fight, like Cruz having some early success striking and wrestling, but even then you must take into account that he would have been nearly an impossible opponent for Faber to prepare for, as there would have been no real tape on him up to that point.
Now we’ve got a much different story. Cruz is still a nightmare to prepare for, not for lack of tape, but because he brings a unique style to the cage. Dominick uses movement almost to the point of excess, but because of it his opponents have a difficult time hitting him. He combines his striking style with a wrestling game that despite not being cultivated at the higher levels of the sport, is one of the most effective in MMA. While Faber is unpredictable in his own right, he’s going to be the one who has to adjust to Cruz in this fight, and when it comes down to it, I don’t think he’s precise enough on the feet to catch Cruz, and I think Cruz’s wrestling will allow this fight to play out on the feet for the majority of the time. Dominick Cruz via Unanimous Decision.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben
This fight is incredibly difficult to pick because of the different incarnations we’ve seen of both fighters of late. Wanderlei showed impressive patience against Michael Bisping, but back when he fought Rich Franklin, he was dragged into a brawl. If he plays the patient game against Leben, I can see him winning on points, but if he throws caution to the wind I wouldn’t be surprised if Leben puts his chin to the test once again.
Coming off of such a long layoff, and with an opponent like Leben who is likely to turn any fight he is in to a brawl, I lean towards the latter scenario. Wanderlei still has a chance to win in that sort of fight however, as he has hurt his last two opponents on multiple occasions, and we’ve seen that Leben’s chin is not the granite block it once was. Still, if I had to pick one fighter’s chin to give way if this turns into a brawl, it would be Silva’s. I’ll hope for a different result, but my brain says Chris Leben via 2nd Round (T)KO.
Ryan Bader vs. Tito Ortiz
It’s surprising to me that the UFC would even bother making this fight. Tito was just thoroughly outclassed by Matt Hamill, who is pretty much a less skilled version of Bader in every facet of the game. The only question here isn’t whether Bader wins, but how he does so. Given that Tito is still a difficult fighter to stop, I see it going to a very lopsided decision, although if Tito’s constant cardio problems persist he could be finished late. Great fight for Bader to get back on track and work whatever part of his game he chooses. Ryan Bader via Unanimous Decision.
Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim
After Rick Story’s defeat last weekend, this fight could very well determine the next Welterweight contender in the UFC. Kim’s gameplan will be the same as it always is. Take his opponent down, control him from the top, perhaps take the back while standing and waste an immense amount of energy, and then tire late and hope he can hold on for the victory. He’s been successful against the likes of Nate Diaz, Amir Sadollah and T.J. Grant with that strategy, but Condit is well beyond any of those fighters. Condit has the ability to land on Kim from range, in the clinch (potentially negating some of Kim’s takedowns), and he will make him work endlessly if the fight does go to the ground. I still see Kim having success early in this fight, at least in the judges eyes, but when he inevitably tires late, Condit will still be coming forward, and he’ll find a way to hand Kim his first career loss. Carlos Condit via 3rd Round (T)KO.
Dennis Siver vs. Matt Wiman
It seems like Matt Wiman has become the fashionable pick in this fight, and I must say that I agree. Dennis Siver found himself in a fortunate place when he faced off against George Sotiropoulos, as the Aussie was on an impressive looking streak comprised of a long list of unspectacular opponents. Siver has an excellent style to combat Sotiropoulos and did just that, controlling the bulk of the fight. Matt Wiman however presents many more challenges to Siver, as his takedowns are superior, and he is faster and more varied on the feet than Sotiropoulos, which will make it more difficult for Siver to counter.
I see this fight playing out similarly to Wiman’s fight against Sam Stout, although I don’t think Siver has the same ability to scramble back to his feet as Stout. As a result, I see Wiman getting his just decision this time. Matt Wiman via Unanimous Decision.
Melvin Guillard vs. Shane Roller
Another fight with Lightweight title implications down the road. Guillard is finally starting to reach the potential everyone saw out of him way back on the Ultimate Fighter 2, although he’s done it by embracing a much more patient style which still seems out of place with his skillset and character. However it is difficult to argue with the results he’s had since making the transition to Jackson’s, and that patient approach has closed many of the holes that were previously in Guillard’s game.
Enter Shane Roller. Conceivably, Guillard should make relatively easy work of Roller as Shane doesn’t have the striking to be effective on the feet in this one. Roller knows this though, and will use his striking as he normally does to rush his opponent and open up takedown opportunities. Getting Guillard to the ground is still a task, but one that I believe Roller will be up to. Once there, Guillard’s MO has been to stand up as soon as an opportunity presents itself. This is where I see the fight getting very interesting, as Roller is very effective at taking his opponent’s back in scrambles, and once there has excellent finishing ability.
A number of factors in this fight remind me of Guillard’s fight against Rich Clementi back at UFC 79, and like at that event, my pick and my money are against Melvin. We’ll see just how much he’s grown as a fighter in this one. Shane Roller via 1st Round Submission.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Initially when this fight was announced, I thought my trend of picking upsets in the Lightweight division was going to continue, but the more I think about it, I’m not so sure. dos Anjos has the ground game to survive against Sotiropoulos should the fight go there, but standing he doesn’t have much to offer outside of his legs kicks. Just surviving on the ground, and perhaps outlanding in the kick department shouldn’t be enough to win dos Anjos the decision though, and I think Sotiropoulos’ boxing and aggressiveness pushing the pace and looking for takedowns will earn him the nod. George Sotiropoulos via Unanimous Decision.
Brian Bowles vs. Takeya Mizugaki
I know I’m always harping on this, but how in the world do two fighters who have recently fought for a WEC title end up on not only the undercard of this event, but not even the Spike TV portion of the undercard. Bantamweights just can’t get any love from programming directors (remember that Cruz/Faber was not the intended main event for this card either).
That aside, this bout seems fairly straightforward so long as Bowles enters healthy and doesn’t suffer any injuries mid-fight. Mizugaki is a talented striker, but his is very hittable, can normally be outworked on the feet, and Bowles should be able to exploit his mediocre takedown defense. Bowles is still one of the best Bantamweights in the world, which he showed in his dismantling of Damacio Page, he only needs people to see him and be reminded of that fact. Brian Bowles via 2nd Round Submission.
Aaron Simpson vs. Brad Tavares
Tavares looked good against Phil Baroni, but that’s Phil Baroni in 2011. Aaron Simpson is a vastly superior fighter, who will be able to control the pace of this bout with his size and superior wrestling. Aaron Simpson via Unanimous Decision.
Anthony Njokuani vs. Andre Winner
Another tough fight to pick, as these guys bring two very different striking styles to the cage, and it’s hard to say which one will prove superior. Winner has the technical edge, but Njokuani is longer and carries more power. I think Njokuani will use kicks to keep the distance, fight at the speed he wants to and frustrate Winner into opening up more than he wants to, providing the Nigerian Money Offer with many opportunities to counter. Anthony Njokuani via Unanimous Decision.
Donny Walker vs. Jeff Hougland
I know almost nothing about both of these fighters, so don’t take this pick to the bank with you. Donny Walker has fought better competition in the past, and has a few solid wins on his resume, so I’ll go with the experience bouts with the likes of Jeff Curran, Cub Swanson and Kenny Foster has provided him with. Donny Walker via 1st Round Submission.