UFC 148 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

John HeinisSenior Analyst IJuly 6, 2012

UFC 148 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

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    UFC 148 has one of the most heavily anticipated rematches in MMA history, so there is no question what fight fans will be watching on Saturday night. 

    While it goes without saying, the headlining bout of the evening pits UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva against Chael Sonnen in part two of their epic UFC 117 encounter. 

    All bets are off concerning this fight, except that this one has "Fight of the Year" potential written all over it. 

    In the co-main event of the evening, light heavyweight veterans Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz will meet in a rubber match to finally determine who is the better man. 

    Making his UFC return, former middleweight title challenger Patrick Cote takes on Cung "The Human Highlight Reel" Le in a bout that looks like an entertaining stand-up war on paper. 

    Tipping the scales at 170 pounds for the first time in his career, grappling ace Demian Maia takes on "Stun Gun" Dong Hyun Kim in a bout that could have some interesting exchanges on the ground. 

    At featherweight, Cody McKenzie faces a tough task in the form of recent title challenger Chad "Money" Mendes in what we'll call an interesting clash of styles. 

    Kicking off the main card, bantamweight contenders Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton will clash to determine who is a top five fighter at 135 pounds. 

    Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Matthew Ryder, Andrew Saunders, Matt Juul, and myself, John Heinis, are predicting the action this week. 

    Take a look inside for all the details.

Ivan Menjivar vs. Mike Easton

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    John Heinis: Ivan Menjivar enters this matchup on a three-fight win streak, while Mike "The Hulk" Easton has won an impressive seven in a row.

    Both fighters like to stand and bang but have serious grappling credentials to fall back on as well (Easton is a BJJ black belt, Menjivar is a BJJ brown belt).

    Easton has more power in his hands, as well as great hand movement, but Menjivar is probably a slightly more polished striker and a better wrestler.

    Couple that with "The Pride of El Salvador's" solid chin and Easton's most feasible path to victory involves a submission, which I don't see happening.

    Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision 

     

    Matthew Ryder: Not much to say about this one.

    Menjivar is a bit more experienced, has faced a more convincing calibre of competition, and was apparently in the mix to fight for the interim bantamweight title before Renan Barao was secured to fight Urijah Faber.

    Easton is tough and has a little bit of crazy in him, but Menjivar should control the pace and range in the fight on his way to a solid decision win.

    Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision

     

    Andrew Saunders: I'm definitely on the Mike Easton hype train.

    If you've had the privilege to see some of his non-UFC fights, you can see that he is one of the most powerful bantamweights out there, and he is dangerous wherever this fight goes.

    Menjivar is a crafty veteran who shouldn't be taken lightly, and training with the guys at Tristar should give him an advantage.

    I'm gonna kick myself for it later, but I think experience pulls this one out.

    Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision

     

    Matt Juul: Surging bantamweights Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton will put their undefeated UFC records on the line as they look to climb the 135 lb. contender ladder.

    Both fighters are solid, well-rounded fighters that are evenly matched in this bout. Menjivar has more experience, but Easton has the edge conditioning wise.

    This fight will be an entertaining all-out war of possible future top contenders.
     

    Mike Easton via unanimous decision

Chad Mendes vs Cody McKenzie

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    John Heinis: Why Joe Silva decided to make Cody McKenzie fight Chad "Money" Mendes in his first UFC fight at featherweight, I'll never understand. 

    McKenzie has a great guillotine, we all know that, and has a pretty solid 13-2 professional record. However, the two losses came at the hands of more respected grapplers in Yves Edwards and Vagner Rocha. 

    There aren't many grapplers more talented than Mendes, a two-time All-American wrestler in college, who won 11 fights in a row before being knocked out by champion Jose Aldo at UFC 142. 

    McKenzie's only path to victory is a guillotine, but that just isn't happening against a stronger, more well-rounded grappler. 

    Chad Mendes via round 3 submission (rear naked choke)

     

    Matthew Ryder: A curious piece of matchmaking pits guillotine specialist and middle-of-the-pack fan favorite Cody McKenzie against former title challenger Chad Mendes.

    McKenzie will make his featherweight debut, but has showed little to suggest he’s ready for a step up in competition to the degree of this fight.

    Mendes struggled against Jose Aldo (who hasn’t?), but he’s one of the best in the world at 145lbs.

    His wrestling and top game will be too much for McKenzie, who will likely succumb to ground and pound before the second round is over.

    Chad Mendes via round 2 TKO 

     

    Andrew Saunders: Why they gave Cody McKenzie the No. 2 featherweight in the world in his divisional debut, I'll never know, but he might make the most out of it.

    However, with Mendes coming from Team Alpha Male, he has been training with fighters who have excellent guillotines for years.

    Mendes could grind out a decision, but I think he will pull off a ground and pound TKO in the third.

    Chad Mendes via round 3 TKO

     

    Matt Juul: Looking to bring his patented guillotine choke to the featherweight division, TUF alum Cody McKenzie will have a tough time landing his favorite sub against former top contender Chad Mendes.

    A member of Team Alpha Male, Mendes has trained with top level submission artists such as Urijah Faber and will likely stop any attempts made by McKenzie.

    Mendes has an edge in the wrestling department and should have no problem controlling McKenzie on the ground. In fact, expect Mendes to go for a few subs of his own.

    Chad Mendes via round 3 submission 

Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia

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    John Heinis: Third degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Demian Maia makes his welterweight debut against Dong Hyun Kim, a fighter who is comfortable on the ground in his own right. 

    The biggest question mark here is how much of a gas tank Maia will have after the weight cut. Kim, a 4th dan black belt in Judo, will undoubtedly take this fight to the ground, but will Maia have the strength to overcome "Stun Gun's" stifling top game?

    I say he can, as a loss here would just be too devastating for the Brazilian's fight career. Losing two of his past three at middleweight, Maia is desperate for a win here while Kim has struggled with lesser opponents than Maia before (Mike Brown, Karo Parisyan and the 170-pound version of Nate Diaz).

    Even if Maia does gas out again, he will be hungry for a win here and he has a far better submission game than anyone else Kim has ever come across in the Octagon before. 

    Demian Maia via round 3 submission (triangle choke)

     

    Matthew Ryder: Expert submission ace Maia makes his debut at 170lbs. after having a respectable run as a middleweight for his entire UFC career.

    In Kim, he’ll face a sizable welterweight who’s underrated on account of being a fairly boring work in progress.

    That said, no one should sleep on the Korean. His throws are a nightmare for anyone, and he showed against Sean Pierson that he’s learning the standup game at a rapid pace.

    Even still, Maia is a workable standup tactician who seems interested in going back to his jiu-jitsu roots to secure a win in this one. He’ll take it by decision.

    Demian Maia via unanimous decision 

     

    Andrew Saunders: Remember when Demian Maia was relevant to the sport? Maia is going to live a nightmare when he tries to take down the judoka tomorrow night.

    Kim should be able to pick apart the Brazilian on the feet and will likely do just that.

    So long as it stays standing, Kim wins via decision.

    Dong Hyun Kim via unanimous decision

     

    Matt Juul: Dropping down to welterweight, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia will look to get back to his winning ways as he takes on Dong Hyun Kim.

    He will have a tough time, however, as Kim's powerful wrestling and judoka background will spell trouble for Maia who has faltered against similar opponents in the past.

    Standing up, Maia will have an even tougher time as Kim's ever improving striking is slightly better than his Brazilian opponent's.

    Maia's only shot is if he can goad Kim into trying to fight within the BJJ champ's guard—a strategy easier said than done.

    Look for another grinding victory for "Stun Gun".

    Dong Hyun Kim via unanimous decision 

Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote

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    John Heinis: No one could've possibly envisioned Patrick Cote making his way into the third fight of this card, but here we are. 

    "The Predator" has rattled off four consecutive wins on the independent circuit after being cut from the UFC in 2010, so a combination of a win streak and a never ending injury bug worked in Cote's favor.

    Say what you will about Cote getting this opportunity; he is an aggressive striker with a granite chin and a purple belt in BJJ if all else fails. 

    Le actually has a pretty respectable wrestling game despite being an unorthodox striker, but all indications are that he wants this fight to stay standing. 

    The 40-year-old Le has only fought four times since March of 2008 as he has begun focusing on a fairly successful movie career, which is why I'm going with the underdog here. 

    Le doesn't seem fully focused on the fight game anymore and that will lead to his demise as he goes into deep water against his Canadian adversary. 

    Patrick Cote via round 3 KO

     

    Matthew Ryder: Returnees of differing varieties meet here, as aging veteran Cung Le makes his first appearance since November against UFC vet and scrap heap signee Patrick Cote.

    Look for fireworks here.

    Le is flashy and has underrated grappling chops, while Cote is an absolute warrior with a granite chin and championship experience.

    Most people will go with Le based on name recognition and his highlight reel, but I’m taking my fellow Canadian to score the upset with a thunderous KO in the first round.

    Patrick Cote via round 1 KO 

     

    Andrew Saunders: Cote has tremendous conditioning and an iron chin. He does really well against strikers, and Le will have no intentions of taking this battle to the ground.

    Cote finally earned himself a ticket back to the show, and he will make the most of it.

    Cote wins via KO in the 2nd round.

    Patrick Cote via round 2 KO

     

    Matt Juul: A battle of hard-nosed veteran strikers, there is no way that this fight doesn't end with someone lying on the canvas.

    Former Strikeforce champ Cung Le offers a much more diverse striking style that will stifle the heavy handed Patrick Cote in his return to the Octagon.

    Le's use of unorthodox angles and kicks will keep Cote from getting inside and landing his patented right hand.

    As long as Le can keep his distance and avoid any heavy shots to the head, this should be an easy win for the Sanshou stylist.

    Cung Le via round 2 TKO

Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz

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    John Heinis: While this is a fun fight, I have to say, I personally would've preferred a co-main event with two fighters still relevant in their division. 

    After bouncing back from his devastating knockout loss to Anderson Silva in 2009 with back-to-back wins over Ortiz and Rich Franklin, no one knew what to expect from Forrest Griffin entering his rematch with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 134.

    Well, the original "The Ultimate Fighter" winner got badly beaten in under two minutes and everyone released that Griffin's best days were behind him. 

    Of course, Tito Ortiz's 1-6-1 record in recent years is well-documented, and the self-proclaimed "People's Champion" has announced this will be his swan song. 

    Again, this should be an entertaining, albeit a pretty irrelevant, 205-pound match up. 

    The deciding factor for me is that Ortiz has looked terrible every time he's been hit hard in recent fights and Griffin has a three-inch reach advantage here, so while it might not be pretty, Forrest will live to fight another day. 

    Forrest Griffin via unanimous decision 

     

    Matthew Ryder: The trilogy nobody asked for will come to a conclusion when Griffin and Ortiz meet up. Well, not nobody. The guys involved wanted it, so that’s something.

    Tito is calling this his retirement fight and he seems committed to that, while Forrest seems to be in a state of semi-retirement himself.

    The first two fights were worth watching, and this could be the one to finally prove which guy is better.

    I’ll take Tito by TKO here. He’s fought an incredible calibre of competition during his 1-6-1 run and has actually rarely been badly outclassed, even in his losses.

    He seems legitimately hungry for this one, and Griffin has fallen so far and seems so disinterested by fighting these days that he may not put up a lot of resistance.

    Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision 

     

    Andrew Saunders: The trilogy will end in style with some fireworks. Maybe Forrest will pay
    attention to the damage done by body blows in Tito's last couple of appearances.

    That being said, Forrest hasn't looked so hot in his last two showings either.

    I'm gonna vote with my heart and not my head and guess that Tito wins a decision and retires on a high note.

    Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision

     

    Matt Juul: In the third installment of this historic trilogy, former champs Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz will go to war once again in what will be "the Huntington Beach Bad Boy's" farewell fight.

    With one controversial win a piece going to each fighter, expect a similarly close contest this time around. Griffin has a little more left in the tank and should be able pick Ortiz apart standing.

    But with both men at the tail end of their careers, this fight is anyone's to take. Whoever has more heart Saturday night will be able to gut out a win.

    Forrest Griffin via split decision

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

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    John Heinis: The rematch is finally here after waiting for nearly two years. The million-dollar question seems to be: will a fired up Anderson Silva be the best or worst thing to happen to Chael Sonnen?

    Sonnen is going to get his takedowns, that's a given, but everything else is pretty much anyone's guess. 

    Will Silva be willing to work his guard for minutes at a time? Will Chael be able to keep Silva honest with his striking? 

    Well, I believe the answers to both questions are yes, but to a marginal extent. Silva will not stay on his back for rounds at a time and while Sonnen will land some shots on the feet, he will have to score a takedown once Anderson fires back. 

    Everyone reading this is well aware how the first fight went and would probably agree that Sonnen is the only one who stands a legitimate shot of beating Silva at middleweight. 

    Nevertheless, I just can't bet on Sonnen right now (especially with the line being what it is), even though the middleweight division is a lot less interesting with "Uncle Chael" as a challenger instead of the champion. 

    I really hope I'm wrong about this one, but...

    Anderson Silva via unanimous decision

     

    Matthew Ryder: The biggest rematch in the history of the sport is finally upon us. The angry staredowns, the trash talk, the photo ops—they’re all over. It’s time to lace ‘em up and go to work.

    The story has been rehashed too many times for me to do it differently. Two dudes who really hate each other are fighting for the middleweight title. That’s more or less it.

    It basically comes down to whether or not Sonnen can push the pace and use his wrestling to work Silva over before Silva knocks his head off in some inventive way. The wild card is that Silva seems more openly hostile than ever before, and one has to wonder how that will play with him once the fight starts.

    For my money, I genuinely believe that there was more to their first meeting than “Chael cheated and Andy was hurt.”

    Sonnen is a nightmare matchup for the champion: an aggressive wrestler who can throw hands and has absolutely no fear of what Silva has to offer.

    Even still, too many times we’ve watched Anderson Silva do something insane right in front of us. The man has his own “believe your eyes” commercials, because for so long it’s been so hard to do that when he’s been in the cage.

    My head says Sonnen by decision, but my heart says Silva has one last great highlight left in him. I’m going with my heart.

    Anderson Silva via submission

     

    Andrew Saunders: Although Sonnen's less than stunning performance against Michael Bisping is still fresh in my memory, it does not overwrite what we saw the first time around.

    I don't see this fight happening without Silva hitting his back a lot. I think Chael finishes what he started and wins a hard fought decision.

    Chael Sonnen via unanimous decision

     

    Matt Juul: With over two years worth of hype leading into Saturday's historic rematch, fans won't be disappointed and are guaranteed to see fireworks.

    Silva has unleashed his inner rage over the last few weeks, exposing a side of the champion that we've never seen before. All of Sonnen's trash talking and verbal jabs have finally released the true "Spider".

    While some believe this anger will end up clouding Silva's judgement, I think it will make him hyper focused culminating in the best performance of his career.

    Sonnen's going to make it a fight, but Silva will pull out the spectacular finish.

    Anderson Silva via round 4 TKO 

Fight Bonuses

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    John Heinis: Fight of the Night - Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 

    Knockout of the Night - Patrick Cote

    Submission of the Night - Demian Maia

     

    Matthew Ryder: Fight of the Night - Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

    Knockout of the Night - Tito Ortiz

    Submission of the Night - Demian Maia 

     

    Andrew Saunders: Fight of the Night - Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz

    Knockout of the Night - Patrick Cote

    Submission of the Night - Fabricio Camoes

     

    Matt Juul: Fight of the Night - Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

    Knockout of the Night - Cung Le

    Submission of the Night - Chad Mendes