UFC 154 Predictions: Final Preview and Prediction for St-Pierre vs. Condit Card
UFC 154 is finally upon us.
Georges St-Pierre's return to the Octagon is the most highly anticipated bout of the evening (and rightfully so), but this card is loaded with interesting and exciting matchups from top to bottom.
Who is leaving tonight with his hand raised, and who is leaving defeated and searching for answers?
Start the slideshow for my final rundown of tonight's festivities.
Steven Siler vs. Darren Elkins
Tonight's first fight is brought to you from the beautiful world of Facebook.
Steven Siler and Darren Elkins kick off the action on the Facebook preliminary card, and, despite little name recognition, this is a pretty interesting bout.
Siler has a ton of experience to his name with 30 career fights despite being just 25 years old. He is 21-9 with an unblemished UFC record of 3-0.
Elkins, meanwhile, is 4-1 in the UFC, with his sole loss coming to Charles Oliveira back in August 2010. There, Oliveira overwhelmed him early and snatched an armbar in the very first round.
Since that time, Elkins has won three dominant decision victories, and it seems he is content to use his size and grappling to overpower and wear down opponents.
Siler, meanwhile, has 13 submission victories to credit, including his most recent UFC win over Joey Gambino at UFC on FX 4. This makes for an interesting aspect of the fight, as Elkins will probably look to take the younger Siler to the mat and work his ground expertise.
I see Elkins doing just that, and Siler will have his winning streak halted by a larger, stronger fighter in Darren Elkins.
Prediction: Darren Elkins via unanimous decision
Ivan Menjivar vs. Azamat Gashimov
Here's a fun and crazy fact for you: Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's first mixed martial arts fight took place in January 2002.
Yes, the bout took place at welterweight, and, yes, Menjivar is now a bantamweight. Pretty crazy, right?
Menjivar is a warrior and true mixed martial artist, and he has been in the fight business for well over a decade.
Now in the sport's largest promotion, Menjivar looks to get back on track after losing to Mike Easton at UFC 148.
Gashimov, on paper, is the perfect opponent for him to do just that. The Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts fighter makes his UFC debut against Menjivar, and logic would hold that Menjivar is too experienced and too polished for the young fighter's first trip to the Octagon.
Sure, anything can happen, but I'm going with my gut here and taking Ivan Menjivar via second-round submission.
Prediction: Ivan Menjivar via submission, Round 2
Matthew Riddle vs. John Maguire
Despite the potential to be an absolute snooze-fest, I'm pretty stoked about this matchup.
For one, Matt Riddle is as gritty and tough as they come, and secondly, this matchup should showcase some exceptional grappling by both men.
Maguire's "gypsy jiu-jitsu" is pretty damn effective, and 10 of his 18 career victories have come via tapout.
Riddle is a great grappler in his own right, and he has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a strong wrestling base to work with in this fight.
I think the best course of action for Riddle, though, is to keep the fight standing and avoid Maguire's submission game. Riddle has a definitive advantage in the standup department and, while I think he could grind out a decision on the mat as well, his safer bet is to keep it standing.
Remember when Riddle landed the best knockout in The Ultimate Fighter history? I'm not saying he's going to do that again, but the power is there, and I have a feeling he clips Maguire and pounds him out in this matchup.
Prediction: Riddle via TKO, Round 2
Antonio Carvalho vs. Rodrigo Damm
Antonio Carvalho looked sharper than Reese Witherspoon's chin in his most recent bout against Daniel Pineda at UFC 149, and I expect to see the same fighter come out against Rodrigo Damm tonight at UFC 154 in the night's first matchup on FX.
Carvalho has the experience edge, the hometown crowd support and the more impressive recent performances, and that is really all I need to know to pick him in this bout.
Prediction: Carvalho via unanimous decision
Sam Stout vs. John Makdessi
In this matchup of standout Canadian mixed martial artists, I envision a standup war that will have fans hooping and hollering for the bout's duration.
Stout is a consummate professional and veteran of 26 professional fights, whereas Makdessi has a crazy and diverse striking game that can give any opponent fits.
However, I question Makdessi's heart and determination, as he missed weight in his most recent fight, a poor showing on his part against Anthony Njokuani at UFC 145.
Stout will avoid his strikes and pick him apart on the feet for three rounds or take him to the ground and grind out a decision; the choice is his.
Prediction: Sam Stout via unanimous decision
Cyrille Diabate vs. Chad Griggs
I know what Cyrille Diabate can do with his storied kickboxing attack, but, to quote GSP, I am not impressed by his performances.
The dude just can't find his groove in the UFC, and his stint in the promotion is characterized by disappointing losses to Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Perosh, both of which he lost by submission. Most recently, he fought to a majority decision against Tom DeBlass.
On the other hand, Chad Griggs makes his light heavyweight debut and his second UFC fight overall. His introduction to the UFC was a harsh reality check, as he faced heavyweight contender Travis Browne and lost via arm-triangle choke early in the first round.
Against Diabate, though, Griggs will have a weight and grappling advantage, and I look for him to take this fight to the mat and submit the striking-centered Frenchman.
Prediction: Griggs via submission, Round 1
Patrick Côté vs. Alessio Sakara
Patrick Côté hits hard and has a solid chin.
Alessio Sakara hits hard and has a terrible chin.
Both guys like to keep in on the feet.
Game, set, match.
Prediction: Cote via knockout, Round 1.
Mark Hominick vs. Pablo Garza
Here's the headline from next week (yes, I travel time, Billy Pilgrim style...points if you get the reference):
Pablo Garza, John Makdessi cut from UFC following UFC 154 losses
Hometown hero Mark Hominick will get back to his winning ways at UFC 154 against the exciting Garza, and I see a vintage technical knockout performance brewing for the Canadian featherweight.
It's hard to believe the man who definitively stole a round against Jose Aldo is on a three-fight losing streak, but here we are.
Hominick needs this one badly, and, while Garza has some ridiculously fun finishes on his resume, I think he will be outclassed and outmaneuvered every step of the way against his opponent tonight.
Look for Hominick to gauge Garza's attack in the first two rounds before opening up and finding his groove midway through the third frame.
Prediction: Hominick via TKO, Round 3
Mark Bocek vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
This fight is a grappler's wet dream.
Both Bocek and dos Anjos bring a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game to the Octagon tonight, and something's gotta give.
While the two combatants certainly have achieved a high-level of proficiency on the mat, I think dos Anjos has a sizable advantage in the standup department, and that is where he'll look to keep this fight.
Unfortunately for the Canadian crowd supporting their boy, dos Anjos is playing the role of spoiler tonight. Bocek cannot handle his striking, and that will be obvious for all in attendance and at home.
Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos via TKO, Round 2
Tom Lawlor vs. Francis Carmont
Salute on, Francis. Salute on.
Francis Carmont will roll tonight against Tom Lawlor.
Lawlor is hilarious and one of my favorite fighters in the UFC solely because of his antics, but he is not a top-notch fighter, and I do not see Carmont having much trouble here.
The Canadian Carmont has looked sensational in his three fights in the UFC, and the Tristar-trained fighter is ever-improving with a great camp that pushes him to become a better fighter.
Lawlor looked great at weigh-ins, but his hilarity will always outweigh his skills as a mixed martial artist. Carmont is still improving, and Lawlor has not really showed in recent fights to make me think he can topple his opponent tonight.
I see Carmont getting the better of Lawlor on the feet en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Prediction: Carmont via unanimous decision
Martin Kampmann vs. Johny Hendricks
Enter tonight's can't-miss matchup.
Dana White and the UFC brass are reluctant to say the winner of this matchup is the next title challenger for sure, but you have to think an impressive win by either guy will earn them No. 1 contender status.
This is an interesting clash of styles and a tantalizing matchup thanks to these potential implications, and I cannot wait to see these two square off inside the Octagon.
Hendricks hits harder, but Kampmann is more technical, and I also favor Kampmann once the fight hits the mat, whether he is on the top or the bottom.
In addition, Kampmann can take one hell of a punch and keep on ticking, so Hendricks' bombs may not be enough to put him away, anyway. For all this, I favor Kampmann via submission late in the second round once Hendricks begins to tire a bit.
Kampmann will avoid an early onslaught (as he seems to always do) rock Hendricks in the second and proceed to submit him.
Prediction: Kampmann via submission, Round 2
Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen—the fight the world has waited for.
Can GSP shake off the ring rust in time to find his usual groove and dominate Condit, or will Condit swarm early and find an opening?
Better yet, will GSP even exhibit signs of ring rust?
All the speculation in the world cannot help me predict this fight—there are too many variables and "what ifs" at hand, even for an MMA fight (which, don't kid yourself, is a game of "what ifs" anyway).
Because of this, I have to go with what I definitely know, and what I definitely know is Carlos Condit has trouble staying off his back against strong wrestlers, and Georges St-Pierre is nearly invincible on the ground.
It's the only reasonable choice to make, and I'm taking the obvious route on this one.
Prediction: Georges St-Pierre via unanimous decision