The UFC has an absolutely stacked December planned, and fortunately for the average man who isn’t defecating greenbacks, three of four events are free. Just about every card headed our way inside the next month boasts some highly intriguing marquee fights, and quite a few of these bouts have major, major implications behind them.
This Saturday brings the first of four events, as Ben Henderson will aim to defend his lightweight crown against the always dangerous Nick Diaz in a promising main event.
Six days later we’ll see George Sotiropoulos and Ross Pearson headline the UFC on FX 6 card, and the following night it’s more action: The finale of The Ultimate Fighter Season 16 unfolds with Roy Nelson tapped to meet Matt Mitrione as the card’s top-liner.
But the action doesn’t stop there. The UFC will usher 2012 out of the door on December 29th with UFC 155, a pretty stacked card featuring a handful of enticing matches and, of course, the much anticipated rematch between heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos, and the former champ, Cain Velasquez.
So, who’s most likely to be upset in December?
Mike Swick and Matt Brown will tangle on the main card at FOX 5. By all accounts, Swick is the superior of the two, with a far more diversified attack. However, Brown has some intangibles that are near impossible to train for.
“The Immortal” is a tank with an unbreakable heart. He’s ready and willing to take a beating if it means he gets to give it back. Swick’s had only a single fight in well over two years, and I’m not completely convinced he’s prepared to deal with a machine like Brown yet; he had a hard enough time with DaMarques Johnson.
Brown’s got momentum, durability and resilience on his side. Pundits are picking Swick to swarm through Brown, but there’s a very real chance that Matt hangs tough and puts Swick away in the late goings of the fight.
In truth, Saturday’s main event between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz should be a closely contested affair. These two are both sitting comfortably at the highest point of the division. In my mind there’s no massive favorite going into this fight.
That said, Henderson’s agility and excellent movement should lead him to victory. But, facing a guy like Diaz, there are just no guarantees.
Diaz’s long frame and reach could pose big problems for Henderson. The kid also has a fantastic submission game with the technical knowledge to submit anyone who makes a mistake. He’s actually got more ways to exit the cage the new champion than the champion himself.
In order for “Bendo” to keep his title, he’ll have to outpoint Diaz for five rounds. That means he can’t be bullied by that jab and the big volume punching of Diaz, and he can’t instinctually shoot if he gets hurt on the feet. Henderson has to execute a near flawless gameplan that involves a whole lot of movement if he still wants to be called the champion come Sunday morning.
There’s a very real chance that Diaz forces an ugly sequence in this fight, takes Benson out of his comfort zone for a brief moment and subsequently takes that belt as well.
Let’s just be very honest with one another: Chad Mendes is regarded as a top three-to-five featherweight, and not many would pick him to come up short against anyone not named Jose Aldo or perhaps Frankie Edgar.
But Hacran Dias is a quality commodity despite the fact that he’s still somewhat of an anonymous figure stateside. This guy’s suffered a single defeat in 23 fights, picked up a big win over frequently praised prospect Iuri Alcantara in his UFC debut, trains with Nova Uniao and kicked off his career in gutsy fashion, winning a single-evening tournament.
While all eyes will be glued to Mendes, expecting a thorough thrashing to be delivered by the Team Alpha Male standout, Hacran Dias may be the man to watch.
This is a very important moment in the career of Roy Nelson. He’s got little to gain by meeting Matt Mitrione in the cage, but he’s got an awful lot to lose. He’s already made himself appear near incompetent during his coaching stint on TUF, and his stock has likely further fallen in the eyes of Dana White.
“Big Country” is a tough dude who always comes to fight, but let’s not forget that he sports a fairly unimpressive 4-3 record fighting for the promotion, and he’s never been much of a company man. At this point, should he suffer two consecutive defeats, it could earn him walking papers.
Matt Mitrione in all likelihood gets outworked in this fight. The Magic 8 Ball says Nelson forces him against the fence, wears the former footballer down and eventually takes the fight to the mat for a late submission or TKO stoppage.
However, “Meathead” can win this fight. It’s going to take a strict plan of attack, and Matt’s going to have to utilize his jab like never before. If he sticks and moves, peppers Nelson and slides out of the danger zone, perhaps picking up a takedown to close each round, he can walk away victorious.
Mitrione will need to be close to perfect to win this fight, but a unanimous decision win for Mitrione is certainly a very conceivable outcome.
Even after suffering a definitive loss to “The Korean Zombie” at UFC on FUEL TV 3, Dustin Poirier should be a solid favorite heading into this match. His striking is improving, his submission skills are fantastic and he’s about as gritty as they come.
The problem is, he’s fighting a guy who may not look like a future title challenger but has the perfect skillset to negate the strengths of “The Diamond”. Brookins is always game.
I suspect we’ll see Poirier grind Brookins down en route to a second round submission, but I wouldn’t be completely awe struck if Brookins finds a hole and leaps for a finish.
Tim Boetsch is the man with the flashier résumé: in his last four outings he’s toppled solid and recognizable competition in Kendall Grove, Nick Ring, Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.
He looks like a freakish beast on paper, and while it’s important to respect the man’s accomplishments, it’s tough to forget that he was being schooled by Okami before securing a Hail-Mary-come-from-behind knockout, and Hector Lombard should have arguably exited the cage with a W after their lackluster meeting at UFC 149.
Constantinos Philippou hasn’t beaten quite the same level of competition as of late, but he’s looked far more dominant inside the last year or so. The Serra-Longo Fight Team stud has earned convincing wins over Court McGee, Riki Fukuda and Jared Hamman, who he turned into a piece of highlight reel history.
If there’s a sleeper in the middleweight division who’s truly coming into his own right now, it’s Philippou, who’s shown some very, very respectable boxing skills, tremendous power, great takedown defense and a willingness to battle through hard, character-defining collisions.
Polls would probably lean in Tim’s favor, but I see Costa putting a serious beating on Boetsch at UFC 155.
It’s tough to view this fight as a massive “underdog” type of fight. These two men seem to be the clear-cut number one and two of the division. Cain has all the tools to beat Junior and reclaim his belt, but the same can be said of Junior, who may turn Velasquez’s lights out once more.
The books favor Junior dos Santos, and I see him replicating his UFC on FOX 1 accomplishment, but that doesn’t mean Cain Velasquez is out of this fight in any way.
If the Team AKA rep can successfully implement his wrestling abilities, this could turn into a joyous occasion for those screaming Brown Pride!
The physicality of both men is amazing, and this one likely comes down to who makes the first mistake. As I noted, I’m still picking Junior to hold onto that belt, but Cain is a very real challenge that could upset the champion if he fights the perfect fight and keeps that chin tucked.
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