UFC 160: Predictions You Can Take to the Bank
I have to be honest: It's going to be nice to put all of the Vitor Belfort/TRT nonsense behind us for a few days and focus on fights again.
The discussion centering around performance enhancing drugs is an important one, and I'm sure it's one that will continue well into the future, but for now we can look to Saturday night and the UFC 160 fight card in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, the UFC 160 main event isn't one that many folks will get all that excited about because we just saw it a year ago and there isn't much optimism that anything will be different this time around. But anything can happen in mixed martial arts.
And besides, there's plenty to be excited about on the rest of the card. Today, I'm going to take a look at each of the main card fights and give you some predictions. After you're done reading, I'd like for you to leave your own predictions in the comments below.
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
See that photo up there?
That's what happened to Antonio Silva the last time he faced Cain Velasquez. That was May 26, 2012, back at UFC 146, when Velasquez utterly dominated and bloodied Silva in one of the more prolific maulings in UFC heavyweight history.
It'll be less than one year later when Velasquez and Silva step back into the cage on Saturday night. I can't say Silva hasn't earned the shot at the title, because his wins over Travis Browne and then Alistair Overeem certainly vaulted him back into contention.
But despite those wins, we still have nothing that would lead us to believe that Silva will fare any better against Velasquez the second time around. In fact, I fully expect Velasquez to use his wrestling and ground-and-pound to dominate Silva, and likely finish him in the first or second round.
Prediction: Cain Velasquez
Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt
Mark Hunt is in the most intriguing fight on the UFC 160 main card. He also has the chance to actually jump into a world title opportunity by beating Junior dos Santos.
I never thought I'd type anything remotely resembling those two sentences, and yet here we are. Hunt, the heavyweight fighter who lost six in a row (including his UFC debut to Sean McCorkle), is on the verge of completing the most improbable career turnaround in mixed martial arts history.
It's truly a great story, and Hunt has every chance of writing the end of his fairy tale comeback.
Do I think he'll do it? I don't. Hunt is an excellent striker, and he's improved drastically on the ground. But if dos Santos is smart, he'll elect not to stand and box as he usually does; that's the one place Hunt can win the fight with his knockout power.
I'm going to assume Dos Santos is wise enough to avoid a prolonged striking battle with Hunt. Crazier things have happened in MMA, but I'm looking for the former heavyweight champion to control Hunt on the ground on the way to winning a mostly boring decision. It's the smart game plan.
Prediction: Junior dos Santos
Glover Teixeira vs. James Te-Huna
Glover Teixeira is an excellent fighter and one of the best prospects in the light heavyweight division.
But I'm not sold on the idea that he's an unstoppable killer who is just waiting for his opportunity to relieve Jon Jones of that golden strap around his waist. I think Teixeira is a beast and has the potential to be a contender, but we all need to slow our roll in proclaiming him the next great light heavyweight hope.
Take this fight, for instance. I think Te-Huna is a much tougher opponent than most folks realize, and he's going to be tough for Teixeira to put away. The New Zealand native is riding a four-fight winning streak, with his last loss coming at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson back in February 2011.
That loss may indicate that Te-Huna falls short when facing better opponents than the Joey Beltrans of the world, but I think he has enough to give Teixeira problems in just about every area of the fight. In fact, I think he has enough to win outright, and that's my prediction.
Prediction: James Te-Huna
Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant
A few slides ago, I called dos Santos vs. Hunt the most intriguing fight on this card.
I was wrong. Or I was lying. Whichever.
The point is, that isn't the most intriguing fight on the card. This one, a lightweight tilt between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant, is the most interesting fight on the card. And it's also the fight with the most at stake, at least outside of the title fight in the main event.
The winner of Maynard vs. Grant moves on to face Benson Henderson for the lightweight title, so right away we're determining a top contender in a completely stacked division with the outcome of one fight.
And then there's the style matchup. Put simply, it's a great fight. Both men are grinders, both use great wrestling and top control, and both fighters are incredibly strong and large for the weight class. In a way, they're mirror images of one another, except that Maynard has been near the top of the division for several years. This fight represents Grant's first chance to break through as a contender.
I think this fight is a lot closer than most realize, but I also believe Maynard's experience edge will serve him well and help him score a win.
But this is also my early contender for Fight of the Night. If that surprises you, just take a look back at Pat Healy vs. Jim Miller and remember just how awesome it was. Look for more of that out of this bout.
Prediction: Gray Maynard
Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons
If Maynard vs. Grant doesn't take home Fight of the Night honors, you can rest assured that Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons likely will.
Both men have exciting, take-no-prisoners styles. Noons is an excellent boxer, and Cerrone is well-rounded in the striking department with a wide array of kicks and punches from all angles.
Cerrone and Noons don't mind taking a punch to land a punch of their own, and that often translates into pure excitement in the cage. If Cerrone fights a smart fight, you'll see him take Noons to the ground early and often, because he'll have a big advantage there.
In fact, that ground advantage for Cerrone is what will decide this fight. Cerrone will exchange strikes with Noons for a few minutes before taking him down and securing a rear-naked choke for the win.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone