UFC 165: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

UFC 165: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

    There are good times ahead. I hope you’ve been saving your pennies, folks, because UFC 165 is the first of a string of stacked UFC pay-per-views on the horizon. Go break open your piggy banks.

    Saturday night’s card, coming to us from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, boasts a ton of outstanding fights, including Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson for the 205-pound strap, Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland for the interim bantamweight title and a heavyweight grudge match between Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub.

    Here to help guide you through the action are Bleacher Report’s finest. The ineffable Scott Harris, the prodigious Sean Smith, the masterly Craig Amos, the transcendent Riley Kontek and me, the depressingly nondescript James MacDonald.

Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Francis Carmont might be the least exciting undefeated UFC fighter on the roster today. He may also be the luckiest, taking questionable decisions from Tom Lawlor and then Lorenz Larkin. Carmont can't simply lock up the gears against Costa Philippou, though. As he is wont to do, Philippou will pound Carmont inside and eventually hit one of those big uppercuts. 

    Philippou, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    Despite squeaking by mid-level middleweights via controversial decisions in his past two fights, Carmont has been given a matchup with a top-10 fighter in the 185-pound division. Carmont hasn't been knocked out in nearly nine years, so there's a chance he survives a boxing match with the heavy-handed Philippou. However, Carmont's luck on the scorecards could run out Saturday.

    Philippou, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Both Carmont and Philippou have won their past five UFC fights, which is no mean feat. But where Carmont has had a little help from the judges, Philippou has been able to put a punctuation mark on the majority of his victories. I still buy Carmont as a good middleweight fighter, but I think this fight will serve as a wake-up call. 

    Philippou, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Riley Kontek

    Carmont is the definition of a grinder. He has a trademark style that Tristar has become famous for, whether the fans like it or not. However, he got a gift decision in his last outing against Larkin. Philippou has shown great counter-wrestling as of late and has crisp, technical, powerful hands. He will outstrike Carmont to a clear-cut decision.

    Philippou, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Carmont’s success is inexplicable. Never before has a fighter looked so physically impressive, yet been so underwhelming in the cage. Despite looking painfully average every time he fights, Carmont has somehow managed to put together a decent win streak. Please, don’t ask me how. However, that should all come to an end on Saturday. Philippou will happily engage and outstrike Carmont.

    Philippou, TKO, Rd. 2 

Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Pat Healy will always be a sentimental favorite of mine for succumbing to a youthful indiscretion and losing more than $100,000 as a result. I want him to have a long run in the UFC. But I don't see it happening against the freight-training Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Russian won't be able to rag-doll the veteran around the cage as he has others, but he should be able to soften Healy up in the clinch, get a takedown and land some of those ball-peen elbows.

    Nurmagomedov, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Healy looked great in his UFC debut against Jim Miller. However, Miller's poor takedown defense made that a favorable stylistic matchup for Healy. Nurmagomedov comes from a long line of great Russian wrestlers and is quicker on his feet than Healy. This is the fight that sees Nurmagomedov break through and become a lightweight contender. 

    Nurmagomedov, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Healy and Nurmagomedov are comparable in several ways, at least when you look at their respective takedown and striking statistics. But while Healy did an outstanding job in his match against Jim Miller, I'm counting on Nurmagomedov breaking through with a signature win here, on the strength of his more dynamic stand-up.

    Nurmagomedov, Unanimous Decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    Healy's UFC debut was impressive; not many people can submit a black belt and wrestling ace like Miller. However, Nurmagomedov has a great sambo background and has been outwrestling everybody. He has powerful ground strikes and submission ability as well. I don't think he will finish the former Strikeforce contender, but he will win convincingly in the minds of the judges.

    Nurmagomedov, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This is a great fight. Healy took everyone by surprise last time out, managing to force a tap out of the teak-tough Miller. Nurmagomedov is one of a few fighters on the MMA scene currently demonstrating the utility of a combat sambo background. This is tough fight to call, but I feel the Russian may be a step too far for Healy.

    Nurmagomedov, Unanimous Decision

Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub

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    Josh Holmberg-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Brendan Schaub has said he wants to be the talk of UFC 165, or some such. OK, I'll bite. Put your metaphorical money where your boasts are, Brendan. Yes, Schaub is chinny, and that's always risky. But I think he'll have a speed and technique advantage on the powerful but plodding Matt Mitrione, and he should be able to effectively operate from the perimeter or get a takedown and go submission hunting. Don't let me down, Schaub.

    Schaub, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    It's possible Schaub comes out looking to wrestle Mitrione just as he did Lavar Johnson in February. That would probably be the safe play against a hard-hitting opponent with little experience on the ground. At the same time, Mitrione doesn't need to hit Schaub too many times to bring this fight to an early end. He'll keep it standing long enough.

    Mitrione, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Schaub's glass jaw always makes it difficult to pick him, especially when he's faced with an opponent who hits like Mitrione. However, Schaub showed terrific awareness in his match with Johnson, sacrificing excitement and familiarity for the win, relying on wrestling and pinning rather than letting his hands go. While I'm not sure he'll be able to take Mitrione down at will, I do think he will play it cautious on the feet and pick his spots to positive effect.

    Schaub, Unanimous Decision

     

    Riley Kontek

    You gotta love the bad-blood fights. Mitrione and Schaub have a legit beef that has gotten really serious and personal. Schaub's takedowns may be the deciding factor here, but Mitrione is more athletic, stronger and quicker. If Mitrione can evade the takedown, he has enough power to break through the questionable chin of Schaub.

    Mitrione, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    James MacDonald

    I’m not convinced that the beef between these two gents is genuine. Though amusing, it seems a little forced. That being said, Schaub’s inflated sense of his own standing within the MMA world is bizarre. He has been strolling around like Floyd Mayweather, talking about giving Matt Mitrione "the rub” by virtue of allowing his fellow TUF 10 castmate to breathe the same air as him. When you have a chin like candy glass, it’s perhaps not wise to overhype yourself. And Mitrione is good enough on the feet to catch Schaub and send him to sleep.

    Mitrione, TKO, Rd. 1

Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    The UFC bantamweight division seems a little cooler when Eddie Wineland is winning. But he's 2-2 in his past four, and it's a testament to the thinness of this division that he is taking on the dominant Renan Barao. I imagine the Texan will be out of his league in this one, though he will tough it out, go the distance and hold up his end of the bargain for a Fight of the Night bid.

    Barao, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Don't sleep on Wineland in this matchup. Only Urijah Faber has taken him down inside the Octagon, and he has the striking tools to frustrate Barao when standing. That said, Barao has the chin to take a few shots while finding a way to take Wineland to the canvas, where the interim champion's jiu-jitsu black belt should help him retain the belt. 

    Barao, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Wineland has recently been able to prove his striking prowess by dismissing Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett in back-to-back contests. Problem is, Barao has more tools than either of those fighters. The bigger problem is, Barao has more tools than Wineland himself. Should the Brazilian begin to feel Wineland's power a little too much, there are a number of routes he can take to salvage his title. 

    Barao, Submission, Rd. 4

     

    Riley Kontek

    Not too many people are giving Wineland the respect he deserves in this fight, but people need to remember that he got this fight through power punching and beating top-10 opponents. His weakness is Barao's strength, however. He will make this competitive while the fight is on the feet, but Barao will eventually drag down and wear out the American to a late submission.

    Barao, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    James MacDonald

    The improvement in Wineland’s game has been pretty extraordinary. However, I’m not sure he has the tools to unseat Renan Barao. The Brazilian simply does everything better than Wineland. It’s hard to imagine a path to victory for the challenger. His toughness may see him through to the scorecards, though.

    Barao, Unanimous Decision

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott Harris

    Time for Reachfest 2013 (Jones at 84.5'', Gustafsson at 76.5"). Pay no attention to the pure domination! Don't appreciate that! No, look over. Look at the reach on these guys! That is the truly impressive thing here.

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 1

     

    Sean Smith

    It's going to take a lot more than comparable reach to dethrone Jon Jones. Alexander Gustafsson's wrestling has improved from working with former opponent Phil Davis, but he's still not at Jones' level. Reach is great for boxing, but it won't help Gustafsson a ton when he's looking up at the lights.

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    The UFC is pushing Gustafsson as a physical equal to Jones—someone who can negate Jones' perennial reach advantage. While those promotional claims are flat-out wrong in terms of actual reach, not height, the bigger oversight is the gap in talent. Gustafsson is an excellent fighter, but Jones is on another level than the rest of the light heavyweight division. 

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Riley Kontek

    The UFC is advertising this match as two tall dudes with long reaches, when it should be advertising this match as the first Swede to ever get a UFC title shot. That being said, the story of this match will resemble what happened to Gustafsson in his bout against now-teammate Davis. Jones has the best MMA wrestling in the sport and is still the more athletic and long fighter. After some feeling out, Jones will do something flashy, get Gustafsson down and slap on his trademark guillotine choke.

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    The way the UFC has been promoting this main event, you’d think we were paying to watch a couple of giraffes go head to head. And while it’s true that Gustafsson is marginally taller than the champion, it has conveniently ignored his significantly shorter reach. Like all who have come before him, the Swede will struggle to close the distance on Jones. Many reckon Jones will get the finish on Saturday night, but I think Gustafsson will at least manage to keep himself in there for the full five.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision