UFC 165 takes place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday night. While Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson are the main attraction, there are plenty of other showdowns on the fight card to look forward to.
Jones is considered a prohibitive favorite. In the co-main event, expected winner Renan Barao takes on Eddie Wineland. An upset in that bout would certainly make headlines, so it will be interesting to see how Barao responds in defending his interim bantamweight title.
That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg on the card, as UFC commentator Joe Rogan can attest to:
Getting fired up for tonight's #UFC165 card! Jones vs Gustafsson! Barao vs Wineland! Plus a STACKED undercard! WOOT!— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) September 21, 2013
Let's take a closer look at that bout along with the three others that will precede the highly anticipated Jones-Gustafsson tilt.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of FightMetric.com.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs): Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione
The bitterness between these two massive men only heightens the anticipation for this meeting.
The heavy-handed Mitrione has the clear superiority in terms of power and has a longer reach by four inches, which makes it likely that Schaub will look to wrestle his counterpart and attempt a submission.
It's a battle between diverse strengths, but look for Mitrione to not even let Schaub get settled in long enough to plot out his takedowns, as he had time to do at UFC 157 against Lavar Johnson.
Mitrione will be able to hit Schaub hard enough early on to wear him down, then go in for the TKO in the second round. That's not a knock on Schaub as a boxer, but rather a testament to how strong Mitrione's strikes can be.
Prediction: Mitrione wins via TKO in Round 2
Middleweight Division (185 lbs): Costa Philippou vs. Francis Carmont
Despite an undefeated record—and a nickname of "Limitless"—that suggests invincibility, Carmont is in line to suffer his first loss in the UFC.
Philippou is simply better at striking than Carmont, who has not looked overly impressive in any of his recent five matches.
Carmont was gifted with questionable decision victories in each of his last two fights when he faced Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin. Brad Tavares agreed when news of this fight broke in late August:
Wow Francis carmont got the fight with costa?!? In my opinion he lost his last two fights and got gifted by the judges...— Brad Tavares (@BradTavares) September 1, 2013
It is due time for Carmont to be put in his place, and although it will be difficult to knock him down given the nature of his previous two bouts, Philippou should walk away with a clear-cut unanimous decision.
Prediction: Philippou via Unanimous Decision
Lightweight Division (155 lbs): Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
This is only Healy's second fight in the UFC. He will take on an undefeated foe who packs a serious punch and is extremely effective at taking down opponents.
Nurmagomedov averages over eight takedowns per 15 minutes, and that's something Healy must avoid. Healy is capable of absorbing serious punishment, made evident by his 53 percent defense rate.
Having said that, he can ill afford to take that kind of punishment and turn this into a boxing match where he waits too long to make his move. The quicker Nurmagomedov is lighter on his feet and thus neutralizes Healy's two-inch reach advantage.
Pat is good guy , but I must to beat him today pic.twitter.com/ZF8afsyFOB— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) September 21, 2013
A big X-factor is Nurmagomedov's sambo background, which makes him an effective wrestler. Look for him to submit Healy despite the American's toughness and impressive debut win over Jim Miller.
Prediction: Nurmagomedev wins via Round 4 submission
Interim Bantamweight Division (135 lbs): Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland
Barao dropped his first MMA fight, but has since won his past 30 and none of them have been particularly suspenseful. That trend should continue against Wineland, who sports just a 20-8-1 record as a professional.
Who is more likely to be upset?
The best attribute Wineland has going for him is his toughness, as he's nearly impossible to knock to the canvas and can absorb a lot of punishment.
However, if Barao utilizes his native jiujitsu and knocks Wineland to the ground, this fight could easily be had by way of submission.
Wineland isn't effective in that regard, as his takedown accuracy is only 44 percent compared to Barao's 58, and his defense against such scenarios is only 80 percent. Look for Barao to take this one in ground-and-pound fashion.
Prediction: Barao wins via Round 3 submission