UFC 169: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

James MacDonald@@JimMacDonaldMMAFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014

UFC 169: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    It’s Super Bowl weekend, and I’m told that’s significant in the United States. I’m in Scotland where we’re too busy tossing cabers and eating haggis, but if this weekend is important to you, it’s important to me, particularly with a stacked UFC 169 accompanying all the pigskin-related fun.

    Saturday night’s card, coming to us from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., features not one but two title fights. In the main event, Renan Barao defends his bantamweight title against perennial contender Urijah Faber. In addition, Jose Aldo puts his featherweight title on the line against Ricardo Lamas.

    And if you’re still not on the hook, perhaps the prospect of Alistair Overeem vs. Frank Mir will bait you.

    With so much to digest, I have assembled a team of experts to guide you through UFC 169’s main card. Read on for the thoughts of Scott Harris, Riley Kontek, Craig Amos, Sean Smith and me, James MacDonald.

2014 Staff Records

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    It's tight at the top of the staff scoreboard. Riley Kontek has pulled ahead of the chasing pack with his flawless UFC on Fox 10 picks. James MacDonald, Craig Amos and Sean Smith remain close, though, waiting to pounce on any slip-ups.

    Scott Harris fell further behind, going 2-2 last time out. However, he has assured everyone that he had the best training camp of his career for UFC 169.

    Here are the overall records for 2014:

    Riley Kontek: 12-2

    James MacDonald: 11-3

    Craig Amos: 11-3

    Sean Smith: 10-4

    Scott Harris: 8-6

Jamie Varner vs. Abel Trujillo

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    Riley Kontek

    This is really the toughest bout to call. Trujillo has looked very good of late and can put down anybody with his immense stopping power. That being said, this isn't Varner's first rodeo. I remember when we all slept on him against Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza. We ate our words both times. Give me the former WEC fighter in a back-and-forth bout with the Blackzilians team member.

    Varner, Unanimous decision


    Sean Smith

    Trujillo is a dangerous striker, but no more dangerous than Guillard or Barboza. Varner, who has never been knocked out, found a way to best those guys, and he'll find a way to get his hand raised against Trujillo as well—more than likely with his wrestling.

    Varner, Unanimous decision


    Craig Amos

    Trujillo does everything with a lot of horsepower behind it, but Varner is a crafty veteran who knows how to make in-Octagon adjustments. I trust that the former WEC champion will figure out what he needs to do to come out the victor in a match that, on paper, looks fairly even.

    Varner, Unanimous Decision


    James MacDonald

    It’s not always easy to know what to expect from Varner. The former WEC lightweight champion is the poster boy for inconsistency. Whether he can best the powerful Trujillo depends on what version of himself shows up. I’m going to stick my neck out and say he arrives at UFC 169 motivated and in shape.

    Varner, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Trujillo is a dangerous man, and he'll storm out with violence on his mind. But he's not going to rattle the veteran in Varner. Trujillo has wrestling, too, but I'm guessing he gasses and gets frustrated as the fight wears on. Varner grinds out a win in a bout that's short on fireworks.

    Varner, Unanimous Decision

John Lineker vs. Ali Bagautinov

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    Riley Kontek

    Lineker has been successful because he is a striker who has fought guys who aren't wrestlers. He is not exactly a world beater on the ground, as we saw in his UFC debut against Louis Gaudinot. Bagautinov can and will get him on his back at some point in this fight, securing the tap to win. If Lineker doesn't make weight, the UFC should cut him regardless of the bout's outcome.

    Bagautinov, Submission, Rd. 2


    Sean Smith

    Lineker can definitely be beaten on the ground. I'm just not sure Bagautinov will be the opponent to take him there regularly. Besides the fact he seems to prefer striking, the Russian was shut down on three of his four takedown attempts against Tim Elliott. Look for the Brazilian to get enough done on the feet to make up for any time spent on the canvas.

    Lineker, Unanimous Decision


    Craig Amos

    Two men on the precipice of joining the UFC's group of top-tier flyweights will face off in this promising matchup. While Lineker wields some dangerous paws, Bagautinov's more well-rounded game should allow him to secure the win. I predict a close Round 1, a shift in balance toward Bagautinov in Round 2 and then a finish in Round 3.

    Bagautinov, Submission, Rd. 3


    James MacDonald

    This is a tough fight to call. Lineker is always dangerous and has the ability to end the fight quickly. But for my money, Bagautinov has more tools at his disposal. I expect the Russian to use his more well-rounded game to take a close decision.

    Bagautinov, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    The Lineker weight narrative is big, but it's overshadowing a great matchup in the cage. Bagautinov will smother Lineker, tenderize him on the ground, win a one-sided stoppage and cement himself as the division's newest contender.

    Bagautinov, TKO, Rd. 2

Frank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem

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    Riley Kontek

    Mir has not given me much confidence in his stand-up abilities as of late, and his chin hasn't looked up to par. The same can be said about Overeem, but the difference is that he is a striker by nature and Mir is not. Mir needs to put Overeem on his back in this bout, but that's easier said than done. I'm putting my money on the Strikeforce vet.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 1


    Sean Smith

    Mir and Overeem have both been slumping badly. However, Overeem actually appeared to be the more talented fighter in his recent losses before letting his guard down. Mir, on the other hand, has been dominated in his past three outings. This is Overeem's fight to lose, and while he has let fights slip away recently, Mir doesn't have the fight-altering knockout power possessed by Antonio Silva or Travis Browne.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 1


    Craig Amos

    A couple of heavyweights with names that far outreach their recent accomplishments will square off in what could be the end of the road for one of them. Because Mir's takedowns are nothing to write home about and his chin is unlikely to let him survive more than a round—which is historically the best way to defeat Overeem—I see no other probable outcome than an early and ugly loss for the former UFC champ.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 1


    James MacDonald

    In what is likely a loser-leaves-town match, both men should be motivated heading into Saturday night. This is a rough matchup for Mir, though. The former UFC heavyweight champion probably needs to get this fight to the ground, but he lacks the offensive wrestling game to get it there consistently. Then again, both men have a suspect chin, so all is perhaps not lost if the fight remains standing. That being said, Overeem’s more technical striking and prohibitive power should end the fight early.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Scott Harris

    I realize there aren't any title implications here, but good lord, when Mir vs. Overeem is the third-best fight on your card, you might just have a good one. It's a shame that this one isn't generating more buzz. Anyway, Overeem has a bigger advantage in striking than Mir has on the ground, in my opinion. He's also allegedly shored up his cardio, which will help. The Reem breaks Mir down and starts his 2014 on the right note. 

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 2

Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas

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    Riley Kontek

    Do I think Lamas is a good challenge for Jose Aldo? Yes. Do I think he will beat him? No. Lamas has a style similar to Chad Mendes, though I would say he is not as good as the Team Alpha Male member. I think Aldo delivers a vintage performance and finishes this fight with extreme prejudice.

    Aldo, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    Lamas is a deserving title challenger, but I don't see him bringing much more to the table than some of Aldo's past challengers. He's not a better wrestler than Frankie Edgar or Chad Mendes, who both had trouble taking Aldo down regularly. Having been knocked out by Yuri Alcantara and Danny Castillo, he's also not going to be able to stand with the featherweight champion for long.

    Aldo, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Lamas has earned this opportunity, but I'm not certain he'll make the jump from challenger to champion. I'd actually be rather shocked if he did. Aldo will shrug off Lamas' takedowns, and the American simply won't have an answer on the feet. 

    Aldo, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    I’m a fan of Lamas, and he has more than earned this title shot. However, Aldo may be a step too far for the 31-year-old challenger. The Brazilian simply does everything that little bit better. If there’s one area the challenger can look to exploit, it's Aldo's cardio. I’m not convinced the fight will go long enough for that to become a factor, though.

    Aldo, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Scott Harris

    Heart says Lamas, head says Aldo. Head wins. Lamas is good but doesn't have the wrestling ability or boxing acumen to overcome some of the best takedown defense and dynamic striking in the sport today. Sorry.

    Aldo, TKO, Rd. 1

Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber

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    Riley Kontek

    Faber only loses when he is in title fights. This is a title fight. He has already lost to Renan Barao. That means, in theory, that this prediction should write itself. However, Faber's resurgence as of late gives me high hopes for him. I'll take The California Kid in an upset.

    Faber, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    I'm not buying that Faber is a whole new fighter because he's won four in a row. The California Kid has always been able to take care of business when not battling for a championship. His striking may have improved under Team Alpha Male's new striking coach, Duane Ludwig, but Barao has continued to grow as well since beating Faber at UFC 149.

    Barao, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    I truly believe that Faber, right now, is better than he has ever been before, but I still don't think he is as good as Barao. The Brazilian will once again be able to control the pace and distance of the fight, using leg kicks to slow Faber's attacks. I wouldn't be shocked to see Faber hold an edge after five minutes, but the next 20 will belong to the champion.

    Barao, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    As good as Faber is—and he is really good—I just can’t envision him besting Renan Barao. The California Kid’s striking has improved beyond recognition under Duane Ludwig, but it’s still not on the champion’s level. Faber’s best chance is to get the fight to the ground, but Barao’s takedown defense and scrambling are too good to allow that to happen. That being said, this fight should be a lot closer the second time around.

    Barao, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    I like me some Faber as much as the next guy. And I think he'll put on a better fight this time. But you know what? So will Barao. I think his Muay Thai will still get through, and that he'll score a takedown or two to threaten Faber from the bottom or the topall while steering clear of his opponent's power game. 

    Barao, Unanimous Decision