Nelson vs. Nogueira: A Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 39

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterApril 8, 2014

Nelson vs. Nogueira: A Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 39

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    UFC Fight Night 39 goes down this Friday from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It is also the second fight card to air entirely on the UFC's new Fight Pass service. 

    Headlining the card is a battle of two veteran heavyweights with interesting backstories. In one corner, you have Roy Nelson, the lovable slugger with the bird's nest on his face, and in the other corner, you have Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the aging lion of the sport who is looking for one last shot at relevance.

    But there's plenty of intrigue up and down the card as well. Here are information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates for each fight, from the bottom of the slate to the top.

Alan Omer vs. Jim Alers

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    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Jim Alers (12-1), Alan Omer (18-3)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    This fight is interesting because it pits two exciting prospects against each other. Kurdish fighter Omer just returned to action in February after a layoff of more than two years, and while he has a four-fight win streak going, he hasn't proved his mettle against top competition.

    Alers is a different story. A former champion in Britain's prestigious Cage Warriors promotion, he is a powerful featherweight with a deep well of endurance and a physical submission game. 

    Both men are impressive, but this should be Alers' fight to lose.

    Prediction: Alers, submission, Rd. 2

Chris Camozzi vs. Andrew Craig

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Chris Camozzi (19-7), Andrew Craig (9-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    UPDATE: This fight has been canceled because of illness. Oh well. 

    This little gem is buried deep in the undercard but should reward viewers for tuning in. 

    At the same time, let's be honest: Neither man is going to challenge for the title anytime soon. And yet, neither man is a throwaway.

    Craig is Chris Leben 2.0, a tough-as-nails power brawler who prefers to duke it out but can wrestle a little, too.

    Camozzi, meanwhile, might be the toughest middleweight in the UFC. He is the epitome of a tough out, even if he lacks the finishing power or grappling acumen to put opponents away.

    He has lost two straight, but those were to fairly elite guys in Ronaldo Souza and Lorenz Larkin. His back is against the wall, and he should use his athleticism to his advantage and bite down on the old mouthpiece to gut out a decision.

    Prediction: Camozzi, unanimous decision

Thales Leites vs. Trevor Smith

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Thales Leites (22-4), Trevor Smith (11-4)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Leites has had a strange career. He washed out of the UFC in 2009 under odd circumstances, only to return to the Octagon in 2013 after a strange 16-month absence from competition. 

    His game is a lot easier to figure out; he's a pure jiu-jitsu player all the way. Trevor Smith is a submissions specialist too, but he is not on Leites' level. A great striker could get the better of the Brazilian, who is deficient in that phase.

    Smith is not that guy.

    Prediction: Leites, submission, Rd. 2

Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford

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    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Rani Yahya (19-8), Johnny Bedford (19-10-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Speaking of jiu-jitsu, here's Rani Yahya, ladies and gentlemen.

    The 2007 ADCC champion has 15 submission wins to his name. Nevertheless, Tom Niinimaki had little regard for those bona fides, as he fended off Yahya's takedowns and choke attempts last November and controlled the smaller man en route to a split-decision win. 

    Bedford is a tough guy and a reasonably well-rounded fighter, but he won't find that kind of success on the ground against Yahya. His best hope is to score a knockout on the feet, where Yahya is all but helpless.

    If Bedford can keep it standing, he should win. But here's the rub: He has tapped out nine times in his career. That's a high number. Yahya will seize the advantage and not give it back.

    Prediction: Yahya, submission, Rd. 1

Jared Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Jared Rosholt (9-1), Daniel Omielanczuk (16-3-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    This one might be a little harder to call than it seems.

    Yes, Jared Rosholt is a big man on campus. He has the big college wrestling pedigree at Oklahoma State and a 1-0 record in the UFC. 

    But hold the phone. Only Walt Harris' deficient gas tank kept Rosholt out of the loss column in his UFC debut. His opponent this time, Omielanczuk, has the kind of muay thai attack that could give him problems. 

    I think Rosholt will lose a UFC fight sooner rather than later, assuming his game remains relatively thin. This won't be it, though, as Omielanczuk also has shown a tendency to gas. Rosholt by default.

    Prediction: Rosholt, unanimous decision

Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Ramsey Nijem (8-4), Beneil Dariush (7-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    This is a demographic bull's-eye for a Middle East card, pitting Palestinian-American Nijem against Iranian-American Dariush. 

    Nijem seemed all but done in the UFC after two unimpressive losses in 2013. Then he pulled out a huge win to begin the new year, decisioning Justin Edwards at UFC Fight Night 35.

    He'll try to make it two straight against Dariush, an impressive prospect and former jiu-jitsu standout who tapped Charlie Brenneman in his UFC debut.

    Methinks Dariush emerges with the win here. His grappling game is too much for Nijem.

    Prediction: Dariush, submission, Rd. 2

John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: John Howard (22-8), Ryan LaFlare (10-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Who in their right mind would pick against John Howard right now? Not I, said the fly.

    He is a great story, and the heavy-handed 31-year-old is arguably better now than he's ever been. But LaFlare is just too good in every phase. Against a strong brawler/grinder in Court McGee, LaFlare proved his irrepressibility, springing up after takedowns and consistently returning fire during striking exchanges.

    He also uses a lot of kicks, and those will be hard for Howard to deal with, especially given that he gives up six full inches to LaFlare. 

    Prediction: LaFlare, unanimous decision

Clay Guida vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

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    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Clay Guida (30-14), Tatsuya Kawajiri (33-7-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Ready for a grindfest? Assuming you said yes (and I know you did), you better be sure you're strapped in for this little co-main event.

    Guida is a grinder's grinder. Don't listen to anything he says about wanting to finish and pay no attention to all that hair and bouncing around and so forth. He's going to try to press Kawajiri against the chain link, and that's all there is to it.

    Kawajiri, though, is a longtime veteran with plenty of grappling chops. Neither man will expose himself to a submission, and neither man (particularly Guida) is an overly dynamic striker. The heart might want the Japanese shootfighter here, but the head says Guida will be a bit bigger in the cage and should be able to impose his will over the bout's full duration. 

    Prediction: Guida, unanimous decision

Roy Nelson vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Roy Nelson (19-9), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-8-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    He's a legend, of course. But I have no faith anymore in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

    He's injured more often than not these days, which will happen when you're 37 going on 52. If not for that gift-wrapping, he'd be winless over the past two-and-a-half years. 

    "Big Nog" might have a jiu-jitsu edge over Nelson, but it won't be a big one. Nelson doesn't always seem to remember this, but he has pretty good grappling. Here's hoping for his sake that he brushed up a little in anticipation of this bout. Even if he didn't, though, I have a hard time imagining Nogueira getting a takedown on "Big Country."

    Instead, I see Nelson doing his best Dan Henderson impression, stalking Nog across the cage with his bunker-busting right hand cocked and ready. And like Henderson did recently against a fading Mauricio Rua, Nelson will land something big against Big Nog. This could be Nogueira's final fight in the UFC, and it won't be pretty.

    Prediction: Nelson, KO, Rd. 1