UFC 173: Main Card Staff Predictions for Barao vs. Dillashaw

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterMay 22, 2014

UFC 173: Main Card Staff Predictions for Barao vs. Dillashaw

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    Renan Barao
    Renan BaraoUSA TODAY Sports

    A prodigious talent toiling in anonymity lacks the same cachet in UFC circles that it has in, say, folk music circles. And that's unfortunate, because if there were cool points to be found in octagonal obscurity, Renan Barao could be on the level of, like, a Dave Van Ronk. That's the kind of analogy we could be spinning right now.

    But there aren't, and he isn't. He's just Renan Barao, UFC bantamweight champion and Brazilian destructor of things. The guy who hasn't quite gotten around to learning fluent English yet because he's too busy arguing his case over in pound-for-pound kingpin discussion land.

    The young man's talented, but he ain't no star. But does it matter? Saturday night at UFC 173, Barao will try to mow down yet another would-be star who doesn't have the fierce wattage to contend with the champ. Will T.J. Dillashaw be able to pull off that stunner?

    In the co-main event, how much longer can Old Man River Dan Henderson just keep rolling along with that right hand, and that right hand alone, propelling him through the water? Or instead, will Daniel Cormier eat him for lunch and spit out his bones on the canvas? It's an open question.

    What about the rest of the main card? How will all of those various, uh, doings transpire? We're here to fill you in. Riley "Kobra" Kontek. Sean "The Salmon" Smith. James "Athlete" MacDonald. Craig "Tiny Violin" Amos. And myself, Scott Harris. Let's get it on.

2014 Staff Records

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    Robbie Lawler
    Robbie LawlerUSA TODAY Sports

    In the grand tradition of the age-old fable, it appears the "Tiny Violin" is slowly getting the better of the "Kobra," tying him up at the top of the rankings. Will he entice him into the ultimate fall? I don't know. I think the Violin just eats him.

    We also have a tale of redemption, with me pulling into a tie for third after being in the cellar for a while, which is where Sean Smith is now.

    Bryant Gumbel called me up and said, "Scott, we love you, we love the story. But is it TOO REAL for Real Sports?" And I answered, "it depends on what's real to you, Gumby. Real, like a freakin' cemetery is real? Or, like, whipped cream that was made with real dairy products and has the 'Real' sticker on its lid, displaying it like a badge of honor? You tell me what's too real, Bryant. All of it? None of it? All I know is, this is the realest streak of my life. So I'm gonna be over there. Winning picks."

    Drops cell phone.

    Riley Kontek: 50-26-1

    Craig Amos: 50-26-1

    James MacDonald: 48-28-1

    Scott Harris: 48-28-1

    Sean Smith: 44-32-1

Jamie Varner vs. James Krause

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    Jamie Varner (right) hits Abel Trujillo.
    Jamie Varner (right) hits Abel Trujillo.USA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    Which Jamie Varner will show up Saturday night? Will it be the one who dominated Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza, or will the inconsistent one rear his head? James Krause is a solid opponent, but Varner has consistently fought guys better than him. Varner should do enough to earn the judges' approval.

    Varner, unanimous decision
     

    Amos

    Varner is hoping to rebound from a wild defeat by the hand of Abel Trujillo, while Krause is similarly looking to get back in the win column. Both men have put in good performances lately, and the matchup has Fight of the Night potential, to say the least. Varner wins by first hurting Krause with strikes, then following him to the mat for a submission finish.

    Varner, submission, Rd. 2
     

    MacDonald

    Varner could use a little luck. Having put in several good performances and come out on the losing end, it would be nice to see him catch a break. He has a tough task ahead against Krause, though, who finds himself in a similar spot. I see Varner securing the takedown with enough consistency to grind out a much-needed win.

    Varner, unanimous decision

    Smith

    Since beating Melvin Guillard, Varner has had some rough breaks in his recent UFC outings. He was narrowly beaten by Gleison Tibau on the scorecards and got caught while putting a beating on Abel Trujillo.

    Krause should be a sufficient step down in competition to get Varner back into the win column this weekend. Krause is excellent offensively on the ground, but he also has some defensive holes, which Varner should be able to capitalize on.

    Varner, submission, Rd. 1

    Harris

    Neither of these men have what you call an iron constitution. The rangy Krause does everything well, but he’s easy to hit and take down. Varner should play it safe here. He’ll avoid a mistake, which means avoiding risks, which means avoiding big offense, which means wall and stall. But hey, take the W, Jamie, and don't ask questions. Good for what ails ya.

    Varner, unanimous decision

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera

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    Takeya Mizugaki
    Takeya MizugakiUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    This has serious potential to be Fight of the Night. Both Francisco Rivera and Takeya Mizugaki are great strikers with a distinct style. Whereas Rivera is a headhunter and knockout artist, Mizugaki is technically sound and has a solid chin. Mizugaki will mix it up to the body and wear Rivera out. That will earn him a decision in a wild shootout. 

    Mizugaki, unanimous decision

    Amos

    Two unheralded bantamweights square off in a fight with more title implication than most people seem to realize. Both fighters have been rolling of late, and I expect Mizugaki to keep on rolling, outpointing Rivera on the feet.  

    Mizugaki, unanimous decision

    MacDonald

    I’m looking forward to this one. For my money, this fight hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it deserves. It’s tough to pick a winner here, with both men being so evenly matched in almost every area. I’m going to give Mizugaki the edge in what should be a terrific fight.

    Mizugaki, unanimous decision

     

    Smith

    With knockouts in back-to-back fights and having had a knockout victory overturned prior to those two outings, Rivera is turning into one of the more dangerous strikers in the bantamweight division.

    His success depends on landing that big punch, though, and that could be a problem against a smoother boxer like Mizugaki. Since he hasn't been knocked out since November 2006, Mizugaki is probably a safe bet to cruise to a decision win.

    Mizugaki, unanimous decision


    Harris

    Cisco Rivera has power—maybe the most in his division—but he is no empty brawler. This should be a very entertaining fight. Both of these guys have skill and heart in spades, and they both know they’re on the brink of contention. Rivera’s power will make the difference.

    Rivera, TKO, Rd. 2

Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger

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    Jake Ellenberger
    Jake EllenbergerUSA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    This is probably the toughest matchup to call on the entire card. I really like the way Robbie Lawler has been fighting recently, but I have a ton of confidence in Jake Ellenberger. Here's a coin. Flip it, call it in the air and that's how you pick the winner here. I will take Ellenberger in the upset.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

    Amos

    Lawler has been on a tear lately, while Ellenberger...not so much. Still, The Juggernaut has the tools to win this fight and could very well do just that if he figures out how to deploy those tools efficaciously. Hard as it is to pick against Lawler at this point, I'm calling the upset, believing that Ellenberger will be able to get the takedown when he needs to and win on points in a closely contested affair. 

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

     

    MacDonald

    I suspect a lot of people are going to be picking Lawler here, but I have a feeling his run of good form is going to come to an end at UFC 173. When Ellenberger is on his game, he is a handful for anyone in the welterweight division, and I expect him to be at the top of his game Saturday. That being said, both men are so powerful that the fight could really go either way. 

    Ellenberger, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Smith

    Lawler has had issues with wrestlers throughout his MMA career, but most of those problems came in the middleweight division. Since returning to the UFC as a welterweight, Lawler has looked solid against Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck, who both have stronger amateur wrestling resumes than Ellenberger.

    Martin Kampmann stopped Ellenberger with knees, and Lawler possesses some of the nastiest knees in the business. I expect Lawler to remain standing long enough to land one of those knees. 

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    Earlier this week when I did my complete event guide, I thought I was being all sneaky picking against Lawler. Apparently not. Ellenberger will be a more athletic (and enthusiastic) wrestler should he choose to test that phase. He can even go strike for strike with Lawler if he can find his footwork.

    Most of all, this guy wants to throw that Rory MacDonald horse apple as far away from himself as it will fly. It's been tangled in his hair for months. And doing that means handling Lawler on Saturday, and I know I'd do whatever I could.

    Ellenberger, unanimous decision

Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson

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    Daniel Cormier
    Daniel CormierIsaac Brekken/Associated Press

    Kontek

    At this point, Dan Henderson needs to be used as a novelty, not a stepping stone. Matching him up with Daniel Cormier, especially after fighting not long ago, seems like a bad idea. Cormier's wrestling is better and is just on another level than a past-his-prime Henderson. He grinds his way to a win.

    Cormier, unanimous decision

     
    Amos

    Henderson's come-from-behind win over Shogun was a career-saver, but how you go from the precipice of 0-4 over your last four bouts to a fight with the No. 4 light heavyweight in the UFC is beyond me. Then again, people have gone from the drive-through window to fighting Cormier before. But I digress. Cormier takes this one without much difficulty.

    Cormier, TKO, Rd. 2
     

    MacDonald

    I just can’t see this bout being competitive. Hendo may have won his last fight, but it was only by virtue of a Hail Mary punch. Cormier looks better every time we see him, while Henderson seemingly deteriorates a little more each time. I don’t expect Hendo’s once-peerless chin to hold up against Cormier on Saturday night.

    Cormier, TKO, Rd. 2

    Smith

    Although his shot at UFC gold hasn't come as quickly as he'd have liked, Cormier is one of the best in the world, whether it be in the heavyweight or light heavyweight division.

    An MMA legend, Henderson will be a good test for Cormier, but the former Pride FC champion appears to be fading at 43 years old. Henderson's wrestling isn't what it once was, so expect Cormier to keep this fight in close quarters, where he'll be safe from his opponent's big right hand.

    Cormier, unanimous decision


    Harris

    "Hendo has that big right hand, which he will look to throw, and maybe he will win with that, and maybe he will not."

    I’m so tired of that sentence. Breaking down a Hendo fight on an MMA site is like breaking down a hot dog at a barbecue. You start to get an eyeball headache from the sheer prospect of either giving or receiving the analysis.

    Cormier will mash him against the fence and hold him there, maybe trip him down a couple of times for fun. No way will he bang with Hendo, as he also watches fighting. Cormier will dominate, but not in such a fashion that it will cause Hendo to rethink his trajectory. See you back here in, say, early October.

    Cormier, unanimous decision

Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw

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    Renan Barao consoles Urijah Faber (left) after Faber's loss to Barao.
    Renan Barao consoles Urijah Faber (left) after Faber's loss to Barao.USA TODAY Sports

    Kontek

    TJ Dillashaw is not the best fighter to square off with Renan Barao. He actually isn't even the best Team Alpha Male fighter to fight Barao. That distinction belongs to Urijah Faber, who lost twice to Barao in pretty dominant fashion. Barao is one of the best fighters in the world. He will wow us again.

    Barao, TKO, Rd. 2

    Amos

    Dillashaw has asserted himself as one of the top bantamweight fighters in the world, but Barao has had little trouble dispatching others carrying that accolade. Expect Dillashaw to come out aggressively and keep it close for a while, but don't doubt the result, which will be a Barao finish. The winning streak continues.

    Barao, TKO, Rd. 3

     
    MacDonald

    Dillashaw is a genuine talent. His improvement since his time on TUF has been astonishing, and he is legitimately one of the best bantamweights on the planet. However, this fight may have come a little too soon for him.

    If this bout takes place a year down the road, I’d doubtless have to give a little more thought to my pick. Look for Barao to end the fight late, but don’t be surprised if Dillashaw is competitive.

    Barao, TKO, Rd. 4

     

    Smith

    Dillashaw is among the most talented young stars in the bantamweight division, but Barao is that much better than all other 135-pounders. Coming off a quick knockout win over Urijah Faber, Barao shouldn't have much trouble making it two in a row against Team Alpha Male fighters.

    Dillashaw's wrestling will likely be his biggest asset against Barao, but the champion has not been taken down in seven UFC appearances and is a stronger grappler anyway.

    Barao, TKO, Rd. 2 

     

    Harris

    Another one where it’s hard to find something new to say. Dillashaw will dash himself against Barao as the waves against the White Cliffs of Dover. The waves are majestic, but there the cliffs are still standing upright. And if he wants to try his knockout power, why, he is certainly welcome to bring a spiked bat into battle with General Grievous.

    Maybe, if this got to the ground somewhere and there was an early scramble where Dillashaw could get a choke, that would work. Or maybe one of those big punches or kicks could lock onto a sensitive target.

    But it’s unlikely, man. It’s unlikely. Toughness takes Dillashaw a long way here. It takes him to the horn, which no man has reached in Barao's last three defenses. But Dillashaw does not get to title down. Until we receive word otherwise, that’s Renan Barao country and all else are put to the stocks.

    Barao, unanimous decision