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UFC 174: Main Card Staff Predictions for Johnson vs. Bagautinov

Sean SmithAnalyst IJune 13, 2014

UFC 174: Main Card Staff Predictions for Johnson vs. Bagautinov

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Demetrious Johnson is on a path to MMA greatness.

    On Saturday, the 125-pound champion will look to record a fourth consecutive UFC title defense in the UFC 174 main attraction. Standing opposite Mighty Mouse will be up-and-coming Russian flyweight Ali Bagautinov.

    In his first three UFC appearances, Bagautinov has posted a 3-0 record. He might be the best wrestler Johnson will have faced at 125 pounds, but Bagautinov will be taking a noticeable step up in competition this weekend.

    Before the elite featherweights step into the Octagon, a number of ranked UFC fighters will look to inch closer to their own title shots. Rory MacDonald, Tyron Woodley, Ryan Bader and Rafael Cavalcante are among those notable fighters who will also appear on Saturday.

    As always, Riley Kontek, Scott Harris, James MacDonald, Craig Amos and Sean Smith are here to make semi-educated guesses on the headlining fights. Here are our UFC 174 main card predictions.

2014 Staff Records

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    With a 5-1 record on the UFC Fight Night 42 fight card, Riley Kontek broke his tie with Craig Amos and is now alone in the lead.

    Enough about Kontek, though.

    I have gained some ground and am prepared to make my move out of the basement on Saturday. Scott Harris and James MacDonald best be prepared to step aside, because there's a storm rolling through.

    1.Riley Kontek63-33-1
    2.Craig Amos62-34-1
    3.James MacDonald57-39-1
    3.Scott Harris57-39-1
    5.Sean Smith56-40-1

Ovince St. Preux vs. Ryan Jimmo

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    Riley Kontek

    Which Ryan Jimmo will show up come fight night? Will it be the killer that smoked Anthony Perosh and Sean O’Connell, or will it be the timid fighter that has been inconsistent in the Octagon? He will need to bring his A-game here, as Ovince St. Preux is athletic, explosive and skilled. Jimmo’s striking is better and he trains with good wrestlers, which should be enough in this close bout.

    Jimmo, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Perhaps it's just a desire not to roll the dice with a Jimmo fight, but I see St. Preux as a bright up-and-comer. That Von Flue choke in his previous fight was quite an eye-opener for me, a heady combination of knowledge and power. I think he has the ability to overcome Jimmo's stifling clinch game, get this to the ground and work strikes and submission attempts from there. I don't think he'll get the finish, but he'll dictate the action and make this a watchable fight and another step up the ladder.

    St. Preux, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    St. Preux has lost just once since 2010 and really looks to be coming into his own. Jimmo is a tough fighter with the wickedest robot dance in the business. It's a good matchup, but I see St. Preux continuing to build on his hot streak.

    St. Preux, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Both men are superb athletes, so it’s hard to say who has the advantage there. Jimmo certainly flatters to deceive much of the time, so who knows whether he’ll turn up and put on a show this time? St. Preux has the higher skill ceiling, in my opinion, and I get the feeling that we’ve already seen the best of Jimmo. Therefore, I’m going to give the edge to OSP.

    St. Preux, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    St. Preux has been on quite a roll, but Jimmo will be the toughest test he's had inside the Octagon. The Canadian rebounded well from a leg injury in his bout with Jimi Manuwa by knocking out O'Connell. He's going to need to make this one a little more ugly, but I do think Jimmo will pick up the win.

    Jimmo, Unanimous decision

Andrei Arlovski vs. Brendan Schaub

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    Riley Kontek

    This fight is a lot closer than most people think. Andrei Arlovski is still at a high level. This fight will boil down to whose questionable chin will hold up longer and who has the better takedown offense. The chins will equal out, but Brendan Schaub fights very smart now and will mix in takedowns to take a close decision.

    Schaub, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Arlovski has a bad chin and he knows how to use it. Schaub will clinch up with the Belarusian along the fence and land a big punch, simple as that.

    Schaub, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Craig Amos

    There is a huge margin for error in picking a fight between two heavy-hitters that are unable to absorb heavy hits. Schaub has demonstrated an ability to mix things up of late, though, and I think he'll spoil Arlovski's return to the Octagon.

    Schaub, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Like Ryan Bader-Rafael Cavalcante, both men can dish it out without being able to take it. Again, this fight may be decided by who lands first. However, Schaub has fallen in love with BJJ, so he might look to turn this into a grappling match. Either way, I see Schaub getting his hand raised.

    Schaub, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Sean Smith

    I don't think Arlovski can be dismissed in this matchup. His chin has developed a bad reputation, but it's been seven fights since he suffered a knockout loss. Arlovski will go the distance against Schaub, but he will fall in a decision, as The Hybrid will mix things up better and steal a round or two with takedowns.

    Schaub, Unanimous decision

Ryan Bader vs. Rafael Cavalcante

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    Riley Kontek

    Ryan Bader is somehow underrated by MMA media and fans, despite a very strong resume and well-rounded skills. He almost knocked out Glover Teixeira recently, something that should be in strong consideration. Rafael Cavalcante’s knockout loss to Thiago Silva is still in my mind. Bader has way more power and will show it here.

    Bader, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Scott Harris

    All but one of Feijao's 17 pro fights have ended in a striking-related stoppage. Who is Bader to blow against the wind? Cavalcante knocked out Yoel Romero not three years ago. Neither one of these men has a chin that's above reproach. I see Cavalcante successfully suckering Bader into a slugfest, but the plan will backfire.

    Bader, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Craig Amos

    A few years ago this would have been a huge matchup. Now, it's more about clinging to relevancy for both men involved. I'll say Bader plays it smart and puts his wrestling to good use. I'll even go a centimeter or two (welcome to the metric system) out onto a limb and say he wins via submission.

    Bader, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    James MacDonald

    With both men packing a punch and neither having much of a chin between them, it’s hard to imagine this fight not ending with one man lying in a heap on the canvas. It really all depends on who connects first, and I expect it to be Bader.

    Bader, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Sean Smith

    An outstanding 61 percent of fights featuring Bader or Cavalcante have ended in knockouts. I see no reason this one doesn't turn into a brawl. Cavalcante might be the more technical striker, but he gets hit by 51 percent of strikes thrown at him, so Bader will be able to land the one big shot he needs.

    Bader, TKO, Rd. 1 

Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley

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    Riley Kontek

    Tyron Woodley has been on a great run lately, but if you remember, not long ago, Nate Marquardt beat him up. Rory MacDonald is a much better version of Marquardt who is on a collision course with the title picture. He has the takedown defense and superior striking to outpoint the American and earn a No. 1 contender fight opposite the winner of Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim.

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    This one is the irresistible force vs. the immovable object. In other words, takedowns vs. takedown defense. Woodley isn't going to land a big haymaker on the defensive-minded MacDonald. Here's guessing he won't land a takedown, either. MacDonald uses kicks from range to mark up Woodley, cruise to the win and receive another grudging round of applause from the assembled faithful.

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Last weekend I picked Ross Pearson to beat Diego Sanchez and learned that the fight has literally no bearing on who wins and who loses if one fighter is a local favorite. Well, MacDonald will have home-field advantage in British Columbia, so how can he possibly lose? At any rate, I think he'll win the fight legitimately.

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

    James MacDonald

    A year or two ago, I would have taken MacDonald without hesitation. However, my namesake hasn’t been all that convincing as of late, while Woodley has evolved into a monster. If MacDonald can keep the fight on the feet, he should have the advantage. Woodley may have power to spare, but he isn’t the most technical striker you’ll ever see. The Canadian will weather the early storm and take control of the fight from the second round onwards.

    MacDonald, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    MacDonald was able to frustrate Jake Ellenberger to the point that The Juggernaut ceased to do much of anything offensively. The Canadian was also able to shut down a plethora of takedown attempts by Demian Maia. Woodley isn't going to sit on his heels and eat MacDonald's jab like Ellenberger did, and he possesses better takedowns than Maia.  

    Woodley, Unanimous decision

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov

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    Riley Kontek

    Ali Bagautinov is a top flyweight in the world, but he doesn’t possess anything Demetrious Johnson hasn’t seen yet at a higher level. Johnson is quick and rapidly improving, something crazy for a UFC champion. He will stick and move on the challenger, mixing in takedowns when needed. It will result in Johnson keeping his belt.

    Johnson, Unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris

    I can't escape the feeling that this is too much, too soon for Bagautinov. The 29-year-old has been reasonably impressive in three UFC contests but does not, I believe, have the experience (much less the speed or footwork) to push the champ to any place he has never been before.

    Johnson, Unanimous decision

     

    Craig Amos

    He may be a very tough flyweight, but I don't believe Bagautinov can match the pace Johnson will set for three rounds, let alone five. This one will be a rout.

    Johnson, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    James MacDonald

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I haven’t been as blown away by Bagautinov as some others have. Don’t get me wrong, the kid is good. Is he in Johnson’s class, though? I have my doubts. I can see Mighty Mouse being too fast, too technical and too well-rounded. The champ should coast to a decision.

    Johnson, Unanimous decision

     

    Sean Smith

    The champion is simply better in all areas. Mighty Mouse can win this fight with his speed should it stay upright, or he could opt to avoid Bagautinov's power by winning what would be a slightly more competitive wrestling match. Either way, UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer will be screaming "and still" on Saturday.

    Johnson, Unanimous decision

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