We are only two days away from UFC 130 and it's time to make some fearless predictions. Last time out for UFC 129, I didn't do too badly. I wound up 4-1, but my finishes we pretty far off except for the Randy Couture-Lyoto Machida bout; I correctly predicted that Machida would win by second-round TKO. Yes, it was a clean knockout, but it's close enough.
I haven't seen a card this lackluster since UFC 119 when the UFC had Frank Mir taking on Mirko "Cro-Cop" in the main event with a co-main event of Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Obviously the injuries to UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and his opponent Gray Maynard put a damper on this card, but Matt Hamill in a pay-per-view main event?
It wasn't all that long ago that Jon Jones was throwing Hamill around like a rag doll and now they are expecting us to believe he is on the rise and could be close to title contention with a win over Rampage? I am not buying it and I'm pretty sure many of you aren't, either.
Let's not waste any more time—let's make some predictions.
After four-and-a-half years away from the Octagon, Santiago makes his return to the UFC. Since his last UFC bout in December of 2006, Santiago has gone 11-1 while capturing the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix and Sengoku Middlweight Championship.
Along with Kazuo Misaki, Santiago was awarded the 2010 Fight of the Year for their epic battle for the Sengoku Middleweight Championship. Santiagio battled back and won when Misaki's corner threw in the towel with just 30 seconds left in Round 5.
Brian Stann is coming off the biggest win of his career, as he became only the second fighter to stop Chris Leben, the other being current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who defeat Leben at UFC 125. Since dropping down to the middleweight division, and along with the help of Greg Jackson, Stann has become a legitimate threat in the UFC.
He has power in both hands, but isn't as versatile as Santiago when it comes to all-around skills. Santiago has 12 career submission victories while Stann has one. This is sure to be an interesting fight that will see the winner move towards the top of the middleweight contenders list. Stann will have the fans on his side being a former Marine and with this fight only two days away from Memorial Day.
As much as I like Stann and will be rooting for him, I believe Santiago has improved greatly since his first go around in the UFC and will likely be a bit more than Stann can handle. Either way, we will see an exciting fight and an opportunity to see just how much Santiago has improved.
Jorge Santiago via unanimous decision.
I have been excited for this bout since it was announced. You have to give credit to Rick Story for taking the step-up and requesting a fight with Alves. Since losing his UFC debut to John Hathaway at UFC 99, Story has won five straight fights and is one of the welterweight division's true prospects.
Alves is, without a doubt, one of the most talented mixed martial artists in the world. He is possessed with physical gifts and if he can combine them with the ability to keep his weight in check and keep himself motivated, it will not take him long to get another crack at the UFC's Welterweight Championship.
The last time we saw Alves he was hammering away at John Howard's body with his trademark leg kicks that are part of his top-notch Muay Thai skill-set. He has been working closely with Mike Dolce on his diet and if he has his weight issues behind him, Story is for in a long night.
At this point, Alves is clearly the better fighter, but Story is a much better wrestler. If Alves is on, then it will be extremely difficult for Story to get in close for a takedown without getting severely punished.
Thiago Alves via third-round TKO.
It's crazy to think that Struve is only 23 years old and is about to compete in his eighth bout inside the Octagon. He has a 5-2 record with the UFC and his only two losses came against Junior Dos Santos and Roy Nelson. He has defeated Denis Stojnic, Chase Gormley, Paul Buentello, Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle.
He has developed some nasty power to go along with a very good BJJ game. He has won his last two bouts by TKO and added a Knockout of the Night bonus to his Submission of the Night bonus he earned against Gormley with his KO of Morecraft at UFC 117. He has also shown a much improved ability to take punishment, and with his lanky 6'11" frame he will giving problems to UFC heavyweights for some time to come.
Browne won his UFC debut by earning a TKO over James McSweeney at the Ultimate Fighter: Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz/Franklin finale in June of last year. He then went on to face Cheick Kongo at UFC 120 in October of 2010 in a boring bout that was marred by Kongo once again cheating to try and gain an advantage. The fight was declared a draw due to a point Kongo was penalized for holding Browne's shorts.
Browne is undefeated, but he hasn't faced anyone decent besides Kongo, and even though he wasn't saddled with a loss, he didn't look all that impressive. Struve will use him as another step up the ladder in the UFC Heavyweight division.
Stefan Struve via Submission (Triangle Choke) in the second round.
Frank Mir has been with the UFC longer than any other heavyweight currently on their roster. He made his debut in November of 2001 with a submission win over Roberto Traven. The rest as they say is history. I detailed his long journey in a two-part interview that you can read here and here.
Mir and Nelson are no strangers to one another, they have faced off in grappling tournaments and being that both are from Las Vegas, they have trained together from time to time. They are very familiar with each other's styles and both possess excellent submissions. This fight should come down to who has the better stand-up come Saturday night.
Mir has improved his boxing a great deal over the past few years and while he may not have the power that Nelson has, he is far more accurate and has much better head and foot movement. Nelson is a bit more on the wild side when it comes to his striking. He doesn't utilize his knees or leg kicks in the same fashion that Mir does, but if he catches you it's going to hurt. Ask Stefan Struve and Brendan Schaub.
I would love nothing more than to see these two put on a great game of chess on the ground, but we are more than likely going to see a 15 minute kickboxing match. Any one shot from Nelson can end the fight and Mir has shown he can put people down as well, but I see Mir controlling this one from the start.
Frank Mir via unanimous decision.
I really don't even want to take the time to predict this fight. Not because I feel as though it is completely one-sided or that it will be supremely boring, but I look at this as a bout that should be third or fourth on the card, not in the main event. I also don't see what Hamill has done to earn this spot.
Technically, he was won five fights in a row, but there is no way anyone can forget the vicious beating he took at the hands of current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones at The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale in December of 2009. Jones made Hamill his bitch, and if it were not for some misplaced elbows, we would not be talking about this fight right now.
Even before that fight with Jones, Hamill defeated an overmatched Reese Andy, a blown-up middleweight in Mark Munoz and afterwards defeated a pair of aging, fading fighters in Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz. How does that get him into a high profile fight with a former champion coming off a win over Lyoto Machida?
Jackson doesn't seem all that motivated by this fight with Hamill and it's not hard to tell why. He has absolutely nothing to gain here. If he happens to get upset, people will question his desire and what he has left in his tank. If he wins, it was because he was supposed to. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose.
I believe we will see Jackson come in to this fight in great shape and looking to prove a point. He will show Hamill what a big mistake he made in calling him out and talking his way into this fight. This will be the last stop before the Rampage Jackson-Jon Jones tour begins.
Rampage Jackson by second-round knockout.