UFC 132 Cruz vs. Faber: Predictions and Breakdown of the Entire Card
Despite the injuries and removed bouts scheduled for UFC 132: Cruz vs. Faber, it is still an extremely exciting card. The entire event, from top to bottom, is stacked and perhaps the strongest of the year. The preliminary card alone could be its own event on Spike TV or Versus.
There are some key matchups, particularly in the lightweight division, that could clear up some of the confusion and create some real contenders. There's a few potential barnburners and a title on the line.
Let's break down each bout and select likely winners, shall we?
Jeff Hougland vs. Donny Walker
Who? You don't know these guys? Jeff Hougland holds an overall 9-4 record, but has won his last eight fights in a row.
The most notable thing that has occurred in his career is fighting current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez at WEC 6 back in 2003. He lost via TKO in the second round.
Similarly, Donny Walker is 15-6, but he is on a seven-fight win streak of his own and has faced the likes of Cub Swanson and Jeff Curran.
Both bantamweights seem to end their fights by submission, so hopefully there will be a nice display of grappling to start off the night. I'm not even going to try to pick a winner here.
Fine, I'll go with Jeff Hougland since I have a picture of him.
Anthony Njokuani vs. Andre Winner
Every time during the weigh-ins, when Joe Rogan shouts "Joe Silva, matchmaker extraordinaire," it's for a good reason. Anthony Njokuani and Andre Winner are both very talented strikers and this should make for fireworks.
Winner is the former Ultimate Fighter 9 finalist who lost a very close decision to Ross Pearson. Since then, he's amassed a 2-2 record, losing via rear-naked choke to Dennis Siver in his last bout.
Njokuani made his name in the WEC. His most memorable moment was finishing Chris Horodecki with a highlight-reel head kick while Horodecki turned his back. Unfortunately, he's only managed to go 1-3 since then, losing to the leg-kick machine Edson Barboza in his last bout.
The loser of this bout will likely be dealt his walking papers. Given the level of competition each has faced, however, I'd give the edge to Andre Winner. His striking is more technically sound and assuming that this fight stays on the feet, that's what is going to matter.
Brad Tavares vs. Aaron Simpson
After back-to-back losses to Chris Leben and Mark Munoz, Aaron Simpson got back on the winning track against Mario Miranda at UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis.
Brad Tavares, who came in to replace Jason Miller, is 7-0, with his most recent win coming against Phil Baroni. He does have a loss via rear-naked choke to Court McGee that isn't reflected on his record, as it occurred during The Ultimate Fighter.
Still, I think it's about time that Tavares puts a one in that loss column. He's a talented fighter, but his most notable competition has been Seth Baczynski and Phil Baroni, which isn't very notable. In addition, Tavares is a big step down in competition from "Mayhem" Miller.
Yes, Aaron Simpson gets his ass kicked a lot, but he's as tough as nails. His wrestling pedigree and heavy hands get him the win here.
Brian Bowles vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Former WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles takes on Takeya Mizugaki in an extremely high-quality preliminary bout.
Brian "Little Mark Wahlberg" Bowles has just one loss on his record—a doctor stoppage due to his broken hand suffered against Dominick Cruz. He's rebounded with a submission over Damacio Page, who he's beaten twice, both by guillotine submission at 3:30 of the first round.
Takeya Mizugaki made his name with his first fight in the WEC—a war with Miguel Torres. Unfortunately, his most recent main card exposure was in a loss to Urjiah Faber in which he got choked out cold.
Both of these guys put on exciting fights, but there's no reason to believe that Bowles doesn't walk away with the win here. While Mizugaki put on a show with Torres, Bowles knocked him out in the first round. A similar thing is likely to happen to Mizugaki.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
After an impressive eight straight wins, seven in the UFC, George Sotiropoulos, 14-3, finally stumbled against Dennis Siver. The 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu fighter struggled to get the fight to the ground and therefore struggled against the German kickboxer.
Rafael Dos Anjos, 14-5, lost his most recent bout as well. Strangely, Dos Anjos began tapping as Clay Guida pressed him up against the cage, but it was due to a broken jaw.
Both fighters have had high levels of competition and they're both very fun to watch on the ground, but I'd give the grappling edge, and therefore the advantage, to Sotiropoulos.
Melvin Guillard vs. Shane Roller
Melvin Guillard is an angry man (although he doesn't appear to be in that picture). After his upset destruction over Evan Dunham, he was expecting to launch into the rankings. Unfortunately, he's not getting a contender—he's getting Shane Roller.
Shane Roller is by no means a can. He has a definitive edge on the ground and he can finish the fight standing, as shown by his vicious knockout over Thiago Tavares in his last bout.
Unfortunately, Guillard is just too strong and too fast. I don't suspect Roller will be able to hurt him standing nor be able to get this fight to the ground. I expect this to go very similarly to the Dunham fight.
Dennis Siver vs. Matt Wiman
Finally, onto the main card. The night starts off with an intriguing lightweight matchup between two revitalized fighters in Dennis Siver and Matt Wiman. Both are currently on three-fight win streaks.
After losing back-to-back bouts to Jim Miller and Sam Stout, "Handsome" Matt Wiman decisioned Shane Nelson before a very controversial win over Mac Danzig. Afterward, he gave Cole Miller a serious beating in the best performance of his career.
Siver has won seven of his last eight fights and his last three wins have all been very dominant. He beat up Spencer Fisher, knocked down and then submitted Andre Winner, and then out-struck and out-wreslted George Sotiropoulos.
Both have looked impressive lately, but Siver more so. His last couple of wins have really put him into contender status and he'll continue along that path. Wiman has only been stopped once—by that flying knee of Spencer Fisher's—so I expect Siver by decision due to his superior striking.
The real question, is how many times does Mike Goldberg mention Siver's spinning back kick?
Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Yet another Fight of the Night candidate, Carlos Condit and Dong Hyun Kim is an extremely important matchup in the welterweight division.
"The Stun Gun" has managed to go undefeated in his MMA career. He may have gotten a bit premature calling out GSP after a lackluster win over Nate Diaz, but he still holds wins over Amir Sadollah, TJ Grant, and Matt Brown and is beginning to climb the rankings.
"The Natural Born Killer" has won 11 of his last 12 bouts and is the former WEC welterweight champion. His most recent fight was an astounding and unexpected knockout over former No. 1 contender Dan Hardy.
Condit has had some issues with wrestlers in the past and Kim has been able to control opponents like Nate Diaz and Sadollah with relative ease—albeit without doing much damage.
Still, Condit has an extremely active guard and has the edge standing. Plus, he's just incredibly fun to watch. I can't pick against him.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader
Well, this is the easiest pick of the night. Tito Ortiz hasn't been relevant in the light heavyweight division in about six years. Ryan Bader, on the other hand, will be using this fight to rebound from the Jon Jones loss and get back in the title hunt.
Ryan Bader went 12-0 before getting submitted by current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 126. The Ultimate Fighter winner has taken out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and knocked out Keith Jardine.
Tito Ortiz hasn't won a bout since he finished the over-the-hill Ken Shamrock back in 2006. Since then, he's lost to Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, and Matt Hamill. He also fought to a draw with Rashad Evans. Besides Hamill, that's a pretty impressive list.
Tito still may have something left in him, but he can't handle fighters of Bader's caliber. Bader by third round TKO or dominant decision. He'll win the striking, the grappling, and he'll probably look better, too.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben
This is the kind of fight you dream about. Two guys who just punch people in the face and don't care about getting punched back. I just wish this fight didn't feature two guys with so much punching power because I want it to go the full 15 minutes. Hell, I wish it was five rounds.
"The Axe Murderer" is one of the most exciting fighters in MMA history. He is 33-10-1 overall and although he's lost many of his recent bouts, he's found new life in the middleweight division and staked his claim with a win over Michael Bisping. Still, he hasn't fought in 16 months due to knee surgery.
"The Crippler" has had many ups and downs in his career—most notably losing to Michael Bisping and subsequently testing positive for steroids.
He revitalized his career when he finished Aaron Simpson and then just two weeks later submitted Yoshihiro Akiyama. His latest bout was a slugfest with Brian Stann, where Leben lost by TKO.
It's nearly impossible to pick a winner in a fight like this because they'll both be swinging for the fences and someone could drop at any moment. I'll give a slight edge to Wanderlei because he looked so good in the Bisping fight.
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
This is a rematch of a fight that originally took place at WEC 26 on March 24, 2007, where Urijah Faber finished Dominick Cruz via guillotine choke at 1:38 of round one. Since then, both fighters have evolved quite a bit. However, Cruz, being just 21 at the time of their first meeting, has probably come further.
Dominick Cruz's only loss has come at the hands of Urijah Faber, as he's managed to put together an impressive 17-1 record with wins over Joseph Benavidez twice, Brian Bowles, and Scott Jorgensen. While he's looked fantastic, Faber isn't impressed.
He's changed, but the thing that hasn't changed with him, is that he's not dangerous. It's ironic that a guy, especially with the name Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz, isn't dominating anyone. He should be called an "Irritator" or "The Eluder," not "Dominator."
Am I a guy that is worried about his stand-up game? No I'm not. I'm a hard guy to hit. I feel like my wrestling pedigree is better, my jiu-jitsu is better, and I feel like my hands are going to be better... And I've been tested. When the going gets tough, I get going. I'm going to be marching forward trying to capture that belt.
While Cruz has been fairly dominant, Faber brings up a good point—aside from a doctor stoppage due to a broken hand against Brian Bowles, Dominick Cruz has never finished a fight in the WEC. Perhaps Faber's ability to finish fights will help him prevail.
Urijah Faber is another individual who has tried to find new life by dropping weight. He reigned over the featherweight division in the WEC for years, but ran into Mike Brown and Jose Aldo.
Since the drop to 135 pounds, Faber put Takeya Mizugaki to sleep with a rear-naked choke and then took Eddie Wineland to decision.
Urijah is an extremely exciting fighter to watch and I'm hoping he can bring the fight to Cruz, but no one has been able to touch him in quite some time. I have to give the advantage to Cruz in the striking. Faber probably does have the grappling edge, but again, Cruz is extremely illusive.
Overall, I'll have to take Cruz. I just hope it's not by decision. I really don't want to have to watch him bounce around for another five rounds.