I don’t know if this is something to brag about, but I’m up to #22 in the Sherdog MMA Pick’em standings. If nothing else, it shows that I know what I’m doing… a little bit. There’s always time for my picks to blow up in my face. Speaking of which, let’s make some picks for UFC 160.
UFC Heavyweight Championship Match: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
Antonio Silva is in the rare position of both being a fighter who deserves a shot at the title, but also having very little chance of actually winning. Cain Velasquez represents a nightmare of an opponent for him on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that Velasquez already mauled Silva at UFC 146.
On paper, Velasquez has the advantage in every area. He’s the better and more effective striker, the far superior wrestler, has much better conditioning, and has the more effective overall ground game. Silva might have better technical Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but let’s be honest – if this fight goes to the ground, it will be with Velasquez in top position, and Silva’s BJJ won’t do him much good from there.
I feel the same way about this fight now that I felt when it happened a year ago. The only position Silva would theoretically have the advantage is from top position on the ground. Again, it’s very unlikely Silva will get that chance, and even if he did, I doubt Silva would be able to keep Velasquez on his back for very long.
For Silva to win this fight, he probably needs to land one of his enormous hands on Velasquez’s somewhat suspect chin and knock him out. He probably has somewhere between 15-45 seconds in each round to do so. Barring that, I don’t see how Silva wins this fight.
Pick: Cain Velasquez by TKO
265 lbs: Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt
This is a very intriguing match from a stylistic perspective. As an overall MMA fighter, I think Junior Dos Santos is easily better than Mark Hunt, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. Dos Santos has better takedown defense, better stamina, and a better ground game (mostly for getting the fight back standing).
But with the way these two match up, I actually think it will be quite competitive. Both fighters love to stand and strike, and rarely do anything else. If that’s the case, then I do favor Dos Santos to defeat Hunt, but by no means do I think it’s a blowout.
Mark Hunt might not look quite as smooth as Anderson Silva, but he is one of the heavyweight division’s best strikers, and is extremely tough to knock out on top of that. If I’m right, and this fight turns out to be three rounds of a striking match, there’s a good chance that Hunt can defeat Dos Santos by knockout or even decision.
Ultimately, I do have to side with the heavy favorite in Dos Santos, because he does have better endurance than Hunt, and should at least be able to out-pace Hunt over the course of 15 minutes. But if Dos Santos is able to defeat Hunt by out-striking him in an MMA match, he will be the first.
Pick: Junior Dos Santos by TKO
205 lbs: James Te Huna vs. Glover Teixeira
I know a lot of people are not too enthusiastic about this fight card because of how lopsided the main event is on paper, but this event is about as close to guaranteed action as it gets. This light-heavyweight match between James Te Huna and Glover Teixeira has a great chance of stealing the show. Both fighters are very aggressive strikers, and they’re going to clash.
Teixeira has better overall striking metrics as displayed by Fight Metric. He has a significant strike margin of +3.98, compared to +1.77 for Te Huna, and has three knockdowns in four fights, compared to two knockdowns in six fights for Te Huna. A striking match between Teixeira and Te Huna could certainly go either way, but Teixeira has the edge on paper.
Teixeira has also displayed the superior takedown game, as he landed five takedowns against Quinton Jackson, and has landed eight takedowns in 10 attempts overall. Ultimately, I have to side with Teixeira to win this fight, based on the statistics alone. But Te Huna is an aggressive fighter who should prove to be Teixeira’s toughest test in the UFC yet.
Pick: Glover Teixeira by TKO
155 lbs: T.J. Grant vs. Gray Maynard
One skill set I’ve praised often as being very effective in MMA is a dominant wrestler with knockout power. Examples of fighters with that skill set include Chad Mendes, Johny Hendricks, and Jake Ellenberger. To an extent, Gray Maynard belongs in that discussion as well.
I like Maynard to win this match… as long as he fights smart. Against T.J. Grant, that means going to his wrestling, landing takedowns, and controlling Grant from top position. Per Fight Metric, Grant has only defended 36% of takedowns attempted against him, which means Maynard should be able to dominate the takedown game.
What worries me is that we’ve seen Maynard abandon his wrestling too many times, and when he has, he’s usually won by very narrow decision. If Maynard decides to strike against Grant, then I think Grant has what it takes to out-pace him standing and earn the victory on the judges’ scorecards. I’m sure most fans would love to see that striking match, but if Maynard wants to win, he shouldn’t do it.
Pick: Gray Maynard by decision
155 lbs: Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons
Donald Cerrone has the reputation of being a top ten lightweight in the world of MMA, and for the most part, it’s deserved. He has very crisp offensive striking to go along with serious Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. His downfall, and the reason he can’t break through against top tier competition, is that his striking defense is far too porous.
Against K.J. Noons, I expect to see a striking match, and while Cerrone has better potential to win by knockout, I think Noons can give him a run for his money. Noons is just as active a striker as Cerrone, and while he has defensive issues himself, Noons definitely should be able to land quite a few strikes in this match. I do like Cerrone to win overall because of his superior power, but this is not a “gimme” fight for him.
Pick: Donald Cerrone by decision
Lightning round for the prelims…
-Mike Pyle has had a nice run lately, winning by first-round knockout in three fights in a row. But none of those fights were against an opponent nearly as tough as Rick Story. I like the underrated Story to use forward pressure to wear Pyle out and win by decision.
-Max Holloway has had a decent run in the UFC, but now that he’s been paired off against a wrestler in Dennis Bermudez, I don’t like his chances. Bermudez might have a glass jaw, but as long as he takes Holloway down, he should be able to win without too much trouble. Bermudez by submission.
-Colton Smith isn’t much of a striker, but he sticks to what he’s good at, and that means he’ll try to smother Robert Whittaker. I can’t say I’m nearly as well informed about this match as the betting public, and they like Smith to succeed with the smothering, so I’ll pick him as well. Smith by decision.
-I think Khabib Nurmagomedov is overrated, but then again, he keeps proving me wrong. Against Abel Trujillo, he won’t have to. Even though Trujillo looked good in his UFC debut against Marcus LeVesseur, he doesn’t have a very good record, and didn’t look good when I studied him on tape either. I think Khabib can win by TKO here.
-If Nah-Shon Burrell chooses to strike against Stephen Thompson, I see it being a competitive match, but I give a slight edge to Thompson. But if Burrell chooses to go for takedowns? Then it’s a different ballgame. Thompson’s ground game was exposed by Matt Brown; since I haven’t picked an underdog yet, it’s about time I do. Burrell by decision.
-Even though George Roop looked good in his bantamweight debut against Reuben Duran, I still don’t feel good about him cutting to 135 pounds. Combine that with the fact that he’s been knocked out twice in his last five fights, and I don’t like his chances against Brian Bowles, a fighter with arguably the best striking power in the bantamweight division. Bowles by TKO.
-Estevan Payan and Jeremy Stephens figure to engage in a striking match, but while Stephens should have better knockout power, I think Payan can win if the fight goes the distance. I do lean towards Stephens slightly because of that power, but this is a very competitive fight. Stephens by TKO.