155 lbs: Joe Lauzon vs. Curt Warburton
I didn’t have high hopes for British lightweight Curt Warburton entering his UFC 127 fight against Maciej Jewtuszko. His best career wins going in were against mediocre fighters in Jamie McKenzie and Tom Maguire (he does also have a win against a 1-1 Ross Pearson by doctor stoppage). His worst defeat was a 60-second submission loss to 3-4 Will Burke. He lost his UFC debut at UFC 120 against Spencer Fisher. There just didn’t seem to be anything going for him.
Then Warburton won, by unanimous decision, all judges scoring the bout 29-28. All of a sudden, Warburton has a quality win to lend him credibility. But it’s one thing to have credibility as a UFC fighter; it’s another to be a good UFC fighter. Warburton still has a lot to prove, and he’ll have a very tough test to deal with when he takes on Joe Lauzon.
I like Lauzon a lot; he’s a computer nerd, which I can identify with, and he’s always been gracious and humble to his opponents, win or lose. He also fights aggressively… perhaps too aggressively, as he appeared winded after a very fast-paced first round against George Sotiropoulos at UFC 123. Regardless, Lauzon’s fights are very exciting.
The problem is that Lauzon’s record may not be as impressive as it looks at first glance. His full list of UFC victories includes Jens Pulver, Brandon Melendez, Jason Reinhardt, Kyle Bradley, Jeremy Stephens, and Gabe Ruediger. The only fighters there who have had significant UFC success are Pulver and Stephens, and the Pulver win doesn’t look nearly as good in retrospect.
SILVA PREDICTION: JOE LAUZON (29.92) OVER CURT WARBURTON (16.79)
It’s still a more impressive record than Warburton has, and Lauzon has experience and aggression on his side. Lauzon also has the edge in the degree to which he wins fights. All 19 of Lauzon’s wins are by TKO or submission, whereas Warburton’s last three fights have all gone to decision. Lauzon will put the heat on Warburton early and often, and it’ll be up to Warburton to survive Lauzon’s onslaught. Perhaps Warburton has another surprise in him, but Lauzon arguably has an advantage in every area of this fight, and I expect him to end up victorious.
145 lbs: Joe Stevenson vs. Javier Vazquez
Some who read my Fight Opinion piece on the Nine-Year Rule might be looking forward to this fight more than they otherwise would. Joe “Daddy” Stevenson was one of the more prominent examples in the piece. Not only is he a fighter who has arguably declined since reaching the nine-year mark, he has done so despite reaching the nine-year mark at the young age of 25.
Just one problem: Stevenson’s opponent, Javier Vazquez, made his professional MMA debut on June 28th, 1998. So as far as “fighting age” is concerned, that should be considered a wash.
So who’s the better fighter? With Javier Vazquez, it’s a tricky question. Vazquez’s nickname is “Showtime,” but if it was up to me, his nickname would be “Split Decision.” Just in his last ten fights, Vazquez has gone to split decision five times, winning against Adriano Pereira and Robert Emerson while losing to Alberto Crane, L.C. Davis, and Deividas Taurosevicius. Listing Vazquez’s best career wins would seem to clarify the issue a little bit: he’s beaten Mackens Semerzier, David Gardner (the guy who yelled “Hello Japan!” and was immediately choked out by Shinya Aoki), Rumina Sato, and Philip Perez. He’s also one of the fighters who’s defeated the faded version of Jens Pulver.
Stevenson’s best wins are, in my opinion, much more impressive: Spencer Fisher, Kurt Pellegrino, Yves Edwards, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, Nate Diaz, Gleison Tibau, and Melvin Guillard.
SILVA PREDICTION: JOE STEVENSON (31.05) OVER JAVIER VAZQUEZ (25.16)
Again, both fighters have been competing for a long time now, so don’t get hung up on career lengths with this fight. Joe Stevenson has a much better fight history than Javier Vazquez does, and his wrestling and submission-based game should be good enough to neutralize the threat of being submitted by the grappler in Vazquez. As somebody who likes and roots for Stevenson, I hope he ends up with his hand raised, and for this fight, I fully believe that he will.