So the UFC decided that it was going to unload a ton of fight announcements, including some very major ones, in a very short period of time. Now that my head’s stopped spinning, here are my quick thoughts about the fights that have been announced.
UFC 136 – Lightweight Title Match: Frank Edgar (50.23 SILVA) vs. Gray Maynard (54.05)
In the first fight between these two, Gray Maynard used his superior power and wrestling ability to stifle and frustrate Frank Edgar. In the second fight, Maynard bombarded Edgar early with power strikes, knocking Edgar down multiple times in the first round. Then Edgar came back against a fatigued Maynard to force a draw. It’s hard to see Edgar being able to deal with Maynard’s power this time around, but now that Edgar is experienced against Maynard, maybe he’ll find a way to wear Maynard out without taking too much damage.
UFC 136 – Featherweight Title Match: Jose Aldo (48.14) vs. Kenny Florian (36.54)
First, let me express disappointment that Chad Mendes isn’t getting this opportunity, after he was originally set to face Aldo at the upcoming UFC 133. With that said, I understand why the UFC wanted to put this fight together: Kenny Florian is a name that casual UFC fans know and recognize, and presumably would help introduce those fans to the new UFC featherweight division. Unfortunately for Florian, I see him becoming 0-3 in title fights after facing Aldo; I don’t see Florian either being able to handle Aldo’s striking or taking him down consistently enough.
UFC 133 – Light-Heavyweights: Alexander Gustafsson (33.76) vs. Matt Hamill (32.45)
Supposedly, Vladimir Matyushenko was going to be the UFC’s next choice to fight Rashad Evans if it turned out that both Lyoto Machida and Tito Ortiz turned the fight down. It’s a good thing Ortiz accepted, because now Matyushenko is out of his fight against Alexander Gustafsson. His replacement, Matt Hamill, needs a win very badly after his lackluster decision loss to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 130. This should be an interesting battle of striker vs. wrestler: I like Gustafsson a lot, but the one time he’s faced a great wrestler in the UFC, he lost to Phil Davis. Still, Hamill is not near Davis’s level, so this should be a close, competitive match.
UFC 136 – Middleweights: Demian Maia (44.11) vs. Jorge Santiago (32.75)
I recently speculated about Demian Maia’s UFC future, suggesting that the top two potential opponents for him were Jorge Santiago and Chris Leben. I then stated that I felt a fight against Leben was more likely. As I usually am when predicting future matchmaking, I was wrong. Maia will, in fact, face Santiago, who is just 1-3 in his career in the UFC. While some may suggest that Santiago will have an advantage in the striking department, Maia did quite well for himself against Mark Munoz at UFC 131. With Santiago’s weak chin, there’s a real chance Maia wins this by TKO. Of course, Santiago will not want to play the ground game with Maia, so on paper, I think this is a good fight for Maia and a bad fight for Santiago. Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Demian Maia.
UFC 136 – Lightweights: Melvin Guillard (31.54) vs. Joe Lauzon (29.92)
This seems to be a strange fight for Melvin Guillard to lobby for if he wants to fight for the title, as Joe Lauzon isn’t really in title contention right now. Despite that, Lauzon represents a better test of Guillard’s ground game than any of Guillard’s recent opponents. If Guillard wins this fight, and I think he will, I anticipate that he’ll move way up the ladder for his next fight. Still, time may be running out for Guillard; the 9-year rule strikes for him in November.
UFC 137 – Heavyweights: Cheick Kongo (29.79) vs. Matt Mitrione (50.40)
I’ve thought for quite a while now that Cheick Kongo is something of a fraud; his UFC wins tend to be against guys like Mustapha Al-Turk and Dan Evensen. When Kongo faces fringe UFC opponents like Heath Herring and Pat Barry, he either loses or comes very close to it. When he faces high-level opponents like Frank Mir, he gets smoked.
I love Mitrione to win big here. Mitrione represents a blend of power and striking that Kongo hasn’t faced yet; the most similar opponent he’s had is probably Travis Browne, but I happen to think Mitrione is just plain better than Browne is. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mitrione wins in round 1.
UFC 137 – Heavyweights: Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (27.03) vs. Roy Nelson (30.48)
I thought Cro Cop should have retired after losing by KO in the third round to Brendan Schaub, and him being matched up against Roy Nelson doesn’t change my opinion. I’ve completely given up on the idea of “the old Cro Cop” showing up, so that probably means that his fight against Nelson will be often spent in the clinch, and has a high chance of being particularly awful. If recent history is any indication, Nelson will get a KO late in the third round after Cro Cop puts up “not that bad of a fight.”
UFC 136 – Heavyweights: Dave Herman (26.72) vs. Mike Russow (35.83)
It’s very hard to get a hold of how good Russow is at this point. He got obliterated for two and a half rounds by Todd Duffee before landing a KO punch out of nowhere. While that makes for an amazing highlight moment, it doesn’t bode well for Russow’s future as a UFC contender. Against Dave Herman, he’ll definitely want to take the fight to the ground; I think Russow will be good enough to win a decision in this one.
UFC 136 – Featherweights: Matt Grice (30.16) vs. Josh Grispi (26.62)
I have a secret suspicion that Joe Silva puts together fights based on the alphabet. Other random examples: Nik Lentz vs. Waylon Lowe, Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine, Manny Gamburyan vs. Tyson Griffin, Demian Maia vs. Nate Marquardt… OK, maybe I have too much time to think about things like this.
I don’t know what happened to Josh Grispi. My baseless speculation is that there’s some performance anxiety related to competing in the UFC. It’s not that he lost to Dustin Poirier and George Roop, it’s that he got completely battered in the process. Under normal circumstances, I would take Grispi to win this fight, but given his recent performances… I just can’t do it. This is coming from somebody who generally puts very little stock in just a fighter’s recent performances.