Right now, we have what is a rarity in the UFC: all seven UFC champions have fights scheduled between now and the end of the year. Here is what the schedule looks like:
- UFC 134: Middleweight – Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami
- UFC 135: Light-Heavyweight – Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson
- UFC on Versus 6: Bantamweight – Dominick Cruz vs. Demetrious Johnson
- UFC 136: Lightweight – Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
- UFC 136: Featherweight – Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
- UFC 137: Welterweight – Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
- UFC 139: Heavyweight – Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
UFC 134: Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami – SILVA prediction: Silva (47.05) over Okami (31.48)
Since Anderson Silva is an 11-year veteran of the MMA game, I think he’s potentially vulnerable in every fight going forward. I don’t know if Okami is the man to beat him. Some may consider that Okami has good wrestling and good submission defense, and suggest that Okami has the right skill set to beat Silva. I’m not opposed to this line of thinking, but I see it a different way: applying wrestling, ground and pound, and submission defense successfully may be Okami’s only path to victory, while Silva has all sorts of ways to win.
UFC 135: Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson – SILVA prediction: Jones (44.42) over Jackson (37.40)
Jackson is always dangerous because he has some of the best raw power in the sport. Even if Jones out-wrestles Jackson, out-strikes him, etc. Jackson can end the fight with one punch. With that said, Jackson has become more and more one-dimensional as his career has developed (sprawl and brawl, although he often doesn’t need to sprawl much). If Jones is unable to take Jackson down – a possibility that shouldn’t be dismissed – then there’s upset potential here. But Jones is just the more talented guy at this point.
UFC on Versus 6: Dominick Cruz vs. Demetrious Johnson – SILVA prediction: Cruz (48.23) over Johnson (34.70)
I’ll say this about Demetrious Johnson: he’ll have a speed advantage over Dominick Cruz, as he would probably have a speed advantage over just about anybody in the division. What he won’t have is a striking advantage; at some point, height and reach become too much to overcome, especially when applied by a very capable boxer like Cruz. A Johnson win will likely consist of a steady diet of takedowns, top control, and grappling/ground and pound. It’s a tall order to pull that off throughout a five-round fight against Cruz.
UFC 136: Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard – SILVA prediction: Maynard (54.05) over Edgar (50.23)
Maynard is the bigger fighter and the more powerful fighter. Edgar has a better gas tank. In a three-round fight, Maynard emerged victorious. In a five-round fight, Edgar rallied to a draw. I just have to think that Maynard has the edge in this match; if he paces himself a little better than he did at UFC 125, it’s hard to see Edgar consistently out-striking Maynard or consistently taking down Maynard. (I’m not blaming Maynard for expending energy at UFC 125; he clearly had Edgar badly hurt and was trying to finish.) But Edgar’s conditioning, boxing, and wrestling take him a long way, and he certainly has the ability to out-work Maynard over five rounds. This is just a tough one to call.
UFC 136: Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian – SILVA prediction: Aldo (48.14) over Florian (36.54)
Watching Aldo get taken down repeatedly at UFC 129 by Mark Hominick has to give Kenny Florian hope. Hominick isn’t particularly known for his wrestling, so if he can get Aldo to the ground consistently, it’s not a stretch to think Florian may be able to as well. Still, if this fight is standing for any length of time, Florian is in trouble. Aldo is just the much better striker. There is definite upset potential here though.
UFC 137: Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz – SILVA prediction: St. Pierre (56.65) over Diaz (30.66)
Diaz’s SILVA score is reflective of the fact that he’s been defending his Strikeforce welterweight title against opponents like Paul Daley, Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, K.J. Noons, Scott Smith, etc. Those are all decent fighters, but it’s ill preparation for somebody like St. Pierre. I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that I think people will be surprised at just how badly St. Pierre beats Diaz.
UFC 139: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos – SILVA prediction: Velasquez (56.49) over dos Santos (48.61)
It’s hard to envision either guy losing. Neither man has really been in serious trouble throughout their UFC careers. Velasquez isn’t likely to be the better striker, and dos Santos isn’t likely to be the better wrestler. Both guys are extremely well-conditioned. Velasquez did get hit hard by Cheick Kongo a couple times, so there’s a possibility that dos Santos catches him on the sweet spot. There’s also a possibility that Velasquez imposes a wrestling game that dos Santos can’t compete with. Or who knows, maybe Velasquez scores a KO or dos Santos locks up a submission. Possibilities abound in this fight.
I’m going to say that Edgar is the most likely champion to lose next, not just because he’s the only champion SILVA isn’t predicting to win, but because we’ve seen him fight Gray Maynard twice before. He lost the first time, and had to survive a trial by fire just to score a draw the second time. Maynard’s an extremely imposing fighter that anybody in the division would struggle with.
Honorable mentions go to Anderson Silva, who could very well lose a decision to Yushin Okami on points, and Cain Velasquez, who will have to take on a very tough challenger in Junior dos Santos. But it’s MMA, so as the saying goes, anything can happen.