Here they are, ladies and gentlemen… the last two fights to be broadcast on Spike TV before the UFC officially makes its move to Fox.
155 lbs: Danny Castillo vs. Anthony Njokuani
In his first two UFC fights, Anthony Njokuani was tested against opponents that, like himself, like to strike more than anything else. After losing a narrow decision to Edson Barboza at UFC 128, in a fight that I believed Njokuani would win if he hadn’t been crushed by a wheel kick to the head in the closing seconds of the third round, Njokuani bounced back by dominating Andre Winner at UFC 132. As a very technical Muay Thai striker, one who is huge for the lightweight division, Njokuani represents an imposing test in a striking game for any lightweight in MMA.
That’s why I believe Danny Castillo will attempt takedowns, and ask questions later. Castillo is a wrestler first, choosing to take fights against Joe Stevenson, Jacob Volkmann, and Shamar Bailey to the ground, and finishing Bailey at UFC 139 just about five weeks ago by TKO after achieving dominant position on the ground. In this fight, however, I believe Castillo will hunt for submissions. Njokuani has five career losses, and three of those are by submission, so while Castillo isn’t the most prolific submission fighter out there, that seems to me to be his most likely path to victory.
SILVA PREDICTION: DANNY CASTILLO (53.99) OVER ANTHONY NJOKUANI (33.90)
I haven’t seen enough of Njokuani’s fights to say this with confidence, but I’m guessing that he’s a very weak fighter on the ground, whose weakness has been hidden by four consecutive fights against opponents who almost refuse to take fights to the ground (Winner, Barboza, Edward Faaloloto, and Maciej Jewtuszko). Njokuani’s takedown defense isn’t horrible by any means, but in this fight, Castillo might not need to take him down repeatedly… he might only need to take him down once.
145 lbs: Junior Assuncao vs. Ross Pearson
After Anthony Njokuani fights Danny Castillo in the first fight on Spike TV, we’ll be treated to another fight featuring a fighter who recently lost a narrow decision to Edson Barboza. That would be TUF 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson, whose loss to Barboza prompted him to move down to 145 pounds, where the road to the top isn’t nearly as tough. His first opponent there will be Junior Assuncao, who scored a lopsided victory over Eddie Yagin at UFC 135 in his return to the UFC.
At first glance, this may appear to be a fight that Assuncao would want to take to the ground, but I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to get it there. A look at the Fight Metric matchup statistics for this one shows that neither fighter lands takedowns at a high success rate, but both fighters are able to defend takedowns quite successfully. That’s the thing – both fighters try to get their opponent to the ground. Even Ross Pearson, whose reputation is as a striker first, attempts takedowns more than you would think, but he missed all six attempts against Edson Barboza and all seven attempts against Andre Winner. He landed three out of six against Spencer Fisher, but I believe Assuncao will be tougher to take down than that.
SILVA PREDICTION: ROSS PEARSON (50.95) OVER JUNIOR ASSUNCAO (41.49)
The pattern I see happening in this fight is that there will be a period of striking, followed by one man trying to take the other down, failing, spending time in the clinch, and then separating to resume the striking period. That certainly describes a few of Ross Pearson’s UFC fights, and while he’s had mixed success in his UFC career, I’m going to agree with SILVA and say that Pearson is probably a little bit better at that kind of game than Junior Assuncao is. If Assuncao manages to take Pearson down with any consistency, however, it’s a totally different fight.