Here is the second half of the fight previews for the preliminary fights on UFC on Fuel 2.
205 lbs: Tom DeBlass (7-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Cyrille Diabate (17-8-1, 2-2 UFC)
Originally set to fight Swedish Muay Thai fighter Jorgen Kruth, Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate will now be taking on a very different opponent in New Jersey-based Jiu-Jitsu fighter Tom DeBlass. DeBlass will be making his UFC debut in this fight, and his 7-0 record is a relatively strong one, as all seven fights have been against opponents with significant professional MMA experience. DeBlass is the kind of fighter Diabate definitely doesn’t want to face at this point of his career. As a fighter who operates his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school in New Jersey, and is associated with Ricardo Almeida, DeBlass is all about the ground game.
Diabate, on the other hand, is all about the striking game. A legitimately good Muay Thai fighter, Diabate is somebody that even fighters like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua felt compelled to take down to win. While Diabate doesn’t have the best striking power in the sport, he is a very tough guy to go toe-to-toe against. Diabate’s problem is that he’s more of a Muay Thai fighter than he is a mixed martial artist. In his last fight, Anthony Perosh was able to take him to the ground and just overwhelm him. We’ve seen that from Perosh on more than one occasion, but we’ve also seen Diabate get overwhelmed on the ground on more than one occasion.
SILVA PREDICTION: TOM DEBLASS (51.59) OVER CYRILLE DIABATE (44.40)
Not only is DeBlass a legitimate light-heavyweight prospect, but he has exactly the right skill set to beat “The Snake” in this fight. The prognosis is simple: the longer it stays standing, the better off Diabate is, and the longer it stays on the ground, the more the fight favors Tom DeBlass. I think DeBlass has what it takes to win his UFC debut.
170 lbs: Papy Abedi (8-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. James Head (7-2, 0-1 UFC)
Swedish striker Papy Abedi is regarded by many to be a very good prospect in the welterweight division. Along with being a fighter who likes to stand and strike, Abedi has experience in submission wrestling, so he has a fairly well-rounded skill set. Unfortunately for Abedi, the UFC decided a good debut opponent for him would be Thiago Alves. Abedi was competitive in the fight, but it was Alves who scored the first-round knockout.
Joe Silva has found a much more appropriate opponent for Abedi this time around in James Head, who had a very sloppy fight against Nick Ring at UFC 131 last June. Head was fairly strong in the first round, landing a number of strikes and even knocking Ring down, but afterwards was completely gassed out and in survival mode. Like Abedi, Head appears to be a striker more than anything.
SILVA PREDICTION: PAPY ABEDI (39.37) OVER JAMES HEAD (18.45)
Head may be known for scoring an upset win over Gerald Harris earlier in his career, but SILVA doesn’t like him at all. In this fight, I don’t really like him either. Papy Abedi figures to be the better, more powerful striker, and probably better in the other areas of the MMA game as well. I like Abedi to win this fight, and probably by KO or TKO.
135 lbs: Damacio Page (15-6, 0-1 UFC) vs. Brad Pickett (20-6, 0-1 UFC)
This fight features two bantamweights who are probably one step below title contention in the UFC. It also features fighters who have been quite inactive lately. Brad Pickett didn’t even fight in the UFC until November of last year after having fought in the WEC, and Damacio Page hasn’t fought since March 2011, where he lost by first-round submission to Brian Bowles.
Naturally, these guys should both be chomping at the bit to get a UFC win, and in a number of ways, their records are similar. Both have a win against a very highly ranked fighter; Page has beaten Scott Jorgensen, and Pickett has beaten Demetrious Johnson. Both have two recent losses to very good fighters; Page has lost to Bowles and Johnson, while Pickett lost to Renan Barao and Jorgensen.
Pickett is known as being a good striker, but this is not supported by Fight Metric numbers. More than anything, it appears that Pickett needs to land takedowns to bail himself out and win decisions. Meanwhile, Damacio Page is a fighter who seems to have difficulty scoring points, as he has yet to land more than 20 significant strikes in a fight tracked by Fight Metric.
SILVA PREDICTION: BRAD PICKETT (54.64) OVER DAMACIO PAGE (32.58)
Page is a better fighter than SILVA gives him credit for, but I do agree with his being an underdog against Brad Pickett. If this is a standing battle, it’s likely to be somewhat even, but the difference is the often overlooked wrestling ability of Pickett. I see Pickett landing enough strikes and takedowns to win a decision in this one.
170 lbs: DaMarques Johnson (15-9, 4-3 UFC) vs. John Maguire (17-3, 1-0 UFC)
I have to give DaMarques Johnson credit. He might have had the best record entering the UFC, and he might not have the most talent in the UFC, but when he fights, he goes for it. Johnson has only gone to decision three times in his MMA career, and he has yet to go to decision in the UFC. He’s not a particularly good striker, but that doesn’t stop him from mixing it up. He does have some wrestling and grappling ability, and with seven career submission wins, the best place for Johnson to fight is almost certainly on the ground.
The problem with Johnson is his UFC career. His wins in the UFC have been against Clay Harvison, Michael Guymon, Brad Blackburn, and Edgar Garcia. I apologize if I don’t see that as a star-studded lineup of victories. Meanwhile, John Maguire, Johnson’s opponent on Saturday, defeated Justin Edwards in his debut at UFC 138, but otherwise, his quality of victories is not much different than Johnson. The difference is that Maguire wins a lot more consistently, with a record of 17-3 to be compared to Johnson’s 15-9.
SILVA PREDICTION: JOHN MAGUIRE (51.12) OVER DAMARQUES JOHNSON (38.39)
To make matters worse for Johnson, I identified the ground game as his biggest strength as a fighter, but that’s also Maguire’s strength as a fighter. Since Maguire has the better record, the better SILVA score, and is the betting favorite to win, everything points to him being the better fighter in this one.