I have come to the growing realization that I won’t have time to write full preview posts on all of Saturday’s main card fights, so I’ve decided to instead write one post on the main card fights, similar to my posts on the preliminaries.
170 lbs: Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Paulo Thiago
Siyar Bahadurazada is one of the highest-ranked fighters in the welterweight division not to have competed in the UFC yet in his career. The UFC, well aware of Bahadurzada’s status as a highly-ranked fighter, has matched him up against the always tough Paulo Thiago. Bahadurzada is a very aggressive striker; most of his recent wins are by KO or TKO, and he’s the kind of fighter who won’t insist on avoiding damage in order to land strikes of his own. His fight history includes a number of respectable, but not great, wins. Fighters he’s beaten include John Alessio, Carlos Pereira, and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.
His opponent, Paulo Thiago, is a fighter who appears to have settled in as something of a welterweight gatekeeper. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a high-level gatekeeper, but he’s 4-3 in the UFC now, and with somewhat sloppy striking to go along with questionable cardio, it’s hard to imagine Thiago being able to compete among the elites of the division. Thiago does have some punching power, so he may be something of a threat to punish Bahadurzada’s aggressive striking, but he also doesn’t land strikes with very good volume.
SILVA PREDICTION: PAULO THIAGO (74.93) OVER SIYAR BAHADURZADA (61.34)
On paper, the fight favors Bahadurzada as long as it’s standing, and Thiago as long as it’s on the ground. Thiago has decent submission wrestling abilities, and if he focuses on avoiding exchanges with Bahadurzada, he might be able to win by submission, as both of Bahadurzada’s recent losses were by submission. I favor Thiago because he has beaten better opponents than Bahadurzada, including Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Jacob Volkmann. However, if this fight is standing for significant lengths of time, a Bahadurzada KO and an upset are a very distinct possibility.
145 lbs: Diego Nunes vs. Dennis Siver
This fight is a battle of strikers in Diego Nunes and Dennis Siver. Nunes is a fighter who throws a lot of kicks, mostly leg kicks but also body kicks and head kicks as well. Nunes is unique in that it’s possible that more than half of his strikes are kicks. The problem is that he has been unable to convert his striking into stoppage wins; all of Nunes’s eight fights in the UFC and WEC have gone to decision. Going to decision a lot is fine if you’re Dominick Cruz and out-strike and out-wrestle all of your opponents, but Nunes has been skating by a lot, winning by split decision against Mike Brown and Raphael Assuncao. I’m not confident in Nunes’s ability to keep winning fights narrowly as he has been.
His opponent will be Dennis Siver, a very strange opponent because this is a featherweight fight, and Siver was already a very thickly built lightweight. Siver had good power as a lightweight fighter, so it’s possible he could be extra imposing as a featherweight. However, Siver did have issues at the weigh in, struggling badly to make 146 pounds, and it remains to be seen if that will sap him of his power. If not, then he’s a threat to bully Nunes, as Siver figures to be the much bigger fighter in the cage.
SILVA PREDICTION: DENNIS SIVER (71.61) OVER DIEGO NUNES (65.24)
I see this as being a very close fight, but I’ll give Siver a slight edge because of his relative power. I expect strikes to fly both ways, and if it goes to decision, Nunes may be more likely to win based on striking volume, but I think Siver is more likely to win by KO or submission. There are a lot of unknowns about this fight, particularly how Siver will perform after a huge weight cut, so this is a very tough one to call.
185 lbs: Alessio Sakara vs. Brian Stann
If you are a UFC fan who believes that Alessio Sakara is only a figment of your imagination, I can’t blame you in the slightest. Sakara is often injured and fights rarely. He’s the perfect example of a fighter who seems to just linger in the UFC despite being clearly below-average in my opinion. Sakara does have strong boxing and decent wrestling, but he is notorious for a glass chin and a lack of consistency.
The UFC is doing him no favors by matching him against Brian Stann. Stann was miscast as an elite middleweight fighter against Chael Sonnen, who pretty much whooped Stann, but Stann’s strengths as a fighter are very well suited to exploit the weaknesses of Sakara. Stann isn’t the best wrestler or grappler, but he can hit like a truck and take a punch himself.
SILVA PREDICTION: BRIAN STANN (60.30) OVER ALESSIO SAKARA (38.09)
Maybe I’m underrating Sakara, but this looks almost like a squash match to me. Sakara is not a particularly good UFC fighter, and his biggest weakness as a fighter – his inability to take a punch – lines up perfectly with Stann’s biggest strength, which is his punching power. I expect this to be a brief, entertaining fight, but one that ends with Stann having won by first-round knockout.
205 lbs: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Thiago Silva
If you’ve followed this blog closely, you know that I’m very high on light-heavyweight striker Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson has only lost once in his professional MMA career, a loss to the extremely tough Phil Davis. In his other fights, Gustafsson has looked extremely sharp, whether it’s his knockout of Vladimir Matyushenko, his TKO of Matt Hamill, his submission of James Te Huna, or his annihilating of Cyrille Diabate. With a blend of sharp striking and very tough takedown defense, Gustafsson is an imposing fighter, and one to watch very closely at light-heavyweight.
His opponent in this fight will be Thiago Silva, a fighter who has fought a grand total of one time in the last 25 months, due to both injuries and a suspension for “adulterating his urine” for a drug test. Silva has a reputation as being an aggressive striker, and while that’s true, his true strength as a fighter is his ground and pound, which is what he used to beat Brandon Vera in his last fight, before that was changed to a no contest. The problem with Silva is that, while he has a 5-2 UFC record, none of his wins have been against particularly good opponents. The list: Keith Jardine, Antonio Mendes, Houston Alexander, Tomasz Drwal, and James Irvin.
SILVA PREDICTION: ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON (81.18) OVER THIAGO SILVA (62.12)
I think Silva is exactly the kind of fighter Gustafsson has shown he’s good at beating. Gustafsson handles aggressive fighters like Silva very well, and with precision striking to go along with very good takedown defense, I see Silva getting frustrated in this one. It’s possible for Silva to score a KO win in a flurry, but it’s much more likely that Gustafsson picks Silva apart and ends up winning by TKO himself.