After the two fights on Facebook, there will be four fights broadcast on FX on Saturday. Let’s take a look:
135 lbs: Bryan Caraway (16-5, 1-0 UFC) vs. Mitch Gagnon (8-1, 0-0 UFC)
Bryan Caraway is a fighter I think has very limited upside in the UFC, because he’s one-dimensional. Caraway is a good grappler, very quick in scrambles, and is very good at taking his opponent’s back quickly. He’s also a very poor striker, a mediocre wrestler, and has a questionable gas tank. If Caraway faces an opponent who is well-conditioned and can keep the fight standing, he’s in trouble. Such was the case against Diego Brandao on The Ultimate Fighter. Brandao stuffed all of Caraway’s takedown attempts and battered him with strikes to win by TKO. To Caraway’s credit, he’s never been stopped by strikes in a professional MMA fight, although the best striker he’s faced, Mark Hominick, actually defeated him by submission due to triangle armbar.
Fortunately for Caraway, he’ll be facing an opponent in Mitch Gagnon who has exactly the wrong skill set to beat him. Without being too harsh, Gagnon really doesn’t have a lot of talent. He likes to throw leg kicks, but his striking defense is very sloppy. On the ground, Gagnon is somewhat similar to Caraway in that he’s a fairly good grappler, but he’s not nearly as good at holding positions as Caraway is. Gagnon does have a strong guillotine choke, which accounts for five of his wins, but winning by guillotine choke is usually not a sign of superior grappling.
SILVA PREDICTION: BRYAN CARAWAY (32.76) OVER MITCH GAGNON (14.26)
I anticipate that most of Caraway’s future UFC opponents will have a clear striking and/or wrestling advantage against him. Mitch Gagnon is not one of them. I expect Caraway to out-grapple him, and eventually win by either submission or decision.
205 lbs: Ryan Jimmo (16-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Anthony Perosh (13-6, 3-3 UFC)
After withdrawing from a January fight due to injury, SILVA favorite Ryan Jimmo will make his UFC debut at UFC 149 in Calgary against Australian grappler Anthony Perosh. Perosh has been on a nice run lately, winning three straight in the UFC, which has been fun to see for a 40-year-old fighter previously considered an afterthought in the light-heavyweight division. Of course, Perosh’s three-fight winning streak deserves a little scrutiny. Let’s face it: there are a lot of light-heavyweights in the UFC who would beat Tom Blackledge and Nick Penner. Perosh’s best win, against Cyrille Diabate, was against a fighter who is a fantastic striker and has very little ground game. I was still surprised to see Perosh win that one, but at the same time, it was a particularly good style match for him.
Jimmo will not be a good style match. While he’s been panned by a lot of people for putting on slow-paced fights (and being gifted a decision against Sokoudjou), Jimmo has a skill set that’s likely to give Perosh serious problems. For one, Jimmo is the better striker. He doesn’t fight with a high activity rate, but he has very hard kicks and decent movement. If the fight is standing, I anticipate Jimmo will be able to out-strike Perosh. And I think it will be a daunting challenge for Perosh to take Jimmo to the ground, as Jimmo has a very strong upper-body clinch.
SILVA PREDICTION: RYAN JIMMO (70.18) OVER ANTHONY PEROSH (39.65)
Fair warning: this fight could really be tough to watch. If it goes as I anticipate it will, Perosh will try and fail to take Jimmo to the ground repeatedly, while Jimmo scores enough points with strikes to win a decision. Jimmo isn’t as good as his SILVA score indicates – again, he really should not have been given the decision against Sokoudjou – but he’s good enough to win this fight in my opinion.
135 lbs: Roland Delorme (8-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. Francisco Rivera (8-2, 1-1 UFC)
In the third fight on FX, Canadian grappler Roland Delorme will be taking on Francisco Rivera. While Delorme doesn’t have a sky-high SILVA score, I think he could still be considered a “SILVA favorite.” Even though SILVA 2.1 does hurt him a bit, Delorme’s SILVA score is still probably one of the 15 best in the bantamweight division. That’s definitely not how most people see him. As somebody who lost on The Ultimate Fighter, Delorme is naturally viewed as one of the lower-level guys in the division. I’m not sure that’s particularly fair – yes, Delorme was soundly beaten by T.J. Dillashaw, but Dillashaw is turning out to be a very solid fighter, and had a good skill set to take into the cage against Delorme.
Delorme’s opponent, Francisco Rivera, is a fighter who likes to stand and strike, and hurt Alex Soto with strikes repeatedly in his last fight. I felt Rivera really should have been able to finish Soto in that fight, as Soto was visibly hurt multiple times, but Rivera still showcased very solid striking overall. Rivera has five wins by KO/TKO in ten fights, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to finish. Where his skills are questionable is on the ground, where he was submitted by Reuben Duran.
SILVA PREDICTION: ROLAND DELORME (51.89) OVER FRANCISCO RIVERA (21.29)
As long as this fight is standing, it should favor Rivera, as Delorme has never shown any kind of dominant striking game. On the ground, however, it should be all Delorme, as he has six career wins by submission: four by rear naked choke and two by armbar. I don’t know if Delorme should be as much a favorite as SILVA suggests, but I do like him to survive the standing exchanges, and eventually submit Rivera in this fight.
185 lbs: Court McGee (14-2, 3-1 UFC) vs. Nick Ring (12-1, 2-1 UFC)
The fourth and final fight to be shown on FX features a rematch from the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter, as Court McGee will look to avenge his loss on that show against Nick Ring. Most observers, including myself, felt a third round should have been fought between McGee and Ring, but the judges disagreed, giving Ring the decision win. Of course, we know what happened after that: Ring blew out his knee, McGee replaced him on the show, and McGee went on to win the whole thing.
Both fighters have a fairly well-rounded game, but I believe McGee has some subtle advantages that should tilt this fight in his favor. Both are fairly good strikers, but McGee tends to be more active with strikes. Both have had decent success with the takedown game, but McGee has been a little more consistent at it than Ring. And I think McGee has better conditioning as well – if his fight against Ring on The Ultimate Fighter had gone to a third round, I believe McGee would have been significantly better in that round.
SILVA PREDICTION: COURT MCGEE (51.76) OVER NICK RING (40.08)
If their first fight was any indication, this will likely be a competitive fight, featuring mostly striking from both fighters, although the possibility of a takedown from either shouldn’t be dismissed. I believe McGee deserves a slight edge here, mostly due to better conditioning, as Ring tends to fade late in fights. But if Ring was to out-point McGee and win a decision, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.