Unfortunately, time is getting tight, so I need to go into lightning-round mode for the previews of Saturday night’s main card fights.
170 lbs: Chris Clements (11-4, 1-0 UFC) vs. Matt Riddle (6-3, 6-3 UFC)
If you’re a connoisseur of superior technique and strategy in the cage, then Matt Riddle is not for you. Riddle is a good wrestler, but more often chooses to stand and bang, and when he does, it’s not pretty. I’ll put it this way: Billy Blanks would be proud of what Riddle does in the cage. Despite this, I can’t help but like the guy. There’s something to be said for boundless enthusiasm out of a fighter, even as he’s being repeatedly punched in the face. He won’t necessarily want that to happen against Chris Clements, as Clements has ten wins by KO/TKO in his career already. This fight should come down to how Riddle chooses to fight. If he stands, bangs, and boxercises, then Clements wins by knockout or decision. But if Riddle instead uses his wrestling, gets this fight to the ground, and lands a barrage of strikes on the ground, I like Riddle to win it.
SILVA PREDICTION: MATT RIDDLE (45.25) OVER CHRIS CLEMENTS (43.75)
170 lbs: Brian Ebersole (50-14-1, 4-0 UFC) vs. James Head (8-2, 1-1 UFC)
It’s no secret I’m a fan of Brian Ebersole. It has nothing to do with his chest hair, and everything to do with his intelligence and candor. A fighter like Ebersole, on paper, really shouldn’t be 4-0 in the UFC, but he’s taken mediocre talent and turned it into what is becoming a very successful UFC run. Still, Ebersole was dropped by T.J. Waldburger in his last fight, a shocking moment given Waldburger’s reputation as a pure submission fighter and Ebersole having never been knocked out. While Ebersole did a good job of surviving that round and rallying to win, it was a fight that serves as a red flag about Ebersole’s ability to keep winning. And Ebersole’s opponent, James Head, does hit hard and is a threat to win by knockout. Unfortunately for Head, his wrestling is a big question mark, as he was taken down repeatedly by Nick Ring, and while Ebersole is not a dominant wrestler, he certainly has enough skill to take this fight to the ground, where he should have a huge advantage. On paper, Ebersole should absolutely win, although something in my gut is saying that Head is going to pull off the upset. But my pick is Ebersole.
SILVA PREDICTION: BRIAN EBERSOLE (67.67) OVER JAMES HEAD (41.82)
265 lbs: Shawn Jordan (13-3, 1-0 UFC) vs. Cheick Kongo (17-7-2, 10-5-1 UFC)
I’m quite a bit surprised by how many people are picking Shawn Jordan to win this fight. At the same time, I understand it. Jordan is a good athlete and hits hard, and Kongo does not have a very good chin. I just disagree with it. Jordan’s best career win is a submission of Lavar Johnson, which is not an outstanding feat if you know how good Lavar Johnson’s ground game is. Jordan’s second best win is a TKO of Oli Thompson, who SILVA 1.2 rated as the worst heavyweight fighter in the UFC. Now, Jordan did put up a respectable fight against an underrated heavyweight in Devin Cole, but he also showed a questionable gas tank in that fight, eventually losing by decision. I happen to think Cheick Kongo is just a higher level of fighter than Shawn Jordan is. Yes, Kongo was knocked out by Mark Hunt, and no, his UFC wins aren’t over an all-star cast of heavyweights, but he’s certainly more proven than Jordan is. On top of that, Kongo is a much better technical striker, and is better conditioned as well in my opinion. I can definitely see Jordan winning by knockout, and I can see him winning the first round against Kongo. But those things aren’t enough for me to favor him out-right, especially not when he lacks a history of success against high-level competition.
SILVA PREDICTION: CHEICK KONGO (59.75) OVER SHAWN JORDAN (30.02)
185 lbs: Tim Boetsch (15-4, 6-3 UFC) vs. Hector Lombard (31-2-1, 0-0 UFC)
After his improbable comeback win against Yushin Okami at UFC 144, Tim Boetsch returns to fight UFC newcomer Hector Lombard in the co-main event of UFC 149. And the fact that Lombard is a UFC newcomer and in the co-main event shows how good he is. No, Lombard hasn’t fought elite competition, and none of his wins are quite as good as Boetsch’s win over Okami. However, Lombard has still fought good competition, like Alexander Shlemenko, Jesse Taylor, and Trevor Prangley, among many others. The fact of the matter is that Lombard, with his excellent Judo base and power striking, has won fights on a very consistent basis, and deserves to be regarded as a top middleweight, for the same reasons Alistair Overeem is considered a top heavyweight and Nick Diaz is considered a top welterweight. Meanwhile, as inspiring and exciting as Boetsch’s win over Okami was, having to make such a comeback doesn’t bode well for his prospects against other top middleweights. I like Boetsch to beat the majority of fighters in the UFC middleweight division, but Lombard is not one of them.
SILVA PREDICTION: HECTOR LOMBARD (75.83) OVER TIM BOETSCH (63.67)
135 lbs: Renan Barao (28-1, 3-0 UFC) vs. Urijah Faber (26-5, 2-1 UFC)
It’s natural to compare Renan Barao to his teammate at Nova Uniao – UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Barao has a lot of the same strengths as Aldo. These include dynamic striking, excellent takedown defense, and a well-rounded overall game. So it’s natural to think Barao will give Urijah Faber many of the same problems Aldo gave him. There is, however, one huge difference between Barao and Aldo that could make all the difference as far as Faber is concerned. Unlike Aldo, Barao actually does not have good striking defense at all. He doesn’t have much head movement, and his high activity rate while striking often just means that he leaves openings for his opponent to attack. Meanwhile, Faber is a great example of a fighter who is good at everything in MMA: he has good striking, good power, good wrestling, good submissions, and the biggest strength of his game is his ability to transition from one position to another.
SILVA PREDICTION: URIJAH FABER (65.32) OVER RENAN BARAO (64.80)
If you were wondering how much different SILVA 2.1 could be from SILVA 1.2, consider this: in SILVA 1.2, Barao would be favored to win this fight, 81.05 to 57.92. Since a lot of people I respect have picked Faber to upset Barao in this fight, I’m very intrigued that SILVA now slightly favors Faber as well. In fact, I’m cautiously starting to think that SILVA 2.1 might blow all previous versions of SILVA out of the water. Let’s see what happens on Saturday night.