(I’ve decided to try a different format for my fight previews. Instead of writing long-winded posts, I’m going to simply break fights down into striking, wrestling, and submissions, and then give a prediction and wrap-up at the end. I think this will be a better way of doing things, for both the writer and the reader. Also note that I’m including the UFC-Only ELO Rating I wrote about the other day. This will be temporary until I finish my work on an ELO system for all of MMA, not just the UFC.)
The first fight of the Facebook prelims at UFC 152 from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto will feature not two UFC newcomers, not two fighters looking to make a name for themselves, but two veterans with a combined 12 career UFC fights between them.
Striking: Noke has a clear advantage here. Brenneman is not a good striker, to the point that he simply does not attempt to strike with his opponents at all. If Noke can defend Brenneman’s takedowns, and keep this fight standing, this is his fight to lose. Unfortunately for Noke, he doesn’t have the same kind of knockout power as fighters like Anthony Johnson and Johny Hendricks, both of whom defeated Brenneman by knockout in past UFC fights. On top of that, Brenneman is the kind of fighter who will take an opponent down, or lose trying. As much as Noke might want to stand and bang, I don’t think he’ll get much of a chance.
Wrestling: What makes Brenneman so good here is not that he’s the best wrestler at 170 pounds, but that he knows wrestling is the strength of his overall MMA game, and has no delusions of being a striker. Brenneman will go for takedowns early and often, and his game is basically to establish top position, produce the minimum amount of offense necessary to prevent the referee from standing the fight up, and winning a decision on points. Noke has had good success defending takedowns in the UFC, but the best wrestler he’s faced is Ed Herman. Brenneman will provide a much stiffer test. I see Noke giving Brenneman a good struggle, but ultimately succumbing to the takedown.
Submissions: For all the top control Brenneman is able to establish, he’s not a submissions fighter at all. Only twice has Brenneman won by submission in his MMA career, and one of those was due to strikes. In the UFC, Brenneman has had to escape from submissions more often than he’s applied them himself. Noke has good jiu-jitsu, and does have a couple wins by triangle choke on his record, so he might be a little tricky for Brenneman to deal with on the ground. But it will be tough for Noke to actually catch Brenneman, who has only been submitted once. If Noke wins by submission, it’s much more likely to come from a rear naked choke after taking Brenneman’s back in a scramble.
Prediction: Charlie Brenneman by decision. We know what Brenneman wants to do: get Noke to the ground and smother him. It’s up to Noke to stop this, and while Noke is a well-rounded fighter, I don’t think there’s any one thing he’s good enough at to capitalize on Brenneman’s weaknesses. Noke’s a decent striker, but doesn’t have great KO power. He’s a decent wrestler, but “decent” isn’t good enough to stop Brenneman from landing a takedown at some point. And he has good jiu-jitsu, but if Noke is operating from his back, as I think he will, it will be very difficult for him to sweep or submit Brenneman. I’ll take “The Spaniard” to win this one.