I’m going to do things a bit different this time. I’ll be honest – I don’t know very much about half the fighters on this card. I could give you generic half-assed analysis of all the fights, or insightful analysis of a few of the fights. I think insightful is better – that means for the fights I don’t know much about, I’m giving just a prediction, no explanation.
Main Event: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum
It’s been about seven years since Nogueira and Werdum fought in PRIDE, and seven years is a long, long time in MMA. Consider that Jon Jones made his professional MMA debut five years ago. It’s fair to say that Nogueira and Werdum won’t be the same fighters they were in PRIDE.
In 2006, the fun thing to say about Nogueira was that he didn’t lose fights, he just ran out of time. He was very durable and well-conditioned. He didn’t hit very hard and didn’t have much of a takedown game, but with 20 minutes to work, Nogueira was usually able to get his opponent to the ground and submit him at some point.
Now, Nogueira has developed better punching power to go along with his very good submission game. He also isn’t nearly as durable as he used to be. He’s injury-prone, which affects his ability to go deep into fights, and he’s at much increased risk of being stopped by strikes. Nogueira is no longer able to out-last his opponents; instead, he needs to find a way to finish them quickly.
On the flip side, Werdum has improved his striking by leaps and bounds, to the extent that he out-pointed Alistair Overeem in their fight two years ago. While Werdum has never taken strikes as well as Nogueira used to, he’s only been stopped once, by Junior Dos Santos at UFC 90.
In 2006, Nogueira won the striking battle against Werdum, forcing Werdum to engage in a grappling match to win. Werdum landed five takedowns in the fight, but lost by decision, largely thanks to two knockdowns by Nogueira.
This time, I think Werdum will probably win the striking battle. Nogueira may have found a way to strike with power, but it’s more likely that he has simply reaped the benefits of fighting a series of opponents with poor chins (Dave Herman, Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub). Werdum is much better at effectively defending strikes than any of those fighters.
If Nogueira is able to knock Werdum down again, this fight will get very interesting. Otherwise, I see Werdum winning a striking match, eventually stopping Nogueira or winning on points.
Pick: Fabricio Werdum by TKO
205 lbs: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante vs. Thiago Silva
I see this as a very difficult stylistic match for Thiago Silva. In Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Silva will be facing a good striker with solid takedown defense and great knockout power. It’s a dangerous mix of skills for Silva, a fighter who likes to stand and strike, but is often buckled and dazed by his opponent’s strikes.
I think strikes will land both ways, but Cavalcante will land more strikes that do more damage. If Silva isn’t finished quickly – and there’s a very good chance he will be – he’ll be faced with the choice of hunting for a knockout or looking for a takedown.
My expectation is that Cavalcante will land a big strike that knocks Silva out in the first round. Even if that doesn’t happen, I think “Feijao” will prove to be a little better than Silva in every area. Silva always has a chance to win by knockout, but in this fight, I think it’s more of a good “puncher’s chance” than anything.
Pick: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante by TKO
170 lbs: Jason High vs. Erick Silva
I’ve been something of an Erick Silva doubter over his past couple fights. I picked against him when he fought Charlie Brenneman, and that didn’t go so well for me. I picked against him again when he fought Jon Fitch, and the result was a bit different that time.
In this fight, Silva will take on another wrestler in Jason High. Silva should prove to be the superior fighter in the first round – he has a tremendous offensive arsenal. Silva can throw punches, kicks, and knees, all with great power, and is a threat to win by submission as well.
For High, the path to victory will be the same as it was for Brenneman – weather an early storm and grind out an exhausted Silva in the second and third rounds. However, I gained a lot of respect for Silva in his fight against Fitch, because even though Fitch won that fight, Silva was a match for him through two rounds.
High isn’t nearly as tough to finish as Fitch is, and that means I think Silva can take him out early.
Pick: Erick Silva by TKO
Here are my picks for the other fights:
- Leonardo Santos by decision over William Macario
- Daniel Sarafian by submission over Eddie Mendez
- Rony Jason by TKO over Mike Wilkinson
- Raphael Assuncao by decision over Vaughan Lee
- Felipe Arantes by decision over Godofredo Castro
- Ildemar Alcantara by TKO over Leandro Silva
- Mizuto Hirota by decision over Rodrigo Damm
- Karlos Vemola by TKO over Caio Magalhaes
- Antonio Braga Neto by submission over Anthony Smith
As always, thanks for reading my picks, and enjoy the fights!