If you’re going to be a submission specialist in the UFC, you want to be Rousimar Palhares. He’s a fighter who is very good at applying his submission arsenal in MMA fights. Palhares has very good takedown offense, landing 3.96 takedowns per 15 minutes at 46 percent accuracy. He is moving from being a short and stocky middleweight to being a short and stocky welterweight, which should only help his ability to land takedowns against his opponents.
On the ground, Palhares is infamous for immediately grabbing his opponent’s leg and torquing it in all kinds of unnatural directions. He torques his opponent’s leg, and when his opponent taps out, he continues to torque the leg until the referee makes it painfully obvious that he needs to let go.
Palhares is also known for poor striking and baffling mental mistakes. Against Dan Miller at UFC 134, Palhares was punching Miller on the ground… then ran to the cage wall and jumped on it as if to celebrate a victory. The only problem was that referee Herb Dean never stopped the fight. Against Nate Marquardt, Palhares turned to the referee to complain after losing a heel hook and was promptly knocked out. Palhares is also known to mentally fold when the fight isn’t going his way, being stopped by Alan Belcher in very sudden fashion.
Palhares will be taking on a very difficult stylistic opponent in Mike Pierce. Palhares is good at taking fights to the ground but taking Pierce down will be a challenge. Pierce has only been taken down eight times in 13 UFC fights, although his takedown defense rate is only good at 69 percent. Pierce is definitely the better striker – he lands strikes at a higher rate, has shown better knockout power, and is very difficult to finish by strikes as well. In fact, Pierce has never been finished in MMA.
If Palhares is able to submit Pierce, he’ll be the first to do so. That’s largely why I can’t pick Palhares to win this fight outright. Palhares is not known for putting together good performances for three rounds. It might be fair to call Palhares a “feast or famine” fighter – either the fight is a quick and efficient victory, or it’s a devastating loss. Finishing Pierce will prove to be a difficult task.
At the same time, I can’t really endorse Pierce as a heavy favorite either. Pierce has struggled some in recent fights. He was out-struck 34-16 by Seth Baczynski, winning a decision largely because of takedowns, and then was even in strikes with David Mitchell before winning by knockout. With Pierce’s merely good takedown defense and recent underwhelming performances, it’s not absurd to think Palhares might take him out.
Ultimately, Pierce’s statistical profile is too strong to think he’ll lose this fight, but I also think this is much closer to a coin flip than the betting lines would suggest.
Pick: Mike Pierce by TKO