Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 168 Predictions: Preliminary Fights

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben

Want to know just how far Chris Leben has fallen? According to Best Fight Odds, Leben is currently a +250 underdog against Uriah Hall. The same Uriah Hall who is 0-2 in the UFC with split decision losses to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard. Hall is a deeply flawed fighter who struggles to defend takedowns and strikes. Would Hall (a -300 favorite) really beat Leben three out of four times?

In my estimation, the only way Hall should be that kind of favorite is if Leben is completely washed up. That’s a distinct possibility as Leben is coming off very uninspiring losses to Andrew Craig and Derek Brunson. Leben has fought many tough battles and has been in the sport a long time now. Clearly he’s in decline as a fighter.

Even so, if Leben has anything left in the tank, I really think he should beat Hall in this fight. While Hall is excellent at throwing a diverse arsenal of powerful kicks, he is not a very sharp boxer at all. Leben’s aggressive style should be a good counter to Hall’s kicking game. Leben tends to move forward while Hall moves backward – and this should result in Hall’s back against the fence while Leben stays in punching range. It’s also possible that Leben could mix in some takedowns – Leben has landed 17 takedowns in 22 fights and may be tempted to go to that against the flawed takedown defense of Hall.

Hall was about a 4-1 favorite in his fights against Gastelum and Howard and ended up losing both times. Now Hall is a 3-1 favorite against a more accomplished opponent in Leben. Again, it’s possible that Leben is just done as a fighter – and if he loses this fight against Hall, he should seriously consider retiring from the sport. But I think he has just enough left in the tank to get a win here.

Pick: Chris Leben by TKO

Michael Johnson vs. Gleison Tibau

Throughout his UFC career, it’s been very difficult for me to accurately predict Michael Johnson fights. Either he gets thoroughly out-grappled by his opponent and looks awful, or he is allowed to stand and strike and looks great – and it’s hard to know before the fight which Johnson will show up. The bad news for Johnson is that in this fight he’ll be facing the lightweight division’s best wrestler in Gleison Tibau.

Tibau has landed 4.5 takedowns per 15 minutes at 57 percent accuracy. He’s landed 71 total takedowns in his UFC career and at least one takedown in his last 17 fights in a row. He should be able to take Johnson down at some point – and if he does, his powerful grappling from top position should be very difficult for Johnson to deal with. Johnson does not have a good track record of effective grappling off his back.

On the flip side, if Johnson is able to stuff Tibau’s takedowns he should be able to easily win the ensuing striking match. Tibau throws wide, looping strikes that just don’t connect at a very high percentage. But given that Tibau is almost always successful at landing takedowns, and is the far better grappler, I have to pick him to win this fight.

Pick: Gleison Tibau by decision

Manny Gamburyan vs. Dennis Siver

Gamburyan’s fights tend to go one of two ways – either Gamburyan succeeds in landing takedowns and wins, or he fails to land takedowns and loses. Gamburyan is a fairly prolific wrestler who lands 3.4 takedowns per 15 minutes, but does so at just 32 percent accuracy. He can be shut down by an opponent with sharp takedown defense.

Dennis Siver’s takedown defense is in a gray area – at 69 percent, it’s not quite good enough that I can count on him to consistently turn back Gamburyan’s takedown attempts. However, it might be good enough to limit Gamburyan to just one or two takedowns – and in that case, Siver should be able to win on points thanks to his aggressive striking.

One concern I have with Siver is his chin – he’s been knocked down six times in the UFC. However that shouldn’t be a huge problem because Gamburyan has only landed one knockdown of his own. In this fight, Siver is not at high risk of losing by knockout – and that means his combination of aggressive striking and good takedown defense should be good enough for him to win.

Pick: Dennis Siver by decision

Siyar Bahadurzada vs. John Howard

Siyar Bahadurzada is a fighter who needs to face a non-wrestler in order to win fights in the UFC. While he’s a very dangerous striker with terrific knockout power, his grappling is very poor. In his last fight, Bahadurzada was taken down by Dong Hyun Kim and left unable to do much of anything off his back. Unfortunately, he’s facing an opponent in John Howard who lands 3.2 takedowns per 15 minutes at 58 percent accuracy. I think Howard will take him down and grind out a decision win here.

Pick: John Howard by decision

William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker

It’s hard to gauge how good William Macario is compared to the average UFC welterweight. His UFC debut was a submission loss to Leonardo Santos, bringing his overall MMA record to just 6-1. His opponent this time is Bobby Voelker, a fighter who lands a lot of strikes but absorbs even more. Given that Macario has won five fights by TKO, and looked fairly good standing up against Santos, I have serious concerns about Voelker’s ability to absorb punishment in this fight. However it’s also possible that Macario’s striking won’t translate nearly as well to tougher competition. Until I know more about Macario…

Pick: Bobby Voelker by decision

Estevan Payan vs. Robbie Peralta

Estevan Payan and Robbie Peralta are both strikers who have had struggles winning against tough competition. Payan lost his UFC debut to Jeremy Stephens after being completely unable to defend Stephens’ takedowns. Meanwhile, Peralta is 2-1 in the UFC but with wins against lower-level opponents in Jason Young and Mike Lullo. Still, I think Peralta should be favored in this match because of his superior knockout power. Peralta has landed four knockdowns in five UFC/Strikeforce fights and has 12 wins by TKO overall. Meanwhile Payan has only won five out of 18 career fights by TKO. In a fight featuring two aggressive strikers Peralta’s increased ability to win by knockout is enough for me to favor him.

Pick: Robbie Peralta by TKO

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One response to “UFC 168 Predictions: Preliminary Fights

  1. Howard Morton December 27, 2013 at 4:26 am

    I like:
    Payan
    Macario
    Siyar
    Gamburyan
    Johnson

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