Frankie Edgar vs. Urijah Faber
The UFC has engaged in some unorthodox matchmaking to give Manila a main event featuring former champions Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber, and I’m for it. Weight class differences don’t mean as much as they get credit for; fighters frequently move up or down a weight class with minimal impact. I like the idea of top bantamweights facing top featherweights, or top flyweights facing top bantamweights. It opens up a lot more possibilities for compelling fights to happen.
With that said, even though Edgar vs. Faber has been assigned the label of “superfight,” it doesn’t feel like one. The fight itself hasn’t generated a lot of “buzz” and there are reasons to think it won’t be a particularly close fight.
Edgar enters with statistical advantages in every area except knockout power. He lands strikes more often than Faber, gets hit less often, and lands takedowns more frequently. Faber has consistently fought some of the toughest fighters in the world at bantamweight and featherweight, but the same could be said of Edgar at featherweight and lightweight.
It’s very difficult to envision Faber winning a five-round decision against Edgar. To do so, Faber will need to win at least three rounds due to superior striking output or ground control. Neither of those seems likely; Edgar is fast, tough to take down, and is very good at exploding back to his feet when he does get taken down. Faber is a terrific scrambler but Edgar probably won’t give him many opportunities to do so.
Faber’s most realistic path to victory is to finish Edgar, but even that seems pretty unlikely. Faber’s most common way to finish an opponent is to hurt them with standing strikes and use that as an opportunity to finish them with a choke of some sort. But Faber does not have exceptional knockout power, and Edgar has never been finished before.
I expect this to end up looking like Faber’s UFC 132 match against Dominick Cruz, or his UFC 149 match against Renan Barao. In those fights, neither Cruz nor Barao could be described as dominant, but they consistently won rounds due to superior striking volume and on-point takedown defense. I believe Edgar will defeat Faber in very similar fashion.
Pick: Frankie Edgar by decision
Gegard Mousasi vs. Costas Philippou
If styles make fights, then this is a pretty wretched matchup for Philippou. He’s a boxer who will be facing an opponent in Mousasi who is a kickboxer – and the statistical evidence suggests that Mousasi’s striking is far more effective than Philippou’s. Philippou actually enters with a significant strike deficit while Mousasi has superior volume and far superior defense.
If I was advising Philippou, I would encourage him to try a plan B and look to take Mousasi down, forcing him to be judicious with his kicks and keeping him off-balance. Philippou’s history, however, is to engage his opponent in a striking battle, and eventually win or lose at standing distance. I expect him to do the same against Mousasi, in which case I see Mousasi winning all three rounds comfortably.
Pick: Gegard Mousasi by decision
Luke Barnatt vs. Mark Munoz
Munoz’s downfall has been pretty difficult to watch. At one point, Munoz was widely considered a top five middleweight in the UFC, on the strength of wins over Demian Maia, C.B. Dollaway, and Chris Leben. Munoz was subsequently given a series of fights against top-tier opponents, and got mostly destroyed by Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, and Gegard Mousasi. In his last fight, Munoz finally got a more appropriate opponent in Roan Carneiro, but it only took 1 minute and 40 seconds for Carneiro to put Munoz to sleep.
If Munoz was still at the top of his game, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him to beat Barnatt. In his current state, it’s a much tougher call. Barnatt is a very tall and slow middleweight who uses his length to land strikes at a very high pace, but also struggles to defend strikes well, a common problem in very tall fighters. I believe Munoz can out-point Barnatt with strikes over three rounds, but Munoz also has a glass chin. This feels like a fight where either Munoz will win by decision, or Barnatt will win by very early knockout. I hate this pick, but…
Pick: Mark Munoz by decision
Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Neil Magny
My statistics have Magny as one of the ten best welterweight fighters in the UFC. After adjusting for regression, Magny lands 3.57 significant strikes per minute and absorbs just 1.88. He has a very good close-range, clinch striking and takedown game that he uses to pressure opponents and keep them off-balance. Magny’s opponent is Hyun Gyu Lim, an aggressive striker with big knockout power but a tendency to absorb a lot of strikes as well. Lim’s power should make this an exciting fight to watch, but in the end, I believe Magny’s pace and well-rounded game will be enough to earn a decision victory.
Pick: Neil Magny by decision
- Yui Chul Nam over Phillipe Nover
- Levan Makashvili over Mark Eddiva
- Jon Tuck over Tae Hyun Bang
- Zhang Lipeng over Kajan Johnson
- Dhiego Lima over Li Jingliang
- Royston Wee over Ning Guangyou
- Roldan Sangcha-an over Jon Delos Reyes
- Nolan Ticman over Yao Zhikui