Greetings, and salutations. Are you guys ready to see some UFC gold being strapped around men of various nationalities and sizes? Like, soon? It’s a good time to be an MMA fan.
Since the UFC is holding approximately 146 title fights over the course of the next five months, I thought I’d literally run them down and offer a quick preview for each one. Also, the comedy will be golden when I publish this piece and Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, and Anthony Pettis are all simultaneously injured in the same tragic boating accident.
TJ Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao II for the bantamweight title on August 30th, 2014
The announcement of this rematch had me completely miffed. Did TJ Dillashaw not lay enough of an ass kicking on Renan the first time? Did it come out that Renan fought the first fight right after he had a frontal lobotomy? Was this fight a huge blockbuster draw? No. No no no.
So why do it again? Renan Barao had one good round in the first encounter, and it was a round he still lost on my scorecard. This isn’t quite at the level of ”Tito vs. Ken III”, but it’s pretty incomprehensible.
Renan Barao is still a great fighter, and I’m interested to see if he can make any adjustments this time around. But I don’t see why TJ isn’t getting an opportunity to establish his title reign by fighting a fresh contender. I also don’t see how he doesn’t continue to improve his slick striking and excellent wrestling. Dillashaw by decision in a closer, but still not that close, fight.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso for the flyweight title on September 27th, 2014
It really is a bummer than Jones-Cormier got bumped off of this card. This card was like an elegant 12 course meal, every course with a purpose, every dish a building block for the next one. Dom Cruz’s comeback fight against a streaking Takeya Mizugaki … Conor McGregor fighting for his right to party against perennial top ten guy Dustin Poirier … Amanda Nunes vs. Cat Zingano … fun fluff like Patrick Cote vs. Stephen Thompson … Donald Cerrone fighting for the 43rd time this year (against late addition Eddie Alvarez, no less) … Timmy Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero and Yoel Romero’s unpredictable bowels … I mean, this fucking thing had it all. Jones-Cormier was going to be the $25 bowl of chocolate mousse at the end of the meal. Instead, we’re going to get a so-so plate of tiramisu in DJ-Cariaso.
I love Demetrious Johnson, but this will be little more than your typical Mighty Mouse 50-45 whitewash. I saw this fight announcement and thought, “Wow, who does Chris Cariaso have naked pictures of? He’s getting a title shot after beating a talented-but-still-green Louis Smolka and two wild animals in Danny Martinez and Iliarde Santos?!” Ohhhhhh-kay. He’s a decent southpaw muay thai guy, and he’s got a good defensive guard, but he’s cannon fodder for Johnson. Johnson by decision. In fact, screw that. DJ is enough eons beyond Cariaso as an MMA fighter that I see him doggedly pursuing a finish, and getting it. Johnson by submission.
Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes II for the featherweight title on October 25th, 2014
Now we’re talking! I’m torn on this one. Chad Mendes has looked pretty outstanding in his UFC campaign, improving his boxing leaps and bounds to shore up his already outstanding wrestling. He hasn’t fought this year, though, and he looked a tiny bit subpar in his last fight. Then again, Nik Lentz is really difficult to look awesome against, so maybe we shouldn’t hold that against Chad. He just seems like one of those guys that’s going to come out flat every once in awhile, which is a great problem to have considering he still has the ability to win on takedowns even when he’s having an off night.
Jose Aldo’s UFC tenure has been a bit more checkered. Gone is the high flying dynamo from the WEC days, slaughtering people theatrically in under 5 minutes. He’s been replaced by a guy who has a deep knowledge of how to fight conservatively and win rounds. He fights, he gets hurt, he fights, he gets hurt. To add a wrinkle, it’s unclear how injured he is when he actually steps into the cage. Rumor has it that he’s been fighting hurt for years. Who knows.
I still like Aldo here. I don’t see a scenario where Mendes takes him out with punches, unless it’s some sort of crazy ground and pound onslaught. That’s not outside the realm of possibility, as Aldo is notorious for fading late. Still, the odds tell me that Aldo will walk away with another win, this time by decision in a bit more of a competitive fight. Wonder which guy is on steroids?
Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight title on November 15th, 2014
“Cain Velasquez. He has some technical difficulties, but he has ambition and he’s fearless. He wants to win so badly and he’s in great condition. He’s a thinking fighter.” – Fedor Emelianenko
Sometimes, people just say things more effectively than you ever could. That Fedor quote summed up Cain to a tee. I don’t see Fabricio Werdum having much for him, unless he’s somehow able to employ is wildly improved striking game. On the floor, Cain is 2 steps ahead and 5 times as relentless as anyone who dares fight him there. And I’m saying that knowing full well that Cain is facing one of the greatest grapplers in MMA history. Werdum is a pretty heavy striker, and he’s advanced light years in that department, but is he going to stop Cain from taking him down? Maybe at first, but there’s no way he can keep that up AND significantly damage Cain enough. Every Cain Velasquez fight is a 25 minute contest that must feel like 6 hours for his opponents.
I see this as a pretty standard Cain type of win, where his opponent might find a few droplets of success here and there before wilting under the “Jesus, does this guy ever stop?” vibes that Velasquez always gives off. Fabricio will try everything he can to catch Cain with a knee in the clinch or a sub off his back, but he’ll ultimately fall short. Cain by TKO, round 3.
Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort for the middleweight title on December 6th, 2014
My thoughts on this one are well documented. Belfort is too flaky to beat a pro like Weidman. However, kudos to him for somehow making it far enough to have this fight even announced. Thanks to Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva’s nuclear shitstorm of epic fail, Vitor’s shenanigans with TRT are almost an afterthought. Almost.
I use the word “almost” because it will be a small miracle if Belfort is licensed in the state of Nevada. He’s got a checkered history with the NSAC. Maybe he’s on the straight and narrow, but I tend to doubt it. No matter. Juice or no juice, Weidman gets Belfort out of there with a tapout later in the fight.
Also, I’ve heard rumors that Anthony Pettis could fight Gilbert Melendez on this card, so that might be the UFC’s contingency plan in case Belfort pulls a Dr. Hector Oscar Molina at his licensing hearing.
Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight title sometime in December of 2014
Gilbert Melendez is a wonderful fighter. He’s great, but not the best. Anthony Pettis is the best on the planet. My only issue with Pettis is that he fell into that “win the belt and then immediately disappear for a year or more” booby trap that seems to plague new title victors. Whatever. I just want to see this. Pettis is too much on the feet. His footwork, striking variety, and unpredictability should give the traditional boxing game of Melendez fits. If Gil pursues takedowns, Pettis should have more than enough offense off his back to thwart Gil’s top pressure. Pettis by decision.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title on January 3rd, 2015
Normally I ignore pre-fight trash talk, but this has been pretty solid. Jon Jones really does come off horribly, while Cormier is the perfect “Can you believe this guy?!” foil. Seriously though, what kind of man would hang out with Jon Jones? I’m trying to construct this imaginary dude’s personality in my head, and even in my brain, this imaginary dude throws his hands up while he’s hanging with Bones and says “Dude, stop talking in that tone. Everyone thinks you’re lying. Everyone thinks you sound like an affected douche. Just stop. Talk to me like a man.” Then, Jones smiles thinly and continues talking in exactly the same manner. Even when I’m allowed to use my imagination, Jon Jones is a douche.
For this fight to be competitive, Cormier has to figure out a way to get into the clinch. Otherwise, Jones is going to kick his oblique muscles and jump in with slicing elbows all day. Both men are great in the clinch, and if I had to pick one light heavyweight to technically defeat Jones for spurts from there, it would be Cormier.
Jones has more tools, though Cormier does lay claim to the best, most polished tool of the two. The problem is that this isn’t a straight wrestling match. Jones has had tons of cage time to iron out wrinkles in his game and figure out, round by round, minute by minute, how to approach his opponents. He’ll get that done here with a nice mix of outside striking and enough clinch work to wear Cormier out. Jones by decision in a competitive one where he might get hit a bit.
I just realized that I picked all 7 champions to win the fights I wrote about. There’s no way all 7 are winning. The odds are too ludicrous. If I had to pick one challenger to walk out of the octagon with the strap, it’d have to be Melendez, just because of his wrestling game and the fact that Clay Guida did enough bullshit that didn’t matter to convince two judges that he beat Pettis. Which he didn’t. Pettis isn’t the worst matchup in the world for Gil, though. Gun to my head, I’m still picking Pettis. The real winner over the next few months, though, is us. Go MMA.