UFC Dublin Preview and predictions

After a ten day hiatus, the UFC put forth arguably the most entertaining show of the year on Wednesday night, and quite possibly one of the best ever with UFC Fight Night 45.

Every main card fight ended via finish, as did three of the televised prelims. The two fights that did go the distance (Claudia Gadelha vs. Tina Lahdemaki and Gleison Tibau vs. Pat Healy) were fairly entertaining as well, so all in all, it was a pretty epic card.

Later today, the UFC is hoping to have another entertaining card, this time in Dublin, Ireland. There, outspoken Irish MMA star Conor McGregor will take on another controversial fighter in TUF 14 Winner Diego Brandao, in the main event.

The card is only the second one to take place in Ireland, after UFC 93 back in January 2009. The Irish are clearly thirsty for the UFC’s return, which was made clear when all 8,000 tickets for the event sold out within a few hours. Whether that was due to the eager anticipation of the UFC’s return to Ireland, the return of their homegrown start McGregor or a combination of both, it’s pretty clear that they simply cannot wait for the card to kick off.

Unfortunately, anyone that wants to watch it in the United States will need a subscription to UFC FIght Pass,  If the card lives up to it’s promise, the money spent on a subscription could be well worth it.

As far as my predictions go, things went well at Fight Night 45, where I went 9-2 with my picks. The successful picks raise my overall record a full hundred wins more than losses, which now stands at 168-68-1, with a no contest. Hopefully, the success can continue later today.

Preliminary Card (12:30/11:30am, UFC Fight Pass)

Patrick Holohan (9-0-1) vs. Josh Sampo (11-3)

Opening up the card is an intriguing flyweight bout featuring one of Dublin’s own in Patrick Hollohan. Hollohan is a submission specialist who hasn’t fought for two years, while Sampo has fought six times over that two year span, going 5-1 in that time. The lone loss came against former Bellator Champion Zach Machovsky in his last fight, at UFC 170.

Holohan is good, but he may be too rusty for this fight. Heck, even if he had been healthy over the past two years, I don’t think I’d be able to pick him in a fight against the well rounded American. Prediction: Sampo via unanimous decision. 

Cody Dononvan (8-4) vs. Nikita Krylov (16-4)

Up next is a light heavyweight fight between two desperate fighters. Donovan is a fighter who has lost via knockout in all of his losses, including his last two fights overall. That would make it very easy to dismiss this fight as an easy finish for Krylov.

Unfortunately for the multitalented Ukranian, he lost his light heavyweight debut less than a minute and a half into his main event opening bout at UFC 171. Still, I have faith that the Kyokushin and submission star will prevail in his second light heavyweight bout. Prediction: Krylov via tko, round 2. 

Tor Troeng (16-5-1) vs. Trevor Smith (11-5) 

Another fight between two fighters desperate for a win takes place next on the card. This time, the matchup is a middleweight tilt between Sweden’s Tor Troeng and Trevor Smith.

Smith has lost  four of his last six, including three of four under the Zuffa banner. The first of those losses came against the rising Tim Kennedy, who choked Smith out in the final card in Strikeforce history.

With the UFC, Smith has lost an entertaining split decision against Ed Herman, barely edged out Brian Houston in January, and got knocked out against submission specialist Thales Leites in less than a minute back in April. The last loss was one that probably could have resulted in Smith’s dismissal, but he gets a final chance against Troeng.

The Swede may have lost his last fight, but it was a Fight of the Night winning decision loss against the heavily favored Rafael Natal back in September. Overall, he has won 12 of his last 15 bouts, and while I do believe Smith still has something left to offer in the UFC, I don’t think it will be enough. Prediction: Troeng via unanimous decision.

Mike King (5-0) vs. Cathal Pendred (13-2-1)

A pair of TUF 19 contestants face off next on the card. The season was quite a bore, and the fight most likely will be. After all, it’s hard to imagine an entertaining Cathal Pendred fight. He actually has six ko/tko wins, but the last actual finish came back in 2011.

Since then, he’s laid and prayed his way to victory, and the sole reason why anyone was calling for him to be in the UFC is his relationship with Conor McGregor.  Unfortunately, his fighting style is the exact opposite of McGregor’s.

Mike King is a submission specialist, so it is possible that he could pull off one against a guy who loves being on the canvas. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. Prediction: Pendred via unanimous decision. 

Phil Harris (22-11, 2NC) vs. Neil Seery (13-10)

For the second time on the card, a hometown flyweight takes the stage, as Meil Seery battles Phil Harris for the second time in his career. Harris actually got cut, and then brought back without fighting once, likely due to his opponent, Louis Gaudinot’s failed test. As a result, this is probably a lose and go home situation for the British submission specialist and Judo black belt.

Seery is a Dublin native who is also possibly fighting for his job with the UFC. The former Cage Warriors Flyweight Champion will attempt to do so by aiming to avenge his May 2010 unanimous decision loss to Harris. He fought valiantly in his UFC debut back in March against former Bantamweight Brad Pickett, but his four fight winning streak was ended on that fateful  night in London.

The strategy for Seery is simple: don’t get taken down, or else you’ll get submitted for the sixth time in your career. Seery seems much quicker at Flyweight than Bantamweight, but honestly, I have a hunch that he’ll get finished in this fight. I hope he doesn’t but if such a thing were to happen, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. Prediction: Harris via submission, round 2.

Ilir Latifi (8-3, 1NC) vs. Chris Dempsey (10-1)

I’ll keep it short on this one. Dempsey is a middleweight. He is making his UFC debut against a powerful light heavyweight who retired Cyrille Diabate. The only hope Dempsey has is a Latifi injury and a prayer. Prediction: Latifi via submission, round 1.

Main Card (3/2pm, UFC Fight Pass)

Norman Parke (19-2-1) vs. Naoyuki Kotani (33-10-7)

Opening up the main card is hometown TUF: Smashes Lightweight Tournament winner Norman Parke against a game Japanese journeyman in Kotani.

Honestly, I don’t see what’s special about Parke. He’s been getting “meh” opponents througout his UFC tenure, but he’s been a favorite in seemingly every one. He’s good, but quite frankly, I think he’s in for a rude awakening against a guy who’s garnered 25 submissions, including 23 in the first round. Prediction: Kotani via submission, round 2.

Brad Pickett (24-8) vs. Ian McCall (12-4-1)

For the third time on the card, a flyweight fight will take place. This time, Brad Pickett will make his second flyweight appearance, this time against Ian McCall. I don’t understand why so many “experts” seem to be picking McCall here. Sure, Pickett is past his prime, and he looked far from great against Neil Seery in his flyweight debut, but McCall might be the most overrated fighter in the weight class!

Since entering the UFC, McCall got a controversial draw against the only UFC Flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson, then lost a unanimous decision against both he and Joseph Benavidez, before barely beating former UFC flyweight Illiarde Santos. I say former because since that August 2013 fight, Santos lost via tko to Chris Cariaso in October, and was subsequently cut from the promotion.

To me, this fight is a tossup at best. I don’t think Pickett is near what he used to be, but I still think he’s better than McCall. In the end, I have to pick him. Prediction: Pickett via split decision.

Gunnar Nelson (12-0-1) vs. Zak Cummings (17-3)

Over the years, there have been many hype trains in the UFC. Perhaps no train has been as secretly showcased as that of Gunnar Nelson, who probably should be 13-0 at the moment. I say probably, because despite his draw at his pro debut, it looked as if he had won the fight. If anyone disagrees, they can decide for themselves. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvM_UMw5cnI)

In his previous three impressive UFC outings, Nelson has fought on Facebook, Fuel TV, and Fight Pass. Once again, the stage for Nelson is not mainstream. Perhaps a win tonight will shift things up in his favor.

Anyway’s Nelson is still undefeated, and Cummings is solid, but I don’t think he’s good enough. He may have more submission wins than Nelson (nine to Nelson’s seven), but Nelson is better, in my opinion. The Brazil Jiu Jitsu and Goju-ryu black belt should have this one, any way he wants it. Prediction: Nelson via submission, round 3.

Conor McGregor (14-2) vs. Diego Brandao (18-9)

In the evening’s headline bout, the Irish Chael Sonnen takes the center stage, against the violent but troubled Diego Brandao. On paper, this looks like a fight tailor made for McGregor, seeing how Brandao has five knockout losses in his career. However, McGregor’s record isn’t spotless, and his two losses just happen to have come via submission, which the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Brandao is more than capable of pulling off, even though McGregor hasn’t lost since 2010.

Before I make my pick, let me put Brandao’s story out, for anyone who isn’t aware of it. After his father died when Brandao was 16, he began skipping school and selling drugs to provide for his family.

Eventually, he got his life straightened out by dedicating his life to MMA, and as a member of the TUF 14 cast, he knocked out Jesse Newell, Steven Siler and Bryan Caraway in the first round of his three fights in the house.

In the finale, he submitted Dennis Bermudez to win The Ultimate Fighter, and earned $80,000 in bonus money for the submission, as well as partaking in the card’s Fight of the Night. After that fight, he lost a unanimous decision against Darren Elkins, before winning a decision over Joey Gambino. He submitted Pablo Garza in the first round back in April 2013, and in the first televised bout of the first UFC card in FS1 history, he garnered a decision victory over Daniel Pineda.

Trouble brewed its ugly head towards Brandao at UFC 168, for which he not only weighed in over the limit, but also allegedly threatened to stab his opponent, Dustin Poirier, in the neck before the weigh ins. The end result of the fight was a first round knockout loss for Brandao in the final seconds of the first round, and his name became a notorious one (pardon the pun).

Since then, Brandao had been scheduled to fight Will Chope in late March and newcomer Brian Ortega on May 31, but Chope got cut the day before the fight for controversial reasons, while Brandao had to pull out of the Ortega fight due to injury. He takes this fight on short notice for Cole Miller, and it should be a fun one.

In the end, I’m not sure how Brandao can win this one, unless he lands an early punch. The Brazilian has deathly power and terrific submission skills, but he gasses quickly and goes headfirst in his brawls. That opens up the opportunity for McGregor to knock him out, and the Irishman fights in crazy angles and stances, which makes it difficult to imagine McGregor getting taken down. Unless McGregor lands a takedown and gets caught in a submission, I see him taking this one. Prediction: McGregor via tko(Brandao gassing and punches), round 2.

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