The Super Bowl is just a day away, but tonight’s spotlight is squarely focused on a mixed martial arts legend. Former UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva, is returning to the octagon after a 13-month absence.
But SIlva is not the only star returning to the octagon tonight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Perennial “bad boy” Nick Diaz is also returning, after an even longer hiatus. It is basically a “super fight” that had been in the back of the mind of many MMA fans over the years, but was in the backburner, compared to the long-awaited “Silva vs. Jones” and “Silva vs. GSP” matchups. Of course, neither of those is happening. However, this one is.
But aside from that fight, there is still a lot worth checking out on the card. There are several intriguing bouts scheduled, from beginning to end. There are no debutants on the card, nor are there any squash matches. It’s all established veterans, some of whom are hoping to prove they’re still worthy of their roster spot.
The main card is a mix of exciting and potentially lackluster bouts, but is headlined by a doozie. Each man has fought in another division, and there may be a 25+ pound weight difference between the main eventers! Also, neither MMA superstar has fought since 2013. That fight could go any which way, but I will address that fight after making picks for each of the other ones.
Speaking of picks, my UFC on FOX 14 edition was a mix of good and bad. I went 6-2 in the prelims, but a thoroughly disappointing 1-3 on the main card. As a result, my overall record for this year is 24-11. Hopefully, I will fare better this week than I did last week. It’s hard to do much worse. Let’s start off with the prelims, before another article for the main card. That way, the article is shorter, and less hassle is involved.
Fight Pass Prelims (7/6c, UFC FIght Pass)
Andy Enz (7-2) vs. Thiago Santos (9-3)
The first of three Fight pass bouts is a Middleweight bout that does possess some intrigue. Enz enters the fight just a day short of a full year since his first UFC bout. He lost his UFC debut last February 1st to Clint Hester, and followed up with a loss to Marcelo Guimares. Both were decisions, but any loss to Santos may end his UFC tenure.
Enz’s opponent, Thiago Santos, is a black belt in Muay Thai, and has experience in Capoeira, as well as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He, too, is in a must win, having gone 1-2 with the UFC thus far. He lost his debut against Cezar Ferreira back in August 2013 at UFC 163. He followed up with a 23-second tko win over Rony Markes last March, but lost his most recent bout, a short notice contest against Uriah Hall, at UFC 175 last May.
As for the fight, anything can happen. Santos may be more well rounded, but he’s undersized for his division. Also, his grappling has not been tested much in the UFC, which is Enz’s specialty. Still, I see him doing just enough to get a tough, hard fought victory, that might be somewhat fun. Prediction: Santos via split decision.
Richardson Moreira (7-2) vs. Ildemar Alcantara (20-7)
The next bout is another Middleweight contest, between two guys that need a win to extend their UFC tenures. Moreira began his career 7-1, had only gone past the first round once, and was decent during the third season of TUF: Brazil. However, he lost his UFC debut to Marcos Rogerio de Lima just 20 seconds into the contest. A loss here might not necessarily see him lose his job, but it will put him in precarious waters.
Moreira’s opponent is, well, a tough test. Alcantara is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and a finisher, having ended 16 of his victories early. However, the former Jungle Fight Middleweight Champion has lost two of his last three UFC bouts, relegating him to Fight Pass bouts, and a potential pink slip with a loss. He is not the most reliable guy, but I still believe he’ll find a way to get the win. Prediction: Alcantara via submission, round 2.
Diego Brandao (18-10) vs. Jimmy Hettes (11-2)
The headlining Fight Pass bout is one that’s sure to please, for at least part of the first round. That’s because after that, Brandao gasses and flounders. The TUF 14 winner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt did so in his last win over Daniel Pineda back in August 2013, and is coming off of two straight first round losses. The first was a submission loss to Dustin Poirier just 65 seconds into the UFC 162 main event opening bout, and the latter was a tko loss to Conor McGregor last July. If he loses tonight, he may be released.
Meanwhile, Hettes is also in a precarious position. He is a brown belt in both Brailian Jiu Jitsu and Judo, and has submitted ten opponents, but has lost two of three. As is the case with Brandao, a loss could result in a release.
In the end, I believe this fight should be televised. And considering Brandao’s gas tank, as well as each fighter’s finishing prowess, this fight might end early, and sneak into either the televised prelims or main card as time filler. I believe Hettes can win, but I have a hunch Brandao will get the early finish. Prediction: Brandao via ko, round 1.
Televised Prelims (8/7c, FS1)
Tom Watson (17-7) vs. Rafael Natal (18-6-1)
The first televised fight of the card might be entertaining,but has high potential of being a dud. Both Natal and Watson have the ability to finish, but neither has garnered one over the past two years. Each fighter has credentials, as Natal is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. However, Watson’s resume is crazy. He owns lower level belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kyokushin Karate, but that’s where the known credentials end. He also has a belt in Lau Gar Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and Savate. Honestly, I have no idea what any of those are, and it hurts my head just thinking about them. Alas, I see this being a boring affair, with Watson doing what he usually does: underperform. He’s 2-3 in the UFC, and a loss will likely send him back to BAMMA. Hopefully, he resurges there. Prediction: Natal via split decision.
(6) John Lineker (24-7) vs. (3) Ian McCall (13-4-1)
The next fight is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It will also be the last Flyweight fight in which Lineker will ever participate. that’s because for the fifth time, he missed weight on the initial try. This time, he missed wight by five pounds, and will be forced to move up to Bantamweight after the fight, which was his initial weight class. He moved down when he entered the UFC, so that he could get a quick title shot. However, he lost his debut, and despite going 5-1 with four knockouts since, his weight fiascos have prevented him from garnering any title shots. The guy is a knockout artist, and is as good a finisher as there is in the division, but he’ll have to move up now.
Before Lineker moves up though, the former Jungle Fight Bantamweight Champion will have to face former Tachi Palace Flyweight Champion Ian McCall. He was the original favorite to win the UFC’s Flyweight tournament nearly three years ago, but fell just short. He wound up with a draw against current champion Demetrius Johnson in March 2012, and lost a close decision in the June 2012 rematch. He lost his next fight against Joseph Benavidez at UFC 156 on February 2, 2013, but has won two straight decisions since. And, judging by the current state of the division, a win for him could result in a title shot soon. However, I feel as if Lineker is still better, and will get it done tonight. He’ll get some shots in, an d before long, a knockout blow will land. Prediction: Lineker via tko, round 2.
Ed Herman (22-10, NC) vs. Derek Brunson (12-3)
The next fight just screams “meh”. Both fighters are about mid-level, and the winner will likely become a gatekeeper in the division soon. Herman has been fighting for 13 years, is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, and has submitted 13 opponents. However, the last time he garnered a finish was roughly three years ago.
Meanwhile, Brunson still has some potential. He may be just 3-3 since beginning his career 9-0, but he is 3-1 in the UFC. The lone loss came against rising contender Yoel Romero, and Brunson was winning until getting finished late in the January 2014 bout. I feel he has more left in the tank, and will prevail. Prediction: Brunson via decision.
Miesha Tate (15-5) vs. Sara McMann (8-1)
The headlining prelim fight is a popular one amongst two fighters with a lot in common. Both are amongst two of the most well-known female Bantamweights in the UFC, after Ronda Rousey. Each fighter has faced Rousey in the UFC, and got finished by her. Oh, and each woman is a wrestler.
Tate has fought Rousey twice, and looked relatively hopeless each time. She lost her Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight belt to Rousey in March 2012, and lost the rematch in the UFC in December 28’s UFC 168 co-main event. Each fight saw Tate last longer than any previous Rousey opponent ever had, with the latter fight going into the third round. Still, she’s just 2-2 in the UFC, with each loss being a finish, and each win, her last two fights, were both decisions. Even if she wins, her chances of getting another title fight soon are relatively slim.
McMann, on the other hand, might still have somewhat of a shot against Rousey. She actually looked decent in her February 22, 2014 fight against the champion, before a knee to the body resulted in a tko loss for McMann. However, she still has a smothering style, and has never lost another fight. She is the best female wrestler in MMA, being an olympic silver medalist, and will “lay n’ pray” her way to a decision. Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision.