First off, this is my 300th career article on this site! That said, I get to celebrate with a rare Sunday night of UFC action. The card consists of some fairly fascinating prelims, for sure. However, it’s the main card that should steal the spotlight. Both main headliners may be well past their primes, but either can still potentially pull off a finish. The co-main event could be fireworks, and there’s only one real squash match! Oh, and Rustam Khabilov returns against the always game Adriano Martins. This one could be fun. Buckle your seat belts, because this could be a crazy ride.
Main card (8/7c, FS1)
Santiago Ponzinibbio (19-2) vs. Sean Strickland (15-0)
The opening bout of the main card features a pair of Welterweights who each boast a lot of potential, have varying styles, and have a knack for finishing fights. Ponzinibbio is a powerful striker with solid takedowns, having knocked out 11 opponents, while submitting seven others. The TUF: Brazil 2 contestant avenged his UFC debut loss to Ryan LaFlare with an 80-second knockout over Wendell Oliveira back in September.
Meanwhile, Strickland is a wrestler who will be making his Welterweight debut. The undefeated King of the Cage Middleweight champion is 2-0 in the UFC, but probably should have been rendered the loser in his most recent fight against Luke Barnatt last May. He has won seven times via knockout, and also owns four submissions. I’m not going to pick him to win via finish, but I do see him grappling his way to a victory. Prediction: Strickland via decision.
#8 Iuri Alcantara (31-5, 1NC) vs Frankie Saenz (9-2)
The next fight is a clear cut squash match. It also pisses me off. Iuri Alcantara is one of the best Bantamweights in the world. He has won 13 times via knockout, and has utilized his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the tune of 12 submissions. He has win four of his lat five bouts, including three straight, and his whole career has basically been a winning streak. And yet, he keeps getting stuck on Brazilian Fight Night cards, in squash matches. At some point, the UFC’s gotta give him another challenge. He actually fought a decent fight against Urijah Faber back in August 2013, and I want to see him fight contenders soon. Perhaps a dominant victory over the streaking Frankie Saenz will earn him just that. Saenz is good, but he’ll cower up tonight. Prediction: Alcantara via tko, round 1.
Rustam Khabilov (17-2) vs Adriano Martins (26-7)
The next fight is one that I’m really looking forward to. Khabilov is a suplexing monster, winning the only UFC fight in history via suplex knockout. The Sambo, Gaidojitsu and Hand-to-hand combat specialist can flat out brawl. He is 3-1 in the UFC, with his last fight being a submission loss against former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Benson Henderson last June. He was actually winning the fight, according to many experts, before succumbing to a rear-naked choke in the fourth round of that June 7th main event.
Khabilov’s opponent, Adriano Martins, is quite a striker. The former Jungle Fight and WFE Lightweight champion has won seven of his last eight, 13 of his last 15, and has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is a very good fighter, and will have to do his best to keep the fight standing. I think he’ll try, but he’ll get suplexed a few times en route to a tough but entertaining decision loss. Prediction: Khabilov via unanimous decision.
Cezar Ferreira (8-3) vs. Sam Alvey (24-6, 1NC)
Up next is a Middleweight tilt that, well, many fans seem to believe will be intensely underwhelming. Both TUF veterans (Alvey was part of TUF 16, Ferreira won TUF: Brazil 1) have put up some stinkers lately. I’d love to see Alvey win, seeing how he loves to smile (his nickname is “Smilin”,) he owns 15 knockouts, and has some decent skills. However, he still made Tom Watson look good, and that’s always a bad thing.
As for Ferreira, well, he’s failed to impress in the UFC, all but once. He may be 4-1 in the UFC, but only one was a finish. He won that fight via submission in 38 seconds, but he got finished by C.B. Dolloway, and each of his three other UFC wins have either been gifted decisions, or boring, or both. So, even though I think he’ll win, I will not pick him. Might as well flip a coin, and hope it lands on heads. Prediction: Alvey via tko, round 2.
#6 Edson Barboza (15-2) vs. #12 Michael Johnson (15-8)
For many, the co-main event of the evening is being viewed as the main event of the evening. Both fighters, unlike the headliners, have been fighting well of late, and deserve their rankings.
Johnson is a wrestler who lost the TUF 12 Finale against Jonathan Brookins, and began his UFC tenure with a 1-2 start. On the verge of potentially getting cut with another loss, he reeled off three straight wins. Then, he lost two straight, and was back in jeopardy. SInce then, he’s upset Joe Lauzon, knocked out Gleison Tibau, and forced Melvin Guillard out of the UFC. The wrestler has seven knockout wins, but six submission losses.
Meanwhile, Barboza might be the most dazzling striker in the UFC. The Muai Thai star has a multiple black belt in both that and Taekwondo, has 31 combined knockout victories in Kickboxing and MMA, and is the UFC’s leader in finishes via kicks, with four. One of them was the 2012 wheel kick against Terry Etim that is widely considered amongst the best knockouts in UFC history, and he also boasts two leg kick knockout victories.
In the end, I see this fight going the distance. I think Johnson will try to take Barboza down, and will succeed on occasion. Still, I see Barboza doing enough damage via striking to pull off a win. Prediction: Barboza via decision.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (18-6-1) vs. Frank Mir (16-9)
Finally, it’s the main event of the evening. And oh, what a depressing main event it is. Just a few years back, these two men were part of the main and co-main event of one of the most entertaining pay-per-views of all time, UFC 146. In the main event, Silva took on previous, eventual and current UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, while Mir took on then champion Junior dos Santos. Both men got dominated, and things have not been the same since.
For Silva, there have been highs and lows since that loss. In October 2012, less than five months after the loss to Velasquez, he defeated Travis Browne after Brown suffered a leg injury. Then, he pulled off one of the most inspirational comebacks in UFC history, knocking out former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at UFC 157. Then, he fought Velasquez again in May 2013, at UFC 160, for the title. He got dominated yet again, falling in just 81 seconds.
In December 2013, he fought Mark Hunt to a draw, in what is considered perhaps the greatest Heavyweight fight in UFC history. But, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, was suspended for nine months. Upon his return in September 2014, he was shockingly knocked out by Andrei Arlovski, and is now in danger of losing his job. Add in the fact that he’s been dealing with chronic acromegaly, and the guy gets my sympathy. That said, he’s got a black belt in Shotakan Karate, Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so his skills are still somewhat present, even without TRT.
As for Mir, well, the guy looks done. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kenpo Karate. He has submitted nine opponents, including Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. But, he has not won a fight since breaking Big Nog’s arm in December 2011, and has lost four straight. He got knocked out viciously in two of those fights, and in the two decisions, he accomplished next to nothing. Even if Silva has basically nothing left, I still do not believe he’s as shot as Mir is. So, I’ll go with him, I guess. Prediction: Silva via tko, late round 1 or early round 2.