UFC 191’s main card is about to kick off. It’s going face-to-face with the first weekend of college football for the 2015 season, which makes the beleaguered card even tougher to care about. That said, it’s a decent card, for the most part.
In the main event, UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrius Johnson takes on John Dodson, the man who gave him the toughest match since “Mighty Mouse” won the Featherweight title, nearly three years since their initial fight. Also on the main card, Andrei Arlovski fights Frank Mir ten years since their initially scheduled title bout, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson partakes in his first fight since his championship title loss to Daniel Cormier, and Paige Vanzant partakes in yet another squash match.
Here are my picks for tonight’s main card.
Main card (10/9c, PPV)
Paige Vanzant (5-1) vs. Alex Chambers (5-2)
The main card opens up with the final female contest of the card. Paige Vanzant, the UFC’s newest coddled prospect, is taking on Alex Chambers. Chambers is a 36-year old Astrophysicist who lost her UFC debut via first round submission last December, and was losing throughout her last fight against Kailin Curran, before pulling off a stunning comeback submission win in the final round. Anything short of a dominant victory for PVZ would be stunning. Chambers is tough, and Vanzant isn’t the biggest finisher out there, so I see this fight going long, if not the distance. Prediction: Vanzant via dominant decision or late finish.
Jan Blachowicz (18-4) vs. Cory Anderson (5-1)
The next fight is a solid Light Heavyweight bout. Anderson was one of the winners of TUF 19, while Blachowicz is the former KSW Light Heavyweight champion who dominated Ilir Latifi in his UFC debut, before succumbing to a boring loss against Jimi Manuwa.
Anderson can win, but I’m just not sold on him. He’s had his ups and downs, and is wildly unpredictable. Meanwhile, Blachowicz was uninspiring in his last bout, but I’ve been high on him for quite a while now. He may wind up letting me down tonight, as he did in his last fight, but he tends to go on winning streaks following losses. I expect him to get back to his dominant ways tonight, prevailing via finish early in the fight. At least, I hope he does. Prediction: Blachowicz via tko, round 1.
(1) Anthony Johnson (19-5) vs. Jimi Manuwa (15-1)
This fight should continue the trend of maulings in the main card. Don’t let the records confuse you. Manuwa is a solid fighter, but has proven that he’s not a contender. Instead, he is like a pick-me-up for fallen Light Heavyweight title challengers. Last time he fought someone of that stature, he was thoroughly annihilated by Alexander Gustaffson early last year. That fight was Gustafsson’s first fight since losing the legendary title fight against Jon Jones at UFC 165 in September of 2013. Well, this fight is Johnson’s first since losing his Light Heavyweight title fight against Daniel Cormier in May. Johnson is much more of a devastating finisher than Gustaffson is, so expect a brutal evisceration tonight, courtesy of “Rumble” himself. Prediction: Johnson via decapitation, round 1.
(4) Andrei Arlovski (24-10) vs (10) Frank Mir (18-9)
The co-main event of the evening is a matchup ten years in the making. Both men were former UFC Heavyweight champions, and both are undergoing a career rebirth. And yet, it sort of ticks me off. I like both fighters, and both legends should be fighting someone else. Arlovski should be fighting Fabricio Werdum for the title, not Cain Velasquez. Meanwhile, Mir should be fighting Ben Rothwell, or at least someone not as highly ranked as Arlovski. Granted, he’s won two straight via knockout, but Arlovski is on another level!
Once considered washed-up after losing four straight fights, “The Pit Bull” has gone 9-1 with a no contest since that streak. The lone loss came against Anthony Johnson in the first ever main event in WSOF’s history, back in mid-2012, and since entering the UFC, he has gone 3-0, with a pair of performance bonuses to cap off his last two fights, including arguably the most entertaining first round fight in MMA history against Travis Browne in May.
Honestly, Frank Mir can win this. He might be the best submission fighter in UFC Heavyweight history, having submitted the likes of Minotauro Nogueira and Brock Lesnar inside the octagon. However, it would be unjust if Arlovski were to go from a potential title shot, to a loss against someone he shouldn’t be fighting. So, for the sake of justice, I will go with the Belorussian legend. Prediction: Arlovski via tko, round 1.
UFC Flyweight Championship: (c) Demetrius Johnson (22-2-1) vs. (1) John Dodson (17-6)
The main event of the evening features one of the most underrated, under-respected fighters in the UFC today. Demetrius Johnson has cleaned out his weight class over the past three years He has finished four of his last five opponents, twice in the first round, and twice in the final minute, including winning in the final second against Kyoji Horiguchi. And yet, not many people seem to care.
Alas, now he faces the man who gave him his toughest fight in this division, John Dodson. Granted, Joseph Benavidez fought him hard in the fight where Johnson won the title at UFC 152 in September of 2012, as did Ian McCall earlier that year. However, neither of those men legitimately put “Mighty Mouse” in danger, which Dodson did in January of 2013.
Meanwhile, Dodson has been on a tear since entering the UFC. He knocked out current UFC Bantamweight champion TJ DIllashaw at the TUC 14 Finale back in December 2011, and has gone 6-1 in his UFC career to date. He is undefeated in the UFC, barring the decision loss to Johnson. He’s won three straight fights since that January 2013 night, including two via knockout. He looked far from great against Zach Makovsky in May, but seeing how it was his first fight in a year, due to surgery, it’s forgivable.
Honestly, I’m rooting for Dodson here. He’s much more engaging as a person, can actually market the ill-promoted division, and has a fan-friendly style. He can finish fights, unlike most Flyweight fighters. He has knocked out eight opponents, and can submit folks as well. That said, he’s 7-6 in decision fights, with each and every one of his victories coming in that manner. I’d love to see Dodson win, but I’m not betting on it. Johnson tends to do much better in rematches that first-time in fights, as evidenced by his second victory over Ian McCall, and his first round knockout finish of Joseph Benavidez in December 2013. I don’t see the champion ending the night early, but I do see him winning here. I like him, but my heart won’t be rooting for him. Prediction: Johnson via unanimous decision. Heart pick: Dodson via tko.