This Saturday the UFC returns to TD Garden for a star studded night of fights on free television. Getting by various cable TV issues with Fox's newest network and various problems guaranteeing the fighters advertised would make it to the cage in Boston it finally looks as if this main card is set in stone. Here I provide my predictions for each main card affair.
Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Johnson
Lauzon has always been one of the more exciting fighters in the UFC lightweight division, and his last showing in his homestate was outstanding. Lauzon has a beautiful and agressive jiu-jitsu game, as he is quite possibly the most dangerous practitioner in the lightweight division. He never puts on a dull fight, as he is willing to trade big blows, as he is constantly looking for ways to finish fights.
Johnson is known from his stint on TUF 12, as he lost to Jonathan Brookins in the finals. Johnson is a good athlete with power in his hands and solid wrestling. Johnson is very quick, but struggles with submission defense.
Knowing Johnson's weakness plays right into Lauzon's hands, as well as the impact the crowd will have on Lauzon will make this a tough night for Johnson. Once this fight hits the ground, expect Lauzon to go to work.
Prediction: Lauzon via Triangle Choke; Round 2
Uriah Hall vs. John Howard
Hall comes to the cage off his shocking loss to Kelvin Gastelum in the finals of the most recent Ultimate Fighter featuring Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. Hall has extremely explosive and fluid striking and devastating power, as seen by his knockouts of Adam Cella and Bubba McDaniel on TUF. Hall has had issues with his mental approach to the cage as well as his wrestling ability, as Gastelum was able to smoother him in their TUF Finale. Hall has been in the cage with some top contenders as well, as he had previous fights with Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou.
Howard returns to the UFC for the first time in over two years. As fighter who trains in Massachusetts, it is no surprise his return comes during this card after asking to be able to take this fight to show support after the marathon bombings. Howard replaces Josh Samman, who was featured on TUF, and had a miniature rivalry with Hall. Howard is known for his heavy hands, as 9 of his 20 wins come by KO/TKO, with his last five wins coming by that manner. Howard is not known for his wrestling, as he was repeatedly floored by top contender Jake Ellenberger in their fight three years ago. Howard is very durable though and it is quite difficult to finish him.
I feel like Howard is tailor made for Hall to show his unique and explosive standup. Hall will be able to move and set up his strikes without major threat of a takedown coming from Howard. I see Hall controlling this fight, though Howard does have the power to create some scary moments. I don't see Howard getting finished though; he's game.
Prediction: Hall by Unanimous Decision
Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle
Brown, since his stint on TUF long ago, has always been one of the most exciting fighters in the welterweight division. He consistently moves forward, as he thrives off of pressuring his opponent. brown is agressive wherever the fight takes place, whether it is with his jiu-jitsu or striking. He always comes into the cage in very good condition, and has to be knowing the pace he sets. he has won his last five fights and is looking to step into the division's top 10.
Pyle is on a four fight win streak himself. He is a veteran of the sport who is very talented on the ground. Pyle has won 16 of his 25 fights by submission and will have an advantage over the aggressive Brown if this fight hits the floor.
The problem for Pyle is that Brown has been on a tear and will constantly put too much pressure on the veteran. Brown is just hitting his prime and is being pushed up the card by UFC officials. I think Brown will be impressive yet again.
Prediction: Brown via TKO; Round 3
Urijah Faber vs. Yuri Alcantara
Faber is a guy in limbo in the UFC right now. He is extremely marketable and has the look of a champion, but he has come up short in his title opportunities inside the octagon. He is a guy who rubs some the wrong way (myself included) because it seems that the UFC wants him to be a champion badly to capitalize off of his marketability. He is an excellent grappler, as he has Division 1 wrestling experience and high level jiu-jitsu. Faber is very tough to hold down as well, as he is willing to give up his back to get to his feet, much like a wrestler. Faber has heavy hands and can explode with unpredictable combinations.
Alcantara enters the biggest fight of his career as a heavy underdog. As a fighter from Brazil, it is no surprise Alcantara has a solid jiu-jitsu, but he is more than that. He is very well rounded and will be a tough out in the cage for Faber though he doesn't have big fight experience.
I expect Alcantara to be a tougher test than most expect, but I still see Faber winning this fight. Who knows where Faber goes from here.
Prediction: Faber by Unanimous Decision
Allstair Overeem vs. Travis Browne
Overeem is probably the most complete striker in the heavyweight division, as he is a former K1 Grand Prix champion. Overeem mixes his strikes up well and connects with power and precision. He has a solid ground game as well, as he has 19 victories by submission. He has been in the cage with some of the best in the world at heavyweight, as he currently resides at a filled out 260 pounds, and 205 pounds (cough, PEDs, cough). His fatal flaw may be his questionable chin, though it was more cockiness that cost him against Antonio Silva.
Browne had a successful return to the cage after his first career loss to Antonio Silva, who upset Overeem as well. Browne is extremely tall and rangy at 6'7", but delivers his strikes with fluidity and power. He is still a bit of a mystery as he has finished many of his fights very quickly, though he has been in the cage with some tough opponents.
I expect Overeem to make his push toward securing the title shot the UFC wants him to have. He will be looking to prove himself coming off his loss to Antonio Silva and will put his striking expertise on display.
Prediction: Overeem via TKO; Round 1
Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Sonnen, who is the inspiration for the title of this blog, is the best promo guy in the sport. He sells fights with his WWE-like antics, but has the skills to step in a compete with anyone. He is coming off two straight losses, one to Anderson Silva, who he won six rounds against in their two fights, and Jon Jones, the current P4P #1 in MMA. Sonnen, though he couldn't show it against Jones, is an elite wrestler. An olympic alternate in Greco and Division 1 All-American at Oregon, Sonnen suffocates fighters with his ground and pound pressure on top. He has underrated boxing, as he showed this in his first Anderson Silva encounter, due to his Golden Gloves experience. His biggest weakness is submission defense, which he has continued to work on.
The questions about Shogun is always which guy will show up into the cage. Shogun has a history of fighting injured, underperforming, but also excelling when the odds are stacked against him. He has powerful kicks and elbows due to his dedication to Muay Thai and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Shogun is known to more often use his Muay Thai and devastating strikes to win fights, but he has shown he can get the job done on the mat. He has great heart and toughness, as his history of wars and fighting injured shows. I worry about the mileage on Shogun, though he has rededicated himself to becoming the best, as shown by his recent work with Freddie Roach.
Though Shogun has shown new commitment to the sport, I still see Sonnen being able to control the fight with his wrestling. Sonnen will continue to put pressure on Shogun throughout the fight and I don't see Shogun being able to prevent the takedowns. Shogun will land his fair share of blows, but Sonnen will win this fight on the mat. Sonnen's recent jiu-jitsu work will help him avoid submissions as well.