Saturday, November 16, 2013

UFC 167: Kyle and I pick 'em

Kyle and I haven't picked the winners of a UFC event in ages, and we're watching UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks together at my house tonight, so we figured it was time to try our hand again at prognostication. 

As usual, we'll begin with the preliminary fights that you can see only on Facebook. 

Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante

Mark:  Both of these light heavyweights lost last to Ovince St. Preux.  The difference, though, is that Donovan was KFTO'd, while Villante lost due to a stoppage from a bad poke in the eye.  Donovan fights by eating shots, a strategy that doesn't tend to work all that long.  Villante will punish him and take him down until the ref stops the fight.  Villante for the win.

Kyle:  Villante is a KO artist who came up through Strikeforce but lost his UFC debut against Ovince St. Preux.  He’s coming in as a late replacement on two week’s notice to fight Cody Donovan, who also lost to Ovince St. Preux in his last fight.   I don’t know much about either fighter, but two weeks isn’t a lot of time to prepare for a fight in the UFC.  Donovan to win.

Sergio Pettis vs. Will Campuzano

Mark:  Pettis, the brother of lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, brings a perfect record to his UFC debut.  Campuzano has four losses and hasn't won in two UFC outings, but he's bigger, stronger, and over his UFC debut jitters.  For those and other reasons, a lot of the folks I've read are picking Campuzano to win.  I'm going against them.  I think Pettis has trained with enough good people to be ready for this challenge, so I'm picking him to win, probably by spending most of the fight landing light strikes and then dancing away from Campuzano's longer reach. 

Kyle:  The betting odds have this as the biggest mismatch on the card, with lightweight champ Anthony Pettis’ little brother better than a 4-to-1 favorite over Will Campuzano.  Campuzano went 1-2 in the WEC and is 0-2 in the UFC, but has put together a five-fight winning streak in other promotions to earn his way back into the Octagon.  Despite the odds, though, I’m picking Campuzano to win.  From the remarkable boner he displayed at theweigh-ins, Campuzano looks like his testosterone levels are high and he’s excited and ready to go.

Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley

Mark: I haven't seen Lapsley fight, but he's certainly on a good winning streak.  He's making his UFC debut, though, and High is not.  High looks to be the better wrestler, and he's not been doing too bad lately, either, winning eight of his last nine.  I'm going with High. 

Kyle:  High and Lapsely are both smallish welterweight grapplers who’ve looked good in smaller shows, but have lost when they’ve faced big names.  Now they face each other in a journeyman bout.  Their skillsets are similar, but High has faced stiffer competition and has looked better in recent fights.  High by submission.

The rest of the card is available on television.  You can find the next four bouts on Fox Sports 1.

Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa

Mark:  Like a few other fights on this card, this one features a fighter with the power to win at any time via KO (Figueroa) against a fighter who's better technically in striking and in wrestling (Perez).  I have to go with the most likely chain of events and pick Perez to grind out a decision victory.

Kyle:  Perez is 3-1 in the UFC, with his loss being by split decision to the formidable Takeya Mizugaki.   Figueroa is 2-3 in the UFC.  Perez has a better record, and I bet it’ll improve to 4-1 after tonight.

Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story

Mark:  Brian Ebersole strung together 11 victories in a row, including four in the UFC, before he turned in a lackluster performance that cost him a loss to James Head.  Story once appeared to be on his way to stardom, but he never made it.  Even so, he's stronger and better at grinding than Ebersole, so he'll pull off the decision win. 

Kyle:  Rick Story is the real deal, a terrific wrestler with wins over Thiago Alves and—improbably—Johny Hendricks.  He’s struggled against stiff competition in recent years, though, while Hendricks has improved his game and soared to the top of the welterweight division.  Ebersole took the UFC by storm in 2011, winning his first three fights in the promotion, only to go 1-1 in 2012 and then disappear for a year and a half because of an injury that he won’t divulge.  If Ebersole had stayed more active, I might pick him to win, but ring rust is a real thing.  Story should be able to take this.

Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites

Mark:  Poor Ed Herman.  He's a good fighter, a very good fighter, but he's never going to make it to the elite ranks of 185ers.  Now he has to face Thales Leites, who is bigger, stronger, and better at BJJ.  I'm not sure if Leites will beat him down and submit him late in the fight, or just win by decision, but I don't see any real hope for Herman in this one. 

Kyle:  Herman and Leites are similar in size and similar in skills.  But Leites has a better record, particularly in recent years. Leites to win. 

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham

Mark:  This one will be a war.  The oddsmakers have Cerrone as a tiny favorite, but Dunham is exactly the right type of fighter--an extremely aggressive fighter who won't back down and who has decent wrestling--to beat him.  When fighters bring the battle to him and close the distance, Cerrone sometimes looks like he doesn't know what to do next.  I want Cerrone to win, but I'm going with Dunham.  Whoever takes this, it's likely to be by decision after three very tough rounds. 

Kyle:  This fight is a strong candidate for fight of the night, as both fighters keep a brisk pace and have shown themselves willing to stand and trade.  Dunham, however, averages 50% more stand-up strikes per minute than Cerrone.  I think his ability to sustain a faster pace than Cerrone will earn Dunham the victory.

To catch the big five fights, though, you have to pony up for the pay-per-view broadcast.  We've already signed up for it.

Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov

Mark:  Kyle tends to dislike the fights with the smaller guys, and at 125 pounds each these two are as small as the UFC gets.  This one, though, should be very entertaining, in part because Bagautinov has the power to end it at any time.  He probably won't, but he will be just enough better in every area than Elliott, who to be fair is a very good fighter, to walk away with the win. 

Kyle:  Elliott is the bigger man, has the better record, and has more experience in the UFC.  Elliott to win.

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Mark: Poor Josh Koscheck.  He made it to the mountain--St. Pierre--but like so many before and after him, he couldn't reach the peak.  Now, he's stuck as a gatekeeper at 170.  Facing him is Tyron Woodley, a younger, faster fighter.  Many are figuring on Woodley's speed giving him the edge over Koscheck, but I don't buy it.  This fight will be close, but in the end Koscheck will grind out a decision victory by out-wrestling and out-grinding Woodley. 

Kyle:  Koscheck and Woodley are like old and new models of the same fighter, NCAA All-American wrestlers who learned to love punching people.  The stats say that Woodley is a little bit better across the board:  more power, better accuracy, better takedowns, and better takedown defense.  Woodley to win by being new and improved.

Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

Mark:  In the post-fight press conference and the later media scrum, there's a better than even chance that Dana White is once again going to blast Rory MacDonald for fighting a safe, boring fight en route to a victory.  The alternative is White praising MacDonald for getting a submission victory.  Though Lawler has looked very good lately and certainly has a power puncher's chance to end the fight at any moment, we can expect MacDonald to enter the octagon with a great game plan, execute that plan, and walk away the winner. 

Kyle:  Twenty-four-year-old Rory MacDonald has put together the kind of winning streak in the UFC that Robbie Lawler must remember being his ten years ago.   At 31, Lawler isn’t that old, but he has a lot of miles on him.  MacDonald has energy and accuracy.  He throws 40% more significant strikes than Lawler and attempts more than twice as many takedowns.  Again, I’m picking the younger, better man to win.

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

Mark:  Sonnen is still on the juice--excuse me, he still has his Therapeutic Use Exemption for testosterone--so he has a chance to win this fight.  I was even picking him for a while, but I've come to believe that his heart just isn't in this one.  He knows he can collect a big payday for a decent performance against his friend Evans, and then he can head to Brazil for an even bigger payday in a fight he genuinely wants against Wanderlei Silva.  Evans needs the win and is a good enough wrestler to mostly neutralize Sonnen's signature take-down and grind game.  In the stand-up, Evans is faster and going to score more often.  This one goes "Suga" Rashad Evans by decision. 

Kyle:  Sonnen does one thing, but he does it well:  He takes men down and beats on them.  That’s not going to be an easy feat with Evans, a Division 1 wrestler who missed being All-American by a hair.  Evans is a much better striker, so if the fight stays on the feet Sonnen’s going to have a rough night.  Nonetheless, I’m picking Sonnen to win.  The Nevada State Athletic Commission is allowing Sonnen to continue using Testosterone Replacement Therapy for this fight, and I think that the anabolic supplementation will give Sonnen an edge that an unaugmented human like Evans can’t match.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

Mark:  Hendricks is a legitimate contender and a worthy opponent for the champ.  He's an excellent wrestler with tremendous power in both hands, and if he lands a clean shot, he absolutely can knock out St. Pierre.  If you were to judge this fight only by the UFC's promotional material, you'd be right to expect Hendricks to beat St. Pierre.  That's a great testimony to the craftmanship of the promotion package the UFC has put together for this fight.

The thing is, though, Hendricks is going to lose.  St. Pierre is going to do what he does:  jab, kick, keep Hendricks at a distance, shoot sometimes--though maybe less than in past fights, out-box the challenger, and execute his usual sound game plan.  He'll do this at roughly the same pace for all five rounds, and at the end the ref will raise his hand in victory.

Kyle:  Hendricks is a wrestler in the mold of Josh Koscheck and Tyron Woodley, who primarily uses his wrestling to keep his feet and strike.  He’ll be the stiffest test yet for St-Pierre, who has used his own superior wrestling to smother recent opponents and ride his way to victory.  Hendricks has amazing knockout power.  If the fight ends early, it’ll probably be ended by Hendricks’ powerful left hand.  But GSP has an amazing 7-inch reach advantage and one of the best jabs in MMA.   I think that GSP will be able to keep to the outside and jab his way to victory.

Amazingly, though Kyle and I generally agree on fight picks, for tonight's card we differ on five of the eleven winners.  One of us is going to be happy tomorrow; check back then to see which of us it will be. 

As always, don't rely on us for betting advice!

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