By Thomas Hunter | Contributor
Tim Kennedy vs Roger Gracie: The best way to some up this fight is to look at it as a battle between a fighter who has been consistently good against fairly high-level competition and one who has looked excellent against lesser competition but has yet to be truly tested. Tim Kennedy ( 19-4 ) has defeated well-known names such as Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler and has looked solid throughout his career. He has mainly relied on his grappling ability, mostly enjoying success through utilisation of his submission skills against strikers.
The problem here lies in the fact that he is facing off against one of the most successful BJJ artists in the world at the moment, Roger Gracie. Whilst being relatively inexperienced in MMA at just 7-1, Gracie has multiple BJJ world titles and is unquestionably leaps and bounds ahead on the ground. There are two questions in this fight that will determine the outcome. Can Gracie get the fight to the ground? And what will happen if he doesn’t or tires himself out attempting to do so? Kennedy is more than capable of taking this fight by decision maybe even TKO if he can win the wrestling battle and hurts Gracie on the feet but the most likely scenario is that Gracie will submit Kennedy, or at least do enough to win two rounds with his grappling superiority. The tipping factor here is Gracie’s time spent with (UFC Welter-Weight Champion) George St.Pierre and Chris Weidman. I suspect they might have shown him enough tricks to get this one to the mat.
Prediction – Gracie by Decision.
Mark Munoz vs Tim Boetsch: This fight features two men who had firmly established themselves as contenders in the middleweight division but both suffered stoppage losses in their last fight. Mark Munoz (12-3) was climbing the division well and was close to a title shot before being blitzed by Chris Weidman in one of the most brutal stoppages of 2012. He has since had elbow surgery and claims to be completely healthy and motivated for this fight.
Tim Boetsch, on the other hand has sort of fluked his way into the title picture with his come-from-behind victory over arguably the world’s most boring fighter, Yushin Okami, and split-decision win over Hector Lombard, which many thought he lost. Boetsch (16-5) then suffered a reversal of fortune in his loss to Costa Phillipou, in which he broke his hand and was opened up with a bad cut from an inadvertent strike before being TKO’d in the third.
Both fighters have strong wrestling and have only generally lost to better wrestlers in their careers so far. Munoz’ NCAA Division 1 pedigree should give him an advantage in that department and he also believes in his power on the feet and has awesome power in his ground and pound. It is mostly likely the case that this fight takes place everywhere, with spells on the feet, in the clinch and on the ground with Munoz on top. If Munoz could use his wrestling to keep Boetsch down for sustained periods of time then he would be capable of finishing this fight but he hasn’t typically been good at doing so in his career and for this reason I think he will get the win but not in particularly dominant fashion, although he will look good in bursts.
Prediction – Munoz by Unanimous Decision.
Cub Swanson vs Dennis Siver: This fight has the potential to be very exciting and will probably be the only fight on the main card in which before fighters would prefer to be on the feet. Cub Swanson (19-5) has been on a brilliant run in the featherweight division as of late winning four straight, 3 of them highlight-reel finishes. Swanson is a BJJ black belt who is very hard to take down and has an excellent, explosive boxing game effectively blending technique and aggression. Siver (21-8) also has very dangerous striking but uses a lot more kicks. Siver also has good power and is more than capable of finishing fights but is perhaps slower.
Since both fighters are hard to take down and prefer to strike it is unlikely that either looks for a take down before the third round, if at all. The question then is whether Swanson’s boxing can overcome Siver’s kickboxing game. I’m not sure if Swanson can finish the fight but at 29 to Siver’s 34 and less of a weight cut to make I think Swanson can open up enough of an advantage to get the victory. The two have a have a common opponent in Ross Pearson, who defeated Dennis Siver but was stopped by Cub Swanson. The fact that Cub Swanson showed an aptitude for strategy in his last outing against Dustin Poirier utilising his grappling to take the third round suggests that if Swanson senses the finish isn’t there then he will be conscious enough to make sure of the decision victory. Like almost every fight on this card however, the fight is very close on paper and either fighter could win. That said however Swanson is most likely to get the nod.
Prediction – Swanson via Decision.
Frankie Edgar vs Charles Oliveira: This fight in all honesty should be over before it begins. It is the only fight on the card that one should be able to predict without any major difficulty, the only question is whether there is a finish. This is Frankie Edgar’s fight to lose. Oliveira has an amazing BJJ game, a decent length and reach advantage and improving striking but Edgar’s experience and skillset should comfortably see off the challenge. Edgar (15-4-1) has fought for a UFC title in his last 7 outings against the likes of BJ Penn, Gray Maynard, Ben Henderson and Jose Aldo and has picked up wins, losses and controversial losses in this period, always impressing and never definitively losing even against the elite of the elite in the lightweight and featherweight division.
The former UFC Lightweight Champion showed perhaps the most successful wrestling game in the 155 division which should be more than enough to negate Oliveira’s BJJ advantage and he also has some of the best movement in the UFC today and a boxing game which should be miles above Oliveira’s still evolving stand-up game however it is unclear whether Frankie can finish this fight. Even though Oliveira’s chin is questionable so is Edgar’s power. Overall, though it is likely Edgar puts together a finishing sequence within the three rounds, especially if he is brave enough to follow Ovileira to the ground should he put him on the mat with his strikes. Upsets can happen but shouldn’t here.
Prediction – Edgar by TKO in the third round.
Main Event – Anderson Silva vs Chris Weidman: This fight has divided the MMA community over the last few weeks with surprisingly large numbers of pros picking Weidman to take this one. Georges St-Pierre, Daniel Cormier, Kenny Florian, Matt Serra, Frank Mir amongst others are all touting the relatively inexperienced Weidman to end Silva’s amazing run and completely turn the middleweight division on it’s head. The rationale here is that the world seen Chael Sonnen take Anderson Silva down and control him for five rounds before being submitted by Silva and also in the first round of their rematch, again before being stopped, finishing the round in full mount. The assumption is that Weidman (9-0, 5-0 UFC) has the same or even better wrestling credentials than Chael Sonnen but also has the world class top-game on the ground that Sonnen lacked. The idea is then that Weidman is the worst possible match-up for Anderson Silva, and has been exhibiting the confidence and belief of a champion swaying many to think he will be the one to finally beat Silva. However it is worth noting Silva has claimed to have fought Sonnen with a rib injury in the first of their fights.
The difficulty here is that there is no way to tell if the hype is justified. The evidence suggests Weidman is every bit as good as people say he is, his wrestling has looked outstanding in the UFC and his submission game, control and ground and pound have looked devastating. But he has not fought any one even close to the level of Anderson Silva. Silva is on a record-breaking 16 fight UFC win streak and has defended his middleweight title 11 times, another UFC record. He also has the best striking in MMA, a black belt in BJJ and has been in this position countless times and only once looked to be in sort of trouble and still managed to finish the fight. He is however 38 years old and his age does appear to be catching up with him finally.
To focus on what we do know, Silva’s skillset doesn’t suggest he can win against Weidman by decision, and Weidman certainly won’t knock Silva out on the feet. It is also unlikely Weidman will be able to take Silva down and hold him down for 5 rounds without being clipped. This suggests that either Silva finishes Weidman with strikes, either through catching him before Weidman shoots and by surviving and having better cardio to stuff takedowns later, or Weidman commands the wrestling department and submits Silva with a choke or pounds him out in the first three rounds.
I am certainly not going to attempt to predict the outcome of this fight with any sort of confidence, but I will go out on a limb and pick the champion one last time. This is based only on the fact that his record eclipses Weidman’s. We have not seen him fight truly elite competition, and also that Weidman is less likely to run at Silva for a takedown in the same way Sonnen did, which was arguably the key to his success. Because of this Weidman gives Silva that small window of time he need to find his opening and uses his killer instinct to finish Weidman quickly when he gets his chance.
Prediction – Silva by TKO in the second round.