Another night and another title on the line as the UFC rolls into Fight City USA with an outstanding UFC 160 fight card. Our main event is a rematch you wouldn’t expect, yet one that is hard to argue against, as Cain Velasquez faces Antonio Silva for the second time. Silva was destroyed in their last fight, but a win over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem paved his way to another chance at a win over Velasquez. The gold at the end of the rainbow just sweetens the pot.
We’ve also got a number one contender bout between lightweights Gray Maynard and TJ Grant, heavyweights Mark Hunt and Junior Dos Santos, and much more. So, let’s dig into this prime cut of UFC MMA action.
Heavyweight title Fight – Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva 2:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a fight more lopsided than Velasquez vs. Silva. A stiff punch to drop Bigfoot and nearly fifty follow-up blows on the mat signaled the return of Cain Velasquez after the loss of his title, and could have sent Silva packing. Yet Silva wasn’t done in the UFC, and while he was a serious underdog in his next two bouts, he managed to execute as a true professional in the cage. Now, with KO wins over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem, he’s earned his way up to a title shot, and a rematch with Velasquez at the highest of stakes.
Velasquez comes into this fight off of one of the most impressive performances of his career, having gone five brutal rounds with JDS to regain his title. Showing not a hint of fear that surrounded him in his last bout with JDS, Velasquez came out hard and never relented from the assault, winning the fight on all fronts. Already one of the best heavyweights of his generation, there are few challengers up to the task of taking Velasquez strap away.
As much as the UFC wants to sell this fight, it’s tough to make a real case here for Silva, because he hasn’t changed at all since the last fight with Velasquez. He’s always been a slow starter with a suspect chin, and while Browne and Overeem let his locomotive engine warm up, Velasquez will stop him in his tracks early. An exchange and a few follow-up punches put Bigfoot to sleep within the first minute of this fight.
Lightweight bout – Gray Maynard vs. TJ Grant:
An important fight shuffled deep into the PPV card, Maynard and Grant will fight for a shot at Benson Henderson in one of the most competitive bouts of the evening. Maynard comes into this fight off of a bizarre win over Clay Guida and a substantial lay-off following a knee injury, but it’s hard to argue he doesn’t have a place at the top of the division. Having been seconds away from Frankie Edgar’s title on two separate occasions, the underrated boxing game and power wrestling Maynard brings to the table post major issues to anyone within the division.
Grant is a bit of a surprise here, yet shows exactly how far someone can go with a proper weight cut and dedication to the sport. Having fought as a decent yet overmatched Welterweight, Grant reinvented himself in the Lightweight division all while travelling the world to hone his diverse skill set. Bringing some of the fastest chain grappling you’re likely to see and a razor-sharp muay thai game, Grant has torn apart some of the best and brightest at Lightweight and will look to do the same to Maynard.
This is a tight match, and while I think Maynard has the better chance against Benson Henderson, I don’t think he has the best chance here. Grant isn’t just a smooth fighter, but someone who packs crippling power, and possesses a chin capable of eating several counters before failing. While Maynard’s wrestling has the potential to bring Grant back to his welterweight days of being wrestle-fucked, Grant is a bit quicker on the shot and Maynard off his back is less than impressive. Combine Maynard’s long lay-off with Grant’s momentum and this is one that I think gets away from Maynard the longer it goes. If Maynard can’t ice Grant with a counter puncher in the early goings, I see Grant stalking and crushing Maynard through sheer force and aggression, grabbing a decision win or late TKO.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt: Dos Santos stands as one of the most dangerous men to have ever stepped foot into the cage at heavyweight, and face a surprisingly lethal foe in Hunt. I’ve been a critic of Hunt for his entire career, and while he certainly hits like a truck, he’s never developed any kind of real grappling game, takedown defense, or use of anything except his hands. When it comes right down to it, JDS is the better all around fighter and more than likely the better boxer as well, and should have little problem dispatching Hunt.
Glover Teixeira vs. James Te-Huna: The Teixeira train keeps rolling on and we keep seeing glimpses of his potential in every fight. What he faces here is truly another version of himself, as James Te-Huna is a wrecking machine built for power, using his takedowns and top control to batter his opponents physically and mentally. I’m not sure where Teixeira stands on terms of LHW talent, but his simple but effective punching combinations and ridiculous strength should give Te-Huna fits here, as Te-Huna is always the hammer and never the nail. Don’t sleep on the Aussie, but all signs point to Teixeira landing flush before Te-Huna and ending this one within the first round.
Donald Cerrone vs. KJ Noons: A fight that could pan out to be awfully fun, Donald Cerrone will look to rebound from his nightmare against Pettis, facing Strikeforce mid-carder KJ Noons. Noons has some weapons, yet its his lackluster performances that have truly defined him in his fight career, often failing to capitalize on opportunities or put himself out there to snatch a tough win. That same could never be said of Cerrone, who is one of the grittiest fighters in the business, and not one to wilt in this fight either. Noons has an outside chance of during Cerrone, but I don’t see him having the will to go toe-to-toe with The Cowboy. A fun first round becomes a route in the second two frames as Noons absorbs leg kicks and punches while keeping on his heels, and Cerrone walks with a decision win.
Mike Pyle vs. Rick Story: An interesting fight, as cage-weary veteran Mike Pyle faces long-time welterweight mid-carder Rick story. Pyle has one of the most diverse skill sets in the fight world today, with years of training across several martial disciplines and the savvy to tie it all together. Story is a far simpler fighter, using straight-forward wrestling and punching assaults, setting a pace that tends to break opponents within short order. This fight stands as a terrible match-up for Pyle, as he’s always struggled against hard-style wrestlers with power in their ground and pound; statements which describe Story all to well. I don’t see Pyle getting much going here before Story is at his throat, and two rounds should be all it takes for Story to get the stoppage.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Max Holloway: An outstanding bout between two young fighters, Bermudez will bring his raw strength and improving all-around game to the cage, facing off against slick striker Max Holloway. Holloway is someone who I think was pushed a bit too fast, too early, but is starting to find his pace at this level of competition. Bermudez is an animal however and while his chin is easily wobbled, he’s quick on the recovery and quick to throw one right back as you as well. Holloway does have outs here, but Bermudez strength and tenacity should serve him well, allowing for a convincing decision win.
Abel Trujillo vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: My dark horse pick for fight of the night, Abel Trujillo will bring is raw athletic ability to bear, facing top Russian prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurma has been running amok on the competition thus far, having some of the most unnaturally heavy hands I’ve ever seen, combined with a high degree of sambo and the passion of a champion. Trujillo is no joke however, bringing a great deal of size and speed to the game, and showing he has a seamless flow in his offense that makes him difficult to knock off his rhythm.
Stephen Thompson vs. Nah-Shon Burrell: An interesting pairing at Welterweight, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will look to keep his career on track, taking on Strikeforce transplant Nah-Shon Burrell. Thompson came into the UFC with all the hype due a tremendous striker, yet he’s thus far shown his matwork is far below standard at this level. Fortunately for him, Burrell prefers to avoid the mat and ply his substantial boxing trade on the feet, making this a fight where Thompson might just get to shine. Not everything in Thompson’s arsenal translates to MMA, but his timing and range control are two things that should serve him well against the methodical approach of Burrell, allowing him to score the more effective blows and work his opponent’s body for a mid kick KO in the 1st round.
Brian Bowles vs. George Roop: One of the most injured fighters I can remember, Brian Bowles will come back from a non-existent 2012 fight season, facing George Roop. Bowles is always a coin flip, as he brings such crippling power and a diverse submission wrestling game to give anyone fits. However, his time off is concerning, especially considering his opponent isn’t a fluff ball that will fall over at the drop of a hat either. Even still, Bowles submission savvy and punching power strike me as being too much for Roop to handle, and unless Roop can drag this into deep waters, I see Bowles getting that guillotine finish within the first half of the fight.