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The Walk Out – “UFC Fight Night 24: Nogueira vs. Davis”

Rejoice Seattle sports fans, after years of disappointment and mediocrity, you finally have something to cheer about. No, you still won’t be able to see Kevin Durant live 41 times a season, Felix Hernandez is probably heading east by the end of 2011, and Amber Lancaster is returning as a Seattle Seahawks cheerleader but this coming weekend, UFC is bringing you a very good Fight Night card. It’s a show that features a rising star in MMA taking on a well-respected veteran, a welterweight showdown between two explosive strikers, and a rematch of one of the best fights in 2010. Plus there’s Brittney Palmer, who is hotter than a cup of Starbucks coffee.

Light Heavyweight Fight: Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

With Tito Ortiz pulling out of his fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Phil Davis stepped up to answer the call, ready to take on the biggest challenge of his career.

There is a lot of hype surrounding Davis right now and with good reason. He’s not a great striker but I don’t think his striking is as bad as some may make it out to be. He likes to throw a jab followed by a body or leg kick and he really likes to throw body kicks with his lead leg. The problem is, they’re lazy body kicks and easy to time. Davis does a good job tucking his chin and getting his hands up when he throws the body kick though, so he’s tough to counter with a punch, and easier to counter by just catching the kick. He seems a little uncomfortable throwing punches and even more uncomfortable getting into exchanges with his opponents. He moves well though and does a nice job avoiding any major damage on the feet. He’s going to need that movement against Nogueira, who is by far the best technical striker he’s faced in his career. Davis’ strength is his wrestling. He has a quick takedown and he’s so strong that he’s tough to stop. Even if you can stop his takedown, he’s so strong in the clinch that you might be better off on your back. He has great clinch control and stays active in the position with knees to the legs and body. On the ground he’s very strong and comfortable on top. He likes the half guard position and from there he likes to punch the body and use short elbows to the head. He does leave openings though and against a grappler like Nogueira, those openings will be exploited. Davis has seemed to pick up the submission game very fast. He has good chokes and if you saw the Tim Boetsch fight, you saw just how strong and easy he controlled the arm of Boetsch in order to set up the hammerlock submission. Nogueira is tough to submit but Jason Brilz got him in some bad positions and I think Davis would be able to finish those positions if given the opportunity. Even though he’s been 15 minutes twice in his UFC career, those were dominating performances, and I do question the cardio of Davis. He has a huge upper body and is very muscular, which means he’s more prone to gassing out quicker than someone like Nogueira, who is a bit softer for the weight. I expect Davis to essentially replicate the game plan of Ryan Bader, who defeated Nogueira in “Lil Nog’s” last bout. Davis needs to avoid getting in any wild exchanges, throw kicks to slow down Nogueira a bit, and go for takedowns when they’re there. If he can get Nogueira down, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem, at least early, then he needs to stay out of Nogueira’s guard and also stay tight and not try and leave any space. Nogueira does a nice job covering up on the ground but when you cover your face with your arms, it leaves your body exposed so look for Davis to attack the body of Nogueira on the ground. Nogueira is extremely tough to finish but it’s possible that Davis overwhelms him with strikes or uses his strength to lock on a submission. If Davis is going to win though, chances are it’ll be by decision due to his wrestling.

Nogueira is a well-respected veteran who is coming off a hard fought loss and needs a win to stay in the title picture. He’s a very good technical boxer. He stands southpaw and throws a very crisp one-two. He has a very accurate straight left hand and he’s very willing to stand in the pocket and exchange with his opponent. He doesn’t throw many kicks but it’s tough to hold that against him in this fight given Davis’ wrestling expertise. Nogueira’s takedown defense isn’t terrible but if Davis commits to his shot, he should be able to get Nogueira down. Nogueira is very dangerous off his back. He does a nice job controlling his opponents posture and he likes to set up triangles and armbars off his back. If Davis leaves the space he sometimes leaves when he’s on top and in half guard, look for Nogueira to try and sweep Davis over or escape out the back door and up. It would be a big feather in Nogueira’s cap if he could somehow get Davis on his back. Because Davis throws a lot of kicks, Nogueira will have multiple opportunities to go for takedowns. While Nogueira isn’t a great wrestler and Davis has very good balance, Nogueira might be able to surprise Davis by going for a takedown when Davis throws a kick. If Nogueira can get on top of Davis, he’ll look to use his grappling superiority and Davis’ lack of experience to make Davis uncomfortable, move to better positions, and set up submissions. A lot of people are down on Nogueira heading into this fight, and while he’s struggled in his last two bouts, he’s still very dangerous and by far the most dangerous guy Davis has ever faced. Nogueira needs to do his best to keep the fight on the feet, where he needs to use movement and his superior technical ability. Press the action, get Davis uncomfortable, and try and bait him into a brawl. Look for him to use his jab-knee to the body combo a lot in this fight to try and time Davis coming in and to try and take away some of the conditioning of Davis. Should Nogueira find himself on his back, he’ll need to use his active guard to make Davis try and make a mistake or he’ll need to try his best to quickly get to his feet. Again, I implore Nogueira to go for takedowns when Davis throws a kick because if he can get on top of Davis, I think he’ll be able to submit him. Nogueira could finish Davis by overwhelming him with strikes after dropping him on the feet, submitting him either off his back or on top, or win a decision if he’s able to keep the fight standing for the majority of the 15 minutes.

I’ve already seen some people compare this fight to a lower-level version of Jon Jones vs. “Shogun” Rua and I have no clue why. No offense to Davis, who has all the potential in the world, but he hasn’t been running through the competition that Jones was running through prior to beating Rua. And no offense to Rua, who is an absolute warrior, but Nogueira isn’t coming off knee surgery and shouldn’t be as slow/poorly conditioned as Rua was. That said, I like Davis in this fight simply because Nogueira did struggle against Bader and Brilz, and I think Davis is a better fighter than both of them. I don’t count out Nogueira though and you’d be a fool to do so. I just believe that Davis will be able to get timely takedowns and at least keep things even on the feet in order to win a decision.

Prediction: Phil Davis to defeat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by Decision

Welterweight Fight: Anthony Johnson vs. Dan Hardy

After being knocked out in his last fight, Dan Hardy welcomes back Anthony Johnson, absent for the last 16 months, to the cage.

Johnson was last seen at UFC 106, not missing weight but getting choked out by Josh Koscheck. Johnson is an explosive striker with knockout power in all limbs. He throws a stiff jab and puts a deadly right hand behind it. He has a quick inside leg kick, which is used more as a distance finder than anything but it’s something that gave Hardy trouble against Carlos Condit. Johnson is known to switch stances in his fights but when he switches to southpaw, usually he just throws a kick to the head or body and then immediately switches back to orthodox. He’s very willing to stay in the pocket and exchange but he doesn’t like when he’s pressed. He’s a bit strange in that regard because you would think that because he likes to stand and trade, you would think he would plant is feet and swing away instead of backing up. Johnson is a very good wrestler, and no matter what he says leading up to this fight, he’ll use it if he feels like he’s in trouble. He has a quick shot and he’s very so strong so even if he ends up in the clinch, he should be able to muscle Hardy to the ground. Hardy’s takedown defense and ground game is very suspect. Johnsons isn’t a huge threat on top but he does have some solid ground and pound from the guard. Johnson’s problem on the ground is that he’s rather content to just stay in guard and hold is opponent down rather than try and pass to a better position. Hardy is good at controlling the posture of his opponents so Johnson needs to work the body of Hardy and not allow Hardy to control his posture in order to do damage. A problem that has plagued Johnson his entire career has been his conditioning. He’s a huge welterweight and cuts a lot of weight to get down to 170 so because of that, his conditioning suffers. The fact that he’s coming off a knee injury and hasn’t fought in over a year certainly won’t help his conditioning either. Johnson needs to get on Hardy early and often. Hardy might be a little gun shy in the early going considering that he’s coming off a huge KO loss so Johnson needs to test the chin of “The Outlaw” right away. He also needs to pressure Hardy early because the longer this fight goes, the more it favors Hardy given Johnson’s conditioning. Johnson could finish Hardy with one shot on the feet or win a decision by out-striking Hardy and scoring a couple of takedowns if needed.

This time last year, Hardy was challenging for the UFC Welterweight Title. After losing a one-sided decision to Georges St. Pierre and being KO’d by Condit, Hardy finds himself in desperate need of a victory. Hardy is a good striker with knockout power. Everything he does on the feet is centered around his left hook. He begins combos with his left hook and he counters with his left hook. He has a decent right hook but when he throws his right hook, that’s when he gets countered with a left. He also has good leg kicks although he doesn’t unleash them as much as he probably should. Hardy doesn’t have terrible striking defense but he does rely a lot on his chin, which was cracked in his last fight. Now one knockout doesn’t mean his chin is shot forever but when you rely on your chin so much, the more it gets hit, the more it begins to crack. Hardy is usually very willing to stay in the pocket and exchange, and while he claims that he won’t be gun shy following the knockout, I need to believe it before I see it. While Hardy’s takedown defense is suspect, his sprawl isn’t bad, it’s his clinch game where he gets in trouble. He likes to throw a lot of knees in the clinch, which of course leaves him vulnerable for takedowns. Johnson is strong in the clinch so combined with his background in wrestling, Hardy would be well-advised to stay out of clutches of Johnson. Should Hardy find himself on his back, he’ll likely go for a triangle. It’s not a very good triangle and it’s more used as a defensive move to create space so he can get to his feet. Hardy needs to be the aggressor in this fight and really test the cardio of Johnson. An underrated part of Hardy’s game is his conditioning. He’s gone 15 minutes a number of times in his UFC career and he went 25 minutes with St. Pierre, where he was dominated every minute of the fight, but wasn’t tired at the end. If Hardy is afraid of getting hit though and he’s tentative on the feet, he’s going to be in a lot of trouble in this fight. Hardy has the power to put Johnson away with one punch or he could overwhelm him with strikes later in the fight should Johnson tire out. If he can’t finish him though, he could win a decision by landing the cleaner strikes.

This is a tough fight to call, mainly due to the questions surrounding Johnson. I’ve never been that high on Hardy and the fact that he’s coming off a brutal KO worries me, but Johnson is coming off a 16-month layoff, a knee injury, and likely a tough weight cut. In the end, I trust Hardy more. I know he’ll be in top condition and he seems like the type of guy who will shake off a KO and not be afraid to pull the trigger in this fight. I’m not sure Hardy will be able to finish Johnson but I do believe that he’ll be able to get the better of things standing and really take over in the final half of the fight to win a decision.

Prediction: Dan Hardy to defeat Anthony Johnson by Decision

Welterweight Fight: DaMarques Johnson vs. Amir Sadollah

Replacing James Wilks, who was replacing Duane Ludwig, DaMarques Johnson takes on Ultimate Fighter 7 winner Amir Sadollah.

Even though he didn’t win The Ultimate Fighter 9, Johnson has found good success in the UFC, posting a 3-1 record since the finale. Johnson is a solid striker. He has a nice jab, a very good left hook, and a solid straight right. He doesn’t really move his head though and gets tagged with a lot of counter punches, especially the straight right. He doesn’t put too many combinations together, usually sticking to a simple one-two combo. Johnson is a decent wrestler but the majority of his takedowns come from the clinch. He’s strong in the clinch and has good throws as well. On the ground, he’s very active. On top and from the guard he likes to throw elbows. He does a nice job of using head control to pass to better positions and he’s very strong on top. His bottom game isn’t terrible either, especially his guard. He has an active guard and likes to roll for armbars and triangles. If you can get past his guard though, he becomes a little lost. Johnson’s cardio is a bit questionable and Sadollah will no doubt test it in this fight. Johnson will most likely be happy keeping this fight standing because he has power and a solid chin. He’s not as technical of a striker compared to Sadollah though, so Johnson will need to pick his shots wisely and possibly look to turn things into a brawl. Johnson would be very wise to clinch and look for the takedown. Sadollah’s takedown defense looked improved in his last fight but Johnson is a better wrestler than Peter Sobotta. If Johnson can get things down, he’ll need to avoid the armbar of Sadollah, which shouldn’t be too hard considering that Johnson is well-versed in grappling and trains with Jeremy Horn, who has probably caught him with every submission under the sun. Johnson can win this fight by finishing Sadollah with strikes, possibly submit him from the top position, or win a decision by controlling the grappling aspect of the fight.

Sadollah has had an up and down UFC career but he’s coming off a very impressive victory over Sobotta and he’ll look to carry that momentum into this fight against Johnson. Sadollah is a very good striker. He likes to lead with the straight right but it’s never one punch. He’ll lead with the straight right and then double up, he’ll throw a straight right followed by a jab, and another right or he’ll throw a straight right and follow it with a head kick. Sadollah’s biggest weapon though is his leg kicks. He snaps off very quick leg kicks so even though he doesn’t always set them up, they normally land. He doesn’t have much power in his strikes but in his defense, he doesn’t really throw a ton of power strikes, choosing to throw more in volume. He does a nice job of keeping his hands up although when you throw as many strikes as he does, you’re bound to get hit a lot. While his takedown defense isn’t great, what I like about it is that he never stops throwing strikes. In the clinch he’s always throwing knees and elbows and when he’s defending takedowns, he’s always throwing hammerfists. He makes his opponents pay for trying to get him down, which is something that not enough fighetrs do nowadays. Off his back he has a good armbar and he is active with punches but he’s not a major threat. After the Dong Hyun Kim fight, I’m sure Sadollah spent a lot of time working on getting up off his back and Johnson’s top game isn’t as controlling as Kim’s so Sadollah will likely look to immediately push away and get up. Sadollah needs to keep this fight standing and just work his striking. He’ll get hit, probably more often than he’d like to, but he’ll hit Johnson a lot as well and his pace will really wear on Johnson. Sadollah could finish Johnson late in the fight if Johnson’s conditioning doesn’t hold up, maybe submit him off his back with a triangle or armbar, but most likely he’ll win a decision by being the more active and effective striker.

While this fight is a battle between two middle of the pack welterweights, it’s a very interesting contest. Both guys are relatively well-rounded and usually have exciting fights. I like Sadollah in this fight though because I think he’ll be able to keep it standing and wear out Johnson with his activity. He may not have the power to finish Johnson be he should be able to win a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Amir Sadollah to defeat DaMarques Johnson by Decision

Featherweight Fight: Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia

In a rematch of their 2010 Fight of the Year contender, Chan Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia throw down once again due to an injury to Garcia’s original opponent, Nam Phan.

Jung suffered the first KO loss of his career in his last bout against George Roop and is in desperate need of a victory given that he’s 1-3 in his last four fights. Jung is known for his zombie style where he walks forward with his hands wide and begins throwing with reckless abandon. That style wasn’t very effective against a lengthy Roop but luckily for Jung, Garcia doesn’t throw many straight punches and isn’t as long as Roop. Jung has a good left hook and throws a very good body kick, which is something he should use a lot in this fight to further take away the conditioning of Garcia. Jung is at his best when he’s wildly exchanging with his opponents, which is what made his first fight against Garcia so exciting. Of course, one has to wonder how willing Jung is going to be to engage considering that he’s coming off such a brutal KO. He put in some work with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male leading up to this fight so I think we’re going to see a different “Korean Zombie.” He has an underrated ground game so don’t be shocked if he uses it in this fight. Even though Garcia has solid takedown defense, it’s possible that Jung could clinch and get a trip takedown or initiate a scramble. I full expect Jung to look for a guillotine choke should Garcia present his neck just because that’s a Team Alpha Male specialty. I think we’ll see a completely different Jung in this fight. A guy who uses a little more defense and a little more of his ground game rather than a guy who just presses forward and throws caution to the wind. Don’t be wrong, I’m sure Jung will revert to “Zombie Mode” if he gets hit and the crowd starts going crazy but he’s going to try his best to be a human for the start of the fight. Garcia is tough to finish, especially with strikes, but Jung might be able to submit him if he can get him down or he could win a decision if two judges decide Garcia’s strategy of “getting punched in the face” isn’t a very good one.

Garcia is known for his exciting style and his ability to steal decisions, both of which were on display in his last fight against Phan and his first fight against Jung. If you’ve seen one Garcia fight, you’ve probably seen them all. He puts everything into every punch he throws, throws very few straight punches, and really wings his right hand. He has a solid double jab and decent leg kicks but he doesn’t use either of them as much as he should. Because he throws so much looping punches, he gets hit a lot by straight punches but his parents blessed him with a hell of a chin. His takedown defense isn’t bad although he’s no real threat off his back. He likes to grab a guillotine but it’s not a great guillotine. He does a nice job of pushing away to get to his feet and he’s also willing to give up his back in order to stand up. On top he’s active with strikes but I think everyone would be shocked if Garcia decided to take this fight to the ground. Garcia’s conditioning is questionable because he puts everything into his punches so he tires out quickly. Even though he gets tired though, Garcia never stops moving forward and throwing. In fact, he’s influenced plenty of judges by just pressing forward and throwing, even if he gets hit more often than he lands. I don’t expect Garcia’s game plan to be any different than what it usually is. He’s going to move forward, throw punches, and try and get into a brawl with Jung. If Jung’s chin has been even slightly cracked, Garcia might be able to put him away but if not, Garcia could win a decision by doing what he always does. Stealing it.

I hope no one expects this fight to be to as exciting as their first bout 11 months ago. Jung, even though he likes to be exciting, desperately needs a win and I think he knows that and that’s why he spent time with Faber and company for this camp. I think we’ll see a better, more well-rounded Jung, and he’ll frustrate Garcia, who will be hoping for another all out brawl. I think Jung will be able to submit Garcia in this bout after Garcia has burned most of his energy from throwing so many punches.

Prediction: Chan Sung Jung to defeat Leonard Garcia by Submission in Round Two

Preliminary Fight Predictions

*Mackens Semerzier to defeat Alex Caceres by TKO in Round 2
*Jon Madsen to defeat Mike Russow by Decision
*John Hathaway to defeat Kris McCray by Submission in Round 1
*Michael McDonald to defeat Edwin Figueroa by TKO in Round 1
*Christian Morecraft to defeat Sean McCorkle by TKO in Round 1
*Johny Hendricks to defeat TJ Waldburger by Decision
*Aaron Simpson to defeat Mario Miranda by TKO in Round 2
*Nik Lentz to defeat Waylon Lowe by Decision

This is a very good Fight Night card with two fights having the potential to be nothing but fireworks for as long as they last. Not only that but UFC is giving us five free fights on Facebook before the live card. And if that wasn’t enough there are three live MMA events prior to Fight Night on Saturday. No shortage of MMA this weekend folks, so enjoy it and get ready for The After Party on Monday.

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