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The Walk Out – “UFC 132: Cruz vs. Faber”

UFC is bringing the fireworks this 4th of July weekend with one of the most stacked cards, top to bottom, in recent months. UFC 132 is not only a great card from the first fight to the main event, it’s also a great way to cap off a very busy month of MMA action. And if it couldn’t get any hotter in Vegas in July with fireworks going off, Brittney Palmer will also be in town.

UFC Bantamweight Title Fight: Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz ©

The WEC’s most popular star, Urijah Faber, looks to add another belt to his collection by defeating his rival, UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz in a rematch of their March 2007 bout.

Faber Skill Assessment: Faber is known for his speed and unpredictability. He’s not the most technical striker in the world but his speed more than makes up for it. He keeps his hands down and rushes forward with his strikes, but he’s so quick that he’s able to get away with it more often than he should. That said, with the exception of Jose Aldo, he hasn’t faced a fighter who is just as quick as him on the feet in recent bouts. Faber’s best punch is a right straight. He leads with it and he counters with it. He also has a great combination, one of my favorite combos in MMA, which is a left hook to the body followed by a right straight. He throws head kicks but that’s about it as far as kicks go. I hope Faber has more body and leg kicks in his arsenal, as well as a right uppercut, because those could serve him very well against Cruz. The kicks will slow down the movement of Cruz and the uppercut can be used to counter Cruz when he overextends himself on his right straight. Faber’s bread and butter is his grappling. He has a quick single leg takedown and if he doesn’t get it, he does a good job keeping the fight in the clinch and grabbing a front head lock in order to drag the fight to the ground. He got bullied a bit in the clinch against Eddie Wineland, which was shocking because every one thought he would be stronger at 135 but it’s not like he was damaged or even taken down. The takedowns just didn’t come as easy many thought they would, probably because he tried for more throws rather than trips, which he needs to use against Cruz. When he went away from the throws in rounds two and three, he started having success in getting Wineland to the ground. On the ground is where Faber excels. He has excellent top control and he’s so quick that he almost always ends up in a better position if a fighter tries to scramble to his feet. He does a lot of damage from the guard by stacking his opponents and throwing down with elbows. I also believe that he baits his opponents into thinking they have space and then immediately takes it away on the scramble. He has a very tight guillotine, which is what he caught Cruz in in their first fight. And in that first fight, Cruz was in side control when Faber locked on the guillotine and finished it with one hand, which should tell you just how dangerous Faber’s grip is. Off his back, Faber isn’t really a submission threat outside of the guillotine but he’s extremely tough to hold down. He does a great job at either exploding to his feet or using the cage to wall walk up. He’s also not afraid to give up his back because he trusts his submission defense and ability to spin away. Faber’s advantage in fights has always been his pace and comfortableness in big fights. He won’t have a pace advantage against Cruz, who sets just as high of a pace as Faber but he is used to big fights. He has that one UFC fight under his belt and he’s headlined a PPV before. Faber also has an advantage because he knows he can beat Cruz and his teammate, Joseph Benavidez fought Cruz twice with success, despite losing both contests. An underrated part of Faber’s game is his ability to adapt. If things aren’t going his way, he’s great at developing a plan B on the fly and making that work for him.

Faber Game Plan: The first fight has no bearing on what is going to happen this weekend and I’m sure Faber knows that. He’s a different fighter and Cruz is a much different fighter. So he can’t expect to submit Cruz in under two minutes like he did last time. Faber needs to use a lot of kicks to slow down Cruz. Cruz is sort of like Lyoto Machida prior to UFC 104, where everyone thought he was impossible to hit on the chin, which he was, but Shogun Rua realized that he wasn’t impossible to hit on the legs and body. Faber needs to slow down Cruz and not let him find his rhythm on the feet. Get Cruz in the clinch, rough him up with knees to the body, look for the trip takedown, and just stay on Cruz.

Cruz Skill Assessment: Ever since he dropped to 135, Cruz has become the new MMA puzzle, or as I like to call him, The Cruzix Cube. The way he moves and the angles he creates is some of the best in MMA. He’s constantly moving side to side and he gets in and out so quick that he’s hard to counter. He does have some tendencies though. He likes to lead with the straight right and he also doubles up on his right hand but will overextend himself with the punch. He also likes to throw a jab-leg kick combo, which I expect to see a lot of against Faber. When he stands still in exchanges, and I promise you that he does stand still every now and again, he always ends his flurries with a kick, usually to the body. Also, when he throws a superman punch, he usually follows it up with a body kick. Finally, he loves to throw uppercut-hook combos and he’ll mix it up with which hand he leads with on the uppercut. He keeps his hands low but he’s so quick and his head movement is so good that he easily gets away with it. Cruz is very strong in the clinch and has good takedown defense, although is he susceptible to inside trips in the clinch. His wrestling is some of the best in MMA because of how quick and diverse he is on the feet. His favorite takedown is the underhook to knee tap takedown. The thing with Cruz’ wrestling is that it’s all well-timed. He does a great job getting takedowns at the end of close rounds in order to secure or steal rounds for himself. On the ground, he likes to go body-body-elbow to the head. He’s very active on the ground with strikes although he doesn’t throw the most damaging blows in the world. He’s no real submission threat off his back, and while he’s good at getting to his feet, he does get sloppy in the scrambles. This will be Cruz’ first UFC bout, his first time being in front a huge audience, he’s fighting a guy who he really dislikes and Faber holds a win over him. That’s a lot for Cruz to deal with. He could get overwhelmed by the moment, he could begin fighting on emotion, or he could just have it in his head that he can’t beat Faber. If any of those things affect Cruz and don’t allow him to fight up to his full potential, he could be sleeping without the belt on Saturday night.

Cruz Game Plan: Cruz has to keep this fight standing and just use his movement like he’s been doing in his recent bouts. Get in and out, use a lot of kicks, and mix things up. Look for the takedowns at the end of the round as well, but only at the end of the round because he doesn’t need to get into a grappling battle with Faber, no matter how confident he is in his grappling. If he can out-speed Faber, something tough but also something he has the ability to do and make things a technical fight then he can remain champion.

Fight Prediction: I’ve gone back and forth on this fight but in the end, I’m going with Faber. Even though Cruz has looked outstanding at 135, Faber is a guy I never want to count out. I think he’ll come up with a game plan to slow down Cruz. He’ll make Cruz fight his fight or he’ll adapt to Cruz. He’ll turn the fight into a grappling contest and he’ll outwork Cruz en route to a decision.

Official Prediction: Urijah Faber to defeat Dominick Cruz by Decision

Middleweight Fight: Chris Leben vs. Wanderlei Silva

After over a year away from the cage, Wanderlei Silva finally returns to trade strikes with fellow banger Chris Leben.

Leben Skill Assessment: Leben is a brawler. He’s become a lot more patient over the years but he’s still a guy, who, when he gets hit, he’s just going to walk forward and try to his back. He stands southpaw and has a really good leg kick that he throws with his lead leg. When he throws any other kick, it’s pretty slow and telegraphed and he drops his hands, leading to him getting countered. He doesn’t throw many combinations although he ha a good right hook-left straight combo. Really, everything he does on the feet is to set up his straight left hand. That’s his money punch. When he gets inside, he throws some very good uppercuts in the clinch. Leben’s chin is outstanding and can take a punch, but maybe it can’t take a knee. The two times he’s been finished by strikes, a knee in the blow that ended up putting him down for the count. Leben is a solid wrestler with an underrated ground game but I think we’d all be shocked if this fight went to the ground. He’s active on the ground, both on top and bottom, with strikes and he likes to go for armbars off his back. Despite usually delivering great fights, Leben is a very inconsistent fighter. He seemed to be building momentum after posting two wins in two weeks in the middle of last year but then he was finished by Brian Stann this past January. Granted he was sick heading into that fight and dealing with personal problems but it’s been a common theme throughout Leben’s career that, when things are going well for him, something bad happens and he struggles to fight through it. I don’t think he’s a mentally weak fighter but I do think that he has trouble dealing with outside circumstances that don’t pertain to the fight. From what I’ve heard, Leben is 100% focused for this fight but if that changes between now and fight time, I guarantee it will hurt Leben’s performance.

Leben Game Plan: Leben won’t be afraid to stand and trade with Silva because he trusts his power and chin. I think he should pressure Silva, at least early. Silva is used to being the aggressor and if Leben can make him uncomfortable by walking forward, it could throw Silva off a bit. Otherwise he needs to throw his straight left and stay out of the clinch.

Silva Skill Assessment: Silva is known for his ultra-aggressive style but in recent fights he’s become more of a controlled fighter who will turn up the aggression when he needs to. He doesn’t throw many straight punches, so instead of using a jab, he uses a quick inside leg kick to get the distance and disrupt his opponents rhythm. When he throws, he almost always throws at least two punches at a time and leads with a left hook. In recent fights he’s been using a good jab to the body followed by an overhand right. Possibly Silva’s best attribute is his ability to counter leg kicks. Any time an opponent throws a lazy leg kicks, which Leben has a habit of doing, Silva makes them pay with a flurry of punches. And of course I can’t forget about Silva’s muay-thai clinch. While we haven’t seen his deadly knees in a while, we know that they’re there and if Leben wants to get inside and dirty box a little, Silva will have no problem grabbing him behind the head and letting his face meet his knee. As with Leben, Silva has an underrated ground game but I doubt we’ll see it come into play in the fight. His wrestling isn’t great, although he does have solid takedown defense, but he is good at turning kicks into takedowns for himself. He’s also active on top with strikes and likes to grab a guillotine from the bottom. What worries me about Silva is the fact that he’s only fought twice since 2009 and hasn’t fought since February 2010. He’s coming off knee surgery, which, along with back surgery, is the worst injury to be coming off of. I expect Silva to have a lot of rust and not be as explosive as he usually is.

Silva Game Plan: Silva has to use his speed, pending he still has his speed following knee surgery. Leben is a muscular middleweight while Silva is quicker and more explosive. If that speed and explosiveness isn’t there though, Silva needs to try and clinch with Leben and unleash some of his infamous knees. Also, he might need to become a counter puncher for the first time in his career because I’m not sure getting into a slugfest with Leben would turn out well for him.

Fight Prediction: As much as I like Silva, this is a bad match up for him, especially coming off such a long layoff that included major surgery. Maybe the layoff will end up benefitting Silva and his chin will have recovered a bit, but if not, I don’t like his chin against Leben’s power. I think Leben just moves forward, swings away, and eventually catches Silva to put him out.

Official Prediction: Chris Leben to defeat Wanderlei Silva by TKO in Round One

Light Heavyweight Fight: Ryan Bader vs. Tito Ortiz

Needing a win to stay employed, Tito Ortiz fights for his career against Ryan Bader, who is looking to bounce back after his first career loss.

Bader Skill Assessment: Bader is a pure power fighter. He has a heavy right hand, which is about the only punch he looks comfortable throwing. He sets it up decently with a feeler jab but really he just wings it and hopes it connects. Sometimes he doubles up his right hand but he doesn’t really commit to the second one. Besides his right hand, he likes to throw a counter left hook and leg kicks, which he doesn’t set up. Wrestling is Bader’s game. He’s a power wrestler with a quick takedown, although he doesn’t set them up very well. What I like about Bader’s wrestling though is that when he doesn’t get a takedown, he makes his opponent pay with a right hand or a knee on the way up. When he gets the takedown, he’s content with just staying in the guard and damaging his opponents with elbows. He hasn’t been on his back much, but when he was in that position against Jon Jones, he looked lost. He didn’t go a bad job of getting to his feet thanks to his power and explosiveness but he also got dominated on the ground. Granted he was facing Jones and the only way to stop that guy is with a handgun, but athletic commissions frown upon that. Bader’s biggest weakness is his cardio. Because he’s a power fighter and he puts everything into his punches, he starts to fade in the final round.

Bader Game Plan: Bader could probably have success with Ortiz on the feet, or at least land the harder punches even if he gets outlanded, but he’s best off taking this fight to the ground. Matt Hamill got Ortiz down at will and I think Bader is a stronger and quicker wrestler than Ortiz. If he can get Ortiz does with regularity, he’s going to win this fight.

Ortiz Game Plan: Competing since 1997, Ortiz is the same fighter he was back then, only now he’s fighting much better and more well-rounded competition. He’s a very basic boxer who mainly throws a one-two, and sometimes follows it up with a body kick. He doesn’t do anything fancy and he also lacks power in his punches. Ortiz has always been known for his wrestling and ground and pound. He doesn’t set up his takedown very well though. He usually covers up and then shoots, which makes his takedowns predictable. On the ground, Ortiz is great at doing damage from the guard. He has great posture and rains down some of the most brutal elbows in MMA history. He’s not great off his back but he does have surprising submission skills, usually attacking with an armbar or triangle. The problem with his submission game is that he doesn’t attack off his back often. I’m sure we’ll hear the announcers talk about Ortiz’ cardio and how it’s always been great ever since the Frank Shamrock fight but I think it’s overrated. He’s actually has a history of gassing in the third round of fights. If there’s one thing to like about Ortiz in this fight, it’s that this is his first consistent fight since 2007. He’s finally not coming off a very long layoff where he had surgery. Granted he pulled out of his last fight, which was scheduled for March, but that was due to a cut.

Ortiz Game Plan: Ortiz needs to avoid Bader’s right hand, use straight punches to beat Bader to the punch, and look for takedowns. I was really surprised against Hamill that Ortiz rarely, if ever, went for a takedown. Even if he’s doing well on the feet, his wrestling and being on top is where he does his best work. I know he’s gotten more confidence in his boxing over the years but he can’t forget what brought him to the dance.

Fight Prediction: The fight feels like the old Ortiz (Tito) vs. the new Ortiz (Bader). Simply put, Bader is younger, stronger, and faster than Ortiz, who is past his prime and has looked like a broken down fighter over the years. This is also a bad match up for Ortiz, who has struggled with wrestlers throughout his entire career. I think this fight plays out a lot like Ortiz vs. Hamill, where Ortiz might have success on the feet but Bader will get takedowns and control Ortiz en route to a decision.

Official Prediction: Ryan Bader to defeat Tito Ortiz by Decision

Welterweight Fight: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Carlos Condit

Undefeated welterweight Dong Hyun Kim takes on his toughest test to date, the always dangerous and exciting Carlos Condit.

Kim Skill Assessment: Kim has flown under the radar in the division but now he’s in the spotlight. His striking is underrated, mainly his defense. He stands southpaw, uses a quick inside leg kick, and loves his left straight. He claims to have power but we haven’t really seen in the UFC and I’d be shocked if we see it against Condit. Defensively is where he shines on the feet. He moves his head well, gets out quickly in exchanges, and doesn’t take a ton of damage. He’s mainly a grappler though. He has a judo background but he’s a solid wrestler, mainly thanks to his speed, timing, and relentlessness. He does a nice job ducking under strikes and getting takedowns on his opponents and if his takedown is stuffed, he’ll force a clinch and use his judo. On top he mainly throws elbows and has very good posture. He sometimes leaves his arm free for submissions but he has good submission defense and recognition and quickly gets free before anything is locked on. He has good control on top and is good in the scrambles thanks to his quick hips. Off his back, Kim likes to go for triangles but he doesn’t spend much time fighting off his back and elects to immediately get up, which he’s able to do with relative ease. Kim’s biggest problem is his cardio. He pushes a good pace but not a high-level pace and certainly not a pace that should make a world-class fighter tired in the last round.

Kim Game Plan: Kim needs to make this fight boring. I know that sounds like a terrible thing to say but Kim excels at boring, grinding fights where he can control the clinch and the tempo. He can’t get into a slugfest with Condit and he can’t get into a wild grappling battle that goes all over the place. He needs to put Condit against the cage, slow him down, get takedowns, and just grind out Condit.

Condit Skill Assessment: Condit is a relatively well-rounded fighter who always brings the excitement. He’s a very active striker who likes to throw a variety of difference combinations. He has a good inside leg kick, which he sometimes couples with a right hand, and he really likes a jab-leg kick combo. He also throws a bunch of front kicks to the lead leg of his opponents, which some believe is a dirty strike. If there’s a strike that gets Condit in trouble, it’s his body kick. It’s a very lazy body kick, where he drops his hands and leaves him open for a counter right hand. He likes to throw the body kick when he switches to southpaw, which he does frequently during fights. What makes Condit even more dangerous is the fact that he has one strike power. He put Dan Hardy, known for his excellent chin, essentially out cold with a counter left hook at the same time that he was getting hit with a left hook. In the clinch, Condit remains active and throws very good knees to the thighs to soften up his opponents before focusing more on the upper body. If there’s one weakness in Condit’s game, it’s his wrestling. His takedown defense is improving but isn’t spectacular, especially in the clinch, and his takedown offense isn’t great either. What he does well though is stuffing the shot of his opponents and then using a kimura threat to put his opponents on their back rather than ending up on his own. His grappling is outstanding though. Off his back he likes to use the rubber guard to control his opponents posture, which he’ll then turn into an omoplata sweep or just use to batter his opponent with elbows. On top he likes to throw a lot of elbows and doesn’t mind staying in the half guard position to damage his opponents. What I like about Condit is that he’s always trying to finish. Whether he’s winning a fight or losing it, he’s never going to stop fighting. That makes him a dangerous guy because you know he’s not someone who is just going to break at the first sign of trouble.

Condit Game Plan: On the feet, Condit needs to throw a lot of straight right hands because that’s the one punch that always seems to find Kim’s chin. On the ground, he needs to make Condit work with his activity. He needs to push a quick pace and can’t allow Kim to get into a rhythm or fight at his pace.

Fight Prediction: I think a lot of people are overlooking Kim but I still like Condit in this fight because of his conditioning, power, and activity. Even if Kim wins the first two rounds, Condit will come on strong in the final round while Kim will fade. I think Condit will wear out Kim with his pace and toughness, finishing him late in the fight.

Official Prediction: Carlos Condit to defeat Dong Hyun Kim by TKO in Round Three

Lightweight Fight: Matt Wiman vs. Dennis Siver

Coming off the biggest win of his career, Dennis Siver looks to keeps the momentum going against the very tough Matt Wiman.

Wiman Skill Assessment: Wiman is a guy who just comes to fight. He’s an aggressive striker who presses forward with three strikes or more, throws good leg kicks, and likes to use a left hook-right uppercut combo. He also likes to duck under, throw a left hook, and then come with a right straight. He gets hit a lot but he’s someone who doesn’t mind getting hit. Wiman likes to get in the clinch and rough up his opponents with strikes. He’s deceptively strong in the clinch and does a good job changing levels, grabbing a single leg, and dragging his opponents to the ground. On the ground he likes to stack his opponents and throw down with a flurry of strikes. He’s also very content on just staying in half guard and raining down hammerfists and elbows. He has a very quick guillotine and loves to go for it in all positions, where it be in scrambles, on top, or off his back. Wiman’s best attribute is his pace. He pushes the action, rarely slows down, and doesn’t gas out.

Wiman Game Plan: Wiman needs to do what he almost always does, and that’s bring the fight to Siver. Stay in his face and make it a brawl rather than a technical striking contest. Get the fight into the clinch, rough up Siver, and look for takedowns.

Siver Skill Assessment: Siver has been hyped as one of the best strikers in the lightweight division, and while he’s good, lets not get ahead of ourselves. He’s a quick striker with a very good and powerful counter left hook. He throws a lot of inside leg kicks and he almost always follows up his inside leg kick with a lead leg head kick or an outside leg kick. His favorite strike though is the spinning back kick, which he throws with great speed and accuracy. He’ll throw that kick at least two times a round, if not more. While he’s known as a more technical striker, he can get baited into a wild striking affair where he throws hooks with reckless abandon. Against George Sotiropoulos, he showed off some very good takedown defense and balance. He wasn’t just stuffing the takedowns of Sotiropoulos, he was shucking away Sotiropoulos with ease and throwing him down to the mat. Even though he was stuffing the shot of Sotiropoulos, I’m not sold on his clinch takedown defense. He’s susceptible to trip takedowns but getting inside on him is easier said than done. We haven’t seen much of Siver off his back but he does have quick hips and explosiveness so rather than playing a grappling game with Wiman, I’m sure he’ll just look to scramble up to his feet.

Siver Game Plan: Siver has to make this a technical fight. Look for the counter left hook as Wiman moves in and avoid the clinch. He has to make Wiman pay for moving in on him because if he doesn’t Wiman is just going to keep moving forward and making Siver uncomfortable.

Fight Prediction: This is a close fight but I like Wiman to take it. I think his pace will give Siver trouble and, to the surprise of some, he’ll be able to get the fight to the ground by using the clinch, where he’ll continue to wear Siver with his aggressiveness on the ground.

Official Prediction: Matt Wiman to defeat Dennis Siver by Decision

Quick Preliminary Fight Predictions

*Melvin Guillard to defeat Shane Roller by TKO in Round One
*George Sotiropoulos to defeat Rafael dos Anjos by Decision
*Brian Bowles to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by TKO in Round Two
*Aaron Simpson to defeat Brad Tavares by TKO in Round Two
*Anthony Njokuani to defeat Andre Winner by TKO in Round One
*Donny Walker to defeat Jeff Mougland by Submission in Round One


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