There’s some intrigue in the UFC 133 preliminary card this Saturday. A recent PPV headliner tries to stop the momentum of a light heavyweight that many believe is a future champion. One featherweight tries to earn a title shot while the other attempts to prevent that and put himself into title contention. Also, a former champion is in desperate need of a victory to remain employed and a welterweight attempts to back up his recent habit of trash talking.
As you may have noticed, I’ve changed the format of The Walk Out because “the network” told me that I type too much. Can you believe that? I mean, it’s true and all, but how dare they point it out. Anyway, from now on, I’ll be bringing you The Walk Out in two or three parts. Wednesday will be the preliminary fights for UFC cards only, Thursday will be the undercard of the main show, and the main event gets Friday all to itself. Think of it as the Wrestlemania 8 walk out, which was so long that Ultimate Warrior gassed when he ran it.
The other change is that, instead of a fighter assessment featuring long paragraphs, things will now be broken down a bit more and focus more on “angles.” With prelims, I’m only exploring one angle per fighter but for the main card, and especially the main events, there will be more to type about. The one thing that will remain though is that I will give a reason for every prediction I make because as a fight predictor, I feel having a good reason should be valued over whether or not your pick ends up being right or wrong.
Light Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Matt Hamill
Gustafsson On The Rise: In this social media world we live in, Alexander Gustafsson has received a lot of hype from fighters and fans through various outlets. It’s well deserved as well. He’s finished all but one of his career opponents and his only loss is to the undefeated Phil Davis, who has adopted Gustafsson as his little brother since their bout. He’s a relatively well-rounded fighter and someone who has solid takedown defense despite no wrestling background. If Gustafsson wants to take that next step, this is a fight that he needs to win and needs an impressive showing because, even though Hamill has some good wins under his belt, there are so many flaws in game that Gustafsson, if he’s as good as people make him out to be, should be able to expose.
Hamill Bouncing Back: Last time we saw Matt Hamill, he was repeatedly getting punched in the face by Quinton Jackson. Just over two months later and he’s already back in action. No matter what, Hamill needs a plan B in this fight. If his first takedown fails, he can’t just give up like he did in the Jackson fight. He needs to work harder. I also don’t like Hamill taking this fight on short notice because he took a ton of damage from the fists of “Rampage” and I’m not sure that he’s had the proper time to recover. He was blessed with a great chin but sooner or later, when you take as many punches as he has, that chin cracks.
Fight Prediction: I was stupid enough to pick Hamill to beat Jackson. I won’t make that mistake again. Hamill isn’t a bad fighter but his striking defense is so bad and he just shuts down if he can’t get a takedown. I’m believing the Gustafsson hype, I think he’ll be able to keep it standing, and he’ll pick apart Hamill.
Official Prediction: Alexander Gustafsson to defeat Matt Hamill by TKO in Round Three
Featherweight Fight: Rani Yahya vs. Chad Mendes
Yahya’s Jiu-Jitsu: Rani Yahya is one of the top jiu-jitsu practitioners at 145. In 16 career wins, 14 have come by submission. He’s going to need that submission game against his opponent, who is known for his wrestling. Yahya’s problem might be that he’s too good at jiu-jitsu though, which has hindered his improvement as a striker. He’s going to have a tough time getting the fight to the ground and if he can’t be a threat on the feet in order to force the fight to the ground, he’s going to be in trouble.
Mendes On The Verge Of A Title Shot: In fantasy, Chad Mendes would be fighting for the 145 lb title on this show but isn’t due to an injury suffered by Jose Aldo. So back to reality, Mendes decided to fight instead of sit, which has cost fighters in the past but is a risk he’s willing to take. So is Mendes overlooking Yahya? I highly doubt it. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to do that and he’s not surrounded by people who are going to let him do that. You know he’s being pushed every day at Team Alpha Male with guys who won’t let him slack off. He’s a top notch wrestler, his striking is improving with every fight, and I think he’ll come out looking to make a statement against Yahya.
Fight Prediction: Stylistically, this is a great fight for Mendes. He can dictate where the fight takes place, he’s the better striker, and I’m sure he’s been drilling submission defense and escapes for this entire camp. Yahya has the skills to catch Mendes with a quick submission but otherwise, Mendes should be able to rough up Yahya and bully him around.
Official Prediction: Chad Mendes to defeat Rani Yahya by TKO in Round Two
Bantamweight Fight: Nick Pace vs. Ivan Menjivar
Pace Still A Prospect: Nick Pace is only 24 and his lone career loss came against top bantamweight contender Demetrious Johnson. In his last fight, a submission victory against Will Campuzano, he invented the “Pace choke,” which, even if he does nothing else in his career, he’ll always have that claim to fame. He’s a relatively well-rounded fighter with his weakness being his takedown defense but he’s quick on his feet and has a good ground game. He doesn’t have the experience of his opponent, but that could just mean that he’s fresher than his veteran opponent.
Menjivar An Experienced 29 Ivan Menjivar is 29 years old and has been fighting since 2001. He’s fought plenty of top fighters, including Georges St. Pierre in GSP’s debut fight, and guys like Matt Serra, Urijah Faber, and Caol Uno. He retired for four years in 2006 but is back and looking to make a run at the title. But at 29 and having 30 career fights, even despite the layoff, I wonder if Menjivar will fall victim to Joe Stevenson-syndrome.
Fight Prediction: I have to go with the younger and fresher fighter in this one. I think Pace’s offensive wrestling and top game will be too much for Menjivar, who I just feel may have already peaked despite his age.
Official Decision: Nick Pace to defeat Ivan Menjivar by Submission in Round One
Welterweight Fight: Mike Pierce vs. Johny Hendricks
Pierce Needs To Back Up Talk: If you’ve been following Mike Pierce on twitter then you’ll notice that he’s become quite the trash talker. I guess that’s what happens when you hang around Chael Sonnen so often. Pierce is a talented fighter and a very strong wrestler. He’s never been finished, he’s won three straight fights, and his only UFC loss came against Jon Fitch. Now he’s starting to get attention because of his mouth and fingers, and not his ability though. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself by talking such a big game when, lets face it, he hasn’t exactly proven he’s a top level fighter.
Hendricks Hype: Johny Hendricks was one of the best collegiate wrestlers that this country has ever seen. Despite this though, his wrestling hasn’t quite translated to MMA. He’s a lot like Dan Henderson, which is in no way a knock against him, in that his aggressiveness leaves him vulnerable for takedowns against guys that shouldn’t be able to take him down. He has power in his hands and his wrestling is there when he needs it but Pierce is a strong wrestler as well and we saw that when Hendricks fought a power wrestler like Rick Story, that Story was able to control him because of his aggressive style and his wrestling failing to really translate to MMA.
Fight Prediction: These two are almost mirror images of each other but I’m going to go with Hendricks because he’s more well rounded and when it comes down to it, he is the better wrestler. Plus I don’t like favoring guys who all of a sudden become heavy trash talkers despite proving very little as that’s usually a smoke screen.
Official Prediction: Johny Hendricks to defeat Mike Pierce by Decision
Featherweight Fight: Nam Phan vs. Mike Brown
Phan Looking For A Signature Win: Nam Phan has fought plenty of top fighters in MMA. Josh Thomson, JZ Cavalcante, Michihiro Omigawa, and others. He’s also lost to those fighters. Despite his technical striking ability, Phan has yet to score that big win that people remember. He should have had it against Leonard Garcia but judges don’t count body shots. Now Phan gets another chance against a former 145 pound champion and someone who appears to be trending downwards.
Brown’s Fall From Grace: Less than two years ago, Mike Brown was on top of the featherweight world. At UFC 133 he needs a victory to keep his job. It’s tough to explain Brown’s downfall. There’s no shame in losing to Jose Aldo and anyone can get caught like he did against Manny Gamburyan, but losing to a one eyed Diego Nunes and then failing to beat a mid-level Rani Yahya (albeit on very short notice) had to be tough for Brown and his fans to swallow. Brown needs to regain his form against Phan and if he doesn’t, I hope he has Bjorn Rebney’s number.
Fight Prediction: I trust the MMA Mike Brown right now about as much as I trust the NBA head coach Mike Brown, but I’m still going with him in this fight because of his wrestling. However, I don’t think the Los Angeles Lakers will win the NBA title in 2013.
Official Prediction: Mike Brown to defeat Nam Phan by Decision
Middleweight Fight: Paul Bradley vs. Rafael Natal
Bradley’s Shot At The Big Time: You may remember Paul Bradley as the guy who dropped out of The Ultimate Fighter 7 when it was found out that he had a contagious skin condition. Bradley never got his shot in the UFC after the show but did continue to compete in MMA, including taking fights in Strikeforce and Shark Fights. He’s taking the fight on short notice but expect him to let it all hang out and relish his opportunity on Saturday night.
Natal’s Last Chance: Rafael Natal was signed by the UFC after dominating former UFC middleweight title challenger and “The Michael Jordan of Jiu-Jitsu” Travis Lutter in the short lived Moosin’ MMA promotion. So far he’s 0-1-1 in the organization and needs this victory to keep his job. He’s taking on a guy who didn’t know he was fighting until just over a week ago and just fought on July 23rd so there are no excuses for Natal in this fight.
Fight Prediction: Bradley is a very good wrestler but I feel that not getting in a full training camp and just fighting two weeks ago is going to hurt him against Natal, who is more talented than his UFC record indicates.
Official Prediction: Rafael Natal to defeat Paul Bradley by TKO in Round Two
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC