Despite being rendered to a mere afterthought in light of last week’s momentous UFC on FOX event, this Saturday’s UFC 139 carries a robust main card capped off by a main event that is perhaps the best excuse for a five-round non-title fight. Bidding to earn a potential second crack at the man who dethroned him earlier this year, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will square off against one of the most successful athletes to ever grace the sport, former PRIDE and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson. But before the two light heavyweights exchange blows, another legend, Wanderlei Silva, looks to rediscover his winning ways when he takes on the always-entertaining Cung Le. Top bantamweights are also in action when Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles work for a vital step towards settling the score with champion Dominick Cruz.
* Danny Castillo to defeat Shamar Bailey by Decision
* Seth Baczynski to defeat Matt Brown by Submission in Round 2
* Miguel Torres to defeat Nick Pace by Decision
* Rafael Dos Anjos to defeat Gleison Tibau by Decision
* Chris Weidman to defeat Tom Lawlor by Decision
* Michael McDonald to defeat Alex Soto by Decision
* Ryan Bader to defeat Jason Brilz by TKO in Round 2
Light Heavyweight Fight: Stephan Bonnar vs. Kyle Kingsbury
What Bonnar brings to the table is not exactly a mystery, but his form and consistency inside the Octagon vary on a fight-to-fight basis. Having not fought since December of last year, rust could well be a factor as far as “The American Psycho” is concerned.
His opponent, Kingsbury, has shown surprising improvement since his stint on season 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has proven to be a very good athlete with impressive physical gifts, albeit one with cardio issues. In his defense, Kingsbury’s conditioning only rears its ugly head in fast-paced fights. Unfortunately for him, against someone like Bonnar, the pace will almost assuredly be frantic. Bonnar will engage Kingsbury in a slugfest, where his more diverse striking — and better conditioning — will pose Kingsbury all sorts of problems.
Bonnar will throw plenty of combinations, finish off with body kicks, and occasionally pull off the trademark spinning back kick. Kingsbury on the other hand, is at his best on the inside. He has developed a solid muay Thai clinch, which while technically flawed, is a headache to deal with. Therefore, it will be important for Bonnar to use his footwork and movement to do what he does best, without allowing his opponent to close the distance and work him up with knees. To Bonnar’s credit, he possesses an extremely durable chin that — cut stoppages notwithstanding — has never been cracked.
If Kingsbury doesn’t like the way the striking game is panning out, he could well opt to take the fight to the ground. Bonnar’s takedown defense has historically been quite iffy, and while Kingsbury’s wrestling isn’t anything to write home about, he knows how to use his strength to take opponents down from the clinch. Bonnar possesses a solid bottom game, but he is better served to try to scramble back to his feet instead of working for fruitless submission attempts.
In the end, a highly competitive affair will see the veteran Bonnar outwork his opponent with solid combinations on his way to victory.
Official Prediction: Stephan Bonnar to defeat Kyle Kingsbury by Decision
Welterweight Fight: Martin Kampmann vs. Rick Story
While the momentum of Story’s win over Thiago Alves earlier this year was quickly lost following a short notice defeat to Charlie Brennenman, this is still a big opportunity for him to score another victory over a highly talented welterweight. For his part, Kampmann is coming off one of the worst decisions of the year, as three professional MMA judges somehow saw him lose to Diego Sanchez.
While Kampmann is the more well-rounded fighter, it is he who needs to fight with more strategic awareness than normal. For Story, the path to victory is simple. As always, he will look to clinch up, push his opponent against the fence, rough him up with knees to the thighs and body, and work for the takedown. As such, Kampmann needs to fight with discipline. Part of what cost “The Hitman” the Diego Sanchez fight was the fact that he was drawn into a firefight in the second and third rounds. Kampmann started off brilliantly, as he completely picked his opponent apart with superior footwork and accurate counter-punching. However, he went on to make the mistake of fighting Sanchez’s fight, and engaged in an ill-advised brawl.
Story may not try something as drastic as Sanchez did in terms of just going all-out with his offense, but he will try to turn the striking game into an ugly affair before closing the distance and looking to put Kampmann on his back. Consequently, footwork will be crucial for the Dane (someone tell Mike Goldberg Kampmann is not Dutch). Kampmann’s takedown defense isn’t exactly impenetrable, but as off late, he has shown improvement in that regard. Given that Story isn’t the type of wrestler who will effortlessly rip a double leg in the middle of the cage, and instead relies on pushing his opponent against the fence, clean takedowns will be hard to come by. However, as we learned in the Alves fight, Story doesn’t need to consistently take his opponent down, as he can efficiently grind him down against the cage.
On the other hand, Story needs to be wary of Kampmann’s ability to lock up guillotines in the scrambles. The latter’s front head lock control is extremely solid, and he knows how to transition into submissions off of it. Conversely, Kampmann shouldn’t make the mistake he did against Jake Shields and drop down for lost cause submissions — and giving up dominant positions in the process — when he doesn’t need to.
Expect another very close fight with some potentially wacky scorecards. Kampmann isn’t exactly the most calculating fighter in terms of sticking to the gameplan, but I still trust him to emerge victorious in a fight where he uses footwork and superior striking on his way to a decision.
Official Prediction: Martin Kampmann to defeat Rick Story by Decision
Bantamweight Fight: Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles
In a fight that will ostensibly determine the next challenger to Dominick Cruz’s title, Faber and Bowles are set to face in arguably the most exciting bout on the card.
As always with Faber, it will be important for him not to get too wild and flashy, as Bowles’ power is a potential difference-maker in any fight. To Faber’s credit, he has toned down the craziness since his knockout loss to Mike Brown back in 2008. From a technical standpoint, “The California Kid” is the superior striker. Bowles’ stand-up can be quite predictable, as he almost exclusively relies on a jab to set up the right hand. And while both his jab and his straight right are quite solid, he tends to struggle when opponents pick up his pattern. At times, Bowles will mix things up by coming in with an uppercut, but surprisingly, his right hand is most effective on the counter. Bowles has very good timing on his counter-right, and does a very good job at using it to counter leg kicks.
The danger for Faber is that he can spend a little too much time inside the pocket. While his right cross is his best punch — and like his opponent, he uses it well on the counter — he is at times guilty of staying on the inside a fraction too long. In particular, Faber is prone to counter uppercuts when moving in, which is a punch Cruz had success with in their July encounter, and Brown crushed him with when he took his title. On the flip-side, being on the inside gives Faber plenty of options: He can get quite unpredictable with knees to the body and short elbows, and more importantly, he possesses a lightning-quick transition into single leg takedowns.
That in particular, is where Bowles has to be careful, as risk being put on his back by Faber, or engaging in scrambles with the former featherweight champion is extremely risky business. Bowles is a competent wrestler, and could probably stuff many of Faber’s takedown attempts, but the latter has never been one to strictly rely on clean takedowns. Instead, Faber will often use scrambles to get dominant positions, spin and take the back, or, most dangerously, lock up a bread and butter guillotine.
Neither is likely to spend too much time on his back, as Faber is an expert at getting back to his feet, while Bowles is no slouch in that department. The result means plenty of scrambles, lots of striking exchanges, and an entertaining fight with Faber coming out on top.
Official prediction: Urijah Faber to defeat Brian Bowles by Decision
Middleweight Fight: Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le
To keep it simple: Wanderlei Silva needs a win here to save his UFC career. Moreover, this is a fight he should win.
Cung Le is an entertaining fighter and a skilled striker, but often times, he’s more flash than substance. Furthermore, questions have long persisted as to how effective his unorthodox striking can be against elite competition. Silva might be years past his prime, but he is still a capable fighter. As such, this bout will at least provide somewhat of an answer to those questions.
Le’s at his best when he’s working the body. More so than his punches to the body, it is his knees and kicks to the liver that make him dangerous. Whether he’s throwing crushing spinning back kicks or working with knees from close-quarters, Le knows how to punish the midsection. Additionally, he has adapted his unique skill set relatively well to MMA, as his flashy kicks seem to find their mark. He possesses a good counter straight left, and a deceptively quick roundhouse quick.
Silva needs to be measured with his approach. While that isn’t exactly something he is known for, Silva showed glimpses of tactical discipline in his win over Michael Bisping last year. The main problem for “The Axe Murderer” is that he lost a lot of his quickness and explosiveness when he charges forward. However, he still possesses very good timing when it comes to counters. His wild, sloppy hooks may not exactly be those of a technical counter-striker, especially given that he’s most famous for his aggressive style, but Silva is actually underrated when it comes to landing well-timed counters. In particular, Silva counters kicks quite well, especially with his right hook-left hook combo. He is also good at catching kicks to the body, where he either looks to counter or kick his opponent’s leg from under him. Should that opportunity arise, Silva would be smart to capitalize, as his ground game, though very rarely displayed, is miles ahead of that of Le.
Ultimately, it is tough to predict a fight between an aging, fading and past his prime fighter with a shot chin against a part-time fighter who is more interested in an acting career. However, it is still safer to bet on the full time — not to mention highly accomplished — fighter.
Official Prediction: Wanderlei Silva to defeat Cung Le by TKO in Round 1
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC