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UFC Fight Night Diaz vs. Maynard Predictions: Yep, It’s A Show

It’s a good thing I don’t know anywhere near enough about WEC/DREAM/Sengoku to write these posts for those shows, I’ll say that.

Main Card

* Lightweight bout: Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz

And in one of the great traditions of the MMA world, it’s time once again for a wrestler vs. a jiujitsu practitioner in a fight which will likely be decided by… kickboxing. If Maynard can out-strike Diaz, his wrestling will let him keep it standing easily and he’ll just bust Nate up, walking him down and using his fists. If he can’t, he’ll have to take the fight to the mat where the question will become whether he’s improved enough to hold Diaz down without being throttled. You can say this for Maynard- he’s one of those fighters who obviously trains incredibly hard both on conditioning and on improving his skills, and moreover he’s better able than some to take what he learns and apply it in the cage. Wrestling is his base and will be for the balance of his career, but he’s learned to box with a reasonable degree of competence- there’s some head movement, some sense of timing- and better still his ground positioning seems much more attuned to the realities of MMA than it was on TUF. He doesn’t go purely chest-on-chest and expose his neck anymore, seems to react more quickly to dangerous positions, doesn’t over-commit his weight, etc. In his favor as well is that, as the Roger Huerta fight showed, he fights with his head up in the ring- he can adjust on the fly to what the opposition is doing and fr the most part he doesn’t allow himself to be drawn into the sorts of fights where his skills aren’t best utilized.

For all these reasons I favor him in this one. Nate’s striking is unrefined and doesn’t have a lot of power behind it so it’s hard to see him being able to hit Maynard hard enough to back him up and win some respect. Obviously he’s been able to tap Maynard before, but I suspect that Gray has improved more since then than Nate has and Diaz has had trouble with being out-wrestled against Joe Stevenson, Clay Guida, etc. With some guys there might be a psychological dynamic stemming from their first fight, but Maynard strikes me as the kind of ultra-disciplined wrestler whose athletic life is all about getting better to overcome each new obstacle; he’s unlikely to be shaken or fight scared. I think he’ll get the decision here since Nate’s a tough little fucker and Maynard- about as dynamic a finisher as Jon Fitch of late- may be more on the conservative side strategically.

* Lightweight bout: Efrain Escudero vs. Evan Dunham

Dunham’s one of those guys I have zero read on- I’ve seen him fight but don’t remember it, couldn’t break him down stylistically, couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Escudero is an interesting prospect but nothing more yet. I’ll assume that given UFC’s investment in him this match was made on the assumption that he could win it, and thus pick him by decision.

* Middleweight bout: Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson

I love Tom Lawlor. I don’t know what his actual talent ceiling is as a fighter (sadly, probably not contender-level) but he GETS it to a degree that very few fighters do- he’s funny, he’s memorable, he displays an actual personality, he’s clearly an intelligent guy, and he works the media proficiently to get his name, his image, and for lack of a better term his gimmick out there. There’s probably a hundred guys like Tom Lawlor in ability out there whose names are unknown outside their own families and the regular fans of local indy shows because they lack his understanding of how to add value to a show behind and above the fight itself. He’s a fighter, but also an entertainer; many could stand to learn from that.

All that said, Aaron Simpson is probably going to kill him stone dead. Lawlor is good and might catch him on the ground, but Simpson is regarded as a VERY high-level athlete with a strong wrestling background, and he looks remarkably fluid and natural as a striker for a guy taking it up late in his career. I’m thinking he wins by KO in the first or second.

* Welterweight bout: Amir Sadollah vs. Brad Blackburn

All jokes aside about Sadollah, he deserves respect for being able to come back in essentially a month and a half to fight again after a fairly tough outing against Phil Baroni. He’s matched here against another guy he should be able to beat, as Blackburn is basically a solid journeyman and not much more who most thought lost his last fight to Edgar Garcia, a fighter since cut from UFC. Blackburn’s tough and I don’t know about Amir’s power, so figure this goes to a decision win for the TUF alumnus.

Preliminary Card

* Middleweight bout: Chris Leben vs. Jay Silva

A bag of rumors ran wild about what was up with Leben after his last fight, and those rumors + preceding suspension for steroid use + the quality of his last performance make him very tough to pick here. Silva has proved little and Leben still has his power, but he may end up too listless to use it. I’ll take Leben…I guess… by KO since the rumors have died down of late. He needs this one bad as well; it’s nearly two years since his last win and two losses on the trot for the Crippler, and it’s hard to say what his chances would be like after a third.

* Welterweight bout: Rick Story vs. Jesse Lennox

Story is notable for having a shockingly in-depth wikipedia entry- if you’ve wondered what sports little Ricky played in 5th grade, it’s got all the details you’re craving. You weirdo. It’s also got this amazing quote:

“I would like to emulate Fedor’s aggressive instinct, Anderson Silva’s elusive, quick striking, and B.J. Penn’s ability to hype a fight. I train to be successful, and to make my team successful, I strive to be better than these fighters I just mentioned, but that is all expected.”

I don’t know if Rick is very confident or very psychotic, but either way he sounds like a dangerous man. Be that as it may, in Lennox he faces something like the discount version of Jake Ellenberger-a fighter he coincidentally defeated a couple of years ago. At the risk of straying too far into MMAth territory I’ll take Story on that basis, and hope it inspires him to keep updating his own wikipedia with odd material.

* Lightweight bout: Thiago Tavares vs. Nik Lentz

Shit or get off the pot time for Tavares for the moment, who needs to decide if he’s going to be the guy who nearly beat Tyson Griffin or the guy who got KTFO by Matt Wiman. He’s still only 25, but when you’re heading into your 8th UFC fight in a 3 year tenure with the promotion and you’re still on the untelevised portion of a Fight Night card even coming off of a win, it’s time to make a move. I’ll take Lentz in this one despite his being a late sub, on the theory that he’ll be able to get Tavares down and control him there and that Tavares’ recent record really is crap- a KO loss, a decision loss, and then a win over probably the smallest guy in the lightweight division who’s since dropped to featherweight. Not so impressive given Tavares’ size. I’m thinking he loses a decision here.

* Welterweight bout: Mike Guymon vs. Rory MacDonald

Not often you see a 15 year age gap in a fight not involving Randy Couture. I’ll take MacDonald- I don’t know much about him, but I assume there’s a reason he was offered a UFC contract at age 20.

* Lightweight bout: Kyle Bradley vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Let’s say Dos Anjos, RNC 2.

* Middleweight bout: Gerald Harris vs. John Salter

I’ve got a soft spot for Harris- he seems like a nice guy and he’s mostly a fun watch with the big slams and such. Salter’s a late replacement, so I’ll assume Harris KO’s him in the first.

* Middleweight bout: Nick Catone vs. Jesse Forbes

I dunno. I really don’t. No pick.

Frankly it’s a really forgettable card. Not bad per se, but once you get past the main event (which is a very good fight, actually) it’s basically a long series of bouts designed to either feature a Spike TV-identified guy or else see where exactly drifting fighters like Leben and Tavares are at. There’s worse ways to spend your Monday, but I’ll be shocked if the WEC card the previous day isn’t twice as good.

January 8, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

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