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UFC Fight Night Predictions: The Kingdom of Jones

Jack that MMA straight into my bloodstream, please. Of all the sports out there, the NFL and MMA are right now the only two about which I have absolutely nothing bad to say. They’re just fun, and that goes a long way.

Main card

* Light Heavyweight bout: Jon Jones vs. Vladimir Matyushenko

Make no mistake: this is a showcase fight. Matyushenko is still a solid fighter, but he’s 39, he went to a split decision with Eliot Marshall last time out, his best asset (wrestling) is something Jones is also very strong in, and he has something of a name and an impressive-looking record such that beating him does mean something. He’s here to get mack-trucked by Jones in brutal fashion if the UFC has their way. And I don’t really doubt that they will; anything can happen in this sport, but the odds of V-Mat pulling this one off are just about random chance, the 5% I think any competent professional MMA fighter has against any other. The only real question to my mind is whether Jones gets extended at all and has to work, or whether he does to V-Mat what he did to Brandon Vera. I’m hoping we see Jones put on his back at least once here, to see what he does or does not have from that position; but I’m not confident in seeing it though, sadly. Jones KO2. Matyushenko’s a tough fucker and will hang around for a while, but he’s going to get mauled.

* Middleweight bout: Yushin Okami vs. Mark Muñoz

And here’s round one of “let’s play a nasty booking trick on the Japanese guy” for this card. Two fights ago Okami lost because he faced a superior wrestler who just kept sticking him on his back, and had no back up plan. After a squash against Lucio Linhares, his reward is… a former NCAA D1 wrestling champ. I don’t want to say the UFC is trying to get rid of Okami (if they wanted to they could have cut him after the Sonnen fight after all), but they certainly are trying to make him prove something here. I like Munoz a lot, personally; at 205 he was out-sized and over-matched, but at 185 you can see his athleticism come through, and he’s got natural power and some wicked GNP that does serious damage to guys. His last time out against Kendall Grove he showed real heart and a chin to come through some brutal early adversity and pound out the taller and younger man in a fantastic fight. Okami can win if Munoz doesn’t tuck his chin and try to get this down quickly, but I suspect he’ll have learned what he needed to from his own last fight and Okami vs. Sonnen, and will just keep driving Okami down and wailing on him from the top. Munoz KO2 in what might actually be a pretty fun fight.

* Welterweight bout: John Howard vs. Jake Ellenberger

Love this fight. Love it. Ellenberger’s been a midcard favorite of mine since the Carlos Condit fight, and while I’m not sure exactly what his ceiling is he’s got a lot going for him: 27 fights already at age 25, big for the weight, nasty power, a solid wrestling background, apparently strong submission defense awareness from the top, good GNP; the only major knock on him right now is cardio, which was how he lost the Condit fight. Howard is similar in many respect- experienced at a fairly young age including against name opponents (Dennis Hallman, Tamdan McCrory, Dan Miller, etc.), strong and powerful, some solid wrestling, uncertain ceiling, etc. I like Ellenberger here in what could be a really fun fight. He’ll have to finish it relatively early or dominate the first two rounds if he still has the cardio issues, but I think his wrestling and submission awareness should be good enough to do that against the somewhat undersized Howard- takedown, holddown, beatdown. Ellenberger by decision, probably 29-28.

* Lightweight bout: Tyson Griffin vs. Takanori Gomi

And here’s round 2 of messing with the Japanese guy. When you’re done you’re done they say, and Gomi has looked really, really done of late. I don’t count him out here completely given that he’s still a pretty damn big lightweight and Griffin is a smaller one, and Gomi is likely to still be competitive on the feet, but the odds are against him. Griffin is about the worst possible opponent for Gomi at this point given that Gomi’s biggest problem is going to be cardio: he fights measured early these days because he clearly doesn’t trust himself to go 100% from the opening, and yet he still fades late. Against an unfinishable (so far) waterbug cardio monster like Griffin that’s just a recipe for disaster and a loss due to being outworked. Keep an eye on him leg-kicking Gomi repeatedly as well to take away Gomi’s power and set up takedowns. I think Griffin ends up winning a clear decision.

Preliminary card

* Lightweight bout: Paul Kelly vs. Jacob Volkmann

So you tell me: do we get the Volkmann with the excellent wrestling who had such a fun ground fight with Paulo Thiago which he nearly pulled out, or the guy who decided he wanted to kick-box with Martin Kampmann and got utterly destroyed? On the basis of the Ronneys Torres fight, I’m going to guess we get the good Volkmann; and since he was able to roll for all 3 with Thiago and not really be in danger of being stopped, I’m going to assume he’s not going to charge into a guillotine the way Kelly’s previous big wrestler opponent, Matt Veach, did. So Volkmann by decision.

* Welterweight bout: DaMarques Johnson vs. Matthew Riddle

A loathsome spectacle, this- just two unlikeable guys probably having an unlikeable fight. I don’t really think much of either guy’s long-term potential: at 28 Johnson just is what he is (and what he is is “somewhere below Court McGee on the TUF alum ladder”), while Riddle just doesn’t seem to be getting much better. Big and strong, yes, but also not really all that skilled and unable to translate his strength into serious striking power. Riddle will probably keep taking Johnson down and laying on him like a dead underwear model made out of lead, and maybe Johnson will pull something out off his back, and maybe not, and blaaaaaah. There’s a reason this isn’t on the televised portion. Let’s say Johnson finds a way to win. KO3.

* Light Heavyweight bout: James Irvin vs. Igor Pokrajac

Loser-leaves-town stipulations on this one, as both guys are coming off of two consecutive losses and Irvin’s bid to reinvent himself at 185 was foiled by the fact that he looked like he’d just been rescued from an Andean plane crash at the weigh in, then fought like a zombie before losing to an eyeball-punch. Weird things always seem to happen with Irvin. Nothing at all seems to happen with Prokrajac by contrast, who’s kind of a definitional “just a guy”, a marginal talent who’s in the UFC because of whose training partner he is (Cro-Cop) and who’s never really done much in his MMA career to distinguish himself for good or ill; realistically either Irvin or Vladimir Matyushenko, who beat him, is probably his highest-profile opponent. I suspect this is intended as a get-well fight for Irvin who I will take by KO1.

* Middleweight bout: Brian Stann vs. Mike Massenzio

Ordinarily I’d like Massenzio fairly easy in this one since Stann, bless him, has no ground game, but Massenzio hasn’t fought in over a year and a half after losing his last bout by KO. That’s a bad sign. Stann is also coming down from 205, which might hurt him with the first-time cut or it might make him too big for Massenzio to do much with. It’s a bit of a crapshoot. I’m going to still take Massenzio by decision, but I will not be at all surprised if Stann catches him cold, waffles him early and leaves him laying.

* Lightweight bout: Darren Elkins vs. Charles Oliveira

No pick. I know nothing about these guys, especially Oliveira.

* Middleweight bout: Rob Kimmons vs. Steve Steinbeiss

Let’s say Kimmons due to experience.

There’s not a ton here of great future significance, but it should be a fun show and Jones has the potential to be one of those ultra-dominant, special talents who’s always worth watching no matter who he’s fighting.

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July 22, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

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