After a week off the UFC returns with what I consider a little under the radar type of card. I have seen several people disparage it on social media but it is filled with fights that have the potential to be exciting. The main and co-main event could have title implications and there is another Sage Northcutt fight.
I predict this card will surprise some people with several exciting finishes and at least two great fights.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader
Fight Wolff: The winner of this fight may get a title shot. Who really knows as this is the UFC after all; the place where title shots are earned inside of Dana White’s desires.
However, going into the fight both Anthony Johnson and Ryan Bader will think that a title shot is at stake. This just adds one more layer to the fight. Johnson has fought for the title and is familiar with the kind of pressure that goes with it. While Bader has been in the main event twice now in the UFC.
This fight is probably the closest that Bader gets to a title shot. I am sorry but I have a hard time seeing him winning this fight. I know that the game plan is to avoid the Johnson’s power, wear him down and take another decision.
The biggest problem I see is how he avoids Johnson’s power because if Johnson lands one clean shot then Bader is going to sleep. Bader is tough but he has been KO’d before. In fact, one of his KO’s is a permanent part of Lyoto Machida’s highlight reel.
It is like a KO out of a cartoon. I would not be surprised if Johnson produces another cartoon like KO in this fight.
There was a time when Bader’s plan would have worked but Johnson is a much more patient fighter now. We saw Phil Davis try that plan and it kept him from getting KO’d but it did not win him the fight. While Davis and Bader fought to a split-decision that many feel that Davis won. Unfortunately, for Davis two of the three judges felt otherwise.
At some point, Johnson lands a clean shot and sends Bader careening across the octagon. Then Johnson will move in and get the finish.
FW: Johnson via TKO/KO in the second round.
Dave Reno: I see this fight going one of two ways. Either Anthony Johnson will be able to clip Bader early and put him down like he’s done to so many other grown men before. Or, Bader will be able to frustrate Johnson, make him swing and miss with those big shots and take him into deep waters. It may not be the popular pick – but I have to go with my gut on this one. Johnson is known to quit when he faces adversity inside of the cage. Bader will put him in a place where he will do exactly that – quit.
DR: Bader submits Johnson putting himself in line for a title shot against the winner of Cormier-Jones II
Josh Barnett vs. Ben Rothwell
Wolff: This is a tough one to call for me. Based on skill-sets and pedigrees Josh Barnett should win this fight but Ben Rothwell has been rolling. He is on a three-fight win streak but he has not faced someone with the grappling skills of Barnett during that run.
Barnett reminds me of your Uncle who used to be in a Motorcycle Club. He looks the leanest in his career. According to a segment on UFC Now, his svelte frame is due to his working with a nutritionist for the first time in his career. He still is no Sage Northcutt.
His opponent Rothwell also has an anti-Sage Northcutt type of body. In his last three fights, we have seen Rothwell emerge as a fighter and a personality. His dancing and laughing may be slightly awkward at times but there is a realness to it that people can relate to.
My heart leans towards the dancing Rothwell and his laugh but it is hard for me to see him winning this fight. Sure, Rothwell is powerful and if he can catch Barnett clean he can win via a TKO. It is tough seeing him do that against the durable veteran.
Barnett, not only has trimmed up his body but he has continued to add to his arsenal. In last fight with Roy Nelson, we saw some slick striking combinations and even several round kicks. It is just easier to see Barnett making this an ugly Josh Barnett fight. Use his dirty boxing in the clinch. I like Barnett to grind out a UD or a third round TKO.
FW: Barnett via UD
Reno: To this day, Josh Barnett is still the youngest man to win the UFC heavyweight title at 24-years of age. That happened all the way back in 2002 at UFC 36 when he TKO’d Randy Couture. Shortly thereafter, he’d be stripped of the title after popping hot and we wouldn’t see him back in the UFC for another 11 years. Now, at nearly 40-years-old, Barnett still finds himself in contention for that every title he held nearly a decade and a half ago. As of tonight it’s looking like Alistair Overeem is headed to Bellator, which makes this fight between Barnett and Rothwell all the more important. Rothwell has the tools to pull off the upset on this nigh but Barnett is just far too smart and war savvy to drop this one. Then again, there’s been no rhyme or reason to the heavyweight division in a while. That said, this is Barnett’s fight to lose.
DR: Barnett via UD
Iuri Alcantara vs. Jimmie Rivera
Wolff: This one is not getting the love that it should. Both Iuri Alcantara and Jimmy Rivera have the ability to end the fight with one strike. However, it is Alcantara who has shown a deeper skill-set. While Rivera has more power.
I think the tough Alcantara will be a nice test for Rivera, one that he will pass. This could easily be FOTN but I get the feeling that Rivera catches him in the first round.
FW: Rivera via TKO in the first round
Reno: Rivera has been on an absolute tear since being off’ed by Dennis Bermudez for an opportunity to gain entry into the TUF 14 house. With a 10-0 record since 2012, he now finds himself fighting on big FOX against a tough Iuri Alcantara that stands in the way of him taking another step up that proverbial ladder at 135 lbs. As the Fight Wolff states above, this is a test for Rivera and it’s one he needs to pass if he ever wants to be a serious UFC contender. He will. And it’ll be well worth watching.
DR: Rivera via KO
Sage Northcutt vs. Byran Barberena
Wolff: This fight kicks off the main card on FOX featuring the new fighter that some fans love to hate in “Super” Sage Northcutt taking on Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena. There has been some backlash towards Northcutt as many see him as the UFC’s new Golden Child.
In this case, he is technically still a child unable to legally drink and after taking home $80,000 for his last fight, he is pretty golden as well. Because many fans feel the UFC and Dana White want him to succeed they feel he is getting and will get favored treatment by the UFC.
Putting Northcutt in the Octagon against Barberena is not doing him any favors. Barberena is a tough durable fighter who can give Northcutt problems. This fight is also requiring Northcutt to go up a weight class to welterweight.
In his UFC debut, Barberena defeated another hot prospect in Joe Ellenberger. He then dropped a Fight-Of-The-Night to Chad Laprise.
Even though Barberena has been the UFC 21 months longer than Northcutt this is the third UFC fight for each of them.
While I think there is some true specialness to Northcutt he is not invincible. He will likely suffer a defeat or two competing in the UFC given how young he is at 19-years old. I think this will be the first one of his professional career. Barberena is a bad matchup for Northcutt, I like “Bam Bam” to make it an ugly fight and take a unanimous decision.
FW: Barberena via UD
Reno: Sage Northcutt. Because…this:
Once again whoever made this 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/b8EefI2gwP
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) January 13, 2016
DR: Northcutt via TKO
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Jake Ellenberger
Wolff: Early in their respective careers, both Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger were thought of as likely future title holders. While Saffiedine can still entertain the remote possibility of a future title fight. For Ellenberger, he is more likely fighting for his UFC career.
In his last five UFC fights, Ellenberger has gone 1-4 with the lone win coming against Josh Koscheck. With 40 fights in his career, Ellenberger has put a lot of miles on his body and it appears to have caught up with him. Meanwhile, Saffiedine has battled injuries during his career but seems to be the fresher of the two fighters at this point.
Saffiedine should take a three round unanimous decision and send Ellenberger off to Bellator.
FW: Saffiedine via UD
Reno: It’s been over a year since we’ve seen the final Strikeforce welterweight champion (the final man to ever win a Strikeforce fight ever for all of you Strikeforce history buffs out there) which makes Jake Ellenberger the perfect comeback fight for him. If Saffiedine still has it he shouldn’t have any issues with Ellenberger. Ellenberger has had a fine career and he’s a viable threat every single time he steps into the cage but this is the night where we say goodbye.
DR: Saffiedine via TKO
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Diego Ferreira
Wolff: This fight could be an exciting grappling battle or an extremely boring one. Olivier Aubin-Mercier has gone 3-0 in the UFC since dropping the TUF Nations finale to his Canadian teammate Chad Laprise.
In those three wins he was the superior grappler but that will likely not be the case against Diego Ferreira who is 2-2 in the UFC. The two losses were to Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier both who are better than Aubin-Mercier.
I like Ferreira to reverse the two fight losing streak by catching Aubin-Mercier in a submission in the first round.
FW: Ferreira via first round submission
Reno: With 12 combined submissions between these two men I have a tough time going against the grain. Expect this battle between Canada and Brazil to take place almost exclusively on the mat. After thinking about this one for way longer than I should’ve I just flipped a coin. Heads for Aubin-Mercier, tails for Ferriera.
DR: The first time I flipped it landed sideways. I sh*t you not. The second time it was heads. Predicting a draw is stupid so I’ll go with the second flip. Aubin-Mericier via submission
The rest of the picks:
FW: Rafael Natal via UD over Kevin Casey
DR: Kevin Casey defeats Rafael Natal via TKO
FW: Dustin Ortiz via UD over Wilson Reis
DR: Dustin Ortiz via SD over Wilson Reis
FW: George Sullivan via UD over Alexander Yakovlev
DR: Alexander Yakovelv via submission over George Sullivan
FW: Alex Caceres via submission over Masio Fullen
DR: Alex Caceres via UD over Masio Fullen
FW: Matt Dwyer via UD over Randy Brown
DR: Randy Brown via TKO over Matt Dwyer
FW: Damon Jackson via submission over Levan Makashiv
DR: Damon Jackson via TKO over Levan Makashiv
FW: Felipe Olivieri via UD over Tony Martin
DR: Tony Martin via submission over Felipe Oliveiri
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