Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The UFC returns to big FOX for the second time in as many months to deliver what is another perfectly-suited card for the UFC's purposes in building pay-per-view attractions. That isn't to say there's no gamble with the flyweights headlining, but at a minimum that bout should be competitive and the card is buttressed by very, very good fights.
As for the fighters themselves, this event should be something of a revelation. Is there depth at flyweight? Will Rampage leave the UFC on a high note? Who is the next top contender at lightweight and featherweight? I answer these questions and more with predictions for Saturday's event.
What: UFC on FOX 6
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: Saturday, the one-fight Facebook card kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET, the six-fight FX preliminary fight starts at 5 p.m. ET and the four-fight main card on FOX begins at 8.
Predictions for the four main card fights airing Saturday on FOX are below.
In Dodson's favor is the reality that he can thump. He's fought bigger opponents for much of his career and often demonstrated better power (I thought he beat Mike Easton when they fought at a catchweight). And at flyweight, he's dropped virtually all of his opponents. For all the criticisms of flyweights not packing power, this unequivocally does not apply to Dodson.
The problem is that unless he's able to put Johnson away early, I see him fading. I look at this as a 2013 version of Dodson's fight with Pat Runez. Runez was dropped early in the fight, but stormed his way back in the later rounds by continually pressuring Dodson. I'm not sure Johnson will even get tagged, but I am sure he'll be doing most of the attacking in the later rounds after an early feeling out period to start.
I'm a bit worried about Teixeira getting reckless with Rampage if he believes he has the former UFC champion hurt or on the ropes, metaphorically speaking. The way he put his hands down against Fabio Maldonado and got tagged won't fly with Rampage, who despite not being the best version of himself still packs a serious punch. Short of that, however, this is Teixeira's fight to lose. He might struggle a bit with the takedown, but he'll eventually get it and on the floor, the skill differential is enormous. I'm not saying Rampage can't win, but I hardly see that as the most likely outcome.
There are lots of reasons to pick one guy or the other, but I'm going with Pettis. In fact, I was going with Pettis before this week, but the events like the workouts and presser have only affirmed my inclinations.
Ultimately, Pettis isn't just the more versatile striker, he thinks on his feet and reacts much better. He is much more capable about incorporating movement spatially with his striking combinations and doing so almost reflexively when he has to. I suspect there's a good chance he's going to light Cowboy up on the feet the longer the bout goes.
Perhaps just as important, I'm getting a weird vibe from Cerrone. Normally the kind of tension and aggression Pettis is demonstrating would make me worried he is going to lose composure, but Cerrone is showing the kind of bizarre admiration/fondness for Pettis that Frank Mir showed Junior dos Santos. It's as if he regrets catching the tiger by the tail.
I'm no body language expert and maybe it's all a clever ruse by the Greg Jackson-product. Either way, though, I like Pettis by being the better mixed martial artist. The fact that he's insanely hungry for the win makes that prediction a little easier to publish.
I have a ton of respect for Koch, but there are two major reasons I can't pick him in this fight. For starters, the layoff. In the end, fighters respond to ring rust differently, but many fighters respond to it by not being themselves. Their timing might be off or they're nervous or something else that hurts performance. I expect that to be in play. Second, I suspect while Koch will put up a valiant effort against the relentless takedowns of Lamas, he won't be able to keep it up forever. And even if he defends them, he'll have spent huge portions of the round defending Lamas' attacks.
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