Without further ado ...
Check it out, guys! It’s the column in which I get to talk about Mark Richard Hunt fighting in a title eliminator! … In 2013. In the UFC. It’s all true. I’m overjoyed.
Donald Cerrone vs. KJ Noons
What a nightmare this matchup is for the many hairstyles of KJ Noons. Good God. Noons can box, and is a better MMA striker than he was when he first started, but he’s no match for Cerrone in the standup department. I was always baffled by the assumption that because Noons was a pro boxer, he would rip dudes up on the feet in MMA. This guy never accomplished anything significant as a pro boxer. Cerrone can hit him with kicks, punch him from distance, and really open up with any strike he needs to because he doesn’t have to worry about Noons taking him down.
If he does have trouble with Noons standing, I could actually see Cerrone pulling guard here, as his bottom game is excellent, varied, and aggressive.
I gotta be honest: I can’t think of KJ Noons without mentally picturing him getting knocked out by Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett. It’s just one of those KO’s that’s permanently burned into my brain, like A Clockwork Orange or something.
(Other examples: Pete Williams kicking Mark Coleman in the face; Robbie Lawler stretchering a decrepit Matt Lindland; Stefan Struve pounding on Christian Morecraft’s face at least 7 times more than necessary; and of course, Quinton Jackson falling through the ropes)
Cerrone by submission, third round.
TJ Grant vs. Gray Maynard
I get this overwhelming feeling that the fight game has passed by Gray Maynard. This is obviously going to be perceived as a borderline insane thing to say about a guy with one career loss (as well as someone who is looked at as a perennial contender), but I can back this theory up.
The first problem is plain: Inactivity. He’s fought only three times since 2010, going 1-1-1. The first was the famous draw with Frank Edgar (which he arguably lost), the second was Edgar knocking him out and sending his mop of hair skittering across the octagon, and the third was a narrow win over Clay Guida in a fight that everyone hated (which wasn’t totally his fault, but still).
The bigger problem is that he never became a truly well rounded fighter. He’s a dangerous puncher, but he doesn’t really throw combos. He’s a good wrestler, but there are better ones out there at 155. Plus, check out his UFC resume and notice how many subpar wrestlers there are on the list. Simply put, he’s a fighter that hasn’t been able to adapt to being in any position. He looks to land haymakers, and if that fails, he’s pretty much a fish out of water on the feet.
TJ Grant is far from being a great wrestler himself, but he’s really reinvented himself at lightweight. His striking game has gone from “I can’t remember a single nice moment this guy has had on his feet” to “Holy shit, this guy suddenly has tons of weapons and throws all of them at will”. The way he took out the always-tough Matt Wiman was highlight reel stuff.
If Maynard wins this, it will be with takedowns and top control. I don’t see him having very much success on the feet with Grant, who can strike in any situation. I can definitely envision Grant countering those big Maynard swings with sharp hooks. Maynard is difficult to finish, but I think Grant will outpoint Maynard on the feet after being taken down a few times. Grant by decision.
I have gone insane. I have lost my marbles. I have been separated from my faculties. Why? Because I kinda sorta like Jamie Te Huna here. A little bit.
Glover Teixeira is a more diverse striker than James, but he’s also a bit clunkier and robotic. There are lots of similarities between these two. Both are big bruisers. Both are devastating wrestlers with excellent ground and pound. Both will never grow their hair longer than 1/2 an inch. Most importantly, both are good fighters that are pretty evenly matched here, even though I’m sure the public sees the fight pretty clearly in Teixeira’s favor.
If Te Huna can take Glover deep into this fight, he could really beat the gas tank out of him, especially if he can score a takedown and get on top. This is not likely, but also not out of the question. I just feel like this is a matchup that both guys could find success in. I see Glover beating Te Huna on the feet but possibly faltering on the ground a bit. Glover by split decision.
Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt
I bet Sean McCorkle’s friends have heard about his fight with Mark Hunt at least 2,104 times.
“Jesus, Sean, we get it. You threw a straight armbar that would make a white belt laugh onto a guy who didn’t care. Congrats. Now shut up and go back to kicking old drunk guys out of the bar.”
I haven’t been this excited for a fight in awhile. I love everything about this fight; both combatants, the title implications, the style matchup, the contrast in body types (which happens pretty much every time Hunt fights), everything. More than anything, I love the questions that could potentially be answered by the time this one is over.
Will Junior be a bit gunshy after his one sided loss to Cain Velasquez, in which he was dropped badly with a right hand? Doubtful. Dos Santos was in retreat mode that entire fight because he didn’t want to be taken down, not because he didn’t want to box. What will the exchanges look like? It’s hard to say. Both men leave themselves open, but Dos Santos leaves his head straight up in the air, and it’s not difficult to imagine Hunt finding a home for that overhand right or that winging left hook on JDS’s stationary dome.
This fight will be most likely played out on the feet, as JDS has a penchant to box. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hunt go for a takedown or two, but this is just two big guys throwing high quality leather at one another.
Honestly, I don’t even care what happens in this fight. I want to see it. I wish it was starting right now. Just know that the result of this fight will either A) see Mark Hunt penciled in for a shot at the UFC heavyweight title or B) set up the third fight in one of the most compelling MMA trilogies ever. Dos Santos should be able to do damage to Hunt’s body and head, though I foresee both men harming one another. I’m going with Dos Santos by decision.
Which brings me to …
Let me begin by saying that I am genuinely happy that Antonio Silva is getting this shot at Cain Velasquez’s belt. It certainly isn’t the fight that I thought Zuffa would make, since the Junior-Cain rivalry is now tied at 1. But I’m glad the unappreciated Bigfoot gets his chance to shine.
Let me conclude by saying that I think he will be absolutely pasted by Cain Velasquez. Again.
You could name every heavyweight that ever lived and not find a worse matchup for Bigfoot than Cain. He can’t compete with him on the feet because Cain throws fast, accurate combos that are sure to ding up that giant, stationary head of his; he can’t compete with him in the wrestling department because he simply isn’t quick enough to get out of the way of Cain’s bumrushing takedowns; and he definitely can’t compete with him on the floor, because his stomach isn’t going to agree with the 8,000 hammerfists that Cain is going to cram into his face.
The only way (repeat: the ONLY way) I could talk myself into this being a competitive fight is if Silva can find a way to land standing strikes on Velasquez. Cain is still somewhat hittable, especially with the way he unabashedly runs in for takedowns. It isn’t inconceivable that Bigfoot could land a knee or drop him with a punch coming in, as Cheick Kongo was able to do all those years ago.
But still, homerun KO shot aside, what’s he going to do if he does land strikes? He’s going to get taken down, and he’s going to be beaten on like a cheap bongo in an awkward drum circle. Bigfoot Silva has a good top game, but on the bottom, he’s simply too immobile to be a threat. Plain and simple, I see another drubbing occurring here. This one wont make the championship rounds, as Cain blasts Bigfoot out of there with strikes towards the end of the second round.