The UFC returns to the fight capital of the world, and brings with it a middleweight title bout. Chris Weidman looks to dethrone the longest reigning UFC champion in history. Anderson Silva looks to, well, be Anderson Silva. However, the Spider has seemed disinterested, and against a prodigal fighter like Weidman, that may haunt him. In the co-main event, Frankie Edgar looks to bounce back from three disappointing title fight losses. Across the octagon from him will be a talented, if one dimensional, Brazilian in Charles Oliveira. Who will take home the victories? Well, here's what I think.
Anderson Silva (c) vs. Chris Weidman
Anderson Silva fights for the first time this year. Chris Weidman fights for the first time this year as well. However, because both these men are the caliber of fighters that they are, I doubt ring-rust will be a very large factor for either man. Purely skill-wise, Anderson Silva has the edge in stand-up. No question. His striking is simply otherworldly. Weidman's is creative (see his standing elbow against Mark Munoz), but still not on the same level as the G.O.A.T. In submissions, I'd give the edge to neither man. Both have a former UFC champ as their coach (Weidman with Serra, Silva with Nogueira), and they both have the same number of submissions in their careers.
The real factor in this fight will be the wrestling. Weidman will have the significant advantage. Silva has shown he can stop a takedown, but none with the tenacity of Weidman. The Hofstra wrestler should be able to put the champ on his back, and avoid the submissions Silva will throw up. Expect the ground and pound of the challenger to have far more impact than Chael Sonnen's four and a half rounds worth had on Silva. It's going to come down to the mat work, and Weidman's ground and pound, and submissions defense will help him pound a way to UFC gold.
Weidman via decision.
In this curious co-main event bout, both of the competitors are coming off of losses. Oliveira is looking to rebound from a crushing knockout loss to rising contender Cub Swanson. Edgar is looking to taste victory for the first time in 2 years, suffering disappointing losses to current UFC champions Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo. The fight is, at least on paper, a tune up fight for Edgar. Oliveira is a decent mid level fighter, with a vast submission arsenal, but limited striking. Edgar has the all around package, and has beaten far better competition than Oliveira. If he can stay out of the Brazilians traps on the ground, I see Edgar striking his way to a late TKO or KO.
Edgar via TKO.
Both of these men are good grapplers. Kennedy is a good functional grappler, but Gracie is on a different level. He's subbed men far larger than him in Ron Waterman and Kevin Randleman, and his grappling record is chalked full of BJJ greats. However, I think Kennedy wins this fight by keeping it standing, and grinding out a decision against the Gracie.
Kennedy via decision.
If anyone has seen the before and after photos of Mark Munoz in the past year, you know just how in shape he looks for this bout. Perhaps the best Munoz to step into the octagon gets welcomed back by another contender looking to reestablish himself in Boetsch, a powerful wrestler and gritty striker. While Munoz's comeback story is something to look on with admiration, the ring rust will grind his gears to a halt. He may be a powerful striker, but Boetsch walked through a Costa Philippou uppercut, and was only finished in that fight after having his will eye gouged out of him. I think Boetsch returns with a vengeance, and grinds the gritty Filipino down and out.
Boetsch via decision.
Cub Swanson vs. Denis Siver
In this battle of featherweight contenders, it's a power striker going up against an incredibly well rounded fighter who, just two years ago, would never have been talked about for title contention. Swanson's striking has looked sensational, especially in his last two bouts against Poirer and Oliveira respectively. Siver is built like a fire hydrant, and has power in all his limbs, but I think the combo striking of Swanson will do in the hardy German, and secure himself a shot at the Aldo/Jung winner.
Swanson via decision.