With the UFC working to expand into new markets, the two weeks that will have passed between UFC 169 and UFC Fight Night 36 is likely about as long of a period of time that we can expect from this point on. Rabid fight fans can consider this to be a good thing. Casual fans... I'll say that they should at least catch the main event of UFC Fight Night 36. Two former world champions (albeit in different organizations) clash in what could determine the next middleweight #1 contender. Lyoto Machida is a well-established name and has been in title contention (if not the champ) for the last 5 years. Gegard Mousasi is an unknown to those who only follow the UFC, but has a chance to make his name against Machida and has the talent to do so.
The rest of the card features another high stakes middleweight match, two (former?) prized prospects trying to right their ship against seemingly lesser opponents, and a low-key welterweight match. Nothing to truly blow your socks off, but should be good nonetheless.
Lets get to the meat and potatoes...
#4 Lyoto Machida (20-4) vs. #9 LHW Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2), Middleweight
Dana White has already stated that it is likely that Machida will get a title shot if he can beat Mousasi here. Then again, Machida has heard talk like this before (remember UFC on FOX 4?). Clearly the stakes are high for the main event and make no mistake, Mousasi certainly deserves his place there despite the lack of an extensive UFC resume.
Machida was supposed to reign the UFC light heavyweight division for years after he took the belt from Rashad Evans at UFC 98. His reign fell just short of a year and it was a controversial year as the only "successful" title defense he had was to Shogun Rua. After a few more years at 205, Machida made the move to middleweight last fall and he looked amazing in his debut against Mark Munoz. His unique karate style has always made him elusive and he rarely takes damage and he was able to maintain his quickness. While his opponents at 185 are usually quicker than what he faced at 205, his strength and grappling are much more effective at his new weight which will make it more difficult to outpoint him with takedowns ala Phil Davis as he is no longer undersized against his opponents. Expect Machida to dart in and out landing shots to score points and measure distance. People often think of him as a counter puncher and though he is capable of that, he is usually in and out with a strike or quick flurry while often times just avoiding his opponents attacks. He has shown more diversity in his strikes the last few years too, even if he is particular about when to throw head kicks.
Mousasi is returning to middleweight after an extended stay at 205 and I would believe that he'll have a strength advantage over Machida. Mousasi has all of the skills needed to beat Machida. He is a very skilled boxer with an amateur background and a blindingly fast jab (his primary weapon against Ilir Latifi) and has good leg kicks as well (which most will remember Rua used to great success against Machida). His striking defense is certainly noted and rightfully so as he uses the boxing fundamentals very well, though he does get lazy and drop his hands at times. What is crazy to think though is the fact that according to Fight Metric, Mousasi absorbs less strikes and avoids a greater percentage of them than Machida does. Granted, I would say that the level of competition that Mousasi has faced as compared to Machida is lower, but that is still a mind-blowing statistic nonetheless. Mousasi doesn't go for takedowns a lot, but he relies on sweeps and throws more than double or single legs when he does. His GNP is vicious and set up his RNC of Mike Kyle. I would expect him to attempt to get Machida down, though that is no simple task.
I think this is going to be a close match. Mousasi is a smart fighter and I'm sure he has a game plan to deal with Machida. I just don't think it will be enough. Machida was able to finish Ryan Bader and Mark Munoz in violent fashion, but they are grapplers by trade that often rely on overpowering their opponent. Mousasi isn't that type of fighter and will willingly engage Machida in his chess game. He'll even take a round, maybe two. Maybe even convince a judge he's the victor. But he won't get two of them. Machida by Decision
#3 Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 1 NC) vs. #8 Francis Carmont (22-7), Middleweight
An excellent co-main event for a Fight Night card, Souza and Carmont both have long winning streaks and realistic title aspirations... which could go up in smoke with a loss here. No one ever wants to lose, but whoever loses this one is gonna be hurting.
Anyone else find it stupid the Fox Sports 1 promo for the card is hyping Souza as a KO artist when he has 2 KO/TKO victories to his credit? That isn't to say that Souza hasn't improved as a striker (those 2 KO/TKO victories have come in his last 4 fights), but anyone who knows a smidgen about Souza knows he is not just a submission specialist, but one of the best submission specialists in the world. The fact that his striking is a legitimate threat to end the fight doesn't just make him dangerous (he was that already), but now he is truly scary and a name that Chris Weidman is well aware of. He has always been powerful as some of his submissions have been him creating an opening more than him finding one (see Ed Herman) and he has learned to implement that into his striking. His KO of Yushin Okami was set up by a devastating right hand that sent Okami down with one punch. He has often started out with leg kicks to gauge distance and reactions from his opponents and has acted quickly with the fists once he has that down. His weakness would be his wrestling which is still a dangerous place to take the fight with his submission acumen. Aggression would be key as well as the last man to beat Souza, Luke Rockhold, kept him on his feet, pressed the action, and effectively controlled the distance with his reach.
Fortunately for Carmont, he has the type of reach that could cause Souza some problems. At 78 inches, he has 4 inches on Souza and even an inch on Rockhold. He has an effective jab (he trains at Tristar, of course he does) and some nice kicks which should be enough to establish distance. Despite those tools, Carmont has inexplicably not been able to do so against Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin in recent fights. I would have to believe that his camp has recognized the predicament here and tried to work on it... practicing it and executing it in a fight are different things. To give him credit though, he has never taken any serious damage in his time in the UFC so it isn't like he completely sucks in that department. Carmont also established his smothering top game in his last outing against Costas Philippou and never allowed the former boxer to establish his striking. Smothering Philippou and smothering Souza are two completely different things though as Philippou never threatened with a submission.
Carmont will want to keep the fight standing. That is a no-brainer. Whether he'll be able to is the question. Souza's takedown attempts can be telegraphed, but he is dogged in going after them and full of power. Carmont has excellent defense, but I don't think he can stop them all. Then again, he could be so worried about the takedowns and not see the right hand coming his way... Souza by Submission Round 2
Erick Silva (15-4, 1 NC) vs. Takenori Sato (17-8-7), Welterweight
The UFC continues to try and make a star out of Silva and Sato is the next victim to be brought to the alter for Silva to devour. It might sound harsh, but its the truth. Just look at the betting lines.
Silva does have a lot of talent. No one will ever deny that. He has looked good in every one of his UFC matches (yes, that includes the losses) and all of them have been exciting as well. But his fight IQ can be questioned and the fact he turns 30 this year indicates he isn't as much of a prospect as we'd like to think that he is. Its also hard to look at his close loss to Jon Fitch in the same light in wake of Fitch's struggles the last few years. Nonetheless, I'll give him accolades for hanging with Fitch as he did which showed great grappling acumen, as well in the first round of his last fight with Dong Hyun Kim. Keep in mind as well that his last two victories have come via submission. Its key to remember that he was beating Kim before he got caught by Kim's desperation left hand. He might be outside the Top 15, but not by much. If he wants to break in, he'll have to show more discipline and technique as he showed little to none of those going for the kill against Kim. He swung wildly and gassed himself allowing Kim to hang in there. That style will work on lesser fighters, but not against the upper echelon.
Until his call to the UFC, Sato was the welterweight King of Pancrase and defended the title five times, but that title doesn't mean what it did when Ken Shamrock and Nate Marquardt held them. I'm not trying to make it sound like Sato sucks, but I do believe that he is in over his head with Silva. He isn't incompetent in any one area, but he is very deliberate and I doubt he would be able to keep pace with most of the UFC fighters. Through in the fact he isn't the most powerful striker (not horrible technique though) and this doesn't bode well for him. I will not question his toughness though as he (and his opponent) fell out of the ring in one of his last fights and rather than throw in the towel finished and won the fight. His best chance is Silva leaving an arm for him to contort as Sato has victories via armbar, keylock, and kimura.
This is a bad situation for Silva as he has little chance of improving his standing here. He has nothing to gain here and everything to lose. He'll be expected to obliterate Sato here and if he doesn't the criticism will rain down upon him even if he wins. I stated he'll have to use more discipline and technique to move up the ladder... but he'll be able to get away with not using it against Sato. Silva by KO 1st Round
Nico Musoke (11-2, 1 NC) vs. Viscardi Andrade (17-5), Welterweight
To be honest, there aren't high stakes (not for fans anyway) in this match or any way to really spin it to make it seem more interesting. If they lose, they are more than likely safe.
Musoke made his UFC debut on short notice at middleweight against longtime UFC vet Alessio Sakara and sent him to the unemployment line with a slick (and very quick) armbar from the guard. Needless to say opponents will be respecting his ground work from now on. What was even more surprising was how he held his own with Sakara striking. I do believe that Sakara was getting the better on the feet, but Musoke is a natural welterweight and took those punches and even rattled Sakara with a few of his own. I'd still say the ground is a much greater strength for him as his chin seems to be his greatest advantage standing. He loves going for the front guillotine as he sprawls from an opponents takedown attempt and is worth watching for. He's had conditioning issues in the past (cost him against Danny Mitchell) and it might be worthwhile for Andrade to push the pace, but to be fair it seems Musoke has been much better prepared since that fight.
Andrade was on the second season of TUF Brazil and is Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert, having won the 2010 World Jiu-Jitsu sports. But when he made his UFC debut he finished Bristol Marunde in 96 seconds, dropping him twice and finishing with ground strikes. If you watch his early fights (more tentative and less technique) and see where he is at now you can see significant improvement in his striking ability and I would believe that he is still improving. Its also worth mentioning that after 2 victories via KO/TKO in his first 14 W's, his last 3 have come that way. He is comfortable in the clinch, but I wouldn't call it a strength. Like Musoke, he is quick to identify an opening in grappling and latch on for the sub.
This is somewhat of a pick 'em match. Neither has a real weakness that the other can exploit and both have shown solid chins. I would pick Andrade though based on the fact that he has been showing a lot of growth as of late. Considering he worked a full-time job throughout most of his career and only recently has dedicated more time to training, it seems logical for the growth to continue. Andrade by Decision
A submission expert clashes with a brawler in this meeting of young charismatic featherweights to open up the main card after a late promotion.
Oliveira was pegged by many to be contending for titles by this time when he scored two slick submissions in his first two UFC fights at the tender age of 20. Things have been much rougher for him since then, but he is still only 24 and could fulfill that promise yet. Look at the names he has lost to: Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, and Frankie Edgar. No shame in losing to any of those men. His submission game is as creative as they come (his calf slicer against Eric Wisely was amazing) and he can slap on a sub in an instant. His striking isn't great, but it is underrated. He uses a Muay Thai approach where he is constantly looking to clinch that can stun or even put out his opponent (specifically with his knees) if they sleep on him. He uses an array of kicks as well. Though not an expert, he has shown improvement in utilizing his reach too.
Ogle is impossible not to like with his all-out style. He doesn't seem to be the most talented physical specimen, but you won't find any more durable or with a bigger heart. Ogle's style is that of a traditional boxer and uses his left jab to the head and body with aplomb. That will be his best bet to hurt Oliveira and go for the KO as he won't want to go to the ground with him. Watch for how he handles Oliveira's reach. He has struggled to get his opponents to the ground since stepping up to the UFC, but isn't averse to doing so despite being British (not racist, its just few Brits have wrestling games). He showed nice submission defense and escapability against Cole Miller and Josh Grispi his last few bouts, so he isn't lost on the ground.
This feels like Ogle is being fed to Oliveira to prop Oliveira back up. Ogle is used to being the underdog and probably doesn't care what the perception of him is... but Oliveira is one of the top submission specialists in the MMA world. I don't see Ogle coming out on top here. Oliveira by Submission 1st Round
Record for Last Card: 8-4
Record for Year: 30-15
Alternative thoughts are always good. Hopefully they are thought out.