In his last four title fight opportunities, Urijah Faber has come up short in all four of them. Those attempts span four years, two organizations and two different weight classes. Faber again is presented with a title opportunity, but the chances of him wrapping gold around his waist - interim or otherwise - aren't particularly strong.
Can 'The California Kid' finally get out of his title fight slump? Will this be the coming out party for heavyweight Shawn Jordan as he faces Cheick Kongo? And will former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard prove to be the real deal or another pretender from an inferior organization? I try to answer these questions and more with the UFC 149 predictions.
What: UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: Saturday, the two-fight Facebook fight starts at 7:00 p.m. ET, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 and the main card on pay-per-view at 10.
Predictions for the five-fight pay-per-view main card below.
This fight should be closer than some imagine. Barao is the rightful favorite, but Faber's chances should not be dismissed. The truth is Barao's defensive skills - particularly in the wrestling department - are likely to be the difference maker in the end. He's just hard to score on and even when you do, it's hard to execute any meaningful follow up. I do believe, however, Faber's speed will be something Barao has to contend with early and he might be a tad risk averse as a consequence. I just don't see Faber putting Barao away nor do I believe he can take three rounds from him. That sort of narrows it down.
Early in the bout I believe Lombard's speed and aggression is going to give Boetsch all sorts of problems, but I don't see the Cuban Australian being able to make a sustained effort. Eventually he's going to wind down and when he does, that's curtains. Boestch's improbable middleweight run was salvaged by a miraculous come-from-behind performance against Yushin Okami, but he does have the strength, takedown ability and general physicality to give Lombard problems as the fight wears on. This might be the one and only time I pick redneck judo over real judo.
I'm betting this is Jordan's coming out party. In person, the guy looks like a human anvil. In competition, he's obviously green, but is also a legitimate athlete with the right coaching team behind him. I also believe he has natural acumen for the game. He'll get square in Kongo's face and attack either punching inside of Kongo's range or using takedowns and top control to pound out the Frenchman. Either way, I'd be very surprised if Jordan lost.
Head is a reasonably skilled grappler by modern UFC standards, but I'm skeptical he can match Ebersole's ability. I'm also skeptical he has any tricks that Ebersole hasn't seen before. I'm worried about Ebersole's turnaround given he fought a tough three-round scrap last month, but if anyone knows his body and athletic needs, it's a guy with as much competition experience as Ebersole.
I really have no idea to pick here. The MMA media focuses on Amir Sadollah as a test case in what goes wrong when a prospect is forced to grow up inside the UFC and fails to make adequate progress. The truth is the same has happened to Riddle, but the problem is compounded by his seeming unwillingness to fight with anything more in mind than audience applause and fight bonuses. He should be able to take Clements to the floor and work superior top control, but will he? With a packed house in Calgary likely cheering any sort of brawling action, I just don't know. I'm not a particularly big believer in Clements, although he's obviously a talented fighter. But this is a case where the better fighter will likely refuse to use his tools. What happens after that? It's anyone's guess.