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The Forward Roll: UFC on FUEL 10 edition

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In late 2011, the website Fightnomics published an article which examined finishing rates in the UFC. At the time, fight finishes had decreased from 76 percent in 2005 to 51 percent in 2010, the last completed full year of the study.

One of the conclusions made from the analysis was that submission defense was improving across the sport, which led to fewer submissions. So it came as a breath of fresh air last Saturday when UFC on FUEL 10 saw a record eight finishes. By comparison, the last five UFC events before that combined had a grand total of nine submissions.

So where did this come from? Maybe it was Brazilians paying homage to their lineage. Maybe a few one-sided matchups helped. Maybe it was just a bizarre set of circumstances. Whatever it was, MMA fans are never ungrateful for action and decisive conclusions, especially in events where intrigue is minimal beforehand. Well done, gents.

On to the predictions …

Fabricio Werdum
Werdum took care of business against "Big Nog," but now what? After a year off, he might be in for another lengthy layoff. If the UFC considers him for a title shot, he'll have to wait for Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos to finalize their trilogy, and a date has yet to be determined for that. So Werdum may be in limbo for a while. I'm not quite sure what else would make sense for him. It wouldn't be wise to match him up against Daniel Cormier when Cormier says he's moving down to 205. Perhaps a third match with Alistair Overeem would work if Overeem beats Travis Browne in August? Perhaps he meets Josh Barnett if the "Warmaster" beats Frank Mir, again in August? Bottom line, he's likely to wait any which way.
Prediction: He's put in the queue for a title shot against the Velasquez-dos Santos winner.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Nogueira fought 37 times before he ever suffered a defeat by finish, but in his last seven fights, he's lost four times. He's been knocked out twice and submitted twice. He's struggling with the elites, with losses to Mir, Velasquez and now Werdum. Those aren't exactly embarrassing names, but at 37 years old, Nog is quickly moving into the "what else does he have left to prove" conversation, if he isn't already there. He's such a nice man and he's accomplished so much, no one wants to see him fight on too long. For now though, I doubt he's done.
Prediction: He fights Stefan Struve

Thiago Silva
Silva's always had the reputation of a wildly talented guy, but in recent years, he's let some off-the-mat issues sidetrack any forward momentum. After returning from his latest suspension, Silva looked good against "Feijao, who is in many ways a perfect opponent for him because of his propensity to come forward. Silva held off his early storm and took over in the late stages of round one. During his layoff, Silva appeared to have tightened up his right hand, and improved his conditioning, two important developments going forward.
Prediction: A matchup with Jimi Manuwa sounds like a good time.

Rafael Cavalcante
After a failed drug test and a knockout loss, Cavalcante may be on the chopping block, but I'm going to guess he gets one more chance. "Feijao" better make this one count.
Prediction: He draws Ilir Latifi.

Erick Silva
Silva's blinding victory over Jason High might have been one of those corner-turning wins that propels a fighter to the next level. If anything, it seemed like Silva learned his lessons from his fight with Jon Fitch, easily stopping High's first takedown and then turning his defense into offense with a fight-ending submission. This kid remains one to watch.
Prediction: You know what? Erick Silva vs. Jordan Mein. Because who wouldn't want to see that?

Rony Jason
Well, that Rony Jason is sure getting popular in Brazil in a hurry, isn't he? His flair for showmanship doesn't hurt. Neither does his willingness to scrap. In his last fight against Sam Sicilia, he stood against a banger and knocked him out. This time, after being taken down by Mike Wilkinson, Jason quickly locked up a triangle. Since he's already 29, he may not have far to go until he reaches his ceiling, but it seems as though it's going to be an interesting ride there.
Prediction: He faces Steven Siler.

Raphael Assuncao
What a mess the UFC bantamweight division is in right now. You have a champion (Dominick Cruz) and an interim titleholder (Renan Barao) both on the shelf. You have an always No. 1 contender in waiting Urijah Faber who can't seem to lose in title eliminator matchups but can't seem to beat anyone wearing gold, and you have a few others (Eddie Wineland and now Assuncao) a half-step behind. This is one time it's good not to be Joe Silva.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 matchup between Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett.

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