The first of two UFC events in one weekend in the same city begins with the more important event of the two as two UFC titles are up for grabs. UFC middlweight champion Chris Weidman will defend his title against challenger Lyoto Machida while UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey looks to stay undefeated against Alexis Davis.
Will Weidman continue his run of middleweight dominance or is Machida going to win two titles in two weight classes? Is Rousey set to land her patented armbar or is Davis going to cause a huge upset? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC 175: Weidman vs. Machida
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, the two-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 7 p.m. ET and the four-fight Fox Sports 1 main card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off 10 p.m.
Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
Part of the reason why I picked Weidman over Anderson Silva was a belief in his capacity to improve. Some fighters get marginally better between fights. Others, like Weidman, take quantum leaps. If he could build off of what he showed in the Mark Munoz fight, I thought, Silva might be in real trouble. The reality - for me, anyway - is that's still in play. Whatever we saw in those Anderson Silva fights, we'll see more of this time. I don't think he's going to get overly aggressive on takedowns or stand in such a way to get blitzed either. I also, however, don't think this fight is going to be particularly easy for either fighter. Machida can succumb to pressure late and probably doesn't take a shot very well (although saying his chin is bad is probably an exaggeration, too). But he knows how to minimize risk and even steal rounds with efficient, well-timed offense.
It's difficult to be overly predictive with the technical side of this fight, largely because Weidman is still something of an unknown. He's opened up some, but not a lot. We know Machida's game in large part. For him, this is about tactical adjustments. If you're betting on the Brazilian, you've got strong reason. Same goes for the American, but that means you're expecting to see some things from him he hasn't necessarily shown. Not yet, anyway.
Rousey has acknowledged her submission style is risk-heavy because it was shaped by judo rules that never gave her proper time to work for a submission. In MMA contexts, that speed chess approach works wonders. Although one can imagine a more comprehensive skill set like Davis' could stop Rousey in her tracks on the ground, or at least slow her down. That's about all I reasonably see Davis doing. She has the tools necessary to thwart the advances of Rousey. If the judoka gets careless, obviously she can stop her, too. In all likelihood, though, that won't happen. I'm not sure how long or short this goes, but the key for me is Davis isn't offensive enough to win rounds again Rousey, much less the fight.
Stefan Struve vs. Matt Mitrione
It's hard to know where Struve is at this point given the long layoff, but if anyone has a style of preparation that reduces the risk of cage rust, it's Struve. In typical Dutch fashion, he believes in extremely hard sparring, which means bringing himself to the level of intensity necessary for competition shouldn't be difficult. As for their skills, Struve has more of them, but is vulnerable, too. Mitrione isn't an elite heavyweight, but needn't be to land a powerful shot on a tall fighter who refuses to use a jab. I'll side with Struve, but this one will be noteworthy to see.
Santos has had a couple of hiccups in his career, but I'm just not convinced by Hall. He has plenty of talent, of course, but a continued unwillingness to use it. Beating of Chris Leben isn't something we can ignore, but it's also not an achievement we can comfortably rest on either. Santos is physical for the weight class, well-rounded and more proactive on offense. If he doesn't get torched in the first, he'll put offensive pressure on Hall to get the American reacting. Once that process begins, it doesn't really end.
Marcus Brimage vs. Russell Doane
This one is a bit of a tough call. Doane has the better finesse grappling skills, but Brimage is better with takedowns and positional control. It'd odd in modern MMA that fighters with better ability to finish a contest routinely loss to those with better capacity to hold a position and stall, but such is the case, e.g. Guida vs. Kawajiri. In any case, this one is too close to call, but I'll side with Brimage for the purposes of the article.
From the preliminary card:
Urijah Faber def. Alex Caceres
Kenny Robertson def. Ildemar Alcantara
Bruno Santos def. Chris Camozzi
George Roop def. Rob Font
Guilherme Vasconcelos def. Luke Zachrich
Bubba Bush def. Kevin Casey