That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side, aka paradise by the laptop light. There’s no doubt that fight fans are doubly blessed this weekend for UFC 153 live from Rio. The main event of the evening features two legends of the sport as middleweight champion Anderson Silva plumps up to fight MMA pioneer Stephan Bonnar at light heavyweight.
Silva, regarded by many as the best fighter in the world, looks to add to his two-division dominance against a man who helped make the UFC the global phenomenon it is today. Sure it’s not for a title, but like I’ll teach my children one day, sometimes it’s just nice to a fight for fun. The co-main event features another legend, Minotauro Nogueira, as he takes on Dave Herman -- the man with legendary body hair.
Demian Maia (16-4) vs Rick Story (14-5)
The main card begins in the welterweight division with two fighters looking to regain some consistency. After winning his first five fights in the UFC, Demian Maia has alternated wins and losses and needs to get a win streak going. His last fight against Dong Hyun Kim ended in less than a minute with an early TKO. Some may want to write off that TKO win over Kim as a fluke, but he did show aggressiveness and tenacity that had been lacking. His opponent Rick “The Horror” Story was making strong claims for title contention until dropping two in a row to Charlie Brenneman and Martin Kampmann.
Ever since Nate Marquardt cleaned his clock in 2009, people have been quick to dismiss Maia’s striking ability. Well, he’s steadily improved and while it may not be elite, he is more than capable of handling Rick Story’s attack. The deciding factor will be Story’s wrestling. Offensively, he’s not adept enough to stifle Maia the same way Chris Weidman did in January. Defensively, I don’t think he’ll be able to stop BJJ black belt Maia from bringing it to the ground. Look for Maia to come out strong, get the sweep and attack from top position. Story is a hard one to finish, so look for Maia to take the decision victory.
Phil Davis (9-1) vs Wagner Prado (8-0)
We move up to light heavyweight for the rare “do-over” fight between “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis and Wagner Prado. Their first fight in August ended in a no contest after just 88 seconds when Phil Davis found out that the deadly Three Stooges eye-poke technique is illegal. Before that, the undefeated Prado had KO’d his opponent in seven of his eight career wins, with only one of those leaving the first round. Davis still looks to recover from the only loss of his career, a one-sided decision to Rashad Evans at in January.
While this may be the classic striker vs. grappler setup, there are a lot of intangibles to take into account. Prado has never really been tested the same way that Davis has. Prado also trains with Minotauro Nogueira, so we shouldn’t discount his grappling skills. Prado’s takedown defense is the big question mark here, and when in doubt, I always go with the wrestler. Look for Phil Davis to put "Caldeiro" on the fence, get the takedown and take the decision.
Jon Fitch (23-4-1) vs Erick Silva (14-2)
We return to welterweight for Erick “Indio” Silva and Jon Fitch. Silva has cruised through all three of his UFC opponents. He’s finished all his opponents in the first round (even if one of those was technically declared a "loss" due to "illegal blows") and shows both striking and submission talent. Jon Fitch may struggle winning fan popularity contests, but he also struggled with Johny Hendricks, losing in only 12 seconds at UFC 141. Before that, he had been 7-1-1 in and received no acclaim for his endeavors, with many fans equating "Fitch fight" with "a good time to go to the bathroom."
You can complain about Fitch’s fighting style all you want (and I’m sure you will) but the man is effective. His tactics are no secret and he’s still been able to beat Diego Sanchez, Akihiro Gono and Thiago Alves and fought B.J. Penn to a draw. Does Silva have the ability to avoid the takedown? I think so. He stalled Charlie Brenneman’s power-wrestling and he has the speed and the intelligence to avoind being caught flat-footed. He’ll tag Fitch, move and repeat. Fitch will get overzealous, leave himself open and eat a big shot that will stun him. Silva will pounce and ground and pound his way to a 1st round TKO win. The loyal Fitch fan base might want to go to the bathroom during this one...
Glover Teixeira (18-2) vs Fabio Maldonado (18-5)
That brings us to a fight that's sure to confuse bar patrons screaming “U-S-A!” at the televisions, as two scary light heavyweight Brazilians clash. The Glover Teixeira hype train pulls into station for only his second-ever UFC fight -- in his first, he subbed super-tough Kyle Kingsbury in the first round. His opponent Fabio Maldonado, holds 12 career knockouts and looks to derail the hype train even worse than I did when I finally sat down to watch Avatar. Dances With Wolves may not have had blue people, but no Kevin Costner means no cinematic magic in my book.
The people out there looking for all the Glover Teixeira talk to stop will be sorely disappointed. Maldonado is a capable striker, but his fights against Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury have proved his defense lacking. Glover will knock down Maldonado in the first and go for the ground and pound finish. Maldonado will turtle up, expose his back and allow Teixeira to sink in the RNC. Time will only tell if he lives up to the hype, but at least he’ll be around longer than New Coke.
Minotauro Nogueira (33-7-1) vs Dave Herman (21-4)
On to the heavyweight division for the co-main event of the evening. The legendary Big Nog wants to make a comeback in front of the Brazilian crowd after Frank Mir broke his arm last December. Dave Herman may have made more waves by coming out to a “Macho Man” than his performances inside the cage, but he should not be overlooked. Heavy handed, he possesses 15 career knockouts and a fire under his butt after dropping two in a row to Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve.
Neither one of these fighters has the best head movement, instead relying on the Homer Simpson defense. Nogueira has always been known for his chin, but all the fight miles he’s put on has worn that away. If there’s one thing the fight against Sruve showed us (other than that Dana White doesn’t like the Village People) it’s that Herman has a lot of holes in his jiu-jitsu game. Look for Big Nog to exploit this and wrap this win up via first-round submission.
Anderson Silva (32-4) vs Stephan Bonnar (15-7)
That brings us to the main event. After saying he'd rather retire than face so-so opposition, Stephan Bonnar had his wish granted by the fairy matchmaker with a main event against the Greatest of All Time. When you fight Anderson Silva, a dream fight can soon turn into a nightmare. Known for his ability to take physical punishment and trade punches, Bonnar does possess a Carlson Gracie BJJ black belt and solid wrestling skills. Meanwhile, on a 16-fight win streak, the “Spider” can add to his legacy with another victory at 205.
Many people seem to think that Bonnar has a 0% chance of winning. Heck, even the Bonnar/Griffin promos don’t give him much of a shot. But anything can happen in big fights -- just ask Matt Serra. In order to win, Bonnar has to make it a fight. Trading jabs and counter punching will not be to his advantage. He has to get in Silva’s face and make it ugly. It’s a risky strategy, but it’s his best chance. So, while I’m sure everyone in the comments section will tell me I’m crazy/stupid or an [expletive] [expletive] I’m going out on a limb and predicting that Anderson Silva scores the second-round TKO.
That wraps up another dare-devil edition of the Downes Side. Be sure to follow me on twitter @dannyboydownes and check out some of my other writing here. Also, be sure to leave your queries, comments and list other things you’ve been longing to tell me during my absence.
The Downes Side: UFC 153 Predictions
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC 153, taking place Saturday, October 13