Super Bowl weekend traditionally plays host to one of the biggest UFC events of the year, and this card is no exception. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for UFC 156. Every fight on the main card could be a main event and is reminiscent of the early Zuffa cards before the sport’s ascension. All of the bouts have important divisional ramifications and it is all topped off by what could end up being the greatest fight in the history of mixed martial arts.
-Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall
It’s takes a clever fighter with the ludicrous speed to dethrone the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall. That fighter’s name is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Joseph Benavidez was the odds on favorite to win the Flyweight tournament and was kept guessing and off balance for the entire five round affair. Ian McCall had more hype than anyone, going into the tournament and fought Johnson fought twice due to a judging error in the first bout that was scored a draw and some felt McCall won.
Benavidez brings to the table his explosive wrestling ability along with his power and athleticism. McCall is the more technical fighter who is very crafty and could catch Benavidez going in wild for a takedown or a submission. Both have tremendous cardio and are hungry to get back in the mix as they are the number 2 & 3 contenders in the world. McCall is preoccupied with personal issues outside of the cage in the form of childcare issues and separation from his wife which he feels will lead to a divorce.
McCall is a charismatic individual who could go a long way in the UFC, but he needs to find a way to put his personal issues aside to handle the razor sharp Benavidez. While McCall is dangerous on the ground, Demetrious Johnson was able to take him down pretty easily in their second fight. There will be some close calls in this bout, but Benavidez will have an easier controlling where the bout takes place.
The Pick: Joseph Benavidez by decision
-Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
Jon Fitch’s unsubmitable reputation will face it’s sternest test in the form of 4th degree BJJ black belt, Demian Maia. Fitch has an unbreakable will and never loses focus while Maia has adapted his pure Jiu-Jitsu pedigree to MMA better than anyone has before. The intricate nature in which Maia operates on the ground is scientific in its application.
Maia’s fights can be a little lackluster while Fitch’s name is synonymous with the word, boring. However, Fitch flipped the script in October when he dominated Erick Silva and earned Fight of the Night honors. In fact, Fitch guaranteed he would win Fight of the Night in the days leading up to the bout.
This will be an exciting fight if the Fitch that we saw in Brazil shows up in Las Vegas. If the A.K.A. standout goes back to his regularly scheduled programing, prepare to watch paint dry. I believe the new Fitch is here to stay and he will be too much for Maia’s passive approach.
The Pick: Jon Fitch by decision
Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva
Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez proved that speed kills when it comes to Antonio Silva. Before his knee blew out, Travis Browne proved to have a superior technique and being able to avoid the ground is also detrimental to Silva’s success. Speed + Superior Striking + Accuracy equals Silva’s worst nightmare brought to him by the K-1 champion, Alistair Overeem.
Silva’s submission game is top notch and if he can take Overeem down and keep him there, he might pull it off. The problem is that Overeem has the best takedown defense in the heavyweight division. If he is taken down, he can easily get back to his feet.
Silva’s is incredibly slow so I don’t see much success for him in the takedown department.
As long as Overeem respects Silva’s punching power and uses his reach and angles to cut off the cage to throw combinations, the former Strikeforce champion will be well on his way towards capturing UFC gold this summer.
The Pick: Alistair Overeem by 2nd round TKO
-Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira:
This is a pairing of two of the light heavyweight division’s most skilled competitors. Evans is coming off a loss to champion Jon Jones. Nogueira is coming off a TKO victory, fourteen months ago, over Tito Ortiz.
The fencing swords of Evans’ wrestling and Nogueira’s Jiu-Jitsu adds a fascinating component to this bout. Both have knockout power in their hands, but Evans’ mixes up his strikes while the former Pride star relies on his boxing but will have a reach advantage.
Evans is faster, more athletic, and will use these attributes to setup the shot with punches. If the former world champion can take down Nogueira, he will have to walk on eggshells in his guard. Time and octagon control is of the essence and Nogueira’s submission aspirations might cause too many missed attempts. This will give Evans the openings he will need to land effective strike control where the positioning of the fight.
The Pick: Rashad Evans via unanimous decision
-Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
Let’s start by saying this could be the greatest fight of all time. The dominance Jose Aldo has displayed in the cage is terrifying. The heart and determination Frankie Edgar has shown his entire career is awe inspiring. Edgar, one of the best lightweight fighters of all time, is moving down to Featherweight after years of pressure from industry experts and insiders.
They are each other’s toughest fight to date and maybe ever. Edgar came back from the ruthless aggression of Gray Maynard whose wrestling and punching almost put the New Jersey native away. Of course, Edgar came back like he has done so many times. Edgar flourishes in deep water while Aldo has never been there.
Edgar lost his last fight to Benson Henderson and many feel he should have won. His nickname, “The Answer”, is not just a marketing ploy but will he find an answer to the question that is Jose Aldo?
Aldo has sick leg kicks which Edgar has trouble defending from Henderson and his is a powerful puncher with deadly accuracy. He has never been taken down in the WEC or UFC. If Aldo gets in trouble, which has never happened before, how will he react? Will he persevere like a champion or cower like a bully who just got punched in the nose?
This is going to a career defining win for whoever is lucky enough to get their hand raised. Aldo is the favorite on paper, and rightfully so, but Edgar’s multitude of big fight experience will help him find his way to the promise land.
The Pick: Frankie Edgar via 4th round TKO