I was disappointed with my performance in my UFC 143 prediction column , so I spent Sunday dealing with it in the same way I’m sure Nick Diaz did – retail therapy at the World Market. Is there any pain that wicker furniture can’t make go away?
There will be twenty fighters looking to avoid the warming embrace of wicker this Wednesday as the Ultimate Fighting Championship rolls into Omaha, Nebraska for UFC on FUEL TV. The main event pits Diego “The Dream” Sanchez against the “Juggernaut” Jake Ellenberger. It’s Sanchez’ first fight since last March when he took on Martin Kampmann and ended up looking like this. I was front row with Pat Barry for that fight and trust me, it was worse in person – struck to our cores, we both called our mothers and told them that we loved them.
Ivan Menjivar vs. John Albert
The main card kicks off with “The Pride of El Salvador” Ivan Menjivar against John "Prince" Albert. This is the classic veteran against the exciting TUF-tested prospect matchup. TPoES has been in the MMA game for over 10 years and has fought every bantamweight worth mentioning (plus random guys like “GSP” and “Urijah” at various weights in smaller promotions). Albert -- while falling in the quarterfinals of TUF 14 -- made his mark knocking out Dustin Pague in 69 seconds at the finale.
Prediction: I have to go with the veteran on this one. Some might say it’s my anti-novelty-body-piercing bias, but as a responsible journalist, I assure you that is not the case. Menjivar just has too much for Albert to handle. He’ll push the pace and not give Albert the chance to get comfortable. Menjivar by TKO in the 2nd
TJ Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson
In the second bantamweight brawl of the night, Team Alpha Male male and TUF finalist T.J. Dillashaw goes up against Walel "The Gazelle" Watson. Dillashaw looks to rebound from a well-placed left hook that cost him the TUF crown. Bantamweight Watson, graced with a rare-for-the-weight-class 5’11” frame, is well versed in submissions, with 7 of his 9 wins coming from tapout.
Prediction: I’ve watched enough Animal Planet to realize that whenever there’s a gazelle on TV, it’s usually bad news for that gazelle. Submission skills are important, but as the recent Maia/Weidman fight showed us, they can be neutralized by strong wrestling and that’s what exactly will happen here. Dillashaw will get the takedown, get position, get control and get the decision. On the bright side, unlike his Animal Planet counterparts, at least Watson will get to keep his entrails.
Stipe Miocic vs. Phil De Fries
The next bout features a showdown between undefeated heavyweights. Collegiate wrestler and Golden Gloves champion Stipe Miocic looks to give British BJJ purple belt Philip De Fries his first loss.
Prediction: I don’t surprise easily (unless you count the cancelling of “All My Children”), but I would be shocked if this fight went the distance. Both fighters are dangerous, strong competitors. The difference here will come to boxing and that’s where Miocic will use his superiority and wind up with the 1st-round TKO. (That, incidentally, will give him as many wins as Erica Kane has husbands.)
Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Arizona State wrestler Aaron Simpson has been riding his “A-Train” to a three-fight win streak. Ronny Markes is a well-rounded fighter from Brazil who boasts an impressive 12-1 record beating opponents by knockout and submission.
Prediction: I learned my lesson last week betting against the Brazilians, and I won’t make that mistake again. Simpson has been steadily evolving into an MMA fighter instead of a wrestler who fights. Having said that, he still has had a hard time putting guys away. Markes has more firepower and – unless his debut drop to middleweight was too taxing – ends this one in the 3rd.
Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman
Just 23 years old, Stefan Struve is making his 10th appearance in the UFC – thanks for making the rest of us look bad, Stef. The 6-foot-11 “Skyscraper” is looking to run his record 7-3 to the organization. Meanwhile Dave (as in vs. Goliath) Herman, made a successful Fight of the Night debut in June against the massive John-Olav Einemo, and here he’s looking to topple another giant opponent.
Prediction: The key here is “distance.” Struve’s biggest weakness in his fights has been his inability to use his height effectively, and I see this trend continuing. Herman will be able to get inside those long limbs and deliver some punishment. Plus, by fight time, the temperature will be near freezing in Omaha. Struve may have that hardy Dutch blood, but never underestimate the usefulness of body fur.
Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger
In the main event of the evening, we’ve got two fighters seeking to step up the welterweight ladder. Jake Ellenberger has won his last five fights, the most recent being a strong TKO over Jake Shields. Diego Sanchez returns to the Octagon since that aforementioned bloodbath with Kampmann left him convalescing for a few months.
Prediction: Tony Robbins may have helped Diego attain a new outlook on life, but it won’t improve the outlook at the end of an Ellenberger fist. Even The Dream’s solid chin won’t be a problem for The Juggernaut. Ellenberger gets the hometown-boy win and puts Sanchez away in the 2nd. I just hope this fight doesn’t make me want to curl up in the fetal position like the last one did.
As another issue of the Downes Side closes, be sure to follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes and comment on the article. Last time the comments section heated up and I was challenged to a fight for the rights to the column. Pistols at dawn? A game of chicken with farming equipment like in the movie “Footloose” perhaps? I’ll let the people decide.
The Downes Side: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger Predictions
February 15, 2012