That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for the final Downes Side of 2015! I’d go through past editions to compile a greatest hits list, but that’s hard to do when they’re all hits. Also, I’m still recovering from last week.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has no time for rest as it rolls into Orlando, Fla. Live from Amway Center, Rafael dos Anjos defends his lightweight title against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. In the co-main event of the night, top ten heavyweights Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem mix it up as they seek a title shot of their own. Close that “Top 10 Viral Videos of 2015” article, it’s fight time!
RANDA MARKOS vs. KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ
We open the main card in the women’s strawweight division with Randa Markos and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. A veteran of TUF 20, “Quiet Storm” Markos has split her two fights inside the Octagon. An aggressive fighter who always comes forward, she uses her strikes to set up takedowns and clinch exchanges. Poland’s Kowalkiewicz makes her UFC debut just as I was starting to figure out how to spell Jedrzejczyk without having to look it up every time. Unlike Markos, she’s a volume puncher who focuses on her boxing.
Fights on The Ultimate Fighter aren’t the best judge of ability. They take place outside competitors’ comfort zone and there isn’t enough time to properly game plan. At the same time, the way Markos handled Tecia Torres provides some insight into how she’ll perform here. Kowalkiewicz doesn’t have a ton of power and I don’t see her being able to keep Markos from tying her up. Markos has sub 50% accuracy, but she doesn’t need to connect to keep her opponent against the fence. Kowalkiewicz will stop the first few takedown attempts, but the pace and the lights get to her as Markos takes the unanimous decision.
MICHAEL JOHNSON vs. NATE DIAZ
We move to lightweight for Michael Johnson and Nate Diaz. After four straight victories, Johnson lost a controversial split decision to Beneil Dariush back in August. He’s come a long way since his time on TUF 12. He’s become much more well-rounded and has greatly developed his striking. The always polarizing Diaz returns to the Octagon for the first time since his loss to Rafael dos Anjos a year ago. Once a title contender, he’s dropped three of his last for fights and could use a win in a big way.
More on Fight Night Orlando: Fight card | Samman right at home after battling grief | AKA helps Edwards fight right mix for success | Usman's golden dream | Watch: Road to the Octagon – Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone | Watch: Road to the Octagon – Dos Santos vs. Overeem | Watch: Road to the Octagon – Johnson vs. Diaz
The lazy analysis here is to say that Diaz will get out-wrestled and lose. Lucky for all of you I’m not that lazy (except when it comes to laundry). There is a path for Diaz to win here. His style of boxing may not have a ton of power behind it, but it does give him speed. Johnson may have more pure speed than Diaz, but that doesn’t always equate to hand speed. If Diaz can beat Johnson to the punch and nickel and dime him for a round, the pace and damage will eventually accumulate. At the same time, Diaz’s primary form of defense is the mean mug. Johnson out-wrestles and grinds his way to a decision win. See? I told you I wasn’t that lazy.
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS vs. ALISTAIR OVEREEM
We jump up to heavyweight for Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem. A former champion, the 31-year-old Dos Santos can still make it back to title contention in the wide-open division. With only five fights in the last three years, JDS hasn’t fought since his decision win over Stipe Miocic in December 2014. Another polarizing fighter, Alistair Overeem has changed his style since moving to the Jackson/Winkeljohn camp in Albuquerque. Most significantly, he fights smarter. We saw that fight IQ on display as he cruised to a decision win over Roy Nelson at UFC 185.
Overeem may not look like an action figure anymore, but he can still do damage. At the same time, though, he’s not nearly as dangerous as JDS. Dos Santos may only have his right hand, but he’s made a career out of it. Overeem has a superior clinch, but if JDS wings an overhand on the break, it could be all over. A single mistake could cost Overeem the fight, but Dos Santos doesn’t have the footwork or technique to effectively chase. The Reem takes it by unanimous decision.
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS vs. DONALD CERRONE
Time for the main event! When these two first met in August of 2013, not too many people would have guessed they’d be fighting for the lightweight title just over two years later. Rafael dos Anjos defends his title for the first time since plowing through Anthony Pettis. A pressure fighter who has added vicious low kicks and Muay Thai to his grappling pedigree, he’s won nine of his last ten fights. “Cowboy” Cerrone has won eight straight fights since losing to RDA last time. Known for his willingness to go toe to toe and slug it out, fifteen of his career wins have been via submission.
Cerrone is technically the underdog coming into this fight, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to fans. Part of it is a lack of respect for dos Anjos. Another element is the love for Cerrone. Cowboy is a distance fighter. He needs room to operate. As dos Anjos showed against Pettis, he knows how to stifle strikers. Cerrone does have a better trip takedown and clinch than Pettis, though. I always worry about Cowboy’s flat-footedness and movement, but he’ll find a way to keep RDA off him. Make sure the concession booth is stocked with Budweiser, because Donald Cerrone will be the next lightweight champion and he’s going to drink Orlando dry.
That wraps up another commendable edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, concerns or musings on life in the 21st century on the page here. NO STAR WARS SPOILERS!