UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1: Maia vs. Shields, taking place Wednesday, October 9
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another mid-week edition of the Downes Side! Sure you’ll have to DVR the season finale of PBS’s Earthflight, but being a true fan requires sacrifice.
Promising to be just as charismatic as the Brown Pelican, the UFC’s best return to Brazil for UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields. The main event of the evening is a grappler’s delight as Demian Maia and Jake Shields look to set themselves apart in welterweight division. The co-main event of the night features two more 170-pounders trying to shake up the rankings as rising star Erick Silva tries to shock the “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim.
Raphael Assuncao (19-4) vs TJ Dillashaw (9-1)
The main card begins in the bantamweight division with Raphael Assuncao and TJ Dillashaw angling for the next shot at the belt after Renan Barao and Dominick Cruz (hopefully) unify the title. Unbeaten since moving down to 135, Assuncao’s BJJ black belt and counter punching have propelled him to four straight. Since losing to John Dodson at The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale, TJ Dillashaw has rattled off four straight victories of his own with a combination of wrestling and knockout power.
Assuncao may have an 82.4% takedown defense rating, but expect that percentage to decrease. Holding both the highest striking rate and takedown average in the division, Dillashaw’s relentless pressure will eventually wear the Brazilian down. In the second round, Dillashaw will drop him with a right hand and finish him with GnP for the TKO victory. Dillashaw will climb a few rungs on the bantamweight ladder and Team Alpha Male striking guru Duane Ludwig earns the rights to this mug.
Rousimar Palhares (23-5) vs Mike Pierce (17-5)
We jump up to the welterweight division for two men who always bring bad intentions as Mike Pierce and Rousimar Palhares square off. A Division I wrestler with a punishing clinch, Pierce looks to run his win streak to five and earn some much-deserved recognition with a main card win. In an effort to stem a two-fight losing streak, Palhares drops to 170 after suffering first-round TKOs to Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard. A dangerous submission artist, “Toquinho” is most well known for his leglocks.
Palhares may the the advantage from a pure grappling standpoint, but he doesn’t have much else. Many want to call Palhares a one-trick pony. Sure it’s an impressive one like the horse that high dives or that Mr. Ed fellow, but a horse is a horse of course of course. His striking is wild and mostly used to get him inside so he can drop for the heel hook. Mike Pierce, who’s never been finished in his career, will not be susceptible to such moves. Of his five career losses, three have come in the first round, and Mike Pierce is going to make that four. He’ll control Palhares in the clinch and batter him with inside punching. Just as Palhares drops to the ground for a last-ditch submission attempt, Pierce will defend and take the first-round TKO.
Fabio Maldonado (19-6) vs Joey Beltran (14-8 1NC)
We move to light heavyweight for a fight that’s sure to satisfy your sluglust. Utilizing a boxing-heavy style with an emphasis on body shots, Maldonado bounced back with a decision victory over Roger Hollett after losing three of his last four. Joey Beltran has suffered a rough patch of his own lately with only four wins in his last ten fights. Another brawler with a granite chin, he’s looking for the 205-lb division to be his saving grace.
If this were a boxing match, I’d give it to Maldonado easily. His combinations are faster, stronger and more fluid. But It doesn’t take another James Toney fight to prove that that’s not the case. Beltran’s key to success lies in his ability to make this an ugly fight. He’ll get on the inside and keep Maldonado’s hands busy in the clinch. While it’s not normally part of his offense, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beltran throw in a takedown. This will be a back and forth brawl and neither one will go down easy, but the "Mexicutioner" earns his first light heavyweight win via unanimous decision. They'll both need ice packs aplenty after, but Maldonado has a shorter trip home, so who's the real winner?
Thiago Silva (15-3 2NC) vs Matt Hamill (12-4)
We remain at light heavyweight for Thiago Silva and Matt Hamill. Silva possesses a lot of talent, but he’s underachieved throughout his career. He possesses a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but his punishing (conga-inspired) ground-and-pound and heavy hands have led to the majority of his wins. Matt Hamill is coming off an uninspiring win at UFC 152 following a short-lived retirement. His three NCAA Division III wrestling titles are proof of the strength and control he's used to rack up ten career victories in the UFC.
Hamill may have six career knockouts, but he’d be wise to not stand and trade with Silva. To get the takedown, though, he’ll have to walk into Silva’s danger zone, which is enough to scare even Kenny Loggins. Hamill holds his hands low as he engages, and Silva will exploit that with a hook or overhand. That’ll be all he needs as he finishes as he clobbers a wounded Hamill for the second-round TKO that may well lead to a second retirement for the fan favorite.
Erick Silva (15-3 1NC)vs Dong Hyun Kim (17-2-1 1NC)
We drop down to welterweight for the co-main event. With the shortest fight time among active UFC fighters, Erick Silva was quickly rising up the welterweight ladder before running into Jon Fitch at UFC 153. He bounced back with a reverse triangle against Jason High and looks to gain the momentum he lost. With an 8-2 record inside the Octagon, Dong Hyun Kim was planning a web series about, “How to Grind,” but he ran into some copyright problems.
Silva’s loss to Fitch is indicative of how this fight will play out. "Indio" owns the speed and striking to hurt Kim on the outside, but the Stun Gun only needs one mistake to impose his will. Kim dominated on the ground to avoid the KO from Siyar Bahadurzada, and he’ll do the same here. In typical Kim fashion, he’ll hold Siva down and batter him from top position for the unanimous decision. The Brazilian crowd won’t like it, but they’ll change their mind once they see him dance.
Demian Maia (18-4) Jake Shields (28-6-1 1NC)
Time for the main event! Since dropping down to welterweight, Maia has looked completely renewed with three straight wins. Known for his BJJ, his striking has been slowly improving and his wrestling against Jon Fitch at UFC 156 gives the impression that he’s rounded out his other abilities to match that world class jiu-jitsu. A former Shooto, Strikeforce and EliteXC champion, Jake Shields has the jiu-jitsu and wrestling credentials to rival Maia’s. He was even able to control All-American wrestler Tyron Woodley for a split decision win at UFC 161 and smothered power wrestler Dan Henderson en route to defending the middleweight Strikeforce title.
The fact that this fight is scheduled for five rounds bodes well for Maia. Shields has the advantage in pure wrestling, but he won’t be able to hold Maia against the fence. Couple that with Shields' penchant for fatigue, and Maia’s striking advantage will come into play more as the fight heads into deep waters. With a tired opponent, Maia finds an opening and wins via submission in the fourth.
That wraps up another school night Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, fears and favorite Brown Pelican factoids on the page here. I’ll go first -- the oldest Brown Pelican on record was 43 years old. Looks like Hendo's got a new nickname!