UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 1: Shogun vs. Sonnen, taking place Saturday, August 17.
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for a Bostonian edition of the Downes Side! In solidarity with the fine people of the Athens of America, I wanted to do the entire column without using the letter r, but my editor thought that was, “wicked stupid.”
This weekend is the much anticipated debut of FOX Sports 1 network. To commemorate the event the UFC rolls into TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts for an event that will be bigger than that time that baseball team won some trophy. The main event takes place in the light heavyweight division as a former champion takes on the people’s champ when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua battles Chael Sonnen. The co main event of the night will be in the heavyweight division as equine enthusiast Alistair Overeem tries to redeem himself against Travis Browne.
Joe Lauzon (22-8) vs Michael Johnson (13-8)
The main card kicks off in the lightweight division for Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson. An always-exciting submission ace, Lauzon added another Fight of the Night bonus to his already record collection in a memorably bloody decision loss to Jim Miller at UFC 155. The Ultimate Fighter 12 runner-up, Johnson looks to bounce back from a two-fight skid after losing to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi.
The fact that six of Johnson’s eight career losses have come via submission does not bode well for “The Menace”. He does have solid wrestling, but not it’s not at a high enough level to stifle Lauzon’s submissions. This fight will eventually hit the ground and once there, Lauzon will do what he does best (besides bleeding all over the place). Johnson survives the first round, but after that Lauzon’s expertise will take over. J-Lau takes this via RNC in the second and won’t need a transfusion afterwards.
Uriah Hall (8-3) vs John Howard (20-8)
We move up to middleweight for a fight between two powerful knockout artists as Uriah Hall battles John “Doomsday” Howard. Hall takes his second fight in the UFC since losing the TUF 17 finale to underdog Kevin Gastelum. An explosive striker whose KO of Adam Cella on the show will live forever, he lacks takedown defense and there are questions about his ability to step up to the moment. Replacing an injured Josh Samman, John Howard begins his second stint in the UFC with a big test. Another guy with huge KO power, he’ll have his hometown crowd behind him.
I’ve come across some Uriah Hall training footage that shows the easiest path to victory. Unfortunately, Howard may not have the wrestling ability or the desire to put Hall on his back. Grounding Hall may be the easiest way to beat him, but it’s not the only way. Hall needs distance and range to utilize his kicks and power. If Howard can close the distance, he can limit these strikes and use his comparative advantage in pocket punching. If Gastelum derailed the Hall hype train, Howard strips its copper wiring and scrap metal as he takes the unanimous decision victory.
Matt Brown (19-11) vs Mike Pyle (25-8-1)
We drop down to welterweight for a the most entertaining fight between veterans since the time they overserved my great-uncle at the VFW Christmas party. With the most KOs in welterweight history, “The Immortal” Matt Brown rides a five-fight win streak. Mike Pyle has a win streak of his own, and has finishing three of his last four opponents in the first round and getting a hard-fought split decision in the fourth. Not bad for a guy who was born the same year as Apple Computers.
Despite the fact that Pyle has been knocking guys out as of late, he has incredible grappling skills. He holds 16 career submission wins, and nine of Brown’s losses have come by submission. It doesn’t take Greg Jackson to figure out the game plan for this one. Despite that, I imagine that these two will stand in front of each other and start swinging. Known as a brawler, Brown actually has the highest striking accuracy in the division. The deciding factor here will be the ability to take damage. Pyle has a solid chin, but Brown has that next-level ability to absorb punishment. Expect a lot of back and forth, but eventually the damage will add up and Brown takes the 2nd round TKO.
Urijah Faber (28-6) vs Iuri Alcantara (27-4 1NC)
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Urijah Faber continues his quest to regain an MMA title. After losing his last title shot against Renan Barao, the California Kid has secured two submission victories over top guys. Another WEC veteran, Iuri Alcantara possesses both submission skils and KO power with 12 wins each way. He’s seeking a signature win to boost his name in the bantamweight ranks.
Alcantara might not have the name recognition or distinguished jawline of Faber, but he’s still a tough challenge who fights extremely aggressively. Against someone with Faber’s wrestling, however, that’s a recipe for disaster. As he charges, Faber will shoot in and take him down. Once there, Faber’s grappling and ground and pound will incapacitate Alcantara. By the time the third round comes around, the Brazilian will be fatigued from fighting off Faber. This will cause him to make a tactical error and Faber locks in the guillotine choke. If you think that win is impressive, you should see him at a bouquet toss.
Alistair Overeem (36-12 1 NC) vs Travis Browne (14-1-1)
We jump up 100+ pounds to the heavyweight division for Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne. Overeem returns to the Octagon for the first time since learning the perils of hubris in MMA when Bigfoot Silva taught him some respect. We all know about Reem’s KO power, but he actually has 19 submission victories (including eight by guillotine). After suffering a TKO to Bigfoot of his own, Browne bounced back by dropping some KOTN-style elbows on Gabriel Gonzaga in April.
Regardless of your personal opinions about Overeem, you can’t argue with his ability. He looks like an action figure, and the only question marks are his tactics and mental strength. Browne has the speed/conditioning advantage, but Overeem has the power. Browne will be giving up about 30 pounds when the two step in the cage, and that will show in the clinch. The Reem will hurt "Hapa" with body knees, then tee off with some uppercuts to earn the second-round TKO.
Mauricio Rua (21-7) vs Chael Sonnen (28-13-1)
Time for the main event of the evening! Former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has had a hard time as of late. He’s failed to put together a string of wins and has been alternating wins and losses his last 10 fights. After losing two title shots in a row, Chael Sonnen tries to bring his Brazilian popularity level even lower.
Shogun clearly has the striking advantage, but so does every fighter Chael Sonnen faces, and he’s taken down all of them except for Jon Jones. Shogun’s cardio in the past has let him down while Chael Sonnen’s is like his mouth -- it never stops. Sonnen has no desire to change the way he fights, and if it works, why would he? He’ll come out, take Shogun down and start punching him. His finishing ability from top position may be lacking, but he’ll repeat the same thing for all five rounds and pick up the unanimous decision victory. Then he’ll take the mic and give an honest, off the cuff, never pre-rehearsed speech.
That wraps up another Ben Affleck approved edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, comments, thoughts or favorite Marky Mark single on the page here.