UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov, taking place Saturday, June 14...
That’s right boys and girls, gather your BC buds because it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side! Whether you’re British, Colombian, British Columbian or plan on seeing Singin’ in the Rain at the The Columbian Theatre in Wamego, Kansas, you’re all sure to learn something today.
They’re no Gene Kelly, but some of the UFC’s finest plan on doing a little dancing of their own inside the Rogers Arena this weekend. In the main event of the evening, Demetrious Johnson defends his flyweight title against Ali Bagautinov. A high-paced fighter that seamlessly blends his strikes and takedowns, “Mighty Mouse” looks to continue his dominance over the 125-lb division. The co-main event of the night is a pivotal welterweight battle as Rory MacDonald takes on Tyron Woodley.
OVINCE SAINT PREUX VS. RYAN JIMMO
We open up in the light heavyweight division with Ovince Saint Preux and Ryan Jimmo. A Strikeforce transplant with an undefeated UFC record, two of OSP’s three wins have come via first round stoppage. A Nova Scotia native that made a name for himself on the Canadian scene, “Big Deal” Jimmo has traded off wins and losses in his five fights inside the Octagon. He got back to his winning ways with a first round KO over Sean O’Connell in April.
Despite his karate background, Jimmo has the most success when he can grapple and fight from the clinch. As his two UFC losses to Jimi Manuwa and James Te Huna have shown, he struggles against dynamic, powerful strikers. He works best when he can slow the pace down, and when that can’t happen, he’s in trouble. OSP is just the fighter that can create that trouble. Jimmo will try to close the distance, but OSP resists and strikes his way to a decision win.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI VS. BRENDAN SCHAUB
We bump up to heavyweight for Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub. A former UFC heavyweight champion, Arlovski returns to the Octagon for the first time since March 2008. He may be 35 years old, but “The Pit Bull” still has that knockout power in his hands. After two first round KO losses that cause many to accuse him of having a “glass jaw,” Brendan Schaub currently rides a two-fight win streak. Normally a boxer, he showed off his submission skills in September with a first round D’arce choke over Matt Mitrione.
Schaub isn’t the only one with a reputation for having a weak chin. When you look at recent performances, though, those accusations don’t really stand up. Arlovski only has one loss in his last eight fights and that was a decision against Anthony Johnson. If you can survive three rounds against him, chances are you can take a punch. Having said that, he’ll need much more than a chin to beat Brendan Schaub. Even when outgunned on the feet, Schaub finds other ways to earn the win. Despite whatever you worries you have about Schaub on the feet, he has more ways to win this fight and he takes the decision.
RYAN BADER VS. RAFAEL CAVALCANTE
We’re back at light heavyweight for Ryan Bader and Rafael “Feijao” Calvalcante. After suffering a first round TKO loss at the hands of Glover Teixeira (literally) “Darth” Bader bounced back with a win over Anthony Perosh. A former Division I wrestler at Arizona State, his striking defense is a surprisingly high 71.33%, considering his willingness to stand and trade. A former Strikeforce champion, 11 of Cavalcante’s wins have come by knockout.
Feijao’s striking style is like the way we watch television shows on Netflix -- all or nothing. While it may be a great strategy now that they recently released the third season of Sherlock, it doesn’t take Benedict Cumberbatch to realize that it presents difficulties in a fight. Luckily, Cavalcante has an 80.8% takedown defense rate to go along with his KO power. He avoids fighting off his back and connects with a right hand to take the second round TKO.
RORY MACDONALD VS. TYRON WOODLEY
That brings us to the co-main event. Rory MacDonald may have lost his chance at the welterweight title with his split decision loss to Robbie Lawler, but he returned with a decision win over Demian Maia. A former NCAA wrestler at the University of Missouri, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley has leveraged his wins over Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit to earn the #3 ranking. Some called his win over Condit a fluke, so Woodley is eager to prove that he belongs along with the elite in the division.
MacDonald may have a 94.1% takedown defense rate, but stuffing 20 of Maia’s 22 takedowns helped pad that stat. There’s a big difference between Demian Maia’s wrestling and Tyron Woodley’s. “The Chosen One” has more power and speed, but he’ll struggle to get on the inside. Regardless of what you may think of Rory MacDonald after the Jake Ellenberger fight last July, he still holds the fourth highest striking rate in the division. He’ll keep Woodley at the end of his jab and even work in a takedown or two of his own to seal the rounds. “Ares” wins by decision and uses the win bonus to buy himself a new peacoat or something.
DEMETRIOUS JOHNSON VS. ALI BAGAUTINOV
Time for the main event! There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Demetrious Johnson as a fighter. Ok, maybe there are, but do you really want me to use my thesaurus that badly? (I would loathe to come off as vexatious and imperious). Undefeated in his last 11 fights, Ali “Puncher” Bagautinov’s depredation could very well come to fruition. He lives up to his nickname with a boxing heavy attack, but he also mixes in grappling with 3.45 takedown attempts per minute (the UFC average is 1.91)
Even though he’s looked strong in all his title fights, Mighty Mouse has shown vulnerabilities. With the exception of his rematch fight against Joseph Benavidez in December, Johnson has been rocked on a number of occasions. The question then becomes, “Can Bagautinov capitalize on these openings?” He may be able to exploit them early on, but he’ll tire as the fight progresses. Conversely, Mighty Mouse will keep the same pace and maybe even kick things up a notch. He’ll overwhelm his opponent, secure the takedown and lock up a guillotine in the fourth round.
That wraps up another demonym-filled edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own thoughts, predictions, queries and favorite town in Pottawatomie County on the page here. I’m taking St. Clere because it’s the home town of Jess Willard.