That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side! I know a lot of you have been worried, but fear not, the Nostradamus of MMA has no plans to leave you anytime soon. In fact, I even show up to events that they expressly ask me not to attend #EmbraceTheGrind.
This weekend, you’re all invited to witness UFC 197 live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The main event of the evening puts the interim light heavyweight title on the line as Jon Jones returns to the Octagon against Ovince Saint Preux. In the co-main event, Demetrious Johnson seeks to remain the only flyweight champion in UFC history as he faces off against the Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Henry Cejudo. Retire to the study as I educate you. It’s fight time!
UFC 197 FREE FIGHT CONTENT: Free Fights: Jones vs. Daniel Cormier | Jones vs. Rampage Jackson | OSP vs. Patrick Cummins | Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez | Henry Cejudo vs. Dustin Kimura | KO of the Week: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon | Submission of the Week: Pettis vs. Benson Henderson
GLAICO FRANCA VS. JAMES VICK
The first fight we’ll look at takes place in the lightweight division between Glaico Franca and James Vick. Winner of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 4, Franca has 13 career finishes almost evenly split between KOs and submissions. The “Texecutioner” Vick is 4-0 inside the Octagon and coming off an upset win over Jake Matthews. Rangy for the weight class (he stands at 6’3”), Vick’s most dangerous weapons are his submission skills.
Franca is another large lightweight, but much stockier. He has a lot of power and scrambles extremely well. Vick has never completed a takedown in the UFC, but Franca’s explosiveness will help him avoid choke attempts. Vick’s striking isn’t revolutionary, but he does do well in close distance. He counters effectively and mixes in short uppercuts and knees to stun opponents. His counter defense, however, is another story. He tries to avoid punches by utilizing the Terror Squad method (aka lean back) instead of moving his feet. Franca could exploit this with his power, but he telegraphs his strikes. Much of the reason he won TUF Brazil had to do with his opponent tiring. Vick’s cardio is strong enough for the long haul. He takes it with a second round submission.
ANTHONY PETTIS VS. EDSON BARBOZA
We stay at lightweight for Anthony Pettis and Edson Barboza. After back-to-back losses to Rafael Dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez, Pettis really needs a win. Yes, there’s no shame in losing to such excellent fighters, but MMA fans are a lot like cats. You can entertain and provide for them for years, but all they care about is, “What have you done for me lately?” On the bright side, both can’t get enough of the Showtime Kick. Barboza also looks to rebound from his most recent loss to Tony Ferguson.
RELATED UFC 197 CONTENT: Reasons to watch UFC 197 this Saturday | Fighters on the rise this weekend | Barboza getting inside help for fight vs Pettis | Pettis bros. ready to fight on same night again | Watch: Rankings Report | Matchmakers Silva & Shelby break down UFC 197 bouts | Under-the-radar fights at UFC 197 | Inside the numbers for Jones/Saint Preux | UFC 197 Countdown - Jones vs. Saint Preux & Johnson vs. Cejudo | UFC 197 Embedded - Episode 1, Episode 2 | Meet Cody East from latest episode of "Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight" | UFC 197 - Inside the Octagon | Joe Rogan previews Saturday's co-main event
This should be a striking showcase of epic proportions. We know that Pettis has had difficulties with grappling pressure, but the same can be said for his striking defense. He needs a lot of space to throw his kicks, but fighters like Alvarez and Dos Anjos have smothered him and forced him to box. Pettis has fast hands, but his punches work in conjunction with his kicks. Take those away, and they aren’t as effective. Barboza suffers from similar problems. He likes to stay loose so he can fire off his powerful leg strikes, but he needs time to load them up. Neither one of them are much on volume (although Barboza is better in that regard), but they can both end a fight in an instant. If you look at the Ferguson fight, Barboza got anxious after he had been hit with a few big strikes. He dove for a takedown, exposed his neck and was submitted. The same thing will play out here. He’ll make an ill-timed takedown attempt and Pettis cinches up the guillotine for a first-round submission victory.
DEMETRIOUS JOHNSON VS. HENRY CEJUDO
That brings us to flyweight for Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo. Mighty Mouse hasn’t lost a fight since 2011, at the hands of Dominick Cruz, and his last defense against John Dodson made it seem like the streak isn’t ending anytime soon. One of the most gifted fighters in MMA, he can beat you anywhere and everywhere. An Olympic gold medal winner in freestyle wrestling, the 29-year-old Cejudo is ready to add some UFC gold to his trophy case. He’s 4-0 inside the Octagon and is coming off a split decision win over Jussier Formiga in November.
For all his wrestling accolades, Cejudo has spent the majority of his UFC career attacking with his boxing. Technically sound, he throws a crisp jab and uses that to set up his power punches (especially his overhand right). Surprisingly, his takedown conversion rate is only 33.33%. Some of that is due to the fact he hasn’t attempted as many as we would have thought, but it’s also because he doesn’t blend the attempts with his hands as well as someone like Johnson. Cejudo has never given up a takedown, but that streak will end here. Mighty Mouse simply has too many weapons. Yes, he has been prone to letting power shots slip though, but Cejudo hasn’t shown the KO power to let us think he could put Johnson away. Cejudo gets overwhelmed with volume and Mighty Mouse retains his belt by unanimous decision.
JON JONES VS. OVINCE SAINT PREUX
Time for the main event! Jon Jones returns to action for the first time in over a year. He has made a lot of mistakes in his personal conduct and has been stripped of the title, but this could be the beginning of his road to redemption. Stepping in for an injured Daniel Cormier, Ovince Saint Preux plans on shocking the world.
Is Jon Jones the best MMA fighter ever? You could certainly make that argument. Is he invincible? Not at all. Outside of his ego (i.e. proving he can beat his opponents with their best skill instead of the path of least resistance), Jones does have some gaps. Especially inside the clinch, Jones shows a lack of urgency and lets a lot of strikes slip through. OSP has an awkward, irregular rhythm to his attacks and could use that to sneak some power shots through. The difference maker here is wrestling. OSP has decent takedown defense, but it’s not where it needs to be to fight off Jones. OSP can have success in the early rounds, but he tends to fade (look at his fight against Glover Teixeira) while Jones only gets stronger. Jon Jones moved one step closer to regaining the undisputed crown with a third-round TKO.
That wraps up another enlightening edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, compliments or cheese suggestions on the page here.