That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another double title shot edition of The Downes Side. Definitely better than one of those banal double rainbows, it might even be as entertaining as the movie Double Take.
There won’t be any need for a double shot of espresso, because the fight card of UFC 199 has enough excitement to keep your great uncle awake past his bed time. In the main event of the evening, Luke Rockhold defends his middleweight title for the first time against Michael Bisping. In the co-main event, Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz might finally bury the hatchet.
We open up in the featherweight division with Cole Miller and Alex Caceres. Miller fights for the first time since a Jim Alers eye poke resulted in a no contest back in December. A BJJ black belt who uses his rangy frame on the feet, he has 15 career submission wins. Caceres, aka “Bruce Leeroy,” is a flashy striker who ended his three-fight losing streak by defeating Masio Fullen in January.
This is a battle of two fighters with disparate striking styles. Caceres likes spin kicks and elaborate setups while Miller is more of a “meat and potatoes” striker. Well, as much as a guy who’s 6’1” and 145 pounds eats starchy foods. Caceres is the quicker, more explosive fighter, but he wastes a lot of strikes. Sometimes it feels like he uses an exotic kick because he can and not because it’s the right technique. Especially in his loss to Francisco Rivera, he showed that he can be overeager and pay for it. Fortunately, Miller doesn’t have the same power as Rivera. Miller has the far superior grappling game and could easily finish it if it hits the ground. Barring Caceres rushing into a guillotine or an ill-timed spin kick that exposes his back, however, I don’t see that happening. Miller normally uses his reach well, but he falls out of his stance often when he throws his right cross. Caceres exploits this, counterattacks and pulls off the upset decision win.
Next we move to lightweight for Dustin Poirier and Bobby Green. The transition to 155 pounds has been successful for Poirier, as “The Diamond” is 3-0 (including two first-round knockouts) since the move. Bobby Green returns after a pair of injuries have put him on the sideline since November 2014. “King” Green may be known for his taunts on the feet, but he can finish fighters anywhere with his eight career KOs and nine submissions.
Green showed more of his taunting skills and ability to brush dirt off his shoulder than striking prowess in his loss to Edson Barboza. His gestures have purpose, but can he get Poirier to bite? In the Joe Duffy fight, Poirier absorbed a lot of counter right hands as he was rushing in. Why did Green struggle against Barboza? Because Barboza stayed on the outside. Straight punches and low kicks allowed him enough space to get out of the way. Dustin Poirier does not maintain that type of distance. He’s in his comfort zone in tight, throwing uppercuts and overhand punches. Green has tremendous head movement and defends over 68% of significant strikes thrown his way. He’ll be able to avoid the initial rush and sneak in some punches of his own. After taking a couple counter shots, Poirier will try to take Green down. He’ll probably succeed, but it will be too little, too late and Green secures my second upset pick of the night and a unanimous decision win.
DOMINICK CRUZ VS URIJAH FABER
That brings us to Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber. Cruz showed no signs of slowing down after his long layoff by reclaiming the bantamweight title against TJ Dillashaw. Faber has won three of his last four fights and this could be his last chance at claiming MMA gold.
We all know Dominick Cruz’s style, but nobody has really found an answer. He darts in and out and blends takedowns and strikes at a level only Demetrious Johnson can equal. That’s not to say that he’s invincible, though. For one, he’s not the most accurate striker. He makes up for it in volume, but he does throw a lot of unnecessary strikes. This causes him to overextend and Dillashaw made him pay for it at times. Faber has a ton of power in his hands, but the majority of his game is predicated on him getting the takedown. He uses his overhand right to set up his double leg and then smother opponents with his impressive top game. He makes opponents uncomfortable, they make mistakes and that’s why he has 19 career submissions. Faber will get his hands on Cruz, but he won’t be able to keep him down. Look at Faber’s recent fight against Frankie Edgar. Edgar didn’t stay static long enough to let Faber control him and neither will Dominick Cruz. This feud started back in 2007 and now it may finally come to a close. I’m not saying that we should expect them to hug it out (and even if they did, they’d probably start insulting each other a week later), but Cruz wins by unanimous decision.
LUKE ROCKHOLD VS. MICHAEL BISPING
Time for the main event! Initially slated to rematch Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold defends his belt for the first time. A powerful kickboxer, he always looks for opportunities to lock up an opportune choke (nine of his career wins have been submissions). Michael Bisping steps in on short notice to finally challenge for the middleweight title. “The Count” is feeling pretty good about himself (although, I suppose he’s always felt that way) after the biggest win of career – a decision victory over Anderson Silva in February.
If it weren’t for a Vitor Beflort hook kick, Luke Rockhold would be undefeated in the UFC. His key to victory comes from his left leg. He doesn’t have a ton of volume, but he throws that left leg with bad intentions. When it lands, it causes KOs or hurts opponents enough so he can cinch a choke, but it does damage even when it’s blocked. It batters forearms and opens up his punches (especially his right hook). There is a path to victory for Bisping – pace. Rockhold is definitely better prepared for three-round fights than five-round affairs. Go back and watch the Weidman/Rockhold fight. It’s much closer than you remember. Rockhold overcommitted on strikes and allowed Weidman to take his back. Bisping could dart in and out, convert the opportune takedown and steal rounds on judges’ scorecards. Or he can get hurt with the left leg and give up another second-round guillotine. My money is on the latter.
That wraps up another doubly satisfying edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, affirmations and plans for what you would do if you had a stunt double. I’d have him cover for me for this “gender reveal party” I have to go to. So you have to bring a gift for that AND the baby shower? Babies are a better racket than weddings.