UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC on FOX 12, taking place Saturday, July 26
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That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side. The Nostradamus of MMA has been on a roll lately. They say pride goeth before the fall, and while that may have been true for Oedipus, there’s no way that sort of thing applies to me.
Speaking of the former King of Thebes, this weekend we have such a great fight card that even Sigmund Freud couldn’t find any problems. One of the most anticipated fights of 2014, the main event features a welterweight clash between the “Immortal” Matt Brown and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. In addition to being a frontrunner for Fight of the Year, this match will also determine the next challenger for the 170-pound title. In the co-main event of the evening, Anthony Johnson looks to continue his climb up the light heavyweight ladder against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Tell your id, ego and super-ego to get ready - it’s fight time!
We open up in the lightweight division with Josh Thomson and Bobby Green. After a tough split decision loss to Benson Henderson in January, “The Punk” floated the idea of retirement. Thankfully, he decided against such measures and he’ll step back into the cage. Holding a 3-0 record inside the Octagon, Bobby “King” Green can score the signature win of his career this weekend. An aggressive fighter with a mix of both KO and submission wins in his career, he recently pounded out a hard-fought decision over Pat Healy in December.
Even though Thomson is from San Jose, being at home isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. If Downes family gatherings are any indication, familiarity does indeed breed contempt (and sucker punches). Thanksgiving brawls aside, Green presents a number of difficulties for Thomson. Despite his strong pace and dynamic striking, “The Punk” only defends takedowns at a 51.85% rate. Green may not be a decorated wrestler, but his aggressive striking could present an opening for a timely takedown. He’ll attack at a variety of levels, get the better end of the exchanges and hustle his way to a unanimous decision victory.
We drop to featherweight for Clay Guida and Dennis Bermudez. Everyone knows that Clay Guida is a fan favorite. What they may not know, however, is that he was my friend Paul’s favorite neighbor at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in 2009. Despite their drum/guitar circle waking him up multiple times throughout the night, “The Carpenter” never lost his cool and even made a Grateful Dead request (true story). I’m not sure if Dennis Bermudez has been at any music festivals recently, but he has been delivering some impressive performances of his own. After losing his UFC debut at the TUF 14 finale to Diego Brandao, “The Menace” has rattled off six straight victories.
Rebounding from the first TKO loss of his career, Guida gained some momentum back by beating Tatsuya Kawajiri. That momentum stops here. Guida’s best chance to win will be to push Bermudez against the fence and grind him out. Bermudez may not be as physically strong as Guida, but he’ll resist enough to prevent The Carpenter from being able to dictate where the fight will take place. Neither fighter has amazing striking, but Bermudez’s footwork will overcome Guida’s wild, unorthodox punches. “The Menace” finds a home for his right hand, defends the takedowns and works his way to a decision victory.
ANTHONY JOHNSON VS. ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA
We jump up to light heavyweight for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Johnson returned to the UFC in April, beat Phil Davis and immediately became a contender in the 205-pound division. No one has ever doubted his KO power, but his performance against Davis displayed a patience and pace that he’s lacked in the past. Plagued by injuries, Little Nog fights for the first time since his February 2013 win over Rashad Evans. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Nogueira has an underrated boxing game that can drop opponents with a well-timed left hand.
Nogueira is no stranger to long layoffs. His win over Rashad came after being inactive for 14 months. Unlike wine, cheese and your tolerance for Matlock, most 38-year-old fighters do not get better with age. Even if we discount the ring rust narrative, Nogueira still has the deck stacked against him. He was able to keep Rashad off with his jab and straight punches, but he won’t have that reach advantage here. Johnson connects with an early right hand in the first and follows up with the ground and pound for the TKO win.
ROBBIE LAWLER VS. MATT BROWN
Time for the main event! To paraphrase Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes (you just might find), you get Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown fighting for your entertainment. Okay, that wording may never crack the Billboard top 10 (or make it past my editor), but it’s still accurate. After his loss against Johny Hendricks for the welterweight title, southpaw slugger Lawler bounced back with a third round TKO over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173. Currently riding a seven-fight win streak, Brown has the potential to top his incredible performance against Erick Silva in May with a win here.
There’s no denying expectations are high. Unfortunately, some events just can never live up to the hype. That’s why if I ever have children, I’ll be watching Fight Pass in the delivery room just in case the moment under-delivers. Fatherhood may be a crap shoot, but luckily we have the certainty of Lawler vs. Brown being awesome. Both guys will stand in front of each other and let the leather fly. Fans may love Matt Brown’s aggression, but it does leave openings for opponents to exploit. Having said that, Lawler does tend to coast in the middle of a fight. This trait cost him the title and nearly cost him a win over Rory MacDonald. Brown may rely too much on his chin as his primary defense, but his work rate and tenacity leads him to the decision win.
That wraps up another wonderful edition of the Downes Side no matter how you psychoanalyze it. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own thoughts, predictions, compliments, praise and Freudian slips on the page here. I can't wait to see the breast, I mean best, one.