UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC on FX 7, taking place Saturday, January 19
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another Brazilian version of the Downes Side. In
the Midwest it’s getting as low as 8º F (-13ºC). In São Paulo Brazil it’s 79ºF (26ºC) and sunny. Good thing I’m in Brazil, er, that I have a warm jacket.
While your MMA Nostradamus of the North may not be in the Geraldo Jose de Almeida State Gymnasium, the world’s greatest MMA fighters will be tonight for UFC on FX 7. The main event of the evening takes place in the middleweight division as multiple-weight-class title challenger Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort looks to shut up English gentleman-person Michael “The Count” Bisping. The co-main event of the night features TUF Brasil finalist Daniel Sarafian as he looks earn his first UFC victory against C.B Dollaway.
Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0)
The main card kicks off in the lightweight division as Thiago Tavares, a 12-fight UFC veteran, takes on Dagestan's own fast-rising Khabib Nurmagomedov. Impressive in his last few outings, Tavares hasn’t stepped into the Octagon since beating Sam Stout in January of 2012. A capable grappler, Tavares likes to wear down his opponents and then finish them with his world class jiu-jitsu (he holds 11 career submission victories). A sambo world champion who is constantly on the offensive, the only real downside to Nurmagomedov is that I have to type his name so many times. We'll just use his nickname from here on out, okay?
"The Eagle" was unable to secure takedowns in his last fight against Gleison Tibau, but that shouldn’t be a problem this time around. Tavares’ best chance to win this fight happens if it goes to the ground, so The Eagle should avoid taking it there. The Russian’s aggression and constant forward movement will wear down the the undersized Brazilian and ol' Eagle Eyes will catch Tavares with a big right hand in the 3rd. That will be the beginning of the end and The Eagle guy wins it by TKO.
Gabriel Gonzaga (13-6) vs Ben Rothwell (32-8)
We bump up to the heavyweight division for Gabriel Gonzaga and "Uncle Ben" Rothwell. After his well-known head kick KO of Mirko Cro Cop, Gonzaga went 3-5 and was cut from the UFC roster. He returned triumphantly at UFC 142 and submitted Ednaldo Oliveira in the first round. With some disappointing performances to begin his UFC career, Rothwell showed up to UFC 145 in the best shape of his life. The training and lifestyle changes certainly paid off as he knocked out Brendan Schaub in only 70 seconds, securing Knockout of the Night in the process.
The Cro Cop head kick aside, Gonzaga isn’t the world-beating striker he’s been made out to be. Let’s put things in perspective: When Gonzaga knocked out Cro Cop, this guy was one of the most popular public figures (yeah, it’s been that long). That said, if Gonzaga gets this fight to the ground, Big Ben could be in big trouble. Still, I believe the new, trimmed-down Rothwell will use his reach advantage and superior boxing to keep “Napao” at bay. The Brazilian already has five career KO losses and Rothwell will make it number six in the 2nd round.
C.B. Dollaway (12-4) Daniel Sarafian (7-2)
We drop down to middleweight as TUF Brasil finalist Daniel Sarafian takes on TUF 7 finalist C.B. Dollaway. Explosive and extremely well-rounded, Sarafian mowed through TUF Brazil opponents until an injury forced him to withdraw from the finale. Though relatively unknown here, he's a massive star in his native Brazil, and he'll be fighting in his hometown of Sao Paulo. After two KO losses to Jared Hamman and Mark Munoz, Dollaway returned to his winning ways against Jason “Mayhem” Miller at UFC 146 in May. An NCAA All-American wrestler at Arizona State, “The Doberman” also possesses some slick jiu-jitsu chokes, like his nasty guillotine of Joe Doerksen and his unprecedented-in-the-UFC 2008 Peruvian necktie win.
Dollaway’s last fight may have been lackluster, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that it marked his return from hip surgery. Sarafian (or, as my spellcheck seems determined to call him, Safarian) has a lot of promise and hype behind him, but he lacks the experience of his foe. He’s also a much better athlete, but numerous fights in the UFC have proven that athleticism can be stifled with strong wrestling. Dollaway has shown a susceptible chin in his losses to Hamman and Munoz, so he won’t waste his time trying to trade with "The Safarian." He’ll close the distance, push his opponent against the fence, slowly work for the takedown and grind him out. As long as his cardio doesn’t fail him late in the fight, C.B. secures the decision victory.
Vitor Belfort (21-10) Michael Bisping (23-4)
Time for the main event of the evening! Even though it looked like these two were ready to fight at the press conference, they’ll settle their differences in a cage like responsible adults. Plus, it’s way more entertaining than hearing them talk it out on Dr. Phil (although...). In one corner stands Vitor Belfort, former UFC tournament winner and self-proclaimed “Young Dinosaur,” who almost finished the armbar heard round the world in September against light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. In the other corner stands MMA’s greatest heel (next to Josh Koscheck [and Chael Sonnen, when he puts his mind to it]), Michael Bisping. Winner of five of his last six and sporting a 13-4 career record in the Octagon, The Count most recently battled Brian Stann to a decision victory at UFC 152.
This fight could go two ways: 1) Belfort explodes out the gate and KOs Bisping early in the first round or 2) Bisping slowly erodes Belfort’s always-suspect conditioning and takes the decision. I may have picked against every Brazilian on this card...and that will continue to be the case. People like to accuse Michael Bisping of having a “glass jaw,” but he’s only been knocked out once in his career. Yes, it was one hell of a knockout, but one KO loss does not constitute a pattern. The Count will tactically move in and out and avoid prolonged engagements with The Phenom. He’ll nickel and dime Belfort the entire time and earn the decision win. Then, the true test begins. How the heck is he going to get out of the arena with the Brazilian crowd against him!?
That wraps up another sufficiently insulated edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, be sure to add your own predictions, thoughts and mitten recommendations on the page.