UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao, taking place Saturday, July 19.
That’s right lads and lasses, it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side! Many of you know me as the Nostradamus of MMA. Keeping with the spirit of the Emerald Isle, many of you may not be aware that I’ve also been referred to as the UFC’s James Joyce. In fact, the working title of my memoir is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pugilist.
Luckily it doesn’t take a Ph.D in English Literature to realize that the UFC has another great set of fights exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS. In the main event of the evening, Irish sensation and origami enthusiast Conor McGregor will try to prove the doubters wrong against Brazilian whirlwind Diego Brandao. In the co-main event of the night, Gunnar Nelson can keep his undefeated record going with a win over TUF 17 alum Zak Cummings.
NORMAN PARKE VS. NAOYUKI KOTANI
We open up in the lightweight division with Norman Parke and Naoyuki Kotani. Winner of TUF Smashes, “Stormin” Norman Parke carries a 3-0-1 record in his four appearances in the Octagon. A (controversial) point deduction for grabbing Leonardo Santos’s shorts his last time out cost him the win and ultimately resulted in a majority draw. Kotani returns to the UFC for the first time since April 2007. If you’ve been heavily consuming Guinness the last seven years, allow me to put that in context. The last time Kotani stepped inside the Octagon, the movie 300 was still relevant. I mean, sure it’s never lost relevance with fighters [insert Spartan reference], but you know what I mean.
Kotani’s professional career spans over 13 years and 50 fights. Couple that with 25 career submissions, and you can’t underestimate him because he hasn’t been in the UFC since the movie Blades of Glory was leading the box office. Even though Parke usually prefers to bring the fight to the ground, he’ll beat Kotani on his feet. His fight against Kazuki Tokudome is very telling. There he fought another ground ace, and he spent the majority of the round striking and then attempted a takedown late. He’ll do the same here and pick up the unanimous decision win.
BRAD PICKETT VS. IAN MCCALL
We drop to flyweight for Brad Pickett and Ian McCall. This is a match that was originally supposed to take place in March, but an injury to McCall forced “Uncle Creepy” to withdraw. Pickett has been known to stand in the pocket and trade, but he also uses his boxing to transition to submissions. The #3 ranked fighter in the division, Ian McCall hasn’t competed since his decision win over Illarde Santos in August.
Many people will have a hard time rooting for Pickett ever since he showed wanton disregard for HIPAA laws back in February. Others will find it hard to root for Ian McCall because he looks like the kind of guy that drinks PBR or considers getting this tattoo. The one thing it won’t be hard to do, though, is enjoy this fight. This will be a tight, back and forth matchup, but Pickett’s power will be the difference maker. McCall has the better wrestling, but Pickett can change the momentum of the fight with a single punch. He won’t finish Uncle Creepy, but it will take the wind out of his sails. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act may be important, but it doesn’t have any legislative effect in Ireland. Pickett by decision.
GUNNAR NELSON VS. ZAK CUMMINGS
We shift to welterweight for Gunnar Nelson and Zak Cummings. A perfect 3-0 in the UFC, Nelson mixes his karate striking with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. He showed his grappling abilities his last time out when he secured a first-round guillotine choke against Omari Akhmedov in March. Another well-rounded fighter, Cummings has finished 13 opponents with a mix of submissions and KOs. Plus, you’d never guess that he’s only 29 years old by looking at him. That means he’s full of surprises.
Cummings has a distinct size and power advantage. If he can get his hands on Nelson, he should be able to bring him to the ground and control the Icelander against the fence. Couple that with the fact that Nelson keeps his hands low and lets punches sneak through, and this could be a breakout match for Cummings. Having said that, he doesn’t have enough speed to close the distance. Nelson will use his side kicks, spin kicks, hook kicks and 360 split spinning dragon heel kicks to keep Cummings at bay. After reading his timing, Nelson stuns Cummings in the second and finishes him up with a rear naked choke.
CONOR MCGREGOR VS. DIEGO BRANDAO
Time for the main event! The Conor McGregor hype train keeps chugging along and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. In only two fights in the UFC, he’s accomplished more than any other fighter since Brock Lesnar. After a first round TKO against Marcus Brimage, the notorious one showed off his versatility and endurance as he picked up the decision win over Max Holloway last August. Diego Brandao is a wildcard - you never know what you might get (or is that a box of chocolates?). After a solid three-fight win streak, Brandao found himself on the wrong end of a first-round knockout against Dustin Poirier at UFC 168.
You can’t give McGregor space. By giving him distance, you allow him to utilize his vast arsenal of kicks. Luckily for Brandao, he holds the fifth highest takedown average in the division. That won’t give time for McGregor to get comfortable, but the Irishman has proven that he can fight going forwards and backwards. Brandao’s pressure might make him uncomfortable, but it won’t be enough to break McGregor’s composure. He’ll keep focus and a well-timed counter hook will lead him to a first-round TKO.
That wraps up another Downes Side that even Leopold Bloom would find complex. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, counsel and list other brilliant Irishmen I may personify. Personally, I’m torn between Beckett and Yeats.