MMA Picks: UFC 128 Main Card Preview and Predictions
The UFC returns to Newark, New Jersey with a highly-anticipated title bout between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the young upstart Jon “Bones” Jones. The card has a local flavor with New Jersey natives Dan and Jim Miller in key middleweight and lightweight bouts. The event also features long-time favorites Urijah Faber and Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic taking on young competitors hungry to put their name into title contention with a victory over a legend.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the bouts with some fearless predictions as to who will emerge victorious.
MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view)
LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT:
•Champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-4) vs. Jon “Bones” Jones (12-1): This fight has had the MMA world buzzing since it was announced that Jones would be stepping in for his teammate Rashad Evans to challenge Rua for the light-heavyweight strap. Jones comes in off a dominant submission victory over top contender Ryan Bader just six weeks ago at UFC 126. Rua has been out of action since last May with yet another knee injury. In that May bout, Shogun dismantled the previously unbeaten Lyoto Machida to win the UFC Light-Heavyweight title.
This one has fireworks written all over it as both men bring dynamic yet devastating styles to the cage. Rua has been smashing through opponents since his days in Japan with the Pride Fighting Championships while Jones burst on the scene with his unorthodox and lethal striking attack. There are several factors that I see as keys in this fight. First, is Shogun’s knee 100% or will we see a repeat of his dismal performance against Forrest Griffin. Second, will the fact that Jones comes in late and is favored over the champion provide incredible motivation for an already dangerous fighter in Rua. And third, is it too soon for Jones to be coming back after such an emotional victory against Bader to challenge for the title. My answers to those questions are all yeses, I believe Shogun is 100% and highly motivated by the fact that Jones is favored and I believe that the turnaround will be too quick for Jones for such big fights. The other factor is that Jones has never been attacked the way Rua will come at him and granted no one can simulate Bones either, Shogun has been in with many of the best in the world. It will be Shogun’s attack and the questions about whether Jones has the chin to withstand Rua that will ultimately lead to an explosive fight with Shogun retaining his title via third round TKO. Jones will have his day as champion, just not Saturday night.
Rua over Jones by TKO in round three to retain his UFC light-heavyweight title.
•Urijah “California Kid” Faber (24-4) vs. Eddie Wineland (18-6-1): The co-main event marks the long awaited UFC debut of Urijah Faber, the long-time face of the WEC. Faber has recently dropped down to bantamweight and is looking to make another title run after disposing of Takeya Mizugaki in November. Wineland is the former WEC Bantamweight champion but has been flying under the radar lately. Wineland is a gritty fighter willing to mix it up with anyone and has good power with either hand.
Don’t sleep on Wineland in this one. If you can get long odds on Eddie in this one throw a few dollars down as a value bet as Wineland has the grit and punching power to give Faber fits. Those fits will come early and once the California Kid weathers the early storm he will use his incredible pace and cardio to wear down Wineland. By round three it should be all Faber and the Team Alpha Male leader will put an exhausted Wineland to sleep with a rear naked choke in a very good fight.
Faber over Wineland by rear naked choke submission in round three.
•Jim Miller (19-2) vs. Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2): The second of the Miller boys takes center stage in this bout against former WEC standout Kamal Shalorus. Miller is certainly not the flashiest of UFC fighters but he has simply mowed down everyone the UFC has put in front of him with the exception of Gray Maynard en route to an 8-1 record inside the Octagon. Shalorus is unbeaten but was the beneficiary of a gift draw in his bout with Jamie Varner. Shalorus bounced back with a razor thin split decision win over Bart Palaszewski and looks to impress in his UFC debut.
Shalorus has the wrestling chops to give Miller problems but has fallen in love with the stand-up game and seems to have abandoned his wrestling roots. Miller will press forward with his underrated stand-up and eventually wear down Shalorus and get him to the mat where his top control game is smothering. It won’t be the prettiest of bouts but it will be close and competitive with Miller earning his ninth UFC giving the Miller brothers a split for the evening.
Jim Miller over Shalorus by unanimous decision.
•Nate “The Great” Marquardt (30-10-2) vs. Dan Miller (13-4): Yoshihiro Akiyama was supposed to the opponent for Marquardt but the devastation in Japan forced Akiyama to withdraw. Waiting in the wings was New Jersey native Dan Miller to step up the main card and face Marquardt. Nate the Great is coming off a disappointing decision loss to Yushin Okami in a number one contender bout. Miller snapped a three fight losing streak with recent victories over John Salter and Joe Doerksen.
Miller is a tough customer with excellent ground skills and an adequate stand-up game but in Marquardt he faces a well-rounded fighter who is likely just a little bit better in all aspects of the game. The home crowd will energize Miller early but Marquardt will take control on grind out a tough but unanimous decision win.
Marquardt over Dan Miller by unanimous decision.
•Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (27-8-2) vs. Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub (7-1): CroCop enters this bout in need of a win to keep his career on the upswing after a disappointing TKO loss to Frank Mir in September. After being one of the most feared heavyweights on the planet, CroCop has looked very ordinary during his time in the UFC. Schaub is a young athletic heavyweight riding a three fight win streak and seems to be improving with each successive outing.
This is truly a crossroads fight for both men but for different reasons. For CroCop it is a chance to prove he is still relevant in the heavyweight division and for Schaub it is a chance to gain a victory over a legend and catapult himself into the title picture. It’s a tough fight to call, but if Schaub can come in and not be in awe of CroCop the way Pat Barry was he has the tools to defeat the Croatian slugger. The thought here is that there will be a changing of the guard as Schaub is able to avoid the lethal kicks from CroCop and land enough shots of his own to take a unanimous decision victory and the next step up the UFC heavyweight ladder.
Schaub over Filipovic by unanimous decision.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
•Luiz “Banha” Cane (10-3) vs. Eliot “The Fire” Marshall (10-2): Marshall steps in on short notice for the injured Karlos Vemola to take on dangerous striker Luiz Cane. Since his UFC release last March, Marshall has put together a three fight win streak to earn another crack at the big show. Cane comes into this fight in desperate need of a win after suffering consecutive first round knockout defeats.
Marshall usually relies on a strategic cautious approach in his fights while Cane normally comes forward at all times so something has to give in this one. Look for Cane’s style to prevail in this one as even if the fight does go the distance the judges should favor the forward style of Cane but the thought here is that Cane gets back on the winning track with a knockout of Marshall in the middle frame.
Cane over Marshall by TKO in round two.
•Edson Barboza (7-0) vs. Anthony Njokuani (13-4): Barbosa comes in riding the hype train and is undefeated in seven pro fights with all ending before the final bell. Barboza has finished his last two opponents with his devastating leg kicks including a third round stoppage of Mike Lullo in his Octagon debut. Njokuani makes the leap over to the UFC after seven appearances in the WEC. Njokuani has picked up eight of his 13 wins by TKO in his pro MMA career.
Njokuani will hold the height and reach advantage but Barboza will likely be able to use his own striking and fearsome kicks to close the distance on his taller opponent. Njokuani has shown a bit of a suspect chin which Barboza will be glad to exploit midway through the second round and earn his second consecutive TKO win inside the Octagon.
Barboza over Njokuani by TKO in round two.
Check out our MMA Training Equipment online at http://www.midwestfighter.com/MMA_Training_Equipment.html