UFC 194: Preview and Predictions
UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor Preview
The MMA gods have been kind and blessed us with a card that hasn’t been decimated by injuries. We’re in the home stretch and just a little over 24 hours from Saturday December 12th. With two title fights, a major bout with title implications and depth from start to finish this is an event you do not want to miss. The card is headlined by the highly anticipated matchup between hated rivals Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, who are fighting for a title unification of the Featherweight belt. These two have been at each other’s throats for a year now, and the fans are ready to see them battle it out. The co-main event is set to feature Welterweight champion Chris Weidman defending his belt against Luke Rockhold in what is set to be a very entertaining match up. Let me breakdown the main card’s action and make some predictions for the highly anticipated event.
December 12, 2015
FIGHT PASS PRELIMS 6:30 PM EST/ 3:30 PM PST, FOX SPORTS 1 UNDERCARD 8PM EST/ 5PM PST, PPV MAIN CARD 10PM EST/ 7PM PST
- Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (TITLE FIGHT)
Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor
The fight we’ve all been waiting for. This is one of those match ups where I honestly couldn’t give you a solid prediction. McGregor comes into this fight as an odds on favorite, which is absolutely laughable. Jose Aldo has been dismantling the top featherweight fighters in the world for years. His last loss was ten years ago. He is far more well-rounded than McGregor and has gone the distance. Here’s the breakdown of the match ups.
This is the most important and debatable match-up between the two, and might actually be the only one. Conor McGregor can’t defend take-downs too well, he doesn’t shoot for take-downs and he doesn’t look for submissions. His only two losses are via submission. If Aldo so chooses to take the fight to the mat, he’ll hold a massive advantage over McGregor. Aldo will be able to take him down, and his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu will give him the edge on the mat. McGregor has some tricks to getting back on his feet, where he and many fans want the fight to stay.
Aldo’s striking is kick boxing through and through. He has devastating kicking power and some considerable knock out power in his hands. He truly embraces the four tools of hands, elbows, knees and feet. Look for Aldo to use his infamous leg kicks to slow McGregor down, not to mention McGregor’s wide stance leaves him susceptible to leg kicks. He likes to get in close and is absolutely deadly from the clinch.
McGregor’s striking is all about length, precision and power. He is so accurate with his shots that it’s hard to tell whether it’s true KO power in his hands or just advanced accuracy. McGregor is very unorthodox, he isn’t scared to throw spinning kicks because he just has a knack for timing. McGregor also makes great use of his length, and uses his straight left hand to devastating effect. A lot of McGregor’s offense is generated because of his fluid movement that allows him to shoot angles and fire off from different positions.
It’s so hard to call this fight. Let’s just hope they keep it standing and put on an absolute show for the anxious crowd.
- Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold (TITLE FIGHT)
This is a highly competitive match up on the feet but Luke Rockhold gets the nod. Some will argue that Chris Weidman beat the best striker the UFC had ever seen in Anderson Silva but he didn’t necessarily out strike him. Rockhold is a faster striker and a more varied striker. He possess a nice arsenal of kicks and knees that Weidman doesn’t have. In the open workouts he was throwing lightning fast question mark kicks, roundhouse kicks and just looked fluid in his movements. Weidman has heavy hands and solid defense. Look for Rockhold to throw some leg kicks early to establish some openings. Both guys hit hard and have solid chins making a knock out an unlikely conclusion. Rockhold has already stated he’ll finish “slow, slow, slow” Weidman in the second round, and a part of me can see that as a possibility but I won’t count the champ out yet.
Weidman is a Division 1 All American in wrestling, kind of hard to pick against him in the wrestling department. However, Rockhold trains with Olympic level wrestler and Light-heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier as well as former Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez. These two guys are paramount to Rockhold’s preparation to fend off Weidman’s take-downs.
Rockhold is a world champion Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner, and is more than adept off of his back, and at transitioning or getting back to his feet. Chris Weidman has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, which is a big surprise to a lot of people. He uses this skill to transition to dominant positions where he relies on his constant ground work to tire out his open and eventually just beat them down. His pace is endless on the mat, so Rockhold shouldn’t hold out and hope the ref is going to stand them up. Weidman usually has a strength and size advantage over his opponent’s, but not with Rockhold meaning he’s not going to be able to so easily bully him around on the ground. The nod goes to Rockhold, who I feel will be comfortable on the mat and will be able to stand the fight up if he wants.
This is a great match-up between two amazingly well-rounded fighters. In his last fight, Weidman was rocked by Vitor Belfort, he was able to hang on while Belfort gassed himself trying to finish with ground and pound. I see Rockhold winning the exchanges on the feet, his speed and willingness to throw a variety of strikes will be a major boost. Weidman’s wrestling to ground and pound combination will win him a round. I just see Rockhold’s extensive training with bigger wrestlers allowing him to keep the fight standing. This is going to be a good bout that goes the distance, with the judges crowning a new champion.
- Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo Souza
This is a rather interesting match-up. Yoel Romero so far has displayed better striking. His ridiculous athleticism allows him to throw some truly outlandish flying knees. He swings hard and pours on a pace that’s just terrifying for a guy his size. Souza never needed his striking to win a fight but man has he looked impressive in his last couple of fights. He has clean mechanics, nothing fancy. The problem here is Romero is going to push forward, get in his face and make him throw his technique out the window in a dirty boxing brawl. The nod goes to Romero because his athleticism is going to allow him to push forward and get right into Souza’s grill, where Romero is going to hold the advantage.
Again we have a very interesting match-up. In one corner you have an Olympic level wrestler in Romero. In the other you have a master Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner. Romero will power throw anyone in the division. The combination of his wrestling skill with his speed and power is just too much for anyone to fend off. Souza’s take-down game revolves around finesse, trips and throws of off balanced opponents. Souza is likely to pull guard if Romero doesn’t give him any room. The nod goes to Romero here. His relentlessness pressure makes him more likely to push for a take-down. But a take-down down doesn’t secure a victory.
If and when the fight hits the mat, again we’ll see a contrast of styles. Ronaldo Souza’s nickname is “Jacare” which is Portuguese for alligator. Basically if he gets his jaws on you, it’s a death roll from here on. Jacare is a submission master and can lock on any number of holds, from multiple positions. Romero is a ground and pound monster. He likes to take down his opponent, then smash them. This strategy doesn’t seem like the best approach against Souza, who will be looking to isolate limb and lock his jaws on it. The nod goes to Souza and his legendary Jiu-jitsu.
This is such a hard fight to call. It can truly go either way and no matter who wins here they deserve a shot at the title. On the feet Jacare has to control the distance, but with Romero’s rhino like forward march that’s going to be really tough. Once the fight hits the mat, Romero is going to lay in on Jacare for a little bit but that’ll be his downfall. He’ll get sloppy with his ground and pound and get wrapped up by Souza. This is going to end somewhere near the end of the second via triangle choke.
- Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson
Gunnar Nelson gets the nod. His background in karate makes him surprisingly elusive. Gunnar also KO’d his last opponent, Brandon Thatch who is a respectable striker. Maia has made some jumps in his striking but nothing that’s going to put Nelson in any sort of danger.
Both fighters have very respectable take-down abilities but Nelson is the stronger fighter which gives him a slight edge in defending take-downs. Maia is more adept at pulling guard as opposed to taking his man down. Nelson gets the nod here but the take-down isn’t what’s important, it’s what happens on the mat.
Normally Nelson will be given the nod when it comes to submissions, but Damian Maia is in his own league. It’s going to get real interesting if the fight hits the mat as both of these fighters will be able to counter, however not giving Maia the nod here is downright disrespectful to the resume he’s built as a Jiu-jitsu practitioner.
Gunnar Nelson controls the fight on the feet. He’ll wisely respect Maia’s submission ability and keep the fight standing where he holds a considerable advantage. The first round will be Nelson landing shots on the feet followed by a Jiu-jitsu chess match in the second half of the round. Nelson is going to end the fight with some heavy hands in the second round, dropping Maia then finishing it with some ground and pound.
- Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens
Jeremy Stephens has some heavy hands, and a willingness to go for the home run strike. He ended his last fight via flying knee, after taking a beating in the first round. This says two things, he’s prone to getting tagged on the feet, but he’s always has enough power to knock you out. Max Holloway is going to tag Stephens on the feet. Holloway has a breakneck pace to his striking. He has better technique, and will pour on the pressure on the feet.
This match-up is basically going to be Stephens’ wrestling against Holloway’s wrestling defense. Stephens is around ten times more likely to try to take the fight to the mat, he averages 1.5 take-down per fight. Hollow averages .1, but Holloway has defended 78% of the take-downs attempted on him. If Stephens goes for the take-down it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with Holloway’s impressive defense. Stephens gets the nod here simply because it’s a safer bet to say he’ll land a take-down.
This is a pass, as both fighters display competence in both submission offense and defense. It’s not a key component of their game and not a glaring weakness. They can both sink in a submission if the opportunity presents itself but aren’t submission hunters.
Holloway is a striker, through and through. He has an exhausting output and likes to keep the fight standing. Stephens balances his striking with his wrestling, but in this fight I don’t see him holding down Holloway for long. There is always the chance that Stephens catches Holloway with one if his heavy hands but that doesn’t seem too likely. Holloway’s movement will be invaluable in avoiding the big shots and allow him to pick apart the damage prone Stephens. Both fighters have massive heart and this 3 rounder could end up being a war. Holloway wins the exchanges on the feet for a unanimous decision victory.
- Uriah Faber vs. Frankie Saenz (Prelim Fight)
Hard not to give Faber the edge here. Saenz hasn’t shown anything noteworthy in his career that warrants mention. Faber on the other hand has faced the top talent in his divisions, having been involved in multiple title fights throughout the years. The one thing that has cost Faber in his most recent fights has been is slow down due to age, but with Saenz being roughly the same age the speed will be a non-issue. Faber lighting fast hands and hits harder, giving him the edge here is easy.
Again Faber takes the nod. He’s seasoned and when he changes level he hits opponents strong and throws them to the mat. There are no faults to his wrestling, and has rarely failed to take his opponent down. Saenz is a solid wrestler, but his defense will be tested with Faber. I don’t see him fending off more than one of Faber’s attempts, but I can see him dragging Faber down after a prolonged attempt.
Again Faber is the superior fighter in this department. Like all Team Alpha Male fighters he’s got a vicious guillotine that has stopped plenty of fighters. His submission game is nothing fancy but it is damn effective, focusing mainly on simpler holds that he can lock in without much set up. Saenz is solid but won’t be able to fend of Faber if he really goes for a submission.
This is easily Saenz’s toughest match up of his career. Uriah Faber shouldn’t have any trouble putting away Saenz. This is Uriah’s fight to lose, but I don’t see this slipping through his hands. He’s too experienced and too smart to get overconfident. Faber ends this in the third round, catching Saenz with a heavy right hook before pouncing and securing a deep guillotine. Faber by 3rd round submission.
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