The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend with an action packed card that is headlined by two title ﬁghts. In the main event Urijah Faber will look to win his ﬁrst UFC title when he rematches current UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao. The night’s co-main event features a Featherweight Title ﬁght between champion Jose Aldo and number two ranked Ricardo Lamas. Also on the card is a heavyweight slugfest between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem. Who will walk away with victories on Saturday night?
Read our predictions below to ﬁnd out:
UFC Bantamweight Title Bout: (c.) Renan Barao (31-1, 1 NC) vs. #1 Urijah Faber (30-6)
Analysis: UFC Bantamweight champion Renan Barao will look to make his ﬁrst title defense as the undisputed champion this Saturday when he takes on the man he beat to win the title, Urijah Faber. Barao and Faber’s ﬁrst ﬁght was not particularly competitive. Barao was able to outclass Faber on the feet and avoid any attempt by “The California Kid” to take the ﬁght to the ground. Since then, Barao has only improved. Barao showed excellent offensive wrestling in his fourth round submission win over highly-touted Michael McDonald. Barao was able to secure the clinch multiple times, land a takedown, and advance position. That’s not to say that Barao didn’t have some issues with McDonald. In the ﬁrst round, Barao was buckled by a hard left hook from Mayday. Against an improving striker like Faber, he has to avoid being clipped at all costs. Barao’s most recent ﬁght against Eddie Wineland also ended in impressive fashion,. Early in the second round, Barao landed a spinning back-kick to Wineland’s jaw to end the ﬁght. Barao’s win was spectacular but did show some holes in the Brazilian’s game. Wineland was able to pressure Barao and keep him from striking at his optimal distance. If Barao wants to defeat Faber for a second time this Saturday, he needs to keep him at bay. Faber is at his best when he pushes the pace but tends to freeze when he is not able to bully his opponent.
Since losing to Barao, Urijah Faber has reinvented himself. Faber has reeled off four straight victories since and has looked more impressive each time out. The difference between the Faber who lost to Barao and the Faber we see today is not just physical, but mental as well. When Faber fought Barao he looked tentative and confused. Now, Faber ﬁghts like a madman who could care less about winning but more about hurting you. Faber’s last ﬁght versus Michael McDonald is an excellent example of the mental improvements he has made. When Faber hurt McDonald in the second round, he didn’t waste any time going for the ﬁnish. He pushed “Mayday” to the ﬂoor, cracked him with a few punches, then locked in a ﬁght ending guillotine. The killer that came out of Faber in that moment never made an appearance versus Barao. It should also be noted that in this bout, Faber showed excellent striking against one of the division’s best boxers. If Faber wants to claim his ﬁrst UFC title this Saturday, he needs to go for broke. He can’t sit there and try to out-technique Barao. He needs to rush Barao, hit him hard, and shoot for multiple takedowns. Barao needs to wake up Sunday morning and feel like he was in a car crash the day before.
Prediction: The Urijah Faber who will show up this Saturday will be the best version we have ever seen.
Faber will hurt Barao early and ultimately submit his opponent in round two.
UFC Featherweight Title Bout: (c.) Jose Aldo (23-1) vs. #2 Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
Analysis: Jose Aldo will look to defend his UFC Featherweight Title for the sixth time this Saturday when he takes on the surging Ricardo Lamas. Aldo has been somewhat of an enigma since transferring over from the WEC. Yes, he is undefeated but the killer we saw in the WEC seems to have disappeared. Aldo has only ﬁnished two of his ﬁve UFC opponents. One of those ﬁnishes came as a result of Chan Sung Jung’s separated shoulder. If Aldo wants to beat a ferocious ﬁghter like Lamas, he needs to bring that killer instinct back.
There’s no doubt that Aldo is one of the best strikers in the sport. Every fan knows that Aldo has great muay thai but his techincal boxing is also top notch. If Aldo is able to pressure Lamas with his punches he could end the ﬁght early Ricardo Lamas has been on a roll inside the UFC. Lamas is undefeated in the promotion with ﬁnishes over the likes Matt Grice, Cub Swanson, and Erik Koch. What makes Lamas so impressive is his ability to perform everywhere. Lamas was able to ﬂoor Grice with a headkick, submit Cub Swanson with an arm triangle, and destroy Koch with ground and pound. If Lamas wants to win the title this Saturday he needs to be very smart defensively. Both of Lamas’ career losses have come via TKO. Current bantamweight Iuri Alcantara was able to knock him out with an overhand left and Danny Castillo was able to ﬂoor him with a counter right hand. If Lamas gets stung by a hard Jose Aldo strike, it will likely be the end of his night.
Prediction: Lamas has been approaching this ﬁght with a Chris Weidman-esque conﬁdence which has me intrigued, but my gut still says Aldo. Aldo’s killer instinct returns as he will knockout Ricardo Lamas in the ﬁrst round.
Heavyweight Bout: #10 Frank Mir (16-8) vs. #9 Alistair Overeem (36-13, 1 NC)
Analysis: When Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem meet this Saturday, it’s almost a guarantee that someone is going to get ﬁnished. They have a combined 74 ﬁghts and of those 74, 63 of them have ended in either a knockout or submission. Mir is one of the most proﬁcient submission artists in the UFC. Nine of Mir’s sixteen wins have come by submission with his most recent being over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Since his submission over Big Nog, Mir has fallen on tough times. Mir has lost three straight bouts to Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, and Josh Barnett. Mir was unable to overcome the striking prowess of Junior dos Santos before being knocked out in the second round. In his loss to Cormier, Mir had difﬁculty keeping distance from “DC” and found himself with his back against the cage for most of the bout. His struggles in the clinch continued in his next ﬁght with Josh Barnett. Barnett was able to push Mir against the cage where he delivered a ﬁght ending knee in the ﬁrst round. If Mir wants to beat Overeem this Saturday, he needs to get the ﬁght to the ground. Overeem is dangerous at distance and in the clinch which have been problematic areas for Mir. Mir’s best route to victory would be to pull guard.
Alistair Overeem is in a very similar position as Mir. He has lost his last two bouts and is probably competing for his UFC contract. The big difference between Mir and Overeem’s losing streaks has been how they have performed in defeat. Mir has looked abysmal in each of his last three ﬁghts while Overeem has been on the cusp of victory in his losses. Against Antonio Silva, Overeem dominated the ﬁrst two rounds of the ﬁgut with his striking before being knocked out in the third. In his most recent bout against Travis Browne, Overeem nearly had Browne ﬁnished after hitting him with brutal knees to the body but was unable to seal the deal before gassing himself out. When Browne was able to recover, he ﬂoored the tired Overeem with a ﬁght ending front kick. If Overeem wants to beat Frank Mir, he has to land hard and early. Mir’s chin can’t hold up to an Overeem strike.
Prediction: Mir needs to take Overeem down to be competitive but lacks the offensive wrestling to do so. Overeem will stay upright and knockout Mir in the ﬁrst.
Ali-BagautinovFlyweight Bout: #5 John Lineker (23-6) vs. #7 Ali Bagautinov (12-2)
Analysis: The next ﬂyweight title challenger will likely be decided when John Lineker and Ali Bagautinov square off this Saturday. Linker is one of the most dangerous boxers in the ﬂyweight division. Lineker has displayed his sweet science in his knockouts of Azamat Gashimov, Jose Maria, and Phil Harris. Lineker’s striking is great but his ground game could use some improvement. In Lineker’s lone UFC loss, he was taken down multiple times by Louis Gaudinot before being choked unconscious. If Lineker wants to defeat Bagautinov this Saturday, he needs to avoid the ground game at all costs. Lineker’s opponent Ali Bagautinov is solid in all areas of mixed martial arts. Bagautinov’s most recent performance was a bit of an odd one but that was more of his opponent Tim Elliot’s fault than his.Elliot is a very unorthodox striker but Bagautinov was able to battle past that and use his technically sound striking to pick up a decision victory. For Bagautinov to walk away victorious this Saturday, he needs to land multiple takedowns. Lineker is far too dangerous on the feet to even risk standing up with him.
Prediction: Lineker is a solid striker but his takedown defense is too pourous for me to pick him. Bagautinov wins by decision.
Lightweight Bout: Jamie Varner (21-8-1, 2 NC) vs. Abel Trujillo (11-5)
Analysis: Abel Trujillo will be looking to continue his ascension up the lightweight ranks when he takes on former WEC Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner this Saturday. Trujillo is one of the most intimidating ﬁghters in the lightweight divison. In his last bout with Roger Bowling, Trujillo was able to bully his opponent from start to ﬁnish before knocking him out in the second round. Although Trujillo has been solid in the stand-up, he has shown some difﬁculties with offensive wrestlers. He was taken down a UFC record 21 times by Khabib Nurmagomedov in his lone UFC loss. This may prove problematic against a ﬁghter like Varner. Varner is one of the most well rounded ﬁghters in the lightweight division. In his last victory against Melvin Guillard, Varner was able to utilize strong offensive wrestling en-route to a decision win. In addition to his wrestling, Varner has also displayed solid striking in his current UFC run. Vaunted striker Edson Barboza was unable to mount any offense against Varner before being stopped by punches . Varner won’t be at a disadvantage on the feet against Trujillo but he would be best served shooting for the takedown. If Varner can keep Trujillo horizontal, the ﬁght is his to win.
Prediction: Abel Trujillo is a dangerous ﬁnisher but I don’t think that will come into play Saturday night. Jamie Varner will land multiple takedowns and walk away with a decision victory.
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