Or at least some of it. The three most intriguing fights I’ll have my eyes on:
On Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua:
Chael Sonnen has won two fights in three years, one of them controversially so. He’s fighting up a weight class. And he’s a betting favorite? That tells you how far Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has fallen. For Rua to win, he needs to start strong. Tired and behind on the scorecards isn’t where he wants to be. Stylistically, I like Shogun. Sonnen will need to come inside and when he does, he’s vulnerable to Rua’s strong clinch. Sonnen takes damage in fights and Rua possesses legitimate knockout power. Sonnen wants the fight on the ground, but Rua has a fairly active guard. He’s rarely been straight outwrestled in his career. The concern is that Rua is visibly slowing down and Sonnen brings a style that will test his cardio over five rounds.
Shogun seems to be in the twilight of his career, but Sonnen isn’t a legitimate light heavyweight. The size advantage should matter here for Rua, and he’s badly in need of a win. I think he gets it.
Shogun by decision.
On Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne:
Alistair Overeem didn’t look like Alistair Overeem in his last fight, and now we deal with the uncomfortable question of, “Why the hell not?” Asking whether Overeem truly did benefit from banned substances before that positive drug test in 2012 is an unfortunate (but legitimate) question. This fight should give us more insight. Stylistically, I still favor Overeem’s striking against Travis Browne. Browne is a phenomenal athlete, but Overeem is one of the most technical, effective strikers in the division when he’s on. Browne dictates range, but he leaves openings defensively. If a takedown presents itself, he’ll take it. His grappling is underrated, and if he’s able to work Overeem to the ground, it will work on his suspect stamina.
If Overeem’s performance against Browne is anything similar to his last fight, expectations are going to plummet for the former Strikeforce champion. This could be close regardless of Overeem’s mindset, but you figure he’ll be as sharp as possible after that recent embarrassment against Antonio “Big Foot” Silva.
Overeem rebounds with a KO.
On Urijah Faber vs. Yuri Alcantara:
Yuri Alcantara isn’t really the “name” we’ve gotten used to seeing fight Urijah Faber, but he represents his share of problems in the cage. A southpaw, Alcantara uses a relatively upright, flat-footed stance that generates above-average power at 135 pounds. When he lands, he does damage, using plenty of elbows and knees in addition to a hard straight left. His offensive grappling is dynamic, as well, with 12 submission wins on his record. He’s also been successful on 88 percent of his takedowns in the UFC. The problem is his grappling defense. In his one UFC loss to Hacran Dias, Alcantara was helpless on the ground and grew visibly frustrated. Expect Faber to test Alcantara in that area again.
Faber still has time to win a UFC belt, but any setback would hurt. Losses to Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao still follow Faber around, and they weaken his case for another title shot. To silence the critics, he has to basically be perfect. I think he’ll extend his win streak to three.
Faber by submission.