UFC 152
We are officially one week away from one of the largest UFC cards put on this year. While this card has gone through some massive changes in it’s main event, the rest of the card is about as solid of a supporting card as I’ve seen this year. We fight fans will be coming off of a 40-day hiatus of UFC action and what better way to end it than with an amazing card like this. Let’s start it off:

Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke

Solid match up to start off this stacked card taking place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We have Kyle Noke (3-2 in the UFC) will be looking to cut off his 0-2 streak by challenging wrestling powerhouse Charlie Brenneman (4-3 in the UFC).

For this fight, I think it will come down to whether or not Noke can do any damage on the feet. Noke has finished the majority of his fights by submission or (T)KO so look for Noke to be pushing the pace and being aggressive with a guy like Brenneman, who is so good at taking guys down and shutting down their offense.

There’s a big possibility of his fight turning into a typical wrestling clinic, which is what Brenneman will be looking to do, like I said, this fight will come down to whether Noke can do anything on the feet. If Noke can find spaces and openings on the feet to do damage, than he has a chance of landing something big and getting the victory via stoppage. If he can’t, look for Brenneman to set up his takedowns with his hands, and control the pace from the top position for three rounds, which is what I think will happen.

Charlie Brenneman via Unanimous Decision.

Walel Watson vs. Mitch Gagnon

Here we have a bantamweight match up between two fairly new UFC combatants as Watson (1-2 in the UFC) battles submission stud Mitch Gagnon (0-1 in the UFC). Watson is known for his sneaky submissions and his lengthy stand up game, and will be looking to see how he stacks up against choke-specialist Mitch Gagnon who is known for either finishing fights via guillotine, or rear naked.

I’m pretty excited for this fight personally, even though these two aren’t very high in the rankings, they are exciting fighters and they will be looking to find either their first or second win in the UFC. I think Watson will have the edge in the stand up game, he’s longer and from what I’ve seen has been standing technique. However both of these guys are known for having good ground games. Ironically enough, Mitch Gagnon is only a blue-belt in BJJ despite having all 8 wins via submission. This will be a match up between two very skilled submission specialists, but as we know from the past, this could easily turn into a striking match up.

I see Watson having a clear advantage on the feet, and will probably be looking to keep the fight up where he has the advantage. I think Gagnon will be the one looking for takedowns, but “Gazelle” should be able to keep his range, pick his strikes from afar, and be able to out-score Gagnon for three rounds:

Walel Watson via Unanimous Decision

Simoen Thoresen vs. Seth Baczynski

Just in case these prelims don’t contain enough submission specialists we have a very exciting welterweight match up between the Norwegian, Simeon Thoresen (1-0 in the UFC) and Seth Baczysnki (3-1 in the UFC). Both of these guys have the majority of their victories via submission (10/16 for Baczynski, 15/17 for Thoresen) so we could either see an extremely entertaining grappling match, or we could see a striking match as neither fighters can get trump eachothers’ strength.

While we have two match ups in this undercard where it features two grapplers against eachother, I’m predicting that this one will be the one where it turns into an extremely entertaining grappling match, and Watson/Gagnon will be more of a striking match.

However, this fight will come down to who can get the better positioning and who can take advantage of scrambles. Both of these guys contain excellent submission skills, so it will come down to who looks better in the eyes of the judges while they battle three hard rounds. I think Baczysnki possesses the better takedowns, and could very well be the guy shooting for takedowns and be the aggresser there, but I see Thoresen being the more active fighter on the ground. I think Thoresen can do enough off of his back with attempts, sweeps, strikes, etc. and be able to slip the decision his way as these two go head to head on the ground.

Simeon Thoresen via Split Decision

Jimy Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage

Ahh, the return of rising featherweight prospect Jimy Hettes (2-0 in the UFC) faces TUF-contestant Marcus Brimage (2-0 in the UFC).

A lot of fans jumped on the Jimy Hettes fan-wagon as he humiliated MMA veteran Nam Phan on the ground, and before that he submitted TUF-contestant and grappling ace Alex Caceres. Unfortunately for Hettes, he’s going to be facing a nightmare of a match up as he faces a more powerful, stronger, fighter who has good wrestling and loads of power in Marcus Brimage.

Stylistically, this will be a very hard fight for Hettes and it will really test how good he is. Will he be able to over-come the size, power, and strength advantages of Marcus Brimage and execute his grappling skills? Or will Marcus Brimage prove to be too powerful, and put a beatdown on Jimy Hettes?

If you’ve ever see a typical Stefan Struve fight, that is what I think this fight will look like. I see Marcus Brimage bringing it in the opening moments of the first round, land some punches, and really let Hettes feel his power and strength. Eventually Hettes is going to want to get this fight to the ground, and how he does so will set the tale on the rest of the fight. If Hettes is able to get this fight to the ground, and get top position, than it’s just a matter of time before Hettes transitions to mount and finds the finishing move of his choice. However, if Hettes is forced to pull guard, than he is going to have a hell of a time with a big beast on top of him in Marcus Brimage.

I see Hettes being forced to pull guard. Brimage has some solid wrestling skills and being the stronger of the two will be him in advantage and could even give him the choice of where he wants the fight to go. However, I think Hettes will show us all just how crafty he is as he finds openings from the bottom and either gets a fight-ending submission from the bottom, or sweeps on top to get the finisher. My gut tells me that Hettes will find a leg lock on the bottom.

Jimy Hettes via 1st Round Submission

Sean Pierson vs. Lance Benoist

Next up on the list is “The Punisher” Sean Pierson (2-2 in the UFC) vs. Lance Benoist (1-1 in the UFC). The Canadian, Sean Pierson, is looking to go on his first win streak in the UFC after coming off of a UD win over Jake Hecht back in June. for Lance Benoist, he’s looking to rise to 2-1 in the UFC as he dropped his only loss of his career last June as well, a split decision loss to the previous mentioned Seth Baczynski.

Sean Pierson is coming into this fight as the more well rounded fighter. He’s decent on the feet on the ground, but he’s fighting a guy who is a killer when it comes to submissions (Yes, another grappler on the undercard). Benoist as finished 4/6 via submission (triangle or guillotine) and is known to be able to snag your neck when your least expecting it. I think this is an interesting match up and I see this one being a finish.

Ultimately I think Pierson is the more complete fighter. His striking should be able to keep it interesting early on, but eventually Benoist is going to be able to get that takedown. If Benoist establishes himself ontop, he’ll be putting Sean Pierson in a world of trouble. I see Pierson being put on his back in the second round, trying to scramble out, and getting caught in a nasty guillotine.

Lance Benoist via 2nd Round Submission

TJ Grant vs. Evan Dunham

Here we have an exciting match up between two promising fighters in the lightweight division. The Canadian, TJ Grant (5-3 in the UFC), will be looking to make it 3 in a row after his two fight win streak over Carlo Prater and Shane Roller. However he’s facing a top prospect in Evan Dunham (6-2 in the UFC) who will also be looking to go a 3 fight win streak since dropping two in a row.

When comparing these two fighters you see all of the elements needed for a great fight. Both of these guys are looking to break into the top 15 in the division and for Evan Dunham, it’s another chance at possibly getting near contention. Dunham is a well-rounded, scrappy fighter who is known for having technical striking, and some dangerous submissions up his sleeve. TJ Grant on the other hand has finished 13 of 18 via submission, and will look to put Dunham on his back and see if he can either control fight from there, or catch Dunham slipping and submit him.

All in all Dunham is more the experienced and weathered fighter. Dunham has been in there with the best of them and won’t be seeing anything knew when taking on TJ Grant. The standing advantage goes to Dunham as he throws sharper, quicker, and more technical punches as he’ll look to do as much damage as he can from there. If he gets taken down by Grant, Dunham is very good off of his back as he has shown in the past and can either scramble back up, or do damage from the bottom. I see Dunham staying one step ahead of Grant and having a much more sound offensive game for three rounds as they do battle on the feet, and on the mat. Expect a fast paced fight for this one.

Evan Dunham via Unanimous Decision

Igor Pokrajac vs. Vinny Magalhaes

Set to close the undercard is a big match up between career-rebounding Igor Pokrajac (4-3 in the UFC) who is on a 3 fight win streak, and 2nd-degree BJJ black belt, TUF finalist, and M-1 Global light-heavyweight champion Vinny Magalhaes (0-2 in the UFC).

After making a name for himself in The Ultimate Fighter and making it to the finals against Ryan Bader, Vinny Magalhaes seemed to be a waste of hype. He went on an 0-2 stint inside the UFC promotion and was then cut. After fighting in a few smaller shows in the US, he eventually took his career to M-1 where he became their light-heavyweight champion with a 4-0 record. Vinny has some of the best grappling skills in MMA and will be looking to pick up his first UFC career win as he comes back for his second go.

Setting to spoil his plans is Coatian Igor Pokrajac. Fighting out of Croatian Top Team with training partner Mirko Cro Cop, Pokrajac also shared a similar experience inside of the cage as Magalhaes. He started out 0-2 which was then changed to 1-3 by the end of 2010. After his loss to Stephan Bonnar, Pokrajac turned the tides of his career and went on a 3-0 streak which included victories over Krzysztof Soszynski and Fabio Maldonado. Pokrajac has knockout power in his hands and knees and will look to put Magalhaes’ lights out on the 22nd.

When this fight was first reported, I was all in favor of Pokrajac as I felt he had more of an opportunity to make an impact on the division. He’s really gotten his act together and it shows how much more serious he is about fighting compared to his beginning fights in the UFC. However, he’s facing a specialist who has world-class experience and talent in fighting and grappling and will be a gigantic hurdle for Pokrajac to jump over. It wasn’t too long ago when Pokrajac was out-wrestled by Stephan Bonnar in a hideous attempt of a main-event back in December of 2010. If Magalhaes can even get the fight to the floor, it could easily spill trouble for Igor.

For Magalhaes to get this fight to the ground, he will need to have some improved striking and a lot of durability. Pokrajac hits very hard and Magalhaes should have to absorb a decent amount of shots before he can find an opening. I see Pokrajac and Magalhaes starting out timid on the feet, as both fighters should. Eventually Vinny is going to start throwing kicks and try to get Pokrajac to make a mistake. When this happens either one of two things will happen; either Pokrajac times a big bomb and puts Vinny’s lights out like Ryan Bader did, or Vinny seizes the opportunity and gets the fight where he wants it. I’m banking on Vinny’s chin and durability. Yes, Bader face-planted Vinny Magalhaes on the mat with his right hand, but Vinny has learned from that experience and will be ready for Igor.

Expect Magalhaes to weather the early bombs of Igor Pokrajac, and wind up in top position from either a takedown or a sweep. From there, look for Vinny to stay glued to Igor as he sucks the air out of him and slowly passes the guard and into side control. I’m predicting an arm-triangle choke out of Vinny Magalhaes as he puts the lights out late in the first.

Vinny Magalhaes via 1st Round Submission

Cub Swanson vs. Charles Oliviera

Probably my anticipated fight of the whole night right here. I’m a huge fan of both of these guys because of their exciting fighting style and the fact that the winner of this fight could very well be next in line for a title shot at 145. Cub Swanson (2-1 in the UFC) has looked the best he’s ever been in his most recent outings; stoppage wins over George Roop and Ross Pearson in the second round. Swanson is a well-rounded fighter who can box it out on the feet, or snag submissions on the ground. Out of 22 fights he’s only gone the distance 5 times and has already picked up post-fight bonus in his UFC career.
Set to be across the cage from Cub Swanson is the rising Brazilian prospect “Da Bronx”, Charles Oliviera. Charles (4-2-1 in the UFC) possesses some of the most exciting fighting talents in the UFC and has some of the greatest potential. Oliviera is a crafty ground specialist who combines an increasing arsenal Muay Thia techniques who is overall game. Only going the distance once in 19 fights, Oliviera can finish the fight from about any position and will be looking to do nothing less in his match up against Cub Swanson.

On the feet, Charles Oliviera is by far the more versatile fighter. He has the longer range, throws a mixture of techniques, and is not scared to let it all fly. However, Cub Swanson has some very powerful hands and can do some damage. Luckily for Oliveira, he’ll have the length advantage over Swanson, and because he uses more kicks, he can hold him at range. That being said, Swanson’s best weapon will be his right uppercut and his movement. If Swanson can lunge forward with a nasty uppercut and catch Oliviera at the right time, he can spill trouble for “Da Bronx”.

With all of that discussed, let’s move on to the other parts of the game. Oliviera has probably the most crafty grappling skills at 145, next to Chan Sung-Jung. He can submit you from any angle, with any technique, and look good while doing it. However, Cub Swanson is no joke on the ground and we’ve seen Oliviera submitted before when he faced a stronger grappler in Jim Miller. I’m not saying Cub Swanson is as good as Miller, but don’t count Cub out on the ground.

Expect some fireworks this match up for sure. Both of these guys are right around title contention and with an impressive peformance, either of these guys could easily get a title shot their next appearance. However, both of these guys are very evenly matched on paper and the likelihood of an absolute destruction is very unlikely. I see Oliviera establishing his distance early with leg kicks and any other kicking technique he sees fit for use. I think Swanson will be trying to counter Oliviera with big punches, but because Charles also has good movement I don’t think he’ll be able to find his mark like he’d want to. Eventually Oliviera will begin looking for ways to get this fight to the ground. Whether it’s jumping guard, trips inside the clinch, or a standard takedown, expect Oliviera to try it. Once Oliviera can get the clinch, look for him to attack from there; knees to the head, elbows, knees to the body, etc. Eventually Swanson will give him an opening and Oliviera will get the fight to the mat. I’m picking Oliviera to snag a guillotine around that point, where he finishes late in the first.

Charles Oliviera via 1st Round Submission

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett

The original match up between Hamill (9-4 in the UFC) and Hollett (0-0 in the UFC) is finally scheduled to take place. The bout started out in its current form, but was then switched to Hamill vs. Vladimir Matyushenko as Roger Hollett was reported to have contract disputes and was pulled from the bout. Now after Matyushenko had to pull out due to a tendon injury, Hollett is back in. From a quick glance, you may wonder why a promotional debutee would be pitted against such an experienced fighter, but you have to keep in mind that Hamill has not competed in a year and is on an 0-2 streak.

Expect Hamill to come in with his normal strategy of boxing for a minute or two, than looking to use his wrestling. The Canadian, Roger Hollett, brings 7/13 victories by submission, and 4/13 by (T)KO. Hollett definitely has a chance to win this fight, and could pull off the upset. Hollett’s best weapon in this fight is going to be his cardio. If Hollett can drag Hamill into the second or third rounds, than he will probably have a much larger advantage and possibility of finding some offense.

Ultimately I think Hamill will be too much for Hollett. Hamill is a very tough first fight in the Octagon and whether he’s been inactive for a year or not, he’s still very dangerous. Expect Hamill to take control of the fight with his boxing skills as he outstrikes Hollett on the feet, then moves in to get takedowns later in the fight as his gas tank wears out. This may not be the most exciting fight on the card, but it’ll be a great fight for coming out of retirement for Hamill.

Matt Hamill via Unanimous Decision.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann

The long-awaited match up between the Brit, Michael Bisping (12-4 in the UFC) and the American, Brian Stann (6-3 in the UFC) is finally set to resolve. These two have been scheduled for as long as I can remember, and the anticipation has been growing ever since. This fight is one of two fights scheduled to produce the next top contender in the middleweight division. Out of these two, Chris Weidman, and Tim Boetsch, the next middleweight challenger will arise.

Onto the fight. Bisping is coming in here coming off of a competitive loss to former-title contender Chael Sonnen, and is looking to cement his name back in there amongst the top. For Brian Stann, it’s all about proving his place. Stann was also defeated by the likes of Chael Sonnen and with a win over Michael Bisping, he could get one-step closer to the title shot he’s been wanting for a very long time.

Bisping has a very simple style of kick boxing, wrestling, and ground and pound that he uses very effectively. While he may not have the most amount of power, nor the greatest chin, he’s one of the toughest fighters in the division and one of the most durable. His jab is his most effective weapon on the feet and against a heavy hitter like Brian Stann, it could pose to be a very useful weapon. Not only is Bisping a pin-point striker, but he has a very underrated wrestling game. Against Sonnen (arguably the best wrestler at 185), Bisping showed some of the greatest wrestling defense we’ve ever seen out of someone like that in the division. He showed never-seen before strength, aggressiveness, and scrambling ability that made everyone realize how talented of a fighter Michael Bisping is, whether we want to realize it or not. When Bisping isn’t in a fight where he’s focused on defending takedowns, he’s in the mode where he could be looking for takedowns. A large majority of Michael Bisping’s wins are from ground and pound. Bisping likes to hurt his opponent on the feet, get a takedown, and finish them off with big punches from the top position. Look for Bisping to apply this strategy against Stann.

Brian Stann on the other hand is essentially Bisping, but substitute speed for power. Stann hits hard on the feet and he uses his kick boxing very effectively to produce highlight reel knockouts. Ontop of his dangerous stand up, he has a very solid wrestling background to rely on. He’s a very strong individual that likes to deliver even stronger ground and pound. When he gets ontop, it’s important not to give him any room to posture up because, like Alessio Sakara, you could be unconscious after one shot.

I see this fight being very tense, and very fast paced. Look for Bisping to push the pace early as Stann usually likes to start out slow. Bisping should try and be in Stann’s face with jabs and low kicks right from the get-go if he wants to keep Stann bottled up and not throwing punches on all cylinders. I actually see Bisping getting the better of the stand up early, and stunning Stann. Bisping can’t afford to be hit by a nasty counter from Stann, so look for Bisping to go into takedown mode. Bisping should be able to get Stann down and secure top position. From there, look for Bisping to use punches, elbows, and everything in between to punish “All American”. This should mark the end of the first round as Bisping has lots of early success. In the second round look for Bisping to continue doing more of the same until Stann is approached with an opening. Once Bisping makes a mistake, all it will take is one big shot to change the tide of the fight.

From when that one-punch lands for Brian Stann to the finish line somewhere in the second round, look for Brian Stann to be persistent in his onslaught. Perhaps a takedown, or perhaps a knock down, look for Stann to get top position and pound Bisping out. I see this being a crazy back and forth battle, but in the end it’ll be Stann’s power that saves him.

Brian Stann via 2nd Round TKO

Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson

Set to produce the UFC’s very first flyweight champion, Joseph Benavidez (3-0 in the UFC) and Demetrious Johnson (3-1-1 in the UFC) will square off to settle it.

Both fighters are very evenly matched up with one another, and both possess very well-rounded skills (as do many lighter weight fighters) so look for this to be a very evenly contested bout. Really, the biggest difference between these two is that Benavidez has a little bit more power and strength, while Johnson has the speed advantage. When it comes down to grappling, I’d give a slight edge in the wrestling to Johnson, but the edge to submissions to Benavidez. Other than that, both fighters are very evenly matched up.

First off, I’m predicting a decision. A lot of times when it comes down to lighter weight divisions (Especially flyweight and bantamweight) a decision is more than likely to occur. But, expect these guys to go to war for it. Both of these guys have what it takes to become a champion, so be prepared for a fast paced, hard fought fight.

Like I said, Benavidez has more power in his hands, so that leads me to suspect Demetrious Johnson will be wanting to take this fight to the mat more-so than Benavidez. However, Joseph could be at a big speed disadvantage. Johnson could get off first and use his movement and speed to counter Joseph and keep him from gaining any offense, which would than force Benavidez to try for takedowns.

The way I see it, either both fighters will get takedowns on eachother, or neither fighter will be able to get a takedown. One interesting element to this fight is Joseph Benavidez’s guillotine. He likes to go for that guillotine whenever he sprawls on somebody or he sees an opening in the clinch, so that could spell trouble for Johnson if he chooses to shoot for a takedown and doesn’t get it. In my book, I have that happening more than once. I think Benavidez is the stronger and meatier fighter, and should have no problem stuffing takedowns, and eventually get guillotine attempts which than score for points.

Ultimately I think the fight will come down to the amount of offense portrayed by both fighters in the scrambles. Standing, I think they are evenly contested; Johnson will probably land more but Benavidez will land harder. In the ground exchanges; Johnson will probably have positioning on Benavidez, but will get caught in guillotine attempts. Given that Johnson will escape Benavidez’s submission attempts, I think he will be on the losing end of the scorecards after 5 hard fought rounds.

Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision

Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort

And here we are, the main event. Jon Jones (10-1 in the UFC) and Vitor Belfort (10-5 in the UFC). Despite having several different names thrown at him after Dan Henderson‘s pull out, Jon Jones settles with Vitor Belfort. This is a very dangerous fight for Jones for a very reasons; first of all, Belfort doesn’t even fight at 205, so he doesn’t have any progress in that division that will be hindered if he loses, also Belfort has all the tool to spring an upset; he hits hard, he hits fast, and he knows the game well enough to put up a fight, a very tough fight at that. However, he’s facing a nightmare of an opponent in Jon Jones. He can knock you out with pretty much any striking technique, he can toss you on your back and knock you out with punches, or he can toss you on your back and choke you out. He is probably the most well-rounded opponent Vitor has faced (and he’s faced a lot of big names through out his career), but I’m still expecting an excellent performance from Vitor.

Now onto the fight. Despite what everybody says, I see this being a very competitive bout for as long as it lasts. A very interesting note about the fight is that Jon Jones was preparing for a guy like Dan Henderson; someone who has one hell of a right hand on the feet, and someone who Jones will have to be cautious and careful for. Doesn’t that somewhat sound like Vitor Belfort? Now, Belfort has one hell of a right and left hands, so that will be something that Jones will have to watch out for, but my point is that Jones has already been training for a defensive styled stand up game when he was preparing for Henderson, which is what he’ll need to use against Vitor Belfort. I think that exact thing could very well win Jon Jones this fight. We’re all either expecting Jones to thrash Vitor in the first round, or for Vitor to land one shot on Jones and pull off a massive upset, however I’m predicting a little bit of both.

I see Vitor coming out very cautious and tentative, a bit like he was against Rich Franklin. He waited about 3 minutes into that fight before throwing a single left straight that knocked Rich Franklin out, if he could approach this fight the same way, he could have a big chance of landing. However, Jon Jones is the type of guy that you don’t want to give any openings. So Vitor will have to stay very defensive, and keep Jones guessing with feints as Jones sits back and waits for an opening. If Belfort just stands and waits in front of Jon, like he did against Anderson Silva, expect a stunning KO from Jon Jones. Belfort needs to keep moving, and keep “in the fight” while waiting for his chance to strike.

Let’s move to some other aspects of this fight. Jones is significantly bigger than Vitor Belfort. Not just muscle wise but frame-wise. If Jones wants this fight to go to the ground (where he would have a significant advantage) than all he needs to do is tie up and it’d be nearly guaranteed. We could very well see Jon Jones play this fight extremely safe (Possibly from a bit of Greg Jackson influence) and take this fight down to the mat immediately, where he would then pound Belfort out, or submit him. However, I’m predicting a more competitive outcome.

I see Belfort coming out tentative, waiting in the pocket with his hands cocked and ready and his chin tucked. Jones will probably be circling around the outside, throwing kicks, teeps, jabs, etc. Eventually Belfort is going to sense some urgency and want to pull the trigger, this when I think Jones will go into safe-mode. I’m expecting Jones to use lots of movement and avoid Vitor Belfort much like someone would be avoiding a big right hand from Dan Henderson, by circling away. Eventually I’m banking on Belfort to land something nasty, probably a grazing punch off the back of the head of a ducking Jon Jones. Whatever it is, look for it to hurt Jon Jones as worse as he’s ever been hurt. This is when Jon Jones will take advantage of an overly aggressive Vitor Belfort, put him on his back, and work from there. I don’t think it’ll take long for Jon Jones to have his way with Belfort on the mat, but I’m expecting Belfort will try to get up. He’ll create space, get up to his knees, and that’s where he’ll be caught in a guillotine. Much like Lyoto Machida/Jon Jones. A fast paced first round, a glimpse of hope for Vitor Belfort, but ultimately a crash into reality as Jon Jones secures a fourth title defense.

Jon Jones via 1st Round Submission

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