The UFC brings us another live event this Saturday Night from Wembley Arena in London, England which is highlighted by Renan Barao defending the Interim Bantamweight Championship against Michael McDonald. Dominick Cruz was the UFC Bantamweight Champion, but he tore his ACL in May of 2012 and had it replaced with a cadaver ACL, which his body then rejected in December, forcing him to undergo another surgery which will keep him out of action for an additional 6-9 months. Cruz is will face whoever is the UFC Interim Bantamweight Champion when Cruz is healthy enough to return to competition. For now the very talented Renan Barao defends the title on Saturday night. It is a loaded card, and the British Crowd will be rowdy, so let’s get to the picks:
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Phil Harris OVER Ulysses Gomez, Motonobu Tezuka OVER Vaughan Lee, Stanislav Nedkov OVER Tom Watson, Josh Grispi OVER Andy Ogle, Paul Sass OVER Danny Castillo, Terry Etim OVER Renee Forte
Main Card (FuelTV):
Che Mills (15-5-1) vs. Matthew Riddle (6-3-1) – Welterweight Bout – Matthew Riddle made a name for himself when he appeared on “The Ultimate Fighter Season 7”, you may remember his knockout of Dan Simmler to get into the house, which coach Rampage Jackson called “The Knockout of the Century”. Riddle was eliminate in the show in the second week by a Tim Credeur armbar, and his career has been up and down since. Che Mills is a dangerous fighter from the UK who owns an impressive victory over Chris Cope, which was the “Knockout of the Night” at UFC 138. Since Cope has lost to the always dangerous Rory MacDonald (no shame in that), but won another bout when Duane Ludwing injure his knee. On his home turf, I like Mills to get back on the winning path with another victory. THE PICK: Mills by TKO in the Second Round.
James Te-Huna (15-5) vs. Ryan Jimmo (17-1) – Light Heavyweight Bout – The native New Zealander, James Te-Huna is a dangerous striker, who has twice won fights despite breaking bones during the bout. He beat Igor Pokrajac at UFC 110 by TKO, when Te-Huna hit Pokrajac repeatedly with an arm he broke earlier in the fight and he beat Joey Beltran by decision despite breaking his left hand and foot in the match. He is one tough dude and his fights are consistently exciting. You’ll remember Ryan Jimmo as the guy that tied the record for the fastest knockout in UFC History when he knocked out Anthony Perosh in 00:7 seconds at UFC 149, he has not lost since February of 2007. I expect this fight to be a battle and think that both fighters emerge bloody and beaten, definite “Fight of the Night” or “Knockout of the Night” candidate here. THE PICK: Jimmo by Decision.
Guunar Nelson (11-0-1) vs. Jorge Santiago (25-10) – Welterweight Bout – Santiago has fought in the UFC in several stints in the past, he returns to the promotion to replace the injured Justin Edwards, but he lost his last two fights in the UFC. Santiago was beaten by Damian Maia at UFC 136 and Brian Stann at UFC 130, and also had lost to Alan Belcher and Chris Leben in 2006, making him (1-4) with the promotion. Gunnar Nelson is an undefeated phenom from Iceland, who has a chance to be the next big thing in the welterweight division. In fact only one of two of his fights have ever gotten out of the first round. in his lone bout in the UFC he submitted DaMarques Johnson with a rear naked choke in the first round. This was despite the fact that Johnson could not make weight and was much heavier than Nelson for the matchup. I think that Nelson will easily keep his undefeated streak alive with a win Saturday night. THE PICK: Nelson by Submission in the First Round.
Jimi Manuwa (12-0) vs. Cyrille Diabate (19-8) – Light Heavyweight Bout – Jimi Manuwa has quietly been a legend, especially in the United Kingdom, for quite some time. The UFC has attempted to sign him several times in the past, but he always turned down their overtures, but they finally locked him up in July of 2012. In his only UFC fight since signing his contract, he beat Kyle Kingsbury in the second round by TKO, because Kingsbury’s eye had swollen shut so badly he could not continue. Diabate always bites me in the ass when I pick against him, he is such a tough fight, because of his length (he’s 6’6) and submission skills, and I once said to myself I wouldn’t pick against him again. I’m breaking that. At home, Manuwa stays undefeated. THE PICK: Manuwa by TKO in the First Round.
Cub Swanson (18-5) vs. Dustin Poirier (13-2) – Featherweight Bout – Just a great match up between two of the most exciting fighters in the featherweight division, the will also be a candidate for “Fight of the Night” when this card wraps up. Cub Swanson is a violent finisher, who is coming off of three consecutive wins, one by knockout and two by TKO. He was supposed to face dangerous German striker Dennis Silver in this fight, but Silver had to pull out due to an injury, and was replaced by Poirier. Poirier is coming off of a d’Arce choke submission of former Ultimate Fighter winner Jonathan Brookins in December, and he gets back into the Octagon on short notice. Based on the short notice and Swanson’s recent hot streak, you would think I would lean towards Swanson here, but I think Poirier has the advantage in this match due to his submission skills. Swanson is very aggressive, which can be a good thing, but can also cost you fights. I think Swanson makes a mistake, Poirier takes advantage of it, and taps him out. THE PICK: Poirier by Submission in the Second Round.
Michael McDonald (15-1) vs. (c) Renan Barao (29-1-1) – Interim Bantamweight Championship Bout – A tough match to pick, because neither fighter knows what it is like to lose, but someone will learn tonight. Michael McDonald only has one career loss, which was to Cole Escovedo in 2009, he has since won eight consecutive fights. Michael McDonald is just 22 years old, and if he wins this fight, he will become the youngest champion in UFC history. However, he has a tough task ahead of him as he takes on Renan Barao, who enters this fight with a little winning streak of his own. Barao lost his first career bout in April of 2005, and he has not lost since, he is (29-0-1) in his last 30 fights. McDonald is great, but I have to give the nod to the experience and skill of Barao in this one, Barao retains. THE PICK: Barao by Decisions.
MMA PICKS RECORD (by event):
UFC 156: Edgar vs. Aldo –
Preliminaries (3-3) Main Card (3-2) Overall (6-5)
UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Dodson –
Preliminaries: (4-2) Main Card (2-2) Overall (6-4)
UFC on FX: Bisping vs. Belfort –
Preliminaries (3-3-1) Main Card (2-2) Overall (5-5-1)
Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine –
Preliminaries (5-1) Main Card (4-1) Overall (9-2)
UFC 155: Velasquez vs. dos Santos –
Preliminaries (6-1) Main Card (0-5) Overall (6-6)
UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz –
Preliminaries (2-5) Main Card (3-1) Overall (5-6)
UFC 154: St-Pierre vs. Condit
Preliminaries (5-2) Main Card (2-3) Overall (7-5)
UFC on FUEL TV: Franklin vs. Cung Le –
Preliminaries (1-2) Main Card (4-1) Overall (5-3)
UFC 153: Silva vs. Bonnar –
Preliminaries (5-1) Main Card (4-2) Overall (9-3)
UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao –
Preliminaries (4-2) Main Card (2-3) Overall (6-5)
UFC 148: Sliva vs. Sonnen II –
Preliminaries (3-2) Main Card (5-1) Overall (8-3)
UFC 146: Dos Santos vs Mir –
Preliminaries (4-3) Main Card (4-1) Overall (8-4)
UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs. Davis –
Main Card (3-0)
Preliminaries (45-27-1) Main Card (39-24) Overall (83-51-1)
Main Events (10-3)