"The Champ is here…"
UFC 172 Picks
-Jones vs. Glover
It seems absurd that anyone is actually buying Glover as Bones’s biggest threat to date. Quite simply, he isn’t — not by a country mile. Is it feasible he could emerge with the gold? Sure; he has huge power, even though he’s become incredibly predictable with his punch selection, is a beast on the ground (even though we haven’t seen it in the Octagon much) and… did I mention that power? Will he win? No, no he won’t. The narrative for this encounter is that while Jones looked super-human in his contests previous to his encounter with Gustafsson (save the first round vs. Machida), dispatching the cream of the 205 crop with contemptuous ease, his battle with the Mauler showed the young champ that he could be outboxed, hit clean, and often, hurt and pushed to the limit — that he was, in fact, mortal. The question pundits are asking of this bout is: will Jones bounce back with a dominant performance or will he be cautious and gun-shy in the wake of his tooth-and-nail battle with the number one contender? The answer, of course, is Jones will dominate. While the Swede matched up very well, height- and reach-wise, with the lanky American, and rose to the occasion against the champ in ways few imagined, Glover lacks the physical gifts to negate Jones’s genetic and athletic advantages, or the striking prowess of Gustafson. Glover does have massive power, but, as Jones’s fights with Rampage, Shogun, etc. proved, power is meaningless if you can never get in range, and Jones is a master at controlling distance against smaller opponents, hurting them and picking them apart when they try, futilely, to get inside. While Alex utilized angles, footwork and superior boxing skills to win rounds and push the champ, Glover stalks forward, looking to throw the cross-counter — his favourite weapon. Against someone as talented and skilled at game-planning and adjusting on-the-fly as Jones, this predictability will be death, and you can expect a very similar-looking fight to Jones’s clash with Rampage, with the same result. Only, considering how often Glover has been rocked against lesser opposition (Bader, Maldonado), Jones may just record his first KO.
-Davis vs. Johnson
Couple simple truths: Anthony Johnson should never, ever have been fighting at 170, or even 185. And Phil Davis lost his fight against Machida, no matter how the judges scored it. While Mr. Wonderful has fixated on the champ in interviews leading up to this fight — clearly trying to position himself as Bone’s next challenger via trash talk — overlooking Rumble is a major mistake, as he’s been on a tear since bulking up, KOing and (T)KOing almost everyone in his path, as well as breaking Andrei Arlovski’s jaw during their HW clash, which he also won, via decision. That doesn’t mean that Davis isn’t the favourite — with his combination of wrestling (a four-time Division I All-American) and improved striking (mainly with kicks), he should be able to exchange with Rumble on the feet and set-up takedowns, where he can control position and work for subs. While Rumble had exceptional takedown defence in his previous UFC run, much of that was due to being the bigger/stronger fighter (at least during the initial rounds), and Davis matches up well with him, being the same height (six-two) and actually possessing an inch reach advantage. If Mr. Wonderful has focused on Jones and overlooked the returning UFC vet, there’s a chance that Rumble will catch him early and put him to sleep. The more likely scenario is that Phil grounds him after some feeling-out kicks and either wins by decision or hits a sub in the later rounds.
-Rockhold vs. Boetsch
The final Strikeforce Middleweight Champion was obliterated by a rampaging Vitor Belfo(T)rt in his UFC debut, but bounced back against the overmatched Costas Philippou to score a quick KO via body-kick. Boetsch, meanwhile, was given a gift decision in his last bout against C.B. Dollaway and was on a two-fight losing streak prior to that. The hard truth is that the Barbarian has been offering diminishing returns for a number of fights now — remember, he was being dominated before staging a miracle comeback against Okami — and is clearly here to pad Rockhold’s ledger with another highlight (T)KO to establish him as a viable MW UFC contender after his slip against Vitor. Boetsch, obviously, has other ideas, but considering his preferred method of combat is to crowd opponents up against the fence, clinch-fight, dirty box and look for trips/takedowns, the odds are not in his favour here. Rockhold is the quicker, more technically proficient fighter, with a three-inch reach advantage, and he’ll work to control the Barbarian with kicks and avoid his clinch-attempts/bullrushes via speed and superior footwork. Considering his first two UFC fights were against perennial contender Belfort and the higher-ranked Philippou, this is a fight Rockhold must win, but should with little trouble via (T)KO.
-Miller vs. Medeiros
And here’s where the “stacking” of UFC 172 officially ends, if it hadn’t already with Boetsch in against Rockhold. Still, this is an intriguing match, as before being handled rather easily by the returning Pat Healy — a win for Pat that was later changed to an NC after Healy tested positive for the sweet leaf — Miller’s only losses had been to LW title holders or challengers (Nick Diaz, Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Grey Maynard). Miller rebounded well with a first round sub over Fabricio Camoes and this looks like another bout to rebuild his confidence and re-establish him as a potential title contender. Yancy, on the other hand, had his impressive KO of Yves Edwards overturned after testing positive for — you guessed it — the demon weed, and will be looking to throw a wrench in Miller’s plans. The problem is, Miller has fought a much higher, near-elite level of competition throughout his career, and has worlds more experience. While Medeiros will want to keep this standing, as he’s shown good power and striking in his previous outings, save leaving himself a little vulnerable to counters, Miller will want to engage just enough to transition to takedowns and scrambles, where he excels, but also demonstrated against Lauzon that he is no slouch on his feet, especially with his elbows. “It’s Miller Time” is too much for “the Kid,” and will win via sub or decision.
-Holloway vs. Fili
And a prelim fight makes the main card, over better bouts featuring Gomi and Benavidez. Still, the UFC needs “compelling” fights so people will watch the various prelims, and Fili/Holloway is interesting enough, in its own way. While “Touchy” Fili easily wins the moniker battle against “Blessed,” it’s inside the Octagon that counts, which is where Holloway has faced the higher calibre of competition (McGregor, Benavidez, Poirier). Of course, it’s been with mixed results, as Max lost each of those fights and is four-and-three in his UFC tenure. Fili (who trains with Team Alpha Male) made his debut against against journeyman Jeremy Larsen, whom he promptly (T)KO’d early in the second round. Holloway is a more accurate measuring stick of how good FIli is/can be, however, and should provide a greater challenge on the feet, even though Fili has a three-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. Giving his work with Team Alpha Male, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fili attempt to get “Blessed” to the ground, as McGregor exploited Holloway’s TD defence after injuring himself winning the stand-up exchanges. Fili by decision.