Allen: I’ve been repeating the same thing too many MMA fans over the past week or so about this event. For all the die-hard fans, who watch every UFC or even MMA event and are truly dedicated. UFC 164 is the reward for your loyalty. The main card is unbelievable in terms of fights with so much top talent fighting on Saturday. For the first time in quite some time, I had gone back and forth on just about every fight on the main card. It’s that unpredictable.
We get the long awaited rematch between Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Then the co-main event features a fight that fans have been clamouring to see for years. Frank Mir versus Josh Barnett should be a tremendous fight that will end in some kind of devastating finish. The rest of the card features great featherweight talent like Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, and Erik Koch among others. Scott Newman is joining me, who will be writing with me for the foreseeable future.
Scott: Hola. So yeah, I’m pretty pumped up for this show. Admittedly it’s not the strongest of the year in terms of name value, but there’s a lot to love here. The match for the lightweight title that everyone’s wanted to see since the original meeting between the two, the return of Josh Barnett, a pair of top featherweight bouts. The only thing I’d change would be to move Gaudinot versus Elliott onto the main card in place of Vera versus Rothwell, but that’s not a massive deal I guess.
Featherweight: Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier
Scott: This one sounds like fireworks on paper. Poirier is one of those fighters I could watch all day long. Every single fight he’s in he brings it and his ridiculous aggression always makes for exciting fights as it’s as likely to get him into trouble as it is to win him the fight. Remember he was being tagged by Jonathan Brookins before he found his range and was able to take the TUF winner out. Koch meanwhile fights pretty much the same way and looked to be on the fast track to a title shot (he was actually granted one, but injury removed him from the fight and Frankie Edgar stepped in) before Ricardo Lamas absolutely crushed him in January to end those hopes. A win for either man here would put them one step closer to a possible number one contender’s fight at some point.
Because they fight in such a similar style it’s a difficult fight to pick. I think Poirier’s got a slight advantage on the ground though and I think that’s where the fight will be decided. The fight’s bound to hit the ground at some point and I think Poirier likely catches Koch with a D’Arce or something similar. My gut feeling tells me Poirier via first-round submission.
Winner: Dustin Poirier via first round submission by D’Arce choke.
Allen: You couldn’t ask for a better opening fight. The featherweight division is starting to evolve as one of the better all-around divisions in the UFC. This is going to be explosive with Poirier always coming out aggressively. He can take a serious amount of punishment, while throwing it right back at his opponent. Koch has dealt with many injuries as of late, but knows he needs to make a statement in this fight.
As Scott said, they both are so similar, which will lead to which fighter executes their game plan the most. Koch might come out too over-aggressive looking for a head kick to knock out Poirier, which could lead to his downfall. Poirier’s best bet is to take this to the ground and try to set up a guillotine or rear naked choke. This will be very competitive and could compete be fight of the night. I’m going with Poirier in a hard-fought contest that will have many transitions on the ground. For the first time in his career, Koch will be submitted.
Winner: Dustin Poirier via third round submission via Rear naked choke.
Heavyweight: Brandon Vera vs. Ben Rothwell
Scott: A couple of weeks ago, I was struggling to find anything good to say about this one. While his fight with Shogun was gutsy, Vera really hasn’t looked good since 2009, while Rothwell was downright awful in his last fight with Gabriel Gonzaga. Seriously, he came in in tremendous shape for his standards and then looked ridiculously sluggish. Then I heard an odd rumor on MMA.tv that Vera was taking the move back to heavyweight seriously, and that he’d been power lifting a ton and had bulked up. These rumors of “UBERVERA” alone have me sort-of interested in this one. Sue me.
Ignoring the possible bulking, how do they match up? Well, even the old (new) Vera would’ve been able to deal with a plodder like Rothwell. Ben’s lone chance is to land a hay-maker on Vera early on. I can’t see him having the movement to deal with Vera otherwise and I mean, based on the Gonzaga fight, and the Mark Hunt fight from 2011. He’s got approximately four minutes of gas before he’s absolutely spent anyway. You can call me crazy, but I think Vera puts Big Ben away or takes a lopsided decision using his movement and leg kicks.
Winner: Brandon Vera via unanimous decision.
Allen: Scott is spot on with that prediction. At first when I saw this fight, it left me scratching my head. When you compare the divisions, the heavyweight division has far more top-level fighters than the light heavyweight division. They’re many heavyweight fighters, who are very athletic and will be able to counter Vera’s Muay Thai striking. These aren’t the same slow heavy-handed heavyweights that Vera fought seven years ago.
That being said, Rothwell can fit in the category of being slow and heavy-handed. He’s always a threat to knock anyone out with his dangerous left hook, but his cardio has always been a problem. If Vera constantly lands leg kicks and keep Rothwell chasing him, he could win this fight handily. The more the fight goes, the more it will favor Vera. I’m still not a believer in Vera’s future at heavyweight being long-term, but this is the perfect matchup for Vera to get his career back on track.
Winner: Brandon Vera via unanimous decision.
Featherweight: Chad Mendes vs. Clay Guida
Scott: I really don’t know whether I should be looking forward to this or dreading it. I mean, on paper it sounds like Mendes ought to just keep the fight standing and smash Guida up. His striking has looked phenomenal since Bang Ludwig arrived at Team Alpha Male. His destruction of Darren Elkins, who is the most underrated 145lber on the planet in my eyes, was incredibly impressive. Guida’s striking remains crude and he can’t really do all that much if he can’t get the takedown. Not to mention, Mendes is a far better wrestler. But then you remember Guida’s fight with a similar fighter to Mendes in Gray Maynard, and well, do I really need to go there?
After a run of forgettable fights, Guida’s love affair with the fans seems to be over. His penchant to be able to drag his opponent into his type of fight certainly remains. For me this one comes down to whether Mendes can fight his fight and avoid being dragged into Guida’s world, that is either a scrambling match or something odd standing like the Guida-Maynard fight. For my own sanity and that of the other fans I’m hoping for the former. This may be a call based more on what I want to see rather than what actually will happen, but I’m going for Chad Mendes via second-round knockout.
Winner: Chad Mendes via second round KO
Allen: There is almost no chance that we’ll see a repeat of Maynard versus Guida. The reason I’m that confident is because Mendes is always pressuring his opponent whether it’s with wild punches or wrestling. He never shies away in a fight, regardless of whom he faces. He’s one of the few fighters to actually not back down from Jose Aldo in the first round and would have won that round, if he weren’t knocked out. Usually there is a feeling out process when fighting Aldo, that wasn’t the case for Mendes.
The only way Guida can win is if he makes this an ugly grappling match. If he can use his size and control him in top position, it may be enough for a decision victory. The issue is that Mendes has excellent takedown defense and knows how much of an advantage he has on his feet. I’m expecting a few moments of Mendes unloading on Guida with body punches, after Guida is covering up. It’s almost impossible to finish him, due to his iron chin and constantly moving around or holding his opponent. It may not be the highlight-reel knockout victory Mendes has been getting used to, but it’ll be another victory in the record column.
Winner: Chad Mendes via unanimous decision
Heavyweight: Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett
Scott: First off, you have to give credit to Frank Mir. The guy just never takes an easy fight these days. Will he ever get another title run? It’s unlikely at this point, as I think he’s on the tail end of his career. I think he’ll go down as a sure fire contender for the UFC hall of fame when he retires. It’s weird to think that he’s actually younger than Barnett and has fewer fights on his record too. Then again his strength of schedule outstrips ‘The Warmaster’ by far as Barnett spent a few years post-PRIDE and pre-StrikeForce snacking on tomato cans for the most part.
In terms of how they match up, it’s a tricky one to call. Both guys have serviceable striking if nothing world-class and both men have decent wrestling skills. On the ground you’d think Mir might have the advantage with submissions, but then nobody has ever really handled Barnett down there, not even Nogueira tried it, so to see Mir tap him out would hugely surprise me. Then again Mir broke Nogueira’s arm, so stranger things have happened for sure. There is of course the possibility that this turns into a clinch-fest and ends up boring, but I’m not thinking about that right now! Hopefully both men get to show their skills, as they’re two of the best heavyweights in the game.
I think I’m leaning towards Barnett here for the sole reason that he seems to have less mileage on him. Mir’s chin has been cracked on numerous occasions at this point and definitely isn’t as strong as it once was. I don’t think he’ll be able to simply out power Barnett like he did to Roy Nelson. I don’t think Barnett gets a standing knockout, but to see him deck Mir and then pound him out on the ground is the outcome I’m expecting, unfortunately for Mir. Let’s call it a second-round TKO for Josh Barnett.
Winner: Josh Barnett via second round TKO
Allen: Along with many fans, I’ve been waiting for this fight for the past few years. There aren’t many heavyweights that want to challenge Mir on the ground anymore, which is very smart from a fighter perspective but disappointing from a fan perspective. You witnessed that with Daniel Cormier, who made it an objective in his game plan to not go for any takedowns despite being an Olympic wrestler. Barnett embraces going to the ground in any fight he’s competing in. He’ll go for a takedown and look for side control or full mount to setup a choke or ground-and-pound.
The downfall for Barnett is that he may come into this fight too over-confident. We’ve seen many times on what happens to fighters if they go to the ground with Mir. Although his striking isn’t great, Mir is very diverse and has started to use kicks, which is something Barnett rarely uses. Even though he struggles with wrestlers, I’m expecting Mir to bounce back and be the first fighter ever to submit Barnett. He’s better conditioned and has worked extensively to improve his wrestling. Barnett will be submitted for the first time in his career.
Winner: Frank Mir via second round submission via guillotine
UFC Lightweight Title: Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis
Scott: While Henderson vs. TJ Grant sounded like a fun fight, let’s be honest this is the fight that everyone really wants to see for the lightweight title. Sometimes injuries are kind to the fans I guess! This is of course a rematch of their initial fight in December 2010, the fight that saw Pettis wrestle the WEC title away from Henderson via a super-close decision. The win was largely because of the now legendary “Showtime Kick” that allowed him to steal the fifth round. Can he repeat the performance here and become the new UFC champ? I’m not so sure.
The big question for me here is how much Pettis’ knee has truly recovered from the injury that took him out of the fight with Jose Aldo earlier in the month. That fight was scheduled for the third of August so realistically, if it was enough to force him out of a title shot, can he really be 100% coming into this one just four weeks later? I’m not sure. Personally I suspect he took this fight thinking the opportunity was too good to turn down; particularly given the show is in his hometown. It wouldn’t surprise me if in reality he were coming in at around 80 percent or something.
The other question has to be who has improved more since that first meeting in the WEC? While Pettis has looked fantastic in his last two fights by stopping Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon in vicious fashion. His first two UFC outings were not quite as impressive as he struggled with the grappling of Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens. Henderson meanwhile has looked amazing ever since debuting in the UFC. He’s amped up the aggression in his style, his striking looks improved, and he’s still got the brand of wrestling and athleticism that made him such a difficult fighter out back in the WEC days. And of course, he’s still damn near impossible to submit.
I’m expecting a close fight but I’m also expecting the Milwaukee fans to go home disappointed here. Henderson has upped his game too much over the past couple of years and if Pettis is coming in anything less than 100 percent, I think he’s going to find the champion’s pace too difficult to match. Henderson retains via decision.
Winner: Benson Henderson via unanimous decision
Allen: I’ll keep this brief because my opinion is very similar to Scott’s. You have to question Pettis’ knee going into this fight coming off the injury, when he was preparing to fight Aldo. Then I’m still unsure of his wrestling going up against someone that can take any lightweight down at will in Henderson. It may take only one high kick to end the fight, but those kicks can be caught for a takedown in favour of Henderson. Everyone knows how much a judge favours a takedown in this day and age. Phil Davis is thankful for that rule.
Once again, you’ll see wrestling as the difference maker. Even though Henderson’s striking is underrated, it will be constant pressure and takedowns that will lead him to victory. I’m still flabbergasted by Pettis’ coach Duke Roufus, who stated that Henderson’s striking has declined since the WEC fight in 2010. Did he watch Henderson dismantle Nate Diaz, when the fight was standing? He must be seeing something that everyone hasn’t seen. What he’ll have to see that everyone will witness is Henderson victorious by being more of a complete fighter. Down the road, we could see a trilogy fight. I’m expecting to see a Henderson that is fighting to finish the fight rather than fighting not to lose.
Winner: Benson Henderson via unanimous decision
It should be an excellent show all around, even though Milwaukee will leave disappointed. I’m happy Scott is here with me to preview UFC events for here on out. Who knows, we could preview Bellator’s pay-per-view in November. I know many people can’t wait to see the showdown of Tito Ortiz versus Rampage Jackson right? I’m hearing crickets around me, but we may do just because Eddie Alvarez versus Michael Chandler could be special. Until then, enjoy the pay-per-view and we’ll be back for UFC 165.
You can follow me on twitter @Allen_Strk and to contact Scott, you can e-mail him at NewmanMMA@gmail.com