Allen: For the second straight year, the UFC will have two title fights in Toronto. It will also be the third straight year that Jon Jones has to defend his light heavyweight title in Toronto. Those are some stats for now. This is the preview for UFC 165 that also includes Renan Barao defending his interim bantamweight title against Eddie Wineland.
While this card isn’t as stacked as the next three pay-per-view events, it does feature some intriguing matchups. Obviously the hype is surrounding Jones and how he’ll handle a fighter that is similar in stature in Alexander Gustafsson. We’ll be predicting every fight on the main card. It’s a pleasure to be joined by Scott Newman, who will break down the main card with me.
Scott: So this show is Saturday and the more I think about it, man I’m pumped. It's not as good as 166 and 167, yet it has two title fights as well. Also the main card card contains fight between two guys who are well entrenched as contenders at lightweight and some exciting prelims.
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Pat Healy
Scott: This is a legit fantastic fight in my eyes. Healy versus Miller is probably the most underrated fight of the year and for Pat to put away Miller like that should've opened a ton of eyes. Remember he has only lost to one fighter at lightweight and that was Josh Thomson. Outside of that he's been a legit beast. Nurmagomedov for his part has looked phenomenal since debuting in the UFC. His powerful wrestling and hard striking have made him look like a possible future contender. This is the toughest fight on the card to pick in my eyes as you've got Khabib with all the skills to possibly win the title in the future, but you just know Healy isn't going away.
He's tough as leather, knows how to win, and there's no way he'll wilt like Abel Truijllo did under Khabib's pressure. The x-factor here could be the weight of both fighters. Khabib missed spectacularly in his last fight and that's a bit worrying, although he didn't show any ill effect in the actual fight itself. Initially I'd have said Khabib takes this but the more I actually think about it I'm leaning towards Healy. I expect this to be the fight of the night regardless.
Winner: Pat Healy via unanimous decision
Allen: This is my easily my favorite on the card for the sheer fact that I’m still struggling to pick a winner. The best fights in MMA are usually ones that are unpredictable, which should make this an excellent fight. The plot to this fight is based on Nurmagomedov dominating his opposition by wrestling and quick striking. Nobody has come close to stopping him in his UFC career so far. Now here comes a true test in Healy, who is gritty as they come and one of the biggest lightweights in the world.
I’m not expecting Nurmagomedov to take Healy down at will, due to Healy’s size and grappling ability. It’ll come down to who can keep their opponent guessing and land the most strikes. If Nurmagomedov gets frustrated by the lack of success in his takedowns, then he could begin to get reckless with his boxing. While his stand-up isn’t great, Healy has power and usually a reach advantage. I’m expecting this to be fight of the night as well, but I’m going with Nurmagomedov. He’ll do just enough on the feet and on the ground to earn the hard-fought decision victory.
Winner: Khabib Numagomedov via split decision
Middleweight: Francis Carmont vs. Costa Philippou
Scott: Poor Francis Carmont seems to have become one of the most hated fighters online, which I guess isn't surprising given he won his last two fights with questionable decisions. I didn't think they were so bad, since Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin both didn't quite do enough to win even if Carmont didn't do all that much either. Before that he looked like a beast against Karlos Vemola and Chris Camozzi. Philippou is by far his toughest test to date though with his brand of brutal boxing and solid takedown defense.
The big question marks for me comes from how long Philippou has been on the shelf, which is nine months to be exact and has moved from the Longo/Serra camp elsewhere. I guess the move was to avoid any issues should he find himself in title contention while Weidman holds the belt. With that in mind, it isn't out of the range of the possibility that Carmont can hold him down enough to eke out a decision to piss everyone off again. Still after watching his fights against Court McGee, Rikki Fukuda, and Tim Boetsch the smart money is on Costa here.
Winner: Costa Philippou via second round KO
Allen: Carmont has to have the quietest five fight win streak in UFC history. That’s what happens when you win controversially. It still earned him a big fight and he has the ability to pull off the upset. He’s massive for a middleweight and could find success in clinching Philippou. Even though he’s made a reputation off of winning lackluster fights, it may be his best chance of winning.
He certainly won’t win by standing and getting into a striking match with Philippou. He needs to keep moving to avoid being knocked out. Philippou has garnered major praise for his recent performances, even though he’s had quite the layoff. Still this is good matchup for him to get back on track and get a big fight in 2014. Carmont may close the distance early, but look for Philippou to land an uppercut to finish the fight.
Winner: Costa Philippou via second round KO
Heavyweight: Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione
Scott: Schaub should be able to beat Mitrione just because he's far more well rounded and has better overall skills. That being said, he can't take a punch for love nor money and Mitrione can certainly knock anyone out. I'll take Schaub because I tend to go for the fighter with the most tools to win the fight. Still it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Mitrione turn his lights out.
Winner: Brendan Schaub via unanimous decision
Allen: I’m surprised that Mitrione is a slight favorite in this fight. He has yet to win a big fight in the UFC and tends to be one-dimensional. The odd makers may be looking into Schaub’s weak chin too much. What people forget from his knockout losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell was that he was over-aggressive. He got excited from his early success in both fights and got caught due to not keeping his hands up. Schaub is an intelligent fighter and proved he learned from his mistakes by defeating a heavy-handed striker in Lavar Johnson.
This is an intriguing fight with both fighters looking to move away from the pack of heavyweights nowhere near the top ten. It also helps that this fight has plenty of animosity with both fighters bashing each other repeatedly, despite being close friends. Mitrione’s takedown defense has never been great, while Schaub is an excellent wrestler and always comes into fights in excellent shape. Mitrione may be able to end the fight in one punch, but it’ll be hard to do that when he’s on his back. Schaub’s always been underappreciated as a striker and will prove his worth in this fight. He’ll hold on his own standing up and then finish the fight on the ground.
Winner: Brendan Schaub via third round TKO
Interim Bantamweight Title: Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland
Scott: This should be a fun fight, even though I don't rate Wineland anywhere near Barao right now (there's a massive talent gap at the top of 135 pounds with Barao, Faber, Cruz if he's healthy and then everyone else...). He always brings an exciting fight and isn't going to be one of those fighters, who just shies away because he's faced with a real killer in front of him. It'll be near impossible for Wineland to win though as technically Barao is the better striker.
Even if Wineland can land a hook or uppercut, the Brazilian appears to have a granite chin if you go by his fights with Brad Pickett and Michael McDonald. On the ground, Wineland is still somewhat of a question mark just because all of his recent fights have been stand-up based. We all know that Barao has a sick ground game, as evidenced by how he finished off McDonald there in February. I hope Barao gets another finish here, as I don't see anyone beating him at 135 pounds for a long time. An impressive showing here would help him to garner more of the following he deserves. For the record I'd pick him against a healthy prime Dominick Cruz too. I'll take Barao by third-round submission. The one area Wineland has him beaten in? Facial hair.
Winner and still champion: Renan Barao via third round rear naked choke
Allen: It may seem like Scott is being harsh about Wineland, but in reality he’s not. There isn’t much of a chance for Wineland to pull off the upset. His footwork is excellent and he possesses a lighting quick right hand that can cause problems. His issue is that he becomes predictable by mostly throwing punches and relying on head movement to defend rather than keeping his hands up. If he doesn’t change up his style, he’ll get picked apart by Barao’s technical striking. People always forget that Barao’s striking has always been an underrated element to his game.
When I first looked at this fight, it seemed like Wineland would have more success going for takedowns. After watching a few past fights featuring Barao, my first thought couldn’t have been more wrong. There aren’t many fighters that are more dangerous on the ground than him. He’s almost reaching the level, where you don’t even want to go anywhere near the ground with him. Barao has never been taken down in the UFC either, which makes a future title unification fight with Dominick Cruz so appealing. If he can beat Cruz, then we’ll see him get more of a following. Until then, it’ll be just another dominant win that some fans forget about.
Winner and still champion: Renan Barao via second round kimura
Light Heavyweight Title: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Scott: Hate to say this but I'm slowly becoming a bit of a Jon Jones fan. I've always enjoyed his fights but never liked him as a person. Basically post TUF; he's come off in a better light. I don't think my fears of him becoming a Mayweather type with a ludicrous obsession with money and an entourage filled with idiots are likely to happen, at least not just yet. As long as he's sticking with Uncle Dana then he'll be fine by me. Gustafsson is the best challenger right now in terms of a fresh face, but I don't think he's going to be able to handle what Jones brings, unfortunately for him.
The big thing for me is the wrestling, which Gus has improved a ton on since his early UFC days. Still there is a major difference in stuffing the takedowns of Matt Hamill and Thiago Silva compared to Jon Jones, who is the most terrifying wrestler ever at 205 pounds in my eyes. He can be considered as “GSP-esque” in the way that he takes down even great wrestlers like Ryan Bader, Chael Sonnen and Vladimir Matyushenko like they're small children.
Granted, Gustafsson's excellent footwork makes him a tricky target to get hold of, but I just think Jones is too good in the wrestling department for that to matter. Gus could catch him with something nasty standing, as those promos keep hammering in that he is the first guy who will have a similar reach to the champ. Now make no mistake about it, if he does hurt Jones then the Swede has the killer instinct to put him away. I think Jones probably knows that and he also knows he can take Gustafsson down, so why bother taking that risk?
I don't see this fight going the distance and we’ll see Jones punishing the Swede with elbows until he finally gives up the ghost either late in the first or sometime in the second. If he wins it'll be Jones' sixth title defence, which breaks Tito Ortiz’s old record (and probably makes Dana orgasm). I think he can make ten title defences. Let’s make Glover as his next opponent, then Cormier, then Davis and one more fighter. That'd be one hell of a run.
Winner and still champion: Jon Jones via second round TKO
Allen: This fight on paper may be intriguing, but this is far from being the perfect matchup for Jones. Gustafsson has always impressed me with his reach and having a variety of ways to attack his opponent. The issue with him is that he hasn’t faced enough top-level competition to truly make me believe he can go up against the pound for pound best fighter in the world. He tends to leave his hands down and has shown to fatigue in the latter rounds.
Everyone knows how Jones is the complete package as a fighter. His striking continues to evolve, even though he’s used his wrestling much more in his past two fights. The more you watch Jones, the more you realize that he likes to beat his opponents by their speciality. He annihilated Shogun through three rounds on the feet. Then he out-worked Rampage on the feet, before finishing him off the ground. The last fight couldn’t have been more obvious when he constantly looked for takedowns against Chael Sonnen. Will he try to out-jab Gustafsson, before finishing him off? He could very well do that, because he’s simply that good.
I’m still expecting Jones to test Gustafsson’s take down defense early. We know that is still somewhat of a question mark. If he can survive that, then will see Jones engage standing up where Gustafsson will be most comfortable. Still this fight is a major mismatch and I can’t see this going past two rounds. Jones has been waiting for this fight and I can’t see him toying around. He’ll be aggressive from the start of the bell and be all over Gustafsson before taking him to the ground in top position. After a few of his patented elbows, he’ll set up for the triangle choke to get the finish. Other than Daniel Cormier, there aren’t any fighters out there that can be an actual threat to Jon Jones’ championship reign.
Winner and still champion: Jon Jones via first round triangle choke
Allen: The title fight has some intrigue, due to there still being uncertainty about Gustafsson. Has he shown his entire repertoire or has his lack of fights hindered him from showing off everything? The main card looks mostly predictable, but nobody can deny that there is some intrigue. I’m really looking forward to seeing if Nurmagomedov can hang with Healy. Other than that, I’m expecting a decent pay-per-view full of one-sided affairs.
You can follow me on twitter @Allen_Strk and Scott at email@example.com