UFC Fight Night 26: Preview & Predictions
The launch of Fox Sports 1 is finally here. The UFC will be bringing back the concept of “Fight Night” on their network. You probably won’t see a better card, when it comes to a free event. Fox has put on some great events, but this is a six-fight card featuring almost every division and so many talented fighters.
Who would have thought Alistar Overeem would be fighting on free television? Then you have exciting lower-card fighters like Joe Lauzon and Mike Brown on the card. The main event may be considered a bit weak, but this is a fresh matchup with contrasting styles. I’m looking forward to seeing if Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will be in shape and ready to counter Chael Sonnen’s wrestling.
I’m still writing solo on this preview, but I’m sure I’ll find someone to write with me for UFC 164. The solo prediction preview is fine, although I prefer writing with someone just to see how different our opinions are.
Lightweight: Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Johnson
This is the perfect opening fight for the first event on a new network. Everyone knows when Joe Lauzon fights; his fight is likely going to be fight of the night. He is constantly aggressive and is world class on the ground, while being able to take substantial punishment. I’m still trying to figure how he made it out of the first round in his fight against Jim Miller. There is no quit in Lauzon, unless Anthony Pettis connects on a head kick.
Johnson is a much better athlete than Lauzon and needs to use that athleticism to his advantage. He needs to make sure to keep the fight standing and constantly be moving. One major question about Johnson is his cardio, as he tends to fade away in the later rounds of his past fights. With two straight losses, he could be on the chopping block if he were to lose on Saturday.
Even though Lauzon has a huge fan base, his record isn’t that great either. While he is an intelligent fighter that knows how to use crisp boxing, he tends to get reckless by leaving his hands down far too often. That could be the case again, but his chin is among the best in the lightweight division. Johnson will have his moments early on, where he’ll land a few combinations. Eventually the fight will go the ground, where Lauzon will finish him off and once again show off his kimura.
Winner via Second Round Kimura: Joe Lauzon
Middleweight: John Howard vs. Uriah Hall
The buzz about Hall has somewhat fizzled out, even though people need to give him another opportunity to shine. This is a great opportunity for Hall going up against a striker in John Howard. That will keep the fight standing, where he is most comfortable. He won’t be fighting off his back or attempting to defend takedowns for majority of the fight like he was against Kelvin Gastelum.
Still this is his fight to win against the returning Howard, who is fighting in his hometown. Howard needs to make sure that he avoids going to the ground and doesn’t let Hall get comfortable with his jab. If he can move around and pick his spots with precision boxing, then he could manage to pull off the upset victory.
Hall has serious knockout power, especially when it comes to having ground position on top. He has been known to seriously injure his opponents in ground-and-pound, especially in his fights on “The Ultimate Fighter” against Bubba McDaniel and Dylan Andrews. I’m expecting him to win by controlling the pace and clipping Howard a few times, before finishing him off on the ground. I’m a believer in Uriah Hall as a future star.
Winner via First Round TKO: Uriah Hall
Welterweight: Mike Brown vs. Mike Pyle
I’m still bitter that Thiago Alves was injured for the umpteenth time and had to pull out of this fight. Mike Pyle is a nice replacement, but he isn’t anywhere near the striker that Alves is. It would have been really intriguing to see if Mike Brown can continue his knockout streak against a proven striker like Alves. Despite the injury, this matchup has fight of the night potential.
Brown’s hardnosed style of pushing the pace and looking for a knockout finish will be an interesting counter to Pyle’s excellent chin. He is not easy to put away, so we’ll see if Brown gets frustrated. Also Pyle continues to improve on the ground, where he knows will be the best place for him in this fight. Even though Brown leaves himself open, he’s so aggressive that it’s hard for his opponent to hit him with a counter strike. I’m still waiting to see if someone can hit him with a quick counter jab or an uppercut.
Pyle is well rounded and doesn’t mind fighting at any style, but this is the biggest fight of his career and needs to be smart. Both fighters have been on major winning streaks, so this is the perfect matchup to see who is ready to ascend to the top ten of the division. This is another fight, where I’m not expecting much standing around. It will be two fighters looking for the finish and trying to make a statement. Brown’s striking will be too much for Pyle to handle, although I’m expecting Pyle to hang in there for all fifteen minutes. This is my pick for fight of the night.
Winner Via Unanimous Decision: Mike Brown
Bantamweight: Urjiah Faber vs. Yuri Alcantara
This is a lose-lose situation for Faber, although Alcantara should be getting more respect going into this fight. Even though he’s not a big name, Alcantara is very dangerous on the ground and will prove to be a stern test for Faber. When Faber wins, it’s usually by submission, which makes this the ultimate challenge for him. He’s submitted the likes of Raphael Assuncao and Ivan Menjivar, who are both world class on the ground. This could be the toughest test for Faber, when it comes to trying to submit someone.
Even though he’s one of the best fighters off his back, I’m not expecting a submission victory for Alcantara. It will be more for defensive purposes because Faber is nearly impossible to finish. His best hope is to utilize leg kicks to frustrate Faber to the point, where he can’t get that explosive burst to go for a takedown. It may come down to striking for points to beat Faber, because he’s that good of a fighter.
This fight could very well end up being mostly standing up. They negate each other’s strengths on the ground to the point, where it could end up being who’s the best striker. Faber does have the wrestling advantage and we all know how much judges love to immediately score a round for one takedown. We saw it in the Phil Davis-Lyoto Machida, which ended up being a bogus decision victory for Davis. That won’t be the case here and Faber will end up earning a hard fought decision victory. He’ll do just enough on his feet, before leaning towards his wrestling and controlling Alcantara on the ground.
Winner via Unanimous Decision: Urijah Faber
Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne
The up and coming Travis Browne is facing the embattled star Alistair Overeem in a classic matchup. I’m still shocked by how little people are talking about Overeem when talking about the card. Whenever he fought, all the attention would be on him during a press conference or weigh-ins. One defining knockout loss can be so detrimental to your stock as a fighter. It has happened to Overeem and now he needs to start a new long winning streak.
He matches up well with Browne, who is still relatively inexperienced in big fights. I’m impressed by how well rounded he is, along with always coming into fights in great shape. You’ll never see him gas out and has shown on a consistent basis how he makes opponents pay if they make a mistake. His knockout of Stefan Struve still stands out just because you rarely see timing like that anymore when it comes to counter striking.
Everyone knows how good Overeem is in striking, so I’m not expecting him to go for any ridiculous flying knees. The issue will come down to conditioning, which was evident in his last fight against Antonio Silva. He was fatigued in the final round and paid for it. If this fight were to go to the third round, you’d have to think Browne would have the advantage and have the best opportunity to go for the knockout. I’m not expecting it to because Overeem will be focused and he’ll control the pace. Browne has a bright future, but he isn’t good enough on the feet or even on the ground to win this fight.
Winner via Second Round KO: Alistair Overeem
Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Chael Sonnen in the main event again, I thought we were done with this? As long as it’s not a title shot, I’m not complaining. This is a fight that nobody really expected to happen a few months ago with Shogun fighting Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. After the injury, it has been changed and now we get a fun matchup between two fighters with completely different styles. Both fighters don’t shy away from what they want to do, so it’ll come down to who can implement their game plan the most to win.
The big question coming into this fight is if Shogun can still fight at a high level and if he’ll come in good shape? It’s been a problem dating back to losing the title to Jon Jones in 2011. With extra time to prepare, you’d think he come into this fight in good shape. We can only hope so because it would be a shame to someone with the accolades of Shogun start to truly decline. His boxing has improved with Freddie Roach coaching him and still possesses vicious knee strikes.
Sonnen will do what he always does, which is going for the takedown and constantly pressure his opponent. With Shogun’s below average takedown defense, Sonnen has to be feeling confident going into the fight. The issue is this is a five round fight and I can’t see Shogun being held down for that long. I’m shocked by how many people think that he’ll be held down and won’t have any answer for Sonnen. Eventually Shogun will make this into a standup fight and it’ll end there. He’s still got something left in the tank and he’ll send Sonnen back to middleweight in devastating fashion.
Winner via Third Round TKO: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
I’m really looking forward to this event and it should feature a lot of finishes. As for the fight night concept, I’ll likely cover every event that doesn’t conflict with a UFC pay-per-view that week. There are times where a “fight night” is the same week as a pay-per-view. I’m writing NFL content on the site as well, so I’m going to be unable to preview two UFC events in the same week.
I’m a huge supporter of bringing back Wednesday night fights. Many fans will be excited to see fights like Carlos Condit versus Martin Kampmann and Yushin Okami versus Jacare Souza. They are oversaturating a bit with the fight nights, but I’m all for bringing back Wednesday night fights. Enjoy the fights and I’m sure I’ll write some kind of recap about the event by Monday.
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