UFC on Fox 9 or as I like to phrase it, the “Team Alpha Male takeover” is upon us. I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to looking at this card on paper. It’s still one of the better free shows I’ve seen in recent memory, especially when you look at the preliminary bouts as well. What I’m bitter about is that the two biggest fights on the card have been taken off due to injuries to lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and Matt Brown.
I’m not going to dwell on it though, because we still get to see plenty of action packed fights from the lower weight classes. It’s nice to see the lower weight classes being showcased on such a big stage. The flyweight title will be defended featuring the rightful number one contender in Joseph Benavidez. We get to see the two best bantamweights that aren’t champion right now fight each other. Who can complain about seeing Joe Lauzon being added to the main card? Not to mention, the random heated feud between Chad Mendes and Nik Lentz has now started to get attention.
I’m still very much looking forward to this. There hasn’t been a UFC event in Sacramento in quite some time. The crowd should be amped up seeing four team Alpha Male members fighting on the same card. Could they go undefeated? Danny Castillo has his work cut out for him going against the electrifying Edson Barboza. As for the main card fights, I have broken down all four main card fights with predictions.
Lightweight: Joe Lauzon vs. Mac Danzig
You won’t hear anyone complaining about this fight being bumped to the main card. Whenever Joe Lauzon fights, it usually means a potential fight of the night unless it’s someone that’s extremely athletic. We saw him overwhelmed against Anthony Pettis and Michael Johnson in recent memory. This is a great matchup for him facing Mac Danzig, who is in the similar mold as Lauzon.
This should be a back and forth contest, with many wild exchanges. Danzig is fighting for his UFC career here, although has admitted in interviews that he’s not changing up his style. He’ll look to be technical with his striking, although it’s hard to be technical against someone like Lauzon. Eventually by the second round, I’m expecting this to more of a wild contest.
Lauzon is better rounded and is too intelligent not to realize the mistakes he made against Johnson. He will go for more takedowns in this fight rather than get into a striking match. He is the much better grappler and we’ve seen him countless times submit his opponent. Eventually, he’ll take him down and set up the arm bar for the victory. His grappling will be too much for Danzig to overcome.
Winner via second round arm bar: Joe Lauzon
Featherweight: Chad Mendes vs. Nik Lentz
I’m not sure where the hostility came from, but there is bad blood going into this fight. Despite the odd match making, Lentz has done his best to make himself look like a threat. Just like most people, I have hard time believing he stands much of a chance in this fight. Mendes is an outstanding wrestler, with knockout power and blistering speed. He has been on quite a roll, which is why I’m struggling to understand how this fight makes any sense. Mendes facing Cub Swanson for a title shot on the line would have made much more sense.
The only way Lentz can win this is if he grinds out a decision. He needs to close the distance and make it as ugly as possible. That’s hard to accomplish against an athlete like Mendes. He’s already made himself a target based on making statements on how he’s a tougher matchup than Jose Aldo. Confidence is one thing, but being delusional is also another thing. Lentz may know how to grind out decisions, but it’ll be nearly impossible to do that against Mendes’ one punch knockout power.
This fight seems doomed to be a “clinch fest” early on before Mendes starts to tee off. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a counter uppercut followed by ruthless ground-and-pound. Mendes is an absolute beast and is still the best featherweight in the division not named Jose Aldo. You can expect another impressive performance and hopefully he’ll be in line for a chance to fight for the title. Lentz’s stand up isn’t good enough against someone on Mendes’ level. He’s in for a rude awakening.
Winner via first round TKO: Chad Mendes
Bantamweight: Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald
It amazes me that Michael McDonald is only 22 years old, yet he’s already fought for the title already and is now facing someone like Urijah Faber. It has been quite the story for him and he’s truly one of the top bantamweights in the world. His ground game is tremendous, even though he’s only a brown belt. His striking continues to evolve implementing more leg kicks to his arsenal. That being said, this is a bad matchup for him.
Faber is so powerful and usually has success with his takedowns. McDonald has struggled defending takedowns against stronger opponents in his career, which is why I could see him being smothered for most of the fight. Faber submission defense is top notch so I don’t believe will see a repeat of what McDonald did to Brad Pickett. It could very well be a one-sided mauling by Faber, as long as he sticks to his wrestling. If he mixes it up and goes for takedowns, there is no reason why he shouldn’t win this fight.
What impresses me the most about Faber is how he always seems to end up in top position or taking his opponent’s back. Even during the wildest sprawls, he’s so fundamentally sound that he manages to be in the position to do damage. We could very well see him use short elbows to open McDonald up, before setting up for his signature rear naked choke. McDonald can take punishment with the best of them, so it’s hard to see him being finished in this fight. That will be the case here, where his toughness will be remembered. Even though he’s had countless title shots, Faber deserves one if he wins here. To win four fights in one year is remarkable.
Winner via unanimous decision: Urijah Faber
Flyweight Championship: Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez
It has been quite some time, since I’ve been excited for a flyweight fight. Part of the reason is because the matchups have been so one-sided. The fight between Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall at UFC 156 was the last flyweight fight that I was generally excited for. I’m supportive of the division, but the match making hasn’t made much sense.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the influence of Duane Ludwig comes into play for Benavidez against an opponent on his level. He’s knocked out a few flyweights recently that aren’t on his level, now will see if the coaching has paid off when it matters most. Benavidez will need to strike more efficiently and not get reckless like he did the last time they fought. If he’s off balance or pressing too much forward, Johnson will swarm right in for a double leg takedown. I’ve seen him do it countless time and he has proven to be the strongest flyweight, who knows how to pin his opponents to the ground.
This is one of the toughest main events that I’ve had to pick all year. Johnson is so well rounded, continues to evolve, and gets better as the fight goes on. He’s not just leaning on his wrestling anymore to win fights. That being said, I’m going with the upset, as Benavidez’s striking will be the difference maker. He may get taken down once or twice, but we won’t see him get taken down repetitively like the first fight between them. Johnson tends to leave his chin out too much, which will lead to him being caught and eventually finished. Besides picking Hendricks last month, this is the first time I’m picking the challenger in a title fight since Nate Diaz fought Benson Henderson.
Winner via second round TKO & new champion: Joseph Benavidez
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