UFC 201 is finally upon us, and, as ever, we’ve picked the brains (it was precise work) of one or two of our staff members here at #WHOATV, and demanded some fight predictions… mainly so you can point at it and mock us when it becomes clear we made a horlicks of the whole thing on Sunday.
So for what it’s worth, this is how Mike Morgan, Joshua Beirne, and yours truly (Ben Szwediuk) think things will go down at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Saturday night:
Erik Perez vs Francisco Rivera:
JB: Very live fight. Rivera can’t seem to get passed the top tier guys, and he has had plenty of opportunities. This will either help him grow or will become a mental block, so far it is the latter. Perez is looking for a shot at a top tier guy, and has only ever been finished once in a competitive division. I have a general rule: If the fight is live, always choose the Mexican. Result: Perez, decision.
MM: Perez, a standout at Jackson Winks, switched camps during the run up to this fight. The old adage, if it aint broke dont fix it comes to mind, but doesn’t apply here. Perez is talented and I see a sub coming in possibly the second round. His ground game is superior and his movement on the feet is wiley. All of this adds up for a pretty short night for Rivera who I feel won’t be able to keep up with Perez’s relentless pace. Result: Perez, submission.
BS: Perez is very much a fighter in the ascendancy, whereas Rivera plays the part of the old war horse, particularly after a sluggish but hugely resilient split-decision loss to Brad Pickett earlier this year. I’m instinctively moved to side with the young buck, but Perez may just have enough experience and craft to surprise the young BAMMA graduate, particularly now he no longer has the benefit of Greg Jackson in his corner. Result: Rivera, decision.
Kowalkiwicz vs Namajunas:
JB: This fight I know least about. I’m basing this prediction on fight week and an hour’s worth of footage last night.
First of all, Karolina: everything she does she loses at!!! At water polo, at PlayStation and quite frankly she didn’t look like she cared. I remember Tito Ortiz mocking a child after beating him in the UFC computer game, Overeem’s ex-kick boxing coach’s motto is “To be a champion you must be a champion at everything you do, eating, brushing your teeth”. As a psychology advocate, my pick became easier after hearing Karolina say she liked to block the fight out of her mind. Compare this to the mind-set of Jon Jones and GSP, who both state they become obsessed with their opponents to the point in which they cannot stop thinking about them, this will tell you a lot.
All that said; I don’t like either girl’s stand up, but I think Rose is a great grappler.
Result: Namajunas, submission.
MM: Namajunas has her work cut out for her here facing one of Poland’s undefeated striking specialists. ‘Thug Rose’ showed dominance in her last outing against Page Van Zant, but Kowalkiewicz is on a whole different level in terms of striking. While her submission game poses a threat Kowalkiewicz’s take down defence and superior stand up game means I’m going with Polands striking powerhouse but I see this ending in an uninspiring decision win for her. Result: Kowalkiewicz, decision.
BS: I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen either of these ladies fight for more than a few rounds, so I’m going to abandon any pretense of a tactical breakdown and indulge in a bit of brazen old-school MMA forum ‘MMAth’ for this one. The Pole has by far the best overall pro-record (9-0 to 5-2), but Namajunas appears to have triumphed over a higher standard of opponent on the bigger stage. Of course, you bet against an Eastern European in a fight at your peril, but if you’re prepared to take out the UFC poster-girl, you’ve clearly got some chops, so I’ll take ‘Thug Rose’ by submission.
Result: Namajunas, submission.
Matt Brown vs Jake Ellenberger:
JB: Easiest pick of the year! Ellenberger panics when he doesn’t break people and Matt Brown does not break. Ever! Can’t imagine seeing Jake seeing a sub opportunity, can imagine him seeing an iron chin chase him round the octagon. Result: Brown, TKO.
MM: This will be Ellenberger’s swan song. Nothing good will come of this but a pretty emphatic one sided beatdown, possibly ending with ‘The Juggernaugt’s’ off-switch being firmly pushed in. Based on recent match-ups, Ellenberger does seem to be suffering from a few psychological hang ups. Frankly put, his head hasn’t been in the game since Robbie Lawler’s third round beatdown. It’s fair to say after only winning one of his last six fights this is pretty much game over for Jake who is up against arguably one of the UFC’s master killers.
BS: I am not quite as confident as some that Brown will just breeze past Ellenberger without resistance. A little of the old fire appeared to have been dampened when one of the UFC’s fiercest warriors capitulated in the face of Demian Maia’s BJJ master-class in May.
This fight will be a real litmus test as to whether the TUF 7 veteran retains the hunger to climb the welterweight ladder once more. If he turns up as his vintage relentless self it is hard to see past a Brown win, if he doesn’t, Ellenberger could buy himself at least one more fight in the UFC.
Result: Brown, TKO.
Lawler vs Woodley:
JB: Okay people get ready to learn – it’s easy to look at this fight as a step down for Lawler; Woodley 18 months off, easier road to the title than the likes of McDonald and Condit. What we are forgetting Lawler’s past two fights were perfect stylistic match ups for the champion… ABSOLUTE WARS!!! Don’t listen to Rogan’s repetitive slur about muscle mass (If Brock Lesnar can go three rounds, Tyron Woodley can go five), he needs to use the muscle efficiently, something others have failed to do (like a certain Cuban). Tyron, however, knows exactly how to do this. People forget that in his Strikeforce career he was known as a blanket; a boring point based fighter. Let’s not forget these two have trained together, yet Woodley has always wanted this fight!
Obviously Robbie Lawler is live in any fight, even though he doesn’t like to admit he is technically world class. Despite this, that 19 year old risk taker that got knocked out cold by a jab from Nick Diaz always comes out eventually. For Robbie to win a fight, he will always need to take a punch to give one, and I think his chin is going south. He has looked out on his feet in has last two fights from men who don’t have one punch knockout power like Woodley.
I think Woodley works his way in with the overhand right, grinds Lawler down for a couple of rounds to take the champ’s punching power away, and either finishes him early or grinds out a decision (the same game plan he had with Condit). Final note: Woodley’s past two bouts have been against southpaws. He has been training for southpaw fighters for 30 months straight! Result: Woodley, KO.
MM: ‘Always bet on Black’ Snipes said in ‘Passenger 57’. Well, this isnt a movie, but speaking of which, recording scenes for the latest Fast and the Furious series the week of the fight possibly tells me Woodley’s head is not entirely in the game. I see this as light work for Lawler based on this alone, but also Woodley is dealing with someone that will take you into deep waters and drown you with a barrage of punches regardles of how wounded, cut up, beat up he is. I see Lawler retaining his belt and Woodley auditioning in the forthcoming remake of Blade.
BS: Woodley is a fine wrestler and has explosive KO power, but if he doesn’t take out Lawler in the first two rounds I see him getting picked apart here.’Ruthless’ has been involved in some absolute wars since his return to the UFC and becoming Welterweight World Champion, facing strikers with far greater technical and tactical ability in recent fights, and emerged triumphant.
Lawler’s ability to control range will be absolutely key. If he can prevent leaving himself open for any easy shots he should be able to keep the challenger at the end of his jab for the early rounds, and then really open up with his fluid combinations as the wrestler slows down. Ultimately, it could be his reach advantage which proves decisive. If the champ can contain the challenger’s early flurries, it should be his for the taking in the championship rounds, although I don’t expect he will require his signature ‘Haily Mary’ fifth to seal the deal this time round. Result: Lawler, TKO.