UFC on FOX 15: Machida vs Rockhold- Prelim Predictions
155lbs- #13 Jim Miller (24-5-0 1NC) vs Beneil Dariush (10-1-0)
In the featured undercard bout, perennial top contender Jim Miller fights at home when he meets the fast surging Beneil Dariush. Miller is coming off a knockout loss to Donald Cerrone, his only official defeat over his last 5. Dariush improved his Octagon record to 4-1 with his 3rd straight win when he submitted Daron Cruickshank at UFC 185.
Miller was originally penciled in to face Paul Felder, but after he withdrew to pursue other opportunities Dariush stepped in on a couple of week’s notice and will be competing just over a month removed from his last fight.
Both men carry a variety of combat accreditations into the cage. Miller is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler along with holding Black belts in BJJ and Tae Kwon Do. Dariush is a BJJ Black belt and also holds a Black belt in Muay Thai.
Miller is 13-1 in fights ending by submission. Dariush is 6-0 with 3 wins coming in the UFC.
A number of x-factors appear to favour Miller. He is fighting at home and has had a full training camp to prepare and reach his physical peak. Subsequently, Dariush will be dealing with a very quick turnaround and short camp to prepare for the most difficult opponent of his career. Miller will also carry a certain level of desperation into the cage considering he is facing an unranked opponent that could cost him his spot in the division’s ranks.
Beneil’s striking has greatly improved under the tutelage of Rafal Cordeiro. He might look to emulate Donald Cerrone, utilizing body kicks to both hurt Miller and create openings to target his chin. He did a lot of his damage to Cruickshank by targeting the body. Miller should still have the advantage on the feet, offering a more refined and aggressive striking attack. Dariush struggled in the early exchanges against Tony Martin who was the aggressor and kept Beneil backtracking for the majority of the round. It wasn’t until Martin slowed and Dariush got his hands on him that he took over. Miller is more then capable of carrying a full paced attack for the duration and his grappling game should be able to neutralize Dariush’s attack. Dariush’s short prep time will start to show up as the fight drags on and Miller pushes the pace, so my prediction is Jim Miller to defeat Beneil Dariush by decision.
205lbs- #8 Ovince St. Preux (17-6-0) vs #15 Patrick Cummins (7-1-0)
Light Heavyweight bout #2 is a battle of two top 15 ranked fighters as Ovince St. Preux takes on the ever-improving Patrick ‘Durkin’ Cummins. OSP has lost just once in his last 7 fights, dropping a decision to Ryan Bader, but most recently smashing former divisional Champion Shogun Rua by TKO in just 34 seconds. Cummins rebounded nicely from a difficult debut, winning a trifecta of fights including his last win coming via decision against TUF Brazil winner Antonio Carlos Junior.
St. Preux is just 1″ taller then Cummins, but he will have a 4″ reach advantage.
OSP has a sizeable edge in experience. He has fought more times as a professional 23-8 and overall has faced a more impressive ledger of adversaries. That being said, as of right now ‘Durkin’ has the most noteworthy name on his list in Daniel Cormier, regardless of what actually transpired inside the cage.
A former NCAA Division-1 wrestler, Cummins has averaged 6.58 takedowns per fight at a rate slightly higher then 50%. Over his current 3 fight winning streak, he has landed a sizeable 17 takedowns. OSP has defended 66% of his opponents’ TDAs, but his only 2 defeats in recent memory have hinged on gaps in his defensive wrestling where he was stung for 13 takedowns and a considerable amount of time spent on his back.
OSP has the more well developed MMA arsenal, but Cummins has the greater standalone skill in his wrestling. His combination of raw physical strength and technique make it very difficult for his adversaries to remain vertical. If Saint Preux can keep this fight standing he could exploit his advantage in striking, but in his bout with Bader his striking technique seemed hampered by his concern for getting taken down. Additionally, his cardio will take a hit if he is forced to spend a lot of time grappling Cummins, making him even more susceptible as the fight progresses. It is certainly not out of the question that OSP could take this one, but he has appeared too vulnerable to the type of attack that Cummins has to offer, so my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Ovince St. Preux by decision.
205lbs- Corey Anderson (6-0-0) vs Gian Villante (12-5-0)
The first of two Light Heavyweight battles on the card features former Strikeforce competitor Gian Villante taking on TUF Light Heavyweight tournament winner Corey Anderson. Villante is coming off a split decision win versus Sean O’Connell, evening his UFC record at 2-2 which also includes a TKO stoppage of Cody Donovan. Anderson has yet to taste defeat, winning both of his UFC bouts- the TUF final TKO over Matt Van Buren and his follow-up appearance against Justin Jones.
This bout was originally slated to take place at UFC 181, but an injury to Villante scrapped it. The aforementioned Jones took his place. Both men stand 6’3″, but Anderson will have a 3″ reach advantage.
Villante has a significant experience advantage in both quantity and quality. He has 17 pro bouts to Anderson’s 5 and has been competing at a high level much longer dating back to his 3-2 run in Strikeforce.
Anderson is a former NCAA Division 3 wrestler and Villante holds a BJJ Blue belt and wrestled at Hofstra University alongside Chris Weidman.
From a statistical approach, Villante’s striking is extremely concerning. While he has talent and power, his negative striking exchange rate (-1.83) is indicative of his struggles. He routinely allows his foe to attack first and at times appears to be stuck in neutral. He could easily be 1-3 or worse yet 0-4 in the UFC had he not knocked out Donovan or got the judge’s nod in a very close fight last time out.
Conversely, Anderson has shown himself to be extremely aggressive and almost unwilling to take a backwards step. What he may lack in technique, he makes up for in his ability to overwhelm his opponent. He will also have the wrestling advantage, which will make it difficult for Gian to use his wrestling as an alternative attack if the vertical exchanges are not going as planned. Villante has simply not executed at level even comparable to his expectations and while Anderson is still green he will be able to dictate the course of this contest no matter where it takes place, so my prediction is Corey Anderson to defeat Gian Villante by decision.
135lbs- #6 Takeya Mizugaki (20-8-2) vs Aljamain Sterling (10-0-0)
In the Bantamweight division, WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki looks to rebound when he meets fast rising Aljamain ‘The Funk Master’ Sterling. Mizugaki shared the cage with and was defeated by the former champion Dominick Cruz- it ended his 5 fight winning streak. Sterling has yet to taste defeat as a pro which includes his 2 UFC bouts- he most recently scored a TKO win over Hugo Viana.
Mizugaki is replacing the injured Manny Gamburyan who was Sterling initial opponent. The WEC vet’s 5 fight winning streak followed a run of alternating wins and losses that lasted 4 years and 11 fights.
While Sterling is starting his accent up the ranks, Takeya is battled tested at the highest level having faced a number of WEC and UFC champions throughout his career. Unfortunately he is 0-4 against the likes of Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, and Brian Bowles.
A BJJ Purple belt, Sterling has amassed 4 wins by submission and completed 7 takedowns through 2 UFC bouts at a 77% completion rate. Mizugaki is 1-1 in fights ended by submission, completing 1.68 TDs per fight at a 60% completion rate while defending 67% of attempts.
Mizugaki is a test for pretty much anyone outside of the elite of the division. On the negative side, he is very hittable, getting tagged at a rate almost equal to his output and as a result his fights tend to be much closer then they should be. While his defensive wrestling is sound, he is still taken down a lot; giving up 12 takedowns in his last 5 fights. Sterling showed a diverse wrestling game against Viana, setting up his level change with strikes and working a single leg with a trip when needed. In a fight closely contested standing, takedowns and top time will be a massive advantage for Sterling. This bout could be a close back and forth affair, but look for continued improvements from Sterling who trains alongside the Middleweight champion as he gets the better of the action with his wrestling and speed- my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by decision.
170lbs- George Sullivan (16-3-0 1NC) vs Tim Means (23-6-1)
Welterweights George ‘The Silencer’ Sullivan and Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Mean meet in a bout destined for violence. Means has won 3 in a row after dropping his UFC re-debut, he is now a collective 5-3 inside the Octagon. The unheralded Sullivan has orchestrated consecutive upsets of Mike Rhodes and Igor Araujo and extended his current winning streak to an impressive 8 straight.
‘The Dirty Bird’ is taking this fight on roughly one month’s notice, replacing the fallen Kenny Robertson.
Of their combined 39 wins, 27 have come by either KO or TKO; Means 16 and Sullivan 11. Means has knocked out 14 opponents inside the first frame and Sullivan 5.
Through 2 UFC bouts, Sullivan has averaged 4.62 SLpM, resulting in a positive striking exchange rate of exactly 2 strikes per minute. Over a much greater sample size, 8 fights, Means has had an average output rate of 3.97 strikes per minutes while giving up 2.58 to his opposition.
This fight should be contested primarily on the feet. Neither man has hefty submission totals, and while Sullivan landed a trio of TDs in his last 2 fights they don’t appear to be his primary focus. Means’s greatest struggles have been with ground based opposition; his 3 fight losing streak was highlighted by 16 takedowns against compared to just 1 over his 5 wins. When Tim can focus solely on his striking he is far more effective and that should be the case here. Sullivan hits hard, is physically strong, and quite durable but Means is the more diverse and technically sound striker. His Muay Thai attack, both at range and in close will generate the more impactful offense and while Sullivan may stick around- Means will widen the gap in the second half as he slows down. A stoppage is possible and while George has been defying the odds of late, my prediction is Tim Means to defeat George Sullivan by decision.
145lbs- Diego Brandao (22-10-0) vs Jimy Hettes (11-2-0)
In the Featherweight division, Diego Brandao faces Jimy Hettes in a fight crucial to the future of both fighters. Brandao has dropped back to back fights to Conor McGregor and Dustin Porier- he had won 3 straight prior to his recent struggles. Hettes is coming off a loss to Dennis Bermudez and is just 1-2 in his last 3 fights with his only win coming over Robert Whiteford.
This bout was initially scheduled to take place on the UFC 183 undercard back in late January, but was pulled after Hettes passed out back stage.
Hettes will stand just 2″ taller then Brandao, but will have a 7″ reach advantage.
A Judo and BJJ Brown belt, Hettes has secured 10 of his 11 career wins by submission- 4 by RNC. He has averaged 5.39 TDs per fight, but has landed just 5 takedowns in his last 3 outings compared to 16 in the 2 bouts prior.
Not to be outdone, Brandao has won 5 times by sub, with 2 coming inside the Octagon. He is a BJJ Black belt, averaging 3.13 TDs at a 68% completion rate. More importantly, he has defended 81% of his opponents’ tries and has never been taken down more then once in a UFC bout.
Hettes’s 2 defeats have been largely centered around is inability to take his opponent down. Brandao will be the superior striker, both in technique and power. He has 9 KO/TKOs compared to zero for Hettes. Brandao is difficult to take down, but if Hettes is able to survive the early stages of the fight he could take advantage of a fighter known for having a questionable gas tank. Unfortunately, Hettes doesn’t exactly have world-class conditioning either. Bradao’s defensive wrestling will keep this fight vertical and force Hettes to make due without his strongest attribute. Hettes took a lot of punishment in the Bermudez fight before relenting and Brandao will most likely pace himself to avoid gassing out, so my prediction is Diego Brandao to defeat Jimy Hettes by decision.
185lbs- Eddie Gordon (8-2-0) vs Chris Dempsey (10-2-0)
The curtain jerker features TUF Middleweight tournament winner Eddie ‘Truck’ Gordon making his third UFC appearance when he battles promotional sophomore Chris Dempsey. Most recently, Gordon was defeated by Josh Samman in crushing fashion via second round head kick. Dempsey debuted as a Light Heavyweight on short notice and was stopped by Ilir Latifi- ending his 7 fight winning streak.
Gordon will stand 2″ taller then his opponent and hold a noteworthy 5″ reach advantage.
The Serra-Longo Fight Team member has won 3 times by knockout, including his debut stoppage of Dhiego Lima. He is also 3-1 in fights that go the distance. Dempsey’s biggest win total are his 5 decision victories. He has a pair of knockouts and 3 submission wins as well.
Dempsey finished 4 straight opponents prior to getting the late notice call to the Octagon.
Gordon is coming off the first knockout of his career which can impact a fighter’s follow-up performance(s), but he appears to be the more physically gifted fighter. His wrestling and striking power should be the most dominant aspect of this clash. Dempsey didn’t react well when under fire against Latifi and he had shown similar issues in previous fights when taking punishment. The aggression and heavy hands of ‘Truck’ will replicate these issue and keep Chris on the defensive for however long this bout lasts. Gordon’s conditioning and willingness to empty the tank early on could create an opening for Dempsey in a longer fight, but my prediction is Eddie Gordon to defeat Chris Dempsey by TKO.