Mark Munoz (top) is rising fast in the middleweight division. | Photo: J. Sherwood
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for the UFC 138 “Leben vs. Munoz” main card on Saturday at the LG Arena in Birmingham, England. The event airs live at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT on Sportsnet in Canada and via same-day tape delay at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Spike TV in the United States.
Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz
Lutfi Sariahmed: Forget the tired discussion about how this should not be a main event. We know. This is the state of U.K. cards. With that out of the way, the bout itself is a fun one. Leben almost never disappoints in the cage and Munoz has grown exponentially savvier when it comes to using all his weapons in the cage. How will the bout itself go? It depends on how long Munoz wants to keep this standing. Leben will be remembered for two things: his power and his inability to stop a takedown. There is certainly a possibility Leben clips him, and his power is enough to put any middleweight down. But then I go back to how Munoz has developed. He knows how to use his wrestling for MMA, and, instead of just being a collegiate wrestler, he has adapted well. I will take Munoz by technical knockout by the championship rounds, as he wears Leben down.
Rob King: The UFC can promote this as the first-ever non-title five-round fight all it wants, but the chances of this fight going past three rounds is quite slim. If Leben wins this fight, it is going to be via spectacular knockout sometime early. I think that is the only way Leben wins this fight, and I do not see it happening. This is a dream fight for Munoz in the style matchup department. Munoz should be able to get Leben to the ground without too many problems, and once there, he dominates. He can take his time and pick his spots, looking to stop Leben. I think it will come in the second round.
Freddie DeFreitas: Do not be fooled by all of Munoz’s pre-fight talk about making this a standup fight. While “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” might fancy himself as a knockout artist, but the more time Munoz spends standing in the pocket in this fight, the more the potential for being on the receiving end of a coma-inducing Leben left hook greatly rises. Munoz knows he is far and away the better wrestler and could make it look easy if he plays to his strengths. He grounds-and-pounds “The Crippler” to a TKO in the fourth round.
Brad Pickett vs. Renan Barao
Tony Loiseleur: This one is a tough call given Barao’s rather large and outstanding record and Pickett’s history of scrappy toughness in the Zuffa LLC cage. I would side with Pickett initially, as I like his brazen standup and his wrestling against the cage to wear the Brazilian down over three rounds, though I would not be surprised at all if Barao ties up or submits him in the process. Regardless, it has not happened in a while, and, outside of a loss to the excellent Scott Jorgensen, Pickett has arguably as good a recent record as Barao. Give me the not-so-aptly nicknamed “One Punch” Pickett for the decision here.
Todd Martin: Every opponent to defeat Pickett has been able to take him down and avoid his submissions from the bottom. Barao, a jiu-jitsu standout with solid takedowns, fits that mold perfectly. Pickett is rarely ever an easy out and he is fighting at home, but I think Barao will control the fight with takedowns and get the win via decision.
Tomasz Marciniak: This is a serious step up in competition for Barao. Pickett is a very durable, versatile fighter and will likely pit his wrestling against the Brazilian’s grappling prowess. Pickett should be strong enough to fend off the takedowns and win a boxing battle in front of his home crowd.
Thiago Alves vs. Papy Abedi
Brian Knapp: Obviously, the powers that be in the UFC are high on Abedi. Otherwise, they would not have thrust him into such a long-odds debut. In Alves, he faces one of the promotion’s most experienced and accomplished welterweights. He has fallen off the map a bit with three losses in four fights, but observers should remember that two of those defeats were to Geores St. Pierre and Jon Fitch. At 28, the Brazilian’s skills remain sharp and potent, particularly on the feet, and the adversity he has faced will only deepen his hunger. I expect him to keep the fight upright and outstrike Abedi en route to a unanimous decision.
Jordan Breen: Abedi is a great athlete with well-rounded MMA skills. However, in spite of Alves’ recent struggles, they have come against some pretty top-chop welterweights. Abedi is not on this level, and though he has enough physical ability and skill to stick around and compete, he will likely lose a tidy decision that might call to mind Alves’ hack-up of John Howard last year.
Tristen Critchfield: It is common knowledge that Alves has one of the more draining weight cuts at welterweight, but, in Abedi, he will be facing a physically imposing opponent whose previous eight professional bouts have all taken place at 185 pounds. In that regard, Alves should have the advantage of having more experience dropping the weight, but the “Pitbull” often becomes fatigued as the fight wears on. Abedi’s best chance lies in pressuring Alves, forcing clinches against the fence and setting up throws. Alves is one of the division’s most feared strikers, and Abedi cannot allow him to fight from a comfortable distance, where the Brazilian can fire off punching combinations and knees. Abedi has finished seven of his eight fights, albeit against much lesser competition than Alves has faced. This is a stern test for a UFC debut. Alves catches Abedi in one of their exchanges on the feet and finishes the fight via knockout or TKO.
Terry Etim vs. Eddie Faaloloto
Sariahmed: Etim can outstrike Faaloloto if he so chooses, and he will definitely get the better of him on the mat with his jiu-jitsu game. Etim will win before the final bell.
King: No offense to Faaloloto, but he is being brought in here to be a sacrificial lamb to the hometown Brit. Etim has shown to have a sturdy chin, and his game is ever improving. He will have a huge length advantage that will allow him to pick his shots on the feet and control the fight on the ground. Etim wins this bout whenever he wants and however he wants.
DeFreitas: This is clearly a bout for the hometown fans. Faaloloto, at 2-2, looks like he has been brought in as fodder for Etim, as the Brit looks to bounce back from his submission loss to Rafael dos Anjos in April 2010. Faaloloto has showed very little in his two appearances for Zuffa, dropping both contests by technical knockout inside of two rounds. Etim is the more multi-faceted fighter, and I expect him to batter the Hawaiian on the feet before coaxing a submission midway through the fight.
Cyrille Diabate vs. Anthony Perosh
Knapp: Diabate, provided he can stay on his feet against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, will give Perosh fits with his smooth, accurate strikes. I expect him to attack the Aussie aggressively from the start and earn a first-round stoppage.
Marciniak: A win over Tom Blackledge is not enough to convince me of Perosh’s staying power in the promotion. Diabate is getting up there in age and will never be able to reach the top of division, but he is still a very competent striker and I expect him to carve up Perosh faster than Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic did.
Critchfield: Perosh will be outmatched on the feet against Diabate, an accomplished kickboxer, but he does possess enough jiu-jitsu to cause problems if the fight reaches the ground. Diabate’s ground game remains a work in progress, but since fights begin standing up, he will have the advantage here. Diabate’s striking ability will make Perosh reluctant to pull the trigger on any significant offense. Eventually, Perosh will make a mistake, and that is when Diabate will capitalize. Diabate wins by TKO.
2011 Picking & Grinning Standings
Jordan Breen: 149-61
Tristen Critchfield: 145-65
Brian Knapp: 144-66
Todd Martin: 144-66
Tomasz Marciniak: 142-68
Freddie DeFreitas: 141-69
Rob King: 139-71
Guilherme Pinheiro: 139-71
Lutfi Sariahmed: 137-73
Tony Loiseleur: 135-75