Mauricio Rua has not won back-to-back UFC fights since 2009. | Photo: J. Sherwood
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for the UFC 139 “Shogun vs. Hendo” main card on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The event airs live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT:
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson
Todd Martin: Henderson has thrived the past few years with his powerful hands and granite chin. Unfortunately for him, Shogun just isn’t a fighter that formula will work very well against. Shogun is one of the most dangerous offensive fighters in the game, and he can take a shot, as well. When Shogun loses, it’s usually because he fades, but that shouldn’t be an issue here. Shogun fought recently and should be in solid shape, while Henderson is now 41. You can never count Hendo out, but I think Shogun batters him with punches, kicks and knees leading to a merciful referee stoppage.
Freddie DeFreitas: A quick look at the tale of the tape, and all signs would point to Shogun as the best choice in this fight. Coming into this bout at the age of 41, Henderson gives up more than 10 years to Shogun. The American also finds himself on the wrong end of both the height and reach advantage, which heavily favors a pure striker like Rua. On the ground, again, it’s advantage Rua, as the Brazilian possesses the superior submission game. Having said all of that, I still live in fear of the Henderson right hand and can’t possibly pick against him: Henderson by KO in the second round.
Brian Knapp: Henderson will always have that howitzer of a right hand in his back pocket. However, at 41, one has to wonder how his body will handle the rigors of a five-round fight. No outcome would surprise me in this one, but I look for Shogun to attack with kicks to Henderson’s body and legs and perhaps score with a trip takedown or two en route to a decision.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le
Rob King: I am so torn on this fight, not because I can think of ways that both fighters can win this fight but because I can think of many ways each fighter can lose this fight. “The Axe Murderer” is pretty shopworn at this point in his career, and Le has been shown to be a good fighter, but that’s all. I don’t see this fight spending much time on the ground, and both guys have made a career out of standup fights. I think Silva wants this bout more, and I think he will be able to get inside Le’s leg kicks and finish the fight late in the first with a savage fury in close quarters.
Lutfi Sariahmed: There is no one on the planet who was happier about Silva replacing Vitor Belfort than Le. Against Belfort, Le would have been in all sorts of trouble. Against Silva, Le is now in a fight where he has to avoid getting wild. For as much as Silva’s contributed to MMA, he has got one speed to him in the cage right now. He’ll come after Le throwing wildly, and, because he’s not a technically skilled striker, he’s going to lose. People will applaud him for his style, and they should. It’s how he has made his living, but picking Silva to win this fight is based almost solely on him landing a wild shot in an even wilder exchange. I’m taking Le.
Tony Loiseleur: Certainly, Silva has had better days than his recent history appears to attest. While I favor him here by merit of his experience, Le still hits pretty hard and in ways that could frustrate The Axe Murderer. Both of them have shaky chins, too, which makes picking more uncertain, but so long as Silva is rocked rather than knocked out cold, he will quickly recover and continue his assault. It’ll be a fun fight to watch regardless of who wins, but, for picking purposes, I like Silva to keep the pressure on Le and eventually get the TKO by or before the third round.
Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles
Tristen Critchfield: Bowles has good athleticism and dangerous hands, but the bantamweight version of Faber will be able to overpower him both against the cage and on the mat. Bowles will need to connect with something big early to have a shot, but Faber’s standup is adequate enough for him to take the fight where he wants it. Look for “The California Kid” to gradually wear Bowles down and control positioning on the ground. He takes a unanimous decision to set up a potential third meeting with Dominick Cruz.
Jordan Breen: We’ve seen Faber have issues with fighters that can work a patient sprawl-and-brawl game plan, like Eddie Wineland. However, Bowles is typically more cutthroat than Wineland, who usually lays back to counter against aggressive grapplers. Bowles is a heavy puncher, but Faber has been hit harder by much bigger fighters at 145 pounds. Faber also showed in his rematch with Cruz that his offensive boxing is, in fact, still improving. Even if Faber can’t get cooking on the feet, his scrambling ability, strikes from all positions and ever-lethal guillotine should find a way to get his hand raised.
Knapp: It would be hard to envision a worse matchup for Bowles at 135 pounds. With the exception of pure punching power, Faber has him outgunned in every other area. Look for Faber to beat him to the punch, pressure him in the clinch and score with the occasional takedown in posting a unanimous decision.
Martin Kampmann vs. Rick Story
Tomasz Marciniak: Kampmann has adequate takedown defense, but against Story’s relentless clinching, it’s more important to shrug your opponent off as soon as possible rather than stay tied up on the fence playing under hooks and whizzers. I don’t think Kampmann will be able to do it. Story wins by decision. Martin: Kampmann is a better striker than Story: technically proficient, accurate and varied. He’s also a slick submission fighter and more dangerous on the ground. The problem is that Kampmann fights to finish and Story fights to win decisions. That can make a big difference in a 15-minute fight. I see Story instigating clinches, slowing down the pace of the fight and the judges rewarding him for it.
Knapp: Story looked unprepared and out-of-sorts in losing to Charlie Brenneman, a last-minute replacement for Nate Marquardt, over the summer. He should have a better handle on himself and his opponent here. This fight could wind up looking a lot like Story’s victory over Thiago Alves at UFC 130. He will probably have to absorb some punishment but expect him to score enough on Kampmann with takedowns and punches in the clinch to secure a decision.
Stephan Bonnar vs. Kyle Kingsbury
King: I think the Zuffa ship has passed Bonnar by, and, now, he will be used to get a name on the records of up-and-comers. Kingsbury can outwrestle Bonnar if he chooses, but I think he can also land some shots on the feet and do some damage to the tissue-thin face of “The American Psycho.” Bonnar is tough and I don’t see him being finished, but I see Kingsbury taking a pretty clear-cut decision en route to bigger and better fights in the Octagon.
Sariahmed: I like Kingsbury’s development from just an athlete to a fighter. It was never going to happen quickly, but now we’re starting to see the changes. Give me Kingsbury and his boy, Victor Conte, over Bonnar here.
Loiseleur: This fight will probably be a little messy but in that fun-to-watch brawling kind of way. I expect Kingsbury’s muay Thai and Bonnar’s boxing to make it an entertaining toe-to-toe affair on the feet initially, after which Kingsbury will likely start shooting for takedowns. If and when he puts Bonnar on the mat, he’ll have to steer clear of Bonnar submission attempts, which I think he’ll be able to do, staying ahead on the cards for all three rounds.
2011 Picking & Grinning Standings
Jordan Breen: 156-64
Tristen Critchfield: 152-68
Todd Martin: 152-68
Brian Knapp: 150-70
Tomasz Marciniak: 149-71
Freddie DeFreitas: 147-73
Rob King: 146-74
Guilherme Pinheiro: 145-75
Lutfi Sariahmed: 144-76
Tony Loiseleur: 142-78