Saturday, February 16, 2013

UFC on Fuel: Barao v. McDonald preview

It took nearly two decades, but UFC has put a title match in England.

Granted, it's on a Fuel TV card and it's an interim title, but it's the thought that counts. And that thought is: Quick! A title no one cares about! We can finally shut up our critics!

Lucky for the UFC, the UK just happens to love all sports. (I mean, they filled Wembley Arena for a TNA card and sold out a freaking Buccaneers game for crying out loud.) And with so many people in England undoubtedly already in a sports-crazed mood thanks to the FA Cup Round of 16 running this weekend, I expect a lively turnout for the fights.

Those who watch will get the honor of watching Renan Barao and Michael "Quit Singing Motown Covers Around Me" McDonald (no, that's not a real nickname... yet) fight for the honor of being the best bantamweight in the world (assuming Dominick Cruz never recovers from his knee injury).

Wow, I'm in a parenthetical mood today. It's like reading Jim Gaffigan try to script his bizzare 'talking in his head' comedy routines.

Anyway, thanks to Bellator's newfound depth and unpredictability, and Alistair Overeem's newfound ability to gas out in the third round of fights, I am on a massive cold streak trying to make picks. Let's try to change that here.

Barao certainly has an impressive ground game, sporting a black belt in BJJ, but McDonald won't be intimidated from the bottom either. McDonald himself holds a brown belt in BJJ, so although Barao has the edge, it's not a lock-down guarantee he's leaps and bounds better.

This could prove troublesome for Barao, who hasn't knocked out a fighter with his Muai Thai background since he came to the UFC. He's shown stand-up prowess in winning the title against Urijah Faber, but nothing to McDonald's level.

McDonald has used his kickboxing background to finish a slew of UFC opponents, including former WEC World Champion Miguel Torres. That said, though he won by submission in his WEC debut, he hasn't finished anyone from the ground since that fight.

Since losing the first fight of his career, Barao hasn't lost in 30 fights, going 29-0-1 in that time. McDonald, on the other hand, has gotten the better of every opponent he's faced, avenging his one loss (to Cole Escovedo in May 2009) 14 months after it happened with a definitive KO victory.

Point is, neither man is used to losing in big spots (or at all), and both have a pretty good idea where they want the fight to take place.

Overall, I think McDonald's ground is closer to Barao's than Barao's stand-up is to McDonald's. Barao has also made clear he wants to move up to 145 if Jose Aldo moves to 155, so I have to wonder if his head is where McDonald's is.

As such, I have to say that the winner and NEW UFC interim Bantamweight Champion will be McDonald by KO 3.

The co-main event is a franken-match between featherweights Dustin Poirier and Cub Swanson. Dennis Siver was set to fight Swanson, but that's moved to the backburner due to injury.

With Anthony Pettis beau-regarding his way into a title match this summer, the winner here will most likely face Ricardo Lamas to determine the next man in line.

Similarly, this will also be a clash in fight location, as Poirier has run his last few opponents down via sumbission, while Swanson has been knocking guys out.

I think the big difference here is that Swanson loses something in having to change strategies mid-camp. I see that as an issue, and take Poirier by decision.

Rest of the Main Card

Light Heavyweights:  Jimi Manuwa v. Cyrille Diabate - I have to admit, the gigantic French monster Diabate has impressed me in the last few fights. Manuwa is undefeated, but I have to go with Mr. 6-foot-6 here to win by KO 2.

Welterweights: Jorge Santiago v. Gunnar Nelson - I am going to say Santiago, now in his third UFC stint, is not the contender people are hoping for. The pride of Iceland takes this one by Round 2 submission.

Light Heavyweight: James Te Huna v. Ryan Jimmo - Can't lie that I'm not impressed by Te Huna recently. Dude's on a roll and I expect it to continue with a KO 1 win.

Welterweights: Che Mills v. Matthew Riddle - I'll take Mills in this one by decision.

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