The Damage Plan: Your Comprehensive Analysis and Preview for UFC 179

First off wrestling and fight fans, I would like to extend my thanks to Mitch for inviting me to come on as a writer for this site. I’ve known Mitch about 8 years, and recently I saw on my Facebook news feed that he was providing links to his blog, where he and other writers would discuss the world of professional wrestling. As a long time wrestling fan myself, I immediately became interested in wanting to become a part of the project. About two weeks ago, after Mitch’s interview with Amazing Kong (great interview by the way, check it out if you haven’t already), I spoke to Mitch and told him that I would like to contribute to the site in not only the professional wrestling analysis but also provide analysis in another of my life’s great passions, mixed martial arts. Mixed martial arts and professional wrestling often go hand and hand with the showmanship and extensive training that has produced such crossover athletes as Antonio Inoki, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, and recently Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley.

So presto chango, here we are. As part of my contributions to developing the mix martial arts section of the site, I will provide analysis and predictions for upcoming UFC fight cards, as well as profile the hot topics and fighters in the world of mixed martial arts and much more. I am an experienced martial artist in my own right with over ten years’ experience in a hybrid style of martial arts that encompasses techniques that many fighters implement, with six years of coaching and teaching martial arts under my belt. Aside from being a practioner, I am a fan as well. So thank you Mitch for inviting me to join the staff, and without further ado, let’s get to the reason we are all here. THE FIGHTS MAN!

*****

UFC 179: Aldo vs. Mendes 2

Location: Maracanazinho Gymnasium, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Broadcasting partners: Pay Per View (Main Card), Fox Sports 1 (Preliminary Card), UFC Fight Pass (Opening Bouts)

LIVE from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil is the UFC’s next major event of the 2014 calendar year. UFC 179: Aldo vs. Mendes 2 is the UFC’s fifth of a scheduled seven trips to Brazil in 2014. Getting everyone up to speed before I go into my analysis and predictions, the main event features a 145 pound featherweight title rematch between Champion (and number 2 in the pound for pound rankings Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, who is ranked number 2 in the division according to ESPN’s latest divisional rankings. This is a rematch of the pair’s 2012 title fight, which also took place in Rio De Janeiro at UFC 142. Aldo, the defending champion at the time, won the fight via first round knockout, albeit with some controversy as a cage grab by Aldo stuffed a late round takedown attempt by Mendes and set up the fight ending knee strike. Since that fight Aldo (24-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) has been simply continuing to assert himself as the class of the 145 pound division, turning back the challenges of former 155 pound champ Frankie Edgar (decision), Chan Sun Jung (injury), and Ricardo Llamas (decision), bringing his UFC unbeaten streak to six fights and his overall unbeaten streak to a staggering 17 fights in a row.

Mendes (16-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) has earned the rematch off the strength of a five fight winning streak, winning four them by knockout, three of which have come in the first stanza. Late replacement or scheduled opponent, Mendes stopped Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins, and Clay Guida before a decision victory over Nik Lentz snapped his consecutive streak of knockout victories in route to his second crack at the title. Redemption is certainly a major storyline going into this main event as Mendes looks to hand Aldo his first loss since 2005 and gain some measure of revenge against the man who handed him his only professional defeat.

Redemption is also on the minds of the two fighters in the co main event of Saturday’s card as a pair of light heavyweight contenders look to put themselves back on the short track to a shot at the 205 strap when number 6 ranked Glover Teixeria (22-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC) takes on number 7 ranked Phil Davis (12-2 1 NC MMA, 8-2 1 NC UFC). Both men are coming off huge losses at UFC 172 in April, Texieria in a failed attempt to win the 205 title against champion Jon Jones and Davis against a then-unranked Anthony Johnson. Neither can afford a loss in the UFC’s most competitive and active division as far as rankings are concerned.

Rounding out the five fight main card is a fun 205 pound tilt between Brazilian slugger Fabio Maldonado (21-7 MMA, 4-4 UFC) and Dutch prospect Hans Stringer (22-5-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC),  a 145 pound bout between American wrestler Darren Elkins (17-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC) and multi division Brazilian standout Lucas Martins (15-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), and a 155 scrap between undefeated Brazilian Carlos Diego Ferreira (11-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) and Iranian submission ace Beneil Dariush (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC). Next, I’m going to give a full analysis of each of the main card’s five fights and a little later on, I’ll put myself on the coach’s hot seat before wrapping up with my predictions for the card.

Analysis

Starting out my analysis of the fights, we’re going to look at each of the three major aspects that fighters must be proficient in to have prolonged success at the highest levels of mixed martial arts: striking, grappling, and submissions. Let’s get started!

Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Beneil Dariush

Striking

Neither guy is going to be mistaken for Mike Tyson or Badr Hari as far as striking fear into the hearts of opponents with their violent knockout power. What both guys are carry with them into this fight is serviceable striking that’s always improving. That’s what makes this fight very interesting, is that when you have two high level grapplers they tend to cancel each other out and it turns into a glorified kickboxing bout. Both men have faced a common foe, Ramsey Nijem (9-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) with completely different results, with Ferreira winning his bout with Nijem via TKO and Dariush losing his fight with Nijem by TKO. Now MMA Math, which is A over B, B over C equals A over C, doesn’t work in most cases. However here I believe it tells a lot, especially when you consider that these three men have pretty much done a round robin with each other this year. I give Ferreira a slight advantage due to having more comfort on the feet in his most recent bouts.

Advantage: Ferreira

Grappling

This is where this fight gets interesting, as both are black belts in Brazilian Jujitsu. However, looking at how they utilize their grappling skills to their advantage in a fight, Dariush has a bigger advantage here due to his slick and stifling top game. If it hits the mat, I see a chess match unfolding with many counters, scrambles, sweep and submission attempts. Truthfully, this is a tough call to make in this department. Ferreria has a solid grappling game in his own right, using a lot of tricky scrambles to get top position and look for submissions. Dariush is the more disciplined grappler, using the position before submission philosophy to grind opponents down. As of recently, he also relies more on his grappling prowess than Ferreira does, as evidenced by his UFC debut win over Charlie Brenneman (19-7 MMA, 4-6 UFC). That discipline on the mat gives Dariush the advantage here.

Advantage: Dariush

Submissions

Both men are adept at finishing the fight by submission, with majority of their wins coming by way of tap out, but they have very different ways of going about it. Ferreira holds the advantage in total submissions with a 6-5 advantage. He also seems to have a more quick strike approach with submissions, often catching guys in transition (which is often times harder to do), whereas Dariush uses a more methodical, grinding style to set up submissions. This I believe gives Ferreira the slight advantage due to his ability to capitalize on mistakes.

Advantage: Ferreira

Prediction

This is the kind of fight that you want opening your main card, between two exciting, hungry prospects looking to make an impact in a very deep division. To me, it comes down to the being well rounded and I feel as though at this point Ferreira is the more versed of the two. This is a very close fight to call and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to a judge’s decision, but I think Ferreira gets it done here. How does he do it? Simply by exposing the holes in Dariush’s standup attack to hurt him on the feet and then finish him on the ground with a rear naked choke toward the end of round 2. In mixed martial arts, everyone eventually loses, but Ferreira is not quite ready for that first loss. He’s faced better overall competition in his career and he brings a better overall game to the table.

Prediction: Carlos Diego Ferreira via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) Rd. 2.

Darren Elkins vs. Lucas Martins

Striking

This fight features two of the larger fighters in division as far as height in reach are concerned, which is always a plus to have, considering that fights start on the feet. Both guys have good fundamentals and can put opponents away with their fists, as evidenced by their combined 17 knockouts in 32 combined victories. Elkins mostly uses a boxing based standup attack as opposed to Martins, who uses a sharp Muay Thai attack to chop down opponents. That versatility does provide a difficult, but negotiable, challenge for Elkins. Elkins is the more seasoned veteran of the two, so he isn’t going to put himself in a lot of dangerous situations in search of the knockout. I have to worry about a 10 month layoff in between fights and how it will effect Elkins’ timing, especially in the first round. Martins is the younger, rangier, and faster fighter with a more versatile attack. That gives him the advantage here.

Advantage: Martins

Grappling

Both guys are solid grapplers here. Martins trains with Chute Boxe, which houses number 1 heavyweight contender and former multi time Abu Dhabi (Submission Grappling) Champion Fabricio Werdum (18-5-1 MMA, 6-2 UFC). That means he is versed in the ability to be successful on the mat, despite having a preference to be on his feet. He’ll need that against Elkins who boasts a successful amateur wrestling pedigree.

If this fight hits the mat, Elkins will look to utilize his wrestling to keep Martins down and utilize his ground and pound attack to score points, inflict damage and possibly set up a submission. Martins will look to use his grappling prowess in defense in order to get the fight back to standing position. I give the advantage in the grappling department to Elkins based on the fact that his top position attack is relentless and he uses that same discipline on the feet on the ground.

Advantage: Elkins

Submissions

Each guy has shown a knack for eliciting a tap out from opponents, and Martins leads the head to head count 4-3. That being said, I have to give Elkins the advantage here because more of his fights end up on the ground. So if either fighter is taking advantage to get a tap out, I imagine The Damage will be the one that gets the tap, especially if it goes to the later rounds.

Advantage: Elkins

Prediction

A little over a year ago, Darren Elkins was ranked in the top 10 at 145 pounds by many MMA outlets. His time off however has seen him fall from the rankings at the moment, and this fight is a great chance for him to showcase that he is indeed still in that conversation. For Martins, he’ll be looking to shed the title of prospect to contender and a win over Elkins is just the kind of name he would need on the mantle. This is after wins in the 155 pound and 135 pound divisions,  becoming a member of the three weight class club (where a fighter has a victory in three weight classes). However on this night, I think Martins runs into a brick wall with Elkins, who survives the early onslaught and uses his decorated wrestling background to shut down and frustrate Martins for the victory.

Prediction: Darren Elkins via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board).

Fabio Maldonado vs. Hans Stringer

Striking

While both guys are pretty good on the feet, this is Maldonado’s world and he’d be happy to let Stringer live in it. Maldonado through eight UFC fights lands an average of 57 percent of his strikes, utilizing his professional boxing background to mark up opponent’s faces and batter their bodies with an absolutely brutal body attack. Stringer, in his victory over Francimar Barroso (16-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC), landed 72 percent of his total strikes, but also got hit with 66 percent of his opponents strikes. That’s pretty much taking one to give one. Newsflash people, getting punched in the face hurts and it does affect you, if not now then eventually. Just ask his opponent, who was knocked out in his last appearance by number 6 ranked heavyweight Stipe Miocic (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC). This is of course because he moved up in weight to fight a guy who was bigger, stronger, and faster than he was and had a very similar skill set. When he’s fighting guys his own size, Maldonado is known as a tank of a man who will take a punch to land five. It’s that volume and varied attack to the head and body that gives Maldonado the advantage here.

Advantage: Maldonado

Grappling

Both guys like to stand and trade, but the real interesting factor is if it goes to the ground. If it does go to the ground, who is going to be the one to get it there? My guess would be Stringer, who has shown the ability to get the fight to the floor when needed. Maldonado has shown to have good defensive grappling to keep the fight on the feet, as he did in his fight with Gian Villante (12-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC) where he stuffed 9 of 12 of the former Hofstra football star’s takedown attempts. That being said, I give Stringer the advantage just simply based on the fact that he will mostly likely be the one to initiate the grappling exchanges.

Advantage: Stringer

Submissions

Stringer is an equal opportunity finisher, finishing 8 of his 22 career wins by way of tap out. Maldonado does boast a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, thought we don’t see him utilize it often because his striking prowess is so much more advanced than his grappling. That’s why Stringer has an advantage here, because if he can effectively utilize his grappling, he can wear Maldonado down and force him to make a mistake later on in the fight.

Advantage: Stringer

Prediction

This by all intents and purposes should be the Fight of the Night here, just because styles make fights. That is unless Stringer fights not to lose. He has the advantages in the grappling department and there is a good chance that he will use those advantages to take the home country crowd out of the fight. This will be easily the loudest environment he’s ever been in and that could potentially cost him in this fight, as he may not be able to hear his corner’s instructions during the rounds and get caught in a slugfest with a better striker. I predict Maldonado follows his gameplan against Villante here, using sprawl and brawl tactics to utilize his volume boxing game, which will excite the raucous Brazilian crowd. This will frustrate and tire Stringer out and set him up for a TKO finish late in the third round.

Prediction: Fabio Maldonado via TKO Rd. 3

Glover Texieria vs. Phil Davis

Striking

In this fight, fans and analysts alike will notice some major discrepancies in certain skill levels, and this is one of the skill levels that will be exposed. Davis has developed his striking by leaps and bounds since his UFC debut almost four years ago. But in his last fight against Anthony Johnson (19-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) he was outclassed on the feet by a more technical striker and it showed early on, as he was hurt early and hesitant to stand afterward.

Texieria may have been outclassed and battered by 205 pound champ Jon Jones (20-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC), a couple of factors presented themselves against Jones. A massive 9 inch reach advantage and the speed advantage to close the gap whenever he wanted. Those factors aside, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that he is still a world class kickboxer with absolutely brutal power in his hands that he can land either going forward or in a countering position as he did against Ryan Bader (18-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC). That ability to still be dangerous when pressing the action or even when hurt gives Teixeria the decisive advantage here.

Advantage: Texieria

Grappling

This is the second of the major advantages here. Davis is a four time All American wrestler out of Penn State, which includes a 2008 National Title at 197 pounds. Texieria was once a member of the Brazilian National Team in freestyle wrestling. But it’s how these guys use their wrestling to their advantage that determines who is better in this category.

Texieria uses his wrestling in defense so that he can keep the fight in the kickboxing realm, usually only scoring takedowns to put a stamp on a round and make a lasting impression on the judges. It’s not to say that he isn’t effective at getting the fight to the floor when he wants to, it is a preference to get the fight to the floor after he’s already put his anvils for fists on your face first.

Davis on the other hand, utilizes his wrestling to dictate the fight’s pacing and position, utilizing it to either shut down a striker like former 205 pound champ Lyoto Machida (21-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) or a jujitsu whiz like Vinny Magalhaes (12-7 MMA, 1-4 UFC). Davis’ biggest advantage on the ground is that he uses his superb wrestling to gain control of the fight in top position, patiently waiting to lock up a submission. That superior top control is also crucial in a close round as he’s used that wrestling ability to sway judges calls. That ability to control the fight’s pace gives Davis the nod here.

Advantage: Davis

Submissions

Both men are excellent in the submission aspect of the game, but what’s interesting is how each of them set their submissions up. As stated earlier, Texieria likes to hurt guys on the feet before utilizing his black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Davis likes to use his collegiate wrestling background to get opponents down and either control them until a submission opens up or to even force a submission from the front headlock (or chancery in catch wrestling terms) such as an Anaconda Choke, showcasing his still respectable Purple Belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. This is incredibly close to call, but I give Davis the advantage here, albeit slightly because he has meshed his high caliber wrestling to make himself an even bigger threat in the submission game.

Advantage: Davis

Prediction

This fight is the closest to call of the whole entire card, and that’s the reason it is the co-feature bout. Davis is currently 2-0 in Brazil against Brazilian opponents, while the Brazilian native Teixeria is wanting to extend his own streak on home soil. I give Texieria the advantage in this fight for two reasons. 1. Superior Standup and 2. Better Competition. He has fought the best in the world and while he lost badly, he knows what it takes to get back to that level. Davis has struggled when he gets to a fight with an opponent in the top 5, as he did against Johnson and former 205 pound champion Rashad Evans (19-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC). I look for that trend to continue as Texieria hurts Davis early and submits him with an arm triangle choke in the second round.

Prediction: Glover Texieria via Arm Triangle Choke, Rd. 2

Jose Aldo © vs. Chad Mendes

Striking

Chad Mendes has improved his striking immensely since the first fight with Aldo, knocking out four of his last five opponents, three in the first round. Doing that at any level of professional mixed martial arts is impressive, let alone at the high caliber of the sport. That’s a direct reflection of former coach Duane Ludwig’s work with the Sacramento based Team Alpha Male. That being said, Mendes still happens to load up his power punches which would make any striking coach pull their hair out in frustration.

Aldo is a Muay Thai monster, and he uses his techniques to absolute devastating precision. It starts with his jab and axe-like leg kicks that he uses to render opponents completely immobile and defenseless, often times with the opponents looking up at the lights at the end of the night. Aldo has the reach and speed advantage as well as the technical advantage that gives him a major edge against any opponent at 145 pounds  and will continue to give him that advantage until someone is able to stop it.

Advantage: Aldo

Grappling

This is where the fight gets interesting. Aldo is a black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, even though it is rarely seen because of his dominant stand up attack. Mendes is a Division 1 wrestler out of Cal Polytech. Mendes in his early career utilized that strong, explosive wrestling to take opponents down and keep them there. The only problem in this fight is that Aldo has some of the best takedown defense in any division of the UFC, defending just a shade under 90 percent of his takedowns. So getting Aldo to the ground is going to be a difficult challenge in its own right and that is a problem that Mendes is going to face Saturday night. But if anyone in the 145 pound division can get Aldo to the ground, it’s Mendes, and that is what gets him the advantage here.

Advantage: Mendes

Submissions

Neither guy is going to be a Royce Gracie as far as tapping opponents out, but both guys are proficient in submission offense and defense. In the cage, we’ve seen Mendes use his submission skills a little bit more than Aldo. Now keep in mind, just because he uses the skills more, doesn’t mean that he possesses more skill. The black belt that Aldo has in Brazilian Jujitsu is a legitimate skill set, one that he uses his skill set to set up positions in which he can land ground and pound damage and only looking to lock in submissions when he absolutely has them. That is a smart way to fight, which is what both fighters do with their submission skills. I don’t normally give ties in a specific category, but this one deserves it.

Advantage: Tie

Now to further break down the keys to victory in tonight’s main event title fight, I’m going to put myself in the coaching hot seat as I go IN THE CORNER!

In the Corner!

For Chad Mendes

The last time you were in Brazil, things didn’t go your way. That was two and a half years ago man, let it go! You earned your way to a second title shot, and you know that you are a completely different fighter than you were back then. We obviously know that Aldo is expecting us to come with the same game plan as the first fight, which is to get the fight to the floor. Because of that he’s going to keep a lower stance to fend off the takedowns, but still comfortable enough to unleash those lethal strikes. In order to implement our game plan, you have to make him respect the other aspects of your game. So stay relaxed, don’t load up your punches, and straight up hit him in the mouth. Do that and he will respect your striking ability. Look at what your friend TJ Dillashaw did when he took the 135 pound belt from Aldo’s buddy Renan Barao. He didn’t sit right in front of him and try to make it a boxing match, he used his angles, got off the center line and made him pay for openings. They fight pretty much the same way, so you know how to beat this guy. This will get Aldo thinking twice about the strikes and will allow for us to have the wrestling game open. If you initiate grappling exchanges, chain the takedown attempts together. A lot of Aldo’s past opponents go for one takedown and when they don’t get it, they give up. You know several different ways to get him to the floor, so don’t hesitate and remember to keep your feet moving. Once it’s on the ground, ground and pound and look for a submission at the end of the round.

Remember this is a five round fight, so it is not a sprint. Aldo has been known to gas in the later rounds, and I know you’ve been doing your conditioning. Keep the pressure on him and he will break later in the fight. Remember to put your hands up and tuck your chin, and you can bring the belt back to the States.

For Jose Aldo

Listen man you’re the champion, and you have yet to be challenged. So if it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it. Keep your hands up and stay at a kicking range, and set your kicks up with punches. We don’t want to fight in a phone booth with this guy because he does have power, and his hands have improved since the last time you fought him. Be prepared for knees and uppercuts up the middle because it’s just a matter of time before he shoots for a takedown, especially after you start knotting up that front leg. Stay disciplined in your attack and try not to get too crazy with your strikes. There’s no reason to force a knockout and put yourself in a bad position to get caught. In the event that you do get taken down, well you know what to do down there. Be aggressive and look for what’s open.

Remember champ, he has to beat you to win the title and not the other way around. Do what you need to do to keep the belt in Brazil.

Prediction

This is a different set of fighters than the last time they met in Rio. Mendes is hungry, while Aldo is looking to cement is legacy as one of the greatest to ever put on a set of four ounce gloves. Aldo honestly has more ways to win, although it has been over a year since we’ve seen Chad Mendes and I’m sure that he been putting the work so he doesn’t squander this second chance. However, Aldo has been putting in the work as well and already holds the all-important psychological advantage heading into this grudge match. Unfortunately for Chad Mendes, this fight goes longer than their last fight but it looks very similar. Mendes will be competitive in this bout and he’ll take him to the championship rounds, but he will be outclassed, battered and eventually stopped in the fourth round by a head kick with punches on the ground. The belt will stay in Brazil and then it’s just a matter of seeing what’s next. It could be Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, or Dana White’s new BFF Connor McGregor.

Prediction: Jose Aldo via TKO, Rd. 4

Final Thoughts

And there you have it folks, my complete analysis and predictions for Saturday nights UFC 179 main card! Check back with me in two weeks as I see how I did with my predictions and preview the upcoming UFC Fight Night 55 fight card, featuring a middleweight headliner between number 6 ranked Luke Rockhold and number 8 ranked Michael Bisping. Take care and enjoy the fights!

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