Roundtable discussions breaking down the upcoming fight cards are a standby in the world of Mixed Martial Arts writing, and here at Fake Teams we strive to meet and exceed your coverage needs. Of course, with only two MMA writers on staff a full round table seemed a bit excessive and over-budget, so each event Ben and I will sit down over the debating end table to offer you the last insights you need to update your fantasy picks and bets on the morning of the fights. Today we take a look at who will win the main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua, as well as identify our can't-miss locks, ideal for you MMA playground pick 'em players, and the best dogs on the card for those playing in a league which weights value based on the odds.
Who are you taking in the Main Event?
Ben: Dan Henderson is 42 years old. Dan Henderson is 42. Say it 40 more times and you will know that Dan Henderson is 42. That’s old. That’s Brett Favre old. Shogun is a seasoned fighter in his prime, possibly on the downside of his career, but he is still only 29 years old. Dan Henderson has three or four good fights left him in before he goes the way of Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, while Shogun has three or four good YEARS left in him. Yes Henderson is on a remarkable streak of three straight knockouts. But Henderson’s streak is against fringe top 20 to top 25 light heavyweight talent and a declining Fedor, who may lose to the Snowman in Russia this weekend.
Shogun is seven months removed from being the UFC light heavyweight champion, and he is still a formidable opponent for Dan Henderson. Sure he looked like garbage against Jon Jones, but that was a fight he took rushed off a knee surgery, and more importantly Jon Jones makes every light heavyweight look like garbage. After Shogun knocked out Forrest Griffin, a top 10 opponent, in August, he showed he is back and ready to make a second run at the 205 belt.
Against Dan Henderson on Saturday, Shogun has 25 minutes to land some crackling violence. With 1500 seconds to land that fight-changing power shot, the odds are in Shogun’s favor to rock Henderson and swarm the elder statesman with fight-ending brutality. On a personal note, I have seen two Dan Henderson fights in person and met the man. I like Dan. My heart says Hendo, but my head says Shogun wins convincingly, and in the process he makes clear the difference between Strikeforce and UFC talent.
Bobby: While the fight game may not always be the best time to follow your heart, in this case it's leading you in the right direction, Ben. Yes, Henderson is the older fighter, but as I mentioned in my salary cap preview the Pride imports have had an unfortunate tendency to look much older than their age inside the Octagon. While Henderson was able to avoid such setbacks, only suffering respectable defeats to Rampage Jackson and Anderson Silva in title fights, the same can't always be said of "Shogun." With two defeats in which he appeared helpless and an underwhelming showing against Mark Coleman, Shogun has failed to meet expectations nearly half the times he's entered the Octagon. When in doubt, I'm hitching my wagon to the consistent fighter, particularly since I need to see more than a fight against the seemingly-disinterested Griffin before I'm sold on Rua's latest knee surgery.
Ultimately, I think it all boils down to your final point -- there's 1500 seconds in this bout, and every single one of them is another chance for Hendo to uncork a crushing right hand. Should it land, Rua wouldn't be the first future Hall of Famer to succomb to the American's one-punch off button, and he probably won't be the last one.
What's the most surefire lock since Rickson by armbar?
Ben: I'm taking Kyle Kingsbury over Stephan Bonnar. Kingsbury is only a minus 140 favorite against Bonnar, but the line is only close because Bonnar is a more well-known fighter and he has won two fights in a row against lower-tier UFC fighters. Kingsbury has won four exciting fights in a row in the UFC, winning Fight Night bonuses in three of the four fights. More importantly he has impressed and progressed in those four fights against tougher prospects each time out. Thirdly, Kingsbury will be the more prepared fighter, thanks to his top-notch training at American Kickboxing Academy and his nutrition with the Dolce Diet.
Stephan Bonnar will always have a home with the UFC—booking sloppy light heavyweight bouts on Ultimate Fighter Finale main cards and with UFC’s growing television presence as an analyst/broadcaster. The MMA cliché "go to war" is overused but these two fighters will truly go to war. The end result is Kyle Kignsbury gets put over by a win over The American Psycho, which puts Kingsbury on the track for more significant top-15 competition within the weight class.
Bobby: For my liking the safest play on the card is Gleison Tibau over Rafael dos Anjos, and at only -200 his odds aren't prohibitive of value to boot. In the last three years, Tibau is 6-2 in the UFC, with his only losses coming against Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard, both men who were within one fight of challenging for the UFC title in the past few months. What's more, the loss against Guillard was highly questionable, with a small majority of MMA writers scoring the bout in Tibau's favor. The only clear loss Tibau has suffered in that time came against Miller, who out-pointed Tibau standing and used his highly-offensive ground game to force quick retreats when the mammoth Tibau dragged him down.
Dos Anjos is a serviceable lightweight fighter and unlikely to lose his UFC career anytime soon, which is no small feat in a stacked division, but he's no Miller or Guillard. Despite his recent KO of George Sotiropoulis, dos Anjos has not shown the striking technique or power exhibited by Miller and Guillard to-date. On the ground, though a black belt like Tibau, he is not likely to give Tibau the same headaches Miller did. Now, Tibau is known for great takedowns, not his talent for keeping the fight there once they happen, but the longer stays on the ground and the decreased risk standing will be enough to allow the welterweight-in-disguise to notch his third straight win.
Everybody loves an upset. Who you got?
Ben: The Nebraska homer in me wants Jason Brilz to bring home some +300 money against Ryan Bader on the Spike prelims, but there is a better underdog to be had on UFC 139. Brian Bowles will outpoint Urijah Faber in a decision that will be heavily criticized and that will be poorly received by the legions of "The California Kid’s" fans in attendance.
Bowles is a +201 underdog, but make no mistake this is a VERY EVEN fight. In the USA Today / SB Nation fighter rankings, Bowles is ranked #3 and Faber is #4 at Bantamweight. Yet Bowles is the underdog, and a +201 underdog at that? Call it the "home field advantage" as the fight is in San Jose, and Faber will be rocking the Tupac "California Love" when he walks out, after the southern gentleman Bowles puts the crowd to sleep with a country song.
On paper, Bowles has the height (5’ 7") and reach advantage (70.5") over Faber (5’ 6" with 69" reach). Bowles is a finisher, and although he will not finish the durable Faber, Bowles will have moments where he hurts Faber and piles on the offense. These moments of brief dominance will win Bowles two of the three rounds. Because every punch and takedown Faber lands will be amplified by a raucous, pro-Faber crowd, Faber will probably get the losing end of a split decision. Bowles is an elite fighter, before he fought UFC champ Dominick Cruz in March 2010, Bowles was polling as a 90% favorite to beat Cruz. Seeing Cruz on Inside MMA having to respond to that poll result the week before his fight was quite amusing. With a win over Faber, Bowles will be a marketable contender for Dominick Cruz in early 2012.
Bobby: It's hard to argue with Ben's call out as the best value on the event being the 2:1 payout on a very live Bowles, particularly on a card where all of the dogs over +200 seem even more justifiably slighted than usual. So, while it's not likely to make your bank account full, my pick for the dog I most like is Martin Kampmann. The Dane is an incredibly well-rounded fighter, capable of tagging you on the feet if you leave your chin hanging or locking on a slick submission when the fight hits the canvas. Story is excellent at imposing his will on opponents, making this well-rounded arsenal vital for Kampmann's success. Although on paper Kampmann has lost three-of-five, his last two outings ended in defeats which were far from definitive. His loss to former welterweight title challenger Jake Shields ended with opinions nearly evenly split. For his follow up defeat, the only things split were the opinions of the judges from the opinions of everyone else who watched, and several different parts of opponent Diego Sanchez's face. Story won't make it a fun night for Kampmann, but the Dane should find room for fairly consistent offense en route to a decision win. After all, he surely can't lose another harsh decision. Right? Right? Fingers crossed.