In this edition of Celebrity Head-to-Head, retired UFC fighter Kenny Florian and I take sides on three big fights on tonight's UFC on Fox 9 card. Read on to see if you agree with my picks or, if you're wrong and you agree with Florian's. For more of KenFlo, check out his FoxSports column.
Demetrious Johnson Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez
Kenny Florian: What separates Demetrious Johnson from everyone else is his ability to mix it up in a way very few people can do in the UFC. He’s excellent in the clinch. And very good at mixing it up. You never know what he’s going to throw at you.
Everyone talks about Johnson’s speed, but I’m not sure that he’s much faster than Benevidez. I think what will make the difference for Johnson is the variety of tools he has to use.
I think Johnson will be able cause confusion and through that confusion Johnson will get Benavidez to hesitate and that will allow the champ to open up in various ways.
One of those ways will be takedowns. Whoever wins the wrestling battle will probably win the fight.
I’m picking Johnson to win by decision.
Cagewriter: That’s a solid pick and good reasoning, Kenny, but I’m going to have to go with the challenger in this one. It isn’t that Johnson couldn’t win in exactly they way you predict, I just feel that Benavidez has a great chance at doing the same.
You’re right in wondering if Johnson will have the speed advantage against the Team Alpha Male member. I don’t know that he will, or if it will be noticeable.
I also agree that the wrestling battle will be crucial in deciding the winner. In this area, Benevidez also matches up well with the champ.
With Benavidez looking improved since the last time he faced Johnson, I’m not sure “Mighty Mouse” has really faced someone who might be both faster and be as good or better of a wrestler yet.
To that end, I think Benavidez might be able to cause some confusion himself. If he’s able to disrupt Johnson’s rhythm and pace, he could conceivably get under him for the take down. And, if Benavidez is able to repeatedly take Johnson down, not only will he rack up points, he’ll be a threat to finish the fight.
I’ll go with Benavidez via late-round ground and pound stoppage.
Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald
Kenny Florian: This is a really tough one to call for me. There is not much doubt in my mind that McDonald will be a champion at 135 pounds some day but this fight against Faber is tough fight for him right now.
Urijah is on such a roll and his wrestling and experience adds a lot in his favor. I have Faber winning by a hair if he wins.
I don’t see Faber finishing McDonald, necessarily but I think Urijah squeaks this one out. Although, I would not be surprised if McDonald wins it because he could do it in a bunch of different ways - KO, on the ground. He’s that talented. If he wins, the fight will officially be the coming out party for McDonald and confirm that he’s a future champ.
Cagewriter: Way to creep into my territory, Kenny. I’ve got McDonald for the very reasons you started to describe above and a big part of the reason you chose Johnson in the main event. Faber may have the experience, wrestling and look great right now, but McDonald is a great under dog pick simply because of the diversity of his skills.
If Faber wins, I think it will be because of takedowns. But McDonald could win on the feet using his striking reach and power or on the ground with his underrated submission skills. I could also see him having the conditioning to out last and out point Faber en route to a decision win.
Joe Lauzon vs. Mac Danzig
Kenny Florian: This is another tough one to pick. I’ll go with Danzig because I think he has more tools to win.
Danzig doesn’t always fight up to his potential, but he’s got a deep toolbox. With Lauzon, you know what you’re going to get, aside from his last fight in Boston.
Lauzon is going to fight you hard, fight tooth and nail and he often has an excellent and fast start to bouts.
However, I think Danzig is going to get it done. I think he will stop Lauzon’s take downs, keep it on feet and start to land shots. To win, Danzig needs to fight a smart, technical fight, though.
I’m going with Danzig by decision.
Kenny Florian: Danzig does seem to have more potential than he sometimes fights to, Kenny, and the guy is strong and extremely well-rounded. That said, I feel good about picking Joe Lauzon for the win.
I think Joe could very well come out sharp after losing his last two, particularly on the feet. Look for him to set a good pace with nice head movement, lateral and in and out foot movement to set up quick hands that could find their mark early on Danzig’s dome.
If Lauzon starts out strong and accurate with striking on the feet like I think he can, I think it’s Danzig who may look to take the fight to the ground. Lauzon has the wrestling to stop those shots or get back up to his feet quickly, however.
If he can rinse and repeat, and use his underrated and greatly improved conditioning, I think Lauzon has the potential to wear down Danzig a bit and finish him the way he has so many others – by hurting them on their feet with strikes and then finishing with a submission hold on the ground.
Lauzon by rear naked choke at the end of the second.
Follow Kenny on Twitter @KennyFlorian