This weekend the UFC is offering up two big cards, UFC 175 on Saturday and The Ultimate Fighter 19 (TUF 19) Finale card on Sunday. UFC 175 is headlined by two championship bouts and the TUF 19 Finale by a third fight between former champions Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn.
Today we're breaking down those three bouts for you so you can be ready to debate your friends and look like the smartest person at your local bar or cookout on fight night. Check out links to more stories about this weekend's fights after the breakdowns and let us know who you're picking in the comments section!
Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
Chris Weidman defends his UFC middleweight belt for the second time against a friend and training partner of the man he won the title from. Lyoto Machida is a long-time friend of Anderson Silva, who Weidman took out twice in a row to become and stay champion last year.
“The All-American” believes that Machida is even more well-rounded than the all-time great “Spider,” in large part because of his take down defense ability. If Machida can stay on his feet, or at least get up quickly and regularly after being taken down, he very well could pose problems to Weidman with his skillful and tricky striking.
However, although Machida’s best chance at success may be to stand and strike with the young champion, he won’t have an easy time in that area simply because he’s more polished and experienced than Weidman. As Silva found out over the course of two fights, Weidman’s length, aggressiveness and improving fundamental striking skills are formidable combinations.
Machida will prove tough to take and keep down, and will likely give the champ enough angles on the feet to at least get a couple chances at landing a big strike. However, if Weidman can avoid getting stung on the feet by Machida, he should be able to hunt “The Dragon” down, take him down and hurt him there en route to a win.
Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis
UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey keeps on getting paired with tough, game women – the top ranked in the class – and she keeps on taking them out in short order. Alexis Davis is the next in line for a shot at the “Rowdy” one.
Rousey has said that Davis may the most well-rounded opponent she’s faced but most importantly, she may be the best submission fighter the champ has yet to face. Rousey won her last fight via KO from strikes on the feet but before that, every single one of her wins came from her patented arm bar.
Davis has won eight out of her last nine fights and has a solid submission game – perhaps good enough for her to have hope of defending the arm bar. Davis certainly has little hope of defending the Judoka’s take downs, but the stand-up striking portion of the fight would appear to still be up for grabs.
Per usual, Rousey will likely be the quicker, more explosive and stronger fighter and those athletic advantages alone may make the differences for her. What’s more, Rousey says that she’s more focused than she’s ever been in her UFC career.
But, if Davis can manage to hurt Rousey on the feet and defend the arm bar and ground strikes on the mat, she could have a real chance at taking the champion’s belt. Rousey is the safe pick here, but Davis is a live dog.
BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar
In 2010, Frankie Edgar ended BJ Penn’s historic lightweight title run by beating him two times in a row. The first fight was close, the second not so much.
Immensely skilled as he is, Penn acquitted himself well against the younger, quicker Edgar, but one thing became clear in those fights – Penn would no longer find the same success he had for so many years with his flat-footed, stalking, counter striking style. Against Edgar, Penn was hit by punches he used to slip by centimeters and taken down by takedowns he used to avoid with apparent ease.
Since those fights, Penn only won a single fight out of his next four bouts. Penn’s last two outings were downright ugly – getting battered by Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald and forced into retirement.
Unfortunately for Penn's health, a third fight with Edgar lured him out of retirement. It isn’t that Penn isn’t still a fighter of legendary skill, it’s just that, over the course of his thirteen year career, he’s taken too much damage and grown too old (as all fighters do) to be as effective as he once was.
Whereas Penn’s small comparative size against the likes of welterweights Diaz and MacDonald was a serious disadvantage, fighting at featherweight for the first time ever will likely not help “The Prodigy” much either because at the lower weights, the fighters just gain more of what he’s lost – speed and quick reflexes.
Edgar’s record in his past four fights is deceivingly poor. Though Edgar has lost three out of his past four bouts, all three were close decision losses in title bouts to Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo.
In his last fight, Edgar looked sharp and fast as ever in beating Charles Oliveira. That was a year ago, however.
And, while the time off may have been good for Edgar, the effects of long lay-offs are impossible to predict. And, with Penn’s one-strike power, he will have a puncher’s chance against anyone in the world until the day he dies.
Edgar is the smart pick in this fight but Penn will always be hard to count out entirely.