That’s right boys and girls, time for another edition of the Downes Side. Glad that you’re spending Cinco de Mayo reading the #1 predictions-based article series by a former UFC fighter on ufc.com (the numbers don’t lie).
Unlike Arrested Development, the UFC is back on network television for a stacked card at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Missing UFC live events usually causes me to sit at home and drown my sorrows in ice cream and Cosmos, but this one will be especially tough because I have four friends fighting on the card. Why do I mention this? Because I have UFC friends and you don’t.
Pat Barry vs Lavar Johnson
The main card kicks off with a heavyweight contest between Lavar “Big” Johnson and Pat “HD” Barry. In 21 professional fights, Johnson has never seen a decision. Also, he is the first person to ever finish Joey Beltran -- a man once thought to be un-KOable. The always-exciting Barry is coming off a first-round TKO of Christian Morecraft and seeks to improve a 4-4 career UFC record.
Frequent readers of this column know that Pat is a close friend of mine. We’ve trained together, been thrown out of bars together and he even gave me my first MMA-related concussion, and you never forget your.....wait...what was I talking about? Now, we know what Pat Barry hates,but what he loves are aggressive fighters who allow him to showcase his incredible counter-striking ability. Lucky for him -- and regrettably for Johnson -- Lavar is just the man for the job. "Big" Johnson’s lack of patience normally serves him well, but he has never faced someone of Pat’s ability. He goes down in the first and “HD” shows off his victory dance.
Rousimar Palhares vs Alan Belcher
Next up is a middleweight contest between Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares and Alan “The Talent” Belcher. Known to gringos as Paul Harris, Toko is 7-2 in his UFC career and has a reputation for devastating leg locks and curious judgment calls. Alan Belcher returns to the Octagon after an impressive TKO of Jason MacDonald in his first fight back after multiple detached retina surgeries. Whoever wins this fight will earn a spot as one of the top-five 185 pounders and be within striking distance of a title fight.
I’m not one of those people who thinks Palhares is a one-trick pony. Yes, he's more than a leg-lock specialist, but he’s overmatched here. Alan is another friend and former roommate whose only real weaknesses are that he fails to replace the glasses he breaks and never does the dishes. He definitely has the advantage on the feet, and people underrate his jiu-jitsu. He’s trained with world champion Joao Zeferino (whose specialty is also leg-locks) and brought in another BJJ world champion, Daniel Moraes, for this training camp. Couple that with the fact that I’ve seen Alan hold his own against Olympic wrestler Ben Askren, and he just has too many weapons for Palhares to handle. He’ll outstrike Palhares on the feet, which will cause “Toquinho” to close the gap and get it to the ground. Alan will counter, get top position and use the ground and pound we saw against MacDonald to earn a 2nd-round TKO.
Josh Koscheck vs Johny Hendricks
The next match features a welterweight contest between Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks. This fight features two men who everybody loves to hate. Koscheck for obvious reasons, and Hendricks for ruining bathroom breaks all over the world after his 12-second knockout of Jon Fitch in December. Koscheck has been disappointing lately. I don't mean in terms of not being his usual Kos-bag self, because in that regard, he’s as strong as ever. But he looked meh in his last fight against Mike Pierce, but in his defense, if GSP made my face look like this, it would take me a while to get over it, too.
It seems that he’ll have to get over a sixth career loss because Hendricks takes this. Not only does he possess better knockout power than Koscheck, but he was also a Division-I wrestler at Oklahoma State, where he only lost one match his whole career. He’ll be able to take Koscheck down and deliver some punishment from top position. He won’t be able to finish our favorite MMA heel, but he’ll take the UD no problem. I just can’t wait for the Jersey insults Koscheck brings to the post fight interview.
Nate Diaz vs Jim Miller
That brings us to the main event of the evening. No fancy nicknames here, just two elite level lightweights looking to get their shot at the title. Nate Diaz rides a two-fight win streak after a dominant win over Donald Cerrone. After losing to Benson Henderson, Miller got back to his normal winning ways with a RNC victory of Melvin Guillard in January. A superior grappler, 12 of his 21 wins have come via submission.
This is one of the hardest predictions I’ve ever had to make. It’s always hard to pick against a guy that homebrews, but you never want to pick against a Diaz brother because...well....I enjoy my kneecaps. Miller’s boxing has improved steadily in his last few fights, but not enough to hang with 209. On the other hand, if there’s such a thing as Stockton kryptonite, it’s grinding wrestlers -- Nate’s fight against Clay Guida being the best example. I see Miller getting the takedown and while he can’t submit the Cesar Gracie product, he’ll be able to smother him to a decision win. “I came here to fight, not hug,” and many other comments of similar ilk will multiply after this fight. While this may be an unfortunate Cinco de Mayo for Stockton faithful, if there’s one thing that the stained carpet in my living rooms proves, it’s that more tequila does not make things better.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the Downes Side. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes and my blog Not only will I be toasting to the victories of my friends (that you don’t have) tonight, I’ll also be enjoying May 5th the way that General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín would have wanted -- with a Doritos Locos taco.