The UFC’s annual Super Bowl Eve pay-per-view is tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, about ten miles down the road from tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLVIII. Two title fights, and a possible loser gets cut fight between two former heavyweight champions are on the main card. For whatever they’re worth (2-3 cents max), here are my picks for UFC 169:
Jamie Varner vs. Abel Trujillo: The main card kicks off with a couple of guys not in anyone’s conversation for title shots in the lightweight division needing a win. Varner, who replaces Bobby Green on the card, has alternated wins and losses in his last five fights. Trujillo last fought on the UFC on FOX 9 card seven weeks ago, a 2nd round TKO of Roger Bowling. Neither guy is afraid to stand and bang. I’ll give the edge to Varner.
John Lineker vs Ali Bagautinov: With nicknames like “Hands of Stone” and “Puncher”, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this will be a stand-up war. According to UFC stats, these two guys have a combined six successful takedown attempts in their UFC fights. Not that either have a bad ground game, more that they are both heavy handed. Bagautinov is looking to stay unbeaten in the Octagon, while Lineker has won his last three fights by brutal knockout. This has all the makings of a Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night. I pick Lineker to win what should be a very entertaining fight.
Frank Mir vs Alistair Overeem: Five years ago, this would’ve been one of the most anticipated fights ever. Today, not only is a matchup of a former champions both seeking their first win since 2011, but also looking to stay in the UFC. Overeem, a chiseled beast who looks like he was carved out of rock (or some other substances…allegedly) comes into this fight lighter that he’s been in a long time. He trained for this fight in Thailand, where he had tremendous success as a kickboxer, to get his head on straight and supposedly improved his cardio. We’ll see. If past fights are any indication, the ‘Reem will come out like gangbusters at the opening bell before gassing out well before the end of the first round. Mir typically starts off slow, fights patiently and waits for his opportunity to submit his opponent. Given that about both guys, don’t expect this fight to see the second round. Mir’s chin > Overeem’s cardio. Mir by first round submission.
Co-Main Event: Jose Aldo vs Ricardo Lamas for UFC Featherweight Championship: Lamas is very deserving of this title shot. He’s an easy guy to root for. He doesn’t call guys out, instead he lets his fights to the talking for him (wow, what a concept). As good as Lamas is, it’s hard to go against Jose Aldo. Aldo has not lost a fight in over eight years and improves with every victory. This fight will either end in the first round or go the distance. Either way, Aldo will extend his winning streak and retain his UFC Featherweight Championship, and set up a possible fight with Lightweight Champ Anthony Pettis down the road.
Main Event: Renan Barao vs Urijah Faber for UFC Bantamweight Championship: With Dominick Cruz out after suffering yet another brutal injury, former WEC Champ Urijah Faber took this fight on three weeks notice, looking to avenge his last defeat. Faber had an outstanding 2013. Three submission victories and another win by unanimous decision in which he dominated Iuri Alcantara. Meanwhile Barao, like Jose Aldo, fights out of Brazil’s Nova Uniao and like Aldo, hasn’t lost since 2005. This could also be a legit Fight of the Night candidate, but as a certain jet-flyin’, limousine-ridin’ man from North Carolina once (or thousands of times) said, to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man (WHOO!). Faber needs to end this fight to win and not put it in the hands of the judges, as Johny Hendricks learned the hard way. In his last four fights, ‘The California Kid’ has fought like he did when he was dominating the WEC and putting the smaller weight classes on the map. As difficult at it is to pick against a guy who’s 33-1 and who hasn’t lost since before Twitter was invented, I’m going to go with Faber.
I’ll be tweeting throughout the PPV @milanjordan. Enjoy the fights!