The UFC is holding its annual Super Bowl weekend pay-per-view in Las Vegas. UFC 183 is headlined by a matchup featuring two former champions returning to the Octagon after very lenghty layoffs. Before I give you my thoughts on how I think the Anderson Silva-Nick Diaz fight will go, here are the rest of my main card predictions.
Welterweight: Jordan Mein (29-9) vs Thiago Alves (25-9)
A couple of well-rounded veterans with over 35 fights each finally hook up after their original scheduled fight last August was cancelled because of an(other) injury to Alves. Both guys are willing to stand and bang, so fans should be treated to an exciting fight. Should be a close one between two very good strikers, but I’ll give the slight edge to Alves due to his superior ground game and the fact that he’s “been there, done that.”
Middleweights: Thales Leitis (24-4) vs Tim Boetsch (18-7)
Since losing by unanimous decision to Anderson Silva in a Middleweight Championship Fight back in 2009, Leitis went on to win 10 of his next 12 fights. Including a perfect 4-0 since his return to the UFC in 2013, his last two by knockout. Meanwhile, Boestch is one of those guys who has the potential to really make some waves in the 185 pound division, but has lost three of his last five fights. An experienced grappler, Leitis has improved his striking, but it’s below the level of the heavy handed Boestch. Leitis is going to have to rely on his MMA roots to have a shot in this fight. Another good matchup, but I’ve got a hunch a very desperate Boetsch will come through in spectacular fashion (see Yushin Okami, Brad Tavares). I predict “The Barbarian” winning by knockout.
Lightweights: Joe Lauzon (24-9) vs Al Iaquinta (10-3-1)
Lauzon is 30 years old, but doesn’t it seem like he’s been in the UFC forever? One of the most game, durable fighters in the division, the Boston native has won two straight fights since losing back-to-back unanimous decisions. He’s also facing a fellow TUF alum for the fourth straight time. Lauzon has only been finished twice in the last five years. The up-and-coming Iaquinta, from the Serra-Longo fight team that includes UFC Middleweight champ Chris Weidman, has a striking game that continues to evolve with each fight. Tonight, he’ll continue his rise up the 155 pound division by knocking out Lauzon early. It would be no small, but a very impressive feat.
Welterweights: Tyron Woodley (14-3) vs Kelvin Gastelum (11-0)
Gastelum has been fighting the flu all week that caused him to reportedly be hospitalized as recent as yesterday (weigh-in day). Needless to say, the TUF 17 winner is not anywhere near 100% for this fight. Gastelum came in at 180 pounds, not the first time he’s missed weight for a fight, prompting Dana White to say he needs to move up to middleweight in order to keep fighting in the UFC. Woodley is on the cusp of fighting for a title, or at least a #1 contender fight. A wrestler by trade, he’s an explosive fighter, maybe one of the quickest in the division. Before Gastelum’s dealings with the flu, I had Woodley winning this fight. He’ll end it early, providing Gastelum is healthy enough to be cleared to fight.
Main Event: Anderson Silva (33-6) vs Nick Diaz (27-9-1)
A few years ago, this would’ve been one of the most anticipated fights in MMA history. Today, it’s still a juicy matchup of a couple of former champions, albeit two who are hoping to shake off cage rust on their way back atop the MMA mountain. Silva is coming off a knee injury, but recovered quickly and seems to be look like the old “Spider”. A very hungry “Spider” who hasn’t had a gold belt around his waist for 18 months and counting. Diaz hasn’t fought for nearly two years. One of the most enigmatic fighters on the planet, Diaz is also one of the toughest. A very skilled boxer with a granite chin and pretty decent takedown defense. Seven of Diaz’s nine career losses have been by decision. You just don’t finish Nick Diaz. Silva is more of a well rounded striker than Diaz and has the more superior ground game. Both guys are known to “showboat” during their fights, but make no mistake about it, these are two very elite mixed martial artists meeting in the Octagon tonight. This bout should go the distance, with fans wanting more than the scheduled 25 minutes. I’ve got Silva winning by decision.
Enjoy the fights!