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MMA: UFC Fight Night 24
Saturday, March 26, 10 p.m. ET
Phil Davis (8-0) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4)
What do you get when you combine a decorated collegiate wrestler with the physique of Dwight Howard and the teachings of submission guru Lloyd Irvin? The answer is simple: 'Mr. Wonderful' aka Phil Davis. The Penn State product is as gifted a prospect the light-heavyweight division has seen in a long time and he's shown a steady yet scary progression in his short career. He's got the potential to be every bit as dominant as Jon Jones if he can develop his striking game.
Best known for his accomplishments as an NCAA wrestler, Davis uses his dominant top-game and sheer upper body strength to take his opponents down and control them with ease. He's also shown he's a quick learner. Learning from jiu-jitsu ace Lloyd Irvin has showcased his ability to use that upper body strength to pull off submissions from positions that most opponents wouldn't see coming, as evidenced by the beautiful modified kimura he used to beat Tim Boetsch last November.
The fact that only eight fights into his pro career he could quickly be considered a legit contender speaks highly of Davis' futre. He takes a big step up in competition however this time around, as he squares off with legendary Pride veteran and professional pain-distributor Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. "Little Nog" as he's known to some fans is the smaller of two twins in the UFC, his brother being a legendary heavyweight in his own right. The Nogueira brothers are known for being tougher than nails and nearly impossible to finish in a fight with a knack for creating dramatic comebacks. Little Nog has a "who's who" list of great fighters under the W column on his resume and he's capable of being a problem for most 205-pounders in this sport. He can hand you your a** standing with his Olympic caliber boxing or use his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to make you quit.
The x-factor in this fight is going to be whether or not Nogueira can fend off Davis' takedowns. If he can, he's got the boxing prowess to really exploit the only thing lacking in Davis' arsenal, and that's a truly potent stand up game. I don't think he's got enough in the tank at this point in his career though, and I think Davis will take down his opponent multiple times en route to a unanimous decision victory and catapulting his popularity and quest for the belt in the process.
Dan Hardy (23-8) vs Anthony Johnson (8-3)
This is a fight where both men are essentially fighting for the right to keep their roster spot in the UFC.
Dan Hardy is coming off of two consecutive losses, the first being a one-sided beating from reigning welterweight king Georges St. Pierre and the other being a brutal first round KO at the hands of Carlos Condit. The brash Brit had previously won his last seven bouts before his latest skid. Like most fighters coming out of the Team Rough House camp, "The Outlaw" has great technique in his boxing and shows a knack for timing and patience while standing in the pocket and exchanging. He lacks true power however and his defensive wrestling leaves a lot to be desired.
His opponent is somewhat the opposite. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is a guy with massive power in both his hands and feet as well to go along with a somewhat decent wrestling background. Where Johnson falters is his lack of conditioning (he often has trouble making weight) and his technique. While Johnson shows patience at times in his boxing, he can often be forced into wild exchanges and leaves himself exposed. His last fight was the prime example of him getting preoccupied with throwing haymakers with Josh Koscheck only to be taken down and submitted.
The key here for me is the fact that both guys are going to be pressing to make a great impression, which could lead to a sloppy fight going in either man's favor. Johnson hasn't fought in nearly a year and a half due to injuries, and Hardy has lost the flare and confidence that once made him special. I'm going to favor Hardy slightly in this one citing ring rust on Johnson's part, but I wouldn't be surprised if Rumble lands one of his trademark power shots and ends this thing early. The longer the fight goes on, the more it favors Hardy.
Amir Sadollah (4-2) vs DeMarques Johnson (12-8)
You look at the record of these two fighters and you sort of wonder why they're fighting on a main card. The answer is both men are former "Ultimate Fighter" cast members and their records are slightly deceiving.
Sadollah won his season of TUF despite not having a SINGLE professional fight on his resume. Johnson is a former member of the military who made it to the finals of his season on the show only to lose in a tough battle. He gained a spot in the UFC anyway because he loves to brawl and usually puts on a good show. His record is lackluster because he's taken one too many fights on short notice, and that never lends well to having a stellar record.
Sadollah showed a knack for dramatic comeback wins in his time on the show, with an unexpected KO over powerhouse wrestler Gerald Henderson and two fantastic armbar wins over fellow UFC roster mate C.B. Dollaway. His inexperience caught up with his hype however when he was knocked out in his debut after more than a year of delays because of injuries. He rebounded with good showings against lesser competition only to be stymied by the always tough Dong Hyun Kim. He'll look to show off his muay thai skills here against Johnson.
Johnson is a Jeremy Horn protege who fights like there is no tomorrow and that's why he's gained the following he has. Like his mentor, Johnson shows a sneaky and effective ground game but also has solid power in his punches to go along with good length for a welterweight. He finished his last fight against Michael Guymon with a simple body-triangle that most fighters can only use to gain position on their opponent, so that shows Johnson's powerful submissions when he's on his game.
The problem with both men is that more often than not they choose to fight stupid and abandon strategy to just brawl. While it makes a fun night for fans, Johnson has shown the power to come out on top of those fights, where Sadollah has been hurt many times in his short career and has managed to survive more scares than one fighter should. If Sadollah stays smart and uses his muay thai to control the tempo then he wins this fight, but if he falls into his old ways, Johnson has the mean streak and the power to end Sadollah's night early.
Leonard Garcia (15-6-1) vs Chan Sung Jung (10-3)
Little guys in MMA are like little guys in boxing. All action and fun for everyone to watch.
Leonard Garcia should play the lottery on a regular basis, because this man has more luck than anyone I've ever seen. To me, he should have lost his last seven fights, yet somehow he's managed to escape with a blessed 3-3-1 record in that span. Garcia is an experienced and exciting fighter who throws with full power on literally every single punch. He's also hard to watch because for all his power, he has zero technique and most competent fighters can see his punches coming a mile away. You see more swings and misses in a Garcia fight than you see from Ryan Howard in the playoffs. He also looks like a turtle, which really bugs me for some reason.
Chan Sung Jung probably has the funniest nickname in MMA. "The Korean Zombie" is aptly named because he takes damage and just keeps coming forward. He's like one of those ghouls from Resident Evil, except rather than eat your face, he wants to punch and kick it until you quit. Jung is a well-rounded fighter who has shown a knack for doing damage to his opponent and then submitting them. He's been on a rough patch however, collecting all three of the blemishes on his record in the past year.
This fight is actually a rematch for these two fighters, with Jung coming out on the losing end of one of Garcia's gift-wrapped decision victories. In the second stanza, I expect the Korean Zombie to showcase his all around ability to out hustle and out point Garcia. Garcia is as tough as they come and nearly impossible to finish, so expect this one to go three rounds with Jung coming away with the W.