UFC 126 brings one of the biggest fight cards we’ve seen, top to bottom, in quite some time. Just to give you an idea, the third-billed fight on this card, Rich Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin, is worlds better than the main events of UFC 119, 120 and 122.
What we have is one title fight and two fights with major title fight/title eliminator implications. On top of that, we’re treated to the UFC debut of one of the most famous fighters in WEC history and another between two rising stars.
Here’s a complete rundown and predictions from every fight featured in UFC 126.
Middleweight Championship: Anderson Silva (27-4) vs. Vitor Belfort (19-8)
Rundown – Silva appears hungry after losing his invincibility cloak and nearly his title to Chael Sonnen back in August. Belfort has been on the shelf for nearly a year and a half after returning to the promotion with a knockout victory over Rich Franklin at UFC 103. This fight is likely to deliver as Belfort is the first guy Silva has fought in quite some time who won’t be afraid to stand and trade with him. It will be interesting to see where Belfort’s quickness is on par with Silva’s, and we’re likely in for a quick finish one way or another.
Prediction – As I said before, Silva appears hungry. Belfort has quick hands, but NOBODY has as quick of hands as Silva. I expect Belfort to stand and trade and be made to look like a fool. There’s no messing around by Silva this time. Silva via KO (first round)
Jon Jones (11-1) vs. Ryan Bader (12-0)
Rundown – The most intriguing fight on the card is a title eliminator fight between two rising stars. Bader, “The Ultimate Fighter’s” season 8 winner, remains unblemished after the destruction of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119, while Jones’ only loss comes because of illegal elbows he threw while dismantling Matt Hamill. While the striking power of Jones is impressive, and the standup of Bader is continuously evolving, this fight will be interesting in seeing if either fighter has a wrestling edge. Bader is a former All-American, while Jones is bigger, a more freakish athlete and has a wrestling pedigree as well.
Prediction – If Jones outwrestles Bader, it’s goodnight to Darth. If he can’t, the fight will turn very interesting and could go either way. My take is that both guys will negate the other’s advantage for the entire first round, and Jones will take advantage of a mistake by Bader in the second round and finish the deal. Jones via TKO (round 2).
Forrest Griffin (17-6) vs. Rich Franklin (28-5, 1 NC)
Rundown – Two former champions who seem to be at a crossroads with their career. Griffin hasn’t fought since November of 2009 and didn’t look incredibly impressive in a decision victory over Tito Ortiz. Franklin is coming off of a KO of Chuck Liddell, but this will still only be his fourth fight at light heavyweight. Both of these guys like to stand and slug, and the key will be the precision of these strikes and either guy avoiding a blow that puts them asleep. This has Fight of the Night written all over it.
Prediction – I think Franklin is the more precise striker and Griffin’s ring rust will cost him. I expect Franklin to pick apart Griffin in the stand up throughout the fight. Franklin via decision.
Jake Ellenberger (23-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0)
Rundown – Ellenberger is a top notch wrestler flirting with the possibility of jumping to the top of the welterweight division for a long time. Rocha is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist coming off of a knee bar victory in his UFC debut. The winner of this fight will likely be thrown into a top 10 fight at welterweight.
Prediction – Rocha’s BJJ game is dangerous, and if he’s able to get Ellenberger in a compromising position, he’ll be in luck. However, I don’t think he’s ever faced a wrestler like Ellenberger, and I expect him to get taken down over and over again. Ellenberger via decision.
Miguel Angel Torres (38-3) vs. Antonio Banuelos (18-6)
Rundown – Torres is one of the most popular fighters in WEC history and is making his UFC debut with an opportunity to jump back into contention in the bantamweight division. Banuelos is a game fighter looking to make a name for himself against one of the biggest names at this weight class.
Prediction – Torres seems re-dedicated after back-to-back losses derailed his spot at the top of the bantamweight throne. Expect him to continue his rise against Banuelos. Torres via decision.
Donald Cerrone (13-3, 1 NC) over Paul Kelly (11-3)
Chad Mendes (9-0) over Michihiro Omigama (12-8-1)
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-3, 1 NC) over Demetrious Johnson (8-1)
Paul Taylor (10-6-1, 1 NC) over Gabe Ruediger (17-6)
Ricardo Romero (11-1) over Kyle Kingsbury (9-2, 1 NC)
Mike Pierce (11-3) over Kenny Robertson (10-0)