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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC's annual Super Bowl weekend event hits Saturday night from Las Vegas, with a major Featherweight Championship fight between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar headlining the event. It's the UFC's first pay-per-view event of 2013, and it's one of the more stacked cards they've run in awhile. There's plenty to enjoy on the card even on paper, so let's take a look at what's coming to Las Vegas on Saturday night:
Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar (Featherweight Championship)
This has been billed by the UFC as a "super fight" since last fall when it was initially booked, and though not everyone believes it to be, it's nevertheless the biggest fight in the history of the featherweight division. It just is. Frankie Edgar isn't just the former Lightweight Champion, there's a very good argument he should be the current Lightweight Champion as well.
He's got a very good boxing game, very good speed, an excellent wrestling game, and a very intelligent approach to the sport. Add in the intangibles like his recovery and grittiness, and he's one of the biggest tests to ever face the 26-year-old Brazilian Champion.
However, the advantages Edgar faced as an under-sized lightweight - namely his speed, quick striking, and grappling ability - won't necessarily be effective against one of the bigger, faster featherweights in the UFC.
Additionally, Edgar gets hit. Quite often. He's able to recover and adjust on the fly, but he has been hurt by worse strikers than the Featherweight Champ, and it's been his ability to recover that has saved him. There's a very real chance that if he gets hurt that same way against Aldo, he's not going to get a chance to recover.
At the same time, if Edgar's able to survive the inevitable onslaught plays out, he's got card for days and will be the stronger fighter late in the bout. After all, we've seen Aldo get taken to a bad spot after wearing down late, and if Mark Hominick can do damage from the top, so can Edgar.
This comes down to whether or not Edgar will be able to survive when he gets hurt by Aldo. It's going to happen, Aldo's far too effective a striker for Edgar to come through unscathed, but if he can survive, work his grappling game, and fight his style of fight, he's got the skills to defeat Aldo and capture the UFC Featherweight Title. With that said, I think Aldo's got a much better killer instinct than the B.J. Penn Edgar fought in 2010, Gray Maynard, and Ben Henderson, and the former UFC Lightweight Champ won't capture his second title on Saturday night.
PREDICTION: Aldo via TKO in the first round
Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Light Heavyweight)
This isn't the most sensible fight in the world. Evans suffered just his second ever loss last April when he dropped a decision to former friend and teammate Jon Jones. Nogueira's coming off a win over Tito Ortiz that halted a two-fight losing streak. They're not exactly on the same level.
Nogueira's got some very good striking skills, and he's obviously a more than capable grappler, but Evans is a better version of the two fighters who have already stifled Nogueira in the UFC. Both Phil Davis and Ryan Bader completely out-wrestled Nogueira, and essentially negated what he's capable of doing in the cage.
Evans is a better MMA wrestler than both Davis and Bader (as he's already proven against Davis), and he's a better striker than both as well. He's just top to bottom a better fighter than Nogueira in 2013, and this is a fight poised to get him a bounce back win.
PREDICTION: Evans via decision
Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (Heavyweight)
It's impressive that Silva was able to stop Travis Browne in October, and there's no question he's got some vicious power in his ground and pound attack. However, he's neither the better striker nor grappler against Alistair Overeem, and he doesn't bring any physical advantages to the matchup either.
Overeem brings perhaps the best combination of striking and grappling abilities that Silva has fought, and they're both similarly sized as well, making this a really tough task for Silva to accomplish. He's already been starched by fighters who are far from elite strikers, and that's exactly what Overeem represents.
Silva simply doesn't have anything to offer Overeem outside of the proverbial "lucky punch." That's just the fact of the matter into Saturday's event. Overeem should win this fight, and he should do so easily and decisively.
PREDICTION: Overeem via TKO in the first round
Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia (Welterweight)
This is just elite MMA action in this fight. Both Maia and Fitch are able to handle themselves in the striking game, but their both amongst the very best ground fighters the sport has to offer.
Fitch is downright impossible to submit, which makes him a very intriguing fight for Maia, who has thrilled fans in the past with an insane submission game which he's gotten back to recently. His move to the welterweight division means he's not going to be overpowered by many opponents as he was at middleweight, but that's where the trouble may come in this one.
Though Maia has beaten all but three opponents he's faced in the Octagon, he's got a different beast to face in Jon Fitch. The relentless ground attack of Jon Ftich is likely capable of stifling what Maia wants to do, and add in a vicious ground and pound attack in later rounds, I think the one-time UFC Welterweight Title challenger picks up one of his biggest wins in the UFC.
PREDICTION: Fitch via decision
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall (Flyweight)
Many believed this matchup would have come to fruition for the first UFC Flyweight Championship, but Demetrious Johnson decided to spoil the plans of both fighters. For McCall, he looked worse in his rematch against Johnson, getting out-wrestled and out-struck throughout the second three round fight, while Benavidez ran into timing and closing issues in his own bout against the current Champ.
But to this particular matchup itself, it's Benavidez who should hold the considerable edge. He's a great striker who has power at 125 lbs., and if the fight hits the ground he's more than capable of pulling off submissions as well.
McCall is a capable striker, a very solid grappler, and definitely one of the best fighters in the flyweight division. Unfortunately, Benavidez does everything he does, and does it better. Benavidez is faster, he's stronger, he's a better striker, he's a better grappler, and he's a better finisher. He's simply one of the very best fighters competing at 135 lbs. or below, and I think he gets past McCall on Saturday night with relative ease.
PREDICTION: Benavidez via submission in the second round
=====Preliminary Card Quick Picks=====
-Evan Dunham over Gleison Tibau via decision
-Jay Hieron over Tyron Woodley via TKO in the second round
-Jacob Volkmann over Bobby Green via submission in the first round
-Yves Edwards over Isaac Vallie-Flagg via TKO in the first round
-Chico Camus over Dustin Kimura via decision
-Francisco Rivera over Edwin Figueroa via TKO in the second round
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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