The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff has come together to give our predictions on “UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort” which takes place Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
The main event features the UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva taking on the very fast and dangerous striker Vitor Belfort. The Brazilian media is out in full force force for this fight as two of the country’s biggest stars battle for ultimate supremacy.
In the co-main event, the original Ultimate Fighter and former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin takes on former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. And The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner, Ryan Bader, takes on the person many feel is the most promising star in MMA today, Jon Jones, in a light heavyweight top contender bout.
UFC 126 will also herald the arrival of several lighter-weight fighters crossing over from the WEC such as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Miguel Torres, Chad Mendes, Demetrious Johnson and Antonio Banuelos. And we will see the UFC debut of “Kid” Yamamoto and the UFC return of Michihiro Omigawa, both Japanese MMA stars.
Before we get to the UFC 126 predictions, we want to announce the final staff member standings for ProMMAnow.com’s 2010 staff picks. After 12 months of predictions of 183 fights here are the finals standings as of the new year:
- Richard Mann (119-64) 65%
- Jack Bratcher (117-66) 64%
- Denny Hodge (87-52) 63%
- John Buhl (50-32) 61%
- Brian Furby (105-78) 57%
Now this year, you are going to see a couple of new names on our staff picks articles as we have added to our staff here at ProMMAnow.com. Sometimes also we will have special guests to share their predictions too. Without further ado, here we go.
Anderson Silva (27-4) vs. Vitor Belfort (19-8)
ODDS: Anderson Silva -280 vs. Vitor Belfort +220
DENNY HODGE: It is impossible to predict which Anderson Silva will show up on any given night. Vitor Belfort’s performances are just as hard to forecast, but he has all the tools to take Silva out just the same. I don’t think Silva will be dancing around like he did against Griffin with an opponent as explosive as Belfort. That being said, who the hell knows what Silva will do. The longer the fight goes, it will favor the champion, but I have to go with the upset in this one and say Belfort will be the guy that KO’s “The Spider” early.
RICHARD MANN: This fight is pretty simple to break down. Silva will be able to land on Belfort early and the wheels are going to come off. I have been prepared to write this since the two were set to face off in Abu Dhabi. However, after the Sonnen fight, I am worried that Silva may have gotten old over night. He has defended a UFC more than any other person in history and is now 35 years old. I am still locked in with Silva, but I am not as sure as I once was. Pick = Silva.
JOHN BUHL: So many questions…will Silva return to top form and look motivated? If Chael Sonnen can stun Silva, then we know Belfort could land some big punches, even if Silva’s rib injury really did play a big factor in his last performance. But Belfort has had plenty of ups and downs himself, and with the long layoff since his win over Rich Franklin and Silva supposedly 100% healthy now, I don’t see Belfort taking the title. Vitor has a chance to win by KO. It’s possible. But I’m taking Silva by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Anderson Silva.
SUSAN CINGARI: This match may be the hardest to pick, these fighters are both talented and are both tough. I think Silva may have a bit of an advantage, but I am taking Belfort since he has a lot of heart and really needs this win to get back on track.
KELVIN HUNT: Belfort certainly has the tools to beat Anderson. If Chael Sonnen can drop Silva…Belfort could certainly put him away. However, the long layoff and the weight cut will affect Belfort in my opinion…especially if this fight goes into the later rounds. Silva’s reach will be a factor as well. Belfort is really tough to finish, but Silva is one of the best at doing so when he’s on his game. I think Silva will finish Belfort in Round 4.
BRIAN IMES: Anderson Silva via submission.
JACK BRATCHER: People who try and show Anderson Silva respect get murdered. And I see that as the case here. Vitor respects Silva’s skills and like every other striker Silva has faced in the UFC, he’s going to get blasted. Although Vitor has knocked out his last three opponents, none of them were close to what Anderson is. It will not even be close. Silva wins via first round TKO.
Forrest Griffin (17-6) vs. Rich Franklin (28-5-1)
ODDS: Forrest Griffin +135 vs. Rich Franklin -165
DENNY HODGE: This is a tough fight to call. Forrest Griffin is a huge guy at 205, and doesn’t do anything great, but a lot of things good. Rich Franklin will give up size, but his diverse striking will be tough for Griffin to handle. The early rounds will turn into a kicking contest as both guys look to establish the distance and pace. This one probably won’t hit the ground much, and Franklin will be worn down by the size of Griffin. I see Griffin grinding out a close decision in this one.
RICHARD MANN: I had never really thought about this fight when it was made, and I am mostly indifferent about who wins. Forrest Griffin has not been right since the Silva fight, unless you think threatening to gun violence on a podcast host normal. Rich Franklin is fairly technical on the feet and is hard to take down, which should give Griffin problems. Pick = Franklin.
JOHN BUHL: Griffin is bigger and a tough SOB. Still, not to underestimate the former, but Franklin is a bit better technique-wise in just about every aspect. Franklin’s really only had trouble against people capable of knocking him out, and I’ll think he’ll win a striking duel with Griffin by staying light on his feet. Franklin by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Rich Franklin.
SUSAN CINGARI: I love both of these fighters and this is a hard one to pick as I think they are evenly matched. I am taking Franklin only because Griffin may have lost some momentum since he has not fought in a while.
KELVIN HUNT: Should be a good scrap here. The size of Griffin could play a factor. I think the lengthy layoff will affect both guys, so this one will probably start out slow as well and start heating up towards the end of the first round.. My heart says Franklin…but I’m going with Griffin via decision.
BRIAN IMES: Forrest Griffin via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Griffin is going to have a significant size advantage in this fight. He’s going to want to close the distance and use the clinch and his ground game to wear Franklin down. Franklin needs to try and keep moving and pick Griffin apart. Franklin has only lost to the top of the food chain fighters and this long year plus layoff for Forrest is not going to help his chances. I think Franklin is going to take this one via TKO.
Ryan Bader (12-0) vs. Jon Jones (11-1)
ODDS: Ryan Bader +215 vs. Jon Jones -275
DENNY HODGE: Ryan Bader is a monster and has shown improved stand up in his recent bouts, but he will be facing a dangerous killer if he decides to stand in range of the lanky Jon Jones. And by “in range” in terms of Jones, that’s a large danger zone. The reach of Jones will be daunting for Bader, and I expect him to try to get the fight on the ground ASAP. That won’t be easy for Bader despite his wrestling and take down capabilities, as Jones is an accomplished wrestler as well, and is murderous if he gets a body lock on an opponent from the clinch. If that happens, he will be on top with Bader on his back, and we all know what happens once Jones gets to a dominant position. That’s what is going to happen, and once it does, it will be all Jones.. Jones by TKO.
RICHARD MANN: So far in his career, Bader has gassed out when he is dominating the fight. In this fight, Jones will offer some resistance to say the least. On top of that, Jones will probably have an advantage on the feet and certainly be the better wrestler. This fight won’t be a complete walk over, but Jones will dominate the contest. Pick = Jones.
JOHN BUHL: Jones trains with Rashad Evans. Evans has the boxing and takedowns of Bader, except he’s even faster and better at mixing things up. Jones will be prepared for Bader. Is there anyone that can replicate Jones’ unorthodox striking, crazy throws, and vicious elbows? Probably not. This’ll be a very interesting fight, but I’m taking Jones by TKO in the late second round.
BRIAN FURBY: Jon Jones.
SUSAN CINGARI: I think this is going to be very close, but I am taking Jones.
KELVIN HUNT: I’m probably most pumped for this fight. I think whoever has the best game plan will win this fight, and we know Jackson is a master at game planning. I think the reach of Jones is going to be a factor and possibly conditioning. As long as Jones avoids the heavy hands of Bader. Jones has been in beast mode in his past few fights, and I don’t see Bader being able to stop him. Jones via TKO late in the fight.
BRIAN IMES: Jon Jones via stoppage.
JACK BRATCHER: Jon Jones is just all hype and will get exposed in this fight by a true wrestler. That is a statement I don’t think anyone believes. Jones is a different kind of specimen and as long as all the hype doesn’t go to his head to the point he becomes over confident, he is well on his way to a title shot. Bader has big power and can turn Jones’ lights out if he connects solid. But the odds of that happening are very slim. Jones will likely make Bader look amateurish here, much like he did Matyushenko. Jones by first round TKO.
Jake Ellenberger (23-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0)
ODDS: Jake Ellenberger -260 vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha +200
DENNY HODGE: Jake Ellenberger is a top contender who had a date with Jon Fitch, but will now face off against the undefeated Carlos Rocha. Rocha has finished all 9 of his fights, 8 of them in the first round, but he hasn’t faced the competition that Ellenberger has. Rocha is a submission specialist, but Ellenberger won’t be easy to put away by sub. Ellenberger will punish Rocha on the feet en route to a TKO stoppage early.
RICHARD MANN: On the European circuit, Rocha not encountered anyone with the type of game that Ellenberger has. The wrestlers has big power in his hands and physically grinds on his opponents. On top of that, Ellenberger is seasoned enough to stay out of trouble on the ground. Pick = Ellenberger.
JOHN BUHL: I’m not counting out Rocha at all, but submitting McCray is a lot different than dealing with the wrestling, strength, and, more importantly, experience of Ellenberger. I got Ellenberger by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Jake Ellenberger.
SUSAN CINGARI: I think Ellenberger with his powerful hands will crush Rocha.
KELVIN HUNT: Striker vs. Grappler…I think Ellenberger’s power and wrestling will be too much for the one dimensional Rocha. Ellenberger via TKO.
BRIAN IMES: Carlos Rocha via submission.
JACK BRATCHER: How can you doubt a guy who is finishing the likes of Mike Pyle and John Howard (and Jose “Pele” Landi). Ellenberger is the favorite here but he will have to be careful of Rocha’s dangerous submission game. I think Ellenberger will accomplish that and finish Rocha via TKO.
Miguel Torres (38-3) vs. Antonio Banuelos (19-6)
ODDS: Miguel Torres -500 vs. Antonio Banuelos +300
DENNY HODGE: Antonio Banuelos packs some big power and will likely come out and try to end the night of Miguel Torres early. Torres will weather the storm, and will hold his own on the feet using that big reach and height advantage to land some counters from odd angles keeping Banuelos off balance. Torres will find a way to get the fight to the ground, and that’s where he will end it by submission.
RICHARD MANN: Banuelos is a game fighter who can serve as a gatekeeper in the bantamweight division. Torres is coming off a bit of a skid, but he looked good against Charlie Valencia. He will have a reach advantage, and he is much better on the floor. Pick = Torres.
JOHN BUHL: The Miguel Torres comeback trail continues. Banuelos will have a hell of a time trying to get inside Miguel’s reach and do anything. Torres by third round submission.
BRIAN FURBY: Miguel Torres.
SUSAN CINGARI: Torres. He looked great in his last fight and is the more experienced fighter with a 38-3 record. My money is on him.
KELVIN HUNT: Miguel Torres takes this as his reach will be too much for Banuelos to deal with. Banuelos is tough though and I think he’ll take this to a decision.
BRIAN IMES: Miguel Torres via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Miguel Torres is about half a foot taller than Antonio Banuelos. Only those top level WEC guys were able to beat Torres and as much as I like Banuelos and his mustache, he was not at that top tier. He is very tough though and I don’t think Torres will finish him. Torres by decision.
Chad Mendes (9-0) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (12-8-1)
ODDS: Chad Mendes -340 vs. Michihiro Omigawa +260
DENNY HODGE: Chad Mendes will have a stiff test facing off against Michihiro Omigawa. Mendes has proven that he can control a fight over three rounds, but will he be able to prove that he can finish one in the UFC’s Octagon? Mendes is looking to stay undefeated and make a statement in his UFC debut, but Omigawa will grind out a tough and very close decision victory over Mendes.
RICHARD MANN: I have been hearing that Mendes has not been impressive in his first few WEC fights, and this is ridiculous. He may not have been exciting, but he has been basically unchallenged with the exception of the debut against Erik Koch and Koch turned out to be a pretty solid fighter. Omigawa makes his living by bullying less physical fighters and out striking grapplers. He will not be able to work that kind of game here. Mendes will be able to control the pace of the fight and where it takes place. Pick = Mendes.
JOHN BUHL: Omigawa has been on a tear since moving to 145. In Mendes, though, I think he faces the best wrestler in the Team Alpha Male camp. And Mendes showed some much improved striking while on the feet with Javi Vazquez. I’m going with Mendes by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Chad Mendes.
SUSAN CINGARI: I think Mendes will have the edge over Omigawa even though their reach is the same, Mendes is younger and as a product of Team Alpha camp, you can’t get better than that. Mendes takes it.
KELVIN HUNT: I can certainly see Omigawa taking this, but I’m going with Mendes via decision.
BRIAN IMES: Chad Mendes via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Japanese fighters seem to rarely do well against good American wrestlers and that is what I see happening here. Omigawa is ranked in the top ten at featherweight but I think Mendes will put too much pressure on him. This will be a big win for Mendes in his UFC debut. Look for Mendes to grind out a decision.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-3) vs. Demetrious Johnson (12-1)
ODDS: Norifumi Yamamoto -125 vs. Demetrious Johnson -105
DENNY HODGE: Is there anybody that calls themselves a fan of MMA, that is not 100% stoked to see “Kid” grace the UFC’s Octagon? I know I can’t wait, but who the hell am I? Johnson will bring his high level wrestling and cage control into this bout, but will have to survive long enough to use it. I see “Kid” coming out guns blazing, and his explosiveness will overwhelm Johnson. Yamamoto by TKO.
RICHARD MANN: Kid is the better wrestler, so in theory he should be able to take this fight to the ground and win from the top. However, recently he has only been looking for one big punch on the feet. Johnson might be small for this weight, but he moves well and is agressive. If he comes forward and throws against Kid, he should be able to do enough to score the upset. However, I can’t pull the trigger on the pick. Pick = Yamamoto.
JOHN BUHL: Johnson is a heck of a fighter and his accomplishments as a bantamweight in the WEC are all the more impressive considering even he knows he belongs at 125. Still, desipte his struggles of late, I think Kid has exactly the right style (good wrestling, heavy hands) to make the transition from Japanese MMA to the UFC. Plus, I think the change of scenery will give Kid some much needed motivation and a fresh start. Kid by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Kid Yamamoto.
SUSAN CINGARI: Yamamoto is fast, but I am taking Johnson. He’s a beast at 125 pounds.
KELVIN HUNT: Johnson certainly is a live dog in this one. As someone noted earlier in the week…his size could be a detriment here as Yamamoto is larger and has fought at a higher weight class his entire career. I don’t think Yamamoto is finished just yet, and some of his performance problems could certainly be tied to him going through his divorce. I’m going with Yamamoto via TKO, but certainly could see Johnson winning.
BRIAN IMES: Kid Yamamoto via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: This is an interesting fight and all eyes will be on Kid Yamamoto to see how he performs in his UFC debut. How many times have we been let down by Japanese fighters who were once considered “great” coming into the UFC? There have been exceptions of course. Many people seem to think he’s lost a step in the last year or two and it does appear that way. I think Demetrious’ submission game is going to be the difference in this fight. Look for Johnson to put Kid in a choke and end this one via submission.
Donald Cerrone (13-3) vs. Paul Kelly (12-3)
ODDS: Donald Cerrone -325 vs. Paul Kelly +250
DENNY HODGE: Donald Cerrone will be making his UFC debut against seasoned UFC veteran Paul Kelly. Kelly is a tough competitor, but will be outmatched wherever the fight goes. Cerrone will give him all he wants on the feet, and Kelly does NOT want to be on the ground with “Cowboy.” I just don’t see anyway that Kelly wins this fight. Cerrone by submission.
RICHARD MANN: By rule I do not trust people with two first names. I also have a terribly low opinion of fighters who got submitted by Marcus Davis. That is two strikes against Kelly right there. Cerrone will make this a fight, but he is light years ahead of Kelly on the floor and it will show. If the fight stays on the feet, Cerrone will be able to zombie walk through Kelly’s shots and get the better of the exchanges. Pick = Cerrone.
JOHN BUHL: The way he’s looked lately, Cerrone will be a bit too much for Kelly and get a submission or maybe a TKO in the third round after some exciting back-and-forth action.
BRIAN FURBY: Donald Cerrone.
SUSAN CINGARI: I think if this fight goes to the ground I can see Cerrone winning, however I predict the scrappy Brit Kelly to unleash his striking ability which may be too much for Cerrone.. so I am taking Kelly.
KELVIN HUNT: This is Cerrone’s fight to lose as I believe he’s the more well rounded fighter that will enjoy a nice reach advantage. As long as he doesn’t get off to a ‘slow start’ and allow Kelly to get comfortable in there…he [Cerrone] takes this via submission.
BRIAN IMES: Donald Cerrone via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: It still amazes me that Donald Cerrone has never finished a fight via TKO or knockout. Especially when you consider how much he loves to strike and the fact he is a solid Muay Thai fighter. Paul Kelly has a lot of experience inside the Octagon. Will that help him against Cowboy who is making his debut? I think Cerrone is going to have the advantage here and the odds should be in his favor. Cerrone by submission.
*All fight odds provided by ProMMAnow.com sponsor, LinesMaker (www.linesmaker.com)