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UFC 149 staff picks

Urijah Faber faces Renan Barao for the UFC interim bantamweight title. Hector Lombard makes his long-awaited UFC debut against Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch.  The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictions on these fights and the rest of the UFC 149 Pay-Per-View card.

Urijah Faber (26-5) vs. Renan Barao (28-1, 1 NC)

ODDS: Urijah Faber +160 vs. Renan Barao -200

BRIAN FURBY: Urijah Faber.

RICHARD MANN: From a technical stand point, Barao should be a pretty solid favorite. He is a better striker on the feet, and he controls distance and the clinch very well. Faber still struggles to close the distance and doesn’t have the cleanest takedowns. However, bantamweight is not the same level as featherweight. It is possible that Faber is just a class above Barao since bantamweight is still developing. That is the story of this fight. Expect Barao to own the standup, but Faber could easily surprise. Barao by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Faber should have a cardio edge, but I don’t think that will be enough. Barao is a dynamic striker with very good takedown defense and should win this on the feet. Barao by decision.

JAN GAETJENS: On paper Faber is playing out a prototypical post-30th birthday middling since his second loss to Mike Brown; however, it’d be insane to fault anyone for dropping fights to guys like Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz back in 2009. Meanwhile Renan Barao doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘loss’, but also lacks a comparable number of quality wins to really gauge how he’ll fare against one of the division’s best. I give the nod to Barao, not because he’s necessarily a straight up better fighter, but because he should come into this fight well prepared specifically for Faber. Fellow Nova Uniao product Aldo will undoubtedly have a hand in preparing the young Brazilian, which could prove to be the difference maker when he squares off against the well seasoned California Kid. Barao by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: I think Barao is going to go after Faber’s legs much like his teammate Jose Aldo did. Look for Barao to light those legs up and get the California Kid off balance. Somewhere along the line I think he could hurt Faber and finish him off. Having said that, the longer this fight goes I think it favors Faber as it goes into the championship rounds. Barao should win this one via stoppage probably around the second or third.

Tim Boetsch (15-4) vs. Hector Lombard (31-2-1, 1 NC)

ODDS: Hector Lombard -400 vs. Tim Boetsch +325

BRIAN FURBY: Hector Lombard.

RICHARD MANN: Lombard is basically an angrier version of Yushin Okami. They both like to clinch and bully opponents around the cage. What does that mean for this contest against Boetsch? Boetsch did beat Okami, but he was dominated for most of the fight. Expect a similar result this time. Lombard has not fought top competition in years When he has fought decent fighters, he has gotten ridiculously tired quickly. If his gas tank fails him here, Boetsch will stop him and derailed another potential Anderson Silva challenger. Boetsch by TKO.

JOHN BUHL: It’s been a long while since we saw Lombard fight someone who is in their prime and can fight back from adversity. That being said, while Boetsch is tough and hits hard, Okami was working him over for two rounds. Lombard is more than capable of doing the same and doing a lot more damage. Lombard by second round TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: Hector Lombard may not have the name recognition he deserves among casual MMA fans, but with his arrival in the UFC that should change very quickly. This is a tough one to call just based on how hot both fighters are right now; Lombard’s nearly six year undefeated streak speaks for itself, and Boaetch’s recent knockout of Yushin Okami established him as a legitimate up and coming contender in the middleweight division. Boetsch is patient and deliberate with his striking, which sets him up nicely to deal with the aggressive, pressing style of Lombard. The longer this one goes, the better Boetsch’s chances are, but Lombard is more than capable of coming out swinging and putting this match away early. Lombard by KO.

JACK BRATCHER: Will the “UFC jitters” get to Lombard? Will Boetsch be able to make a miraculous comeback if he gets dominated or hurt early like he did against Okami? I am one who thinks Hector’s the real deal and will shine against the top competition the UFC has to offer. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Hector Lombard knocks Tim Boetsch out in the first or second round.

Shawn Jordan (13-3) vs. Cheick Kongo (17-7-2)

ODDS: Cheick Kongo +105 vs. Shawn Jordan -135

BRIAN FURBY: Shawn Jordan.

RICHARD MANN: Kongo has become the greatest gatekeeper in the UFC’s heavyweight division. If you can knock him off you belong. If you can’t then you are Matt Mitrione. Jordan is a hard prospect to gauge. He has shown solid striking, see win over Oli Thompson, and solid grappling, see win over Lavar Johnson. However, he has also been stopped by significantly lesser competition. The early career losses can possibly be attributed to developmental hurdles. Now, he is training with Jackson’s and should continue to improve. Jordan will struggle to get inside, but if he gets a takedown this one will be over quick. Jordan by submission.

JOHN BUHL: Kongo probably won’t ever have what it takes to beat anyone in the top tier of the heavyweight division, but he usually feasts on the mid and low tier competitors. Jordan has some talent, but like Matt Mittrione, he isn’t ready for someone with Kongo’s experience and ability to slow a fight to a grind.

JAN GAETJENS: Cheick Kongo’s stock has been quietly on the rise over the past year and a half. He still has yet to record a win against anyone at the very top of the heavyweight division, but he’s been more than serviceable in his role as gatekeeper. He is admittedly one dimensional, but his unrefined ground game shouldn’t be too much of a detriment against a fighter like Jordan, who still relies more on his size and strength on the ground than any pure technique. Heavy hands will be flying from both these guys, but Kongo’s more technically sound striking gives him the advantage in this match. Kongo by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: For what it’s worth Kongo weighed in at 231, Jordan weighed in at 250. We know how Jackson’s loves games plans. Look for them to put together something to take Kongo out of his element. Jordan takes it via TKO or submission.

Matt Riddle (6-3) vs. Chris Clements (11-4)

ODDS: Chris Clements +125 vs. Matt Riddle -155

BRIAN FURBY: Chris Clements.

RICHARD MANN: Clements is a little bit more polished in the striking game than your average brawler. He showed in his UFC debut that he can withstand a token submission effort. However, he will struggle to stay on his feet against Riddle. The TUF veteran will never light the world on fire with his style, but he should win all of his fights when he is the better wrestler. Riddle by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Matt Riddle last time out almost lost to a bloated lightweight stepping up on short notice. Clements takes this in a close decision.

JAN GAETJENS: Something, something, fastest knockout ever. Not to take anything away from Clements’ claim to fame, but I don’t see too many three-second knockouts in his future now that he’s in the big leagues. Riddle is a UFC veteran with solid wrestling that should be enough for him to take the fight to the ground and work from the top for three rounds. Riddle by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Every pro fight of Matt Riddle’s has been in the UFC. With 10 of his 11 wins coming by knockout Clements has some big power. However, Riddle does have that wrestling advantage and can take him out of his game. I like Riddle’s big show experience here. Riddle via decision.

Brian Ebersole (50-14-1, 1 NC) vs. James Head (8-2)

ODDS: Brian Ebersole -400 vs. James Head +320

BRIAN FURBY: Brian Ebersole.

RICHARD MANN: Head is only really in the UFC because he was able to land a lot of elbows on Gerald Harris’ head from his back. Ebersole will also be able to get takedowns. He will easily be more active from the top. Head a pretty solid motor, so this might turn into an exciting fight, but Ebersole will be in command the whole time. Ebersole by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Ebersole by awkwardly, freakishly awesome ground skills.

JAN GAETJENS: Normally I would be hesitant to pick in favor of someone coming off just under one month of rest between fights, but, like most things, Ebersole’s been there and done that before. Head doesn’t bring anything to this fight that Ebersole has yet to see in any of his previous 66 fights. Ebersole by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: I’m starting to thing Ebersole is a force of nature. Or maybe a freak of nature. He has more pro fights than anyone on this card and has finished a large portion of those. James Head is what we call cannon fodder here. Ebersole via whatever he wants.

Court McGee (13-2) vs. Nick Ring (12-1)

ODDS: Court McGee -110 vs. Nick Ring -120

BRIAN FURBY: Court McGee.

RICHARD MANN: McGee is the type of fighter that likes to get nasty in the clinch. He presses opponents of the cage and tries to work a dirty boxing game. However, against tougher fighters, he lacks the ability to close the distance. He simply ends up chasing a superior striker around in circles and losses rounds. Ring should be able to land efficiently from the outside, especially with kicks, and take a commanding decision. Ring by decision.

JOHN BUHL: Court McGee by decision, because I hate Nick Ring’s nickname.

JAN GAETJENS: This may be the most convoluted rematch story in recent memory, as McGee was Ring’s injury replacement on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter and went on to win TUF 11 despite losing to Ring earlier in the season. Fun facts aside, Ring is the more complete fighter at this point in their respective careers, and, with a much more developed ground game and a home crowd behind him, the Canadian takes this one. Ring by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: I like McGee’s wrestling here. He comes from a tough team and yes I agree with John Buhl regarding Nick Ring’s nickname. It has to be the worst in the UFC. Most of McGee’s wins are via submission and that’s not going to work with McGee I don’t think as he’s very capable in that department too. McGee wins it via decision.

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