UFC Interim Bantamweight Champ Renan Barao puts his title on the line against Michael McDonald in the UFC on Fuel TV 7 main event Saturday in London, England. The ProMMAnow.com staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictions on the fights. Submit your picks as well — see if you can out-predict the so-called “experts”.
Renan Barao (29-1, 1 NC) vs. Michael McDonald (15-1)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Barao -305 vs. McDonald +275
DENNY HODGE: Michael McDonald is just barely scratching the surface of his true potential at 22, and finds himself with a shot to become champion already. He will have his hands full against Renan Barao who has ran off an incredible unbeaten streak in 30 fights, and has not lost since 2005 in his pro debut. Barao has proven almost impossible to takedown in his UFC career, so McDonald will look to use his power to shock the streaking Brazilian interim champ. Barao will land with multiple punch combo’s in this one in the pocket, and land significant strikes inside while clinching while avoiding the one-shot KO power of McDonald en route to a successful title defense via unanimous decision.
GARY THOMAS: Renan Barao did what he had to do to win over Urijah Faber. He is technical and dangerous. McDonald is just as dangerous. Some thought it would be McDonald who got the initial run at the interim title. Love this match up and I see a five round war. Pick – McDonald by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Renan Barao
KELVIN HUNT: Barao has fought better competition and McDonald is coming off a really long layoff. Those are two tough obstacles to overcome. Barao via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Very few people can put 29 straight wins together in anything, much less fighting. Under the Zuffa banner he is 6-0, most recently scoring unanimous decisions over Jorgensen and Faber in the UFC in 2012. He has 13 wins via submission, 10 via decision and 6 via (T)KO. McDonald is 15-1, with his lone loss coming via TKO against Cole Escovedo in 2009 — he avenged that loss a year later with a KO. Since the loss, McDonald has reeled off 8 straight wins, 5 by knockout, 2 decisions, 1 submission. He’s a finisher with only 2 of his 15 wins going the distance; he has 9 wins via knockout, 4 via submission. McDonald certainly seems to have the power advantage, while Barao has the submission advantage. I like Barao’s experience advantage and I feel he’s faced the better competition. McDonald could certainly win this fight, but at this point I’m going to have to go with Barao via decision.
Cub Swanson (18-5) vs. Dustin Poirier (13-2)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Swanson -105 vs. Poirier -105
DENNY HODGE: Cub Swanson has been on fire. After an inconsistent WEC career and a loss in his UFC debut, Swanson has fine-tuned his game and strung together 3 straight finishes and is looking to add Poirier to that list. Poirier was headed to top contender status when he ran into “The Korean Zombie” in what was one of the best fights of 2012. After that loss, Poirier changed camps and we will see the results of his ATT training in this bout. This match up is tough for Poirier who has taken punishment on the feet in recent bouts. He definitely doesn’t want to get caught up in a firefight with Swanson, who possesses dangerous boxing and has proven that he can finish anyone quickly once he engages. Poirier will get stung early and then will resort to trying to get this fight to the mat. From there he will struggle to end the fight from the top as Swanson scrambles back to his feet to resume his striking attack. In the end, Swanson will wear down Poirier and finish him by TKO.
GARY THOMAS: As a fan i wouldn’t care a bit to see Cub Swanson and Dustin Poirier go to a draw. That will probably not happen. This could be the show stealer and my fight of the night pick. Swanson may be able to showcase some standup but I like Poirier to finish this one on the mat. Pick – Poirier via submission 2nd round.
BRIAN FURBY: Dustin Poirier
KELVIN HUNT: Swanson is the better striker. We saw Jonathan Brookins have success standing against Poirier. If Swanson keeps it standing he’ll finish Poirier. Poirier will need to get this fight to the ground where he is superior. I like Swanson in the upset.
JACK BRATCHER: When Cub Swanson got choked out by Jens Pulver, I thought he was all but done. He was up and down after that, very inconsistent. But he seems to have turned things around and reeled off three straight knockout wins in 2012 against Roop, Pearson and Oliveira. That’s legit. Poirier was on a meteoric rise before getting submitted by the Korean Zombie last May. I like Cub’s experience advantage and whatever he’s doing seems to be working. I say Cub has the power advantage here too and if Dustin stands in the pocket with him — which I think he will at least long enough, I’m giving this to Cub via knockout.
Jimi Manuwa (12-0) vs. Cyrille Diabate (19-8-1)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Manuwa -225 vs. Diabate +205
DENNY HODGE: If you aren’t familiar with Jimi Manuwa, look him up. 12 wins, 12 finishes. 11 by knockout, 1 by submission. Only one of those KO’s were under the UFC banner, but against Cyrille Diabate he will be looking to extend that streak. Manuwa will come out fast looking to put Diabate away early, but Diabate will prove to be a game opponent on the feet and will counter the aggressive game of Manuwa using his reach and kicks to slow down his opponent. Diabate will have to survive the initial surge of Manuwa, but as the fight wears on, his striking from the outside will become more effective, especially his kicks. Look for Diabate to go high with his kicks as Manuwa’s hands start to drop as he fatigues. Diabate by TKO.
GARY THOMAS: It is always a hard task to enter the UFC undefeated and remain that way in your debut fight. I think Manuwa has the background to be able to strike his way to victory over Diabte. Pick – Manuwa via KO Round 2.
BRIAN FURBY: Jimi Manuwa
KELVIN HUNT: Manuwa and Diabate will be fun as both like to strike. Diabate has only been finished via TKO once….all except one of Manuwa’s wins are via TKO…something has to give..Diabate is getting on up there in age…so I’m going with Manuwa via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: This is only Manuwa’s second UFC fight. He knocked out Kyle Kingsbury back in September. Prior to that he had won all 11 of his previous fights; 10 by knockout, 1 by submission. Diabate has 8 wins via (T)KO, 6 via submission and 5 via decision. Both of his wins in the UFC have been via RNC submissions from Gustafsson and Perosh. I don’t see Manuwa submitting him. The question is will Diabate choose to try and take this fight down? With 11 of 12 wins coming by knockout — and Kingsbury is nothing to snivel at — I want to lean toward Manuwa. But Diabate has been playing this striking game a long time and the only person to knock him out was Shogun in Pride 2006 via foot stomps. I’m going with “The Snake” here for his well-roundedness and experience. “The Snake” via submission.
Gunnar Nelson (10-0-1) vs. Jorge Santiago (25-10)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Nelson -260 vs. Santiago +240
DENNY HODGE: Jorge Santiago is looking to get his UFC career on track, but will have his hands full as he faces Gunnar Nelson. Nelson is a wizard on the ground, and with an unorthodox stand up game, he will give Santiago fits as the fight wears on. Santiago will have trouble getting his striking game going against Nelson, but it will be when he is on his back where he will face the most danger. Nelson will dominate this fight from start to finish, getting the submission in the second round.
GARY THOMAS: Gunnar Nelson will welcome back Santiago. I like Santiago but I don’t think he has what it takes to knock off Nelson. Pick – Nelson via submission round 3.
BRIAN FURBY: Gunnar Nelson
KELVIN HUNT: Most of Nelson’s wins have been via submission. Santiago has never been submitted in MMA. Nelson via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: For awhile I thought Gunnar Nelson might be the singer. Turns out he’s just a badass grappler I used to hear about through random Grapplers Quest videos that would catch my attention online. Undefeated with 10 straight wins — all finishes mind you — a lot of eyes are on Nelson. And he’s from Iceland — how cool is that. He may be a vampire for real. Santiago is the former Sengoku (remember them?) middleweight champ and Strikeforce grand prix champ who’s been doing this MMA thing for over a decade. He returns to the UFC at welterweight after dropping bouts to Brian Stann and Demain Maia in 2011. He picked up a couple wins in Titan FC in 2012 and now gets another shot at the biggest show. Guess what? Gunnar Nelson is going to win this fight. Look, there’s nothing to do in Iceland except fight and fish — and we’re all out of fish. Nelson by submission — oh, did I mention Santiago is a BJJ black belt and has NEVER been submitted in 35 fights. Nelson by submission.
James Te-Huna (15-5) vs. Ryan Jimmo (17-1)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Te-Huna -210 vs. Jimmo +190
DENNY HODGE: Ryan Jimmo has reeled off 17 consecutive wins after losing his pro debut, and is 1-0 in the UFC after a quick 7 second KO. His robot dance after a victory is top notch but he may not be dancing after this one unless it’s the “Stanky Leg.” Te-Huna is going to come out fast and aggressive and Jimmo has been known to be more conservative against big punchers. That wasn’t the case against Perosh in his 7-second victory, but in that fight he had no fear of Perosh’s striking game. Te-Huna is vulnerable to submissions, but that really isn’t Jimmo’s game. Look for Te-Huna to swarm and overwhelm Jimmo quickly in the early exchanges, putting him away by TKO.
GARY THOMAS: The big tough guys get after it in Wembley. Te Huna is a brawler and is tough as well as Jimmo. Jimmo has that quick KO power and Te Huna has shown he can go the distance. Coin flip for me but I am picking Te Huna. Pick – Te Huna via decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Ryan Jimmo
KELVIN HUNT: Te Huna and Jimmo like to strike. Te Huna has good power and relies on closing the distance with power shots whereas Jimmo likes to strike from range. I’m going Jimmo via decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Hey guys. I’m going to tell you a secret. If you want to win a boatload of money, this is a fight you want to bet the underdog. In fact, bet the house on Jimmo and you will clean up. You will also be homeless if you lose but that’s part of the fun, right? I’m frankly surprised at the odds. Maybe they know something I don’t like Jimmo is hurt or something. To me, Te-Huna is still largely untested in the UFC. He beat a couple guys who moved down to light heavyweight, knocked out Anthony Perosh. Nothing too spectacular. Jimmo also knocked out Perosh in round one. That was Jimmo’s UFC debut. Before that he dominated in the MFC and ruled Canada for years. Jimmo has won 17 straight fights. His only loss was in his pro debut in 2007. The man hits hard. Te Huna has knockout power too but I actually like Jimmo’s resume better. Jimmo by knockout guys… put your money on it, then send me a tip when you win.
Che Mills (15-5, 1 NC) vs. Matthew Riddle (7-3, 1 NC)
UFC FIGHT ODDS: Mills -150 vs. Riddle +140
DENNY HODGE: Matthew Riddle has been known to get into some wild exchanges but will want to be careful engaging carelessly against Che Mills, who is the better technical boxer in this bout by far. Riddle will no doubt test the stand up waters against Mills, but will find that the pinpoint strikes of Mills will be hard to overcome without mixing in his wrestling. Look for Riddle to play it safe after some early exchanges, as he puts Mills on the ground and grinds him out for a decision victory.
GARY THOMAS: Riddle just brings a cloud with him, maybe a cloud of smoke, but his words damage him. He is a tough guy though. Mills is a finisher and has the fight ending ability. Great match up but I like Mills to finish this one. Pick – Mills via TKO Round 2.
BRIAN FURBY: Che Mills
KELVIN HUNT: Riddle via iron chin and pressure with takedowns over Mills to take the decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Riddle would be on a three fight win streak but had his submission of the night win over Chris Clements overturned to a No Contest after popping hot for weed. He looked good at the open workouts, looked strong and in very good shape. Che Mills is much more experienced, but Riddle’s wrestling could cause him some problems. Mills’ wins in the UFC have been over Duane Ludwig (TKO via injury) and Chris Cope. His one UFC loss was to Rory MacDonald. Do you realize all 11 of Riddle’s pro fights HAVE BEEN IN THE UFC? That’s amazing. He’s UFC to the core and I think he’s found his groove. I’m going with Riddle and his happy-go-lucky style for the decision win.