It’s undoubtedly the most stacked card of the young year.
So without further ado, here are the Scrapyard predictions for the pay-per-view portion of UFC 126 on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
And yes, our panel of “almost-experts” is picking the upset.
Champion Anderson “Spider” Silva (27-4) vs. Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (19-8) for the UFC middleweight belt — With 27 wins and only four losses, there are few who would bet against the champ. Silva is riding a 13-fight win streak with 12 coming inside the UFC Octagon. But for nearly two years, he hasn’t looked like the unbeatable precision striker of the past. Since his fight with Thales Leites in April 2009 at UFC 97 in Montreal — a sham of a slap-and-tickle affair — Silva has looked almost bored. That was until Silva’s last fight — vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 last August — when he went from looking bored to looking beatable. Silva was clearly thumped for four rounds until he managed a submission minutes before he was about to lose the fight. Despite the hype, the hunger seems almost gone from the UFC’s greatest 185-pounder. Silva’s opponent, on the other hand, has momentum and a nasty left fist. Belfort has ridden from the heights of champion to the depths of having to fight for smaller outfits to make his way back. He last destroyed Rich “Ace” Franklin at UFC 103 in September.
PREDICTION: Belfort by third-round TKO.
Light heavyweights Forrest Griffin (17-6) vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin (28-5) — Franklin looked like a stud in sending Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell back to retirement. His striking looked crisp and controlled at UFC 115 in June. Griffin is coming off a split-decision win over Tito “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz at UFC 106 in November 2009 that was more of a plumbers’ affair than crisp, calculated fight. One thing’s for certain,: Griffin will look for the relentless brawl. But against a smart fighter like Franklin, that may not work. If Franklin is able to execute his game plan from the outside, Griffin will be frustrated and become desperate. If Franklin can ride the waves of explosive shots, he should win.
PREDICTION: Franklin by decision.
Light heavyweights Jon “Bones” Jones (11-1) vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader (12-0) — The only blemish on the athletic Jones is a disqualification loss — to Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter 10 finale in December 2009 — and in the eyes of most fans and critics remains undefeated. The most creative fighter in the UFC, the 23-year-old doesn’t shy away from flamboyant fists and knees that usually catch his opponents. Bader sports a perfect record, but three of his last four fights have gone the distance. Jones is a finisher and should be able put away the wrestler before the final bell.
PREDICTION: Jones by first-round TKO.
Welterweights Jake Ellenberger (22-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0) — Ellenberger is a journeyman fighter who likes to finish. More than 60% of his victories have come via KO or TKO. But he is coming up against an undefeated Brazilian submission expert. Rocha has a deep toolbox when it comes to submissions, having used armbars, leglocks, kneebars and arm triangles to stop his opponents. He knows how to pull apart limbs and barring an early explosion from Ellenberger, Rocha should be able to pull off a submission.
PREDICTION: Rocha by first-round submission.
Bantamweights Antonio Banuelos (18-6) vs. Miguel Angel Torres (38-3) — Torres was riding a 17-fight win streak before dropping two straight and was — along with Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber — one of the most recognized fighters of the former World Extreme Cagefighting promotion. He can fight on his feet and has proven to be a superior submission artist. Banuelos doesn’t have the experience of Torres, but has more knockout power.
PREDICTION: Torres by decision.