Four years ago Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet and Machida was an unknown. Today, Machida is the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s undefeated wizard at 205 and Rua is on the comeback trail from a loss, a knee surgery, and wins over two fading former greats (see: Liddell and Coleman). On Saturday we’ll find out if Machida is magic or merely sleight of hand and if Rua will ever return to his previous heights. Odds courtesy of BestFightOdds.com.
It’s hard not to like Machida in this fight. His game is rounding out to include the exciting finishes that fans demand without sacrificing any of the elusiveness that drives opponents crazy. At his best, Rua moves forward fearlessly. Unfortunately, that is the best way for Machida to finish an opponent, by moving and throwing precise counter attacks, using his opponent’s momentum to amplify the force of his strikes. A game Rua will make this fight interesting, but I can’t bet against Machida until he loses decisively.
FIGHT! Pick: Machida.
For the purposes of this fight, Ben Rothwell is Cheick Kongo Lite; a big kickboxer who prefers striking to wrestling and submission fighting. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t as strong as Kongo or as good of a kickboxer, which means that Velasquez will probably beat him more easily than he did Kongo.
FIGHT! Pick: Velasquez.
I know Joe “Daddy” is a member of Team Jackson now, that he’ll probably come into the fight bigger than Fisher, and that he’s been a championship contender while Fisher has settled into the role of an exciting opponent for Spike TV cards. But if there is a dog to pick on this card it’s Fisher. The dude has huge heart and throws – if Stevenson wants to show off his striking, I think Fisher will edge him out.
FIGHT! Pick: Fisher.
Johnson is bigger, faster, stronger, and will likely do to the same to the Japanese import as Josh Koscheck did.
FIGHT! Pick: Johnson.
Schafer probably has the more refined skill set but Bader’s skills are good enough to allow him to beat inferior athletes. I expect Bader to remain undefeated.
FIGHT! Pick: Bader.
FIGHT! Pick: Machida. Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Cain Velasquez (-290) vs. Ben Rothwell (+280)
FIGHT! Pick: Velasquez. Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Joe Stevenson (-225) vs. Spencer Fisher (+205)
FIGHT! Pick: Fisher. Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Anthony Johnson (-300) vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (+300)
FIGHT! Pick: Johnson. Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Ryan Bader (-412) vs. Eric Schafer (+355)
FIGHT! Pick: Bader. Resulting Outcome: CORRECT