UFC 164: Pretty Tony & The Toothpick (A Main Card Preview)

Any idiot can write a preview. I know this. There are probably 1,000 other UFC 164 previews out there online, so why should you read mine? Well, for starters, you clicked on the link. That seems obvious and logical. However, the more important reason is that my previews are hilarious. Not because I’m a funny guy, but because it’s always a good time to point and laugh at someone who huffs and puffs, sticks his chest out, holds his head high, and makes bold predictions as though he actually knew something about MMA. I’ve never trained a day in my life. I’m not very active physically at the moment. I’m exactly the kind of guy that shouldn’t be writing these sorts of things with any tone of authority.

But I’m going to anyway. Cue up the circus music!

Erik Koch vs. Dustin Poirier

This is the perfect fight to kick off a pay-per-view. Two young, exciting prospects who are already entrenched in the upper echelons of the division, but are both coming off losses. Done and done. Great matchup.

Koch is a more dangerous striker, but Poirier has more fire up his ass in the aggression department. I’d give Poirier the advantage on the floor, and that’s his big advantage in this fight. Most other categories are relatively even.

Poirier is very skilled, and will most likely keep making improvements in his game. But right now it’s clear that he’s just a notch below the top featherweights. Same goes for Erik Koch, who is coming off of a demoralizing loss to the Rodney Dangerfield of the featherweight division.

Right now, I think Poirier is just a skosh more well rounded and experienced, and I like him to prevail here by finishing Koch with strikes sometime during the third round. Koch could land something spectacular, but give me Dustin Poirier by TKO.

Brandon Vera vs. Ben Rothwell

After failing to capture the light heavyweight championship belt from Chuck Liddell, Brandon Vera trudges back to the heavyweight division with his tail tucked between his legs. It’s hard to believe that unforgettable wins over Michael Patt and Reese Andy didn’t propel Vera into bigger and better things, but such is life.

He takes on Ben Rothwell, who I quite frankly expect to papa bear Brandon Vera. Actually, I don’t expect it, because Rothwell gasses unlike anyone else in the history of MMA (except for maybe Tank Abbott, who had the good sense to quit before he was murdered). But it wouldn’t surprise me.

This is one of the saddest fights I can remember in a long time. Both men came into the UFC with some fanfare, and now mentioning their names in the same sentence is enough to immediately emit laughter or some sort of snarky dig from just about any MMA fan who isn’t a tool.

I expect Rothwell to have success with his wrestling, but this fight will come down to how he behaves after he gasses, and if Vera can capitalize. Vera wont capitalize. He’s Brandon Vera. Rothwell by decision in a fight that will probably make me cry with boredom and incredulity. Also, this cracked me up:

Clay Guida vs. Chad Mendes

Well, it appears that Clayton Charles Guida’s run of getting moronic judges to drink his Kool-Aid is about to end. There are alot of featherweights in the UFC, and I can’t think of a worse matchup for Guida than Chad Mendes. All of the pointless footwork in the world isn’t going to stop him from A) getting punched when he bounces the wrong way or B) getting taken down and split open when he bounces the wrong way. There’s gonna be alot of bouncing the wrong way here.

Mendes hasn’t fought the best guys lately, but this is mostly due to injury replacements. And what he did he do with those replacements? He swiftly and coldly dispatched of them, just like he was supposed to. He also did so with unbridled aggression and a satanic look in his eye. I think Cody McKenzie is still clutching at his midsection.

Mendes’ boxing is better. His wrestling is better. He’s younger, faster, and much less idiotic and irritating. Mendes by a dominant decision.

Josh Barnett vs. Frank Mir

This might be the all time crossover fight when it comes to the whole “PRIDE vs. UFC” debate. It all seems so archaic now, but this fight was once a huge point of contention. Folks used to love the whole “PRIDE guy vs. UFC guy” angle, and there was a time when certain people honestly believed that the two might be able to co-promote. Pipe dreams aside, people want to see two punishing grapplers that aren’t exactly stalwart wrestlers or stereotypical jiu jitsu guys mix it up in the octagon, and nobody fits the bill quite like these two.

Since I’ve been thinking about this fight for 5 years, I think I’m ready to make a pick. It’s difficult to examine a good heavyweight and not pick him to beat Mir. There are so many ways Mir can go down in a heap of awkward tattoos and baby fat. He doesn’t have a great chin. He can be stifled against the fence. He can be taken down and beaten up. He can be potshotted from distance. He’s just full of holes, and if you want to talk about a success story that defies all logic, look no further than Mr. Francisco Santos Mir. He’s lucky to even be fighting.

I don’t see a crippling submission from either guy, but I think Barnett has what it takes to outland Mir on the feet and get him out of there within two rounds. This fight might turn into a snoozer against the cage, but give me Barnett by TKO.

Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

I feel like I might have written this before, so all apologies if I’m being redundant. But, have you ever read those hilarious threads that attempt to make earnest arguments that Pettis’ famous “Showtime Kick” was a fake?

Stuff like this always comes up when huge upsets or things that defy logic happen. Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva? Anderson must have thrown the fight. Anthony Pettis ran diagonally towards the cage, jumped against it with his right foot, and used the same foot to kick a retreating Ben Henderson in the face and inch ahead in one of the closest great fights in MMA history? It must have been a setup. Right before it happened, you can clearly see Henderson’s foot tap the cage, and then he walks away with his hands down. He’s ready to take the hit! (I’m paraphrasing from my favorite laughable Pettis-Bendo conspiracy video.)

This kind of shit ALWAYS strikes me as hilarious. All of it is just “I can’t believe what my own eyes just saw. Therefore, it must be a hoax. My eyes and brain always work together perfectly.” If the Showtime Kick was staged, not only does that make it more impressive than if it was legitimate, but I am also a Chinaman (Hint: I AM not a Chinaman).

Anyway, this rematch comes down to which version of Ben Henderson shows up. In 3 of his 4 UFC title fights, he’s played it relatively safe, squeaking out rounds by kicking the body and legs and calculating every strike before he throws it. In the other fight, he repeatedly took down and beat up on Nathan Diaz, in what was easily his most impressive performance in the octagon.

Can he do this against Pettis? Does he WANT to do this against Pettis? It would be an awful strategy to stand at range and try to eke out rounds against the most dynamic, dangerous striker in MMA. He’s going to get picked off badly if he does this. Badly.

That leaves the wrestling. If you want to see a competitive fight, root for Benson to try to put Pettis on his back. Pettis has a good guard, but a submission seems unlikely against one of the all time great gutsy submission defenders, and Benson’s ground and pound improved leaps and bounds when he fought Diaz. Instead of going buckwild with feral strikes, he showed a much more measured punching attack on the floor against Diaz, and he didn’t really do less damage.

I love Anthony Pettis in this fight. I think his takedown defense has improved leaps and bounds, and I think he’ll be able to dictate where the fight goes. Pettis’ journey to this point hasn’t been easy. He’s had multiple title shots fall through, he’s had to go through that BS decision against Clay Guida, he’s had to deal with being called a crybaby and a line cutter … it’s been a tough road to hoe.

I think he’s ready. He’s been calling himself the best lightweight in the world for quite some time now, and tomorrow night, Ben Henderson will brush his hair out of his face as a UFC champion for the last time. Pettis by decision.

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