From a lightweight division staple who has a few major wins, but has been unable to be in title contention, however has served as a measuring stick for potentially rising stars; along with another veteran who is six years his opponent’s senior, that is currently on a four-fight winning streak who wants to be more than a middle of the pack contender…LET FURY RING!
From a heavyweight whose significant other’s career his literally transcended Ultimate Fighting Championship and Mixed Martial Arts as a whole, who aspires to championship success on his own. Paired with him is a former National Football League defensive lineman who has secured wins over lower tiered heavyweights, yet unable to gain wins over the upper brass of UFC big boys…LET FOCUS RING!
Two former lightweight champions; one, who was sliced through, losing his UFC lightweight title to current champion Rafael dos Anjos, the other, a transplant from UFC’s lead competitor, aiming to recapture the championship glory he once possessed with Bellator Fighting Championship…LET FRUSTRATION RING!
Finally, a former UFC bantamweight champion looking to capture the belt he never lost from a current champion, who still feels like his title reign isn’t getting the respect it deserves…LET VALIDATION RING!
On the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King’s day, UFC Fight Night in Boston, which emanates from TD Garden, will be anything but a meeting of the minds. If anything, the only that will be harmonious amongst these fighters is violence.
What kind of message will these combatants to the thousands in attendance and millions watching at home? Let’s find out…
Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson vs. Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo (Lightweight Division (Bout)
The opener pits two veterans, one looking to build momentum, the other, to maintain it. After going 3-3 in his last Pearson, including losses to major names such as Evan Dunham, Al Iaquinta and Diego Sanchez. Trinaldo is on a four fight winning streak, looking to gain a win over a household name in the 155 pound division. Pearson’s striking can cause cause problems for his opponent. He’s also one of the better grappling and submission counter artists with 76% 68% respectively against him defended. On the flipside, Pearson is a stand up fighter. You might get one takedown attempt from him, but that doesn’t happen every fight. He doesn’t even bother going for submissions, which to me, rings a tone of one-dimensional. Pearson has the striking edge and defends well, however he is susceptible to the knockout. Trinaldo, being a fighter who strikes, grapples and attempt submissions, should be able to implement a game plan that helps keep Pearson right where he wants him. Trinaldo defeats Pearson via Decision.
Travis “Hapa” Browne vs. Matt “Meathead” Mitrione (Heavyweight Division Bout)
There has to be pressure mounting on the shoulders of one Travis “Hapa” Browne. Think about it! In response to a knockout loss to Antonio “Big Foot” Silva back as UFC on Fox in October 2012, Browne went on roll, scoring consecutive knockout wins over a former UFC title contender Gabriel Gonzaga, and former Strikeforce heavyweight champions Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. Then along comes the much improved striker and Jiu Jitsu expert, Fabricio Werdum, who derailed Browne at UFC On Fox 11, on his way to his eventual and current title reign. After a win over Brandon Schaub, Browne’s title aspirations were once again cut off at the head by former training partner, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. The beau of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey once again has a shot at redemption against former NFL defensive lineman Matt Mitrione. While Mitrione has respectable wins over the aforementioned Gonzaga and and Shawn Jordan. Much like Pearson before him, Mitrione is still looking to generate a win over a top tier heavyweight. With all the disappointment that Browne has faced in his quest for a title shot, all while watch his girlfriend insert herself into the discussion, “World’s Most Popular Athlete” how can he not feel any pressure. Couple that with Browne’s athleticism and “Hapa” should be able to get himself onto another winning track at “The Meathead’s” expense. What kind of nickname is that??? Browne defeats Mitrione via knockout.
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez (Lightweight Title Contention Bout, Co-Main Event)
One of the toughest things for a fighter, especially a former champion, to do is return to action from a loss. In the co-main event, Pettis steps into the octagon for the first time since his devastating, unanimous decision, title loss to dos Anjos. Pettis aims to return to action on a high note, ultimately positioning himself for a potential, two-time UFC title run. A serious problem awaits him in the form of two-time Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Why, you ask? For starters, Alvarez both attempts and lands more strikes per minute than Pettis (3-2). And then, there’s wrestling. Alvarez averages three takedowns per contest. What’s more, he’s in the upper echelon of takedown defense at 91%. What happens to Pettis when his one takedown average of one per contest is nullified by such a high counter rate? If you’ve seen the Pettis/dos Anjos fight, you know the key to the present champ’s upset victory was his wrestling and constant pressure. Thus, this bout, with the right amount of pressure and wrestling by Alvarez, will result in Pettis suffering the first losing streak of his career, at least in my eyes. Alvarez defeats Pettis via decision.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz (Bantamweight Title Bout, Main Event)
First thing’s first; thank God these two are some of UFC’s pound-for-pound because if the marketing of this fight hinged on their trash talk alone, ratings could be an all-time low. Please stay away from the microphones and do what you do best gentlemen.
Dillashaw has done some things that no one from his former, star studded camp could do. For Team Alpha Male is an organization comprised of some MMA’s most recognizable fighters. It’s stable includes top contenders Joseph Benavidez (flyweight-125 Lbs., once Bantamweight-135 Lbs.) Chad Mendes (Featherweight-145 Lbs.) and Former World Extreme Cage Fighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber, who shuffles between bantamweight and featherweight as a fighter. With the dominance these three have displayed in their respective divisions, they are a combined 0-8 in UFC title fights. Benavidez losing to current flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson twice, Chad Mendez losing to former featherweight king Jose Aldo twice and Conor McGregor once for the interim featherweight belt, and Faber losing to Cruz and in a bantamweight title bout and twice to former champion Renan Barao. Now, pay attention to the names Barao and Aldo! They are representatives of the famed Brazilian camp Nova Uniao. Going back to the shortcomings of Team Alpha Male, that camp is a combined 0-5 against Nova Uniao, if we include Faber’s loss to Jose Aldo back at WEC 48, which dates back to October 2010. Overall, since said date, including WEC, Alpha Male is a combined 0-9 in title fights.
Here’s where Dillashaw separates himself from his former camp. Being the least experienced amongst title contenders there, Dillashaw broke the mold by knocking out Barao to not only become Alpha Male’s first ever champion of a major promotion, but he retained his title but knocking out Barao at UFC 149 and 169 respectively. It was October 2015, three months after Dillashaw retained his title against Barao, when Dillashaw and former Alpha Male lead trainer Duane Ludwig permanently broke camp, trading in the sunny skies of California for the blistering cold of Colorado, for the sake of the champion being close to his family.
Now on to the fight! With Dillashaw’s ownership of Barao, he has cemented himself as a legit champion. Yet, there is still skepticism of his legitimacy. More than anything, I think it revolves around Dominick Cruz never losing a title he had to forfeit as a result of multiple injuries. Cruz has proven he can come back from injuries and this time will be no different. Dillashaw has buzz sawed his way through the 135 pound division, but he has never dealt with the elusiveness and mobility of Dominick Cruz. Dating back to the WEC, Cruz has only lost one title fight, which was to Faber at WEC 26 in 2007, but he was not the fighter he is today. His game has evolved tremendously and he’s on an 11-fight winning streak. Dillashaw’s rise to the top is an impressive one, but his train will be demoted and Cruz will regain the belt he never loss inside the octagon. Cruz defeats Dillashaw via Decision.
There’s my forecast for Sunday night’s battles in Beantown. Ring announcer Bruce Buffer welcomes everyone to what should be an amazing night of fights at 10pm on Fox Sports 1. Make sure you come back to TNP Sports for a full recap of MLK Day Eve’s card.
Written by Antoine Hoffman