The two marquee bouts of UFC 142, better known as UFC Rio, will see an inaugural moment for two combatants. First, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will make the jump from welterweight (170 lbs.) to middleweight (185 lbs.). Finally, Chad “Money” Mendes gets his first crack at UFC gold. The bouts at hand brought about serious deliberation. Far be it from me to label myself “MMAstradamous”, but I couldn’t just sit on these fights without providing a forecast. Here is my stab at the lasting impression Rumble and Money will set in their respective experiments:
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson- Middleweight Division Bout
Opting to debut in the deepest end of the Middleweight division pool creates a huge splash. Accepting a fight against a recent number one contender makes Johnson’s intentions quite clear. He has to lock horns with the fastest and arguably heaviest hands in the class. Given Belfort’s experience, it’s no question why he’s favored to succeed as Johnson’s welcoming committee. Ah, but not so fast! With every fighter comes vulnerability. As menacing as The Phenom’s pressure can be, he’s not impervious to a knockout. Rumble has gained notoriety for his imposing size and knockout power. What overlooked about the Georgia native is his wrestling/takedown ability. As memorable as this one will be, there is a malicious intent behind Johnson’s strikes that I see leading him to victory in his Middleweight debut.
Jose Aldo Jr. (Champion) vs. Chad Mendes (Challenger)- UFC Featherweight Championship
If you have followed Jose Aldo Junior since his World Extreme Cagefighting and beyond, you have become accustomed to the manner in which he finishes opponents. Twelve of his 20 wins are by way of knockout or technical knockout. Since strapping on the gloves under the UFC brand, Aldo seems to have been a shell of his WEC self. Against Mark Hominick and Kenny Florian, the outcome fell in the judges hands. This does not bode well, going into a bout with the Featherweight division’s best wrestler. The undefeated Mendes takes down his opponents at will. If you’re in his clutches, prepare yourself for a trip to the mat. On the flip side, the closest Mendes has come to facing an elite striker like Aldo is being a training partner of Urijah Faber, who Aldo tortured in April 2010. If Aldo wants to stay champion, he’ll need intellect to see him through. His timing with counterattacks must be flawless. I’ll go with the mystique of Rio De Janiero to help the hometown hero defend his crown, but if he detours from his game plan, the division’s power wrestler will emerge as champion.
As always, enjoy fight night and I’ll see you soon with my UFC Rio recap.
By Antoine Hoffman