UFC 156: Picks & Predictions for Preliminary Bouts on FX
Edwin Figueroa vs. Francisco Rivera
In bantamweight action, the technical brilliance of Francisco Rivera will be put to the test against the iron jaw and persistent aggression of Edwin Figueroa.
From the fans of the sport, Figueroa has been appropriately referred to as a slightly more technical & better conditioned version of Leonard Garcia.
Over his last three outings, Figuero has developed a reputation as a gritty striker who throws a lot of unorthodox and wild strikes- often times to the point where he leaves himself off-balance against incoming counters from his opponents— which was best taken advantage of by Michael McDonald who repeatedly landed his counter right hand over Figuero’s lunging strikes.
Rivera, meanwhile, has displayed some of the soundest boxing technique in the 135 pound division.
Back in May his return to the UFC saw Rivera soundly outbox Alex Soto in a unanimous decision victory. Then in July he became the first fighter to finish Roland Delorme at UFC 142.
On the surface that might not seem like much of an accomplishment, however when you factor in the prior beating that Delorme survived against Nick Denis, then Rivera’s ability to earn a stoppage so early over such a durable fighter looks to be quite the feat.
Eating a wild kick from Figueroa, or gassing late and getting subbed are the only two legitimate scenarios where I can see Rivera losing this fight.
Reuben Duran, a past opponent of Rivera’s ,was able to withstand his early aggression and eventually secured a submission over him in the third round, which is something Figueroa is equally equipped to accomplish if he takes this fight into deep waters.
It’s extremely important that Rivera maintains his composure throughout this fight. He needs to be mindful of the fact that Figueroa is probably one of the tougher guys in the division to finish, so if he does manage to hurt him, he needs to stay reserved and not let his emotions cause him to overexert himself in pursuit of the finish.
For my UFC picks, I like Rivera to take a 3 round decision where he consistently gets off first in the exchanges and possibly even drops the defensively flawed Figueroa multiple times throughout the match.
UFC Pick: Francisco Rivera via UD
Gleison Tibau vs. Evan Dunham
A pair of lightweights will be kicking the main card off as Evan Dunham squares off with Brazilian submission specialist, Gleison Tibau.
If we’re to go back and look at the two recent matches these two were in, it was quite baffling watching the game plans’ they both chose to implement against their respective opponents.
Against T.J Grant, Dunham refused to use his wrestling and shoot for takedowns until it was too late into the 1st and 2nd rounds, ultimately costing him a split decision loss in that match. Once again, we saw how Dunham’s over willingness to exchange and get into a fire fight- instead of cautiously implementing his strengths- lose him a fight.
Equally puzzling, however, was watching Tibau’s curious gameplan against the Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, which seemingly consisted of passively circling around the cage while putting up a very limited amount of offence. Despite landing the cleaner strikes throughout the match, his general passiveness ended up costing him a decision on the cards.
Obviously, that’s not the same approach Gleison wants to take here with Dunham, whose aggressive striking and pressure is easily capable of sealing that same fate for the Brazilian in this match.
In a more recent outing, though, Tibabu returned more to his true form in a decision win over fellow Brazilian Francisco Trinaldo. The fight consisted of Tibau pushing for the clinch early and securing multiple takedowns in the first and third rounds.
In regards to their durability, Tibau can be a bit chinny while Dunham- outside of the Gullard fight- has shown to be one of the more resilient fighters in the division. For that reason, my biggest concern with backing Tibau in this fight is him potentially getting stopped late due to the accumulative damage a fighter like Dunham can quickly amass in a fight.
However, as the physically stronger grappler of the two, I still find myself siding with Tibau by a slim margin to eke out a decision in this one. That said- once the UFC odds makers release a line-look for there to be clear underdog-value on Evan at anything above +135.
UFC Pick: Gleison Tibau
Jacob “Christmas” Volkmann vs. Bobby Green
Debuting over from Strikeforce, Bobby Green’s first fight in the UFC has been scheduled against Minnesota’s finest, Jacob Volkmann.
Bobby Green’s particular skillset is a difficult one to assess for bettors, which makes it that much harder for us to accurately quantify a price on him in this fight.
His repertoire is defined by a strong clinch game, above average defensive & offensive wrestling and decent punching power- complemented by his fairly basic boxing technique.
The two biggest past opponents’ on Bobby’s record are Gesias Cavalcante & James Terry, both of who he took to a competitive split decision. However, it’s tough to say just how much credit he truly deserves for nearly upsetting Cavalcante, who in recent years has rapidly regressed from the former top 15 lightweight many had him ranked as in the past.
The beauty in betting on Volkmann is you never have to worry about him not fighting to his strengths.
He does three things exceptionally well: CLINCH- TAKEDOWN- SUFFOCATE
We’ve seen in the past where other submission guys like David Mitchell and Dan Lauzon were eventually able to secure a submission over him. Unfortunately for Bobby, I just don’t think he has enough experience to deal with Volkmann’s caliber of takedowns’ or his control on the mat.
Look for Bobby’s strength in the clinch to give Volkmann a few initial fits in the first round, but eventually Jacob should find a way to sneak his arms around Bobby’s neck for a second round submission.
UFC Selection: Jacob Volkmann via second round submission