UFC 153 Preview – Main Card Predictions, Previews and Breakdowns

It’s been a while since we had a pay per view caliber card and now we do as it’s time for UFC 153.

Anderson Silva (32-4) vs. Stephan Bonnar (14-7)

Fight Breakdown – As much as the UFC wants to promote this as a sort of MMA version of “Rocky,” where the plucky challenger is taken from obscurity to take on the world champion, Bonnar vs. Silva isn’t anything but. Bonnar is a plucky challenger but he’s been a fringe Top 10 fighter for quite a while now. It’s not like he’s being plucked from obscurity to take on someone whose league he is supposed to be woefully out of.

On Saturday Bonnar is playing Texas Hold ‘Em with a big pot of chips against the best and throwing everything in for one hand. In the card game he would be pushing everything in for what five cards from the dealer will give him against the two he holds, Phil Hellmuth across the table. At UFC 153 he gets his chance to push in all the chips he’s ever had in his MMA career and go all in against the greatest fighter of his generation.

Going in he has one key advantage in the fight: his sheer size. Bonnar is one of the bigger light heavyweights out there and if he can grab ah old of the middleweight champion he can grind out rounds. Silva has had his struggles with larger fighters in top control and Bonnar’s game plan has to be to get Silva to the ground. From there expect him to work a game plan similar to Silva’s fights against Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen; the plan is solid but it’s in the execution where others have faltered. Bonnar is also remarkably durable as well. In the past he’s been known to take a beating to pull off a win and expect him to have to do just that; Anderson Silva is going to wear himself out punching Bonnar in the face before the TUF finalist quits.

Silva’s plan is just as simple: keep it standing and take him apart. Bonnar is a brawler and not very technical in his striking and the longer it stays standing the more Bonnar’s in trouble. “The Spider” took apart a similar fighter in Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 and Bonnar needs to study the tape of that fight and avoid doing anything Griffin did if he wants a chance. He can’t let Silva find his range and he has to avoid rushing in wildly. Silva works his magic when he can find range and counter.

Why It Matters – This might be Bonnar’s last fight in a fairly storied career, as he’s stated in the past that he wanted one ride on top against an opponent with more Twitter followers. Win, lose or draw he could walk away and the UFC loses one of the more significant contributors to its storied growth. As much as his career was that of an elite journeyman, of course, without Stephan Bonnar the UFC might not be around. He’s a UFC hall of fame fighter for that one night where he and Forrest Griffin made my mother go “Oh my god, how are those guys standing?” amongst others.

He’ll stick around with a win, of course, but if he loses to Silva my guess is that retirement might be an option too. He’s done everything he can in the sport and won’t be contending for a title anytime soon; the best days of a Chicago guy like Bonnar are done but he has a handful of meaningful fights or one big one remaining in him. This is probably that one big one.

For Silva this is potentially another cap on his legacy as well as he’d become the first to own victories over both halves of a TUF finale twice; he has wins over TUF Season 4’s finalists (Travis Lutter and Patrick Cote) and this would be Season 1’s finale as he already owns a win over Forrest Griffin. BJ Penn (Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez) and Demian Maia (Ed Herman and Kendall Grove) hold the distinction as well but only over one set. This is a unique quirk in his career to have done so. Plus it’s another that adds to his legacy as he’ll have gone up three times to light heavyweight and beaten name fighters. When he fought them Forrest Griffin was still in the Top five and James Irvin was considered by many to be a top 10 fighter in the division. A win here, especially a finish, and Silva’s reputation as the greatest fighter ever gets a bit larger.

Bonnar may not be the most impressive of scalps to take at LHW but it’s one only the elite of the division (minus Krzysztof Soszynski and a shop worn Mark Coleman) have been able to do so in the UFC. Coleman fought his way to decision and the Soszynski loss was kind of questionable as it should be a no contest.

Bonnar’s losses are fairly remarkable when you think about it: Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones, Griffin (twice) and Rashad Evans are all quality losses to have. He’s one of the few guys to have won a round off of Jones, as well. None of them finished Bonnar and Soszynski’s finish (Bonnar’s only stoppage loss) was by a cut from an accidental head butt; if Silva wins by TKO impressively he’ll have done what a lot of elite fighters couldn’t.

Prediction – Anderson Silva by UD

Glover Teixeira (18-2) vs. Fabio Maldonado (18-5)

Fight Breakdown – Once upon a time Fabio Maldonado was a light heavyweight prospect expected to do big things. With first rate boxing credentials, and an undefeated 22-0 record in that sport, Maldonado came into the UFC and promptly destroyed James McSweeney. Since then he’s lost twice and been injured; now his UFC career could be on the line and he’s been given one of the toughest outs in the division in Glover Teixeira.

This was supposed to be Teixeira’s star-making fight, as he was slated to take on Quinton Jackson, and now he gets someone in a similar spot. Jackson wants out of the UFC and Maldonado hasn’t fought like he deserves to be in it.

Expect a standup affair as neither guy will look to take it the ground. Maldonado’s boxing is good and Teixeira is a buzz saw in that department.

Why It Matters – A loss and Fabio is on the next Jungle Fights card. A win here for Teixeira, especially a dominant one, and he’s getting someone who matters next.

Prediction – Teixeira by KO, round 1

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC) vs. Dave Herman (21-4)

Fight Breakdown – This is a really odd matchup because it features one fighter who maximized everything he had to become one of the greatest who ever lived and one who seemingly just doesn’t care despite having more raw talent than anyone on the roster.

Big Nog was for a substantial period of time the second best heavyweight in the world. He was in the same spot Jon Fitch was at one point; the clear #2 but a significant level behind #1. Up until the Fedor loss he was the #1 guy.  For a long time Big Nog has been an elite heavyweight and it was because he worked insanely hard to be that good.  He never had world class athleticism, et al, he just out-hustled people.  His #1 was similar to GSP in that it was also perhaps the greatest fighter to ever enter that weight class. Now, a short time after Fedor retired, Big Nog is fighting to show that he still has something left in the gas tank.

Dave Herman, on the other, looks like he just doesn’t care about fighting despite potentially being great at it. Starting out his career 15-0 without really training to fight, the tougher the competition the lazier Herman seemingly has gotten. It’s hard discussing that someone who does a combat sport for a living doesn’t care about their tradecraft but it’s harder to argue that Herman cares with each fight. He doesn’t seem all that serious and his last two fights have reflected it. He’s more interested in creating a character that gets a reaction out of Dana White at the weigh-ins than winning fights and he took a pair of beatings to show for it.

It’s a shame because the guy has so much talent it’s mind-boggling.

This is a guy who’s so athletic he walked on and qualified for the NCAA wrestling tournament at Indiana without having wrestled in high school. In a sport where guys who wrestle in college have generally been doing so for since they were children he basically stepped in at 18 and became a high level talent. You don’t qualify for the NCAA tournament and are bad at it, like the two teams in the play in game in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Why It Matters – Dave Herman has been labeled a “can’t miss” prospect for so long that he’s about to become one that actually did miss with another loss. A loss to a shop worn fighter likes Big Nog right now and he’s as bust-acular as it gets, probably looking to get into the next Bellator heavyweight tournament. This is must win for him; you don’t lose badly three times in a row and stay in the UFC. He’s been tooled by both Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve so far and a third by a fighter with little shelf life remaining will find him with a “will fight for food” sign.

A Big Nog win here and his fight career gets extended for another day; he’s gone through some wars over the years and they’ve seemingly caught up to his body. He did look good in knocking out Brenda Schaub and seemed to capture the old Big Nog for a spell against Frank Mir before a tactical error.

Prediction – Big Nog by submission

Jon Fitch (23-4-1, 1 NC) vs. Erick Silva (14-2, 1 NC)

Fight Breakdown – What do you get when you have an explosive prospect against the veteran who has maximized his MMA career to its peak? You have the feature fight on this card, Erick Silva vs. Jon Fitch.

It’s a fairly simple style matchup. Fitch goes for takedowns, top position and ground and pound. Silva is good on the ground but dynamite on his feet. Fitch’s key to win is taking him down and keeping him there, which is tough. Silva needs to keep it standing and take Fitch apart from there.

Why It Matters – Erick Silva looks like he could be the next great welterweight and to get into that stratosphere you have to add scalps of guys like Jon Fitch to your resume. He’s admittedly taking a big step up in his game right now, of course, and this’ll be a good barometer to see where he is in his career. A win here over someone with Fitch’s resume and he’s a handful of fights away from a title shot. A loss here and his value takes a ding until he can work his way up back here. Silva is still a long term prospect and title challenger, though, and the fact that he’s getting Fitch says a lot.

Fitch is at a unique place in his career; for years he was clearly the #2 welterweight in the world but an entirely different level separated him from GSP. Now he’s been hurt and nearly forgotten about after being knocked out by Johnny Hendricks in devastating fashion after drawing with BJ Penn. The question is whether or not Fitch is a) still elite and b) capable of making another run for a title shot. A win here starts him back on that path. Fitch has been missing in action for nearly two years right now; he was a regular on cards until the injury bug finally wore him down.

Prediction – Fitch by UD

Demian Maia (16-4) vs. Rick Story (14-5)

Fight Breakdown – Rick Story looked like he was on the verge of becoming a serious contender in the welterweight division until he ran into Charlie Brenneman on short notice. Another decisive loss to Martin Kampmann left him looking like his career in the UFC was on the verge of being over. A grinding win over Brock Jardine left him in the winning circle again.

Maia is making his second fight at welterweight and his game has seemingly returned. On the mat he’s the best BJJ practitioner in the game. Standing he’s a mediocre kickboxer. Story needs to keep it standing to grind a win, Maia on the ground.

Why It Matters – Maia had a victorious if uninspired debut victory over Dong Hyun Kim. A win here gives him two in a row, technically, and better standing in the division. Story needs a win here to get back on track before the Brenneman fight, on the verge of contendership.

Prediction – Maia via submission

Phil Davis (9-1, 1 NC) vs. Wagner Prado (8-0, 1 NC)

Fight Breakdown – Prado is skilled standing and apparently has some skills on the mat. Phil Davis has tremendous athletic ability and a first rate wrestling pedigree. Whomever gets their game off first is going to win.

Why It Matters – Phil Davis was cruising to a title shot against Jon Jones, slowly but surely, when Rashad Evans manhandled him in Chicago. Now it’s time to rebuild and see how he responds from his first career loss. He looked tentative early against Prado the first time, as this is a rematch from their FX fight that ended when Prado got eye poked unintentionally.

Prado is a top prospect and a win here puts him where Glover Teixiera was right after the Kingsbury fight.

Prediction – Davis by UD

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