Viewers Guide to the Undercard, Part 2: UFC Fight Night 26 – Shogun vs. Sonnen Edition

The UFC returns to the TD Garden in Boston, Ma. this weekend and with them they’re not only bringing a high level card, they’re also bringing a new sports network. This Saturday sees the debut of Fox Sports 1 and it has a very UFC-heavy feel to it. The UFC’s offering to Fox Sports 1 also sees the reprisal of the ‘Fight Night’ event name not seen since 2011, as former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champ Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua takes on Chael Sonnen in the main event at UFC Fight Night 26. Co-main sees Alistair Overeem take on Travis Browne as he looks to restore his reputation as an elite heavyweight following a failed drug test and an embarrassing display against Bigfoot Silva in his most recent performance. The main card is rounded out with four more stellar fights in the shape of bantamweights Urijah Faber and Yuri Alcantara, welterweights Matt Brown and Mike Pyle, middleweights Uriah Hall and John Howard and lightweights Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson.

This is a card chock-full of quality and as we move on to the prelims, the theme continues. They are stacked, so much so that all fights on the undercard are covered here as you cannot afford to miss out on these matchups.

In this instalment of the Inside Fights prelim preview, I’ll be covering the Fox Sports 1 portion of the undercard. Enjoy…

Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett (23-7-0) vs. Michael ‘Mayday’ McDonald (15-2-0) –
Headlining the undercard for UFC Fight Night 26 is a battle of the bantamweights as #3 UFC ranked bantamweight, Michael McDonald takes on the #5 UFC ranked bantamweight, Brad Pickett.

We last saw Pickett in Sweden back in April of this year where he secured a split decision victory over Mike Easton at UFC on Fuel TV 9: Mousasi v Latifi. While it might not have been his most impressive victory of his UFC career, it did reposition Pickett back in the title hunt after a tough decision loss to Eddie Wineland in the fight previous. Pickett is well known for his brawling style and fans love him for it, no more so than UFC President Dana White who has gone on record before and said that Brad Pickett is one of his favourite fighters in the sport. Straight after the Easton fight Pickett was asked who he wanted to fight and one of the first names out of his mouth was that of Michael McDonald. Well now he’s got his wish and this Saturday we will see whether or not Pickett can take full advantage of the opportunity.

In his first fight since losing out to UFC Interim-Bantamweight champion Renan Barao, Michael McDonald will be looking to get back in to the win column and reposition himself for another shot at the title, be that Barao’s or Dominick Cruz’s, once the official titleholder is back from injury. A former Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion, McDonald has never experienced consecutive defeats and will have his hands full with the durable Pickett in order to avoid that ignominious marker.

Both Pickett and McDonald prefer to throw down than play it safe and cruise to a decision, and I expect that to be the same here and this is my pick for Fight of the Night. While McDonald may pack the more powerful punches, he has not fought someone of Pickett’s quality before that is able to drag him in to a brawl that he may not be too familiar with. I think that McDonald has a very bright future but at 22 years of age and having not fought the level of competition that Pickett has, I’m plumping for experience to triumph over youth on this one.

Prediction – Pickett via unanimous decision.

Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor (13-2-0) vs. Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway (7-2-0) –
Here we have a tussle of two featherweights as Conor McGregor and Max Holloway lock horns this Saturday.

I am struggling to remember a time when a fighter has garnered this much interest and had as many column inches dedicated to him after only one prelim appearance with the UFC as Ireland’s Conor McGregor. A former two weight champ for Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, McGregor was only really known to the hardcore fans before his UFC on Fuel TV 9 performance against Marcus Brimage. McGregor would go on to blast Brimage in just over a minute in to the first round and claim Knockout of the Night, however it was not just his showing inside the cage that caught people’s attention, but also his performance outside of it. During his post-fight interview in the cage and throughout his attendance at the post-fight press conference, McGregor exuded natural charisma and charm that was greeted like a breath of fresh air by all those who were there and those watching at home. McGregor has a tough act to follow now; with a whole load of hype behind him and more attention than he will have ever received before any of his previous 15 fights, how the Irishman handles this kind of exposure and how he performs in the cage could very well set him up for future stardom.

Coming in as a replacement for Andy Ogle on not too short a notice, Max Holloway will look to bounce back from suffering defeat in his most recent bout in the Octagon. The 21 year old Holloway last fought back in May at UFC 160 and was pitted against the former TUF contestant Dennis Burmudez. In a close run thing, the former X-1 featherweight champion lost out in a split decision. When Holloway steps in the cage with McGregor, he will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.

Both men are hugely talented on the feet and this is where this one will be spent for its entirety. Holloway tends to rely more on his kicks and knees than McGregor, but that’s not to say that the Irishman is adverse to them, quite the contrary. McGregor brings the far more powerful strikes in to this and a slightly more nuanced style of striking and I expect this to be displayed to its full potential. The McGregor hype train rolls on.

Prediction – McGregor via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.

Mike Brown (26-8-0) vs. Steven ‘Super’ Siler (22-10-0) –
Next up is another featherweight clash as Mike Brown goes head-to-head with Steven Siler.

Mike Brown is currently in the process of getting his once prominent career back on track. During his time with the WEC, Brown excelled in the most part and was able to defeat long-time featherweight champ Urijah Faber and capture the title for himself in only his second fight with the promotion. Brown would go on to defend the belt on two occasions against Leonard Garcia and in a rematch with Faber, before running in to a certain José Aldo. The defeat to Aldo set off a career worst run for Brown as the former champ would round out his WEC career and begin his UFC tenure with a 2-3 run, with defeats to Manny Gamburyan, Diego Nunes and Rani Yahya. Brown seems to have sorted himself out recently with victories over Nam Phan and Daniel Pineda, however he has not set foot in the cage in well over a year and this could be a factor as Brown looks to keep the momentum going.

When Steven Siler entered the 14th instalment of The Ultimate Fighter, not many people gave him a chance and had him down as one of the weaker members of the cast. However Siler would go on to prove the doubters wrong as he reached the quarter-final stage of the competition, ultimately succumbing to eventual season winner Diego Brandao. Since his time on the show, Siler has grasped his chance in the UFC with both hands and has rattled off a promotional record of 4-1 with the lone defeat coming against Darren Elkins. Steven Siler was seen most recently at UFC 159 back in April where he bested Kurt Holobaugh over three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.

In this bout, Siler should be looking to capitalise on whatever moments he has on his feet as this will be his best route to victory, because if Brown is able to successfully implement his wrestling and utilise his superior ground control, then this could turn out to be a long and arduous night for Siler. While Siler has proven to be a tough out for anyone during his time with the UFC so far, I can’t help but feel that if the Mike Brown we grew to know shows up this Saturday, the disparity in quality will be very apparent and there can be only one outcome.

Prediction – Mike Brown via unanimous decision.

Diego ‘DB’ Brandao (17-8-0) vs. Daniel ‘The Pit’ Pineda (18-9-0) –
First up on the Fox Sports 1 televised prelims portion is a featherweight scrap between Diego Brandao and Daniel Pineda.

Diego Brandao first announced himself to UFC fans on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, where the Brazilian would go on to run through the competition like a bull in a china shop and claim the season’s crown after triumphing in a memorable contest with Dennis Bermudez. This victory had everyone thinking that we had a real prospect on our hands and a man that could eventually go on to hold UFC featherweight gold. However in his very next fight the hype train was derailed somewhat when Darren Elkins superior wrestling shut down the Brazilian at every turn. Brandao has since bounced back in impressive fashion winning his last two bouts against game opposition in Joey Gambino and Pablo Garza.

Before coming to the UFC in early 2012, Daniel Pineda had competed almost exclusively on the Texan fight scene where he fought for a multitude of promotions, including a one-fight stint in Bellator. Pineda would find the most success under the Legacy Fighting Championships banner, where ‘The Pit’ would capture the LFC featherweight title and as a result, a contract with the UFC. Pineda would make a blistering start to life in the Octagon winning his first two fights via submission, however when the completion increased Pineda began to falter and lost out to Mike Brown and Antonio Carvalho in his next two outings. Pineda got back on track in his most recent bout in impressive fashion as he quickly subbed Justin Lawrence at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 17 back in April earning Submission of the Night honours in the process.

Both men are more than capable on the feet and the mat, as their records testify (Brandao 9 KO’s and 5 Subs, Pineda 6 KO’s and 13 Subs) but I feel that Brandao edges this based on his hand speed and pure aggression. Pineda’s best route to victory is to constantly pour pressure on to Brandao, force him up against the cage and hope that the Brazilian’s previous struggles with his cardio rear their head again enabling Pineda to pick apart a tiring Brandao. This is an intriguing fight and one I am particularly looking forward to.

Prediction – Brandao via KO/TKO in the 1st round.

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