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UFC 146: Weighing In On The Heavyweights

It’s been a while since I tested the UFC prediction waters. With my NHL playoff struggles, I figured maybe it was time for a change of scenery — or sport.

And what better time to wade back into the UFC than with an entirely unpredictable, all-heavyweight main card on tap tonight in Las Vegas? UFC 146 is as BIG as it gets, with a ton of muscle — literally a ton, as in more than 2,400 pounds — stepping into the Octagon, headlined by a title fight between reigning champion Junior Dos Santos and two-time former champ Frank Mir. This marks Dos Santos’ first title defence since stripping the belt from Cain Velasquez in November with a quick stoppage during the UFC’s network television debut on FOX. Velasquez is also making his return, taking on Antonio Silva in the co-main event.

From top to bottom, this card has the potential for fireworks. And given the power these heavyweights are packing in every punch, fans won’t want to blink — let alone head to the refrigerator for another round of refreshments during these fights.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Frank Mir

Stylistically, this is an intriguing matchup and a tough first test for Dos Santos as champion. Initially, Dos Santos was to face Allistair Overeem, a massive Dutch kickboxer, in what would have been a stand-up slugfest. That was, until Overeem failed a drug test and was replaced by Mir, a submission specialist that is best known for his ground work. Both Dos Santos and Mir are finishers that start strong and rarely see the second round. By no means do I expect this bout to go the full five rounds, and the winner will undoubtedly be the man who dictates where the fight takes place. Mir’s striking is somewhat under-rated, but if Dos Santos can keep it standing — sprawl and brawl — he should outclass Mir and score some sort of KO/TKO. Likewise, Dos Santos trains with some of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in Brazil, so he’s well versed in grappling and submission defence, but Mir broke his mentor Big Nog’s arm last time out and, therefore, holds the upper hand if and when they hit the mat. I have a funny feeling Mir’s cocky, or courageous, side will get the best of him by trying to stand-and-trade with Dos Santos in the early stages.

Prediction: Dos Santos by first-round KO/TKO.

Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

Velasquez is hungry, determined to avenge that loss to Dos Santos and earn another title shot — potentially a rematch. Silva, meanwhile, is making his UFC debut after a well travelled career that includes an upset of Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko. I don’t think Silva will be overwhelmed by the bright lights of the big show, as many succumb to in their first UFC fight. I just think he’ll be overwhelmed by Velasquez’s relentless pace.

Prediction: Velasquez by unanimous decision.

Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman

I’m not a huge fan of either guy, and this is the heavyweight fight I’m least looking forward to. That said, you never know, it could end up being a barnburner. Nelson, better known as Big Country, is quite versatile and not just a brawler as his Tank Abbott-esque exterior suggests. He has heavy hands, but he’s got good submission skills and if he gets on top of you, he’s tough to get off due to his size and smothering effect. Herman has a puncher’s chance, but Nelson’s got a chin that can withstand anything he’ll throw.

Prediction: Nelson by second-round submission (arm triangle).

Stipe Miocic vs. Shane del Rosario

This scrap should be exciting. Two talented, undefeated guys that don’t lack confidence. It will be interesting to see who sets the early tone, who is able to impose their will. Del Rosario would probably be wise to shoot for an early takedown, but, like Mir, I could see him wanting to bang it out for a bit. And, like Mir, I don’t see that strategy ending well given Miocic’s boxing background.

Prediction: Miocic by first-round KO.

Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson

Perhaps my favourite fight on the card, I think it’s a lock to produce a bonus of the night — be it fight, knockout or submission. Johnson just scares me, his destruction of Pat Barry was frightening to say the least. But Struve, the almost seven-foot string-bean, can take a licking and keep on ticking. He’s been bloodied and battered but found ways to win in the past, pulling off a couple improbable submissions. Should the fight go to the ground, Struve will have a definitive edge. But being the opening bout, I think bravado will once again be a factor with Struve keeping it standing  . . . until he gets knocked down.

Prediction: Johnson by first-round KO.

Undercard

Diego Brandao vs. Darren Elkins = This is Brandao’s first non-TUF fight, and not to take anything away from Elkins, who has won two straight, but this should be a stepping stone for the new Diego. Prediction: Brandao by first-round KO.

Edson Barboza vs. Jamie Varner = Yes, it’s that Jamie Varner. But no, he’s not the same Jamie Varner he used to be. Barboza is the real deal and the next generation of fighters, which will be evident in this one. Prediction: Barboza by first-round KO.

Jason Miller vs. C.B. Dollaway = Mayhem Miller needs to redeem himself after gassing out and getting embarrassed by Michael Bisping in his return to the Octagon. Cardio won’t be a factor for Miller this time, but Dollaway will put up a decent fight. Prediction: Miller by split decision.

Dan Hardy vs. Duane Ludwig = Two guys that like to bang, one of them is even nicknamed Bang (Ludwig). But Hardy has been training with Mir and trying to add new dimensions to his game in hopes of ending a lengthy losing streak while keeping his job in MMA’s top promotion. If Hardy fights smart and doesn’t just trade bombs in the pocket, he should have what it takes here. Prediction: Hardy by referee stoppage, ground and ground.

Jacob Volkmann vs. Paul Sass = Volkmann is nicknamed Christmas of all things, and has quietly put together a five-fight winning streak. Sass is 12-0 with 11 submission wins. Something tells me this is the night before Christmas and soon Volkmann will be sleeping. Prediction: Sass by submission (triangle choke).

Kyle Kingsbury vs. Glover Teixeira = This is Teixeira’s UFC debut, but he’s beaten a handful of UFC veterans in other promotions. Kingsbury is a former TUF contestant that has stuck around but hasn’t been overly impressive. It’s a toss-up for me . . . Prediction: Kingsbury by majority decision.

Mike Brown vs. Daniel Pineda = Brown has fought the best of the best in the featherweight division and is a former WEC champion, while this is a big step up in competition for Pineda. I think it’ll be too much to handle at this point. Prediction: Brown by unanimous decision.

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NHL Playoff Predictions: Glamourous Cup Final Shaping Up

The Associated Press
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick celebrates with captain Dustin Brown following the Kings’ sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the second round of NHL playoffs. Los Angeles advanced to face the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference final.

Many NHL playoff prognosticators will be running for the hills after this post-season, and I’ll be giving chase by the looks of it.
With the third round starting today, anybody who predicted third-seeded Phoenix — sixth-ranked based on regular-season point totals — would be facing eighth-seeded L.A. in the Western Conference final is, well, a genius. A month or two ago, that same person would have been labelled a fool and laughed out of most rooms. But nobody is laughing now, except maybe the Las Vegas bookies, who have to be raking it in hand over fist with all these upsets.
The Eastern Conference final is a little different story, with the top-seeded New York Rangers surviving two Game 7s against No. 8 Ottawa and No. 7 Washington, advancing to face No. 6 New Jersey.
I went 1-for-4 in the second round — only calling the L.A. Kings’ ousting of St. Louis — to bring my putrid predictions record to 4-for-12. There are power plays that connect at a better clip than my 33.3 per cent.
Making matters worse, I’m now 0-for-4 in my Stanley Cup final predictions — initially picking Pittsburgh to beat Chicago, then, after both those teams were booted in the first round, Philadelphia to defeat Nashville. Again, both teams were sent packing in the second round — Philadelphia falling to New Jersey and Nashville getting dumped by Phoenix.
So here I sit, trying to salvage some pride by correctly predicting the final three series, starting with the conference finals.

Western Conference

Phoenix (3) vs. Los Angeles (8)

I was on the Kings’ bandwagon last round, so there’s no point in hopping off now. This isn’t a marquee matchup for Canadian fans. That potential was lost with L.A. upsetting Vancouver in the opening round. But there’s some appeal to this series, especially for fans of good goaltending with L.A.’s Jonathan Quick and Phoenix’s Mike Smith among the Conn Smythe Trophy contenders as playoff MVP. Smith, especially, is the main reason the Coyotes are still playing despite getting outshot by Nashville and Chicago. Quick has been every bit as solid, turning aside the top-seeded Canucks before sweeping the No. 2 Blues. Los Angeles should be slightly fresher, having played only nine playoff games this spring compared to 11 for Phoenix. The Kings also have more scoring depth up front, including some big forwards who could make Smith’s job all the more difficult.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 6.

Eastern Conference

New York (1) vs. New Jersey (6)

I didn’t expect the Devils to be here, to dismantle the Flyers like they did, but I should know better than to bet against future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. He’ll backstop New Jersey in a goaltender’s duel against New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist this season. Expect both these series to feature low-scoring, close games, though there could be a bit more run-and-gun here. The Devils outgunned a Philadelphia team that was full of firepower, albeit lacking between the pipes with the ever-shaky (and quirky) Ilya Bryzgalov. New Jersey will have a tougher time beating Lundqvist. Personally, I prefer New York’s defence but New Jersey’s offence. What’s that cliché about defence winning championships?
Prediction: New York in 7.

And the newest winner is . . .

That would make for a big city Cup final between New York and Los Angeles — Times Square-versus-Hollywood. Talk about a dream come true for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, a much more desirable pairing for ratings than, say, New Jersey and Phoenix. For what it’s worth — and that’s less than two cents — I now have the Kings getting crowned rather than King Hank (Lundqvist), with L.A. hoisting hockey’s holy grail in six games. However it plays out, I’m sure it’ll still be fun to watch. So stay tuned and enjoy.
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter with a passion for hockey at all levels. Follow him on Twitter @LarryFisher_KDC or email larry.fisher@ok.bc.ca.
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