In America we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend. We remember fallen soldiers and lost relatives and eat too much at barbecues (which is something we rarely do). And while I’m sure that after I’m dead and gone I’ll be remembered rightfully as the James Joyce of MMA and a voice of a generation, for now I am content to give you another edition of the Downes Side.
This weekend the show rolls back into Las Vegas for UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. When you think about it, Las Vegas is the perfect place for Memorial Day weekend. While he hasn’t told me explicitly, I’m pretty sure my father would like me to spread his ashes at a Carrot Top show. I think we can all agree that there’s something about prop comedy that speaks to humanity’s spiritual side.
Stefan Struve (23-5) vs Lavar Johnson (17-5)
The main card kicks off with a heavyweight bout between Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve and Lavar “Big” Johnson. The 6’11” Struve brings a 7-3 UFC record into the fight after a 1st round TKO of Dave Herman in February. Johnson seeks a quick turnaround after beating Pat Barry only three weeks ago.
For as tall as Struve stands, he fails to utilize it in most of his fights. I find his propensity for flying knees especially perplexing. If I were that tall, I would just throw straight punches, win easily and then spend my free time getting children’s Frisbees out of trees. Lavar Johnson, while not the most technical, brings a lot of power and has never seen the judges' scorecards. If I were that strong, I would just throw big punches, win easily and spend my free time putting nerds’ Frisbees in trees. I see this fight playing out like Struve vs. Browne at UFC 130: Struve will crowd the range, get caught with a big punch and send Johnson home with another 1st-round TKO.
Stipe Miocic (8-0) vs Shane del Rosario (11-0)
Next up is a battle of heavyweight unbeatens as Stipe Miocic takes on former Strikeforce standout Shane del Rosario. A former Golden Gloves champion, Miocic only needed 43 seconds in February to end Philip de Fries’ undefeated streak. With 8 of his 11 wins by knockout, del Rosario hasn’t seen the second round since September of 2008. Now I forgive you for not remembering that because there was a lot going on in the world, like the birth of the person who’s 7th in line to the Norwegian monarchy.
The big story here is Shane del Rosario’s comeback after 14 months off and while ring rust is certainly a worry, I still like him in this fight. I think he’s more explosive than Miocic and a superior grappler as well. He puts this one away in the 2nd and lobs himself up the the heavyweight ladder. He’ll also surpass standard dimension ratio as the second most popular SDR acronym. (He still has some work to do to beat special drawing rights, though.)
Roy Nelson (16-7) vs Dave Herman (21-3)
We get another heavyweight match as Dave Herman looks to beat up our favorite bearded doughy TUF alum, Roy Nelson. Herman looks to rebound from his previous loss to Stefan Struve, while Nelson seeks to get his groove back. Sadly, the only country that Big Country resembles lately is North Korea. Not only does he look undernourished, but after losing three of his last four, he's been about as successful as their recent rocket launch. (See? Current events can be fun!)
Nelson possesses every advantage in this fight and will end his skid against the (mixed martial) artist formerly known as Pee Wee. Herman may have had early success against Struve, but his standup leaves a lot of holes that Big Country will be able to exploit. Nelson drops him with a shot in the 2nd, gets top position and submits “Sasquatch” for the win. While this may not propel Big Country to USA status, he’ll cross over the DMZ and resemble a more respectable nation, like South Korea.
Cain Velasquez (9-1) vs Antonio Silva (16-3)
Again, we have another heavyweight contest (I’m starting to see a trend here) as former champion Cain Velasquez meets Antonio Silva in his first Octagon appearance since losing the belt to Junior dos Santos last Novermber. “Bigfoot” debuts in the UFC after losing in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix to eventual winner Daniel Cormier. He’s also trying to get some momentum going before he takes Dave Herman to court for gimmick infringement.
Full disclosure, I do have insider knowledge on the Velasquez camp because I once ate at a Mexican restaurant in San Jose that has his picture on the wall. The key here will be for Velasquez to avoid going to the ground. Velasquez has a significant speed advantage that should allow him to move in and out and accomplish this task. While I don’t think he’ll put Bigfoot away, he’ll outwork him and score enough clean hits to earn an easy UD victory. On the bright side, I think Bigfoot's black eyes will create a sympathetic jury should the situation with Herman ever make it to trial.
Junior dos Santos (14-1) vs Frank Mir (16-5)
That brings us to the main event of the evening which, interestingly enough, is another heavyweight fight. The champion Junior dos Santos looks to continue his reign as he steps in against former champion Frank Mir. “Cigano” has won all 8 of his UFC fights, and it appears that he could hold onto the title for a long time. Mir has been cruising through his competition lately with wins over notable fighters such as Mirko Cro Cop, Roy Nelson and Big Nog.
I am not a huge Frank Mir supporter. Maybe it’s because he looks like the stereotypical bad guy from a Revenge of the Nerds movie, or maybe it’s because I still haven’t forgiven him for ruining the body of modern-day Adonis Tim Sylvia with an armbar at UFC 48. Who knows? What I do know is that while Mir’s standup has steadily improved, it won’t be enough against JDS. I’d give him a shot to get a grinding decision victory, but I think that Mir is going to stand there, trade with dos Santos, get clipped and lose in the first round.
That wraps up another enlightening, awe-inspiring edition of the Downes Side. Be sure to follow me on twitter @dannyboydownes and read my blog. Also, don’t forget to leave comments, thoughts and criticisms (if that’s even possible). May all the American readers have a great Memorial Day, Filipinos enjoy their Flag Day and Ethiopians commemorate Derg Downfall Day responsibly. For those of you living in countries without national holidays and have to go to work -- deal with it.