MacDonald on MMA: The Athlete’s predictions

September 22, 2012, 4:23 AM

I just finished texting Sean and TJ to tell them good luck on their fights at UFC 152 Saturday night. It’s the big return to Toronto. I think the addition of Jones vs. Belfort helped the card; I’m not sure a lot of people were really excited about Johnson vs. Benavidez. I think it will be a decent fight, in fact I’m confident of it, I just don’t get that excited about it. If they were headlining the card, I would have had zero interest. Now with the new main event, even though I don’t think Vitor has a chance in hell against Jones, it still makes it a little more interesting.

People are always excited to see Belfort fight, but man his best days behind him. He has phenomenal hand speed, but where is heart and head are is always a big questions mark. We always question where BJ Penn’s head is at, but we never question where is heart is. But with Vitor you always question both.

The last time he was really at his best was nine years ago, when he annihilated Marvin Eastman. Since then we haven’t really seen a sharp Vitor. I had the opportunity to train with him at Randy’s in Las Vegas. He has great hand speed, but doesn’t do anything else, really, really well.

He always has a puncher’s chance, but I think Jones will pick him apart on the outside. I don’t think Belfort has the chin or desire to take too many hard shots. I think athletically and just in all-around skill, Jones is much better. He’s so good from the clinch, so aggressive with his ground and pound. Short of one of his punches getting through, I don’t see a way he can win the fight.

All that being said, I really want him to win. I think it would be awesome. It would be awesomre for the UFC, he’s a legend and been around for so long. Jones is such a disliked person right now, I even think the UFC would be happy if Vitor won.

I hope he wins, but I really don’t see it happening. Another thing that throws up red flags for me is that we already know that he struggles to be there mentally, and he has said in a couple interviews he had a less than ideal training camp on short notice. Whenever you hear that from somoneon who is known for not being mentally tough, that’s not a good sign. I’m really hoping for a Vitor upset, I just really don’t see it happening.

So I’m picking Jones. Here are the rest of my picks.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson

I’m pretty confident this will be a five-round back and forth fight. Both are super fast, super durable, and have plenty of endurance. But they just lack the power to finish because they’re such small guys. I think we’ll see a five rounder, but I’m going to go with Benavidez.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann

It seems like the card has been overshadowed with talk of Bisping getting a title shot. I’m the first guy to be anti-Bisping the past couple years, but Bisping has been winning fights on a consistent basis. Two of his only losses were by close decision to Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, plus that memorable knockout to Dan Henderson. A lot of people put a lot of weight on that loss to Chael, I’d rather wait and see what happens Saturday night. Every fighter has one of those nights. It’s the great fighters that put together great night after great night after great night. I’d love to see him put together some consistent big wins. His win over Chris Leben, in my opinion he had his running shoes on all night. It would be great for him, but I think he has his hands full against Stann. Brian is a big puncher, Bisping isn’t. He has good standup but not one-punch power. I’m going to go with Bisping, but it will be an interesting fight. Regardless of who wins, I don’t think either is the next title guy.

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett

I’m confused about this fight. It was on, then it was off (the UFC said he was injured) now it’s back on again. Regardless, I’m happy he has his first chance in the UFC. Hollett is a counterpuncher, not a guy who goes forward and is aggressive, and that’s great because Hamill likes to keep coming forward aimlessly. Hollett is a big puncher. The only way I see it going astray for Roger is if Hollett puts him on his back, because I’ve seen he’s not terribly comfortable on his back. But I’m going with Roger by TKO.

Cub Swanson vs. Charles Oliveira

I’ve always been impressed with Oliveira. He missed weight Friday, so you have to wonder how much the weight cut has taken. I’m going to go with him anyway.

Igor Pokrajac vs. Vinny Magalhaes

This is the very classic grappler vs. striker. Having personally trained with Vinny, I know his ground game is that good. I don’t know that Igor can stop the takedown and stop the submission.

TJ Grant vs. Evan Dunham

These are two friends of mine. It’s funny because the past couple years at the Fighter Summit we’ve sat together and done things together the three of us. I introduced the two of them, because I trained with Evan at Randy’s. I noticed TJ was training for the fight with Jordan Mein. I couldn’t think of a better guy to bring into your camp, having trained with both. Evan and Jordan are both left-handed, counterpunchers, and tough to take down. Whether it was his idea or his coach Scott’s to bring in Jordan, it was a smart idea.

It’s a tough one but I’m going to have to go with TJ. He’s not only my fellow Canadian but my fellow Nova Scotian. Actually, he’s the opposite of me, born in Alberta, but growing up in Nova Scotia, whereas as I was born in Nova Scotia but now live in Alberta. And he’s also a ginger, so there are too many things pulling me to root for him. He’ll be smart to stay on the outside and try to pick Dunham apart, I think he has better kicks on the outside.

Sean Pierson vs. Lance Benoist

I know nothing about Lance, but I’m going to go with “The Pimp.” (I know that’s not his nickname anymore, but it’s my blog so I can call him what I want.)

Jim Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage

Jimy is a bad ass. The first time I saw him fight, I had no idea who he was, but he blew me away at how good he was. In his UFC debut he threw Alex Caceres around for about 40 seconds then choked him out. I’ll go with Hettes by whatever method he wants.

Seth Baczynski vs. Simeon Thoresen

I’m a huge Baczynski fan. He’s tough as nails, and a huge guy in that weight class. And he always brings a good fight. I’m going with him.

Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson

I know that Gagnon is about four feet shorter than Watson. That can never be a good thing. Assuming Walel will be striking, it might be a tough night for Gagnon. I’m going with Watson.

Kyle Noke vs. Charlie Brenneman

Last but not least, I don’t know how this gets to be the first fight on the card. I’ll tell you what. I’ve met Noke on a number of occasions and I always thought he was a big 185er. How he made 170 pounds, I have no idea. Brenneman is a pretty small 170er, so it will be tough for him, but he always seems to bring it and shock me with some craziness. I’m going to go with Brenneman. I think he’s comfortable at that weight, and as I’ve said many times, it’s always tough when a fighter is making his debut at a lower weight, so it will not be to Noke’s advantage.

Final comment: I think this is a pretty decent card from top to bottom, the first time I’ve seen that in a while. Enjoy the fights.

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