UFC 183 is being hyped up as one of the biggest cards in “The Time Is Now” campaign that the UFC has been running with. Tonight, it all goes down when the notorious Stockton native, Nick Diaz, faces one of the biggest legends in the sport, Anderson Silva. But the main event isn’t the only thing hyped about this card – the entire event is chalked from head-to-toe with awesome fights. Here is what to look for in the main card:
Thiago Alves vs. Jordan Mein
In this welterweight contest we have a perennial welterweight veteran in Thiago Alves taking on “Young Gun” Jordan Mein. Seeing as how both Alves and Mein prefer stand and strike with their opponents, you can fully expect to see some great work on the feet coming from both parties. Alves is more of a traditional Muay Thai striker who heavily prefers cracking low kicks while Mein is a much more fluid boxer who likes to get into a real scrap. This fight has a potential Fight of the Night written all over it.
From a technical standpoint, Thiago Alves should be one of the top 5 welterweights in the UFC, if not higher. Unfortunately, a steady salvo of injuries have kept Alves from showcasing his true potential. While his body’s wear-and-tear is working against him, Alves isn’t known to be a guy who takes a whole lot of damage in his fights. He has solid striking defense, and knows how to get off his back when placed there. However, as we saw in his last fight against Seth Baczynski, maybe his body has started to betray him a little bit as it doesn’t seem he is throwing with the same kind of speed as he was earlier in his career. Nevertheless, Alves is still a dangerous striker with a whole lot of power, and his kicks are tide-changing to say the least.
The Canadian, Mein, will definitely be looking to make this a fast-paced brawl whereas Alves will prefer a much more chess-match styled competition. Heading into this fight, Mein will no doubt hold the edge when it comes to reach and length which I believe will be a huge factor. Alves has shown that he can get overwhelmed when pushed backward, and Mein brings pressure like no one else. Expect Mein to take some hard shots throughout a 15 minute contest, but in the end, Mein’s volume via his crisp punches against the sound defense of Alves will give him enough points to take the decision. Alves is the stronger guy in the clinch and on the ground, but even then, Mein is all about inflicting damage and that’s what will score him higher. I’ll take Mein by split.
Thales Leites vs. Tim Boetsch
Up next is a middleweight affair between two of the division’s most weathered veterans. Both Leites and Boetsch have been in the game for a while, and have been fighting top competition throughout the majority of their careers. Between the two of them they have a total of 27 UFC fights; out of those 27 fights, both Leites and Boetsch have 9 wins to their credit. While they are equally matched in terms of experience, their stylistic nature is very different from one another. Leites is a textbook grappler who has just recently made a big stride in rounding out his overall fight game. Boetsch on the other hand is a brutally strong wrestler with an unbreakable heart and bricks for fists.
While neither of these fighters are the most athletic we’ve ever seen, Leites is definitely the more technical. When he floors his opponents we works at a very slow, but methodical pace. Think of it like quick sand. However because of Leites’s patience we don’t get to see him pull off many slick finishes until just recently. Leites is coming off of two wins by knockout which tops off a current 7-fight win streak. It’s safe to say that Leites has got the edge in terms of momentum.
Boetsch on the other hand will be struggling for this win as he has dropped 3 in his last 5, and just as easily could have made that 4. Boetsch seems to always get himself into trouble when he fights as his opponents always find them technical superior, quicker, and more efficient wherever the fight goes. However, Boetsch’s hands make a world of difference as the “Barbarian” is known for his insane comeback KOs. While the possibility of a 3rd round KO for Boetsch after getting dominated is totally a viable option, it’s hard to count out the resurging Brazilian who should have the edge no matter where the fight takes place. I’ll take Leites by decision if he doesn’t slowly work his way into a submission late in the fight. This fight could be potentially lackluster as both lack a quick pace, and could spend a lot of time in the clinch with Leites trying to take this fight to the ground. In the end though, the Brazilian will come out on top.
Joe Lauzon vs. Al Iaquinta
This lightweight match up has had my eye on it all week, and I can confidently say that this is the fight I will be looking forward to the most. In one corner you have Joe Lauzon, a bonus check machine who always finds himself in an entertaining sequence whether he’s on the receiving end of it or not. Lauzon is a submission wizard, but is dangerous on the feet as he has shown in the past. On the other side you have Al Iaquinta, a surging lightweight prospect out of the Serra-Longo camp (home to middleweight champion Chris Weidman). Iaquinta seems to have the technical skill set to go very far in the UFC, and this fight against Lauzon could be the propulsion he needs.
Iaquinta is about as slick as you can get. He keeps his hands low because he relies on his reaction speed and his quick movements to avoid strikes, and then counter. Much like Lauzon, Al’s strikes don’t have that explosive power other lightweights have, but they are accurate, efficient, and still deal quite a bit of damage. Iaquinta is also a proven wrestler who prefers to use his skills more defensively than offensively, and it should be noted that Iaquinta’s losses have occurred on the ground. Iaquinta is a smart, tough, efficient fighter who has real potential in this division.
Lauzon on the other hand can be described as an opportunistic submission wizard. Lauzon is a master of capitalizing on his opponent’s mistakes, and making them pay via tap out. Lauzon also brings a relentless pressure both on the feet and on the ground. Because of the pace he sets, Lauzon is most dangerous in the first half of the fight, and is known to fade slightly as the fight wears on. Lauzon is slightly awkward on the feet; even though he throws nice punches, he has a habit of shutting down when a fighter completely denies him of the takedown and instead forces the contest into a striking match.
The way I see it, Lauzon will have the first round to see if this fight is winnable for him. If he can manage to pressure Iaquinta and drag him down then Lauzon has a very big chance of catching Al in a submission as that has been Iaquinta’s downfall in the past. However, if Iaquinta can nullify Lauzon’s attempt, then it should be all Iaquinta as he outboxes Lauzon for 3 rounds. I really like Iaquinta, but I like Lauzon even more. I’m going for the upset pick here and I think Lauzon shocks everyone by submitting Iaquinta in the first round.
Tyron Woodley vs. Kelvin Gastelum
In this welterweight contest we have two of the 170lb division’s most powerful athletes in Tyron Woodley and Kelvin Gastelum. Woodley has been facing the welterweight’s elite for some time now, and has won against the majority of them with Rory MacDonald being the only guy who was clearly superior to him. Gastelum on the other hand has yet to taste defeat in his 10 fight MMA career, with half of those being in the UFC. After surprising everyone and winning TUF 17 by outpointing Uriah Hall, Gastelum has strung up four more wins including a submission over Jake Ellenberger. Woodley will definitely be Gastelum’s biggest test to date, so it’ll be interesting to see if the young rising star can turn a new corner and improve even more than what we’ve seen from him.
Tyron Woodley can do a lot of things most other welterweights can’t do because of his muscle-packed, athletic frame. He can explode forward with his rocket-like right hand and render his opponent unconscious unlike no other welterweight. However, he can use his speed and power in other ways too including moving, sprawling, and shooting for takedowns. Both Woodley and Gastelum are very talented wrestlers, and they are both very big for the weight class, so I think it’s safe to say that their wrestling will cancel each other out for the most part. On the feet though, Woodley holds the advantage against Gastelum who can be absent proper defense at times. While Gastelum has shown a good chin, no one hits like Tyron Woodley does.
A huge x-factor coming into this fight will be Gastelum’s physical state. After missing weight by nearly 10 pounds, and confessing to being ill earlier in the week, Gastelum may not be physically prepared to lock horns with the explosiveness of Tyron Woodley. If he is even depleted by the smallest fraction, Woodley will in this fight. Gastelum is going to have to be the best Gastelum we’ve seen if he wants to have a shot at taking Woodley. He’ll do this by cranking up the pressure on the feet and constantly driving forward. We saw Woodley completely nullified by MacDonald who pushed him against the cage and didn’t let him breathe. Gastelum should look to do the same, but drive forward with big punches and look to lock up. Doing this will slow Woodley down, and eventually, Gastelum might be able to get the fight to the ground later in the fight. Once he does, Gastelum weighs very heavily and should be able to control the action.
Because the likeliness that Gastelum isn’t going to be showing up at 100%, I have to side with Tyron Woodley. I think Gastelum will get off to a good start and land some good shots early, but Woodley’s speed and power will make a considerable showing later in the fight. I’ll take Woodley by a split decision.
Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz
At the top of everything lies the monumental super fight between the former UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva, and the infamous skill tester, Nick Diaz. Silva will be looking to get back in the win column after suffering defeat for the first time in about 7 years. Diaz will also be looking to stop his losing streak as Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre snapped his 4 year winning streak. With their best days most likely behind them, Silva has a chance to prove doubters wrong while Diaz has a chance to become a legend in the sport.
A lot of talk has been surrounding Silva’s injury and what his mental state will be coming back from breaking his leg against Chris Weidman, however I don’t think this will hinder him too much. If you’re wondering whether he’ll hesitate when throwing a leg kick, I wouldn’t bank on it. Silva now has a titanium rod in his leg, and Diaz isn’t known to check leg kicks anyways. However, the realistic consequence of Silva’s injury could be a reduced state of athleticism. Silva is known to be able to go from 0% to 110% in the blink of an eye, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can close the distance throw with the same kind of force and speed as he did prior to the injury.
Silva puts the word ‘artist’ in the term ‘knockout artist’. He sets up opportunities via taunting, feints, and setting traps for his opponent to bite on. Silva’s movement is unparalleled as he can slip shots and set himself up for counters with proven effectiveness. While Silva has been known to susceptible to slow paces, I don’t think he’ll have that issue against Diaz who is known for always pushing forward and pushing the pace. With that said, we might see Silva get lulled into being strictly a counter striker; moving backward, waiting for Diaz to overextend himself, and then capitalize with a crisp punch or kick. However the fight plays out, Anderson has the accuracy and power to deal real damage.
Diaz is a volume striker who likes to push the pace, get in his opponent’s face, and completely overwhelm them. While Diaz’s game is just about as much mental as it is physical, don’t expect Silva to get sucked into that came. Carlos Condit countered this approach with lots of movement and leg kicks to rack up points. While this is very much a strategy that Silva might try to implement, I think Silva can do it with a big more effect. Look for Silva bide his time throughout the early going and maybe even let Diaz take the lead on the scorecards as Silva will take some time getting comfortable. But once Silva decides it’s time to let his hands go, expect his counters to completely rattle Diaz en route to a late-fight stoppage to put a cap on UFC 183.