If I could sum up my sentiments about UFC 138 in a single statement it would be this: a weak card doesn’t mean poor fights. The UFC’s return to the UK shores is drawing a lot of criticism from limeys like myself - but - when it comes down to it we can all be sure that Birmingham’s LG Arena will be electric. Packed with thousands of Mixed Martial Arts fanatics who paid to see the sport they love, played out at the highest level, it will be noisy and it will be glorious.
The storyline of Leben/Munoz just about ties in with the shuffling around in the upper echelons of the decision. Munoz has proved his grappling to be top drawer stuff with recent wins over decent wrestlers Dolloway and Simpson before his tough battle with an ultra elite BJJ blackbelt in the form of Demian Maia.
But with the Crippler… we don’t even have a win streak to speak of. With a single win in recent months against an ageing Wanderlai Silva, he formerly lost in devastating fashion to Brian Stann. And that particular American hero just got dealt his own “red, white and blue ass whooping” from the P4P King of Trash Talk, Chael Sonnen.
Well, in short this isn’t a game changing fight and it’s unlikely to be a memorable stand up exchange with Munoz looking for takedowns and effective use of his wrestling.
Munoz’s smart gameplanning with clinch this bout, leaving a frustrated brawler in his wake, possibly summoning a finish at some point in the third.
Pickett vs Barão
“One Punch” Pickett finally gets to fight in the UFC after a very respectable WEC run, including that notable win over Demetrious Johnson. Barao has already racked up one win in the Octagon against Cole Escovedo, but failed to make a lasting impression in the eyes of the fans.
With two well rounded and frantic Bantamweights getting their opportunity to shine, this should be one of the more entertaining fights of the whole night.
I see Brad Pickett transitioning effectively between his solid striking game and clinch-work. If he doesn’t manage a TKO by the end of the 2nd then a unanimous decision should be in the bag.
Alves vs Abedi
Casual fans can be forgiven for being unfamiliar with the career of Papy Abedi. And at 33 his UFC debut hasn’t come soon enough - but is he being thrown to a very hungry wolf?
Thiago Alves is a big Welterweight and he knows how to throw his weight around when it comes to Muay Thai. As an awesome striker Alves has only faltered in the past 8 years against decent wrestlers - most recently Fitch, Story and of course GSP at UFC 100.
Please God can we have a full on kickboxing war? At least in loving memory of K1. These guys are more than capable of showcasing high level MMA striking and Abedi may be in for a surprise with zero losses to date.
I’ve got Thiago Alves kneeing and shinning his way to a brutal TKO in the 1st or 2nd with both guys uncorking early on. Accompanied by an arena full of giddy and delighted Brits.
These are really good little guys. Brad Pickett has a win over Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, the current flyweight champion, but that was up a weight class at featherweight. Both are very small guys, but not the smallest at 135 lbs. They’re hyping Yves Jabouin’s power, but he hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2008.
Round 1: Eye poke from Yves, big left hook from Brad. Leg kick from Brad and a left hand to boot. Yves throwing some push kicks to back Pickett up. Brad whiffs on a huge hook. Brad just standing in front of him, eats a punch and then a big knee to the face. Brad lands the left hook that time. The fighters exchange, but Pickett has the heavier hands.
Pickett eats a knee, but rattle Jabouin with a left. Brad lands a left hook. Brad lands a pair of punches. Yves lands a knee and a punch. Leg kick from Brad. Leg kick from Yves. Brad throws a big left hook and misses. Brad walks into a spinning back kick to the gut, but continues to go for the takedown. He doesn’t complete it.
Brad Pickett lands an explosive uppercut. The ref dives between the fighters, but Brad lands two more punches on the ground before the ref gets between them. Don’t let anyone tell you that the small guys never finish fights. Both these guys were throwing bombs.
That was a spectacular KO by Pickett at 3:40 of Round 1.