On Saturday night, the UFC will return to Spike TV with UFC Fight Night 24: Nogueira vs. Davis at 10pm ET (tape-delayed 10pm PT), featuring light heavyweights Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and welterweights Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson.
The card has been beset by the injury bug with multiple changes and replacements being inserted, but lets put the injuries and hype talk aside and get to the fights:
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Phil Davis
Phil Davis is essentially the “other” fast-rising light heavyweight in the UFC. He steps into the Octagon against the “other” Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Davis brings in elite NCAA wrestling and an ever evolving ground game. Davis would do well to institute a similar game plan to what Ryan Bader did against Lil’ Nog at UFC 119. Nogueira did stuff the majority of Bader’s takedowns in that fight but the constant threat of takedowns forced Nogueira to hold back on his feet. Davis has better wrestling than Bader does and better BJJ (2009 Blue Belt BJJ World Champ) than Bader does as well, so trying to control the ground is the best bet in this fight. I am not saying that Davis should get into BJJ battle with one of the premier BJJ trainers in the game, but keeping Lil’ Nog worried about the takedown is a good way to win the striking game as well.
Lil’ Nog’s best bet is to either use “wrestling in reverse” or just strike with no concern about being takedown. By that, I mean Nogueira has to either let his hands go and try to win the boxing game early and often or he has to expend every effort to not be taken down. The latter only seems like a good idea on paper. If Nogueira can land enough strikes he can try to stun Davis while he is going for a takedown and attempt a submission immediately as he hits the ground. If Lil’ Nog does not land the sub immediately, he will just be tied up by the rising prospect.
Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson
This fight may look like another “wrestler vs. kick boxer” match-up but it is a little more than that. Both fighters are in need of a win. Johnson’s struggles in cutting weight are well documented, apparently eight weeks ago he was well north of 210lbs, and large weight cuts do not help endurance. Johnson loves to strike and has said he will only go to his wrestling if he has to, well Hardy is a striker by trade so that may be pretty quickly.
For Hardy, the key is to keep it on his feet and take this fight the distance. Johnson will come out swinging early but, depending on the weight cut, will likely fade late. Hardy has been working on the ground game with Eddie Bravo for a while now, so even if he is taken down he can still challenge Johnson once the fight hits the ground.
Expect an explosive first round in this one, though if the fight gets past the first, expect Johnson to struggle with his cardio, and try to turn this into a slower paced ground and pound battle.
Amir Sadollah vs. DaMarques Johnson
This fight should lend itself well to those who are fans of striking. Both fighters have strong striking with DaMarques style based in boxing and Amir’s striking more in Muay Thai. Both fighters are also good on the ground but their BJJ is more guard based and defensive. In other words, I do not expect either to go for a takedown. Amir has looked increasingly confident with each fight and his Muay Thai clinch is impressive. He has also had longer to prepare for this fight than Johnson. Do not be surprised if this fight goes this distance but lights up Compustrike and FightMetric.
Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung
I may be dating myself here but does anyone remember Rock’em Sock’em Robots? That is what this fight should look like. Both fighters have said the standard “this time will be different” rematch talk but in reality, when have you ever seen either of these two play it safe? There are many with better technique and game plans but few are this entertaining. If anything, it gives you an excuse to an excuse to watch their epic WEC 48 fight.