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UFC 172: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2014

UFC 172: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Mixed martial arts fans have barely had time to take a breath over the past couple of weeks with the UFC’s relentless schedule picking up steam. Saturday night’s stacked UFC 172 card out of Baltimore is either a blessing or a curse, depending on one’s perspective.

    For those of us who would gladly spend every hour of every day consuming MMA content, UFC 172 has plenty of treats in store. Jon Jones will defend his light heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira, and Phil Davis takes on Anthony Johnson in a battle of top contenders at 205 pounds. Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch, Jim Miller vs. Yancy Medeiros and Max Holloway vs. Andre Fili round out the main card.

    As always, Bleacher Report’s main card prediction team is on hand to offer our take on Saturday night’s entertainment. Read on for the thoughts of Scott Harris, Riley Kontek, Sean Smith, Craig Amos and me, James MacDonald.

Staff Leaderboard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It’s been a brutal few weeks for me. Having sat comfortably atop the leaderboard, my dismal 0-4 UFC on Fox 11 performance has dropped me to third place. Kontek and Amos, opportunists that they are, pounced at the first sign of weakness and now occupy the top spots.

    Harris looks to be making a comeback, having dragged himself off the bottom and into fourth place. Smith is bringing up the rear, but the leaderboard remains tight overall. Here are the records for the year:

    Riley Kontek: 44-16

    Craig Amos: 43-17

    James MacDonald: 41-19

    Scott Harris: 39-21

    Sean Smith: 37-23

Andre Fili vs. Max Holloway

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Smith

    This is a fun matchup between promising young featherweights. Both should have long UFC careers ahead of them, but I think Fili is more groomed than Holloway despite having less UFC experience than the Hawaiian. A Team Alpha Male member, Fili might look to unveil his ground game to UFC fans on Saturday, as Holloway has had the most trouble with grapplers. I'm not sure Fili will be able to stop Holloway with a submission, but he will mix things up enough to beat Holloway on the scorecards.

    Fili, Unanimous decision

     

    Kontek

    This fight is going to be fun. Really fun. Fili and Holloway are almost carbon copies of each other, though I'd assert that Fili is better on the ground. This is going to be a rock-'em, sock-'em fight that will see two tough men swinging to knock each other's block off. Heads will stay on shoulders, but Team Alpha Male will tally another win.

    Fili, Unanimous decision

     

    Harris

    Though there were plenty of complaints about Joseph Benavidez vs. Tim Elliott staying off the main card, this is a great scrap between two rising featherweight prospects. Holloway is both the younger and more experienced UFC fighter, but Fili might have a little more on the ground. I think he might dirty this one up and punish Holloway from the clinch or in the mat phase.

    Fili, Unanimous decision

     

    Amos

    Some of UFC's most lauded young blood will kick off Saturday night's main card, with Holloway and Fili looking to climb over each other at 145 pounds. It's difficult not to like Holloway's hands, but Fili is the more complete mixed martial artist, and his extensive repertoire should allow him to outpoint his Hawaiian foe in this one.

    Fili, Unanimous decision 

     

    MacDonald

    There’s a lot to like about these two. Both have bright futures, but Fili looks to have the higher ceiling. The fight should be competitive on the feet, but I expect the Team Alpha Male prospect to use his superior wrestling and mat work to edge a decision.

    Fili, Unanimous decision 

Jim Miller vs. Yancy Medeiros

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    David Becker

    Smith

    While this is a great opportunity for Medeiros to make a huge move after replacing Bobby Green on short notice, he's probably biting off more than he can chew. Khabilov is the only top-notch wrestler Medeiros has faced, and the Russian took him down early before he dislocated his thumb. Miller might not have the wrestling that Khabilov does, but he's good enough to get Medeiros to the ground, where he'll be able to lock up a submission. 

    Miller, Submission, Rd. 1 

     

    Kontek

    Medeiros gets a great opportunity here to make a name for himself against a Top 15 opponent in Miller. It's on short notice, but it's an opportunity that he could not pass up. However, this is going to be a tough endeavor for him. Miller is a good boxer, but his best strength comes against Medeiros' weakness: wrestling. Miller is a rare combination of being a top-notch wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, which will overwhelm the Hawaiian. Miller will wear Medeiros down and snatch another UFC victory.

    Miller, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    Harris

    Medeiros is still only 26 years old and is more talented than his one-loss, one-no-contest UFC record suggests. But he's primarily a scrapper, and despite his work with Team Gracie and the Diaz brothers, he won't have enough for Miller on the ground. The New Jerseyan will have two easy wins in a row.

    Miller, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    I think Medeiros is a talented guy with a bright future, but Miller is not the type of guy that up-and-comers break out against. His pressuring style is too mauling, frustrating and disorienting for opponents who lack experience. Medeiros may get off some nice strikes in the early going, but eventually he'll be dragged to the mat and either tap or face an unimpressed judges' panel.

    Miller, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    MacDonald

    Medeiros has potential, but it's a bit much to expect him to take out a veteran like Miller on short notice. The latter's experience and more well-rounded skill set should be the difference here. Look for Miller to grind down the 26-year-old and secure a late submission.

    Miller, Submission, Rd. 3

Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Smith

    This is some odd matchmaking. Since being stopped by Costas Philippou, Boetsch has only beaten an unranked CB Dollaway via controversial decision. Still, he finds himself facing Rockhold, who quickly finished Philippou in his most recent outing. To go a little further than the MMA math route, Rockhold will beat Boetsch with speed and conditioning on Saturday.

    Rockhold, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Kontek

    Former Strikeforce champion Rockhold is making a beeline toward the top of the middleweight division, and I am surprised he was matched up with a guy who is ranked lower than Philippou, his previous opponent. Remember what Rockhold did to him? Expect something similar to Boetsch, who is not the striker that Philippou is. Rockhold will create distance, smash up Boetsch and move closer to a title shot.

    Rockhold, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Harris

    This is kind of a carbon copy of Jones vs. Teixeira, though not quite as big of a mismatch. Rockhold will stay on his horse to stay clear of Boetsch's sticky clinch and powerful hockey-fight uppercuts. He'll also use his striking arsenal to bust "The Barbarian" up from range. Boetsch is too tough to get knocked out here, but he'll be a little worse for the wear after three rounds.

    Rockhold, Unanimous decision

     

    Amos

    Boetsch proved that it's foolish to count him out when he turned in a comeback for the ages against Yushin Okami, but realistically, this is a mismatch that is not in favor of The Barbarian. Rockhold is the more versatile and athletic combatant and he'll prove it by pulling away more and more as the fight wears on.

    Rockhold, Unanimous decision

     

    MacDonald

    Boetsch is a tough out, but I can’t see a clear path to victory for him here. Rockhold has far too many tools for The Barbarian. Unless Boetsch can somehow secure takedowns consistently, this may turn into a one-sided, stand-up affair. And that's exactly how I expect the fight to play out.

    Rockhold, TKO, Rd. 2

Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson

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    Felipe Dana

    Smith

    Johnson is a dangerous striker, but he won’t be as tough to solve as Lyoto Machida was for Davis. If "Mr. Wonderful" was able to hold his own against the former light heavyweight champion, he should be able to avoid taking major damage when standing with Johnson. If he can get this fight to the ground, which shouldn’t be an impossible task by any means, Davis can end it early.

    Davis, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Kontek

    Anthony Johnson's biggest Kryptonite to date has been when wrestling. This was even true at welterweight, which was two weight classes below where he is fighting now. Davis is as powerful a wrestler as they come, shooting early and often. Johnson will be able to sprawl for a while, but Davis is just too persistent to be denied. I want to take Johnson as my upset pick, but I'm trying to compete here, people.

    Davis, Unanimous decision

     

    Harris

    Sound the upset alarms. It's reductive to say "Rumble" has a puncher's chance and then move on with the discussion, as if that chance sits off by itself in a little box. What Johnson has is a full advantage in the entire stand-up phase of the game. Add in the fact that Davis seems more focused on Jon Jones than Johnson right now, plus the small matter that Johnson has been a monster since moving up in weight, and I see an upset in the making.

    Johnson, TKO, Rd. 1

     

    Amos

    In a clear contrast of styles, I'll side with Davis, who owns a major edge in the wrestling and grappling departments. Is it possible Johnson scores the upset knockout on Saturday night? Of course it is, but possible and probable are two different things.

    Davis, Submission, Rd. 1

     

    MacDonald

    This is a closer matchup than many seem to think. Johnson is a heck of an athlete and won’t be easy to take down. Moreover, his power is a legitimate game-changer. That being said, Davis has proved to be elusive when necessary. I expect the 29-year-old to grind out a decision, mixing up his conservative striking style with clinch work to steal the rounds.

    Davis, Unanimous decision

Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Smith

    With the reach to avoid Teixeira’s power punches and wrestling that could make him the first to take the Brazilian down inside the Octagon, Jones deserves to be a heavy favorite to defend his championship once again. Teixeira has been rocked by Ryan Bader and Fabio Maldonado, so don’t be surprised if Jones finds a way to put the challenger away.

    Jones, TKO, Rd. 3

     

    Kontek

    This is not the biggest test for Jones. While Teixeira is a dangerous opponent and a top UFC light heavyweight, Jones' real tests lie in the form of Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier. Teixeira does have a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and good hands, but so did Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida, and Jones submitted them. Expect to see Jones unleash his signature guillotine choke here.

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Harris

    Sorry, but Jones just has too many weapons. I'm a big believer in Teixeira, and I still think he's a top guy, but he's a pretty straightforward fighter (literally). He won't be able to get inside on Jones and he won't be able to stop the Jones' striking tornado. I don't see this one being complicated and I don't see it lasting long.

    Jones, TKO, Rd. 2

     

    Amos

    Teixeira might be powerful, but he'll have to push by Jones' outrageous reach if he wants to land a knockout blow. And how is he going to manage the feat? With superior quickness? Better footwork? It just doesn't seem all that likely to me.

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 3

     

    MacDonald

    This is just a bad, bad matchup for Teixeira. Jones’ strengths appear to cancel out almost all of the challenger’s weapons. Getting the takedown to utilize his superior submissions? Good luck. Getting inside to make his power a factor? Highly doubtful. This could be a long night for Teixeira, with the champion picking him apart for 25 minutes.

    Jones, Unanimous decision

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