That’s right boys and girls, Danny Boy Downes is back for another pay per view edition of the Downes Side. My favorite November holiday is right around the corner (take that World Peace Day), and it would seem appropriate that everyone gives thanks for the insight I provide before very UFC event. So may I just say: You’re welcome.
From the land of Thanksgiving to the land of Jour de l'Action de grâce, the UFC returns to the Bell Centre in Montreal for UFC 154. The main event of the evening features a champion vs champion contest between Georges St.-Pierre and Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit. GSP looks to reclaim his status as the undisputed champion after a knee injury kept him out of the Octagon since April 2011. The co-main event could decide who gets the next title shot as Martin “The Hitman” Kampmann steps in against Johny Hendricks
Mark Hominick (20-11) vs Pablo Garza (12-3)
The main card begins in the featherweight division with Mark "The Machine" Hominick and Pablo Garza. Both fighters are in a bit of a slump. A former number-one contender, Hominick has dropped three in a row., the most recent being a decision loss to Eddie Yagin at UFC 145. With seven of his career wins by submission, Garza is looking to snap his own two-fight losing streak.
While a losing streak has few positive attributes, the style of Hominick's recent losses is more of a concern than the outcomes themselves. He’s lately lacked that crispness that earned him a shot at the belt. Despite that, I think even a flat Mark Hominick beats Pablo Garza. The Machine hasn’t tapped since losing to Josh Grispi in 2008 and I don’t see it happening again. He may have lacked the power punching in his last fight against Yagin, but his jab was clean and on point. He’ll use that and movement to work his way to a unanimous decision win.
Nick Ring (13-1) vs Constantinos Philippou (11-2)
Mark Boeck (11-4) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (17-6)
Update: The second fight of the night was changed after Nick Ring got sick. Fortunately, this backup main card bout will be much more entertaining than your backup prom date. Both lightweights are excellent grapplers, which usually sets the stage for a striking affair. Despite this, Bocek will be able to crowd dos Anjos, get him to the ground and ride him out for the UD win. Sure it wasn't the first choice, but at least it won't look like this.
Here's what I would have said about Ring vs. Philippou, though: Next we head to the middleweight division for Costa Philippou vs Nick “The Promise” Ring. Primarily a boxer, Costa has used his hands to punch his way to a four-fight winning streak. After losing to Tim Boetsch last September, Ring bounced back nicely with a decision over Court McGee. Solid all around, the majority of his wins have come via submission.
This fight will be spent on the feet. Ring, does possess a grappling advantage, but Costa has shown solid takedown defense against quality rasslers like Court McGee and Riki Fukuda. Costa has the heavier hands, and that will make all the difference. Ring will weather this power difference in the earlier rounds, but it will catch up to him. He’ll try to close the distance, eat a big right hand and get knocked out in the third
Francis Carmont (19-7) vs Tom Lawlor (8-4)
We remain in the middleweight division as Tristar product Francis Carmont looks to extend his win streak to nine in a row. A fast-rising star, he’s finished 16 opponents with a mix of solid striking and powerful ground and pound. His opponent is TUF 8 alum and method actor extraordinaire “Filthy” Tom Lawlor. Known for pushing the pace, he gets in opponents' faces and uses his wrestling to finish them off.
Look, I like French stereotypes as much as the next guy, but Carmont won’t surrender in this fight. Carmont’s dynamic striking game will make it hard fro Lawlor to close the distance and get the tie-up. Even if he does put Carmont on the canvas, I don’t think America's Bad Boy of Sumo will be able to hold him down and do damage. By the time the third round comes, Carmont will get a takedown of his own and ground and pound his way to the TKO.
Martin Kampmann (20-5) vs Johny Hendricks (13-1)
That brings us to the co-main event of the evening. While nothing is ever 100%, the winner of this fight will likely earn the next welterweight title shot. In his last three fights, Kampmann has dispatched Thiago Alves, Rick Story and Jake Ellenberger. “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks has defeated foes like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and T.J. Waldburger, earning an 8-1 record in the Octagon. Both men have a penchant for standing and trading, so expect this one to earn Fight of the Night honors.
I’ve picked against Kampmann the last few times and it’s cost me. You would think this would cause me to reassess my assessments... but you would be wrong. While Kampmann has been on a three-fight win streak, his defense has looked shaky. When he gets in trouble, he likes to bring the fight to the ground, but Hendricks has stood there with Mike Pierce and Kos -- much better wrestlers than Kampmann. Hendricks hits Kampmann with a big left hand in the second, then grounds and pounds his way to a title shot. If I’m wrong again, I will come over to his house and cook him a goose as a belated Martinmas Eve present in accordance with Danish tradition
Georges St. Pierre (22-2) vs Carlos Condit (28-5)
Time for the main event, some 14 months after it was first announced for UFC 137. The champion Georges St-Pierre steps back into the cage for the first time since April 30, 2011. To put that into perspective, that was the day after the royal wedding, and I’m sure we all know where we were on that magical day. The man looking to ruin the comeback is Carlos Condit. Winner 13 of his last 14, he holds a 93% finishing rate, which blows my 5% crossword finishing rate out of the water.
A lot of people are making the mistake of looking past Carlos Condit and focusing on GSP’s next fight. If Randy Newman can win multiple Grammys, I think Carlos Condit can win a UFC title; though just because he can doesn’t mean he will. People make a big deal about GSP’s long layoff, but Condit only fought once in 2011 and once in 2012 so far. GSP is in terrific shape and I don’t believe the knee will slow him down. Condit will come out aggressively and try to put pressure on that knee, but GSP will weather the storm. As the fight progresses, St-Pierre will do what he always does -- pick his opponent apart. He’ll tag Condit with straight punches and low kicks, then transition seamlessly into takedowns. He’ll use this strategy to win 49-46 on the judges' scorecards for a UD victory. Condit fans will be upset, but here’s a photo gallery to make you feel better
That wraps up another $54.95 worthy edition of the Downes Side. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes and don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts or gratitude on the page as well. I’m going to dust off my Pilgrim costume.
The Downes Side: UFC 154 Predictions
BREAKING MMA NEWS - UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC 154, taking place Saturday, November 17