Saturday, 05 July 2014 12:00
By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer
This is the UFC's "Wrestlemania" weekend, the culmination of International Fight Week. There are two shows this weekend, kicking off with UFC 175 tonight and the TUF 19 finale tomorrow night. As a result, we're picking six fights this weekend, comprised of the entire PPV main card and the main event of Sunday's TUF show.
Business-wise, this will be a very newsworthy card, smack dab in the middle of the organization's busiest year in history and with two of its top stars carrying the promotional weight. Competition-wise, this weekend will tell us a lot of what's next for those stars and aging ones like B.J. Penn. It's a very, very important 48 hours and I'm excited that it's finally here.
- Josh Nason (57-22 - .721) Wrestling Observer behind-the-scenes guy, WON on Twitter
- Mike Sempervive (51-28 - .645)Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare
- Steve Juon (48-31 | .607) Wrestling Observer MMA reporter, AngryMarks founder
Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman (11-0) vs. Lyoto Machida (21-4)
I feel like even after two big wins over Anderson Silva, we still don’t fully know what we have with Chris Weidman. Maybe it was just the way the 30-year-old won that is throwing me off, but Saturday’s main event will tell us a lot about whether he’s the next great middleweight champ or not. After a year-long absence after a knee injury, this is Weidman’s third fight in the last 12 months. The next great thing? I feel like we’ll know at midnight Saturday.
Across the cage is another guy fighting to define his legacy and attempting to win his second belt in two weight classes. He’s rebuilt himself at 185 and has looked great in doing so. The 36-year-old has earned this shot, but can he step up like he did against Rashad Evans and close it out? Machida has won four of his last five, two in a row, and this is the fifth time he’s competed in a title match.
Fun fact from Ariel Helwani: the last time Machida fought in Las Vegas, he won the light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans (May 2009).
Weidman (betting favorite): Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive
Machida: Nason, Martin
Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey (9-0) vs. Alexis Davis (16-5)
If you watch shows like UFC Embedded, Davis comes off as likable and personable once you get to know her. The problem comes when one asks her, “Do you feel like a star yet?” Her response, “Noooo...I’m just Alexis Davis.” That’s the reason there isn’t a ton of buzz for this fight outside Rousey; people just see her as another blah fighter that is going to get armbarred. (Are we sure Davis and Sara McMann aren’t the same person?)
Rousey remains unbeaten and has yet to go past three rounds, something she’s only had to do once. All of her fights except one have ended in an armbar submission. The 29-year-old Davis is unbeaten in her last five (3-0 UFC), but has gone the distance in all three. Davis is skilled, but she’s not beating Rousey.
Rousey (MASSIVE betting favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Storm, Martin, Sempervive
Stefan Struve (25-6) vs. Matt Mitrione (7-3)
Struve returns to action after more than a year, kept on the shelf with both a broken jaw and a leaky aortic valve. That sounds like no fun. Before that, he saw his four fight win streak literally broken by Mark Hunt’s hand. The 35-year-old Mitrione is coming off a March KO win over Shawn Jordan, and is looking for his first winning streak since 2011.
Struve (betting favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Storm, Martin, Sawyer, Sempervive
Uriah Hall (8-4) vs. Thiago Santos (9-2)
Oh, Uriah Hall. Who are you? Are you the killer from TUF or the passive fighter we’ve seen since then? Hall saw a two-fight losing skid end with in his between rounds TKO win over Chris Leben, the TUF 1 star’s final tlt. The 30-year-old Santos is 1-1 in the UFC, fresh off a 53 second TKO of Ronny Markes in March. This is a big spot for both guys.
Hall (betting favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Storm, Martin, Sawyer
Marcus Brimage (6-2) vs. Russell “Don’t Call Me Ken” Doane (13-3)
This easily ranks in the 2014 Top 5 for “This fight is on PPV?”. No one is buying that Urijah Faber wanted to fight on free TV when the reality is Fox pushed for a star for the FS1 prelims in exchange for the hours and hours of coverage they’re giving a PPV event. In any case, Brimage drops to 135 for the 1st time after Conor McGregor derailed a four-fight win streak over a year ago. Doane made his UFC debut in January with a submission of the night winning performance over Leandro Issa. He’s a finisher with 11 stoppages in 13 career wins.
Brimage (even betting favorite): Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Martin, Sawyer
Doane: Nason, Storm, Sempervive
TUF Finale Main Event: Frankie Edgar (16-4-1) vs. BJ Penn (16-9-2) III
In the fight no one was really asking to see for a third time, Edgar and Penn do battle at 145 pounds. Due to the tepidness known as TUF 19, both guys have been on the shelf for a long time. Edgar was last seen picking up a unanimous decision win over Charles Oliveira last July, snapping a three-fight close decision losing streak. This is the first time since 2009 that Edgar will have back-to-back non title fights, a stretch of seven bouts.
The 35-year-old Penn was last seen way back in December 2012 in a one-sided loss to Rory MacDonald on Fox. He’s won just once in his last six with that one win a quick KO of the rapidly-declining Matt Hughes. There’s been a ton of talk about how this is a different Penn, that his weight is on track, and that he feels better than ever. But we’ve heard that time and time again. He hasn’t beaten a real challenger in five years, so in a recurring theme this weekend, what Penn will show up?
Edgar (betting favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Pollock, Copp, FRB, Juon, Storm, Martin, Sempervive
Coverage all weekend from big Dave here on the Observer. For those in Vegas, enjoy the convention!