That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another U.K. edition of the Downes Side! As an American, the British have given me so much (bacon, David Beckham and Gordon Ramsay just to name a few), that out of respect to our neighbours across the pond I’ll try to use the King’s English whenever possible.
Load up the lorry with some petrol because this weekend the UFC hosts UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz live from Manchester, England. In a match that figures to be twice as exciting as anything on the telly (Downton Abbey included), Lyoto Machida makes his middleweight debut against Mark Munoz. The co-main event features another pair of fighters who would have the average man shaking in his Wellies as Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard square off at lightweight.
Phil Harris (22-10 1NC) vs John Lineker (22-6)
The main card begins at 125 pounds (or roughly $202.56 US -- get it?!) with Phil Harris and John Lineker. After an unsuccessful UFC debut against Darren Uyenoyama, Harris bounced back with a decision win over Ulysses Gomez in February. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, 13 of his career wins have come via submission. After a rough start to his career that saw him go 6-5, Lineker has rattled off a 16-1 streak due in large part to his self-described “Hands of Stone.”
The English appreciate the classics: Charles Dickens, constitutional monarchy and queuing fairly. If they enjoy the classic striker vs. grappler match, they’re just in luck. Try as Harris might to take Lineker down, the gaps in his striking defense are too big to ignore. Lineker gives John Dodson a run for his money for the title of hardest-hitting flyweight as he secures the first round knockout.
Alessio Sakara (19-10 1NC) vs Nicholas Musoke (10-2 1NC)
We move to middleweight for Alessio Sakara and Nicholas Musoke. A UFC mainstay since 2005, Sakara looks to bounce back from his current three-fight losing skid. Despite having a BJJ black belt, this Italian headhunts more than Septimius Severus. His opponent, Nicholas Musoke, replaces both Tom Watson and Magnus Cedenblad who pulled out with injuries. Based out of Stockholm, Sweden, eight of his ten wins have come by some submission or TKO.
Sakara has certainly had his struggles of late, but it doesn’t take a Praetorian prefect to realize that experience means something. Musoke has a great opportunity, but being a natural welterweight competing on short notice does not bode well for him. Much like when he watched Ingmar Bergman films as a child, he’ll leave the building morose and unhappy. Sakara’s boxing and power punches help him coast to a second round knockout.
Norman Parke (19-2) vs Jon Tuck (7-0)
We drop down to lightweight for Norman Parke and Jon Tuck. After winning the first season of TUF Smashes against Colin Fletcher, Parke kept the momentum going with a UD victory over Kazuki Tokudome at UFC 162. Originally slated to fight in April, injuries have kept Tuck sidelined for almost a year. A jiu-jitsu champion who starts fast, six of his seven career wins have come in the first round.
Both have ground skills, but Parke’s judo and freestyle wrestling background give him the more diverse ground skill set. Tuck has skills, but he’s not well rounded enough at this point. His fight against Tiequan Zhang also showed that he may have a propensity to fade if he can’t finish in the first. Needless to say, the “Super Saiyan” won’t be reaching level 9000 this weekend. Parke has more weapons at his disposal, and while not an overly impressive striker, he has enough technical boxing to cause damage and take the unanimous decision.
Jimi Manuwa (13-0) vs Ryan Jimmo (18-2)
Next is a light heavyweight bout between Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa and Ryan “Big Deal” Jimmo. Undefeated with a healthy amount of hype behind him, the hard-hitting Manuwa earned his first two UFC wins over Kyle Kingsbury and Cyrille Diabate by doctor stoppages. Jimmo’s striking shows shades of the karate black belt he holds, but the majority of his success has come from his wrestling and clinch work. Case in point -- his last fight in June against Igor Pokrajac that had many a fan running to the loo.
Jimmo may own a seven-second knockout win over Anthony Perosh, but that’s an anomaly from his recent work. Manuwa’s overly-aggressive fighting style does leave him open for takedowns, but he hasn’t been held down for extended periods of time. The Poster Boy throws all his strikes with bad intentions and any one of them could finish his opponent. Jimmo may be able to stall Manuwa, but I don’t see him being able to do that for fifteen minutes. Manuwa via TKO in the 2nd.
Ross Pearson (17-6) vs Melvin Guillard (48-13-3 1NC)
That leads us to the co-main event of the night. After an experiment with the 145-lb. division, Ross Pearson is back at lightweight and going strong with TKO wins over George Sotiropoulos and Ryan Couture. With a professional career that stretches back to 2002, Melvin Guillard is one of those fighters who always seems to derail just when he gets some momentum. After a rough patch that saw him lose four out of five, he rebounded with a big KO over Mac Danzig in July.
The strategy here is about as simple as a game of naughts and crosses: Take Guillard down and submit him (most likely via rear-naked choke). Pearson has the technical prowess to do so, but fighters aren’t always the most practical. I think that the fact that he’s fighting in England will make him want to put on an “entertaining” bout. Fun for the fans’ sake, but a poor choice of tactics. Melvin has the shortest average fight time among lightweights and he'll keep that title with a first round KO.
Lyoto Machida (19-4) vs Mark Munoz (13-3)
Time for the main event of the evening! After losing a controversial split decision to Phil Davis in August, Lyoto Machida drops down to middleweight to, as he puts it, “Do something new.” After beating up Tim Boetsch at UFC 162, Mark Munoz tries to return to the list of middleweight contenders with a win over a big name. A Div. I All-American wrestler, Munoz also lives up to his “Filipino Wrecking Machine” moniker by pairing brutal ground and pound with his takedowns.
Much like the co-main event, success rests on one fighter being able to ground their opponent. In this case, Munoz has to try to bring the former light heavyweight champion to the mat. While he does relentlessly pursue takedowns (he averages the most per minute in the division), Machida's takedown defense is equally impressive (he has an over 80% success rate). The loss to Phil Davis served as a wake-up call that his evasive style can work against him. He’s not going to totally change his counter-striking approach, but he won’t allow himself to lose that way again. The fact that Munoz is an extremely aggressive fighter plays right into the Dragon’s hands. After a back and forth first round, Machida will start to time Munoz on the way in and hurt him with a counter-punch. Machida wins in the second via TKO.
That wraps up another colourful edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also don’t forget to leave your own opinions, predictions or favourite US show based off a British series. Hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with Life on Mars.
Downes Side: Machida vs. Munoz Picks
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night on FOX Sports 2: Machida vs. Munoz, taking place Saturday, October 26