The UFC is back in Toronto this weekend with one and a half (more on that later) title fights this weekend. An intriguing fight at lightweight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Pat Healy is one to watch as it could really put either fighter on the fast track to a title shot. An interim bantamweight title fight between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland is the co-main event. Barao is solid as a rock, but can he keep winning and get an eventual fight with (injured) champion Dominick Cruz, or will Wineland pull of the upset? The always entertaining Jon Jones looks to continue his domination in a light heavyweight title fight with Alexander Gustafsson. UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson takes place Saturday, September 21st and is available on pay-per-view.
Middleweight: Francis Carmont (21-7) vs. Constantinos Philippou (12-2)
Both men in this fight have six wins from TKO/KO, but Carmont has ten wins via submission. I still like Philippou though in this. Carmont has looked dreadful in his past two fights, decision victories over Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin, and don’t expect him to be anymore exciting this time around. Philippou KO’d a surging Tim Boetsch in his last fight. Philippou hasn’t fought in nine months and will have a height and reach disadvantage, but I still favor him to take this one.
The Pick: Philippou
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov (20-0) vs. Pat Healy (29-16)
A more intriguing fight than the records would suggest. Healy is a Strikeforce import that had his UFC 159 victory over Jim Miller overturned (positive marijuana test), but prior to that “Bam Bam” had won six straight. In fact his only loss in Strikeforce was to Josh Thompson, who, as luck would have it, will be challenging Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis. Nurmagomedov is balanced, winning seven fights by KO/TKO and seven by submission. The Russian is stepping up in competition for this fight, and I expect it to be a close one. I’ll lean Nurmagomedov’s way, but wouldn’t be shocked if Healy wins.
The Pick: Nurmagomedov
Heavyweight: Matt Mitrione (6-2) vs. Brendan Schaub (9-3)
Much like last month’s heavyweight tilt between Ben Rothwell and Brandon Vera, this fight features two heavyweights that are miles away from title contention. Schaub is an Ultimate Fighter finalist who was KO’d by Roy Nelson in the finale. Not to be outdone, Mitrione got KO’d by Nelson three years later. This fight does nothing for me, but they both seem to dislike each other which may provide fireworks. It’s a toss up, but I’ll go with Schaub.
The Pick: Schaub
UFC Interim Bantamweight Title: Eddie Wineland (20-8) vs. Renan Barao (30-1)
Barao is the interim champion until Dominick Cruz can come back from his knee injury. He’s also won 30 fights in a row, 20 by KO/TKO or submission. The guy can fight, winning the interim belt from the always tough Urijah Faber. Save Cruz, Faber and Michael McDonald, batamweight is a little thin. It doesn’t help the Barao has beat both Faber and McDonald in back-to-back fights. Wineland is on a nice two fight win streak, but he seems to be a filler until Cruz comes back, or the winner of the upcoming Faber/McDonald fight earns a rematch.
The Pick: Barao
UFC Light Heavyweight Title: Alexander Gustafsson (15-1) vs. Jon Jones (18-1)
The Jon Jones reign of terror in the light heavyweight division man be nearing an end. Jones all but cleaned out the division (save a few) and all of his wins have been so impressive, there’s no consideration of anyone earning a rematch. Just wouldn’t be worth it. So the Jones to heavyweight speculation continues, but first he must get past Gustafsson. Gus is a fighter that matches Jones in both height and reach, so the it’s a level playing field on that front. I’m not high on Gus simply because his signature win is a decision against Mauricio Rua, who was thoroughly demolished by Jones two years ago. Anything is possible, and Gustafsson has some power to him (9 KO/TKO) but I expect Jones to dictate the fight and get a submisison.
The Pick: Jones
2013 Record: 14-4