Let’s look at some really intriguing match-ups the UFC has in store for us as they take the action to Barueri, Brazil. UFC Fight Night 29 may not have the most fan-favored main event, but it does provide enough power in its main card to ensure a good night of fights. Let’s take a look at the main card.
Raphael Assuncao vs. TJ Dillashaw
Two rising forces in the bantamweight division, and two guys that are on very impressive streaks in the UFC. I hold both of these guys in the top 10 at 135lbs, which makes this an awesome fight. Assuncao, a worthy veteran now turned empowering contender, has turned his career and name around by dropping down to bantamweight. Before, he could only achieve a gatekeeper status at 145lbs, but now he’s close to a title shot with a 4-fight win streak. His opponent, TJ Dillashaw, is also on a 4-fight win streak, but has a bit different history. Dillashaw was a TUF finalist, but unfortunately did not win in the finals.
Coming from the Alpha Male team, one can only anticipate TJ Dillashaw’s performance Wednesday night. The Alpha Male camp has been undefeated in the UFC this entire year, and is an astounding accomplishment. Assuncao will have his hands full in this bout.
Assuncao is primarily a grappler, but has amped his striking technique up a lot. That said, Dillashaw will be the more comfortable on his feet, as his punching power and improved boxing should reign superior. Dillashaw is also the better wrestler, but he’ll find himself at a severe size disadvantage against Assuncao, who is a gigantic bantamweight. Dillashaw’s plan should be to keep this fight standing, and use his power punching to keep Assuncao off his rhythm. If Raphael is able to get deep on a takedown, it could be a long night for the Alpha Male contender.
This should be a very closely contested bout, as I believe these two fighters are very similar in terms of skill, but I’m going to side with Raphael Assuncao in this one. Look for Dillashaw to give him some trouble concerning power, but once Assuncao gets comfortable and can capitalize on a mistake, he’ll be able to take this fight down and control it. Dillashaw’s wrestling will most likely get canceled out by Assuncao’s grappling and shear size so expect Raphael to be dominant on the mat for the better part of 3 rounds.
Raphael Assuncao via Unanimous Decision
Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Pierce
A very exciting welterweight bout here welcomes the arrival of former middleweight contender Rousimar Palhares as he sheds off the needed pounds to debut at welterweight. Opposite of him will be the rising force, Mike Pierce, who is on a 4-fight win streak at welterweight since losing a close decision to Josh Koscheck back in the beginning of 2012.
This could very well be Rousimar’s last chance at fighting in the UFC, as he does not have the greatest track record coming into this fight. His skills in the cage are undeniable, but it’s his mental-game and the fact that he failed a drug-test in his last bout that has me worried.
In this fight, it’s really going to come down to whether Mike Pierce can fend of Rousimar’s grappling game. Palhares is easily one of the better grapplers in the UFC, and not just that, but he’s one of the best finishers. Palhares can snatch submissions from any position, and when he gets them, he cranks them until you’re screaming or injured. Palhares is a brutal submission specialist, so Pierce needs to approach any entanglement with him with severe causion.
On the feet, this will be very interesting. Neither fighter has a very strong striking base, as they both prefer to use wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu, but they do come in with their own styles. Pierce packs some heavy punching power, and prefers to use dirty boxing as he gets in close and works his opponent over from in tight. Rousimar however can play the outside game a bit, as he uses a variety of kicks to open up the chance to shoot.
The biggest factor in this fight is that Palhares can fight off of his back. If Rousimar is stuffed by Pierce, he’ll easily fall to his guard and fight from there. If Pierce can’t get much going on the feet, expect him to confidently take top control. However, that could very well be his demise as he is out-matched there. If Palhares can avoid eating big shots from Pierce, expect him to pull off a submission in round two.
Rousimar Palhares via 2nd Rd Submission
Fabio Maldonado vs. Joey Beltran
Next up at 205lbs, we have a concoction for a true slug-fest as Brazil’s, Fabio Maldonado, faces the tough and gritty, Joey Beltran. Both of these guys pose similar challenges toward one-another, and both are coming in with similar history. A much needed win is the case for both men, who have a combined 3-6-1 record in their last 5 bouts. Expect to see desperation in the eyes of Fabio and Beltran Wednesday night.
I’m predicting that this fight will be primarily a stand-up contest, and a war at that one. Iron chins are supported both ways here, and will simply come down to technique. Beltran, as you may know, is not the most technical fighter. He’s a brawler and wades in with big punches, takes them on the chin, and simply swings back. An effective approach to instigate a barn-burner, but not a good way to approach a man like Fabio Maldonado.
Maldonado has extremely good boxing skills and will use his advantage in technique and overall experience to out-strike Beltran. Expect Fabio to land first, get away, and pick Beltran apart. I woudn’t bank on a finish, as Beltran can take punches like a champ, but definitely expect a one-sided showing here.
Fabio Maldonado via Unanimous Decision
Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill
Also greeting us in the light-heavyweight division is the return of Matt Hamill against the Brazilian wrecking machine, Thiago Silva. It’s a wonder these two men have not crossed paths before, as they both share similar experience and were both in the UFC at the same time. While neither men had the desired future, they are still very worthy opponents.
Coming in after a long lay-off like Matt Hamill is, and following an otherwise lack-luster retirement fight, Matt Hamill sure has the odds against him here. Thiago Silva, coming off of a sensational KO of Rafael Cavalcante, has all the tools to make this a one-sided fight if he can just avoid Hamill’s wrestling. Expect Silva to dominate the feet, as he is the more sound striker by far, but caution will most likely be high in preparation for the takedown attempts that Hamill will go for. Silva shouldn’t really have much problem defending them if he knows they’re coming, and will pick Hamill apart on the feet for a 2nd round TKO.
Thiago Silva via 2nd Rd TKO
Erick Silva vs. Dong Hyun Kim
For the co-main event of the evening, we have a very solid bout in the welterweight division that could carve path for one of the top contenders in the division. The talented prospect Erick Silva will face the very talented South Korean, Dong Hyun-Kim. This is a bout that I myself have been looking forward to for a long time.
Many fans don’t really care for Kim, as 7 of his 8 UFC wins have been by decision. With that said, Kim is a wonderful fighter to watch if you like high-level grappling as he often shuts his opponents down much like Georges St. Pierre. Ironically, Kim has been campaigning for a bout against the welterweight champion GSP for a while now, with an impressive win over Erick Silva, he could very well be granted one.
Unfortunately, Erick Silva is one wild beast to tame. If DHK has any hopes of shutting him down, he’ll really need to be aggressive and not let Silva get into his rhythm. Silva’s striking skills are on a whole other level compared to Kim, and brings a much wider arsenal. Kim prefers some rangy kicks, a solid jab, and a powerful cross as his stand-up while Erick Silva throws everything but the kitchen sink. Kim will have to fight with caution on the feet, but not forget about forward pressure in search of the takedown.
That brings another issue to surface, whether or not Kim can even get the takedown. Kim is a skilled Judo practitioner, and often surprises his opponents with trips that they don’t see coming. Silva is no exception, and I think a very technical grappling battle could ensue when it comes to defending Kim’s takedowns.
Ultimately, I’m going to side with Erick Silva. On the feet, he has too much variety and too big of an arsenal for Kim. In the grappling, Kim is an imposing force, but Silva can hold his own for sure as he too is an expert grappler. Kim may control more of the fight, but Silva’s total offense will score him more points in the end.
Erick Silva via Split Decision
Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields
And finally, the main event of the evening, an interesting match-up in skills between the Brazilian, Demian Maia, and the American, Jake Shields. It’s easy to think of this match-up as arguably the best BJJ specialist in the UFC against one of the best wrestlers who also has strong submission skills.
If it’s not apparent, both men lack strong striking games, although this fight could very well come down to that. Demian Maia has improved his striking much as of late, and while it’s not big, I would give him the advantage on the feet against Jake Shields. The gameplan for Shields will most likely be to pressure Maia with strikes, and score takedowns at the latter part of the round to “steal” the round. Maia needs to ensure this can not happen and either completely out-strike him prior to getting takedown, or just defend the takedown. Because Shields stands as one of the best wrestlers, it’ll be hard for Maia to do so.
Another approach would be to try and take Shields down. This will also prove difficult, but probably more realistic than Maia defending one from Shields. Maia is under-estimated when it comes to strength and takedown ability, and he could very well prove that to us Wednesday night.
Ultimately, I see this being a very closely contested bout. Maia will have the slight edge on the feet and perhaps want to keep the fight there, but Shields’ timing on his takedowns will make it difficult to win rounds. I believe Shields hang on the ground with Maia, but probably not for a full round. Shields will try to shoot with a minute or two left, and try to control the rest of the round. Maia can’t let this happen, and will need to have much offense off his back. Maybe some situations where Maia gets the takedown will happen, but ultimately I see Shields getting the takedowns. With that said, who the points go to is another thing. Could the hometown crowd give Maia an edge on judging? Or will Shields’ wrestling style once again cancel out anything opposite it? I’m going to go my gut and say Maia will pick up a very closely contested bout.
Demian Maia via Split Decision