Do you ever find your fight predictions coming down to an internal battle between who you hope will win and who you think will really win, even if you don’t fully admit it to yourself until after watching the opponent’s hand raised? Do you recall times when you picked against a fighter you didn’t like who you knew had the advantage all along, and you refused to acknowledge the fact?
When trying to keep an open mind leading up to a fight, many of us find ourselves making predictions on who will win based on who we want to win, even if it’s only on a subliminal level. The difficulty lies in separating your personal feelings towards a fighter, whether positive or negative, from a fighter’s proven ability and fight history.
In this column, I will delve into the main cards of key UFC events and explore that unending struggle of Brain vs. Heart.
The second in my series of articles this week looks at Saturday’s main card fight between Vitor Belfort vs. Gegard Mousasi.
The blueprint to beat Vitor Belfort has been around for a while now. Survive or avoid the initial flurry and then take him down once he’s tired to get the TKO. Belfort has definitely added variety to his striking over the past few years which is definitely commendable for a fighter approaching 40 years old. However, his ground game has let him down in recent years in his losses to Chris Weidman and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
What makes Gegard Mousasi so interesting to watch is his ability to adjust his fighting style to each and every one of his opponents. Against Dan Henderson, Mousasi came out aggressive with his jab and kicks although ensuring to return to his guard each time to be ready to counter Henderson’s strikes. The finish began off a knockdown scored from Mousasi firing his right hand over Hendo’s outstretched left arm which he uses to measure his overhand right, but more on that later on in the week.
Compare that performance to his fight against Costas Philippou four months later and the difference is drastic. Mousasi took the fight to the ground and controlled Philippou from start to finish as he knew he had a greater advantage there rather than standing and striking. I believe it is this capacity to adapt to his opponents which will lead Mousasi to victory in this fight. Similar to Ovince Saint Preux vs. Jimi Manuwa earlier on in the night, I expect a cautious first round from Mousasi to tire Belfort out. Then, once the threat of Belfort’s explosive flurries have been neutralised, he may look for the finish in the later rounds. Although I wouldn’t be too surprised for Mousasi to remain vigilant throughout and pick up what would arguably be the biggest win of his career.
Brain’s Prediction: Mousasi via unanimous decision.
Vitor Belfort delivered Michael Bisping one of the more devastating knockouts in the history of the middleweight division. Now Bisping is champion he appears very keen on avenging his prior losses. Just look at the main event of UFC 204 for proof; Dan Henderson is hardly the most deserving challenger at middleweight. I’d love to see Bisping get a shot at redemption against Belfort. For that to come about Belfort needs to win this weekend and then win at least one more fight after that.
Gegard Mousasi has been suffering from the same issue Michael Bisping was a few years ago. He looks great against everyone not in the top five (notwithstanding the highlight reel knockout loss to Uriah Hall), but can’t seem to overcome that final hurdle and win a title eliminator. Despite this, Mousasi has the ability to beat anyone at middleweight on any given night and he deserves to get a shot at the title before he retires.
Heart’s Prediction: Mousasi via KO in the second round.
(Ross Clark is an MMATorch contributor from London, England. He has trained in MMA at the London Fight Factor and has attended classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and MMA. He attained his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last October. His “Heart vs. Brain” column is inspired by his night’s out talking with friends about upcoming fights, debating who will win, and seeing people struggle between rationally, objectively predicting an outcome versus and the emotions that come up regarding whom they want to see win. He analyzes upcoming big name fights by breaking down the two approaches and acknowledging when one approach leads to a different prediction.)