It’s not the sexiest card of the year, but it’s still a chance to show how much you know about the UFC and some of their newer fighters. Let’s break down UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi.
Demetrious Johnson ($11400) vs Kyoji Horiguchi ($8200)
He might not get the respect and publicity that the other UFC champions get, but he is every bit as dominant. The knock on “Mighty Mouse” used to be that he didn’t finish fights. That no longer applies, as Johnson has finished three of his last four fights. There is nothing he doesn’t do at a high level. Horiguchi is undefeated in the UFC, but he’s never fought anyone like Johnson. He’s good enough to take it to the distance, but it will be Johnson retaining his title via unanimous decision.
Pick: Johnson by decision
Michael Bisping ($10200) vs CB Dollaway ($9200)
Listen closely and you can hear the whispers: Michael Bisping is in decline. Now 36 and just 2-3 in his last five fights, Bisping desperately needs a win here to remain relevant, especially since all three of those losses have come to top-10 middleweights: Rockhold, Belfort and Kennedy. Bisping has always been great at takedown defense, but the best wrestlers have been able to get him to the ground. Dollaway is adept at getting fights to the ground, but I think Bisping will be able to defend against them, and his patented volume striking will again lead him to victory.
Pick: Bisping by decision
John Makdessi ($10500) vs Shane Campbell ($8900)
It would be great to make your UFC debut right in front of your Canadian fans. But not so great when your opponent is also from Canada. John “The Bull” Makdessi will welcome Shane Campbell to the big leagues at UFC 186, looking to erase the taste of the loss he suffered in his last fight over a year ago. Makdessi throws a lot of punches, landing 4.53 significant strikes per minute. He has outstruck his last four opponents, including Daron Cruickshank, who is a high-volume striker in his own right. Campbell is coming off three straight TKO wins, but that won’t happen here — Makdessi has never been knocked out. Makdessi will eventually find the opening he needs to finish this fight, scoring a KO win.
Pick: Makdessi by KO/TKO
Thomas Almeida ($11200) vs Yves Jabouin ($8100)
In his UFC last November, Thomas Almeida used Tim Gorman as target practice. He landed 120 significant strikes, and his production increased with each round, indicating that the undefeated, 23-year-old has quite the gas tank. Jabouin is a solid fighter out of the Tristar Gym, but at age 35 he has a lot of mileage and the lights get shut off much quicker than they used to. Almeida will use his speed and reach advantages to pepper Jabouin with shots, eventually getting the ref to wave this one off.
Pick: Almeida by KO/TKO
Patrick Cote ($10300) vs Joe Riggs ($9100)
When this fight was announced I thought perhaps I had been beamed a decade. Both these fighters Cote and Riggs made their UFC debuts back in 2004, so it’s amazing that they are still competing, let alone at a UFC level. Cote is the “fresher” fighter, as he has a lot less miles on him and has been doing well in his latest UFC stint, going 3-2 with decision losses to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Cung Le. Riggs came back to the UFC last year against Ben Saunders and injured his neck in the first round. Riggs has had an excellent career — you don’t amass over 50 fights if you haven’t — but the mileage has certainly taken its toll. I suspect this one will end up going to the judges, with Cote getting his hand raised at the end.
Pick: Cote by decision
Sarah Kaufman ($10400) vs Alexis Davis ($9000)
I guess once every five years or so Alexis Davis and Sarah Kaufman have to fight. This will be their third battle, with Kaufman winning the first two. Kaufman lands an insane amount of significant strikes, averaging over seven per minute. She landed an astounding 202 strikes against Leslie Smith in her last fight. She is completely underrated and at one time was the best 135-pounder in the division. The former Strikeforce champ badly wants another shot at Ronda Rousey and UFC gold. Davis stands in the way, but not for long. Look for Kaufman to score a quick KO and get her name back in the top contenders discussion.
Pick: Kaufman by KO/TKO
Chad Laprise ($10900) vs Bryan Barbarena ($8500)
Barbarena made his UFC debut against Joe Ellenberger last December. He started very slowly, but left the jitters behind and dominated the fight in rounds two and three, eventually getting a ref stoppage-TKO. He’s a difficult matchup in that he uses a lot of feints and throws a lot of inside leg kicks, making it difficul to get inside on him. When that does happen, Barbarena works well in the clinch, utilizing some vicious elbows. Laprise has yet to lose in two UFC fights, but he also hasn’t been all that impressive. I think Barbarena’s style will cause Laprise fits, and Barbarena will score the upset win.
Pick: Barbarena by decision
Olivier Aubin-Mercier ($11000) vs David Michaud ($8400)
Aubin-Mercier lost the TUF Nations title to Chad Laprise, ending a four-fight win streak at the regional level. He followed up the loss with his first UFC win, a unique submission win over Jake Lindsey last year. Michaud is 1-1 in the UFC, but like Bryan Barbarena, he trains with Benson Henderson at the MMA Lab. I think Michaud is vastly undervalued in this bout. He will stalk Aubin-Mercier all around the cage and impose his will. He’ll push the pace but is also a solid counter-striker if need be. This one will likely go the distance, but Michaud will do more than enough to win by unanimous decision.
Pick: Michaud by decision