UFC 179 takes place this Saturday, October 25th at the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The show is headlined by Jose Aldo (24-1) defending the Featherweight title against Chad Mendes (16-1). It’s a rematch of their fight from UFC 142 in January 2012 where Aldo knocked Mendes out in the first round. Since then Mendes has been on a tear in the UFC, with 5 straight wins that include 4 straight knockouts. Aldo, on the other hand, is undefeated in the UFC. He’s currently ranked number two pound-for-pound behind Jon Jones.
Aldo may be one of the best fighters at any weight worldwide, but that success in the ring hasn’t translated into success at the box office. In his three pay per view headliners, Aldo drew buy rates of 235,000 (UFC 143 against Mendes), 330,000 (UFC 156 against Frankie Edgar with a strong undercard), and 170,000 (UFC 163, against Korean Zombie). The best fighter in the world isn’t necessarily the best draw in the world and the two frequently have little to do with one another.
UFC has had an off year at the box office. It has been a transitional year. A lot of it has been bad luck, but promoting fights means taking chances with people being hurt, which has been the case this year with the promotion’s biggest draws. The strongest buy rate of the year thus far has been 545,000 buys for UFC 175 (Weidman vs Machida). The weakest has been 115,000 buys for UFC 174 (Mighty Mouse vs Bagautinov), although UFC 177 (Dillashaw vs Soto) at 125,000 came close. The buy rate for UFC 178 hasn’t been made public yet.
I suspect Aldo’s return match against Mendes will draw a similar buy rate to their first fight, around 235,000 buys, maybe less. It could be higher if people are interested in seeing them fight again, especially since they have both been so dominant against their opponents since the first time they met. I don’t get the sense, however, that this is a pay per view that people are interested in.
Part of that could be that it is in Brazil. UFC hasn’t done a pay per view in Brazil since UFC 163, even though the promotion frequently runs shows in that country. Also, the pay per views from Brazil that drew good buy rates all featured Anderson Silva. There’s no one with Silva’s kind of star power at UFC 179. UFC is then coming back with UFC 180 on November 15th in Mexico, which makes two straight pay per views held outside the US.
This is the first time UFC has run Ginásio do Maracanãzinho, where capacity is about 12,000 or so. Every other time UFC has been to Rio they have run HSBC Arena, where they’ve drawn upwards of 16,844. Ginásio do Maracanãzinho is next door to Maracanã Stadium, which hosted the famous Helio Gracie vs Masahiko Kimura match on October 23rd, 1951. The Helio-Kimura match is probably the most famous grappling match before UFC (it wasn’t technically vale tudo), with a couple of possible exceptions.
Ginásio do Maracanãzinho itself has also hosted its share of famous vale tudo fights, including Carlson Gracie’s win over Waldemar Santana on October 8th, 1955, and Rickson Gracie’s rematch against Rei Zulu on November 12th, 1983. Rickson’s two wins over Zulu were what built his legend as the Gracie family ace for his generation in the years before the creation of the UFC.
Aldo vs Mendes
Aldo [-225] isn’t a good matchup stylistically for Mendes [+175]. Mendes, 29, is a former NCAA All-American with Cal Poly. He debuted in MMA in 2008 and had his first fight in WEC in 2010. He is 15-1 in UFC and WEC combined. Of his 16 career wins, 6 were by KO/TKO and 2 by submission. He trains with Team Alpha Male in California.
Mendes is a great wrestler, with fast hands and knockout power. His stamina isn’t the best. His most recent fight was a win over Nik Lentz on Fox last December. Mendes took a decision victory in a fight where he had the flu. He was looking for his fifth straight knockout win, which would have been a record for the UFC. He didn’t get it, but he was able to dominate Lentz, a skilled fighter, throughout the match. He took Lentz down three times in the first and nearly knocked him out quickly with a big right hand. Lentz held on and Mendes took him down multiple times in the second and third rounds en route to a decision.
The reason Mendes doesn’t match up well against Aldo, though, is that Aldo is so good at defending against takedowns and is a devastating kickboxer, with some of the nastiest kicks in the UFC. Aldo, 28, is on a 17 fight win streak. He debuted in MMA in 2004, and came over to WEC in 2008. His record in UFC and WEC combined is 14-0. He trains with Nova Uniao out of Rio, although he is originally from Manaus.
Aldo’s sole loss was via submission due to a rear naked choke back in 2005 in Jungle Fight (Wallid Ismael’s Brazilian promotion that has been around for years) against Luiz Azevedo, a mediocre fighter with a career record of 17-9-1.
That fight was a bit weird. Azevedo spent the entire first round attempting to take Aldo down, but was unable to. In the second round, Azevedo was able to get Aldo to the canvas by pressing him against the ropes and then basically lifting him up and turning him away and taking him down. But they got tangled in the ropes while Azevedo had a bodylock on Aldo with Aldo’s back to Azevedo. The ref restarted them in the center of the ring, placing Aldo back into Azevedo’s body lock.
But the restart seemed to give Azevedo better positioning with his arms, as he was given better control of Aldo’s upper body after the reset than when they were tangled in the ropes. Azevedo was then able to lock in the rear naked choke and Aldo tapped. Aldo was in trouble before the reset, but it is difficult to imagine that fight ending the same way if they weren’t reset in the center of the ring.
Aldo hasn’t lost since. In Aldo’s first title defense against Mendes, he was able to avoid Mendes’ takedowns, which is no small feat considering Mendes’ wrestling skill. In the dying seconds of the first round, Aldo blasted Mendes in the face with a nasty kick after breaking away from Mendes’ grip against the fence. Earlier in the fight Mendes appeared to be out gunned by Aldo in striking, as Aldo’s kicks were clearly more devastating than Mendes’ stand-up game, although Mendes obviously has knockout power that could have come into play should that fight have gone longer.
Mendes will probably have a hard time taking Aldo down and will be stuck eating hard kicks from Aldo standing. But Mendes has punching power, so the standing game is not all one sided. Aldo probably has better stamina than Mendes, too, so the longer the fight goes the more it seemingly favours Aldo. Aldo is the obvious favourite and also my pick to win, but if Mendes can utilize his punching power to stop Aldo, or if he can figure out how to put Aldo on his back consistently throughout the fight and not gas out doing so, then he has a good chance of taking the title.
Glover vs Davis
The co-main event is a light-heavyweight match with Glover Teixeira [-300] against Phil Davis [+230]. Both are coming off losses in April, Teixeira in his title shot against Jones and Davis against Anthony Johnson. The winner of this fight will be close to a title shot, although maybe a fight away.
Glover, 34, is career 22-3 with 13 KO/TKOs and 6 submissions. Besides the loss to Jones, his other two losses were very early in his career. He debuted in MMA in 2002 and debuted in the UFC in 2012. He was undefeated in 20 straight fights going into the Jones match. He’s 5-1 in UFC, with wins over Ryan Bader, Quinton Jackson, and Fabio Maldonado among others. He famously trained with Chuck Liddell when Liddell was active.
Glover also holds a black belt in BJJ. He’s a good, hard puncher and a good wrestler who formerly represented Brazil in international competition. In the loss against Jones, Glover’s power punches were taken away when Jones weakened his right arm with an elbow crank early in the fight. He also had a hard time taking Jones down, going 0 for 5 in takedown attempts. Jones, however, went 3 for 6 in takedown attempts throughout that fight.
Prior to that fight, Glover was coming off a win over Bader in September 2013. It was a come from behind win where Bader actually hurt Glover with punches, but Glover knocked him down with a left hook and then finished him with punches on the ground in 2:55.
Davis, 30, is 12-2 with 4 submissions and 2 KO/TKO. Both of his losses were by decision. 3 of his submissions were by choke, including 2 by anaconda choke. He is a former four-time NCAA Division I All-American at Penn State. He is 8-2 in UFC, with wins over Lyoto, Rogerio Nogueira, Alexander Gustafsson, and Brian Stann among others. His other loss was via decision to Rashad Evans.
Davis has good striking defense. He is second all-time at light-heavyweight in significant strikes defense at 70.8% (Bader is first at 71.7%). Davis is also third all-time at light-heavyweight in lowest strikes absorbed per minute (Bader is first, Randy Couture second). But in his latest fight against Anthony Johnson, Davis looked bad, being unable to take Johnson down and getting taken apart by Johnson standing up en route to losing a decision.
Glover is the favourite going into the fight, but I don’t think Davis is as much of an underdog as people make him out to be. Glover will need to avoid Davis’ takedowns and get past his striking defense in order to win. Davis will need to avoid Glover’s power standing up, something he had trouble doing against Anthony Johnson. He’ll need to be able to Glover on his back, something he also had trouble with against Johnson. My pick is Glover, but if I were gambling on this fight because of the long odds against Davis I might place a bet on Davis. If the odds were more favourable then I would bet on Glover. But I think this will be a closer fight than a lot of people anticipate.
With Anthony Johnson suspended indefinitely and probably out of UFC (although who knows), the light-heavyweight title picture is shaken up a bit. Jones defends the title against Cormier on January 3rd. Gustafsson was booked to face Jones for the title, got hurt, and then was booked to face Johnson before the latter got suspended. Rashad Evans, who was scheduled to fight Cormier last year before getting hurt days before the fight, has talked about a fight with Gustafsson early in 2015. Besides the aforementioned names, the only other possible contender for the title is Bader, who is on a three-fight winning streak, but lost to Glover in 2013 and it at least one or two wins away against top opponents to be considering for a title shot.
If Gustafsson fights Evans, and assuming the loser of Jones vs Cormier doesn’t get an immediate title shot, then one figures the winner of Gustafsson and Evans will get the next shot. The winner of Glover and Davis would then need to fight someone else, possibly Bader, or the loser of Jones-Cormier (although one would think if Jones loses he’ll probably get an immediate rematch). And that all assumes Johnson remains suspended, or gets axed from the UFC. Glover has beaten Bader already, so if Glover beats Davis then he will probably have to be matched up against someone else.
Dan Henderson, Fabio Maldonado, Ovince St Preux, Jimi Manuwa, Rafael Cavalcante, as well as Mauricio Shogun and Rogerio Nogueira are all somewhere in the 205-pound rankings, too. Maldonado fights Stringer on the undercard of UFC 179. Manuwa is booked against Shogun and St. Preux is booked against Francimar Barroso on November 8th.
Later this week I’ll have a preview of the preliminary matches on Fox Sports 1 and Fight Pass.
Other fights on the pay per view:
Fábio Maldonado [-160] vs. Hans Stringer [+130] – Light-Heavyweight
Maldonado, 34, is from Sao Paulo and has a career 21-7 record. He has 12 KO/TKOs and 3 submissions. 2 of his 7 losses were by KO/TKO and 2 by submission. His record in UFC is 4-4, which is misleading because he is a better fighter than his record indicates. He’s coming off a 35 second TKO loss to Stipe Miocic in a fight where he was coming in as a replacement for JDS to fight Miocic at heavyweight.
Fabio was formerly an undefeated boxer in Brazil, and is one of the best boxers in the UFC, excellent at going to the body with hard punches. He is second all-time in striking accuracy among all UFC fighters at 60.6%, behind only Anderson Silva at 67.2%, and first all-time at light-heavyweight. He is also second all-time in strikes landed per minute among all UFC fighters at 6.18%, behind Cain at 6.21%, and is first at light-heavyweight. He’s also fourth all-time at light-heavyweight in strike differential.
Fabio likes to start slow and taunt his opponents, before firing up in the later rounds with hard body shots and combos to the head. He started slow in his fights against Gian Villante, Joey Beltran, and Roger Hollett, eventually defeating all three.
Villante was able to take him down early in the fight, but tired as the bout wore and it could have easily been stopped in Fabio’s favour. Fabio’s split-decision win over Beltran could have been scored either way. The same can be said for his fights against Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury, both of which were judged against Fabio. Many of these fighters were able to take Fabio down early, but wore out due to Fabio’s body strikes late in the fight.
Fabio also showed a tremendous chin in his loss to Glover at UFC 164 in October 2012. Glover was destroying him on the feet, but Fabio didn’t want to stop. He was upset when the doctor called off the fight after the second round. Although Fabio is one of the best pure boxers in the UFC, Glover was a level above as an overall striker.
Stringer, 27, made his UFC debut in March with a split-decision win over Francimar Barroso. He’s originally from the Netherlands. He is 22-5-3 in MMA, with 9 KO/TKOs and 8 submissions. He’s had losses earlier in his career via decision, knockout, and submission due to triangle choke.
His win over Barroso via split-decision could have gone either way, with rounds one and two being split. Barroso got a trip in the third round and was able to take Stringer down. Stringer, though, outstruck Barroso in the second and third rounds en route to winning the decision.
Stringer’s last fight before being signed by the UFC was in WSOF last year against Francisco France. The fight went to a draw, but Stringer would have won a decision if he didn’t have a point deducted for multiple groin strikes. France, however, was able to drop Stringer with a big right hand in the second round and nearly finished him after that. Stringer was able to win the fight by landing more strikes in the clinch during the first and third rounds.
I think this fight favours Fabio more heavily than the odds show. I might be bias, though, because I have seen more tape of Fabio. Fabio will probably start the fight slow, let Stringer tire, and work him over with body punches in the second and third rounds. Stringer can be rocked by hard punches, so that is certainly favourable for Fabio. Stringer, though, is good in the clinch, and Fabio had a decision loss to Kyle Kingsbury a few years ago where Kingsbury was able to score points throughout the fight by landing knees in the clinch. I still think Fabio will win, probably via decision.
Fabio is ranked in 15th at light-heavyweight. Should he win, he might be ready to move up and face another stiff competitor from higher in the division. Matching him up with a fighter who has a bit of name but is on the downside of his career such as Dan Henderson, Mauricio Shogun, or Rogerio Nogueira might be a good idea to help build Fabio as a possible contender a year or so down the line.
Darren Elkins [-185] vs. Lucas Martins [+150] – Featherweight
Elkins, 30, is coming off a decision loss to Jeremy Stephens in January. He is 17-4 in MMA and 7-3 in UFC. 5 of his wins have been via KO/TKO and 5 via submission.
Elkins likes to take his opponents down and scores points pounding them on the ground. His losses were typically fights were he had a hard time taking his opponent down and didn’t match well standing. Elkins had a hard time taking Stephens down in his latest fight and Stephens was able to score points standing. Against Chad Mendes, Elkins was knocked out with an overhand right in 68 seconds. He was also submitted early in his UFC run by Charles Oliveira when he attempted to slam Oliveira, who locked on an armbar and tapped him out.
Elkins has wins in the UFC over Hatsu Hioki, Antonio Carvalho, Steven Siler, Diego Brandao, Tiequan Zhang, Michihiro Omigawa, and Duane Ludwig. Hioki was able to bloody Elkins in the first round, before Elkins won rounds two and three by taking him down and scoring. The same situation occurred with Brandao, who won the first round when Elkins had a hard time taking him down, but lost the fight when Elkins was able to pound him on the ground in rounds two and three. Against Siler and Zhang, he was able to continually take them down to win the decision.
The three wins against Carvalho, Omigawa, and Ludwig are misleading based on the record alone. Elkins stopped Carvalho in 3:06, dropping him with two right hands, but the stoppage was quick as Carvalho popped right back up. The fight against Omigawa was universally considered bad judging, to the point that Dana White said afterwards that UFC considered Omigawa the real winner of that match. And Elkins beat Ludwig when Ludwig broke his fibula as Elkins took him down 44 seconds into their fight.
Martins, 25, is coming into the fight with a three-match winning streak, all finishes. He is 15-1 in MMA and 3-1 in UFC. His sole loss was to Edson Barboza via TKO in Martins’ UFC debut in January 2013. 11 of his wins have been by TKO.
Martins is an exciting striker who frequently has one of the better fights at each event. He has a couple of come from behind wins, most recently over Alex White when Martins was knocked down early in the fight, but came back in the third round with a right hand for the TKO in Martins’ debut at featherweight. Also, Martins was behind on points against Jeremy Larsen before stopping Larsen in the third round. His other win was against Ramio Hernandez at bantamweight. Martins was a massive bantamweight and dropped Ramiro quickly with a punch and choked him unconscious.
In his loss against Barboza, Martins was stopped in 2:38. Barboza completely dominated the stand up and dropped him with a left before finishing Martins with punches on the ground.
I see this one as being fairly simple. If Elkins has a hard time taking Martins down, then Martins has a good chance of getting a TKO. If Elkins can get the takedowns, it is difficult to know how Martins will respond, but the fight will be swung in Elkins’ favour. I think Martins should be able to stop Elkins, though, in what should be an exciting fight.
Carlos Diego Ferreira [-190] vs. Beneil Dariush [+155] – Lightweight
Ferreira, 29, is undefeated at 11-0. He is 2-0 in UFC with wins over Ramsey Nijem and Colton Smith. 6 of his wins have come by submission.
Both of Ferreira’s wins in the UFC have come by TKO. He stopped Nijem at 1:53 of the second round. Nijem was able to score a knock down in the first round, but Ferreira came back and dropped him with a combo and finished him with punches on the ground. Against Colton Smith, Ferreira only needed 38 seconds, taking him down and choke him out.
Dariush, 25, is 8-1 and 2-1 in UFC. He is coming off a submission win over Tony Martin in August after being stopped by Nijem in the first round back in April. His UFC debut was in January with a submission win over Charlie Brenneman. 5 of his 8 wins have come by submission.
Dariush choked Martin out at 3:38 of the second round. Martin was beating Dariush standing in the first until Dariush took him down. In the second, Dariush bloodied Martin, took him down, and was able to lock on the choke. His loss against Nijem was in Abu Dhabi and he may have been a bit shaken, as he was booed heavily for being Iranian. Nijem stopped him in 4:20, knocking him down and finishing him with punches on the ground. And in his UFC debut, Dariush was able to knock Brenneman down with an overhand right and then tap him out with a choke.
This fight definitely favours Ferreira. Ferreira should be able to knock Dariush down and stop him. Dariush might be able to beat Ferreira standing, but the safer strategy would seem to be to take Ferreira down and work for the submission, if possible.
I’ll be back this week with a preview of the prelims.