UFC Fight Night 39 Preview: The Main Card

UFC Fight Night 39 Preview: The Main Card by Ryan Frederick on April 11, 2014 Tweet After nearly three weeks off, the action returns to the Octagon on Friday afternoon with an event on UFC Fight Pass with UFC Fight Night 39: Nogueira vs. Nelson. The UFC will be returning to Abu Dhabi for the first time since UFC 112 in April 2010, and the country is hoping that the lasting image of Anderson Silva’s wacky performance against Demian Maia on that night is wiped away with a show-ending knockout. It will be heavyweight action taking the stage in the night’s five-round main event as a fight seemingly years in the making takes place when Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes on Roy Nelson.
The rest of the main card has some interesting match-ups as Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri meet in a featherweight tilt, and welterweights John Howard and Ryan LaFlare look to break into the top fifteen at 170 pounds when they square off. And, in a battle of two lightweights with Middle Eastern roots, Ramsey Nijem, who comes from a Palestinean background, meets the Iran-born Beneil Dariush in the opening bout of the main card. We took a look at the night’s preliminary card, so now we will take a look at the main card action.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-8-1 (1), 5-4 UFC) vs.
The main event of the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi is a fight that has been only a matter of when, not if, it was going to be made as it is a natural match-up to make between former PRIDE and UFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira and season ten winner of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson. Both men have tons of experience, but both have also hit rough patches in their career that have knocked them out of title contention, and with both men now at the age of 37, this could be the last time we see either in a main event, but both still believe they can make one last run at title contention. Nogueira has had trouble staying healthy and in fighting condition as he has fought just once in each of the last two years. A lot of that has to do with needing time to recover from having his arm broken at the hands of Frank Mir at UFC 140 in December 2011. It healed enough to bounce back with a win over Dave Herman at UFC 153 in October 2012, the last time he recorded a win. Nogueira dropped his last fight, when he was submitted again, this time at the hands of Fabricio Werdum at UFC On FUEL TV 10 in June 2013. Nogueira has been rotating wins-and-losses over his last eight fights.
Nelson was one of the best heavyweights in the world not under a UFC contract when he went on the all heavyweight season of TUF. He probably should have been in the UFC already, but his look and demeanor kept him away. He ran thru the competition on the season, ultimately knocking out Brendan Schaub in the finals in December 2009. He followed that with a win over Stefan Struve, but then went through a rough stretch where he lost three of his next four fights. He dropped decisions to Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir, but followed that up with a win over Mirko Cro Cop before dropping another decision to Fabricio Werdum. Nelson then went on a tear as he then scored three straight first-round knockout wins, scoring triumphs over Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo. That win streak put Nelson into title contention and likely a win away. He took a short notice fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 in June, and Nelson delivered a flat performance en route to dropping a decision and seeing his win streak end. He dropped his second straight fight in losing a decision to Daniel Cormier at UFC 166 in October so he will be looking to avoid the first three-fight losing skid of his career against Nogueira.
The biggest test in this fight will be whether Nogueira’s chin can hold up to the power that Nelson has in his hands. Nogueira’s chin has been rocked and he has been finished a lot in recent fights as the wars and injuries have really taken their toll on him. Many have thought and may be surprised that Nogueira has yet to retire as he doesn’t have anything left to prove, but he is a competitor. Nelson has really fallen into an approach of being a knockout artist and he isn’t diverse on his feet. He is looking to land that big right hand at all times and throws haymakers with tons of power. Nogueira should look to close the distance and use dirty boxing to wear down Nelson as it will also take the overhand right out of the equation. Both men are exceptional on the ground, but it is hard to imagine this fight going to the ground as Nogueira will have trouble getting Nelson down and Nelson just doesn’t go to the ground- he wants to keep it standing. That is where the fight will remain and that is where Nelson will take the win. Nogueira has to keep Nelson guessing, but his chin being as good as completely gone, when you mix that with the power of Nelson, it is likely just a matter of time before Nelson hits that home run punch. Nelson gets the finish inside of the first ten minutes.
Clay Guida (30-14, 10-8 UFC) vs.
The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 39 is a featherweight bout with two of the most exciting fighters in the sport set to clash as Clay Guida looks to get back on the winning side of things when he takes on Tatsuya Kawajiri. This fight marks Guida’s third fight since making the move down to 145 pounds and he will be looking to bounce back from a knockout loss to Chad Mendes at UFC 164 in August. In Guida’s now 44-fight career, that was the first time that he had been finished with punches, which shows not only the amount of toughness that he has, but that it takes a fighter the caliber of Mendes to be able to finish him with his hands. Guida had a successful transition to the featherweight division in his 145-pound debut as he defeated another Japanese sensation, Hatsu Hioki, at UFC On FOX 6 in January 2013. While Guida has been one of the most active fighters in the UFC, having fought 18 times inside the Octagon, injuries have slowed him to just three fights since November 2011. Guida has been battling a health scare in recent months as he has a subdural hematoma in his lower back, and it kept him on the shelf for three months. He seems to have gotten past those issues and is looking to get back into the title hunt.
Kawajiri is a Japanese standout who has fought for numerous promotions, including PRIDE, Shooto, Dream and Strikeforce. He made his long-awaited UFC debut in January at UFC Fight Night 34 when he took on Sean Soriano, who was a late replacement for Hacran Dias. Kawajiri had a dominant performance and made quick work of Soriano as he had a solid mixture of takedowns, ground-and-pound and submission attempts before he found a fight-ending rear-naked choke in the second round. It was a vintage performance from Kawajiri to those who had seen him fight outside of the UFC. It also was Kawajiri’s sixth straight win. Kawajiri asked for a tougher opponent for his second bout inside the Octagon, and he will get that when he takes on Guida. Kawajiri is accustomed to tough opponents and he has wins in his career over the likes of Josh Thomson, Joachim Hansen, Vitor Ribeiro and Michihiro Omigawa, and he has also mixed it up with fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alvarez, Takanori Gomi and Gilbert Melendez.
Guida has long been one of the most exciting fighters the UFC had on their roster, but lately he has taken a more conservative approach in his fights. It has resulted in some wins, some close losses, but has had fans not looking as forward to his fights as once before. Guida is a tough opponent to figure out as his style is challenging. He fights at a relentless pace, has good wrestling and pressure and solid punch combinations. Kawajiri likes to fight on the ground and establish dominant positions, but he will likely have trouble taking Guida down to the mat. If the fight goes to the mat, it is up to Kawajiri to win the scrambles and make timely transitions to top control. He can wear Guida down with a steady mix of ground-and-pound, and it will slow Guida from working within his gameplan. Kawajiri has good wrestling, and he controlled a similar opponent in Josh Thomson with ease, but he will have his work cut out for him in matching the pace that Guida will push. He has to not get frustrated with Guida’s style, and a calm approach will help him. Guida likely has the edge on the feet, but with overall groundwork, Kawajiri likely has the edge there. It will probably be close, and dominant positions will go a long way in determining a winner. This looks to be a toss-up, and it could end controversially. I see Kawajiri squeaking by with a close decision win.
John Howard (22-8, 6-3 UFC) vs.
A battle between rising welterweight contenders is featured on the main card of UFC Fight Night 39 as John Howard puts his four-fight win streak on the line against the undefeated Ryan LaFlare. Howard is in his second stint in the UFC and looking to make another run at title contention. He debuted inside the Octagon at UFC 94 in January 2009 and reeled off four straight wins with the UFC. He scored back-to-back decision wins over Chris Wilson and Tamdan McCrory and followed those up with back-to-back knockout wins over Dennis Hallman and Daniel Roberts to run his UFC record to 4-0. Howard was in the title hunt, but quickly fell out with losses in his next three fights. Howard went through a tough stretch of fights, losing to Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves and Matt Brown, and suddenly he found himself cut from the UFC roster. Howard worked his way back to the Octagon with wins in six of his next seven fights and he took a short notice fight against Uriah Hall in August, and actually moved up a weight class in order to return. He scored the upset of Hall in his return at UFC Fight Night 26, winning a decision. Howard followed that up with a decision win over Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC 168 in December in his return to 170 pounds, and now he looks to hand LaFlare his first career loss.
LaFlare got his career started with the Ring Of Combat promotion in New Jersey, making his debut in June 2008. He won his debut by submission, but then missed a year. He then went on to win five fights by stoppage in the span of a year before missing another two-and-a-half years of action. He got back into action in a big way in 2013. He moved to 7-0 with a submission win in January 2013, and with seven stoppage wins, he caught the eye of the UFC. He made his UFC debut at UFC On FUEL TV 9 in April 2013 and scored a decision win over Ben Alloway, moving his perfect professional record to 8-0. It took until November for LaFlare to return to action, but he returned and won another decision, this time over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Night 32. He made a quick turnaround as he accepted a short notice bout as an injury replacement against Court McGee at UFC On FOX 9 in December. It was the biggest test to date for LaFlare, but one that he passed as he scored a decision win over McGee. With ten straight wins to start his career, LaFlare is looking to break into the top fifteen in the UFC rankings and remain perfect in his career.
Howard is a fairly well-rounded fighter who strikes aggressively and with a lot of power. He is dangerous for all 15 minutes of a fight as evidenced in his knockout of Hallman in the closing moments of their fight. LaFlare has been improving on his feet and does a solid job of mixing his strikes, and he does set a quick pace. He is not adverse to getting hit as well as he was tested on the feet by McGee in their fight. McGee may attack with more volume than Howard, but Howard has more power in his hands, and he likes to exchange close in the pocket. Where LaFlare will look to take over the fight will be in the clinch and with the takedowns. Howard has been taken down plenty in his past fights, and LaFlare will be looking to do the same and control the tempo on the ground. It will be up to Howard to keep this fight upright and open up his striking arsenal. The aggressive fighter between the two has the edge, and LaFlare’s ability to control the pace of the fight with his work in close range will make the difference. LaFlare takes this as it goes to the judges.
Ramsey Nijem (8-4, 4-3 UFC) vs.
The opening bout on the main card of UFC Fight Night 39 is a lightweight contest between two men looking to carve a name for themselves in a tough 155-pound division and perform solidly on a main card. Ramsey Nijem, the runner-up on season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter”, will be looking for his second straight win as he takes on the undefeated Beneil Dariush. Both men are coming off of wins at UFC Fight Night 35 in January. Nijem scored a decision win over fellow TUF 13 alum Justin Edwards while Dariush scored a first-round submission win over Charlie Brenneman in his UFC debut. Nijem’s win over Edwards stopped his two-fight losing skid that came following three straight wins in his post-TUF career. Nijem only has twelve fights in his career, but his win over Edwards was the best performance he has had to date. Dariush took the fight against Brenneman on short notice, but he made the most of it with the quick win and is looking to showcase himself once again. He has won all seven of his professional fights to start his career, and after winning by decision in his debut, his following six wins have come by stoppage.
Both men want to put in a good showing as their respective Middle East heritage will have the crowd behind both men. Both men don’t have a ton of experience at this stage, but Nijem has more UFC experience and the experience of going through the TUF house. He is improving and his striking and wrestling are coming along nicely. He still needs to get away from the go-for-broke approach he has, but that is coming with more experience. Dariush is a seasoned grappler, but his striking is a work in progress. Nijem will need to expose that his striking just isn’t ready for the level of competition he will be facing just yet. Nijem likes to dictate the pace of the fight, and he is not adverse to taking the fight down to the mat. He will be needing to utilize scrambles and transitions on the mat as he looks to stay away from the submission game of Dariush. Dariush can make Nijem pay for any mistakes he makes on the mat, so that may want Nijem to keep the fight on the feet. He will win the fight on the feet. His wrestling ability will negate the grappling of Dariush, and it will lead to Nijem scoring a decision win.
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Tags: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Beneil Dariush, clay guida, John Howard, minotauro nogueira, Ramsey Nijem, Roy Nelson, Ryan LaFlare, Tatsuya Kawajiri, UFC, UFC Fight Night 39, UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs.
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Ryan Frederick has been a diehard mixed martial arts fan since he saw UFC 1 at the age of 7. Since then he has yet to miss a show. He also has loves for football, baseball and fine whiskey. He fell in love with covering MMA after having also covered baseball and football, both professional and college, while working towards a journalism degree at Texas Christian University. His work has been seen on FOXSports.com, InsideFights.com, WrestlingObserver.com, Bleacher Report and ToughTalkMMA.com.
Shawn M.
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Author: -- insider -- Adam Keyes CB Chris Roberts Daniel Sohn Fantasktic Fantasktic Inside Fights Staff Jon Kirschner Luke Cho Yee Matthew Michaels Mike Gallagher Murtz Jaffer PK Pulse Glazer Ryan Frederick Scott "Kubryk" Sawitz Scott Keith Shawn M. Smith Shawn W.
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