UFC Fight Night 26: Main Card Preview

Shogun Rua and Chael Sonnen

The new all-sports channel, Fox Sports 1, kicks off its live sports coverage with a stacked, 13-fight UFC card on Saturday at the TD Garden in Boston. This is only the second time the UFC has come to Boston, and they made sure to litter the card with both Boston-born fighters, as well as some of the most talented fighters in the organization.

Mauricio Rua (21-7, 5-5 UFC) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-13-1, 6-6 UFC)

Both fighters in the main event, Rua and Sonnen, are amazingly talented. However, their combined mediocre record of 11-11 in the octagon cannot be ignored. Sonnen has dropped two title fights in a row, first against former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and then against current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Rua hasn't fared much better, having lost three of his six fights with the promotion.

Needless to say, both fighters are in search of some much-needed momentum if they have any hope of getting another title shot.

The fight that could serve as the template for how this fight will play out is Rua's fight versus Dan Henderson at UFC 136. Even in the latter stages of Henderson's career, he was able to take "Shogun" down repeatedly, especially as the fight wore on.

Now, Sonnen clearly doesn't have close to the striking ability and power of Shogun. That said, Sonnen possesses some of the best take downs and wrestling in the business.

If Sonnen can get through the first couple of rounds without sustaining much damage, he should be able to wear down the Brazilian with his top game. An allegedly healthy Shogun, which has been a rarity of late, could catch Sonnen with a fight-changing strike, but Sonnen is very durable and has the clear advantage in cardio.

Sonnen took some heavy shots from Michael Bisping in a No. 1 title eliminator fight at middleweight, but still managed to outwork the well-conditioned Englishman to a split-decision win at UFC on Fox.

If this were a three-round fight, I'd give the advantage to Shogun, as he could do enough early to win a couple of rounds. However, as the fight wears on, I expect Sonnen to impose his will.

Sonnen by majority decision, 49-46

Alistair Overeem (36-12, 1-1 UFC) vs. Travis Browne (14-1-1, 5-1 UFC)

For all his hype, Overeem has won all of one UFC fight. Conversely, other than a sole hiccup versus Antonio "Big Foot" Silva, Browne has chalked up five UFC wins. The interesting thing here is that both guys' losses came to Silva. But, the way in which each loss occurred was vastly different.

Overeem suffered one of the more vicious knockouts ever seen, while Browne's defeat was partially due to a torn hamstring following a thrown leg kick. The injury wold have made him easy pickings for anyone, let alone someone with Silva's power. Silva finished a helpless Browne via TKO (punches) in the first round.

Vegas has installed Overeem as a sizeable favorite, presumably due to his elite striking and wrestling. Browne is no slouch, though, and, if Overeem takes this fight as lightly as he did his last, then he could get caught.

Still, Overeem clearly has the advantage both on the feet and on the mat. He knows his stock took a hit with the loss to Silva, and he'll be looking to change that with a big performance in the co-main event. Look for him to get back on track and, in turn, put himself right back in the title picture.

Overeem by 2nd-round TKO

Uriah Faber (28-6, 4-2 UFC) vs. Iuri Alcantara (28-4, 3-1 UFC)

Alcantara has some skills, especially in the Jiu Jitsu department. However, this is simply a bad match-up for him.

Faber has never been submitted, thanks in part to his speed and athleticism. And, while Alcantara's striking is improving, Faber possesses the more technical and powerful striking. Add to this the inconsistent take down defense of Alcantara and the elite wrestling of faber, and this one could be a one-sided affair.

Faber has actually lost two of his last five fights, but both losses came to current title holders: interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao and current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Suffice to say, Alcantara isn't in the same class as Barao or Cruz.

Faber by 3rd-round TKO

Mike Pyle (25-8-1, 8-3 UFC) vs. Matt Brown (17-11, 10-5 UFC)

Both Pyle and Brown implore aggressive fighting styles, constantly pressuring their opponents and many times breaking their will. It will be interesting to see who wilts first, as neither of these guys knows how to play it safe.

Both fighters possess power, with perhaps the slight advantage going to Brown and his Muay Thai. The wrestling advantage goes to Pyle, but Brown's take down defense has vastly improved.

Assuming Brown can keep this fight primarily standing, he should be able to out strike Pyle. "The Immortal" has been on an absolute tear, having won five straight fights, including a savage beat down of esteemed prospect Jordan Mein in his last fight at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez. Don't expect his momentum to stop in his hometown of Boston in what is a fight of the night candidate.

Brown by 2nd-round TKO

Uriah Hall (7-3, 0-1 UFC) vs. John Howard (20-8, 4-3 UFC)

Hall is coming off a stinging loss to Kevin Gastelum in the Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale. Hall got taken down repeatedly, which contributed to his reluctance to let his hands go. This shouldn't be a problem here.

Howard doesn't have the wrestling ability or the overall aggressiveness of Gastelum. Howard is making his return to the UFC after a 26 month absence and was only given the opportunity after both Josh Samman and Nick Ring dropped out due to injury. One gets the impression that the UFC is setting up an easier fight for uber prospect Hall.

Either way, Hall's striking is vicious and should be on full display here versus a less threatening wrestler in Howard.

Hall by 1st-round KO

Joe Lauzon (22-8, 9-5 UFC) vs. Michael Johnson (12-8, 4-4 UFC)

The first fight of the main card produces an intriguing match-up. Lauzon has lost two of his last three fights, but both losses came against very good fighters in Jim Miller and No. 1 lightweight contender Anthony Pettis.

For his part, Johnson is coming off two losses versus Reza Medada and Myles Jury. Lauzon clearly has faced the tougher competition, and that should give him an advantage here. And, while Johnson has competent striking, he has shown an inability to stay upright, especially in his losses.

Expect Lauzon to swarm Johnson with bursts of strikes. Whether or not Lauzon comes out ahead in these exchanges, he will eventually go for the take down. Lauzon is a submission tactician and will go for an arm or Johnson's neck should he get Johnson's back during a scramble or transition. Just ask Melvin Guillard, who fell victim to a Lauzon left hook and subsequent rear-naked choke at UFC 136.

Lauzon by 2nd-round rear naked choke

By: Erik Sprague

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