UFC Fight Night 39 is live from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Friday on UFC Fight Pass featuring a heavyweight main event, as Roy “Big Country” Nelson takes on “Minotauro” Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The action in the States kicks off with the prelims at 11:30am ET (9:30am PT).
Nelson and Nogueira are flirting with being just inside (or outside) the heavyweight top ten, and both are looking to reestablish themselves as contenders. Nogueira is a hall-of-fame caliber fighter who has 43 professional fights on his record, is a former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion, and has achieved legendary status for his exploits in the Japanese promotion, Pride FC. Nelson, meanwhile, is the former International Fight League Heavyweight Champion and The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner, standing at a professional record of 19-9. Assumptions may lead one to believe Nelson is the younger fighter, but both men are 37-years-old and looking to notch another win in their impressive careers.
Also on the main card, Clay Guida will face Tatsuya Kawajiri in a featherweight bout, welterweights John Howard and Ryan LaFlare will throw down, as well as Ramsey Nijem and Beneil Dariush in a lightweight contest. Additionally there are five preliminary fights scheduled, most notably heavyweight Jared Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk and a middleweight tilt between former contender Thales Leites and Trevor Smith.
Roy Nelson vs. Minotauro Nogueira (Heavyweight – 206+lbs)
Vegas MMA odds have Nelson as a slight favorite at UFC Fight Night 39, as Nogueira’s reputation for being unbreakable has diminished over the years. Big Nog is incredibly talented on the ground, but has actually been submitted in his last two losses. Nelson is exceptional on the ground as well, but his advantage in this fight will be in the striking game, as he demonstrates a strong chin and one-punch knockout power. But Nelson also sports his famous bulbous belly, so look for Nogueira to have better stamina. Many are expecting Nelson to get the knockout, but the pick here is that Nogueira will grapple his way to a 3-2 round decision victory, leaving MMA fans perplexed when trying to rank heavyweights outside the the top five.
Clay Guida vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri (Featherweight – 145lbs)
Guida is a slight favorite with odds makers over Kawajiri, even though Guida has lost three of his last four and Kawajiri is on a six fight win streak. Guida’s last three losses though come to top-tier talent in Chad Mendes, Gray Maynard, and former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, while this is just Kawajiri’s second fight inside the Octagon. Kawajiri only seems to lose to the elite though, and Guida is no longer elite, so Kawajiri will score the decision in a frustrating strike-fest.
John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare (Welterweight – 170lbs)
LaFlare comes into this contest undefeated with ten wins, but he runs into a strong competitor in Howard, who has been tested by some of the best in the world and is an improved fighter. The odds are on LaFlare at -360, but the pick is Howard, who is much more experienced, and who will grind down LaFlare for a unanimous victory.
Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush (Lightweight – 155lbs)
Nijem is strong on the ground and has an aggressive style that might keep Dariush off kilter, but expect Dariush to figure Nijem out. The pick is Dariush to finish in the third with a submission.
In the two preliminary bouts of note, expect Leites to submit Smith and Rosholt to knockout Omielanczuk. UFC Fight Night 39 should be full of excitement for fight fans specifically, as two storied fighters in Nelson and Nogueira face off and a slew of young, undefeated warriors get a chance to perform on MMA’s biggest stage.
Opinion by Matt Stinson
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