In main card action, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes takes on Ricardo Almeida in a welterweight contest. Hughes has 44 wins to his record whereas Almeida only has 12 - so who's favored to win? It's subjective, really. Hughes represents that last tier of "old school" MMA fighters who are hanging around with the new breed. Representing that new breed is Almeida. More accurately, representing the "newer than Hughes" breed, as Almeida isn't exactly on the level that some of the other young guys are.
At UFC 112, Matt Hughes beat Renzo Gracie in what was an altogether disappointing matchup. Hughes used to be known for surefire takedowns and excellent wrestling with good ground and pound. Gracie was in no position to even be fighting, and he still shrugged off Huges' takedowns, forcing Hughes to throw tired and telegraphed leg kicks along with even more telegraphed punches to cruise to a late round TKO.
Look for Rogan and Goldberg to talk endlessly about how this is a grudge match due to the fact that Renzo Gracie is Almeida's chief trainer. The over-under on how many times those two will illustrate Almeida's seething hate for Hughes has to be absurdly high. It's not a grudge match, folks - but Almeida did campaign heavily for this bout either way.
Of course, Hughes could have had a bad weight cut. He could have had bad conditioning altogether, or he could just be old news. Or, he could just be old. Almeida, at 33 years-old, isn't exactly a spring chicken, but he seems primed to take the bout. A submission specialist and fantastic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practicioner, it will come down to the classic conundrum of wrestler vs BJJ. "Big Dog" is a legitimate threat to get Hughes down and hold him there, and even more of a threat to put him away with a submission from just about any position on the ground. He's not a submission world beater, but he doesn't have to be here.
Matt Hughes has shrugged off the notion, however:
"I'm not worried about his submissions. He's tricky on the ground, there's no doubt about that. But I think my wrestling is really going to pay off."
"I think I can put him in bad situations where he gets tired on his feet and hopefully I can put him in some bad situations to where he has to panic a little bit."
Too often does a BJJ vs wrestling match turn into sloppy standup exchange that do so much to prevent converts from boxing to enjoy the sport - neither of these guys can throw a kick or a punch that looks particularly crisp, but again, neither of them will have to. The fact is that Hughes aged significantly in a short amount of time and Almeida's furtive takedown attempts will provide too much for Hughes to handle. Whether or not he submits him is up in the air, but we're likely due for three rounds of Hughes throwing telegraphed leg kicks before giving up a mess of points to takedowns for three rounds and a unanimous decision win for Ricardo Almeida. Or, you know, Matt Hughes just had a bad fight. Either way you're looking at a three-round fight.