SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 153 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.
Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar
DOYLE: I’m tempted to go with Bonnar simply because this would fit right into the UFC’s 2012 “whatever can go wrong, will” theme. But a Bonnar victory is a bridge too far. Silva by KO.
HUNT: Knowing my colleagues will cover the bases, I’ll cut to the chase: it’s a mismatch. Silva by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Bonnar is going to shock the world … by surviving the first round. He’s rugged and resilient, having never been knocked out. And Silva will not be done putting on a show for his countrymen by the end of one act. But eventually … Silva by KO.
WERTHEIM: We can debate whether Silva is the G.O.A.T., but Bonnar is not going to change the discussion. Just two completely different tiers of fighter. Admire Bonnar’s sensibilities, his heart, his role in growing the UFC brand by virtue of that TUF finale. But in no universe does he win this fight. Silva by TKO.
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Dave Herman
DOYLE: The veteran Nogueira’s UFC fights have followed a familiar pattern: Losses to the elite and wins over the guys just a cut below. Herman falls into the latter camp. Nogueira by TKO.
HUNT: Big Nog has this one in the bag as long as it goes to the canvas, which is likely. Nogueira by submission.
WAGENHEIM: How’s the arm, Big Nog? We’ll find out if there are any lingering issues when the ref raises the rehabbed wing after Nogueira taps out Pee-Wee. Nogueira by submission.
WERTHEIM: When we last saw Big Nog, Frank Mir was nearly divorcing his arm from the rest of his body, his third loss in five fights. The UFC threw him a bone, pitting him against Herman, a beatable fighter. On a two-fight losing streak. In Rio. Nogueira by submission.
Glover Teixeira vs. Fabio Maldonado
DOYLE: Originally supposed to be Teixeira vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who had to pull out due to injury. Credit Maldonado, a decent brawler, for taking the fight on short notice. But he’s going up against a precision striker. Teixeira by TKO.
HUNT: The UFC has done a good job of hyping Teixeira, by screaming from the rooftops that nobody wants to fight him. Teixeira, a longtime project of Pitmaster John Hackleman, has been on the circuit since 2002 and has amassed a 16-fight win streak since 2006. Maldonado will be a decent opponent, but just inferior enough in all areas to let Teixeira shine. Teixeira by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: There’s a reason no one wants to fight Teixeira. Maldonado will find out that reason soon enough, and it’ll be hard-won knowledge. Teixeira by KO.
WERTHEIM: Teixeira might be the best fighter the casual fan has never heard of. In an intra-Brazilian bout he ought to prevail easily, extending his win streak to 17. Teixeira by submission.
Jon Fitch vs. Erick Silva
DOYLE: Silva is the sort of up-and-coming prospect few big names want to face, particularly on Silva’s home turf. Fitch is game for the challenge, but it’s hard to envision him turning back the clock after two injury-riddled years. Silva by submission.
HUNT: Probably the most relevant fight on the main card. Can rising striker Silva stop Fitch’s clinical takedowns? Even with Fitch out for 10 months, and probably to a few fans’ dismay, I say no, not all of them. Fitch by decision.
WAGENHEIM: In Fitch’s heyday, he would have smothered the young Brazilian and grinded out a decision. But Jon hasn’t fought in nearly 22 months, and he’s being welcomed back to the cage by a beast aiming for the evening’s most exhilarating performance by a Silva. Silva by KO.
WERTHEIM: Another bright Brazilian prospect (and the world’s second-best Silva) has been under the radar. Not after he beats Fitch — a Hall of Famer — but a fighter past his prime. Silva by decision.
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
DOYLE: We learned nothing from their first attempt at a fight on Aug. 4, other than getting poked in the eye by Davis doesn’t look fun. I’m of the same mind on the re-take as I was for their first bout: Davis has too much to prove after his loss to Rashad Evans and his wrestling will be too much for Prado to handle. Davis by decision.
HUNT: A rematch of their August bout that ended prematurely with an eye poke. Davis’s collegiate-level wrestling and the explosiveness he gets out of those tree-trunk quadriceps of his should be enough to stifle Prado’s muay thai. Davis by decision.
WAGENHEIM: In the 88 seconds that their first meeting lasted, we learned two things about Prado: that he might want to consider wearing goggles (a Davis eye poke resulted in a no contest), and that he can’t utilize his striking without closing the distance, which brings Mr. Wonderful’s wrestling into play. Davis by decision.
WERTHEIM: If Davis stands a chance, he needs to let his fists go, something he failed to do against Evans. Prado by decision.
Demian Maia vs. Rick Story
DOYLE: Maia looked like a fighter who found a comfortable new home when he beat Dong Hyun Kim in his welterweight debut. Story hasn’t looked like the fighter who scored back-to-back wins over Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves in awhile. Maia by decision.
HUNT: Maia has long been my dark horse for middleweight contendership — great attitude toward his training and growing into a complete fighter, though his progression started to sputter around his loss to Mark Munoz 16 months ago. Story is a gamer, but Maia must know he’s the winner if it goes to the mat. Maia by submission.
WAGENHEIM: The easy prediction: This fight is going the distance. Story has done so in his last five bouts, Maia in seven of his last eight. So who gets the judges’ nod? When in doubt, go with the superior wrestler. Story by decision.
WERTHEIM: Maia has found new life since moving to welterweight. Maia by decision.