The Octagon makes its first visit to Orlando, Florida this Saturday night when Travis Browne and Fabricio Werdum fight for the next shot at the UFC heavyweight title at UFC on Fox 11. Meisha Tate is looking to rebound from her UFC 168 loss to bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey when she takes on former US Marine Liz Carmouche.
Fightline.com caught up with another former Marine, UFC commentator and retired fighter Brian Stann, to get his take on the four main card fights set for the Fox broadcast.
Brad Tavares vs. Yoel Romero
“Both of these guys want [fights with] the top-tier guys in the division,” Stann said. “They both want them, and both feel they’ve earned them, but they’ve got to go through each other to get them.”
Romero is an Olympic Silver medalist in wrestling and in his three UFC appearances he’s notched three KO/TKO wins. He is 10 years the elder of Tavares, and though his credentials precede him, Stann feels that there are some holes in his game that will benefit Tavares.
“Romero is a dynamo,” Stann told Fightline.com. “He has stopping power in every strike he throws, and he is an absolute physical specimen. The only real questions surrounding him are his age and his fight I.Q., which is something that is really on the side of Brad Tavares.”
“With Romero’s skillset, I think we’re going to have to see some change-ups from Brad Tavares. He’s going to force Brad Tavares to be more spontaneous, and that should make for a really exciting battle. If you’re Yoel Romero, use your wrestling. Put Tavares on his back, keep him there, pound him out, and try and win the fight going that route. I don’t see Yoel Romero doing that, but I think that is his best course of action in this fight.
“If you’re Tavares, use more footwork. Don’t make this a straight forward, straight back muay thai-style fight. He’s going to need a little more lateral movement to make himself difficult to take down. I would imagine he’s trained a lot on scrambling back up, right as he’s getting taken down. That is where guys have had success against Romero.
“He has such explosive takedowns, that sometimes guys can immediately insert butterfly hooks, or underhooks, and scramble back to the feet right as he’s taking you down. Whereas if you let him take you down and sit on top of you, you’ve got a much harder thing to deal with.”
Donald Cerrone vs Edson Barboza
In this battle of entertaining lightweight strikers, Stann gives the edge to Barboza on the feet.
“I don’t think it’s a huge advantage, but I think it’s Barboza [who has the striking advantage]. I think Barboza came in as a great muay thai striker. Now he’s working with Mark Henry, and his footwork is improving. He’s integrating his boxing better. And those leg kicks, look I don’t care how good of a striker you are, when he lands those, it only takes one of those to start the bleeding in your leg. Two or three of them, and everything you do now is limited from takedowns, to striking.”
The real question for Stann, who has trained alongside ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at Team Jackson-Winkeljohn, is how Barboza will fare if the fight hits the canvas, and he ends up on his back.
“Having trained with Donald Cerrone for a long time, I know for a fact that he has some very explosive takedowns in his arsenal.”
I asked Stann if the recent uptick in shin injuries, from fighters like Anderson Silva and Tyrone Spong, would deter the devasting offense of Barboza, who has two UFC wins by leg-kick TKO.
“As a fighter, you can’t think that way,” Stann said. “You’ve got to be almost reckless and careless. Once you start thinking that way, you limit your abilities. What I think he needs to be more concerned with is that Cerrone is fearless. And in his mind, he isn’t going to be concerned about leg kicks, because he just doesn’t care.
“While Barboza may have the edge on the feet, we saw him get rocked by Danny Castillo, pretty hard. So I don’t think it’s unlikely that Donald Cerrone can cause a knockout here, even though he may not be as proficient or dynamic on the feet as Barboza. Both of these guys can knock each other out.”
Meisha Tate vs. Liz Carmouche
Both of these women have challenged for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, and both need a win to get back into contention. Stann said he feels that Carmouche may have the better grappling, but there are still questions about her ability to fight off of her back.
“I think that Carmouche has a more stifling top game. I don’t know how she’s going to do if she’s put on her back though,” Stann said. “Meisha showed some really great improvements in her scrambling in that second Ronda Rousey fight, and she showed some variety in her takedown attempts as well. Carmouche is a little more one-dimensional with her body lock and clinch takedowns from up against the cage.
“I think if Carmouche can get on top, she’ll have an advantage there, because she takes less risks. Whereas Meisha tends to give up position for submission and she takes a lot of risks on the feet, the ground, anywhere in the fight.”
Stann thinks a win for Meisha Tate will need to involve a more controlled, technical gameplan with her striking.
“She needs to integrate her strikes with her takedowns better. Take less risks. A lot of times when she strikes, she gets over-extended which makes it really easy to duck underneath and get taken down. Put things together with your combinations. Don’t try to knock her out with every one punch, but set up your openings and your overall game and dictate the pace of the fight.”
Travis Browne vs Fabricio Werdum
Stann thinks that the footwork of Travis Browne will aid him against the takedowns of Werdum, and Browne won’t be easily tricked into taking the fight to the floor.
“Travis isn’t going to fall for someone pulling guard on him. And Travis, if he chooses to use it, he has some really great footwork. For a guy his size, boy can he move and he can glide. He stands up very tall, but he minimizes the risk of takedowns because he never stays static.”
Stann thinks the key to victory for Werdum lies in maintaining top position and being patient on the ground.
“I think Werdum, if he gets him down on his back, he needs to be very smart and choose his ground and pound wisely.” Stann said. “You’ve got to go position over submission. You’ve got to not get greedy with your ground and pound, because the more you rise up to generate power for your ground and pound, the more space you give up, and the guy underneath can create space to get back up or get to the cage and wall-walk.”
Having trained in the same camp as Browne, Stann knows that getting out of a bad position on your back is something Browne has prepared to do.
“I trained [at Jackson’s MMA] for years. They work extensively in very unique and difficult positions and crafting ways that work against specific fighters to escape positions. At Greg Jackson’s camp, they work a lot on getting up off their back. I wouldn’t say it’s the end of the fight [if Werdum gets Browne to the mat].”
In a potential fight against Cain Velasquez, Stann thinks Browne might stand the better chance.
“I think Travis Browne matches up better [with Velasquez], due to the fact that he’s got vicious power and awkward positions. We saw against Josh Barnett, where he knocked him out with elbows while the guy was attempting a takedown on him. You need that kind of an ‘X’ factor against Cain Velasquez. You need something that can abruptly stop that fight immediately. I think it’s the only way to beat him.”
The UFC on Fox 11 main card goes down this Saturday at 8 PM ET on Fox.