The Downes Side: Fight Night Pittsburgh picks

Saddle up boys and girls, it’s time for another western version of the Downes Side. That’s right, this weekend delivers a cowboy showdown in the wild frontier of…Pittsburgh. Okay, it might not be as rough as Philly, but what is?

Live from Consol Energy Center, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone squares off against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. In the co-main event of the evening, top 15 middleweights Derek Brunson and Roan Carneiro fight to move up the rankings. Grab your lasso and a pinch of chaw, it’s fight time!

More on Fight Night Pittsburgh: Cerrone following own path after setback | Oliveira always ready for a fight | Campbell brings game full circle | Garbrandt taking the fast lane | Webb knows he's in the right place | Watch: Inside Cowboy Cerrone’s ranch | Joe Rogan previews Brunson vs. Carneiro | The Brazilian Cowboy | UFC Rankings Report: Pittsburgh Preview | Under-the-radar fights to watch

We open the main card at lightweight with James Krause and Shane Campbell. Krause has gone 3-2 in his last five fights, so he’s looking for a little bit of momentum in the crowded 155-pound division. He secured a first-round submission over Daron Cruikshank his last time out, so he’s planning on building off that. “Shaolin” Shane Campbell was not born in a monastery to learn how to defeat the Wu-Tang. He may be from British Colombia, but he does have a 58% finishing rate.

Both fighters like to stand and exchange, so this fight should bode well from an entertainment standpoint. Campbell is more accurate and does threaten at different levels more often. The only problem is that he only succeeds in bringing it to the ground 25% of the time. Krause may have Fight IQ issues from time to time, but he’s an overall superior fighter. Not by a runaway, but his experience and greater fluidity will lead him to the decision victory.

Next, we move to middleweight for Chris Camozzi and Joe Riggs. Camozzi’s return to the UFC may have been a first-round loss to Jacare Souza, but he responded with a win over Tom Watson in August. Primarily a Muay Thai style kickboxer, he does land significant strikes at an impressive 4.05/minute rate. Next to my friend, who for some reason always has butterscotch hard candies, Joe Riggs is probably the oldest 33-year-old man in recorded history. He’s been fighting for 15 years, but he still knows how to finish fights (36 of his career wins have been by KO or submission).

Whenever you look at a fighter with Riggs’ career/numbers, you assume he’s on the down slide. That’s simply not true. He still defends at a high rate and has really added several other layers to his game. Camozzi may be a better technician than Riggs, but he lacks what Don Frye would call a “kill factor.” Riggs possesses more power and he’ll catch Camozzi with a big shot in the second round. From there, he’ll bring a stunned Camozzi to the ground and snatch up the rear naked choke.All times local (ET)

We drop to featherweight for Dennis Bermudez and Tatsuya Kawajiri. Once riding a seven-fight win streak and considered a title challenger, Bermudez has lost two fights in a row. They may have been to Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens, but a loss by any other name still hurts. Kawajiri, on the other hand, has won his last two. He’s notched 12 KOs and 10 submissions over his career, but his last three UFC fights have gone the distance.

Bermudez is a powerful fighter that likes to smother his opponents. His takedown conversion rate (42.03%) might not look impressive, but he’s relentless. He keeps coming at opponents and won’t stop until he finishes. Kawajiri is similar, but not as effective. He’ll struggle with Bermudez’s pressure and struggle to counter. Bermudez by decision.

We shift to bantamweight for Augusto Mendes and Cody Garbrandt. Stepping in for John Lineker, who was sick with dengue fever, Mendes is a multiple-time world jiu-jitsu champion. He’s used those skills to finish four fights by submission. Garbrandt is 2-0 in his UFC career with wins over Marcus Brimage and Henry Briones. All but one of his wins have come via knockout.

This is a difficult matchup for both fighters. Garbrandt was preparing for a power puncher and now he has to defend against a champion BJJ practitioner. Movement will be key here. Garbrandt does have some wrestling experience, but he doesn’t want to even clinch with Mendes. My guess is that “No Love” goes for the KO right away. The longer the fight goes on, the greater the chance for him to slip up and find himself on the wrong end of a submission. Garbrandt goes for the home run and connects with a first-round TKO.

That takes us to the co-main event. Derek Brunson has won three in a row over considerable opponents such as Lorenz Larkin, Ed Herman and Sam Alvey. This has earned him “hot prospect” status. That may not be an official title, but it’s still better than Hot Topic. Roan Carneiro returned to the Octagon after a seven-year gap to finish Mark Munoz in the first round last year.

You always want to cheer for a guy who made his UFC debut on a card whose main event was Joe Stevenson vs. Melvin Guillard. Sadly, nostalgia will not be enough to carry the day. Brunson is dangerous everywhere. He still may be rough around the edges, but his overall talent should make itself evident early. Carneiro has the jiu-jitsu advantage, but he won’t find himself in position to use it. Brunson cruises to the decision win.

Time for the main event! You knew the ol’ Cowboy was going to get back in the saddle after his loss to Rafael Dos Anjos. That loss snapped an eight-fight streak (his previous win streak was also ended by RDA), and he’s ready to start a new one. Cowboy Oliveira lost his UFC debut to Gilbert Burns, but has amassed a three-fight win streak since then. Much like Cowboy Classic, Cowboy II has created a buzz with his fan-friendly fighting style.

Cowboy (Cerrone) likes you to think he’s a reckless, wakeboarding wild man. That’s not really true. He’s much more technical and calculating, but that doesn’t grow the myth. John Wayne didn’t create fans by bragging about being methodical and intelligent. Who wants to see a cautious Rooster Cogburn? Conversely, Cowboy (Oliveira) embodies a freewheeling nature. That recklessness will put him in a bad position from which he can’t recover. Cerrone by first-round submission. Let’s hope Oliveira gets to keep his tattoo.

We may not know who shot Liberty Valence, but we do know that was another wild edition of the Downes Side! Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, disappointments and favorite cowboy themed parties on the page here. Who doesn’t love a cowboy themed baby shower?


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