Archive for the Predictions Category

STRIKEFORCE: OVEREEM VS. WERDUM Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by jaytan716

What a difference a few months makes, huh?

Four months ago, the second-biggest MMA promotion in America, Strikeforce, was still struggling to make their mark on America’s radar. After several attempts to import successful Japanese promoting tactics (the occasional freak show match, talent trades with DREAM, etc.), they set 2011 off with a bang – the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament.

The eight participants (Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem, Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, and Sergei Kharitonov) and subsequent opening round were celebrated by fans and MMA media alike. The WHGP looked to be the closest thing to a legit heavyweight tournament since the PRIDE Fighting Championships 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, which featured Barnett, Overeem, Werdum (in their first match, ironically enough), Fedor Emelianenko, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among others.

Jump ahead to this month and, to say the least, things have changed. Unfortunately, issues of finding a state where Josh Barnett could get licensed (due to being denied a California license in 2009 after testing positive for steroids) delayed the second bracket of opening round matches, not to mention ‘The Sale,’ which could easily have ended up as the death knell to this tournament going forward.

The current Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament brackets

Thankfully, this tournament is still ‘business as usual,’ as UFC President Dana White promised when Zuffa bought Strikeforce in March. That phrase became something of an ironic punchline when Strikeforce staff was let go shortly after the purchase, as well as announcing Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz for UFC 135. Notwithstanding whatever contractual obligations Zuffa is forced to fulfill to Showtime, its wholly possible that Strikeforce’s heavyweights could have been absorbed into the UFC and the tournament scrapped altogether.

Unfortunately, the tournament does have a lame-duck feel to it in light of recent developments, but if nothing else, hopefully we’ll get to see some exciting heavyweight action.

Here’s a breakdown on this weekend’s card, including the second bracket of opening round matches of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix:

170 lbs. – Nah-Shon Burrell x Joe Ray:  Burrell and Ray’s records are identical (5-1), though Burrell clearly is the striker, with all of his wins coming by TKO / KO. Ray reportedly trains with American Top Team, and splits his wins 3-2 striking finishes to submissions. Ray’s competition has been stiffer, including a third-round KO over 27-13 Chad Reiner.

Prediction: Ray via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Todd Moore x Mike Bronzoulis: Expect fireworks in this match, as both fighters come in very evenly matched in record. Moore fought in WEC and DREAM, though he didn’t fare well. His last match was a second-round TKO win in November 2010. Moore will be giving up size here, as someone who appears to alter between lightweights and heavyweights, whereas Bronzoulis stands 6’0”. Both men have eight TKO / KO victories to their record, so conventional wisdom would dictate this plays out as a striking match.

Prediction:  Bronzoulis via TKO (round three)

155 lbs. – Brian Melancon x Isaac Vallie-Flag: Bit of an experience difference here, with Melancon sporting a 5-1 record while Vallie-Flag stands at 11-3-1, with fights going as far back as 2003. Even more impressive is that Vallie-Flag, now training at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, has fought 2-3 times since 2006. If experience is on Vallie-Flag’s side, youth could be on Melancon’s, however, as his recent wins were over fighters with up sided records similar to Vallie-Flag’s.

Prediction: Vallie-Flag via submission (round two or three) or decision

155 lbs. – Conor ‘The Hurricane’ Heun x Magno Almeida:  The storyline here is Heun, a grappling talent with high expectations who’s suffered injuries and inactivity in the past two years, against Almeida, a young prospect on a five-match submission win streak, four of which in the first round, dating back to 2008. Heun hit the restart button on his training earlier this year at Jackson’s MMA, and reportedly has been training hard with that team’s usual suspects. His two losses, against KJ Noons in 2010 and Jorge Gurgel in 2009, were incredibly close decisions which I thought he win. This is a gut-check match for the former collegiate wrestler and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu brown belt. As for Almeida, this marks his ‘big show’ debut, though he has finishes against decent competition in Brazil and California. I’d expect Almeida to stick to his bread-and-butter and try to take this match to the ground. Heun should keep this match standing, as he has against stiffer competition. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction:  Heun via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Gesias ‘J.Z.’ Cavalcante x Justin ‘The Silverback’ Wilcox: Wilcox is an AKA (San Jose) fighter riding a six-fight win streak. Those wins are mostly decisions on Strikeforce Challengers shows or the untelevised portion of major Strikeforce events.  After an eight-match win streak from 2005-2007, Cavalcante is in fact 1-3-1 since 2008. That said, his losses were decisions to Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Josh Thompson, respectively. Handing Wilcox his first defeat would put Cavalcante back on people’s radar, though Wilcox, as a former body builder and D-1 wrestler, has the strength and pedigree to hold his own grappling with JZ. I expect that to play a major factor in what happens in the cage here. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction: Wilcox via split decision

265 lbs. – Valentijn Overeem x Chad Griggs: This is one of two ‘alternates matches’ to the tournament. Make no doubt, Griggs is dangerous. He summarily dismissed Gian Villante, a rising heavyweight that Xtreme Couture had prepped and built. He also ran Bobby Lashley to the point of exhaustion by round two when they squared off last August in Houston. Overeem’s experience in comparison is on another level, with over 50 MMA fights alone. This elder Overeem (by four years) may have too much jiu-jitsu for Griggs, and though Griggs can take a punch, the guys he’s faced in the past aren’t of Overeem’s striking pedigree. If Griggs can execute a strategy of fighting from the clinch, where Overeem can’t throw long power shots, but also avoid Overeem taking the bout to the ground, that may be a viable strategy. Otherwise, I expect Overeem to be one of the two alternates to this (hopefully) continued tournament.

Prediction: Overeem via TKO or submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Daniel Cormier x Jeff ‘The Snowman’ Monson: This is the tournament’s other alternates match. Monson replaces Shane Del Rosario, who withdraw from the match after being hit by a drunk driver. Cormier is a former NCAA Division 1 runner-up and All-American, with a plethora of gold medals in international wrestling tournaments from 2001-2007. Monson is a noted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and one of the top heavyweight grapplers in the world, having ranked and won numerous tournaments during those same years. To that end, Monson as a close grappling equal, is a more dangerous challenge for Cormier, who rides a 7-0 undefeated streak. Monson is a seasoned 42-11, and has already fought three times this year. In fact, he has a match in France scheduled three weeks before this event. If this goes to the ground, it could be a very interesting scrap, as Cormier might have the grappling to stay on par with Monson. Standing, Cormier could have the advantage.

Prediction: Monson via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – KJ Noons x Jorge Masvidal: The 10-3 (in MMA) K.J. Noons faces Masvidal’s veteran record of 21-6 in Masvidal, a Miami-based former street-fighter. Noons comes off a five-round war with Nick Diaz from last year, while Masvidal rides of a decision win over Billy Evangelista from March. Standing, Noons should be able to pick Masvidal apart, who hasn’t lost by strikes since 2008 (including going the distance with Paul Daley). Masvidal is associated with American Top Team in Florida, so I’d expect him to be polishing his jiu Jitsu for this fight.

Prediction: Noons via unanimous decision or TKO (round two or three)

 265 lbs. – Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers: One of the two opening round tournament matches in bracket #2. Rogers returns to Strikeforce after a quick parlay to beat Ruben Villareal (who’s known for a hard chin) via unanimous decision. After 10 consecutive TKO / KO victories, Rogers got a taste of his own TKO medicine from Fedor Emelianenko and Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem. Like Andrei Arlovski, this tournament is an opportunity to see if Rogers got his mojo back. Conventional wisdom sees Barnett taking Rogers down and threatening submissions. That may require taking some speed knots from the heavy-handed Rogers, but Barnett should still have his chin. Villareal doesn’t have Barnett’s ground game, so if Rogers’ previous match is any indication of his KO power, hopefully ‘The Grim’ is working on his grappling.

Here’s a nice little “empty arena” match, but also an example of how EVERY pro wrestler, MMA  fighter, and quite frankly, the entire democratic party, should package what they’re selling:

Prediction: Barnett via unanimous decision

265 lbs. – Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum:  This tournament opening-round match has all the makings: a reigning champion enters the tournament, revenge against his opponent over a loss in a previous tournament (PRIDE Total Elimination Absolute in 2006), that opponent dethroning the People’s Champ (Fedor), anxious to prove it wasn’t a fluke win. Overeem is on a roll right now, finishing his last six opponents (nine if you don’t include the no-contest with Mirko Cro Cop. In MMA, he hasn’t recently faced competition the likes of Werdum, though any question about his hand  and legs should view the K-1 World Grand Prix from December, where Overeem finished Gokhan Saki and Pete Aerts in one night (after winning a unanimous decision quarter final match). As “The Man Who Beat Fedor,” Werdum rides high on that accolade, though his career be hot and cold as well. He won his last three, but was TKO’ed prior to that by Junior dos Santos. Before that, he finished Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga. And prior to that, he dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski. In their 2006 PRIDE match, Werdum submitted (a smaller, albeit only slightly) Overeem in round two. Will history repeat itself?

Prediction: Overeem via KO (round one)

The Finish

There’s two interesting parts to this weekend’s show. One of course is the question of who advances in the tournament and how do the subsequent matches pair up. The other, which is part of the bigger picture, is what the matches say about these eight fighters’ place and relevance in the UFC.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen four of the UFC’s top heavyweights (Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos, Shane Carwin) compete in matches important enough to have title shot ramifications. And although one match was given Fight of the Night honors while the other one was booed by fans, both were one-sided decisions that left the UFC title picture flatter than expected.  Conversely, only one of the four matches of the first bracket in the WGPH, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, went past the first round. In that match, Fedor’s stamina and resolve to surviving punishment was quite similar to Carwin’s.

All of these heavyweights are competitive enough to compete in the UFC, and given the speed at which Strikeforce fighters are being absorbed into the octagon, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the winner of this tournament challenging the winner of Cain Velasquez x Junior Dos Santos in early 2012. That injection of new competition will certainly be a shot in the arm for that weight class. In the meantime, expect more fireworks from Saturday’s behemoths, serving as a reminder of why people were excited for this tournament to begin with.

Advertisements

UFC 129: ST-PIERRE VS. SHIELDS Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on April 30, 2011 by jaytan716

UFC 129: ST-PIERRE VS. SHIELDS

After long wait, UFC comes to T-Dot, Canada, one of their biggest pay-per-view markets. As such, it only makes sense to book as much of a “Canada vs. the world” as possible (all but two matches – Matyushenko vs. Brilz and Couture vs. Machida, features a Canadian). And who better to headline that show than the 2008 and 2009 Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year, Georges St-Pierre?

For the first time in UFC history, every match on the card will be broadcast in one form or another, with five fights airing on the company’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ufc); you must ‘like’ them before being able to access the live video application, two on Spike TV (check local listings, and of course the five matches on pay-per-view.

145 lbs. – Yves Jaboin (Canadian) x Pablo Garza: Garza was a lightweight who failed to win his way onto season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, but then dropped down to featherweight and is 1-1 in Zuffa cages. His only loss is to Chinese star Tiequan Zhang. Jaboin was on the short end of a barnburner against fellow countryman Mark Hominick in his home country of Canada at WEC 49 (which took place in Edmonton, Alberta), and bounced back with a decision win over Brandon Visher. Garza will have a satirical height and reach advantage on Jaboin, but if Jaboin can stay in the pocket, or attack from the outside, he could possibly do some damage. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Garza via submission (round three)

155 lbs. – John Makdessi (Canadian) x Kyle Watson:  Makdessi puts his undefeated record on the line against the eight-year, 20-fight veteran Kyle Watson. Makdessi is a solid all-around fighter, with Muay Thai experience and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He handled Pat Audinwood solidly in his last fight, blocking attacks and striking with unconventional kicks. Watson trains with Matt Hughes’ H.I.T. Squad. He was one of the more experienced fighters on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (GSP vs. Koscheck), and went to the semi-finals before facing teammate (and eventual winner) Jonathan Brookins. He’s slowed down in recent years, with one fight in 2008 and two in the first five weeks of 2009, before joining the TUF cast in the last half of 2010. My gut feeling is that Watson, though riding a wave, is peaking at this point in his career, while Makdessi is on a rise that won’t stop on this night. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction:  Makdessi via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Jason MacDonald (Canadian) vs. Ryan Jensen: Both have submission losses to Wilson Gouveia, Jensen via armbar and MacDonald due to elbows. MacDonald has the reach advantage, and always brings a competitive fight. He’s coming off a nasty broken leg from last year. Jensen is a bit of a  journeyman who’s been alternating between wins and losses since 2008. At another point, Jensen was more competitive, with six finishing wins in 2006-2007, but since then, has struggled to recapture the momentum. MacDonald notched up three wins before his broken leg. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: MacDonald via TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Charlie Valencia x Ivan Menjivar (Canadian): Both men made their pro debuts over a decade ago. In his heyday, Menjivar was the more traveled of the two, first competing in the UFC in 2004, then fighting in Pancrase, K-1, and the IFL, before taking a three-and-a-half year hiatus from the sport in 2007. He went 1-1 in 2010, with a first-round submission win in his first match back and losing a competitive split decision to Brad Pickett in December. Valencia was inactive in 2005, but is 5-4 in the WEC since then. This match won’t necessarily answer whether either man has what it takes to be a champion in 2011, but it could be a competitive match to gauge where each is in their respective careers. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Valencia via split decision

170 lbs. – Daniel Roberts x Claude Patrick (Canadian): Look for this battle of welterweight jiu-jitsu experts to stay on the feet. Patrick’s only loss took place back in 2002. He’s stayed competitive since 2005 (except for 2007), with six guillotine choke wins over 10 matches. Roberts has nine submissions over his 12 wins, and his only loss coming from a John Howard KO almost a year ago. Patrick trains with Mark Bocek and Sean Pierson, who fight right after him. Of the three teammates, I think Patrick has the best chance of winning. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Roberts via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Jake Ellenberger x Sean Pierson (Canadian): Ellenberger replaces Brian Foster, who withdrew due to injury. Ellenberger . . . . Pierson is on a six-match winning streak.   This match will be broadcast in the US on Spike TV.

Prediction: Foster via TKO (round one)

170 lbs. – Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald (Canadian):  MacDonald dominated King of the Cage Canada over the past several years, going undefeated until losing via TKO in the third round against Carlos Condit. Diaz, the younger brother of Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, won season five of The Ultimate Fighter at lightweight. He moved up to welterweight at UFC 111, and has since gone 2-1 at that weight class. Generally, Diaz has stayed competitive / victorious at welterweight at tougher competition than MacDonald. Likewise, MacDonald has only gone into the third round twice in 12 matches, whereas decisions are nothing new to Diaz. In the irrelevant trivia department, the always dangerous Diaz has lost via decision every January for the past three years. This match will be broadcast in the US on Spike TV.

Prediction:  Diaz via submission (round one or two)

155 lbs. – Ben Henderson x Marc Bocek (Canadian): Bocek introduces Henderson to “The Show” in this battle of jiu-jitsu experts. Henderson of course was on the receiving end of 2010’s infamous “Showtime Kick” in the last round of the last match of the last WEC ever. What gets overshadowed is that Pettis-Henderson was a back-and-forth match that was a challenge to call even going into that last round. In Pettis, Cerrone, Varner, and Shane Roller, Henderson’s opponents have been a level above Bocek’s (notwithstanding Jim Miller). Donald Cerrone was the first to address the question of whether WEC lightweights could hang in the UFC. Expect Henderson to confirm Cerrone’s answer. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision.

205 lbs. – Randy Couture x Lyoto Machida: If Machida was fighting someone other than Couture, I’d say the story here was two fighters at crossroads in their careers. However, Couture has been at these crossroads for the past four years, and now very confidently states that win, lose, or draw, this is his last hurrah. Machida won the UFC light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans almost two years ago and everybody said “Karate is back,” but he didn’t have the long-term reign that people expected. He won a unanimous decision over Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua which was close enough that UFC decided to book a rematch – which Rua snatched emphatically with a first-round KO. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Machida lost a close split decision to Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson that even Jackson thought Machida won. Subsequently, Machida looks bad in some ways that he doesn’t deserve (Jackson), and better in other ways that he also doesn’t deserve (the first Rua match). But more than any of this, Machida’s style hasn’t evolved since he got to the UFC (or to America, for that matter). Couture is a master strategist of deconstructing a fighter’s style and finding the backdoors and loopholes. The worst thing for Machida is to fight the same fight he’s done since 2006. Clearly, Machida has knockout power (ask Rashad Evans). And at Couture’s age, a chin isn’t something that gets better with time. But if Couture can push Machida into the later rounds, that’s where Couture will be better and Machida will be weaker. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Couture via TKO (round three) or unanimous decision.

205 lbs. – Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz: Brilz comes off almost a year-long layoff after his impressive-but-denied effort against Antonio Rogerio ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira. Most felt the Nebraska wrestling coach won that fight. At 25-5, Matyushenko is a veteran whose rep is largely unknown by modern fans. He’s in his third stint in the UFC, with a current 3-1 record to show for it. Both fighters have impressive college wrestling pedigrees. Against someone of Matyushenko’s experience and current streak, the time off is a very real factor in Brilz’ come back. As the wrestling somewhat cancels itself out, we could see an awkward, unconventional striking match. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Matyushenko via unanimous decision

145 lbs. UFC Featherweight Title– Jose Aldo x Mark Hominick (Canadian): As a part of Team Thompkins, Hominick had a great first-round TKO win against George Roop. He hasn’t lost since 2008. That said, Aldo hasn’t lost since 2005, and has finished all eight of his matches from 2008 to now. I’d like to say this is Aldo’s time, although it’s time (i.e. ring rust) that could be the single determining factor in this match. Aldo has been on the shelf since a neck injury in November 2010 sidelined him off UFC 125. In the end, I expect Aldo to show up ready. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Aldo via TKO (round one)

170 lbs. UFC Welterweight Title – Georges St-Pierre (Canadian) x Jake Shields: In interviews, GSP has chastised MMA media for writing Shields off. Nicely promoted, Champ. Indeed, this is Shields’ last kingdom to conquer, and his own personal mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu is unique and effective. Moreover, when it comes to examples of fighters keeping their tunnel-vision focus on a goal, you couldn’t find many better examples than Shields. However, Team GSP knows how to build a strategy to ensure not losing. Georges prevented Josh Koscheck from shooting in by closing his eye early in the match, and although GSP may not land the same shot on Shields, I think the only way this match goes to the ground is if GSP decides to take it there. If Shields is able to get GSP to the ground, I wouldn’t expect it to be for long. This match will be on pay-per-view.


Prediction: St-Pierre via unanimous decision

The Finish

I picked these matches one by one, without thinking about home field advantage. In that I’m predicting only three wins for the Great White North out of 10 matches, I apparently don’t have much faith in the Canadians. In my defense, they have won fewer matches in recent events, but this being Toronto’s UFC debut, things could be different.

Past Canadian UFC events:

UFC 58: USA vs. Canada (in Las Vegas) (Canadians went 4-for-8 in eight matches)

UFC 83: Serra vs. St-Pierre 2 (in Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-6 in 11 matches)

UFC 97: Redemption (Anderson Silva x Thales Leites) (in Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-6 in 12 matches)

UFC 113: Machida vs. Shogun (Montreal) (Canadians went 1-for-7 in 11 matches)

UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin (Vancouver) (Canadians went 1-for-3 in 11 matches)

UFC 124: St-Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 (Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-7 in 11 matches)

Canadian fans love their MMA, and, more impressively, they KNOW their MMA. Coupling this with the fact that this is the UFC’s debut in Toronto, expect the crowd heat to only bolster this already stacked show. With two fiercely strong champions defending and an imaginative match like Couture-Machida, there’s a little something for everybody here. Between the matches and the crowd excitement, expect this to be one of the UFC’s most historical nights.

STRIKEFORCE: DIAZ VS. DALEY Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce on April 9, 2011 by jaytan716

Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley

No matter what Dana White or any Zuffa-Strikeforce-Showtime executives say, its difficult-to-impossible to avoid looking at future Strikeforce events as lame-duck ceremonies. This is the first major Strikeforce event after the announcement that the UFC’s parent company has bought the Scott Coker-created fight promotion, the last viable competition to the UFC.

Setting that aside, Diaz vs. Daley has its own interesting identity. Whether intentional or by coincidence, the top matches here have a certain Strikeforce vs. The World theme to them, with almost all the televised matches showcasing a Strikeforce star against a foreign competitor who’s made his name in an organization other than this.

Due to the limited time between this piece and showtime (the proverbial one, not the channel), here’s a quick rundown of the televised matches on Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley.

155 lbs. – Shinya Aoki x Lyle ‘Fancy Pants’ Beerbohm: Aoki is the eccentric jiu-jitsu wiz from Japan whose big claim to fame, besides a very powerful family backstory and some impressive submission wins, are the loud, bright-colored tights he wears in his matches. And he’s the DREAM lightweight champion. Beerbohm is also known for his tights (hence the nickname). Beerbohm is a more well-rounded fighter, boasting as many striking finishes as submission wins. However, Aoki’s ground game is no joke, as he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. Aoki’s team must be aware that Beerbohm’s conventional strategy is to keep the fight standing, so they’re either going to have a counterstrategy for that or Aoki will stand and bang, which, in a classic example of it’s-so-crazy-it-just-might-work, is something a fighter like Aoki might try. Moreover, between the rules, the country, and the fighting stage (cage, not ring), Beerbohm has home field advantage.

The good of Shinya Aoki (his catchy theme song ‘Baka Survivor’ and energetic walkout is at 2:01):

. . . and the bad (in 2009, Aoki faced last-minute replacement Mizuto Hirota, breaking his arm in a hammerlock and uncharacteristically gloating over it. After the fight, Aoki blamed his overexcitement for his actions):

Prediction: Beerbohm via TKO (round three)

205 lbs. – Gegard Mousasi x Keith Jardine: Mousasi was initially slated to fight Mike Kyle, who withdrew due to injury. In steps the heavy-handed and seasoned vet Keith Jardine, who earned some admirable respect in his post-Ultimate Fighter UFC career until four straight losses forced him out. Jardine always comes to fight, and has faced tougher competition in the last several years than Kyle, or Mousasi, for that matter, has, which, in some ways, makes Jardine a more dangerous opponent. Mousasi has only gone the distance four times out of 34 matches, which would indicate that this match could be a scappy barnburner. Mousasi has finished a fair share of veterans, TKOing strikers like Gary Goodridge, Sokoudjou, and Renao Sobral, and submitting Tatsuya Mizuno and wrestler Jake O’Brien.  In that regard, age will play a factor, in that Jardine’s 35-year old reflexes will  have to be as sharp as those of the 25-year old Mousasi.

Prediction: Jardine via TKO (round two or three)

155 lbs. Strikeforce Lightweight Title – Gilbert Melendez x Tatsuya Kawajiri: Melendez outclassed Shinya Aoki for five rounds last year and Aoki submitted Kawajiri within two minutes shortly thereafter.  This sport is rarely as simple as that, and Kawajiri hardly tried to escape Aoki’s leglock, but this match is far too much on Melendez’ proverbial home turf. Kawajiri hasn’t fought in a cage or under Strikeforce rules, it’s his first fight outside of Japan, and between Melendez’ wrestling, familiarity with the environment, and the ephemeral support and pride of fighting in California, Melendez is far too great of a challenge for the Crusher’s first fight on U.S. soil. I expect a better showing by Kawajiri than he displayed in his Aoki match, but in the end, I don’t see Melendez losing.

Prediction: Melendez via submission (round two) or unanimous decision

170 lbs. Strikeforce Welterweight Title – Nick Diaz x Paul Daley: At first glance, this is a very interesting fight, as Daley’s combined punching speed and power should put him towards the top of the list of hardest-hitting strikers in MMA. However, Daley’s ground defense is penetrable, as Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and Nick Thompson proved. Diaz is a Cesar Gracie black belt, and beat hard-hitters like Smith, Frank Shamrock, Evangelista ‘Mr. Cyborg’ Santos, and Scott Smith in the standing game. I see Diaz wearing Daley’s cardio out for a few rounds, then engaging him on the ground to finish. That said, Daley has never been afraid of an opponent’s wingspan or staying in his pocket. If there’s somebody that could dethrone Diaz, it would be Daley. But it’ll have to happen early.

Prediction: Diaz by submission (round two or three)

The Finish

There’s been a great buzz about this show in the past several weeks, and it especially nice to see such a strong anticipation for a Strikeforce show, particularly after headlines about the sale. I haven’t heard anybody talking about it, but I think this show could be something of an audition for how long much support Zuffa will put behind Strikeforce for the next year or two. If matches play out flat (not that the lineup has those symptoms, but neither did it in Nashville last year), that could inspire the UFC to speed ahead to those interpromotional / absorption dream matches on the horizon.

All this said, I’m looking forward to all of these matches, and I expect that fighters will rise to the occasion to give fans some very memorable moments.


UFC Fight Night 24 Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on March 24, 2011 by jaytan716

UFC Fight Night 24

The storyline of Ultimate Fight Night 24 is that a young, talented, undefeated, fast-rising African-American wrestler with impressive striking and creative grappling skills replaces a former UFC champion and to battle a Brazilian legend who made his name in the heyday of Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Wait, didn’t this just happen last weekend?

Indeed, the coincidences are uncanny, albeit coincidental. The UFC’s first foray into the Seattle market was originally headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (aka ‘Little Nog’), but when Ortiz was cut during training and forced to withdraw, the former Penn State wrestling champion Phil ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Davis took his place. Admittedly, the main event loses quite a bit of mainstream luster, but that’s as much due to Ortiz’ immense star power as it is the general public’s unawareness of the man they call ‘Mr. Wonderful.’

However, Nogueira-Davis is likely to make for a more entertaining fight, as Davis is an exciting prospect who’s largely flown under casual fans’ radar due to fighting in dark matches and prelims. His wrestling is far better than Ortiz’s, and he has a rep for catching opponents in very unconventional submission holds. He won his June 2009 match at Rumble on the Rivers using a rear naked choke that most, including Joe Rogan, described as a camel clutch. In Nogueira’s last two matches, he squeaked out a controversial split decision against Jason Brilz at UFC 114, then lost a unanimous decision to Ryan Bader at UFC 119. Davis is going to be an important gauge for Little Nog, as another bad performance will have people questioning how much gas the Brazilian twin has left in his MMA career tank.

Gimmick Infringement: Mr. Wonderful hits the camel clutch:

Seattle fans are serious about their MMA, and given that this is the city’s first UFC event, the crowd should be particularly hot, which will enhance the event’s TV broadcast. Seattle fans are serious about MMA. I once covered an amateur event in nearby Shoreline, and the only thing fans booed was the announcement for an intermission. No joke.

Additionally, fans will be treated to a rematch of Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung, aka ‘The Korean Zombie.’ The two had a match of the year candidate in mid-2010 at WEC 48, the prelims of which, including Garcia-Jung, aired on Spike TV. Garcia won by split decision. The two fighters are very aware of the legacy fans will expect them to live up to, if not exceed. Rematches don’t usually live up to the magic of the original fight, but I’d expect this to be entertaining and competitive regardless. If nothing else, we’re likely to see ‘Zombie’ come out of his shell a bit, as evidenced by this English tutorial lesson with the California Kid, Urijah Faber:

155 lbs. – Nik Lentz x Waylon Lowe:  Both men are accomplished wrestlers with Lentz having NCAA Division I credentials at University of Minnesota. Lowe wrestled for the lesser-known University of Finley (Ohio), but won Division II championship honors in 2004 and 2006. Lendz is 4-0-1 in the UFC, with all matches, including the controversial split decision with Tyson Griffin, go to the judges. Lentz is surely looking to put that match, labeled as one of the most boring bouts in UFC history, behind him. Lowe, 2-1 in the UFC, has his fair share of decision wins, and will need to prove himself here. In a battle of two wrestlers from the Midwest, I’d expect this to be a battle of ground control. That said, here’s hoping both teams second-guess each other and make it a nice stand-up slobberknocker.

Prediction: Lowe by TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Aaron Simpson x Mario Miranda: Simpson is an NCAA All-American wrestler from Arizona State University who ran a string of six TKO / KO wins. He’s part of the Power MMA team, with fellow wrestlers Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway. Miranda is a BJJ black belt who spends his time between Anderson Silva’s Black House clique and Matt Hume’s AMC in Kirkland, WA, so he’ll have the hometown advantage. Miranda went the distance with Maia, but was taken down regularly throughout the match. Miranda will need some clever defenses against Simpson’s takedowns. That said, Hume-coached fighters always come with a smart strategy. Simpson suffered back-to-back losses against Chris Leben and Mark Munoz in the last half of 2010, so this match is a gut-check for the ASU wrestler.

Prediction: Miranda via (surprising, out-of-nowhere) submission (round two)

170 lbs. – Johny Hendricks x Anthony “TJ” Waldburger: Hendricks, of the wrestling-based Team Takedown, replaces Dennis Hallman, who was injured three weeks. Waldburger has an impressive win four-fight win streak, starting mid-2009, and marred David Mitchell’s undefeated record when both debuted in the UFC in September. Despite Waldburger’s experience advantage over Hendricks, I would expect the Oklahoma wrestler to push the action and grind him down until Hendricks can catch him with punches.

Prediction: Hendricks via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Christian Morecraft x Sean McCorkle: Both fighters are looking to redeem themselves from being finished by Stefan Struve. Morecraft gave Struve a run for his money in round one of their fight, but was caught at the beginning of round two. Two thousand ten was a rebirth for the entertaining and outspoken McCorkle, who was 6-0 through 2007 before taking a two-and-a-half year hiatus from fighting. In 2010, he beat several local opponents before meeting, and finishing) PRIDE FC veteran Mark Hunt in both men’s UFC debuts. Using Struve as a gauge, Morecraft showed more craft (pun intended) than McCorkle, whose pre-UFC opponents weren’t exactly top competition. I expect both men to be at their sharpest for their first fight in 2011, though I’d expect Morecraft’s grappling to be the difference-maker here.

Prediction: Morecraft by TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Michael McDonald vs. Edwin Figueroa: This match should be a fistfest, as both men are making their UFC debut and neither has gone to the halfway mark of a 3 x 5 min match. Figueroa replaces Nick Pace, making this a debut UFC match for both Figueroa and McDonald. Also in common is McDonald is a Central California product with fast, heavy hands. He’s never gone to the third round, and has seven TKO / KO finishes out of his 11 victories. His last three matches were victories over legit names like Manny Tapia, Cole Escovedo, and Clint Godfrey. Figueroa is undefeated, with his last match a TKO victory over respectable journeyman Johnny Bedford. McDonald has faced tougher competition of late, which I think will make the difference in performance here.

Prediction: McDonald via TKO or submission (round one)

170 lbs. – John Hathaway x Kris McCray: McCray came into MMA on a hot streak and went to the finals of the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but was submitted by Court McCray in the TUF finals and Carlos Eduardo Rocha, a jiu-jitsu black belt import from Fortaleza, Brazil. Hathaway has the experience factor on his side, undefeated through his previous match, against Mike Pyle, who used takedowns to secure a unanimous decision. McCray would best be served recreating Pyle’s strategy, if possible, but Hathaway proved what his ability to control a match when he faced Diego Sanchez.

Prediction: Hathaway via TKO (round two)

265 lbs. – Mike Russow x Jon Madsen: On paper, this match is ironically even – two heavyweight wrestlers who are also (at least) part-time members of Brock Lesnar’s Deathclutch team. Undefeated in seven bouts, Madsen also trains at Matt Hughes H.I.T. Squad. Russow is a Division 1 wrestler and Chicago police officer. Madsen TKO’ed Dutch kickboxer Gilbert Yvel last October, something Josh Barnett couldn’t do in 2009, and used takedowns to grind out decisions against Karlos Vemola and Mostapha Al-Turk prior to that. Russow has the distinction of unexpectedly KO’ing company pariah Todd Duffee in a one-sided match that Duffee had all but closed. Russow will hopefully be tighter and in better shape than his Duffee match.

Prediction: Madsen via submission (round three)

145 lbs. – Alex Caceres x Mackens Semerzier: The man they call ‘Bruce Leeroy’ was the flashy and polarizing youngbuck from season 11 of TUF. Semerzier was on a four-match first-round submission streak when he entered WEC, and extended that streak to five, choking out Wagnney Fabiano, before dropping three in a row in 2010. Caceres has flashy kicks, but also four submissions, including his TUF matches. In this battle of submission artists, this match could take place on the feet.

Prediction: Caceres via TKO (round one)

145 lbs. – Leonard Garcia x Chan Sung Jung: One rematch gets replaced with another, as Jung (aka “The Korean Zombie”) fills in for Garcia’s original opponent the injured Nam Phan. Garcia-Phan II was made after Garcia was given a split decision win that everybody except the judges themselves though Phan won. The first Garcia-Jung bout was one of the best bouts of 2010, a slugfest for the ages that Garcia also won by split decision. I personally thought Jung won with his aggression and damage, but calls for a rematch faded when George Roop knocked Jung out cleanly with a head kick. With this upcoming rematch, obviously Jung will be hungry for revenge, though many say a fighter is never the same after a knockout like the Korean Zombie fared. That said, Garcia will likely need to fight at a stronger, fiercer pace than he has in the past three bouts to really secure a convincing win.

Prediction: Jung via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Amir Sadollah x Demarques Johnson: Johnson marks third opponent and second replacement opponent for Sadollah, who was originally scheduled to fight Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig. When Ludwig had to withdraw due to injury, James ‘Lightning’ Wilks, stepped in. And when Wilks had to withdraw due to injury, Johnson filled in the spot. Wilks-to-Johnson shouldn’t affect Sadollah’s strategy as much as Ludwig-to-Wilks did, as Ludwig’s striking pedigree is far above Wilks or Johnson, who have more submission wins that KO / TKO’s. Johnson fights to fight, and is equally dangerous (and susceptible) in striking and grappling, having won and lost both ways almost equal times. Sadollah’s last four matches have gone to decision. I’d expect Johnson to keep the pressure on Sadollah, but for Sadollah to catch him with punches.

Prediction: Sadollah by TKO (round two)

170 lbs. – Dan Hardy x Anthony Johnson: Johnson will be coming off a year-plus hiatus due to a meniscus injury, while Hardy looks to shake off a loss to GSP (bad strategy) and KO (got caught) from Carlos Condit. Ring rust could play a factor against Johnson, but then again, his six-inch reach advantage will be a benefit. That said, Hardy can take a shot (notwithstanding Condit hitting the button), and has competed more recently against tougher competition. Johnson will have the size advantage in height and surely weight, as he’s claimed he drops as much as 55 lbs. (starting from a fight announcement) to make 170. Hardy is one of those submission experts who loves to show off his striking skills, but in this case, even despite Johnson’s wrestling credentials (NJCAA champion in 2004), Hardy may be best suited in this match on the ground.

The calmer, real side of Dan Hardy:

Anthony Johnson’s thoughts on the fight:

Prediction: Hardy via submission (round two)

205 lbs. – Antonio Rogerio Nogueira x Phil Davis:

As mentioned before, Davis replacing Ortiz in many ways means a more dangerous opponent for Nogueira. Davis is an NCAA Division I national wrestling champion, and is undefeated not just in the UFC but in his MMA career. He’s not only slick with submissions, but inventive as well, being one of the few fighters on record to get a submission with what by all accounts looked like a modified camel clutch. His kimura-hammerlock combination on Tim Boetsch at UFC 123 had Joe Rogan popping like a Hulkamaniac. His Alliance MMA team includes Brandon Vera, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and heavy hitters like Travis Browne and Joey Beltran, so he also gets solid training in the striking department. All this said, ‘Lil’ Nog,’ as some call him is a BJJ black belt with impressive amateur boxing credentials in Brazil from 2006 and 2007. In MMA, Nogueira was a star in PRIDE FC from 2002 to 2007. He was more competitive several years ago, finishing four out of five matches between his PRIDE and UFC contracts, but that was against lesser competition. He’s 2-1 in the UFC, but one of those wins was an unpopular split decision against Jason Brilz. Nogueira has the skills and can be dangerous, but Davis is from a younger, fresher generation of fighters who’ve been weaned on the sport at a point when fighters don’t cross-train disciplines but simply all the elements of MMA at once. Nogueira of course has the experienced advantage, but in this case, Davis’ explosive speed and ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome may turn him into an overnight star with this match (like we haven’t seen that recently).

Phil Davis Video Blog:

Prediction: Davis via decision

The Finish

For the past three years, the spring UFC Fight Nights has showcased what for me was a very intriguing main event, usually moreso than throughout the rest of the year. At UFN 18 in 2009, Martin Kampmann bested Carlos Condit by split decision in a fantastic three-round war of dogged, skilled fighters. Last year, at UFN 21, top lightweight Kenny Florian welcomed PRIDE FC star Takanori Gomi to the octagon with a third-round rear naked choke. This year, we see another clash of veteran star against fast-rising prospect. And even though we just saw this dynamic a few days ago, I’m still intrigued by the possibilities.

Not to mention that fans get a sequel to one of the most popular matches from last year in Garcia-Jung, as well as appearances from the always-entertaining likes of Dan Hardy, Anthony Johnson,  the polarizing Alex ‘Bruce Leroy’ Caceres, and the irreverent Amir Sadollah.

Very often, these Fight Nights are generally forgettable affairs, but if there’s one time that you stay home and watch TV on a Saturday night, this would be the weekend for it.

UFC Fight Night 24 Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on March 23, 2011 by jaytan716

The original poster for UFC Fight Night 24, before Phil Davis replaced Tito Ortiz due to injury.

The storyline of Ultimate Fight Night 24 is that a young, talented, undefeated, fast-rising African-American wrestler with impressive striking and creative grappling skills replaces a former UFC champion and to battle a Brazilian legend who made his name in the heyday of Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Wait, didn’t this just happen last weekend?

Indeed, the coincidences are uncanny, albeit coincidental. The UFC’s first foray into the Seattle market was originally headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (aka ‘Little Nog’), but when Ortiz was cut during training and forced to withdraw, the former Penn State wrestling champion Phil ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Davis took his place. Admittedly, the main event loses quite a bit of mainstream luster, but that’s as much due to Ortiz’ immense star power as it is the general public’s unawareness of the man they call ‘Mr. Wonderful.’

However, Nogueira-Davis is likely to make for a more entertaining fight, as Davis is an exciting prospect who’s largely flown under casual fans’ radar due to fighting in dark matches and prelims. His wrestling is far better than Ortiz’s, and he has a rep for catching opponents in very unconventional submission holds. He won his June 2009 match at Rumble on the Rivers using a rear naked choke that most, including Joe Rogan, described as a camel clutch. In Nogueira’s last two matches, he squeaked out a controversial split decision against Jason Brilz at UFC 114, then lost a unanimous decision to Ryan Bader at UFC 119. Davis is going to be an important gauge for Little Nog, as another bad performance will have people questioning how much gas the Brazilian twin has left in his MMA career tank.

Gimmick Infringement: Mr. Wonderful hits the camel clutch:

Seattle fans are serious about their MMA, and given that this is the city’s first UFC event, the crowd should be particularly hot, which will enhance the event’s TV broadcast. Seattle fans are serious about MMA. I once covered an amateur event in nearby Shoreline, and the only thing fans booed was the announcement for an intermission. No joke.

Additionally, fans will be treated to a rematch of Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung, aka ‘The Korean Zombie.’ The two had a match of the year candidate in mid-2010 at WEC 48, the prelims of which, including Garcia-Jung, aired on Spike TV. Garcia won by split decision. The two fighters are very aware of the legacy fans will expect them to live up to, if not exceed. Rematches don’t usually live up to the magic of the original fight, but I’d expect this to be entertaining and competitive regardless. If nothing else, we’re likely to see ‘Zombie’ come out of his shell a bit, as evidenced by this English tutorial lesson with the California Kid, Urijah Faber:

155 lbs. – Nik Lentz x Waylon Lowe: Both men are accomplished wrestlers with Lentz having NCAA Division I credentials at University of Minnesota. Lowe wrestled for the lesser-known University of Finley (Ohio), but won Division II championship honors in 2004 and 2006. Lendz is 4-0-1 in the UFC, with all matches, including the controversial split decision with Tyson Griffin, go to the judges. Lentz is surely looking to put that match, labeled as one of the most boring bouts in UFC history, behind him. Lowe, 2-1 in the UFC, has his fair share of decision wins, and will need to prove himself here. In a battle of two wrestlers from the Midwest, I’d expect this to be a battle of ground control. That said, here’s hoping both teams second-guess each other and make it a nice stand-up slobberknocker.

Prediction: Lowe by TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Aaron Simpson x Mario Miranda: Simpson is an NCAA All-American wrestler from Arizona State University who ran a string of six TKO / KO wins. He’s part of the Power MMA team, with fellow wrestlers Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway. Miranda is a BJJ black belt who spends his time between Anderson Silva’s Black House clique and Matt Hume’s AMC in Kirkland, WA, so he’ll have the hometown advantage. Miranda went the distance with Maia, but was taken down regularly throughout the match. Miranda will need some clever defenses against Simpson’s takedowns. That said, Hume-coached fighters always come with a smart strategy. Simpson suffered back-to-back losses against Chris Leben and Mark Munoz in the last half of 2010, so this match is a gut-check for the ASU wrestler.

Prediction: Miranda via (surprising, out-of-nowhere) submission (round two)

170 lbs. – Johny Hendricks x Anthony “TJ” Waldburger: Hendricks, of the wrestling-based Team Takedown, replaces Dennis Hallman, who was injured three weeks. Waldburger has an impressive win four-fight win streak, starting mid-2009, and marred David Mitchell’s undefeated record when both debuted in the UFC in September. Despite Waldburger’s experience advantage over Hendricks, I would expect the Oklahoma wrestler to push the action and grind him down until Hendricks can catch him with punches.

Prediction: Hendricks via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Christian Morecraft x Sean McCorkle: Both fighters are looking to redeem themselves from being finished by Stefan Struve. Morecraft gave Struve a run for his money in round one of their fight, but was caught at the beginning of round two. Two thousand ten was a rebirth for the entertaining and outspoken McCorkle, who was 6-0 through 2007 before taking a two-and-a-half year hiatus from fighting. In 2010, he beat several local opponents before meeting, and finishing) PRIDE FC veteran Mark Hunt in both men’s UFC debuts. Using Struve as a gauge, Morecraft showed more craft (pun intended) than McCorkle, whose pre-UFC opponents weren’t exactly top competition. I expect both men to be at their sharpest for their first fight in 2011, though I’d expect Morecraft’s grappling to be the difference-maker here.

Prediction: Morecraft by TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Michael McDonald vs. Edwin Figueroa: This match should be a fistfest, as both men are making their UFC debut and neither has gone to the halfway mark of a 3 x 5 min match. Figueroa replaces Nick Pace, making this a debut UFC match for both Figueroa and McDonald. Also in common is McDonald is a Central California product with fast, heavy hands. He’s never gone to the third round, and has seven TKO / KO finishes out of his 11 victories. His last three matches were victories over legit names like Manny Tapia, Cole Escovedo, and Clint Godfrey. Figueroa is undefeated, with his last match a TKO victory over respectable journeyman Johnny Bedford. McDonald has faced tougher competition of late, which I think will make the difference in performance here.

Prediction: McDonald via TKO or submission (round one)

170 lbs. – John Hathaway x Kris McCray: McCray came into MMA on a hot streak and went to the finals of the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but was submitted by Court McCray in the TUF finals and Carlos Eduardo Rocha, a jiu-jitsu black belt import from Fortaleza, Brazil. Hathaway has the experience factor on his side, undefeated through his previous match, against Mike Pyle, who used takedowns to secure a unanimous decision. McCray would best be served recreating Pyle’s strategy, if possible, but Hathaway proved what his ability to control a match when he faced Diego Sanchez.

Prediction: Hathaway via TKO (round two)

265 lbs. – Mike Russow x Jon Madsen: On paper, this match is ironically even – two heavyweight wrestlers who are also (at least) part-time members of Brock Lesnar’s Deathclutch team. Undefeated in seven bouts, Madsen also trains at Matt Hughes H.I.T. Squad. Russow is a Division 1 wrestler and Chicago police officer. Madsen TKO’ed Dutch kickboxer Gilbert Yvel last October, something Josh Barnett couldn’t do in 2009, and used takedowns to grind out decisions against Karlos Vemola and Mostapha Al-Turk prior to that. Russow has the distinction of unexpectedly KO’ing company pariah Todd Duffee in a one-sided match that Duffee had all but closed. Russow will hopefully be tighter and in better shape than his Duffee match.

Prediction: Madsen via submission (round three)

145 lbs. – Alex Caceres x Mackens Semerzier: The man they call ‘Bruce Leeroy’ was the flashy and polarizing youngbuck from season 11 of TUF. Semerzier was on a four-match first-round submission streak when he entered WEC, and extended that streak to five, choking out Wagnney Fabiano, before dropping three in a row in 2010. Caceres has flashy kicks, but also four submissions, including his TUF matches. In this battle of submission artists, this match could take place on the feet.

Prediction: Caceres via TKO (round one)

145 lbs. – Leonard Garcia x Chan Sung Jung: One rematch gets replaced with another, as Jung (aka “The Korean Zombie”) fills in for Garcia’s original opponent the injured Nam Phan. Garcia-Phan II was made after Garcia was given a split decision win that everybody except the judges themselves though Phan won. The first Garcia-Jung bout was one of the best bouts of 2010, a slugfest for the ages that Garcia also won by split decision. I personally thought Jung won with his aggression and damage, but calls for a rematch faded when George Roop knocked Jung out cleanly with a head kick. With this upcoming rematch, obviously Jung will be hungry for revenge, though many say a fighter is never the same after a knockout like the Korean Zombie fared. That said, Garcia will likely need to fight at a stronger, fiercer pace than he has in the past three bouts to really secure a convincing win.

Prediction: Jung via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Amir Sadollah x Demarques Johnson: Johnson marks third opponent and second replacement opponent for Sadollah, who was originally scheduled to fight Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig. When Ludwig had to withdraw due to injury, James ‘Lightning’ Wilks, stepped in. And when Wilks had to withdraw due to injury, Johnson filled in the spot. Wilks-to-Johnson shouldn’t affect Sadollah’s strategy as much as Ludwig-to-Wilks did, as Ludwig’s striking pedigree is far above Wilks or Johnson, who have more submission wins that KO / TKO’s. Johnson fights to fight, and is equally dangerous (and susceptible) in striking and grappling, having won and lost both ways almost equal times. Sadollah’s last four matches have gone to decision. I’d expect Johnson to keep the pressure on Sadollah, but for Sadollah to catch him with punches.

Prediction: Sadollah by TKO (round two)

170 lbs. – Dan Hardy x Anthony Johnson: Johnson will be coming off a year-plus hiatus due to a meniscus injury, while Hardy looks to shake off a loss to GSP (bad strategy) and KO (got caught) from Carlos Condit. Ring rust could play a factor against Johnson, but then again, his six-inch reach advantage will be a benefit. That said, Hardy can take a shot (notwithstanding Condit hitting the button), and has competed more recently against tougher competition. Johnson will have the size advantage in height and surely weight, as he’s claimed he drops as much as 55 lbs. (starting from a fight announcement) to make 170. Hardy is one of those submission experts who loves to show off his striking skills, but in this case, even despite Johnson’s wrestling credentials (NJCAA champion in 2004), Hardy may be best suited in this match on the ground.

The calmer, real side of Dan Hardy:

Anthony Johnson’s thoughts on the fight:

Prediction: Hardy via submission (round two)

205 lbs. – Antonio Rogerio Nogueira x Phil Davis:

As mentioned before, Davis replacing Ortiz in many ways means a more dangerous opponent for Nogueira. Davis is an NCAA Division I national wrestling champion, and is undefeated not just in the UFC but in his MMA career. He’s not only slick with submissions, but inventive as well, being one of the few fighters on record to get a submission with what by all accounts looked like a modified camel clutch. His kimura-hammerlock combination on Tim Boetsch at UFC 123 had Joe Rogan popping like a Hulkamaniac. His Alliance MMA team includes Brandon Vera, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and heavy hitters like Travis Browne and Joey Beltran, so he also gets solid training in the striking department. All this said, ‘Lil’ Nog,’ as some call him is a BJJ black belt with impressive amateur boxing credentials in Brazil from 2006 and 2007. In MMA, Nogueira was a star in PRIDE FC from 2002 to 2007. He was more competitive several years ago, finishing four out of five matches between his PRIDE and UFC contracts, but that was against lesser competition. He’s 2-1 in the UFC, but one of those wins was an unpopular split decision against Jason Brilz. Nogueira has the skills and can be dangerous, but Davis is from a younger, fresher generation of fighters who’ve been weaned on the sport at a point when fighters don’t cross-train disciplines but simply all the elements of MMA at once. Nogueira of course has the experienced advantage, but in this case, Davis’ explosive speed and ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome may turn him into an overnight star with this match (like we haven’t seen that recently).

Phil Davis Video Blog:

Prediction: Davis via decision

The Finish

For the past three years, the spring UFC Fight Nights has showcased what for me was a very intriguing main event, usually moreso than throughout the rest of the year. At UFN 18 in 2009, Martin Kampmann bested Carlos Condit by split decision in a fantastic three-round war of dogged, skilled fighters. Last year, at UFN 21, top lightweight Kenny Florian welcomed PRIDE FC star Takanori Gomi to the octagon with a third-round rear naked choke. This year, we see another clash of veteran star against fast-rising prospect. And even though we just saw this dynamic a few days ago, I’m still intrigued by the possibilities.

Not to mention that fans get a sequel to one of the most popular matches from last year in Garcia-Jung, as well as appearances from the always-entertaining likes of Dan Hardy, Anthony Johnson,  the polarizing Alex ‘Bruce Leroy’ Caceres, and the irreverent Amir Sadollah.

Very often, these Fight Nights are generally forgettable affairs, but if there’s one time that you stay home and watch TV on a Saturday night, this would be the weekend for it.

UFC 128 Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on March 18, 2011 by jaytan716

A minor point, but Santino Marella, eat your heart out:

Fast-rising star Jon 'Bones' Jones challenges Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title.

One thing that always helps pay-per-view buys is a nice long build-up. Under normal circumstances, a title challenger has been around for awhile, boasts a hot streak on top of some early wins. He’s already given us classic matches, and we’ve seen him lose and bounce back from adversity, only to go farther than many expected.

We didn’t really have that with Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones and his light heavyweight shot at UFC 128.

In early February, exactly six weeks out from his March 19th title match, Jon Jones faced his biggest challenge to date, the undefeated wrestler and season eight Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader. Unknown to almost everyone in the arena, #1 light heavyweight contender (and Jones’ teammate) Rashad Evans sprained a knee ligament and was forced to pull out of his title match, scheduled for this weekend, against champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. With Jones dominant finish over Bader, UFC brass decided to put the young wrestler from Upstate New York in the challenger’s seat. And before anybody could react, including Jones, shit got real.

The ironic thing about this freak turn of events is that in the following weeks, Zuffa trumped its own headlines by announcing that it was buying their sole real competitor, Strikeforce.  And shit got realer.

Since the monumental announcement, UFC 128 has been overshadowed in the media. Not that it should. Jones-Rua is a great fight whose only downfall is that there wasn’t more time for fans and experts to debate about it. Assuming both fighters show up as close to 100% as possible, this has the makings to be a fantastic scrap on the feet and on the ground. Rua’s jiu-jitsu is there, but so is Jones’ wrestling. Rua did the then-unthinkable in KO’ing Lyoto Machida, but Jones also has power, speed, and accuracy in his hands.

On the undercard, we continue to see the introduction of former WEC fighters as official UFC talent. One of the biggest labelings in the making is that of the ‘California Kid,’ Urijah Faber, who carried WEC as its marquee guy for four years. Now officially ‘in the big leagues,’ Faber’s career realizes the mainstream recognition to compliment the namesake recognition he received when ad execs cast him in K-Swiss Tubes commercials opposite funnyman Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down).

UFC 128 Extended Preview

UFC 128 Press Conference at Radio City

And for you greedy fight fans, the UFC is broadcasting two undercard fights (Ricardo Alameda vs. Mike Pyle and Kurt Pelligrino vs Gleison Tibau) on their Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/ufc) and two more matches (Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Njokuani and Luiz Cane vs. Elliot Marshall) on Spike TV.

Fighter comments for the UFC 128: Facebook Fights (8pm EST / 5pm PST)

Fighter comments for the UFC 128: Spike Prelims (9pm EST / 6pm PST)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone: Replacing Dan Miller, this is Philippou’s second attempt to get into the UFC, as he tried unsuccessfully to fight his way into the TUF house on season 11 (Liddell vs. Ortiz) of The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a Serra-Longo fighter with over half of his seven wins by TKO / KO against unseasoned fighters. This is his UFC debut, which can affect fighters, but tell that to Serra-Longo teammate Chris Weidman, who dominated veteran Alessio Sakara just a few weeks ago. However, I don’t believe Philippou has Weidman’s wrestling credentials. Catone is a brown belt under Ricardo Almeida and a three-time Division 1 national qualifier with over 100 wins at that level. I expected Miller x Cantone to stay on the feet, and with fewer ground credentials than Miller, I’d expect Philippou to keep it standing as well. That said, I don’t see it making a difference.

Prediction: Catone via TKO (round one)

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch: Assuncao was originally scheduled to fight the 5’5” judo expert Manvel Gamburyan, but after Gamburyan pulled out due to injury, he now faces Koch, a 5’10” kickboxer. Change in strategy there. Assuncao himself is 5’5”, but he’s also is proven against taller opponents. Koch, a product of Milwaukee’s Roufusport kickboxing gym (thought it does have plenty of MMA fighters), actually has more submission wins than KOs or TKOs. I’d expect Koch to put his striking to the test, but for Assuncao, who has gone to decision in the last four out of five matches (aside from his Urijah Faber loss) to ultimately win the match on the ground.

Prediction: Assuncao via decision

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland: Loveland moves down in weight to Benavidez’ neighborhood. He’ll have the reach advantage, but no telling how the weight change will affect Loveland’s stamina. Likewise, Benavidez has a mixed bag with taller fighters. He submitted the 5’0” Miguel Angel Torres, but also lost twice by decision to the 5’8” champion Dominick Cruz. Joe B should have the wrestling advantage, and though Loveland’s record indicates he’s susceptible to submission, the last of those losses were in 2007. The question will be whether Loveland has developed a takedown and submission defense strong enough to withstand Benavidez’ grappling control.

Prediction: Benavidez via submission (round two)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau: Two of the larger lightweights in the division, both jiu-jitsu blackbelts will look to turn things around after respectable losses in their previous bouts. Over the past few years, Pellegrino has finished notable ground experts like Nate Diaz, Alberto Crane, and more recently, Fabricio Camoes.

Prediction: Pellegrino via unanimous decision.

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida: Both men are decade-long veterans who’ve seen varying degrees of success in just about every other major promotion. Almeida is a third-degree Renzo Gracie black belt and former middleweight King of Pancrase. He came out of a four-year retirement in 2008 went 3-1 before dropping to welterweight and last year. Aside from a shocking submission loss to Matt Hughes, he’s fared well. ‘Quicksand’ Pyle was the WEC welterweight champion in 2005-2006, but has yet to be a title contender in the IFL, EliteXC, Affliction, Strikeforce, or the UFC. He’s on a two-match win streak and has 16 submission wins of his own, but likely won’t have the same success as Hughes.

Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.: A clash between a pair of long-limbed Muay Thai fighters. Barboza Jr. is undefeated, and demonstrated his dangerous leg kicks on Mike Lullo in his UFC debut late last year. But Njokuani , having trained with Muay Thai champion / coach Saekson Janjira, should have an answer for that challenge. He’s won Knockout of the Night honors thrice, though don’t look for Barboza to be #4.

Prediction: Barboza via KO (round two)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane: Cane, aka “Luiz Artur Cane, Jr.” suffered back-to-back TKO losses to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Cyrille Diabate. Marshall is a TUF season eight alum who’s being brought back to replace the injured Karlos Vemola. As a BJJ black belt, Marshall fared well on TUF and in his three subsequent matches, but was cut from the UFC roster early last year.  Since then, Marshall has gone on a three-fight win streak. Cane may be fighting to keep a grip on his UFC contract, while Marshall should come in smarter and sharper for his ventures in and out of the Zuffa ranks.

Prediction: Marshall via decision

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop: Cro Cop isn’t the Terminator that he used to be, but he can still be dangerous when he wants. Recently, Cro Cop finished Pat Barry and Anthony Perosh, but also has submission and KO losses to Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir, respectively. Schaub is on a three-fight win-streak, and feels he has something to prove. He won a decision over Gabriel Gonzaga, who owns the infamous head-kick win over Cro Cop. Schaub is part of the Grudge Training Center, home of Shane Carwin and Nate Marquardt. I’d expect Schaub to push the action on Cro Cop, whether striking or clinching.

Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller: Miller gets shifted from the dark matches to TV, filling in for Yoshihiro Akiyama. Marquardt has built his striking bars up since 2008, finishing Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia, Demian Maia, and Rousimar Palhares. And of those KO / TKOs, three of them were in the first round. I’d expect Miller’s team to prepare for Marquardt to come hard and fast in the first round, but if they’re able to control him, I think that will only stave off the finish.

UFC 128: Marquardt vs. Dan Miller preview

Prediction: Marquardt by TKO (round one)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller: Jim Miller’s submission resume includes a kneebar over formerly-touted prospect Charles Oliveira and veteran Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig. Shalorus is a decorated wrestler, having trained as a child in Turkey and Russia, but he’s more known for his fast and powerful hands, with four TKO wins compared to a single submission win. To this end, takedowns will be key, in Miller attempting them and Shalorus avoiding them.

UFC 128: Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus preview

Prediction: Shalorus via unanimous decision

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland: To be sure, Zuffa wants Faber to win this match, but to get him over with mainstream fans, they’ve decided to book him one more bantamweight match before pulling the trigger on a title match against Dominic Cruz. And Wineland is no tomato can. He KO’ed Antonio Banuelos in 2006 to become the first WEC champion, and more recently KO’ed Ken  Stone & Will Capuzano last year, and preceded those with back-to-back decision wins. Faber needs to come in and take Wineland to the ground.

Eddie Wineland Interview:

Urijah Faber Interview:

Prediction: Faber via submission (round one or two)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones: I almost don’t even want to call this one, as it’s still very fresh and imaginative in people’s minds as I write this. With his KO of Lyoto Machida to win the UFC light heavyweight title, he proved that he still has punching power. But he’ll have been on the shelf for almost a year, and he never saw elbows of any kind, let alone ‘Bones’ Jones’ brand, in PRIDE. Not only will this be Jones’ toughest fight to date, but also a tougher challenge than any of his other previous ‘toughest fight to date.’ It’s hard to envision that Rua won’t be training for Jones’ elbows, but after the third period, I can see Jones going into overdrive and overwhelming the champ.

Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)

The Finish

Although I’m very excited about the main event, I question how successful the pay-per-view buys will be for this show. The established stars on this show are a bit limiting: Jones as a challenger whose two main events on Versus didn’t draw, Faber as a star in a smaller universe (Versus), and Shogun Rua and the UFC title, neither of whom fans have really seen in almost a year. There aren’t any major glaring storylines that jump out on the undercard, although I can see Brendan Schaub jumping into the spotlight, should he finish Cro Cop early. It’s a show that, with the main event, would have me buzzing, but I don’t know that casual fans’ MMA memories go far back enough to remember “The Great Rua Quest.”

All this said, should this show prove to draw eyeballs, the UFC has a new crop of talent off which to grow some green. Names like Faber, Jones, Phil Davis, George Sotiropolous, Matt Mitrione, and Brendan Schaub will be the next Penn, Silva, Rampage, St-Pierre, and Griffin. This won’t be the big gangbuster UFC event that burns in people’s minds, but you could be seeing a few victories that, in retrospect, prove to be pivotal career moments for some stars of tomorrow.

UFC 128 Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on March 18, 2011 by jaytan716

A minor point, but Santino Marella, eat your heart out:

UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones

One thing that always helps pay-per-view buys is a nice long build-up. Under normal circumstances, a title challenger has been around for awhile, boasts a hot streak on top of some early wins. He’s already given us classic matches, and we’ve seen him lose and bounce back from adversity, only to go farther than many expected.

We didn’t really have that with Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones and his light heavyweight shot at UFC 128.

In early February, exactly six weeks out from his March 19th title match, Jon Jones faced his biggest challenge to date, the undefeated wrestler and season eight Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader. Unknown to almost everyone in the arena, #1 light heavyweight contender (and Jones’ teammate) Rashad Evans sprained a knee ligament and was forced to pull out of his title match, scheduled for this weekend, against champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. With Jones dominant finish over Bader, UFC brass decided to put the young wrestler from Upstate New York in the challenger’s seat. And before anybody could react, including Jones, shit got real.

The ironic thing about this freak turn of events is that in the following weeks, Zuffa trumped its own headlines by announcing that it was buying their sole real competitor, Strikeforce.  And shit got realer.

Since the monumental announcement, UFC 128 has been overshadowed in the media. Not that it should. Jones-Rua is a great fight whose only downfall is that there wasn’t more time for fans and experts to debate about it. Assuming both fighters show up as close to 100% as possible, this has the makings to be a fantastic scrap on the feet and on the ground. Rua’s jiu-jitsu is there, but so is Jones’ wrestling. Rua did the then-unthinkable in KO’ing Lyoto Machida, but Jones also has power, speed, and accuracy in his hands.

On the undercard, we continue to see the introduction of former WEC fighters as official UFC talent. One of the biggest labelings in the making is that of the ‘California Kid,’ Urijah Faber, who carried WEC as its marquee guy for four years. Now officially ‘in the big leagues,’ Faber’s career realizes the mainstream recognition to compliment the namesake recognition he received when ad execs cast him in K-Swiss Tubes commercials opposite funnyman Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down).

UFC 128 Extended Preview

UFC 128 Press Conference at Radio City

And for you greedy fight fans, the UFC is broadcasting two undercard fights (Ricardo Alameda vs. Mike Pyle and Kurt Pelligrino vs Gleison Tibau) on their Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/ufc) and two more matches (Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Njokuani and Luiz Cane vs. Elliot Marshall) on Spike TV.

Fighter comments for the UFC 128: Facebook Fights (8pm EST / 5pm PST)

Fighter comments for the UFC 128: Spike Prelims (9pm EST / 6pm PST)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone:  Replacing Dan Miller, this is Philippou’s second attempt to get into the UFC, as he tried unsuccessfully to fight his way into the TUF house on season 11 (Liddell vs. Ortiz) of The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a Serra-Longo fighter with over half of his seven wins by TKO / KO against unseasoned fighters. This is his UFC debut, which can affect fighters, but tell that to Serra-Longo teammate Chris Weidman, who dominated veteran Alessio Sakara just a few weeks ago. However, I don’t believe Philippou has Weidman’s wrestling credentials. Catone is a brown belt under Ricardo Almeida and a three-time Division 1 national qualifier with over 100 wins at that level. I expected Miller x Cantone to stay on the feet, and with fewer ground credentials than Miller, I’d expect Philippou to keep it standing as well. That said, I don’t see it making a difference.

Prediction:  Catone via TKO (round one)

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch: Assuncao was originally scheduled to fight the 5’5” judo expert Manvel Gamburyan, but after Gamburyan pulled out due to injury, he now faces Koch, a 5’10” kickboxer. Change in strategy there. Assuncao himself is 5’5”, but he’s also is proven against taller opponents. Koch, a product of Milwaukee’s Roufusport kickboxing gym (thought it does have plenty of MMA fighters), actually has more submission wins than KOs or TKOs. I’d expect Koch to put his striking to the test, but for Assuncao, who has gone to decision in the last four out of five matches (aside from his Urijah Faber loss) to ultimately win the match on the ground.

Prediction: Assuncao via decision

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland:  Loveland moves down in weight to Benavidez’ neighborhood. He’ll have the reach advantage, but no telling how the weight change will affect Loveland’s stamina. Likewise, Benavidez has a mixed bag with taller fighters. He submitted the 5’0” Miguel Angel Torres, but also lost twice by decision to the 5’8” champion Dominick Cruz. Joe B should have the wrestling advantage, and though Loveland’s record indicates he’s susceptible to submission, the last of those losses were in 2007. The question will be whether Loveland has developed a takedown and submission defense strong enough to withstand Benavidez’ grappling control.

Prediction:  Benavidez via submission (round two)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau:  Two of the larger lightweights in the division, both jiu-jitsu blackbelts will look to turn things around after respectable losses in their previous bouts. Over the past few years, Pellegrino has finished notable ground experts like Nate Diaz, Alberto Crane, and more recently, Fabricio Camoes.

Prediction:  Pellegrino via unanimous decision.

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida:  Both men are decade-long veterans who’ve seen varying degrees of success in just about every other major promotion. Almeida is a third-degree Renzo Gracie black belt and former middleweight King of Pancrase. He came out of a four-year retirement in 2008 went 3-1 before dropping to welterweight and last year. Aside from a shocking submission loss to Matt Hughes, he’s fared well. ‘Quicksand’ Pyle was the WEC welterweight champion in 2005-2006, but has yet to be a title contender in the IFL, EliteXC, Affliction, Strikeforce, or the UFC. He’s on a two-match win streak and has 16 submission wins of his own, but likely won’t have the same success as Hughes.

Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.:  A clash between a pair of long-limbed Muay Thai fighters. Barboza Jr. is undefeated, and demonstrated his dangerous leg kicks on Mike Lullo in his UFC debut late last year. But Njokuani , having trained with Muay Thai champion / coach Saekson Janjira, should have an answer for that challenge. He’s won Knockout of the Night honors thrice, though don’t look for Barboza to be #4.

Prediction:  Barboza via KO (round two)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane:  Cane, aka “Luiz Artur Cane, Jr.” suffered back-to-back TKO losses to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Cyrille Diabate. Marshall is a TUF season eight alum who’s being brought back to replace the injured Karlos Vemola. As a BJJ black belt, Marshall fared well on TUF and in his three subsequent matches, but was cut from the UFC roster early last year.  Since then, Marshall has gone on a three-fight win streak. Cane may be fighting to keep a grip on his UFC contract, while Marshall should come in smarter and sharper for his ventures in and out of the Zuffa ranks.

Prediction:  Marshall via decision

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop:  Cro Cop isn’t the Terminator that he used to be, but he can still be dangerous when he wants. Recently, Cro Cop finished Pat Barry and Anthony Perosh, but also has submission and KO losses to Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir, respectively. Schaub is on a three-fight win-streak, and feels he has something to prove. He won a decision over Gabriel Gonzaga, who owns the infamous head-kick win over Cro Cop. Schaub is part of the Grudge Training Center, home of Shane Carwin and Nate Marquardt. I’d expect Schaub to push the action on Cro Cop, whether striking or clinching.

Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller:  Miller gets shifted from the dark matches to TV, filling in for Yoshihiro Akiyama. Marquardt has built his striking bars up since 2008, finishing Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia, Demian Maia, and Rousimar Palhares. And of those KO / TKOs, three of them were in the first round. I’d expect Miller’s team to prepare for Marquardt to come hard and fast in the first round, but if they’re able to control him, I think that will only stave off the finish.

UFC 128: Marquardt vs. Dan Miller preview

Prediction:  Marquardt by TKO (round one)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller:  Jim Miller’s submission resume includes a kneebar over formerly-touted prospect Charles Oliveira and veteran Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig. Shalorus is a decorated wrestler, having trained as a child in Turkey and Russia, but he’s more known for his fast and powerful hands, with four TKO wins compared to a single submission win. To this end, takedowns will be key, in Miller attempting them and Shalorus avoiding them.

UFC 128: Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus preview

Prediction:  Shalorus via unanimous decision

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland:  To be sure, Zuffa wants Faber to win this match, but to get him over with mainstream fans, they’ve decided to book him one more bantamweight match before pulling the trigger on a title match against Dominic Cruz. And Wineland is no tomato can. He KO’ed Antonio Banuelos in 2006 to become the first WEC champion, and more recently KO’ed Ken  Stone & Will Capuzano last year, and preceded those with back-to-back decision wins. Faber needs to come in and take Wineland to the ground.

Prediction:  Faber via submission (round one or two)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones:  I almost don’t even want to call this one, as it’s still very fresh and imaginative in people’s minds as I write this. With his KO of Lyoto Machida to win the UFC light heavyweight title, he proved that he still has punching power. But he’ll have been on the shelf for almost a year, and he never saw elbows of any kind, let alone ‘Bones’ Jones’ brand, in PRIDE. Not only will this be Jones’ toughest fight to date, but also a tougher challenge than any of his other previous ‘toughest fight to date.’ It’s hard to envision that Rua won’t be training for Jones’ elbows, but after the third period, I can see Jones going into overdrive and overwhelming the champ.

Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)

The Finish

Although I’m very excited about the main event, I question how successful the pay-per-view buys will be for this show. The established stars on this show are a bit limiting: Jones as a challenger whose two main events on Versus didn’t draw, Faber as a star in a smaller universe (Versus), and Shogun Rua and the UFC title, neither of whom fans have really seen in almost a year. There aren’t any major glaring storylines that jump out on the undercard, although I can see Brendan Schaub jumping into the spotlight, should he finish Cro Cop early. It’s a show that, with the main event, would have me buzzing, but I don’t know that casual fans’ MMA memories go far back enough to remember “The Great Rua Quest.”

All this said, should this show prove to draw eyeballs, the UFC has a new crop of talent off which to grow some green. Names like Faber, Jones, Phil Davis, George Sotiropolous, Matt Mitrione, and Brendan Schaub will be the next Penn, Silva, Rampage, St-Pierre, and Griffin. This won’t be the big gangbuster UFC event that burns in people’s minds, but you could be seeing a few victories that, in retrospect, prove to be pivotal career moments for some stars of tomorrow.