Archive for the UFC Category

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.

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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.

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!: Jay Tan on Zuffa Buying Strikeforce

Posted in Breaking News, Strikeforce, UFC on March 14, 2011 by jaytan716

I don’t care if Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson knocks Brock Lesnar out with a flying knee – after today, there will never be another “shot heard round the MMA world”. We clear on that?

Saturday morning, March 12th, UFC president Dana White announced to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that Zuffa, UFC’s parent company, is buying Strikeforce, generally considered the #2 MMA promotion in North America, if not the world.

Here’s the interview: http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/fanhouse/dana-white-on-zuffa-purchase/823136457001

Most are calling this a game-changer. It is. I’ll call it the point of no return, which it also likely is. With this purchase, there isn’t a brand strong enough to compete with the UFC. Not to say that someone won’t try, but without some long-term, ultra-ridiculous financial commitment and all the pieces miraculously falling into place, like a larger TV network deal, contract offers big enough to sign available talent (who are either going to be unknowns to the public, and thus interpreted as less-than-UFC-caliber talent, or fighters discarded from the UFC), and the public giving them a chance (which, as ratings for non-UFC fight promotions have proven, they’re not motivated to do), it’s not going to happen anytime soon. And if it does, its surely going to fail.

Since 2006, the UFC has bought out any of the competition that didn’t put themselves out of business. On December 11th of that year, Zuffa announced separate purchase deals for the World Fighting Alliance (WFA), and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). The latter was in fact to steal a television deal with the Versus network away from the International Fight League (IFL), who were in advanced negotiations, if not close to finalizing a deal with Versus.

The International Fight League (IFL) was a league that pitted MMA teams against each other in a round-robin tournament season.

By that point, the IFL was broadcasting on the fledgling MyNetworkTV channel, making it the first MMA promotion to be on a major terrestrial network. At the time, this was a significant advantage, though ratings were low and the leg-up didn’t help the IFL catch on. The IFL did strike a short-lived deal with HDNet in early 2008 before finally closing their doors later that year, citing financial troubles. The UFC never outright bought the IFL, but they purchased the video library rights and signed several IFL fighters, including Matt Horwich, Reese Andy, Ben Rothwell, and Chris Horodecki.

The WFA purchase was driven primarily to acquire talent contracts for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Lyoto Machida. It closed on the same day as the WEC deal in December 2006.

Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, bought PRIDE Fighting Championships in the spring of 2007.

Only months later, on March 27th, 2007, Zuffa announced the purchase of longtime promotional rival PRIDE Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment and Noboyuki Sakakibara. The toast of MMA since the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, PRIDE FC had fallen on hard times in its home country of Japan, as Sakakibara and his company were linked in several 2006 media stories as having connections to yakuza organized crime outfits. The stories resulted in PRIDE FC losing its broadcast deal in June 2006 with Fuji TV, which was its main revenue stream. PRIDE continued its schedule of shows through April 2007, with the unfortunately-named PRIDE 34: Kamikaze, proving to be its final show.

Although Zuffa head Lorenzo Fertitta declared at the press conference about running PRIDE as a separate entity, those plans never came to fruition.

Jump ahead a year later, when Affliction Clothing, a Southern California apparel line which had started sponsoring MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett and Randy Couture, entered into the MMA promoting business with Affliction Entertainment. Picking up various PRIDE fighters who weren’t signed by the UFC, such as Barnett, Pedro Rizzo, Gilbert Yvel, and Fedor Emelianenko (then considered the top heavyweight and best pound-for-pound fighter in the world), as well as former-champions-turned-free-agents Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, Affliction ran a pay-per-view event in July 2008. The show was marketed as a night of the biggest collection of top heavyweight talent in the world, and really symbolized Emelianenko’s coming out party to the U.S. (even though he’d fought Mark Coleman in October 2006 before in Las Vegas at PRIDE 32: The Real Deal).

Affliction's Tom Atencio foreshadows in irony what would later happen to his own efforts in promoting MMA.

As a former sponsor with the UFC and several of its fighters, Affliction’s move into MMA, along with Affliction spokesman Tom Atencio’s public taunts that they, as opposed to Zuffa, had the top fighter in Emelianenko, was enough for the UFC to declare war. Affliction was now considered Public Enemy #1, and was banned from sponsoring any UFC or WEC fighters.

Affliction ran two shows, Banned in July 2008, headlined by Emelianenko vs. Sylvia, and Day of Reckoning in January 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Arlovski. A third show, Trilogy, was scheduled for August 1, 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Barnett, but the show was cancelled due to several circumstances, most notably because of Barnett being denied a license to fight in the state of California due to failing a drug test for steroids.

While many point to Barnett’s test failure as the reason for Affliction closing its doors, several reputable media sources reported at the time that the company was in the midst of negotiations with the UFC to close the Affliction MMA promotion in exchange for the ability to sponsor UFC fighters and events again. Affliction Entertainment had attracted fighters with inflated fight purses, far more than they recouped in pay-per-view or box office, including a reported $800,000 to Tim Sylvia and $1.5 million to Emelianenko and his handlers, M-1 Global.

The deal included at least first-look option at several fighter contracts, but after failed negotiations between Emelianenko’s team and Dana White, the ‘Last Emperor’ ended up signing with Strikeforce.

With EliteXC, the UFC didn’t need to wave a finger or huff or puff to blow that house of straw down.

Starting with their inaugural event, Destiny, in February 2007, EliteXC ran 20 events on Showtime (two of which were co-promotes with Strikeforce), along with three events on major network CBS. The group attempted to build and brand their own stars, such as K.J. Noons, Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz. None really got over as much as female fighter Gina Carano, with her girl-next-door looks and fierce fighting style, and Kimbo Slice, the former street-brawler-turned-“internet sensation,” both of whom piqued the public’s curiosity and CBS ratings when they appeared. The company had bled money throughout its entire existence (ask former employees about the dragon head), and when last-minute replacement Seth Petruzelli TKO’ed Slice in 14 seconds on the October 4th, it was the beginning of the end for the promotion.

The MMA Shot Heard 'Round the World. . . at the time.

Two days after the fight, Petruzelli was on a radio show and made comments that insinuated that EliteXC promoters offered him extra financial incentive to keep the fight a stand-up striking match, playing to Slice’s advantages. Petruzelli later clarified his comments to minimize any controversy of foul play, but by that point, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation decided to investigate the matter.

EliteXC was close to a deal with CBS to sell the promotion to the network, but the investigation was enough to scare the network into withdrawing. Left with no immediate alternatives, ProElite, EliteXC’s parent company, released almost all its employees and began offering its assets, including fighter contracts and its Showtime TV deal. Strikeforce picked up the TV deal and several fighter contracts, including Diaz, Carano, Shields, and Noons. Diaz and Shields went on to win the Strikeforce welterweight and middleweight titles, respectively. Carano fought Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos for the Strikeforce women’s middleweight title, suffering her first MMA defeat.

Ironically, Slice ended up with the UFC and proved to be a major ratings magnet for the tenth season of their Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike TV. Slice lost in the preliminary round of the show’s tournament and went 1-1 in the UFC before being released.

Good night, and Good Luck

Although White specifies that they will honor all active Strikeforce contracts, there’s little question in most people’s minds that it’s a matter of time before the talent is absorbed into the UFC rosters and Strikeforce as a brand and fight promotion is dissolved. And that’s not an unreasonable expectation, as there is no logical reason for the UFC to maintain another brand. Strikeforce as a brand was never distinct enough that the UFC would  have any reason to keep it separate, and as White has stated time and again the company’s goals to be the sole brand of MMA in the world, there’s no reason to think they’d change course here.

And while some may point to Bellator Fighting Fighting Championships, with their MTV2 TV deal and names like ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough, Hector Lombard, Zoila Frausto, Eddie Alvarez, and Ben Askren on their roster, their only shot would be if their financiers are deep pocket, long-term investors, MTV2 ratings soar through the roof such that they could parlay that onto HBO or NBC, and their entire roster develops an Ortiz / Couture / St-Pierre-caliber charisma. Going out on a limb, I predict none of that will prove to be the case, and even so, in the public’s eyes, the ship for first place has sailed, and Zuffa is at the helm.

Your winner, by submission, the UFC.

“UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann” and “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson” Results & Recap

Posted in Strikeforce, TV Reports, UFC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by jaytan716

Photo Credits: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images (UFC); Esther Lin (Strikeforce)

This weekend, MMA fans were treated to live events from the UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator (debuting on its new MTV2 broadcast home).

Diego Sanchez (left) and Martin Kampmann fought to a controverisal unanimous decision.

The UFC’s third Versus event only accentuated the judging and scoring issues that came out of the BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch match at UFC 127 several days earlier. In the Versus 3 main event, the rebooted Diego ‘The Dream’ Sanchez beat Martin ‘The Hitman’ Kampmann by unanimous decision, off scores of 29-28 across the board. This was Sanchez’ return to the welterweight division.

The fight was a thrilling three-round slugfest which served as a case study in how a close striking match is judged, particularly as it regards otherwise-tiebreaker criteria, such as takedown attempts and overall damage.

The repackaged and rededicated Sanchez, who moved back to Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, NM and went so far to wash the negative demons out of his life that he flipped his nickname from ‘The Nightmare’ to ‘The Dream,’ is still a very intense and angry-looking young man. During the match itself, Sanchez kept shooting in for takedowns, but was unsuccessful in 12 attempts going into the third round. Kampmann attempted none thoughout the whole match.

The striking was closely-debated. Kampmann bloodied Sanchez in the first round, and made that nasty cut worse in the second. In the second, Sanchez stunned Kampmann, who wobbled on his feet, but never hit the floor. Sanchez opened Kampmann up in the third, but not to the same extent as the visual damage Sanchez took thoughout the whole match.

For me, the argument came down to a Kampmann’s striking accuracy and damage vs. Sanchez’ overwhelming onslaught of punches in bunches, which were fast and powerful, but didn’t do as much visual damage.

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Sanchez. Most likely they gave Kampmann the first and Sanchez the second and third, though after the fight, fans, media, and experts alike continued to debate who won which round.

Sanchez vs. Kampmann highlights

In other action that night, Mark Munoz continued to build his stock in the middleweight division with a 54-second knockout of C.B. Dollaway, the teammate of Aaron Simpson, whom Munoz beat at UFC 123 last November. At 10-2, Munoz is not quite in the title picture yet, and if Anderson Silva is still the Chairman of the Board if / when Munoz does become a top contender, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Munoz and Silva are close training partners at Black House MMA. Manager Ed Soares has told me in the past that they wouldn’t prevent teammates from challenging teammates for titles. Munoz will likely need to test his meddle against strikers, or revisit his loss to Yushin Okami, but for now, the ‘Philippine Wrecking Machine’ (I think the original version of Munoz’ nickname) continues to show-and-prove.

UFC on Versus: Mark Munoz post-fight interview

Also at middleweight, UFC fans also were introduced to Chris Weidman, an undefeated young prospect out of Matt Serra and Ray Longo’s camp. Weidman, an NCAA All-American from New York’s Hofstra University, made his UFC debut with only four pro matches under his belt, bloodying up veteran Alessio Sakara in dominant fashion. Weidman had problems sticking takedowns early, charging in several times and missing at least three legitimate takedown shots, but he found his distance in round two and three, taking Sakara to the mat and painting a crimson mask on the man they call ‘Legionarius.’

UFC on Versus: Chris Weidman post-fight interview

Moreover, fans were treated to two swing bouts, Todd Brown vs. Igor Pokrajac and Shane Roller vs. Thiago Tavares, used to fill the Versus time slot. In that latter match, I think I expected to see a three-round kickboxing match that would showcase unexpected striking skills from Roller, ala Frankie Edgar x Sean Sherk from UFC 98. Perhaps Roller isn’t totally polished with his fists, reaching from afar and charging straight in, but he caught Tavares in the second with an overhand right that earned the KO finish.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann:

265 lbs. – Todd Brown x Igor Pokrajac
Prediction:
Pokrajac via TKO (round one)
Result: Pokrajac via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Dongi Yang x Rob Kimmons
Prediction: Kimmons by submission (round two)
Result: Yang via TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Takeya Mizugaki x Reuben Duran
Prediction:
Mizugaki via unanimous decision
Result: Mizugaki via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Shane Roller x Thiago Tavares
Prediction:
Roller via split decision
Result: Roller via KO (round two)

185 lbs. – Cyrille Diabate x Steve Cantwell
Prediction:
Diabate via submission (round two)
Result: Diabate via unanimous decision.

155 lbs. – Danny Castillo x Joe Stevenson
Prediction:
Castillo via TKO (round one) or Stevenson via decision
Result: Castillo via unanimous decision.

145 lbs. – Brian Bowles x Damacio Page
Prediction:
Page via unanimous decision
Result: Bowles via submission.

185 lbs. – Alessio Sakara x Chris Weidman
Prediction:
Sakara via TKO (round one)
Result: Weidman via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – CB Dolloway x Mark Munoz
Prediction:
Munoz via TKO or unanimous decision
Result: Munoz via TKO

170 lbs. – Diego Sanchez x Martin Kampmann
Prediction:
Sanchez via TKO (round three)
Result: Sanchez via unanimous decision

Dan 'Hendo' Henderson captured the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title from Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante with a second round KO.

Two nights later, Strikeforce continued its streak of outdoing itself with a night of exciting finishes and developing personalities. The past two events were the opening rounds of the promotion’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament followed by a Strikeforce Challengers events that featured Ryan Couture, the return of Carlo Prater, and an exciting main event of Lee Healy x Lyle Beerbohm.  The ratings for Feijao vs. Henderson will indicate how much traction the previous events offered for tonight, as well as how much this event might provide for Strikeforce’s next event (April 9th, headlined by Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley for the welterweight title), but for those who are looking for action and willing to give the Showtime product a chance, they’d do themselves right by catching the replays, starting on March 8th.

Previously, I said that this was a one-man show, with Henderson as the only star in casual fans’ eyes. Going into the event, that’s not an unreasonable assessment, but in retrospect, Strikeforce middleweight Tim Kennedy, women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen, and her challenger Liz ‘G-Rilla’ Carmouche gave dramatic in-cage performances and came across on the mic as fighters worth fans remembering and supporting.

In particular, Carmouche dominated Coenen for at least half the match, making the champ’s come-from-behind finish in round four one of Strikeforce’s best ‘Oh Shit’ moments of 2011, if not the promotion’s whole title history. Like Griffin-Bonnar I was for the UFC (not that I’m comparing the two matches directly), Strikeforce needs these moments to stick in casual fans’ minds and they need them to involve fighters other than the ones the public already knows.

Liz Carmouche post-fight press conference comments:

Marloes Coenen post-fight press conference comments:

Likewise, Kennedy had his hands full with Melvin Manhoef, an unforgettable swift-striking Dutch kickboxer whose walkout is as frenetic and exciting as his matches. Kennedy, a U.S. Army Green Beret with multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is respectable, affable, and admirable, though he’s not stuck in most peoples’ minds as much more than ‘the army guy.’ Having defeated a memorable and accomplished fighter like Manhoef, Kennedy may have turned the corner in fans’ awareness, giving Strikeforce a homegrown star around which they can build.

In his post-fight interview, Kennedy said: “Let’s hear it for the troops, you guys. We’re talking about people overseas that are watching these fights right now. You give me a little bit more time in here; I’ll be back in uniform doing the most important job in the whole world. That’s protecting your freedoms.”

What MMA fans aren’t going to get behind that?

Tim Kennedy post-fight press conference comments:

Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson was promoted in conjunction with The Arnold Sports Festival, an annual fitness and sports expo held in Columbus, OH. The UFC held similar events in 2007-2009, abandoning it in 2010. With Coker & Company taking the unofficial slot, they of course had booth presence at the event. And who should show up to make an appearance other than Arnold himself, MMA’s number one fan.

Uh-huh. Looks like the ex-Governator’s abilities haven’t changed a bit.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson:

170 lbs. – J.P. Felty x John Kuhner
Prediction:
Felty via TKO (round one)
Result: Kuhner via submission (round two)

185 lbs. – Marc Cofer x Mitch Whitesel
Prediction:
Whitesel via TKO (round one)
Result: Whitesel via submission (round one)

185 lbs. – Ian Rammel x Brian Rogers
Prediction:
Rogers via TKO (round one)
Result: Rogers via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Jason Riley vs. Jason “Jay” Freeman
Prediction:
Riley via TKO (round one)
Result: Freeman via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Jorge Gurgel vs. Tyler Combs
Prediction:
Gurgel via submission (round three) or decision
Result: Gurgel via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Roger Bowling vs. Josh Thornburg
Prediction:
Bowling via unanimous decision
Result: Bowling via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Billy Evangelista vs. Jorge Masvidal
Prediction:
Evangelista via unanimous decision
Result: Masvidal via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef
Prediction:
Kennedy via submission (round one or two)
Result: Kennedy via submission (round one)

135 lbs. Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Title – Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche
Prediction:
Coenen via submission (round two)
Result: Coenan via submission (round four)

205 lbs. Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title – Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson
Prediction:
Cavalcante via TKO (round two)
Result: Henderson via TKO (round three)

The Finish

For me, both shows delivered in quality of matches. By all accounts, UFC on Versus 3 offered a competitive main event that had fans and experts debating the finish, and the show itself continued to build new faces for the future. Between the free prelim matches on Facebook and fitting in two swing bouts (untelevised matches that end up airing to fill up the broadcast time), fans benefit because they get early exposure to young fighters who are climbing the ranks, and fighters benefit because they can receive extra sponsorship money due to their matches make it to TV. Moreover, fighters are going to perform even better on the undercard because of the incentive to “earn” their fight onto a telecast.

Showtime would do themselves, Strikeforce, and those same fans and fighters a world of good by airing swing bouts after the main event for those very same reasons. Moreover, those swing bouts would theoretically lead to better establishing those same fighters for their Showtime Challengers series.

All that said, Strikeforce over-delivered. I was afraid that, with anything less than several great battles, Feijao vs. Henderson would get lost in the shuffle between the Grand Prix opening rounds and the next Nick Diaz fight. However, I think the event took great strides in building future stars like Kennedy and Coenan, and even Carmouche. Likewise, as the champion most likely (since 2008) to successfully defend the light heavyweight title, Henderson can give both Strikeforce and the 205 lb. weight class the credibility it needs to be taken seriously.

Dan Henderson post-fight press conference comments:

UFC 127 Results and Recap

Posted in TV Reports, UFC on February 27, 2011 by jaytan716

“Expect impressive performances from Lytle, Sotiropoulos, and Penn.”

None of these men won, and though at least one match was close and compelling, UFC 127 was a show where the deck was reshuffled yet again, leaving Joe Silva, Dana White, and the Fertitta Brothers with some interesting promotional choices to make.

My own rule of thumb is that when you have a lower-profile lineup, such as no title matches, proven pay-per-view stars (BJ Penn aside), or long-brewing beefs (the Rivera-Bisping thing didn’t have any history prior to their match), shows such as UFC 127 reveal future contenders and personalities to build around for bigger shows later down the road. As such, what was already a mixed bag was shaken up even more with interesting results.

U.S.-transplant Brian Ebersole shocked fans with his unconventional yet effective fighting style. Ultimate Fighter season nine winner Ross Pearson decisively handled UFC veteran Spencer Fisher. Dennis Siver thwarted plans for George Sotiropoulos, who was earmarked as a potentially strong lightweight title contender and Zuffa’s Great Australian Hope. And though he didn’t win, Jon Fitch renewed his title contender’s card with his performance against what seemed to be “the serious BJ Penn.”

The two big controversies emerging from UFC 127 are in part the outcomes of the last two matches, but also where the respective stars of those matches go from there. BJ Penn was clearly disappointed in his performance, and though he didn’t make any retirement announcements, he did allude to questioning what the next chapter to his fight career will look like.

Before most BJ Penn matches, the proverbial question is always “which BJ will show up to fight?” Conventionally, it’s either the amazing grappler with hard, fast hands that earned his ‘Prodigy’ nickname, or the unmotivated daydreamer who looks like he’d rather be anywhere than an octagon cage. In this case, it felt like we saw the Prodigy, but that he simply couldn’t seal the deal like he could against guys like Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. Time eventually catches up with all fighters at some point, and when it catches them off guard (as it seemed with Fedor two weeks ago), their kneejerk reaction is to court retirement.

Shortly after the press conference, Penn told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani “everything runs through your head at certain times and your mind changes from time to time. I still don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

In the week leading up to the fight, fans and media really picked up on the heat between Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera, the latter of whose series of YouTube videos clearly got under the Englishman’s skin. Such that Bisping’s worst side came out with his behavior during the match (grabbing the cage, blatant illegal knee) and afterwards (spitting at Rivera’s corner).

Post-fight trash talking and obscene gestures, which Bisping also partook in tonight, don’t do any truly measurable harm. Neither Josh Koscheck nor Brock Lesnar were fined or suspended for their post-fight behavior. And the referee deducted a point off  Bisping for the illegal knee to Rivera, so it’s not like there wasn’t punishment (given Bisping’s distance from Rivera, line of sight, and knowledge of the rules, disqualification would have been fully justified). But as a veteran of 14 UFC fights, regardless of the videos or his penchant for emotion, Bisping was far out of line. He did apologize in his post-fight interview and again at the press conference later that night. Not that I expect it to happen, but it wouldn’t be improper for UFC brass to invoke further disciplinary action against the Count, because otherwise the bar for acceptable behavior will drop to “as long as you apologize for it afterwards.”

Upon hearing that Rivera’s camp believed the knee to be intentional, and that they believed Bisping should be suspended, he said in reaction “Doesn’t surprise me, really. Just one classless move after another, I suppose.” Indeed, Michael. Indeed.

http://www.ufc.com/media/ufc-127-post-fight-pc-archive

As for the matches, few of them played out as I expected, which shows what a wonderful crapshoot this sport can be. Despite my prediction, I thought Fukuda’s takedowns were enough that he definitely won the third and likely the second, if not the first as well. He didn’t accomplish much with the takedowns from the first and second, and the stand-up fight was close. According to the Wrestling Observer / Figure Four Online website, all three judges scored the bout 29-28, giving Ring the first and second, which would indicate they saw Ring’s striking overshadowed Fukuda’s takedowns, which isn’t an illogical argument. If Fukuda had advanced position off the takedowns in the first and second rounds, he likely would have taken at least one round and tipped the scales for his own 29-28 win.

After years of North American MMA exile, Brian Ebersole clearly embraced and made the most out of his last-minute opportunity to fight in the UFC, landing a fantastic knee in the second that seemed to take Chris Lytle out of the rest of the match. And speaking of knees, though Bisping was close to winning the striking game in his match, that knee to Rivera’s head certainly helped set the stage for round two.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC 127:

145 lbs. – Jason Reinhardt vs. Tiequan Zhang
Prediction:
Zhang via submission (round one)
Result: Zhang via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Anthony Perosh vs. Tom Blackledge
Prediction:
Perosh via TKO / KO (round one)
Result: Perosh via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Curt Warburton vs. Maciej Jewtuszko
Prediction:
Jewtuszko via TKO (round two)
Result: Warburton via unanimous decision

265 lbs. – Mark Hunt vs. Chris Tuchscherer
Prediction:
Tuchscherer by submission (round one)
Result: Hunt via TKO (round two)

185 lbs. – Nick Ring vs. Riki Fukuda
Prediction:
Ring via submission (round two or three) or decision.
Result: Ring via unanimous decision

205 lbs. – Alexander Gustafsson x James Te-Huna
Prediction:
Gustafsson via submission (round two) or decision.
Result: Gustafsson via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Spencer Fisher vs. Ross Pearson
Prediction: Fisher by decision
Result: Pearson via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Chris Camozzi vs. Kyle Noke
Prediction: Noke via submission (round three)
Result: Noke via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Brian Ebersole vs. Chris Lytle
Prediction:
Lytle by submission (round one)
Result: Ebersole via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver
Prediction:
Sotiropoulos by submission (round two)
Result: Siver via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera
Prediction:
Rivera by (round three) TKO or Bisping by decision
Result: Bisping via TKO (round two)

170 lbs. – BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch
Prediction:
Penn by submission (round two) or unanimous decision
Result: Majority Draw (two judges draw, one judge 29-28 Fitch

The Finish

As a matchmaker myself, I should empathize when a promoter’s marketing darlings lose and their long-term plans go awry. In this case, an otherwise lackluster card was made interesting by some intriguing yet indecisive finishes. I don’t feel this show revealed much for the future, beyond a potentially entertaining mid-card welterweight in Brian Ebersole, Michael Bisping as a certified heel, and Fitch as the top non-finishing contender. But thankfully, we’ve only got several days before Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann can wash away the stop-gap feel of UFC 127.

UFC 127 Predictions

Posted in Predictions, UFC on February 22, 2011 by jaytan716

With talk of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix and Fedor Emelianenko’s second loss cooling down for a moment, focus shifts back again to the House of Zuffa, as UFC 127 takes place on Saturday, February 27th, from Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.

This event doesn’t feature any title fights, but with BJ Penn (returning to the welterweight division) vs. Jon Fitch in a #1 contender’s match, in addition to key bouts for lightweight George Sotiropoulos and middleweight Michael Bisping, UFC 127 is more about establishing potential title challengers for events later down the road. None of these men have bombastic personalities, so a solid finish (as opposed to a decision) from Fitch, Sotiropoulos, and Bisping would do wonders for breaking them into that upper echelon of fighters who register on the casual fan’s radar.

In Fitch’s 2008 challenge for Georges St-Pierre’s UFC welterweight title, he was portrayed as an up-from-bootstraps fighter whose Spartan training and lifestyle was enough to push GSP to the limit. Legend was that Fitch, in order to save money for training, would forego buying napkins and wipe his hands on his dog (which I always found ironic, since it theoretically would be more expensive to own a dog than napkins). To be sure, Fitch is relentless in the cage, but few see him at the same level as Penn, a multi-time former world champion who, when motivated, can blow through competition.

Jon Fitch Interview:

BJ Penn Interview:

As an Aussie fighting in his homeland, George Sotiropoulos is positioned to get over big with TV audiences. His win streak dates back to late-2006, and though his matches over Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino went to decision, both were back-and-forth ground scraps in which Sotiropoulos surprised critics and fans with his grappling control. A strong performance in front of his countrymen could give Zuffa prime highlight reel footage to help build Sotiropoulos for a lightweight title shot later this year.

The only semblance of a grudge match on this show is Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera. Bisping is a heel in many fans eyes due to his fan-unfriendly jab-and-evade fighting style as well as his unapologetic confidence (which, to be fair every fighter should have). And that British accent doesn’t help his attempts at humility.

Rivera, himself a veteran journeyman fighter (until securing a UFC contract in the wake of season four of TUF), teamed up with his sponsor Ranger Up and produced a series of silly videos to help build up the fight, of course at Bisping’s expense. Indeed, though the bout itself is a dark horse for anticipation, the videos are entertaining enough to make people sit up and pay attention to how Bisping will respond in the cage to them.

Jorge Rivera and Ranger Up having some fun hyping the match:

A Tale of Count Bisping:

Michael Bisping’s Power Punch Record:

The first two prelim fights (Reinhardt vs. Zhang and Perosh vs. Blackledge) will be broadcast on UFC’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/UFC)

Here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s card:

145 lbs. – Jason Reinhardt vs. Tiequan Zhang: Zhang is Zuffa’s Great Chinese Hope for company expansion into that part of the world. He was undefeated until facing Danny Downes at WEC 53, who took him to decision. A lack of cardio on Zhang’s part played a big factor in that match. Reinhardt is a 10-year, 21-match veteran, with his single loss, a submission to Joe Lauzon, as his only time on the big stage. This will be Reinhardt’s first match back in over three years. Assuming Zhang has fixed his conditioning issues, ring rust will likely play a significant factor here.

Prediction: Zhang via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Anthony Perosh vs. Tom Blackledge: After a career as a heavyweight, Wolfslair’s Tom Blackledge makes his delayed debut in the UFC and at light heavyweight. This will likewise be Perosh’s first fight at 205, though he fought in the Octagon twice in 2006, going 0-2 for his efforts. Blackledge hasn’t fought since mid-2009, whereas Perosh fought four times in 2009 and once in 2010 as a last minute replacement against Mirko Cro Cop, of all people, before undergoing knee surgery. Since his previous UFC stint, Perrosh is 4-3, mostly KO / TKO finishes. Blackledge has never gone the distance, and in fact hasn’t been out of the first round since 2003. Given that, expect this to be a swift and sloppy slobberknocker.

Prediction: Perrosh via TKO / KO (round one)

155 lbs. – Curt Warburton vs. Maciej Jewtuszko: Jewtuszko will make his UFC debut with this match, but is undefeated with a first round TKO win over Anthony Njokuani, who many thought was the Second Coming, at WEC 50. He’s highly-ranked in his home country of Poland, with Dutch Muay Thai experience and a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. Warburton hails from London’s Wolfslair team, home to fellow UFC fighters Ross Pearson and Tom Blackledge (who, not ironically, are also on this card).

Prediction: Jewtuszko via TKO (round two)

265 lbs. – Mark Hunt vs. Chris Tuchscherer: Hunt is a former kickboxing star best known in MMA for beating Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop in back-to-back decision wins. He won the K-1 Grand Prix in 2001, and was once known for having a granite chin. However, he’s lost his last six matches, all by first round submission, except one KO loss to Melvin Manhoef at K-1’s Dynamite 2008 show. Tuchscherer has been around the sport since the mid-2000’s and boasts an impressive 21-3 record, but two of those losses are recent TKOs that came at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga and Brendan Schaub. ‘Crowbar,’ as he’s known to friends and fans, is also one of Brock Lesnar’s training partners, which gives him the advantage in training for takedowns and ground work, a key to defeating Hunt.

Prediction: Tuchscherer by submission (round one)

185 lbs. – Nick Ring vs. Riki Fukuda: Ring is an undefeated kickboxer-turned-MMA-fighter from Canada. He was the blue chip prospect in season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, but was forced to withdraw early due to a nagging knee injury. For this fight, he’s reportedly training with Firas Zahabi’s Tristar Gym in Montreal with Georges St-Pierre. Fukuda is a journeyman wrestler and fighter who will be making his UFC debut, but he has wins in EliteXC, DREAM, and a longstanding tenure in the Japanese DEEP promotion, where he is the reigning middleweight champion. This will be Ring’s toughest challenge to date. Given the talent in his training camp, as long as his knee doesn’t cause problems, I expect Ring to rise to the occasion.

Prediction: Ring via submission (round two or three) or decision

205 lbs. – Alexander Gustafsson x James Te-Huna: Gustafsson is a striker with an underrated ground game that he developed with Phil Davis and Alliance MMA in San Diego. Te-Huna, the first New Zealander to enter the modern-era UFC, finished his last five opponents with strikes, including a first-round KO of Anthony Perosh. Gustafsson will have the reach to stand and bang with Te-Huna, or, like with Cyrille Diabate, he could take the Maori out of his element by grounding the fight and going for the submission. Look for Te-Huna to focus on avoiding that latter part.

Prediction: Gustafsson via submission (round two) or decision

155 lbs. – Spencer Fisher vs. Ross Pearson: Pearson is the lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom (season nine). Since winning the tournament and show, Pearson is 2-1, with a TKO over Aaron Riley, a decision over Dennis Siver, and a submission loss to respected brown belt Cole Miller. Fisher is eight years older and a UFC veteran, going back to a submission win over Thiago Alves in 2005. He’s 10-5 in the UFC, with a decision loss to Siver and decision win over Curt Warburton (who, as Pearson’s teammate, is surely offering firsthand insight). Both have some hard-fought grind-out victories, as I expect this one to end up.

Prediction: Fisher by decision

185 lbs. – Chris Camozzi vs. Kyle Noke: This match will revisit season 11 (Koscheck vs. GSP) of The Ultimate Fighter, as Camozzi and Noke were on opposing teams then. Camozzi had to withdraw from the house due to a broken jaw, but since then, he’s earned decision wins over James Hammortree and Dongyi Yang. Though Noke is six years older and four years the senior to Camozzi in MMA years, their fight records are quite comparable (Noke’s 18-4-1 to Camozzi’s 14-3). Of their UFC tenures, Noke has faced more experienced competition, and has two wins by finish to show for it. With the fight based in Australia, Noke will have the hometown advantage. It’s not the biggest factor in an MMA fight, but for as much as fighters love to perform in their hometowns, for a non-US fighter, it can be that much more a motivator.

Prediction: Noke via submission (round three)

170 lbs. – Brian Ebersole vs. Chris Lytle: Lytle was originally scheduled to face Carlos Condit, until the Natural Born Killer was forced to withdraw due to injury. Like Lytle, Ebersole is a veteran journeyman of the sport, having fought for promotions of all sizes throughout the world and boasting 46 wins out of 61 matches. However, this will be Ebersole’s first time in a UFC cage, where Lytle has hung with the toughest since 2006. That said, Ebersole will be the default ‘hometown hero,’ as he made Australia home after his Shannon Ritch match in 2006 which the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) believed to be a work (fake match). Despite a win last year against Carlos Newton, Ebersole hasn’t seen the level of competition that Lytle has in the past few years, and that, moreso than any ‘UFC jitters’ could be the bigger factor in this match.

Prediction: Lytle by submission (round one)

155 lbs. – George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver: Sotiropoulos is on an eight-fight win streak since 2007, or an 11-fight streak since 2005 if you don’t include a DQ for groin strikes on Shinya Aoki between those years. He’s a 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu brown belt who outwrestled Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino (both former wrestlers with traditional jiu-jitsu black belts), then submitted Joe Lauzon. Siver is a German kickboxing champion who made his name known in the European MMA community before being invited to the UFC in 2007. He went 1-3 in his first run, and has gone 6-1 since his return in 2009. But Sotiropoulos has dispatched tougher competition during those years, and stands to win this contest.

Prediction: Sotiropoulos by submission (round two)

Jorge Rivera Interview:

Recent Michael Bisping video:

185 lbs. – Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera: This match pits two guys who like to trade leather, which leads me to suspect that we might see a surprising ground strategy out of one of them, particularly Bisping. His circular stick-and-move style helped him outfox Chris Leben, Dan Miller, and Yoshihiro Akiyama, but at UFC 100, Dan Henderson proved that he can be caught. Moreover, at this point, his movement is so documented that reinvention or some new tricks are a must. To that end, Rivera, who is coming off TKO wins over Nate Quarry and Rob Kimmons, will have to have a game plan for catching the elusive Count. Should they stand and bang, however, both men will be thinking about Rivera’s right hand. Rights from Henderson and Wanderlei Silva, respectively, gave Bisping problems, and Rivera’s

Prediction: Rivera by (round three) TKO or Bisping by decision

170 lbs. – BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch: Previously, I would have said that it’s almost impossible to tell which BJ Penn is going to show up (the guy that terrorized Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez or the guy that lost to Frankie Edgar). But in retrospect, Penn thrives on a challenge, one reason why fans love him, and though 170 isn’t unfamiliar territory for him, the bump up in weight is the hook behind this match, and I’d be hard-pressed to envision that he won’t come focused. That said, a win here would revitalize Fitch’s career past his previous highwater mark. BJ’s shown weakness against wrestlers who can keep him down (Edgar, St-Pierre), but he’s also reportedly brought Matt Hughes in to improve his takedown defense. This being public knowledge, does Fitch have a counter-counter strategy? Presuming the Prodigy shows up, I’d expect him to break Fitch’s decision streak. If he doesn’t, we’re in for a long, grinding night.

Prediction: Penn by submission (round two) or unanimous decision

The Finish

Aside from seeing whether Penn can return to his dominant ways, there isn’t much for casual American audiences. Most of these fighters hail from Europe or Down Under, but given that hungry, aspiring fighters often ‘bring it’ when given the opportunity, we could see some pretty entertaining performances. This is the time for Tiequan Zhang, Nick Ring, Kyle Noke, and Chris Tuchscherer to impress UFC brass. Expect fireworks from Perosh x Blackledge and impressive performances from Lytle, Sotiropoulos, and Penn, and a flash finish in Bisping vs. Rivera.