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.

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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 Recap & Results

Posted in TV Reports, UFC on March 21, 2011 by jaytan716

There aren’t a lot of high-profile notes to come out of UFC 128, but the one angle that fans and the fight community will be talking about for the next few months, Jon Jones’ winning the UFC light heavyweight title from Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and the ramifications of Jones’ first title defense, is as layered and complicated as if Quentin Tarantino wrote a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

With Jones, a member of Greg Jackson’s MMA team in Albuquerque, NM, now the 205 lb. champion, he is scheduled to face ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans in his first UFC title defense. Evans is / was a friend and teammate of Jones at Jackson’s (see related videos below), and has seniority both in terms of team membership as well as title ownership (Evans won the light heavyweight championship from Forrest Griffin at UFC 92). Evans did say to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that he would be leaving Jackson’s in order to prepare for his challenge against Jones, though Jackson noted that some things said in the heat of the moment don’t always stand the test of time.

Ariel Helwani (MMAFighting.com) interviews Rashad Evans here:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/rashad-evans-ufc-128-post-fight-interview/841794798001

Ariel Helwani (MMAFighting.com) interviews Greg Jackson here:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/greg-jackson-ufc-128-post-fight-interview/841876053001

Needless to say, the ‘training triangle’ storyline has its characters. Evans was the heel in the build-up for his match against Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson, largely by default, as Rampage was too comedic and fun-loving to hate. Ironically, Evans was also the perennial underdog throughout his rise to the top.

Jones is a fresh face, a young wunderkind fighter, and all-around nice boy, accentuated by his infamous crime-stopping incident in the hours before the fight. If you haven’t already heard the story, here’s the play-by-play by Jones himself:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/jon-jones-ufc-128-press-conference/841977182001

With all these roles (which fans will force on Jones and Evans anyway) played right, coupled with the mixed emotions of team allegiance, friendship, and proving oneself the best in the world, Jones-Evans could end up being a more powerful ‘storylines-to-Fight-Night’ than even Evans-Jackson (which was one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view events of all-time). Where does Evans go to train? Do fans cast him as the heel (my guess is yes), and how does that affect him? Does Greg Jackson truly stay out of this match, and what will all fight teams take away from this experience of having teammates square off for not just a championship, but ‘The Championship?’

Jones-Evans also points to a developing issue regarding fighters’ careers and team allegiances. As fights get more competitive, fighters seek out higher-level training partners in the same weight classes, some of whom are in the same promotion and perhaps on track for title shots. As gyms / team gather more high-level fighters and form larger teams, the more competitive, reputable schools grow bigger and the smaller ones fall off. Moreover, teammate vs. teammate crossroads become more frequent.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen, and in fact not even the first time Jackson’s MMA has faced it. In late 2007, then-welterweight Diego Sanchez left the team and relocated to San Diego, CA after reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre joined the Jackson team. In several interviews, Sanchez noted in several interviews that part of his motivation was that St-Pierre’s addition both came at the detriment of Sanchez’ training, and also was forced encouragement for Sanchez to drop down to lightweight (155 lbs.).

Likewise, when Tito Ortiz was the UFC light heavyweight champ and Chuck Liddell’s star was on the rise, Ortiz claimed that they had an agreement that they’d never fight each other for the title. Liddell always denied that such an agreement ever existed.

Team alliances in a one-on-one sport like boxing or MMA are difficult. The team benefits financially from its fighters winning championships, but teammates don’t directly benefit from each others’ victories. For fighters at any level, whether the Jones-Evans-St-Pierre-Sanchez stratus or among the young aspiring fighters who take their team and training environment seriously, it’s a choice that everyone makes at some point. Some will forego their Big Shot and some will eschew team alliances for the opportunity for their own individual success. Both choices are right.

There’s little else to note about UFC 128. Brendan Schaub, a former AFL and NFL football player who transitioned into MMA via season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, defeated aging legend Mirko Cro Cop with a third round TKO. Cro Cop is 3-3 since his return to the UFC, not wholly embarrassing, but certainly not the record for which he’d want to be known. The bigger and more relevant knock is that his unbeatable aura is very much a thing of the past. Combined with what is surely a hefty price tag, this is likely Cro Cop’s last hurrah in the UFC (at least for the time being). For Schaub, it continues to build his name as a future title contender.

Urijah Faber defeated Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision, which is a win that needed to happen for the UFC’s plans with Faber to go forward. The promotion is greatly behind Faber’s star potential, and understandably so. The guy is a tremendous athlete with an easygoing, polite charm and poster boy good looks. His was the only name that popped WEC ratings on the Versus network, and he was a great straight-man to Kenny Fucking Powers in the K-Swiss Tubes commercials. Moreover, there’s been talk of Faber and UFC 135 lb. champion Dominick Cruz coaching season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (though Dana White denied that to Ariel Helwani in their post-fight interview). Had Wineland won, Cruz vs. Wineland would have been a tougher season to promote.


However, Faber didn’t look dominant in this match, having difficulty landing takedowns and, for much of the match, being stuck in Wineland’s clinch. Watching the match, part of me truly wondered if Faber hasn’t already hit his athletic prime. He’s been fighting since 2003, and went on a 13-fight win streak from 2005 to 2008, with only one of those victories going to decision (his one-sided domination of Jens Pulver at WEC 34). Streaks like that aren’t typically repeatable, and although the Wineland match marked his second win at 135 lbs., I question whether we’ll see Faber’s MMA career dominance coincide with his newfound exposure as an official UFC star.

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

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch:
Prediction: Assuncao via decision
Result: Koch via KO (round one)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone:
Prediction: Catone via TKO (round one)
Result: Catone via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland:
Prediction: Benavidez via submission (round two)
Result: Benavidez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau:
Prediction: Pellegrino via unanimous decision
Result: Tibau via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida:
Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)
Result: Pyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) though apparently scores were 29-28 across the board

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.:
Prediction: Barboza via KO (round two)
Result: Barboza via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane:
Prediction: Marshall via decision
Result: Cane via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop:
Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)
Result: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller:
Prediction: Marquardt by TKO (round one)
Result: Marquardt via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller:
Prediction: Shalorus via unanimous decision
Result: Miller via TKO (round three)

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland:
Prediction: Faber via submission (round one or two)
Result: Faber via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones:
Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)
Result: Jones via TKO (round three)

The Finish

Not every UFC event is going to be remembered as one for the ages. If anything, UFC 128 will be marked as the night when an amazing young talent got his chance to reign supreme and start his path to potential crossover superstardom. Of course, in fighting his friend, Jon Jones first challenge will be a personal and physical test.

UFC 128 Recap & Results

Posted in Results & Recap, UFC on March 21, 2011 by jaytan716

There aren’t a lot of high-profile notes to come out of UFC 128, but the one angle that fans and the fight community will be talking about for the next few months, Jon Jones’ winning the UFC light heavyweight title from Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and the ramifications of Jones’ first title defense, is as layered and complicated as if Quentin Tarantino wrote a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

With Jones, a member of Greg Jackson’s MMA team in Albuquerque, NM, now the 205 lb. champion, he is scheduled to face ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans in his first UFC title defense. Evans is / was a friend and teammate of Jones at Jackson’s (see related videos below), and has seniority both in terms of team membership as well as title ownership (Evans won the light heavyweight championship from Forrest Griffin at UFC 92). Evans did say to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that he would be leaving Jackson’s in order to prepare for his challenge against Jones, though Jackson noted that some things said in the heat of the moment don’t always stand the test of time.

Needless to say, the ‘training triangle’ storyline has its characters. Evans was the heel in the build-up for his match against Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson, largely by default, as Rampage was too comedic and fun-loving to hate. Ironically, Evans was also the perennial underdog throughout his rise to the top.

Jones is a fresh face, a young wunderkind fighter, and all-around nice boy, accentuated by his infamous crime-stopping incident in the hours before the fight. If you haven’t already heard the story, here’s the play-by-play by Jones himself:

With all these roles (which fans will force on Jones and Evans anyway) played right, coupled with the mixed emotions of team allegiance, friendship, and proving oneself the best in the world, Jones-Evans could end up being a more powerful ‘storylines-to-Fight-Night’ than even Evans-Jackson (which was one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view events of all-time). Where does Evans go to train? Do fans cast him as the heel (my guess is yes), and how does that affect him? Does Greg Jackson truly stay out of this match, and what will all fight teams take away from this experience of having teammates square off for not just a championship, but ‘The Championship?’

Jones-Evans also points to a developing issue regarding fighters’ careers and team allegiances. As fights get more competitive, fighters seek out higher-level training partners in the same weight classes, some of whom are in the same promotion and perhaps on track for title shots. As gyms / team gather more high-level fighters and form larger teams, the more competitive, reputable schools grow bigger and the smaller ones fall off. Moreover, teammate vs. teammate crossroads become more frequent.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen, and in fact not even the first time Jackson’s MMA has faced it. In late 2007, then-welterweight Diego Sanchez left the team and relocated to San Diego, CA after reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre joined the Jackson team. In several interviews, Sanchez noted in several interviews that part of his motivation was that St-Pierre’s addition both came at the detriment of Sanchez’ training, and also was forced encouragement for Sanchez to drop down to lightweight (155 lbs.).

Likewise, when Tito Ortiz was the UFC light heavyweight champ and Chuck Liddell’s star was on the rise, Ortiz claimed that they had an agreement that they’d never fight each other for the title. Liddell always denied that such an agreement ever existed.

Team alliances in a one-on-one sport like boxing or MMA are difficult. The team benefits financially from its fighters winning championships, but teammates don’t directly benefit from each others’ victories. For fighters at any level, whether the Jones-Evans-St-Pierre-Sanchez stratus or among the young aspiring fighters who take their team and training environment seriously, it’s a choice that everyone makes at some point. Some will forego their Big Shot and some will eschew team alliances for the opportunity for their own individual success. Both choices are right.

There’s little else to note about UFC 128. Brendan Schaub, a former AFL and NFL football player who transitioned into MMA via season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, defeated aging legend Mirko Cro Cop with a third round TKO. Cro Cop is 3-3 since his return to the UFC, not wholly embarrassing, but certainly not the record for which he’d want to be known. The bigger and more relevant knock is that his unbeatable aura is very much a thing of the past. Combined with what is surely a hefty price tag, this is likely Cro Cop’s last hurrah in the UFC (at least for the time being). For Schaub, it continues to build his name as a future title contender.

Urijah Faber defeated Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision, which is a win that needed to happen for the UFC’s plans with Faber to go forward. The promotion is greatly behind Faber’s star potential, and understandably so. The guy is a tremendous athlete with an easygoing, polite charm and poster boy good looks. His was the only name that popped WEC ratings on the Versus network, and he was a great straight-man to Kenny Fucking Powers in the K-Swiss Tubes commercials. Moreover, there’s been talk of Faber and UFC 135 lb. champion Dominick Cruz coaching season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (though Dana White denied that to Ariel Helwani in their post-fight interview). Had Wineland won, Cruz vs. Wineland would have been a tougher season to promote.

However, Faber didn’t look dominant in this match, having difficulty landing takedowns and, for much of the match, being stuck in Wineland’s clinch. Watching the match, part of me truly wondered if Faber hasn’t already hit his athletic prime. He’s been fighting since 2003, and went on a 13-fight win streak from 2005 to 2008, with only one of those victories going to decision (his one-sided domination of Jens Pulver at WEC 34). Streaks like that aren’t typically repeatable, and although the Wineland match marked his second win at 135 lbs., I question whether we’ll see Faber’s MMA career dominance coincide with his newfound exposure as an official UFC star.

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

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch:
Prediction: Assuncao via decision
Result: Koch via KO (round one)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone:
Prediction:  Catone via TKO (round one)
Result: Catone via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland:
Prediction:  Benavidez via submission (round two)
Result: Benavidez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau:
Prediction:  Pellegrino via unanimous decision
Result: Tibau via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida:
Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)
Result: Pyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) though apparently scores were 29-28 across the board

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.:
Prediction:  Barboza via KO (round two)
Result: Barboza via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane:
Prediction:  Marshall via decision
Result: Cane via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop:
Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)
Result: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller:
Prediction:  Marquardt by TKO (round one)
Result: Marquardt via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller:
Prediction:  Shalorus via unanimous decision
Result: Miller via TKO (round three)

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland:
Prediction:  Faber via submission (round one or two)
Result: Faber via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones:
Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)
Result: Jones via TKO (round three)

The Finish

Not every UFC event is going to be remembered as one for the ages. If anything, UFC 128 will be marked as the night when an amazing young talent got his chance to reign supreme and start his path to potential crossover superstardom. Of course, in fighting his friend, Jon Jones first challenge will be a personal and physical test.

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.

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.