Archive for the ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ category

UFC 103 Main Card Predictions

September 19, 2009

Tonight’s latest installment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship will take place in Dallas, Texas.  Although recent past cards have featured bigger names, tonight’s event features a strong lineup that should feature some good fights.

195 pound catch weight contest – Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort

Rich Franklin has been trying to make the move from middleweight to light heavyweight but keeps having to take detours through the 195 pound highway.  His last fight was at this same catch weight when he defeated Wanterlei Silva by unanimous decision at UFC 99 back in June.  In that fight, Franklin showed a patient game plan and improved boxing skills to keep Silva off balance.  Although Silva was able to land a couple of solid shots, Franklin controlled the pace of that standup contest throughout.  Meanwhile, Belfort returns to the Octagon for the first time in over four years.  In his last fight against Matt Lindland back in January, in what turned out to be Affliction’s final event, Belfort scored one of the most devastating knockouts of his career.  No one has ever denied that Belfort is a solid striker but I see this eventually going to the ground where Franklin has the better skill set.  Belfort had trouble making weight initially for the fight and I feel that’s a factor that will eventually show itself in the second or third round.  My prediction is Franklin by split decision.

Heavyweight bout – Mirko Cro Cop vs. Junior Dos Santos

Back in his days of competing in the now defunct Pride Fighting Championships Cro Cop earned a reputation of being one of the most feared strikers in the sport.  After making the transition to the cage Cro Cop suffered a devastating KO loss at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga.  That loss was followed by an uninspiring defeat at the hands of Cheick Kongo.  Even in his most recent fight, which was a win over Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 99, Cro Cop did not look nearly like his old self and was aided by a controversial non call when he accidentally poked Al-Turk in the eye and the ref did not step in.  Dos Santos is 8-1 overall in his young career and 2-0 in the UFC with two wins coming by TKO.  That tells me that he is a very good striker who is aggressive and likes to finish opponents quickly.  Cro Cop no longer looks like the hungry fighter that he once was.  My prediction is Dos Santos by TKO in the second round

Welterweight bout – Martin Kampmann vs. Paul Daley

This matchup was originally supposed to feature Kampmann taking on Mike Swick but Swick had to withdraw after suffering a training camp injury.  Kampmann is coming off an impressive split decision victory over Carlos Condit.  In that fight Kampmann showed impressive overall skills.  Whether the fight was standing up or on the ground, Kampmann looked very comfortable in his surroundings.  I have not watched Daley fight but from what I’ve read he’s a solid striker.  I look for Kampmann to display his superior ground skills and take Daley out of his comfort zone.  My prediction is Kampmann by second round submission.

Welterweight bout – Josh Koscheck vs. Frank Trigg

At one time Koscheck was considered one of the best young up anc coming fighters.  After going 3-3 in his last six fights including a devastating TKO loss in his most recent fight against Paul Thiago some of that luster has worn off.  Trigg returns to the octagon for the first time in four years.  When looking through his win-loss record I see a reoccurring theme in that Trigg has a tough time against fighters with strong ground skills.  Koscheck falls into that category and as long as he tries to exploit that strength he should be able to win.  If Trigg keeps the fight on its feet I think he stands a good chance of emerging victorious but I see Koscheck learning the lessons from his last fight against Thiago and taking things to the ground.  My prediction is Koscheck by second round submission. 

Lightweight bout – Tyson Griffin vs. Hermes Franca

These two fighters are evenly matched with both of them possessing good striking skills.  Griffin is considered better at taking down his opponents.  Franca will have to display a better takedown defense in this contest to have a good chance.  I look for both guys to keep the fight standing up and trade punches which should make for a good fight.  My prediction is Griffin by split decision.

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UFC Fight Night Predictions

September 16, 2009

For the first time since UFC 4, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the Sooner State for tonights UFC Fight Night.  Here are my predictions for the main card bouts:

Lightweight Bout – Nate Diaz vs. Melvin Guillard

After beginning his UFC career on a five fight win streak,  Diaz enters this contest having lost his last two fights with defeats coming at the hands of Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson.  Meanwhile Guillard has won his last two fights, his last being a split decision win over Gleison Thibeau back in June.  Both fighters have a strong stand up game but the difference in this contest will be on the ground.  Diaz is very good at scoring takedowns as well as defending them.  I have a feeling this fight will start with both fighters looking to finish each other off by KO but when that doesn’t happen, Diaz will take things to the ground where he will be able to show off his superior skill set.  My prediction, Diaz by submission in the second round.

Lightweight Bout – Gray Maynard vs. Roger Huerta

Like the main event fight I see this contest playing out in similar fashion.  Both fighters have strong abilities to score points and defeat their opponents with their striking abilities.  But like in the main event, one of the fighters possesses a stronger ground game and that fighter is Maynard.  While Huerta is a very strong fighter which is evidenced by his 22-2 record, Maynard is 8-0 inside the octagon and is very skilled on the ground.  Huerta has shown that he can be taken down regularly in recent fights against Kenny Florian and Clay Guida.  When the fight is not won standing up, Maynard will go to plan b and take it to the mat where he will be able to out wrestle Huerta and score a victory.  My prediction is Maynard by third round submission. 

Welterweight bout – Carlos Condit vs. Jake Ellenberger

This fight was originally supposed to feature the former WEC Welterweight Champion in Condit taking on Chris Lytle but Lytle was forced to withdraw after suffering a serious knee injury back in August.  Stepping into replace Lytle is Ellenberger who will be making his UFC debut this evening.  Condit’s UFC debut was spoiled after losing by split decision to Martin Kampmann back in April.  I look for Condit to come into this fight very focused and with the mentality that his back’s against the wall and because of that I expect him to be at his most dangerous.   While I commend Ellenberger for taking the fight on late notice, the lack of preparation time will be a big obstacle to overcome against an extremely talented fighter like Condit.  My prediction is Condit by TKO in the first round.

Middleweight bout – Nate Quarry vs. Tim Credeur

Credeur comes into this bout with an unblemished 3-0 record inside the octagon but he will undoubtedly face his toughest opponent to date in Quarry.  Despite the three fight winning streak Credeur has shown that his striking skills are lacking.  If the fight goes to the ground I think it could be anyone’s game but I don’t see it getting that far.  With the advantage in striking I look for Quarry to try and put Credeur early.  My prediction is Quarry by first round KO.

Strikeforce: Carano Vs. Cyborg Main Card Preview

August 15, 2009

Tonight in San Jose, Calif. at the HP Pavilion a sport dominated by male competitors will be taking a backseat to the women as champion Gina Carano battles challenger Cris “Cyborg” Santos for the women’s championship in what is undoubtedly the most anticipated match in women’s MMA history.  The card will also feature Renato “Babalu” Sobral taking Gegard Mousasi for the Light Heavyweight Title.  In the Lightweight Interim Championship Bout Gilbert Melendez will take on Mitsuhiro Ishida.  Rounding out the main event card Jay Hieron battles UFC 7 alum Jesse Taylor.  Lets get to the predictions.

Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos – 145 lb Female Championship Bout

Gina Carano is easily the face of women’s MMA and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to any who follow the sport.  In a fan base dominated by men, it’s not hard to figure out how an attractive woman who can kick some butt became so popular.  Carano comes into this fight undefeated while Santos has only one loss on her record which came in her MMA debut back in 2005.  I was able to see Santos fight in person against Hitomi Akano back in May on the undercard of the Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz show.  I have to keep in mind that Santos did not make weight but Akano and her camp still chose to proceed with the fight.  After seeing Santos fight in person, I can tell you that she is absolutely huge.  She used her size advantage to completely dominate the smaller Akano.  Santos overpowered her as far as positioning and just overwhelmed her with strikes.  While I don’t think she’ll have as easy of a time with Carano, I look for her to employ the same strategy and take the fight to the champion.  I see Carano trying to strike with a “stick and move” strategy to frustrate Santos as well as take the fight to the ground where she can use her solid jiu-jitsu skills.  In the end I think the aggressive strategy by Santos will be too much for Carano and the Santos will become the new women’s champion.  My prediction is Santos by KO in the second round.

Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Gegard Mousasi – Light Heavyweight Championship Bout

This fight was supposed to happen two weeks ago at the ill-fated Affliction: Trilogy show.  Strikeforce was able to add both fighters to their stable and bring the fight to tonights card.  This match up features a complete contrast in styles.  Mousasi likes to keep the fight on his feet and out strike his opponent while Sobral likes to keep the fight on the ground and use his submission skills to defeat his opponent.  While Mousasi is a talented fighter, he is moving up in weight class for this matchup and that in itself could pose some problems.  Sobral comes in with lots of experience with tonight  being his 44th professional fight.  When you get down to it, I look for Sobral to score some takedowns and earn points on the ground with his superior mat skills.  My prediction is Sobral by split decision.

 Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida – Lightweight Interim Championship Bout

This fight was originally supposed to be for the Lightweight Championship with Melendez looking to avenge a loss against Josh “The Punk” Thomson who currently holds the title but Thomson had to withdraw the from the match as he continues to recover from his leg injury.  These circumstances give Melendez to try and avenge another loss in his career which came against Ishida back in 2007.  When these two fought the first time Ishida was able to control Melendez with takedowns and wrestling.  I look for him to do more of the same.  If Melendez can somehow keep the fight standing up his chances of victory will dramatically improve.  In the end I don’t see Melendez having an answer for Ishida’s takedown and ground game.  My prediction is Ishida by split decision.

Jay “The Thoroughbred” Hieron vs. Jesse “JT Money” Taylor – Welterweight Bout

This matchup was supposed to be Hieron taking on Nick Diaz for the Welterweight Championship but plans had to be adjusted after Diaz failed to get licensed after failing to submit to a drug test.  Because of these circumstances Taylor, who made his name on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7, steps in to give Heiron an opponent.  Taylor comes into this fight having fought less than a month ago with little time to prepare for the experienced Hieron.  Both men are good wrestlers but Hieron has the striking advantage.  It’s that advantage along with the Taylor’s short time frame to prepare for this match that will lead to a victory for Hieron.  My prediction is Hieron by second round TKO.

UFC 101 Predictions

August 8, 2009

You could say that I’m a little late to the party as far as getting up my predictions for tonight’s UFC event that will be taking place in Philadelphia, PA.  Many of the MMA websites have had theirs up since Wednesday or Thursday, but the way I look at it, late is better than never, so here goes:

BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian – UFC Lightweight Title Bout

The timing couldn’t be better for Florian to get this opportunity as he is riding a very solid wave of momentum having won his last six fights inside the octagon including victories over Joe Stevenson, Roger Huerta and Joe Lauzon.  Florian has looked more impressive with each win.

Meanwhile UFC Lightweight Champion, BJ Penn has seen his aura of invincibility shaken after a humbling defeat at the hands of UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 in which he was throroughly dominated to the point where he didn’t come out for round 5.  Along with the “grease gate” controversy that was part of the fall out of that defeat, Penn has seen his image as one of the top all around fighters take a little bit of a hit.

I see Penn as a very prideful fighter with a wounded ego and because of that I believe that he will be coming into tonight’s title defense against Florian as someone who is highly motivated with many doubters to prove wrong.  Although Florian will give Penn his toughest challenge to date in the lightweight division, Penn will remind everyone why his nickname is “The Prodigy” and emerge victorious.  My prediction is Penn by submission in the fourth round. 

Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin – Light Heavyweight Bout

Without a doubt the most intriguing match up on tonights card is UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva moving up in weight to take on former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin.

Silva is regarded by many as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport and enters tonights contest on a nine match win streak inside the octagon.  However in his last two victorirs over Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, Silva has looked anything but impressive causing some to question his place in the pound for pound argument. 

Griffin enters the octagon tonight for the first time in eight months not having fought since losing the Light Heavyweight Title to Rashad Evans last December at UFC 92.  Preceding the loss to Evans was a win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and an impressive come from behind victory Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.  Griffin has proven time and time again that he is not afraid to get down and dirty and take the fight to an opponent. 

There could be a number of reasons why Silva has not looked like his dominant self in recent fights.  Leities, his most recent opponent did not seem like he wanted to engage at any point in the fight constantly running and sometimes dropping to the mat while hoping to entice Silva to engage in a ground game. 

I believe that Griffin’s aggressive style will play right into the hands of Silva who has proven time and time again that he is at his most dangerous when forced to engage.  If Griffin has shown us anything in his career, its that his fights are anything but boring and this fight will certainly be no different.  When the dust has settled, Silva’s win streak will reach 10.  My prediction is Silva by knockout in the second round.

Amir Sadollah vs. Johnny Hendricks – Welterweight Bout

The Ultimate Fighter Eight welterweight winner will be making his return after a year on the sidelines thanks to a broken clavicle and staph infections.  Hendricks is a solid wrestler but Sadollah showed a strong ground submission game during his run on the UFC’s reality show.  Because of his time on the sidelines, I think he’s had plenty of time to further progress his submission skills.  My prediction is Sadollah by submission in the second round.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on the other two main card fights but since I’m giving my predictions I have to pick a side so here goes:

Middleweights – Kendall Grove defeats Ricardo Almeida by third round TKO

Lightweights – Josh Neer defeats Kurt Pellegrino by second round TKO

Fedor Signs With Strikeforce

August 4, 2009

For the better part of the past two weeks, the big question surrounding members of the Mixed Martial Arts community and fans alike has been, “Where will Fedor wind up?”

Fedor Emelianenko, the man regarded by many as the top heavyweight fighter in the world was scheduled to compete on August 1 in the main event of Affliction: Trilogy against Josh Barnett.  In the days after it was announced that Barnett would not be granted a license by the California State Athletic Commission for failing a urine test which showed traces of a banned substance, the news came down the event was going to be cancelled altogether. 

Affliction, who had co-promoted the event with M-1 Global, signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to become one of their main sponsors, thus closing its doors as a promotional entity.  This left Emelianenko and his management team at M-1 Global on the outside looking in. 

The talk around the water cooler amongst MMA fans for several days was on the fate of Emelianenko.  Would he finally be heading to the UFC to face their top heavyweight in Brock Lesnar?  Will he be heading back overseas to resume his career?  Does Strikeforce, the small but strong MMA promotion based out of San Jose, Calif. have a chance to sign the powerful Russian heavyweight?

After days of negotiating between M-1 Global and UFC President Dana White, a deal seemed about as close as it ever had been.  UFC  made concesions on many levels.  According to an article by Yahoo Sports Kevin Iole, UFC’s proposed deal allowed Emelianenko to continue to compete in the Russian sport of combat sambo, offered to pay him more than he’s ever made which was between $3-$6 million depending on the success of his pay-per-view appearances, was willing to allow him to advertise M-1 on the fight shorts and apparel  he wore along with the banner his cornermen brought with him to the cage. 

 In the end, what kept Emelianenko from competing inside the octagon was his manager Vladimir Finkelchtein, who is also the president and co-owner of the M-1 Global company, insisting that the two sides be full promotional partners.  If I was in the position of the UFC I would have walked away from the table as well.  Considering the fact that UFC is the biggest promotion in MMA with most of the worlds top fighters, it made no sense for them to essentially give away half their company.

The failure to land a deal opened the door for Strikeforce, a strong and respected promotion in the North American MMA market but a distant number two behind the UFC powerhouse.  Monday it was announced by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, that Emelianenko had signed a multi-fight deal  which would have him headlining multiple events co-promoted by both M-1 Global and Strikeforce.  Emelianenko is scheduled to be making his debut some time this fall against a yet to be determined opponent. 

The deal is undoubtedly huge for Strikeforce who has a contract to air their events on Showtime as well as options to air events on network television through CBS.  Fedor is already a huge name amongst the die hard MMA fans and now Strikeforce has the opportunity to give him exposure to build his name as well as the Strikeforce brand through network television. 

Although network television exposure is not enough to sustain a company by itself as we saw with Elite XC, it is a huge factor of building a name in the worlds fastest growing sport when ran properly.  Coker has shown a track record of running a company the right way.  He keeps his costs low, has negotiated a good television contract with the potential for great exposure and often runs shows in events where he knows that Strikeforce can draw good live crowd numbers. 

In a previous blog I wrote that competition is good for the growth of MMA.  By signing the top name available on the MMA free agent market, Strikeforce showed they are alive and well as a MMA promotion despite being nowhere near the level of the UFC juggernaut.  Only time will tell if the signing of Emelianenko  catapults Strikeforce to the next level but for the time being I’m glad to see someone in a strong second place position regardless of how far back they might be.

Why Competition Is Good For The Growth Of MMA

July 27, 2009

The third event from up and coming mixed martial arts promoter Affliction was supposed to have taken place on Saturday, August 1 in Anaheim, Calif.  The show was entitled “Trilogy” and was supposed to feature a main event of Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko battling Josh Barnett.  Last week Barnett tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was denied a license to fight by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). 

A few days later it was announced that the show was cancelled altogether largely in part to the fact a replacement for Barnett could not be found on such short notice.  Almost immediately after the cancellation of “Trilogy”, Affliction announced they would be ceasing operations as a fight promoter and they would go back to being one of the UFC’s biggest clothing sponsors. 

When I found out Affliction ceased operations as a MMA fight promoter, I felt like a kid in one of the old Frosted Mini Wheat commercials.  The pure fan in me was excited at the thought of Emelianenko, arguably the world’s top heavyweight being able to sign a deal to fight in the arguably the world’s top MMA promotion, the UFC.  However the part of me that enjoys competition and feels its good for the growth of the sport was disappointed to see yet another in a long line of failed MMA promotions.

I am someone who thinks that competition is a good thing because it gives the consumer a choice of where they want to spend their dollar.  It also forces the competing companies to provide the very best product possible thus making their respective shows better for the fans to enjoy.  Having competition is also good because it gives the fighters themselves choices of where they want to ply their craft to earn a living.  While I enjoy the UFC and am a regular viewer of their products, occasionally I like to get my MMA fix from a different outlet. 

I enjoy watching promotions like San Jose, Calif. based Strikeforce and have even had the opportunity to cover a couple of their shows.  I enjoyed Affliction for the fact that I was able to see talented fighters like Emeliananko have a chance to fight in America under terms that he was comfortable with.  Without competition for the UFC, talented fighters like Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, Nick Diaz, Josh Thomson, Vitor Belfort, Chris Horodecki, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Cung Le and Renato Sobral would not have a viable outlet to showcase their abilities in front of the American fan.

If history has shown us anything it’s that another company will come along to try and make a dollar on the world’s fastest growing sport.  But if anything else can be learned, whoever does should take a page from the Strikeforce playbook and pay the fighters similar to the same pay scale of what the UFC does.  Affliction overpaid many of the fighters on their roster and in the end they weren’t able to sustain themselves. 

While Strikeforce is small by comparison to UFC they are doing many things right.  They have acquired several fighters with name value; have a solid outlet on Showtime in which to showcase their product and have a contract with CBS to broadcast live shows on network television which is something that UFC doesn’t have. 

MMA will continue to grow in leaps and bounds over the coming years.  Let’s just hope there will be enough outlets to give us the best product possible.

UFC 100 Thoughts

July 13, 2009

Coming into this past Saturday, UFC 100 was the sports highest profile and most anticipated event of the year.  Featuring a stacked card with many of the sports biggest names, the event more than delivered.

Brock Lesnar showed us a couple of things about himself.  The first is that he is clearly the most dominant heavyweight in the UFC.  Between his powerful striking and premiere wrestling background he should be able to hold on to the belt for quite some time.  Looking over the heavyweight roster, I don’t see anyone who can defeat him.  Lesnar not only avenged the only loss of his career by defeating Frank Mir by TKO in the second round to retain the heavyweight championship, but he did so in dominating fashion.  Mir looked like he had been to hell and back after just one round.  The second thing that Lesnar showed us is that while he is clearly out of the WWE, the WWE isn’t completely out of him.  Lesnar seems to relish in the role of playing the “bad guy” in the sport. 

After the victory, he flipped off the crowd amidst a chorus of boos, took a jab at Bud Light, who was one of the main sponsors of the event, and followed all of that up by giving us a possible preview for what could be in store for him later that night saying, “Hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight.” 

With those words and actions, Lesnar gave those that already disliked him more reason to do so and likely helped those that were undecided make up their minds.  While I will not dispute his talents inside the octagon, with each opening of his mouth, it gets a little tougher for me to root for him.

In the nights other title defense, Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre made his case for being the best pound for pound fighter that much stronger by completely dominating Thiago Alves.  The judges scored it 50-45, 50-44, 50-45 in favor of St. Pierre, and it wasn’t even that close.  Coming into this fight, Alves was thought by many to have a striking advantage.  For five rounds it was St. Pierre that dominated that facet of the match. 

St. Pierre controlled the pace on the mat, scoring take down after take down while successfully grounding and pounding Alves.  The match was so one sided that Alves raised St. Pierre’s hand in victory as soon as it was over.  It is truly amazing how St. Pierre has dominated such a talented welterweight division.  Match after match, he continues to make some of the best fighters in the sport look like chumps.   

In a match up of the the two coaches from the Ultimate Figher 9, Team USA coach Dan Henderson scored a victory over Team UK coach Michael Bisping with a thunderous right hook in the second round that knocked out Bisping before he hit the mat.  For good measure, Henderson followed that up with a flying forearm to the jaw of the already prone Bisping before referee Mario Yamasaki was able to step in and put a stop to the fight. 

Henderson was in control from the start while having Bisping on the run.  The coach of Team UK seemed to be moving backwards throughout the whole match.  At one point, Bisping tried to wrestle with Henderson but had no success.  The former Pride Champion just shook off Bisping and gave him a look as if to let him know that he would not be able to have any success in that area of the fight. 

Throughout the whole season, Bisping did a lot of trash talking on the show to both Team USA coaches and fighters alike.  He was quick to gloat when welterweight James Wilks and lightweight Ross Pearson of Team UK each won the Ultimate Fighter Finales of their respective weight classes giving the Brits a clean sweep for the season.  But in the end, it was Henderson that stood victorious in the battle of the coaches, letting his actions do the talking in the form of a powerful right hook and a vicious elbow. 

In a welterweight battle, Jon Fitch scored a victory by decision over Paulo Thiago.  Fitch was able to out wrestle Thiago in the second and third rounds to take control of the fight and get the win.  Fitch continues to be at the top of his game having won 17 of his last 18 fights.  His only loss in that stretch was to St. Pierre by unanimous decision at UFC 87.  I felt bad for both of these guys because their fight was moved to after the main event because the UFC was worried that both title fights would go the full five rounds and cause a real late finish to the viewers in the east.  Talk about a tough act to follow.  The energy of the crowd had been completely exhausted and the fans had already seen the nights biggest attractions.   

In the main cards first fight of the night, Yoshihiro Akiyama won his UFC debut by defeating Alan Belcher via split decision in a battle of middleweights.    I thought that it was tough to pick a winner in the first two rounds but that Belcher won the third round.  One of the judges scored it unanimously for Akiyama.  Sometimes you have to wonder if the judges are really paying attention to whats happening inside the cage. 

On a side note, I have no idea what the significance of Akiyama’s entrance music was but he’s obviously not trying to strike fear into the hearts of opponents with it.