The UFC puts together a very fun card for to end the year on. I am very happy to see Dean Lister and Tony DeSouza back in the cage. I am a bit partial to the BJJ guys, and these two are about as pure of BJJ guys you will get in the UFC. It makes for some boring fights sometimes, but I still love to see submissions!
Card and My Picks:
Mark Bocek Vs. Doug Evans (Lightweight)
Mark lost his debut in the UFC by KO to the very heavy hands of Frankie Edgar. That was Mark's first loss of his career, and I am sure it was a good learning experience for him. Mark likes the submission game, winning all but one of his 4 victories by submission.
Doug Evans lost his debut in the UFC by KO to the seemingly unstoppable Roger Huerta. Just like Bocek, that was his first loss... It was also Evans' first fight outside of Alaska. Doug's record is a bit more well rounded, winning two of his 5 wins by decision two by submission and one by KO.
On paper, both of these guys like to be on the ground. Also on paper, it looks as if Mark has had the better opponents; however Doug had the better UFC opponent, and lasted longer, getting knocked out in the second round, to Mark's first round KO loss. I like Mark in this fight. Mark by KO, strikes on the ground, third round.
Roan Carneiro Vs. Tony DeSouza (Welterweight)
Roan is a BTT fighter, and a BJJ black belt. He is 1-1 in the UFC winning a decision over Rich Clementi, then getting rocked, and choked out by Jon Fitch. Roan is a very predictable fighter; he wins on the ground by submission or by decision. His record is 11-6 overall.
Tony DeSouza is a BJJ black belt and lost his last fight in the UFC by KO to Thiago Alves. Alves was suspended after this fight for steroid use. Tony took some time off; this fight will take place 364 days after his last one. Tony is a true gym rat, always training, always pushing. His last fight he seemed a bit fatigued, but that was more to Alves punishing standup that Tony's lack of training. Tony is 10-3 overall winning by any means necessary, but mostly from submissions and stoppages from strikes.
This should be a really good ground battle. Both guys are BJJ black belts from well respected schools in Brazil, Tony from Nova Uniao, and Roan from BTT. Tony has the most experience, having fought in DEEP and in the UFC several times. This will be Roan's second fight in the UFC. Assuming that Tony can shake off the ring rust, this fight should be his to lose. Tony by decision.
Jordan Radev Vs. Dean Lister (Middleweight)
Jordan lost by KO in 33 seconds to Drew McFedries back in June in his last fight. We really did not know much about Jordan then, and we don't know much about him now... He was a wrestler on the Bulgarian Olympic Team, and his record is 9-2.
Lister lost a decision to Nate Marquardt in a snooze fest that saw Lister do... absolutely nothing. The fight before that saw Lister do... very very little in a decision win over Yuki Sasaki. The time before that we saw Dean slap the slickest Triangle Choke we have ever seen in MMA on Alessio Sakara. That is what you get with Dean... He either puts you to sleep with is very slow, methodical, ground game or he pulls some spectacular mind blowing submission out. Overall Dean is 9-5.
I don't think that Jordan will be able to hang with Dean's ground game. For sure Jordan will get the takedown, but that is just what Dean wants. Lister by Triangle first round.
Nate Mohr Vs. Manny Gamburyan (Lightweight)
Nate Mohr... I always thing of the very slick ankle lock that Kurt Pellegrino put on him in his first UFC fight... That was so awesome!! Anyway, Nate is 1-1 in the UFC, his win was a decision over VFC fighter Luke Caudillo the last time he fought. Nate is a typical Mid-Western fighter, a good, tough wrestler with a lot of wins by ref stoppage due to strikes.
Manny shocked the world in TUF beating all of the favorites, only to lose by injury to Nate Diaz. Manny was winning that fight before the injury, and I don't think that Nate had any answer for the Armenian. Manny is a little fireball of muscle and energy. He is nearly impossible to submit, and very tough to sweep. He uses this to put an effective, if not very powerful, G&P attack to work. Manny is 6-3, his losses, including one to Sean Sherk, are all decisions. You don't submit him, or knock him out.
I think that the UFC feels bad that Manny got injured in the biggest fight of his life, and is feeding him a "cupcake." Nate is a tough guy, but they don't come tougher or harder to move than Manny. Manny by decision.
Luis Cane Vs. James Irvin (Light Heavyweight)
Luis Cane is a 3-0 fighter from Brazil... He is reported to have very aggressive ground techniques and a good standup game. He is a Brazilian "National" BJJ Champion, but I don't know much else about him. The UFC lists his overall record at 8-0, but I could not confirm that. I can confirm that he has won three MMA fights.
James Irvin is coming off of a knee injury suffered in his KO loss to Thiago Silva. Irvin likes the standup game with his biggest win a KO by flying knee over "Terrible" Terry Martin. James says that his knee is all healed up and he is ready to go.
This is an interesting fight, in that you have the unknown fighter with reported ground skill and the fighter with proven skill, but also proven weaknesses on the ground. I will go with the upset and take Cane by armbar in the first round.
Soa Palelei Vs. Eddie Sanchez (Heavyweight)
Soa is an Australian fighter who last fought Choi Mu Bae (Loss RNC) in 2004... Before that he won all 6 of his fights, all in Australia. He even fought in a promotion called "Thunderdome." How can you not like that?
He says that his style is BJJ, but all of his fights he won by some form of KO. He has been training with Team Quest.
Eddie won his last fight by KO over Colin Robinson back in June of this year. Eddie is a typical American Heavyweight. He throws huge leather looking for the KO.
Eddie is no slouch, but he really does not have a lot of ground skill. Soa claims to be a BJJ guy, and trains with one of the best wrestling teams out there. Soa does not have the experience of Eddie, and this will be his first fight in the UFC. Tough choice, but I think that I will go with Soa by KO second round.
Rich Clementi Vs. Melvin Guillard (Lightweight)
Rich's last fight in the UFC was a RNC win over Anthony Johnson, and is on a win streak going 3-0 in the latter part of 2007.
Rich is a submission grappler with a ton of experience he is 2-3 in the UFC and is 30-12-1 overall. Rich's wins show that he is a well rounded fighter, winning both by submission and KO.
He fights in the Welterweight and in the Lightweight classes, but typically we think of him as a Lightweight fighter.
Melvin lost his last fight to against Joe Stevenson by Guillotine Choke in 27 seconds of the first round. Melvin was then suspended after testing positive for cocaine.
Melvin is a very explosive, powerful wrestler/kickboxer. Most of his recent wins are by KO, but he does have some wins by submission earlier in his career.
Melvin has shown that he is not very good at defending the submissions, 5 of his seven losses are by tapout. Rich has a chance to beat Melvin, but only if he can set up and execute a proper takedown. If you just dive at Melvin's legs, he will stop the shot and punish you. Rich has a chance here, but I don't think that he has the clinch or wrestling to win. Melvin by KO third round.
Lyoto Machida Vs. Rameau Sokoudjou (Light Heavyweight)
Machida is 3-0 in the UFC, and 11-0 overall. I just wish he would finish a fight. Of those 11 wins, 7 are decisions.
Machida has a very sharp standup game, knocking out Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar. His ground game is good too, winning a decision over BJ Penn. While not very exciting he does represent a legitimate threat to the championship.
Sokoudjou made big noise in PRIDE just before the collapse. He knocked out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Ricardo Arrona in highlight reel fashion.
Rameau likes to stand up, but he has serious skills in the clinch, with a wrestling and Judo background. His stand up is obviously powerful.
Machida makes good people look bad, but Sokoudjou knocks people the hell out. I think that Rameau will put the fight at a pace that the Brazilian/Japanese fighter will not be able to match and eventually catch him with one of those big hooks. Sokoudou by KO second round.
Chuck Liddell Vs. Wanderlei Silva (Light Heavyweight)
Chuck is in a bit of a slump right now, losing two in a row to Quinton Jackson (KO) and Keith Jardine (Split Decision) respectively. Quinton was able to exploit Chuck's lazy defense, he carries his hands very low, and Quinton put a hook right on the chin. Jardine was able to strategically out fight Chuck; Jardine knew that Chuck would not take him down, so he turned a MMA fight in to a classic bare knuckle Muay Thai fight.
Chuck is a counter puncher. That is his whole game. He is best when he is backing up. He carries tremendous power in his punching, and he is very difficult to take down.
Silva... In his last fights, Silva has been tentative, not as aggressive, and just not the same Ax Murder that we all knew and loved. In his last two fights, he became another one of Cro Cop's statistics in the open weight GP, then ate a Henderson left hook that put him to sleep. After that fight there is little doubt that Silva has trouble dealing with the left side of his opponents. According to his new trainers at Extreme Colture, the old super aggressive Silva is back. That may be, because he knows this opponent will not attempt to take him down. Chuck will give him the fight that he wants, a stand up battle.
This fight boils down to what style is best, the counter puncher or the super aggressive brawler. In most instances the counter puncher wins that contest, because eventually the aggressive brawler gets frustrated that the counter puncher will not engage. They make a mistake and the counter puncher knocks them out. This is a tough fight to call, but I think that will again play out here. Chuck by KO second round.
Matt Hughes Vs. Georges St-Pierre (Welterweight)
Matt won a unanimous decision over Chris Lytle back in March, apparently that was enough to get him a title shot. We all know Matt's game, big slam takedown, pound pound, pound. Throw in the occasional submission after the initial pounding and that is all there is to him. Sounds simple? Try and stop him. Only the very very best can. The rest get pounded.
GSP is a pure athlete. He seems to have been made especially for MMA. He has excellent BJJ, awesome stand up, but susceptible to mental breakdowns. He seems to beat himself more that his opponents beat him. Against Matt Hughes the first time he was intimidated by fighting his hero, and got caught. Against Matt Serra he was intimidated and nervous fighting a Renzo Gracie black belt. Not only that, Renzo asked that GSP find somewhere else to prepare, being that Renzo was the one who trained Matt. GSP got caught in that fight too.
However, like a true champion, GSP shows incredible heart. BJ Penn had GSP beat down in the first round of their fight. He came back and won the next two rounds, and beat Penn. He was able to stuff Matt Hughes’s shots with pinpoint jabs, the second time they fought and then knocked Matt out. GSP has not had the time that he normally needs to prepare for this fight... Will that affect his mental state?
This is such a tough fight to call I hesitate to even try. Will GSP be together enough to put Matt out? His weight was not where he wanted it to be, and will have to cut more weight than usual before this fight. Will that sap his strength?
Matt Hughes was beaten so badly by GSP the last time out. No one, not even BJ Penn ever shut Matt down and beat him so thoroughly. That has to weigh heavily on Matt's mind. Stylistically, GSP comes out on top. He has one of the best defenses against the wrestlers in the game. For the most part, the fight goes to the ground when GSP wants it to go there. Not before. The strength edge goes to Matt Hughes. Hughes' strength is legendary in the sport, and even GSP said that Matt was the strongest opponent he ever faced. Stand up? GSP all the way. Wrestling? Draw... Possibly a small edge to GSP. Matt certainly has the better takedowns, but GSP has the ability to stuff them all day long. I don't think that Matt can stop GSP's takedowns, but it is so very tough to get a takedown on a guy who is constantly trying to take YOU down. Ground game? Draw. Matt seems to be much better on top, but is not very good on his back. GSP is more well rounded, and probably better off of his back. His top game though is a bit suspect though, he has been swept by stronger opponents.
Very tough call, but I think that the stand up game will again decide this fight. GSP keeps Matt away with the jab and uses his better stand up to again end the fight. GSP by KO third round.
I really don't feel very good about the majority of my picks this time out. In my opinion I really do not think that there are many "gimmies" this time out. I hope that leads to good competitive fights, but normally it leads to lots and lots of decisions. I hope I am wrong.