27 August 2010

UFC 118

James Toney will lose.
UFC is awesome and I enjoy writing about it, so let's discuss the top matches for tomorrow's debut in Boston.

BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar for the UFC Lightweight Championship - Frankie Edgar shocked the world by not getting destroyed by BJ Penn back in Abu Dhabi a few months back in a five round decision. The reason he didn't get destroyed is that Frankie Edgar is a great fighter. His one loss came from Gray Maynard, a boring decision where Maynard does what he always attempts to do: throw people around and use the fact that he's bigger than most lightweights to his advantage. But I'll get to Maynard in a minute.

Edgar has tremendous boxing and, due to his smaller stature as a lightweight, speed and endurance that many in the division don't have. The first Edgar/Penn affair saw Penn fight Edgar's style of fight. BJ never went for a takedown and he was noticeably slower than usual. At the time, speculation ran wild that BJ was injured or sick, especially since BJ wore a knee sleeve that he normally doesn't wear. It's also possible that the Abu Dhabi climate and the fact that the event took place outdoors may have played a role in BJ's reduced endurance. However, Edgar wasn't 100% either, as most fighters rarely are. He had a staph infection that put him in the hospital shortly after he returned to the US. The fact is, Edgar edged out BJ and fought a better fight that night. I see the rematch going much differently this time around.

BJ is more motivated than before (losing a belt will do that to a fighter) and the spotlight is on Edgar like it's never been. The psychological aspect of MMA oftentimes gets overlooked and way more is riding on this event than on the last one where the two fought. Penn has spent the last eight years fighting in main events, many bigger than this one. How will having the main event match in a high profile venue affect Frankie Edgar's performance? I suspect things won't go well for him.

BJ has been training with lighter guys and knows what to expect from Edgar. I don't see Edgar doing anything different in this fight compared to the last one as that was the ideal gameplan for a guy like Edgar. I do see BJ going for more takedowns, using his balance and head movement to throw off Edgar's footwork, and attempting to grapple on the ground more in order to put his jiu-jitsu skills to use. Ultimately, I see BJ winning by TKO in the third.

Randy Couture vs. James Toney - No matter what, this fight shouldn't see the second round and if it does, I'll be completely flabbergasted. There's one of two ways this goes. One sees Toney managing to clip Couture's jaw in the first two minutes, knocking the Natural out and sounding like a gassed out Mushmouth in the post-fight interview. The second, and more likely, scenario sees Couture finding a way to take down Toney and probably choke him out.

Toney has a puncher's chance. But he's old and fat and fights better in the clinch. Couture, while older, is  in great shape and a five-time champion. He's beyond being a wrestler and admittedly not a boxer; he fights MMA. It's not just that he knows the rules of this particular game; it's that Couture has been around long enough to know what to expect from people more nuanced in the game than Toney.

Most importantly, if anyone wants to get a good idea about Toney's chances, they need only watch the Countdown to UFC 118 special that aired earlier in the week. Often, the people creating those shows attempt to use the best footage possible to insure that the match looks as competitive as possible. Toney looked like absolute garbage during that Countdown special. He had no idea how to defend against a takedown and his attempts to stand up looked atrocious. He has no ground defense and the weigh-ins showed that he did not feel the need to get into any kind of noticeable shape for this fight. Meanwhile, Couture has approached this fight like he has any other, making sure to ply his strengths in preparation.  Randy Couture will win by choke in the first. Seriously, though, I'll eat my hat if Couture doesn't win.

Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard - While Maynard is undefeated, he's not nearly as good as his record would have people believe. He had trouble with both Roger Huerta and Nate Diaz. Meanwhile, Kenny Florian only loses to whomever the champion is at the time. Maynard's two strengths are his wrestling and his size. Everything else is in Florian's wheelhouse: he has better striking, better submissions, takedown defense, speed, movement, experience and a host of other things in his favor. Florian is more talented than everyone else in the lightweight division save BJ Penn, and even that is a closer fight than their last bout showed merely because Kenny had a terrible gameplan and didn't adjust it when it didn't work. This is Florian's fight to lose, but I see Kenny Florian choking him out in round two.

Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis - Marcus Davis is a good striker with okay submissions, but Nate Diaz is a punk, almost to his detriment, that has no fear, good striking and awesome submissions. Davis has been susceptible to all of those things in his gatekeeper career. While Diaz loses in the size battle, he's going to be audacious enough in his initial striking to make Davis believe he can win at any level. That will be his undoing, as Diaz will sucker him into a triangle or armbar and get the tap out in the third.

Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger - Gabe Ruediger is a local guy who's replacing an injured Terry Etim who has a better opinion of himself than his talent as a fighter allows. Joe Lauzon will tap him out in the first.

Also, Demian Maia will probably win, too. I'm guessing by submission.

So what do you think?

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