19 November 2010

UFC 123

Former champions clash
The next really big UFC show is the culmination of the current The Ultimate Fighter season when welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre fights Josh Koscheck in Montreal on December 11. However, this Saturday has a pretty stacked line-up that isn't getting all that much press. The two main events will also feature fighters who are all at a crossroads in their respective careers.

Mark Munoz vs. Aaron Simpson - Both of these guys are known for their wrestling, but, when you get two wrestlers fighting in the UFC, it usually turns into a stand-up affair. This fight depends on who can get their takedown because both guys are pretty equal in their striking. Munoz's ground striking is phenomenal and much better than Simpson's. My guess is that Munoz will take a second round TKO stoppage, and it should be a fairly exciting fight.

Matt Brown vs. Brian Foster - Matt Brown, despite the comparisons due to his hard nose demeanor, is not Chuck Norris. Brian Foster is an overall better fighter. It doesn't help that this is basically a must-win for Brown because he's already lost his last two in the UFC. Unless you're Tito Ortiz or Chuck Liddell or another similar caliber fighter, three losses usually equals a pink slip. My guess is that Foster takes a decision.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon - Joe Lauzon is one of my favorite fighters because he's a computer programming nerd who often spends as much time playing Call of Duty as he does training. Sotiropoulus has a very difficult name to spell and a tremendous ground game. Joe will be really dangerous in the first two rounds, but George always has really intelligent strategies that will take advantage of the fact that Lauzon gets tired as the fight continues. If J-Lau has shored up that portion of his training, he could really spoil Sotiropoulos' championship aspirations, since a win here could set George up as a contender for the UFC lightweight championship. I will be rooting for Joe, but logic dictates that George will win a really entertaining grappling battle by split decision.

Phil Davis vs. Tim Boetsch - This is a surprise because after Davis won back in April, he made a big deal about wanting to continue his training for another year before returning to the UFC. And this is his second fight since then. Davis is the best wrestler in MMA and is often referred to as the light heavyweight GSP because of how easily he's modified his wrestling to function in the MMA environment. The rest of his game is green at best, but when a person has a strong of a wrestling base as he has, it's easier to hide the person's glaring flaws. Boetsch has a clear striking advantage and really comes across as a mean dude with vicious knock out power. Realistically, though, Davis will control the action for three rounds, look impressive in taking the mount more than once, and then ultimately do nothing with the advantageous position. But Boetsch has nothing off his back, so I'm going to buck the trend and pick Davis in the second by submission, probably by a head and arm triangle.

Gerald Harris vs. Maiquel Falcao - I looked up Falcao and found out that he has finished his last seven fights in the first round. He's a Brazilian that trains out of the Chute Box camp, which means he is used to getting punched in the face multiple times in the lead-up to his fights and he probably has a decent ground game. Harris is best known for knocking a dude out with a pro-wrestling style spinebuster back in July. I'm only picking Harris because he has UFC experience and I like anyone that can knock dudes out with slams. Harris will probably take another, you guessed it, decision, but I would not be surprised if Falcow, making his UFC debut, knocked his head off.

Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn - This is the real main event, as far as I'm concerned, the conclusion of a trilogy that has produced one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and one of the best overall fights in the UFC. Hopefully, this one will answer some really important questions: Is BJ Penn washed up? How will he rebound from back-to-back losses to Frankie Edgar? Can he hang against a resurgent Matt Hughes? Will his much lighter weight at 165 lbs. play a factor? Based on their previous fights and his natural talent, the BJ Penn of today should be able to handle Matt Hughes decisively, but the same things were said when Penn fought Edgar both times. And there's just something in my gut that tells me Matt Hughes will take this one. Granted, his stand-up is still leagues behind Penn's and Hughes doesn't have the speed that proved to be BJ's undoing in his previous losses. But there's something to be said for momentum and having one's head in the game, something Hughes always has and BJ only does sporadically. I see the fight ending in the third, either by TKO or decision with Hughes as the victor.

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida - Both of these guys are coming off of losses, but Machida is the one who is the big question mark, something I wish UFC would have highlighted more in their Countdown special. Coming off his devastating first round knockout loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Machida will have to prove whether or not his chin is as strong as many people thought prior to his last fight. Rampage will definitely oblige him on that. This fight has the potential to be short and exciting if it falls in Rampage's favor, or boring and methodical (illusive is another key word to describe Machida) if it works to Machida's advantage. Rampage has focused so much on stand-up since moving to the UFC that his excellent wrestling and tremendous slams have become a thing of the past. Rampage is the 2010 version of Chuck Liddell in that he uses his wrestling now in reverse as a way to avoid getting taken down and tries to employ a strong counter punching style. Machida, meanwhile, uses crisp striking and really great technical footwork due to his proper implementation of karate into MMA. This plays exactly to Rampage's weaknesses, as people who are able to stick and move give him the most trouble as evidenced by his decision loss to Forrest Griffin.

Ideally, Rampage comes out and bull rushes Machida en route to a knock out victory because that's what worked for Rua, and he had no counter for someone slightly faster who didn't take the time to create angles or set up shots. Unfortunately, 2010 Rampage doesn't fight that way, so while I will be rooting Rampage on and hoping he gets the victory, I foresee a Machida win by decision.

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