Saturday, February 6, 2010

UFC 109: Picking the winners

As usual, Kyle and I are testing our predictive powers with our picks for tonight's UFC PPV fights. I won the last contest, so Kyle is seeking a return to victory. Will he make it? Or will my prognostication skills lay the smack down on his yet again? Of course, neither of us can win by much, because we disagree on only two fights, but those two differences mean someone will emerge victorious. Lest the tension become unbearable, let's get right to the picks.

We'll start, of course, with the undercard.

Joey Beltran vs. Rolles Gracie

Mark: I admire Beltran for taking this fight on short notice, and certainly like anyone who can throw hard punches, he always has a puncher's chance of winning. That said, Gracie is simply in another class. He'll take down Beltran and submit him fast. I expect we'll see Gracie's arm in the air before the first round has a chance to end.

Kyle: Beltran's coming in on a week's notice to fight a submission master. He always has a puncher's chance, but Gracie should be able to get the fight to the ground, at which point it'll be all over except for the tapping.

Tim Hague vs. Chris Tuchscherer

Mark: I'm frankly puzzled by the UFC's booking of this fight, because it features two heavyweights most notable for the blows they've received: Hague for being knocked out in seven seconds, and Tuchscherer for having his nuts kicked into the balcony by Gabriel Gonzaga. This fight is also likely to be the most boring of the night, as Tuchscherer takes down Hague and holds him down until the ref stands them up, then does it again. Tuchscherer for the boring decision.

Kyle: Hague has achieved lasting UFC fame for being on the receiving end of the fastest knockout in UFC history, courtesy of Todd Duffee. He probably won't have to worry about a repeat of that at the hands of Tuchscherer. He will have to worry, though, about being taken down and fed elbows for three rounds. Tuchscherer is a powerful wrestler, and I don't think Hague's takedown defense is going to be enough to keep Tuchscherer from walking away with a win.

Brian Stann vs. Phil Davis

Mark: Everybody's picking Davis to win this fight for the simple reason that although this is his first UFC fight, his wrestling is so good that he will be able to take down Stann at will. On the ground, Stann is in trouble. Stann, on the other hand, has fought in big shows, and he's training with Phil Jackson, which is always a plus. Because of Jackson, I'm going with Stann.

Kyle: Styles make fights and this bout pits an NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion against a standup fighter who's never shown much in the way of takedown defense. The outcome should be obvious, which is why Phil Davis, the wrestler, is a 3-to-1 favorite over Stann in the Bodog odds. Nonetheless, I'm picking Stann to win. He's always fought with heart and now that he's training with Greg Jackson, he finally has a camp that can push him to the level of his potential. I believe that Stann and Jackson can come up with a gameplan that will defy the odds and win the fight.

Phillipe Nover vs. Rob Emerson

Mark: Nover looked amazing on The Ultimate Fighter when he was tearing through other contestants. Once he hit the UFC, however, he started losing. Nover has also not improved much; he's a guy who needed a new camp. He addressed that deficiency by going to Las Vegas and training at Xtreme Couture, but he's only been there a few months. Emerson is a jerk. Like Kyle, I'd enjoy seeing Emerson lose. I just don't think it will happen, even though Nover probably has more raw talent. Emerson, probably by decision.

Kyle: I've got nothing but contempt for Rob Emerson, a gangster wannabe who can be seen around the five-minute mark in this video beating up a stranger to make himself feel cool. Why the UFC hires Emerson to step in the cage between his stints in a cell is a mystery to me, but I hope Nover puts an end to it. I predict Nover by curb-stomping, because I like to believe that there's some justice in the world.

Melvin Guillard vs. Ronnys Torres

Mark: Guillard is an amazing physical specimen with real power, but his mind and his lack of a ground game have always hurt him. Once the fight hits the ground, Guillard is in trouble. Torres is a serious BJJ practicioner with some decent wrestling skills. So, unless Torres' brain melts and runs out his ears, he will try to take down Guillard, and Guillard will hope to stuff the take-downs long enough to connect with the huge punches he likes to throw. Guillard definitely has a puncher's chance, but I'm betting Torres gets him down and submits him. I wouldn't even be surprised to see it happen in the first round.

Kyle: Guillard's also been in and out of jail--it's all perps and old people this UFC!--but as far as I know his arrests have all been for putting cocaine up his nose rather than putting innocent people in the hospital. I'm inclined to be more forgiving. What I can't forgive is that Guillard is completely unevolved. Coming off The Ultimate Fighter, he looked like he had the athletic gifts to be the next George St. Pierre. Instead he's ended up a lightweight Mark Coleman relying on wrestling skill and raw punching power to make up for a lack of submission skills and technical striking. I pick Torres to win; if he can put Guillard on his back, it's all over.

Mac Danzig vs. Justin Buchholz

Mark: The loser of this fight is almost certain to be waving goodbye to his UFC contract within the week. Buchholz has to hope the fight stays standing up, where his kicks and punches are his only hopes for victory. Danzig, however, is better in pretty much every aspect of the game, and particularly on the ground. He's also good at getting people down. Like Guillard, Buchholz has a puncher's chance, but I'm again going with the ground guy: Danzig via submission.

Kyle: Poor Mac Danzig. There was a time in his career when he racked up a 12-fight winning streak. Now he's lost his last three fights and if he loses this one he could well become the first Ultimate Fighter winner to be cut by the UFC. Buchholz is a big step down in competition for Danzig, though. Danzig should be better at striking and grappling, and should get his arm raised in victory once again.

Now, on to the main card, the fights you have to buy the PPV to see.

Matt Serra vs. Frank Trigg

Mark: Plan to wave good-bye to Trigg after this fight, because unless he has pictures of Dana White doing it with a donkey, the UFC is bound to cut him after he loses. He's bigger than Serra, but he looks slower and slower every fight. Serra can out-strike him and submit him. Look for Serra to win largely via strikes.

Kyle: It's hard to believe that Serra and Trigg are ten years younger than Couture and Coleman, since it feels like they've been fighting as long. Serra and Trigg are both hoping that there's room for third acts in American lives. They're both hoping for one more run at the title and the first thing standing in each man's way is the other. Trigg's originally a wrestler and Serra comes from a jiu-jitsu background, but I expect this to turn into a striking war. Trigg's just a little bit older and a little bit slower, and I won't be at all surprised if Serra manages to pull of a repeat of his shock-the-world KO of Georges St. Pierre. Serra for the win.

Demian Maia vs. Dan Miller

Mark: The only way Miller wins this fight is if Maia forgets that he's a BJJ master and tries to win by striking. Maia tried that approach briefly with Marquardt, and he found himself hitting the canvas--and not by pulling guard. Maia will get Miller on the ground and submit him, probably in the first round.

Kyle: This is the losers' bracket to the Marquardt/Sonnen fight, pitting Maia (who got KOed by Marquardt at UFC 102) vs. Miller (who was decisioned by Sonnen at UFC 98). If Miller can keep the fight on the feet, he has a chance. But I don't think he can. Maia is like a beartrap on the ground. I expect him to take Miller down and lock on a submission.

Mike Swick vs. Paulo Thiago

Mark: Both men are serious middleweight contenders who have never made it to the top. Swick is the bigger man, has a reach advantage, and is a better technical striker. I expect him to fight to win, not to finish, and he should achieve his goal, probably via decision.

Kyle: By fight time, I expect Swick to look like he's a weight class bigger than Thiago. He'll be hard to take down and he'll have a big reach advantage. Swick should be able to KO Thiago standing to earn the win.

Nathan Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen

Mark: Marquardt has been training with Greg Jackson and getting better and better. Sonnen will hope to take down Marquardt and grind out a decision, but it won't work. Marquardt will win what I expect to be one of the more entertaining fights of the night.

Kyle: This is the most interesting fight of the night. Marquardt and Sonnen have both dramatically improved their game over the last couple of years and either has the potential to be the next middleweight champion. Marquardt is the better submission grappler, and may also have the edge in striking. Sonnen is a takedown machine who can maintain an exhausting pace from the opening bell to the end of the last round. Marquardt's a heavy favorite, but I don't think his submissions are quick enough to catch Sonnen, and I think Sonnen's pace will wear him out. Sonnen for the win.

Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman

Mark: Coleman will gas quickly, and Couture will, as he does, keep on chugging. I expect an entertaining first seven or so minutes, and then Couture will take down Coleman or pin him to the fence, feed him a lot of punches, and eventually the ref will stop the fight. Couture for the win and, in a move surely designed only to put butts in seats, a shot at the light heavyweight title.

Kyle: Coleman probably has the wrestling skill and the raw power to get Couture down, but he doesn't have the conditioning to keep doing it in the second and third rounds. Look for Couture to weather the early storm, put Coleman on his back, and feed him some of his own ground-and-pound medicine. Barring a miracle, Couture will walk away the winner in the old man's war.

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