Friday, February 19, 2010

UFC 110: Picking the winners down under

Last time, Kyle and I did very well in choosing the winners of a UFC PPV event, but I felt our job was easier than usual because most of the fights were fairly one-sided. This time, though, several of the fights are intruiging match-ups that the oddsmakers have very close. I expect some strange turns, so don't be surprised if our average dips after these fights are over.

That said, this event marks a first for us: We agree on every choice! So, we're reduced to fighting over who guessed most accurately the form of victory.

As is our custom, we'll begin with the undercard fights.

James Te Huna vs. Igor Pokrajac

Mark: Expect the night to open with a boring decision victory by Te Huna, who will put Pokrajac on his back, keep him there, and gain the win.

Kyle: Te Huna should be able to follow the model established by Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 103: put Pokrajac on his back and grind him down to get the win.

CB Dollaway vs. Goran Reljic

Mark: Reljic is an undefeated fighter who walks around at about 220 pounds and won his last fight against a strong opponent, Wilson Gouveia. Then, he was out for almost two years with back trouble. Unless he's not fully healed, I expect him to dominate Dollaway and win handily.

Kyle: Goran Reljic is undefeated in eight fights with a ground-and-pound victory over the capable Wilson Gouveia as his most recent victory. Dollaway is an Ultimate Fighter also-ran who isn't as good as Reljic either standing or on the ground. Unless Reljic has been permanently crippled by the back problems that kept him away from fighting for the last twenty months, he should score an easy victory.

Chris Lytle vs. Brian Foster

Mark: Foster impressed me greatly in his last fight. Lytle is a gamer with enough power to always has a chance to win by knockout. I don't think he'll get that chance against Foster, however, because Foster is a disciplined, skill fighter who will grind on Lytle for a while and then win either by TKO from on top or by submission when an exhausted Lytle gives up his back.

Kyle: In Foster's last fight, against veteran welterweight Brock Larson, I predicted that Larson would be better in every aspect of the game. Instead, Foster manhandled Larson and beat him down for a tapout victory in the second round. Now Foster takes on another veteran, Chris Lytle. Lytle has 49 professional fights on his resume. He has solid striking and underrated jiu jitsu skills. But he's not likely to ever be a championship contender. Lytle knows that as long as he puts on an entertaining fight he has a steady job in the UFC. Foster, on the other hand, is in this fight to win it. He's going to use his advantage in wrestling and control to do just that. Expect this to look like a replay of the Foster/Larson fight.

Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Mark: Stephan Bonnar fight wit Forrest Griffin on the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter is now the stuff of MMA legend, and I expect that even after he loses to the bigger, stronger, more skilled Soszynski he'll still have a job. I'd like to believe Bonnar has a chance, but I don't. I expect Soszynski to dominate him en route to a win. The only question is whether the win will come via knockout or submission.

Kyle: It's a shame that the UFC cut Mark Coleman, because he would have had a better chance of surviving this fight than Stephan Bonnar does. Soszynski by brutal KO.

Now, on to the main card.

Mirko Cro Cop vs. Anthony Perosh

Mark: Anthony Perosh, who is stepping in on about two days of notice for the sick Ben Rothwell, hasn't fought in the UFC since 2006, when he went 0-2. Where I expected Cro Cop to beat Rothwell after some hard work, I now belief he'll destroy Perosh without breaking a sweat.

Kyle: Anybody who takes a fight on one day's notice is unlikely to be the next UFC heavyweight champion, and Anthony Perosh is no exception. He's 0-2 in the UFC. He's more used to fighting at light heavyweight, at which weight he recently lost to UFC 110 undercard fighter James Te Huna. The venue for Perosh's last fight was "Mansfield Tavern, Mansfield, Queensland, Australia." CroCop may have slowed down since his days at the top of the Pride food chain, but he's still got more than enough left in the tank to finish a guy who's used to fighting in bars. CroCop by devastating high kick.

Keith Jardine vs. Ryan Bader

Mark: I generally like to pick Greg Jackson's fighters, because Jackson runs the best camp going, at least in my opinion. And, Jardine certainly has a puncher's chance of knocking out Bader. Unfortunately, I don't think Jardine can stop Bader from taking him down. Once Bader's on top of Jardine, Bader will work hard enough to grind out a decision win in what I fear may be one of the most boring fights of the night.

Kyle: Keith Jardine may be the most inconsistent performer the light heavyweight division has to offer. With wins over Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, he's beaten two one-time champions. But he's lost to Houston Alexander and Stephan Bonnar, men who are as far from winning a 205-lb. title as anyone in the UFC. Now, for the first time in his UFC career, Jardine is going to be facing a capable wrestler, Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader. Bader's shown himself to be a smart, disciplined combatant, and this fight will be his to lose. Expect him to take Jardine down and grind on him for the fifteen minutes it takes to win a decision.

Joe Stevenson vs. George Sotiropoulos

Mark: I really want to pick Sotiropoulos. He's amazing on the ground, he's an Aussie fighting at home, and he's an up-and-comer. The problem is, Stevenson is a Greg Jackson-trained fighter who's among the lightweight elite. Though there's always the chance of Sotiropoulos pulling off the upset via submission, I have to go with Stevenson winning via decision.

Kyle: Stevenson and Sotiropoulos are both grappling wizards. Sotiropoulos probably has the edge in jiu jitsu, but Stevenson has superior striking and the wrestling skills to determine whether the fight will take place standing or on the ground. Stevenson could win with strikes or he may take Sotiropoulos down and control him on the ground.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Michael Bisping

Mark: Bisping continues to evolve as a fighter, while Silva shows at most gradual improvements. Bisping, though, doesn't really have knockout power, and Silva does. As long as cutting to 185 hasn't weakened The Axe Murderer too much, I think he'll be able to punish Bisping and secure the win. Silva by TKO late.

Kyle: Wanderlei Silva once looked unbeatable, but as with Mirko Filipovic, the mileage has taken its toll and left him a shadow of the fearsome figure he used to be. Michael Bisping has put together an impressive win-loss record, but has come up short both times he actually had to face a top-ten opponent. This is a very tough fight to call. Bisping's quick, but short on striking power. Silva should have plenty of power, but has slowed down with the years. This is Silva's first fight at 185, which may help his speed, or may cost him his power. In the end, I pick Silva to win. My questionable reasoning: It took Dan Henderson three rounds to beat Silva and only two to beat Bisping. Surely that must mean that Silva's the better fighter, right?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez

Mark: The oddsmakers slightly favor the younger and undefeated Velasquez, but I think they're wrong. Unless he's lucky enough to knock out Nogueira, which I don't think he will be trying to do after the first three minutes, the fight will end up on the ground. Velasquez is the better wrestler, but Nogueira is a far superior BJJ fighter and has an amazing ability to absorb punishment. I expect Velasquez to leave an arm open or maybe even his neck, but either way, I see Big Nog winning by submission.

Kyle: This is another tough fight to call. Nogueira is a major step up in competition for Velasquez. Velasquez is younger, more explosive, and better conditioned than Nogueira. Expect Velasquez to take the fight to the ground as soon as he eats some hard strikes. Victory there will depend on staying out of Nogueira's guard. Maybe Velasquez has the grappling skills to avoid Nogueira's submission attempts, but none of his previous opponents and none of his AKA training partners come close to Nogueira's submission skills. Nogueria will take some punishment, as usual, but I think he'll lock in an armbar or choke before the match is over.

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