Saturday, April 10, 2010

UFC 112: Our picks for the slugfest in Abu Dhabi

As I wrote yesterday, I wasn't going to make these picks, but then I found Kyle's in my email inbox and couldn't resist joining in the fun. Sorry mine are so short, but I have now been up a very long time and wanted to write these before crashing. Because Kyle went first, his name appears first.

So, without further ado, let's start with the undercard.

Jon Madsen vs. Mostapha Al Turk

Kyle: Madsen should be able to hold Al Turk down and grind on him long enough to win a decision.

Mark: If Al Turk has a UFC contract a week from now, I'll be amazed. Madsen will never challenge for the title, but he will take down Al Turk and beat on him enough to win this fight.

Paul Kelly vs. Matt Veach

Kyle: Matt Veach is a very good fighter who would be undefeated if he hadn't run into a brick wall named Frankie Edgar. Now Edgar's fighting BJ Penn for the title, and Veach is on the undercard against Paul Kelly. Kelly's a brawler with a puncher's chance, but Veach is more technical and a better athlete. Veach should be able to win the fight standing or on the ground.

Mark: Kelly will be the second fighter of the night to find himself without a UFC contract in a week as Veach manhandles him and wins handily.

DaMarques Johnson vs. Brad Blackburn

Kyle: Johnson has slick submissions, but every fight starts standing and Brad Blackburn won't be taken down easily. Blackburn by fists of fury.

Mark: Everything I read says Blackburn, but I think Johnson is improving and is going to stay alive on his feet long enough to get Blackburn on the mat. From there, it'll be all Johnson. So, I'm bucking the odds and going with Johnson for the win.

If Blackburn KOs Johnson in the first round, I'm going to blame sleepiness for this screw-up.

Nick Osipczak vs. Rick Story

Kyle: This is going to be a war, but I think Osipczak can outwork Story the same way he outworked Matt Riddle at UFC 105. As long as he can stop Story's takedowns, Osipczak should be able to edge out the stand-up fight and get the win.

Mark: Story's going to take down Osipczak, and when he does, things will turn ugly. Story for the win, either by TKO or decision.

Paul Taylor vs. John Gunderson

Kyle: After racking up a 3-4 record in the UFC, with one of those three wins being a split decision, Paul Taylor has decided to follow fellow Brit Paul Kelly down from welterweight to lightweight. He faces submission machine John Gunderson, who would win the fight easily if he had the takedown skills to put Taylor on the ground. He doesn't. Expect Taylor to keep things standing and knock Gunderson out on his feet.

Mark: Gunderson will be another fighter without a UFC contract a week from now, because his wrestling isn't good enough to take down Taylor, and he sure as hell can't box with the Brit. Taylor by either TKO or decision after he pummels Gunderson relentlessly.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Phil Davis

Kyle: Davis was an NCAA Division I wrestling champion a couple of years ago. Gustafsson wasn't. Gustafsson's going to spend the fight on his back eating elbows from above. Davis for the win.

Mark: The UFC wants to keep Davis undefeated for at least a while longer, and Gustafsson is a perfect match-up for that purpose. He looks credible, but he'll spend the whole fight staring up at Davis. Davis will win, though I'm not sure if it'll be by TKO or decision.

Now, on to the main card.

Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz

Kyle: Munoz was also a NCAA Division I wrestling champ, but Kendall Grove has some submission skills off his back, and Munoz doesn't control his opponents as well as you'd expect from a wrestler of his caliber. This fight is unlikely to be as one-sided as Gustafsson vs. Davis. Still, I have to give Munoz a slight edge: he could always get submitted, but he'll definitely be putting the hurt on Kendall Grove from the start of the fight till the end.

Mark: This is one of the trickier fights to call, because each fighter has flaws the other can exploit. Munoz has the power to send Grove to sleep, but Grove has the reach to keep him away and jits skills that Munoz can't handle. Because I saw Kyle's picks before writing mine, and because we agree on so many of these fights, I'm going with Grove, probably by submission.

Terry Etim vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

Kyle: I like Rafael Dos Anjos because he beat Robert Emerson, and I don't like Robert Emerson. I think Dos Anjos can win the stand-up game, and if he can't he should be able to take Etim down and win the fight on the ground. Dos Anjos by takedown and submission or knockdown and submission.

Mark: Etim won't be able to stop Dos Anjos' take-downs, and that inability will give Dos Anjos the victory. The only question is whether Etim will last three rounds and lose by decision (unlikely) or get submitted earlier (more likely).

Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie

Kyle: This is going to look like every Matt Hughes fight ever. See Matt Hughes. See Matt Hughes throw a couple of ineffectual strikes. See Matt Hughes take his opponent down. See Matt Hughes pass his opponent's guard like it's not even there, pin him in a crucifix position, and batter him with elbows until the referee stops the fight. In the words of Matt Serra, "Matt Hughes is a dick. A very talented dick."

Mark: Renzo Gracie is already talking about moving down to 155. He should have made that cut earlier and not decided to take on Matt Hughes. By the standards of the best modern fighters, Hughes doesn't have a lot of tricks, but what he does--take you down, beat on you--he does very well. Expect him to win by TKO in a fight that Gracie will regret after about the first minute.

BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar

Kyle: BJ Penn is an 11-to-1 favorite in this fight. He's bigger than Frankie Edgar. He's a better striker. He's a better wrestler. And he's much, much better at jiu jitsu. Edgar's a great fighter, but if he wants a championship belt he should go off to the WEC and challenge Jose Aldo for the 145-pound title.

Mark: Frankie Edgar is a small 155-er who needs to drop to 145. BJ Penn is both a great size for the weight class and better than Edgar in every single way. Expect Penn to be licking Edgar's blood off his gloves before this one is over. The most interesting question about this fight is not whether Penn will win--he will--but whether he'll stay at 155 or move up to 170. I hope he stays at 155, because waiting for him at 170 is a world of pain he cannot handle: GSP.

Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia

Kyle: Demian Maia is an absolute jiu jitsu wizard, but he's going to eat a lot of punches and kicks trying to get Anderson Silva to the ground. As Silva showed in his last fight against Forrest Griffin, the more aggressively an opponent pursues him, the more quickly that opponent is going to get knocked out. But as he showed in his previous fight against Thales Leites, he's also perfectly willing to let a reluctant grappler hang back and lose on points as Silva steps in to land a couple of strikes per round. This is a lose-lose situation for Maia. Expect him to fight manfully, but lose quickly.

Mark: I can't name anyone at 185 who is likely to beat Silva, but I can at least name some fighters who would be interesting to watch in a context with The Spider; Vitor Belfort, Silva's original opponent, comes immediately to mind. Maia is not on that list. I expect him to try to take down Silva, and shortly thereafter, I expect to see him knocked out on the mat. Silva will win this one early and easily.

Check with me Sunday to see how we did and, as always, don't use us for betting advice.

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