Saturday, August 28, 2010

UFC 118: Kyle and I pick 'em

Last time around, Kyle and I disagreed twice, and he was right on both counts. This time, I hope to do much better. Here's how we see tonight's fine slate of fights in Boston, starting, as usual, with the undercard, most of which we probably won't get to see.

Mike Pierce vs. Amilcar Alves

Mark: The only way Alves can win this fight is if Pierce postures up too much on the ground and opens himself to a submission. Pierce isn't going to do that, so he'll emerge the victor of what I expect will be a boring fight.

Kyle: European, Japanese and Brazilian fighters frequently find themselves stymied by the powerful top game of strong Amerian wrestlers. Alves reportedly has slick jiu jitsu skills, but he's unlikely to have fought anyone quite like Mike Pierce before, while Pierce has had ample opportunity to learn to defend himself against jiu jitsu stylists. Pierce by ground-and-pound.

Nick Osipczak vs. Greg Soto

Mark: Osipczak has one of the harder-to-pronounce names in the UFC, and he also has a hard game to defend. His last fight, a split decision loss to Rick Story, pitted him against a far better fighter than Soto. Osipczak should be able to beat Soto until his opponent learns to say his name.

Kyle: On paper, Osipczak looks like a bigger, better version of Soto. Osipczak has a similar record of wins by TKO and submission, but against stronger opponents. For example, Osipczak's last win was over Matt Riddle, who just handed Soto his first loss. Osipczak for the win.

John Salter vs. Dan Miller

Mark: Not long ago, I would have considered betting money that Miller would win this fight handily. Then, Miller seemed to fall apart personally, and his fight game suffered as a result. Consequently, I expect Salter to emerge the victor, probably through three rounds of boring wrestling top-game dominance.

Kyle: Dan Miller is coming off of three straight losses, and if he loses this fight too it's probably the end of his career in the UFC. That said, Miller's last three opponents were Michael Bisping, Demian Maia, and Chael Sonnen. He's been swimming in the deep end of the pool and John Salter is a big step down in competition from that lot. I think Miller's going to reverse his slide and pull out a win to save his job.

Spike TV is airing two of the fights, so we'll definitely tune into them.

Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz

Mark: In this striker vs. grappler match, the striker, Winner, is good enough to tag his opponent frequently, while the grappler, Lentz, isn't quite fast or strong enough to take down the other man at will. So, Winner by KO or TKO.

Kyle: Winner's got some smooth striking that's going to frustrate Lentz as long as the fight stays standing. Lentz's best chance is to get things to the ground, but he won't have as big an advantage there as Winner will have on the feet. I pick Winner to live up to his name.

Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Reudiger

Mark: Lauzon is a fighter who gives geeks everywhere hope that they, too, might one day be dangerous. He's unlikely ever to contend for the title, but he's more than good enough to beat Reudiger, who's back in the cage only because he was willing to take the fight as a replacement. Lauzon will probably submit Reudiger, but however it goes, he'll win.

Kyle: Reudiger made weight for this fight, which is more than he was able to accomplish in his time on The Ultimate Fighter. That's likely to be the limit of his success, though. Lauzon is a smart fighter with good reach and a wicked scramble. Expect him to make his hometown crowd happy. He'll come in with a solid game plan and shut Reudiger down.

Now, to the main card, which you have to buy the pay-per-view event to watch.

Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis

Mark: Davis still has plenty of power, so he has a puncher's chance of winning this fight. The Diaz boys can take punches, though, and keep on coming, and what Nate Diaz will bring to Davis is far more than Davis can handle. Diaz for the win.

Kyle: Davis is clearly a fighter reaching the sunset of his career. He's lost two of his last three fights and he's been plagued by injuries in recent years. That said, I like his chances against Diaz. Diaz has a reach advantage, but his style is to throw lots of quick arm punches instead of sitting into his blows and turning them into knockout power shots. The constant storm of fists that Diaz throws takes a lot of fighters out of their game, but I don't think it's going to stop a veteran boxer like Davis. I expect him to walk through the punches and knock Diaz out.

Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard

Mark: My mind tells me Maynard is going to use his wrestling to win this match by lay and pray, but my heart wants Florian to out-punch Maynard and eventually to submit him. This time around, I'm going with my heart and picking Florian.

Kyle: This is a fox vs. hedgehog matchup: Kenny Florian knows many things, Maynard only one. One good one. Florian has great striking and very good jiu jitsu, but Maynard has the wrestling skills to take Florian down at will and apply crushing pressure from the top for three straight rounds. Maynard by long slow grind.

Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda

Mark: Whether Maia wins this fight depends entirely on whether he's willing to put his ego aside, admit he's a far, far better submission artist than striker, and take down Miranda. Maia has to be scared of maintaining his contender status at 185, so I'm betting he and his camp find a way to get him to play to his strengths. Doing so will give him the win, almost certainly by submission.

Kyle: Maia may be the most effective jiu jitsu artist fighting in MMA. He can finish anyone he can get to the ground. Maia's not a great wrestler, but even so nothing in Miranda's history suggests that he has the take-down defense to keep the fight standing. Maia by submission.

Randy Couture vs. James Toney

Mark: Toney certainly has a puncher's chance of knocking out Couture, and if he does, the MMA blogs will be on fire for weeks. A far more likely scenario, however, is that Couture plays it very safe for just long enough to push Toney against the cage, take him down, and beat him up. Couture has been winning primarily by decision, but in this one I expect him not only to win, but to finish Toney.

Kyle: Take a turtle. Turn it over on its back. Watch for a minute as it feebly waves its arms and legs in the air, unable to right itself. Then step on it. That's James Toney.

Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn

Mark: When Edgar beat Penn for the championship, I was as stunned as every other MMA observer. Unlike many of them, I felt Edgar deserved the victory, though barely, because he dominated the pacing and nature of the fight. He used his speed to sting Penn with small punches, and then he danced away. Penn helped him by stupidly never going for the clinch or the take-down. I just don't see Penn being that stupid the second time around. Penn is stronger, bigger, and better at submissions. I expect him to close the gap, get his hands on Edgar, and come away the champion once again.

Kyle: In their first fight, Edgar used his small size to his advantage, flitting about Penn like a mosquito and ducking in to jab before flitting away. B.J. Penn fought a lackluster fight and played to Edgar's game plan. This fight will not be a repeat of the first fight. Penn has had a chance to learn from his mistakes and will look to take the fight to places where he's stronger: in the clinch and on the ground. In short, he can adapt and win, while Edgar has to exactly replicate his success from their first match to have a chance. Penn for the win.

Check back tomorrow to see how we did.

As always, don't use us for betting advice!

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