Saturday, September 25, 2010

UFC 119: Kyle and I pick 'em again

I'm on a bit of a slide, but I'm hoping to rebound with a victory over Kyle in our competition to pick the most fights correctly. Tonight's UFC pay-per-view event doesn't have the strongest card, but it's good enough that a bunch of us are gathering to watch the show.

As usual, we'll begin with the undercard, most of which we're unlikely to get to see. Kyle's picks appear first because he's the reigning champ.

Steve Lopez vs. Waylon Lowe

Kyle: Lowe's the better athlete, which should be enough of an edge for him to overpower and control Lopez. Waylon Lowe for the win.

Mark: Lowe won't have first-time-in-the-UFC jitters, and he's probably better at every aspect of the game than Lopez, so he should win this one handily.

T.J. Grant vs. Julio Paulino

Kyle: Grant's superior grappling skills should serve him well against a brawler like Paulino. Grant by submission.

Mark: Grant is simply the better fighter and will use his skills to dominate this match-up. The only question is whether Grant wins by a stoppage or points.

Mark Hunt vs. Sean McCorkle

Kyle: Hunt is a Pride has-been who's lost his last five fights. McCorkle is undefeated, but has never fought anybody you've heard of. Both men typically walk around at a well-padded 300 pounds, but have gone on a diet to make the heavyweight division's 265 lb. upper limit. This fight's going to be a bizarre slugfest, but beyond that it's hard to call. My guess is that Hunt's experience against world-class opponents will tell, and that he's going to earn his first win since 2006.

Mark: The taglines for this fight write themselves: the undefeated guy, McCorkle, who's never faced a serious competitor, versus the has-been, Hunt, who's fought some of the best. Hunt has the advantage, however, of not only having faced real competition, but also having the second most rock-like head on the card (after Mitrione's). Hunt should win in a fight that I can't believe will last two full rounds.

Thiago Tavares vs. Pat Audinwood

Kyle: Tavares has only won one of his last four fights, but he's a poor stylistic match-up for Audinwood. Audinwood's best talent is his jiu jitsu, and Tavares is going to outclass him in that area by a significant margin. Look for Tavares to give Audinwood a rude welcome on the floor of the Octagon.

Mark: Audinwood hasn't lost a fight yet, but he also hasn't fought in the UFC. Tavares is going to give him a rough welcome to The Big Show and emerge with the win.

Two of the undercard fights will appear on Spike, so we'll definitely catch them.

C.B. Dollaway vs. Joe Doerksen

Kyle: Dollaway's a strong wrestler, but he hasn't made as smooth a transition to the world of MMA as his Arizona State teammate, Ryan Bader. Dollaway doesn't pace himself well and tends to leave himself open to submissions. Doerksen is a workmanlike fighter who's not likely to ever be a title contender, but a guy with 58 professional fights has to have learned something along the way. Doerksen by submission.

Mark: Dollaway has made a lot of errors, notably in conditioning and submission defense, in his transition from wrestler to MMA fighter. I believe, though, that he's learning from those errors and will use his superior skill set to beat Doerksen in a boring decision.

Matt Mitrione vs. Joey Beltran

Kyle: Matt Mitrione is a large man of rare physical gifts whose huge frame and genial indestructibility make him a tough match for a fighter with Beltran's limited skill set. Beltran's not going to be able to take Mitrione down, and trading punches with Mitrione is going to be like trading punches with an Easter Island moai. Mitrione by ogrishness.

Mark: In what promises to be a human example of rock 'em, sock 'em robots, expect the robot made of tougher stuff to win. That would be Mitrione, whose entire body is as tough as Cabbage's head. Mitrione by demolition.

The five bouts on the main card feature two fighters, Evan Dunham and Ryan Bader, with perfect 11-0 records.

Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens

Kyle: Jeremy Stephens is a tough, tough man. But Melvin Guillard is a coiled spring of muscle waiting to explode, and in coach Greg Jackson he's finally found a trainer who can point him in the right direction. Guillard and Stephens have similar styles, but with some Jackson-imposed discipline Guillard is unlikely to make the mistakes that have snatched his defeats from the jaws of victory in the past. Guillard by KO.

Mark: This card offers two fights in which I want to be wrong. This is one of them. I don't like Guillard. I'd like to see Stephens stop his recent ascension. I just don't see it going that way. Guillard has always been a freak of nature with an absurd amount of talent. Now, he has Greg Jackson guiding him and teaching him discipline. Guillard FTW, probably by KO or TKO.

Evan Dunham vs. Sean Sherk

Kyle: Sherk is a 37-year-old former champion who's been out with injuries for 16 months. Dunham is a 28-year-old undefeated up-and-comer whose career has taken off like a rocket with wins over Marcus Aurelio, Efrain Escudero, and Tyson Griffin, all while Sherk was away. Dunham's a better striker than Sherk and a better grappler than Sherk. Nonetheless, I'm picking Sherk to win. Sherk has the conditioning of an Energizer Bunny and wrestling skills that Dunham can't hope to match. I expect him to put Dunham on his back and feed the younger man elbows until the bell rings.

Mark: Dunham is getting better every fight. Sherk is certain to carry a lot of rust into the cage with him. Dunham has better overall skills, and I think he can handle the shots that Sherk can muster today. I don't expect a finish in this fight, but I do think Dunham will emerge the victor--and probably by winning all three rounds.

Chris Lytle vs. Matt Serra

Kyle: Four years ago, Serra and Lytle fought for a title shot, and Serra won a close split decision. Since then, Lytle's fought 11 times in the UFC and become a regular Fight of the Night bonus winner. Serra's fought four times, looking more and more technical even as Lytle has become more of a brawler. The bad habits that Lytle's acquired in going for Fight of the Night bonuses will serve him poorly against Serra. Serra's not going to make any stupid technical mistakes, and he's going to out-point Lytle on the feet for the win.

Mark: Lytle is the favorite in this fight, but I don't buy it. He's fought more often than Serra, but he's just not as smart a fighter. On the ground, Lytle is good--but not as good as Serra. Either man certainly could throw a lucky punch--ref. Serra's victory over GSP--but I don't expect that to happen. Instead, look for Serra to win, probably by decision.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Ryan Bader

Kyle: Foreign fighters tend to struggle in the UFC against the smothering control of powerful American wrestlers, and there may be no more powerful American wrestler in the light heavyweight division than Ryan Bader. Nogueira may or may not be a better striker than Bader. He's certainly better at jiu jitsu. Neither of those factors is likely to be relevant. Bader's going to take Nogueira down at will and smack him for the fifteen minutes it takes to win a decision.

Mark: Here's how this one will go: They strike. Bader takes down Nogueira and controls him for a while, maybe hits him once of twice. They stand. Repeat for 15 minutes. Watch the ref raise Bader's hand in unanimous decision victory.

Frank Mir vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic

Kyle: Mir is a fast, fluid grappler who's recently fallen in love with boxing, as demonstrated by a knockdown of Cheick Kongo and a KO of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Filipovic was once the most feared striker in the sport, but has slowed with age. Expect Mir to come out throwing punches and Filipovic to fade throwing kicks. Unless Mir manages to break a hand and a foot on Crocop's head--as Pat Barry did in the Croatian's last fight--Mir should be able to win this one standing.

Mark: I want to pick Cro Cop to win this fight. I really do. Mir is usually a dick, and it would be very cool to see Cro Cop have a last hurrah. It's also possible for Cro Cop to win, because Mir's ego is almost certainly going to lead him to test his stand-up against the Croatian's. While he's doing that, Cro Cop could nail him. Despite all that, though, I have to go with Mir, because he has more ways to win and has become a good enough striker that I don't think Cro Cop will be able to knock him out. This is the second fight about which I would love to be wrong.

Kyle and I disagreed on only two fights, so we'll be watching those two very closely. Check back tomorrow to find out if I've regained my winning ways or Kyle has piled up another victory.

And, as always, don't use us for betting advice!

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