Saturday, June 11, 2011

UFC 131: Kyle and I pick 'em

We haven't posted any fight picks in quite a while, so when Kyle suggested it, I jumped at the idea. This fight doesn't have a ton of big-name competitors, but the main event is sure to be a heavyweight slugfest that you won't want to miss.

Here are our picks for the preliminary fights that are not on TV but that you can watch on Facebook or on YouTube.

Darren Elkins vs. Michihiro Omigawa

Mark: One of these guys is unlikely to have a UFC contract by the end of the day Tuesday. Elkins has lost twice, and Omigawa has gone 0-3 in the UFC. This fight feels like it's made for Omigawa to notch his first UFC win, and he will.

Kyle: In his last outing, versus Chad Mendes, Omigawa looked a step behind the entire fight. But Mendes is a beast, and Elkins should be a big step down in competition. Omigawa's excellent judo and journeyman-level striking should be enough to win him the decision.

Aaron Rosa vs. Joey Beltran

Mark: These two big guys will beat on each other as they gradually slow from lack of cardio conditioning. The lighter Beltran, aka "The Mexicutioner," will hope to keep it standing, but Rosa will get him down, spend a lot of time laying on him, and ultimately get the decision victory.

Kyle: Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran is tough as hell and has one of the best nicknames in the business, but he's going to have his hands full with Aaron Rosa, who has a similar brawling style and who outweighs Beltran by 15 pounds. This is going to be an ugly fight, but in the end Rosa should be able to do more damage and get the win.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young

Mark: I haven't watched any of Jason Young's fights, but he's English, and Poirier is a far better wrestler, so Young will hit the mat and receive a lot of punishment until the ref pulls Poirier off him and hands the TKO win to Poirier.

Kyle: Poirier looked impressive in his January victory over featherweight prospect Josh Grispi. He's ready for a step up in competition, but instead he's drawn Jason Young, a British fighter new to the UFC. Expect Poirier to utilize his superior American wrestling base to take Young down, control him on the ground, and grind out a win.

Nick Ring vs. James Head

Mark: Nick Ring looked good on The Ultimate Fighter until he got hurt. Now, he's recovered from surgery, and I expect he'll look good again--for a round or so. Then, James Head will pull ahead and win the decision.

Kyle: Ring has some good kicks, but in his time on The Ultimate Fighter he looked hesitant when facing a striker with good hands. Combine that hesitation with Ring's questionable recovery from his most recent knee surgery, and Head's superior boxing should be good enough for him to win the day.

Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Mike Massenzio

Mark: Soszynski is going to run right through Massenzio, who's fighting up a weight class, and win via TKO in what should be a short and brutal fight.

Kyle: Poor Mike Massenzio. Dana White, the president of the UFC, loves fighters who step up when called, but Mike Massenzio has gone beyond the call of duty. After going 1-2 in the UFC in his first three fights, he's getting another chance to fight in the big show on six days notice and against an opponent twenty pounds heavier than the middleweights he's used to fighting. The stone-fisted Krzysztof Soszynski isn't likely to give him a gentle welcome to the light-heavyweight ranks. Soszynski by knockout.

The next two fights will be available for free on Spike TV.

Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt

Mark: Weidman kicked butt in his debut a few months ago despite having to take the fight on two weeks notice. He also is a fill-in for this fight, this time for Court McGee, but again it's likely to work out well for him. He's a great wrestler who will dominate Bongfeldt and earn a victory on the ground.

Kyle: Chris Weidman is an elite wrestler who's integrated the striking skills of a true mixed martial artist with uncanny ease. It's going to be a long night for Jesse Bongfeldt, with Weidman shooting for take-downs when he tries to strike and throwing strikes when he goes to sprawl. Weidman for the win.

Yves Edwards vs. Sam Stout

Mark: Both of these fighters have excellent striking arsenals, and we'll see them in this fight--until Edwards starts to gas or to lose. At that point, he'll try to take down Stout, and then we'll see how the fight will really go. I'm betting Stout will get up and continue to hurt Edwards enough to win a decision victory.

Kyle: Expect this fight to stay on the feet for as long as it lasts, with Stout and Edwards both playing a highly-technical Muay Thai chess match. In the end, though, the years and the mileage are likely to slow Edwards down in the later rounds. Eight years older than Stout and with more than twice as many professional fights, Edwards is unlikely to be able to sustain the pace of the younger, hungrier fighter. Stout to win.

Now, we move to the main card, which you must buy the PPV to see.

Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha

Mark: You have to feel sorry for Rocha and yet also admire him a bit, both because he had to take this on short notice and because he is debuting against a very dangerous fighter. Cerrone is going to punish Rocha for three rounds, be smart enough not to end up in his opponent's guard, and get a unanimous decision victory.

Kyle: Rocha undoubtedly has superior Brazilian jiu jitsu, but Cerrone has shown impeccable take-down defense in his recent fights. It doesn't seem likely that Rocha's going to be able to get this one to the ground. On the feet, Cerrone should be able to use his long reach and great timing to nail Rocha again and again. Cerrone by KO.

Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz

Mark: I want to pick Maia, because I want to see him work his crazy submission skills, but I'm betting that Munoz has gained just enough self-control not to follow Maia to the ground. That plus the sheer power of Munoz's hands will give Munoz the victory and set him up to be one of the next contenders for Anderson Silva's whirling house of pain.

Kyle: The underrated Mark Munoz is one of the best fighters in the 185 lb. division. Demian Maia is no slouch, but his one-dimensional skill set leaves him somewhat vulnerable. He has one of the best submission games in MMA, but his striking is serviceable at best. His only chance is to get this fight to the ground. But Munoz, a former NCAA wrestling champ, isn't going to the ground unless he decides to. Considering his advantage in throwing heavy leather, he'd be stupid to do that. Munoz isn't a technical striker, but he throws hard, hard punches. Look for him to finish this one by knockout.

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman

Mark: Some heavyweight fights are great slugfests--ref. dos Santos vs. Carwin below--but many end up being yawns as you watch big guys play it safe and slowly gas. I fear this fight may be one of those. The big question is whether Herman can keep it standing. If it goes to the ground, Einemo, who has serious jiu-jitsu, will carry the day. If it does not, then Herman will grind out a win.

Though the oddsmakers have Herman a heavy favorite, I'm betting that he gets sloppy, lets Einemo take him down, and falls prey to a submission. Einemo by something painful on the ground.

Kyle: It's a battle of the giants as 6'5" 233 lb. Dave Herman faces 6'6" 261 lb. Jon Olav Einemo. Herman's a brawling striker with a wrestling base. Einemo is a submission master who's coming off a four year hiatus from MMA. Both men are making their UFC debuts. There are a lot of unknowns in this fight. But given Einemo's thirty-pound weight advantage and assuming he's honed his striking skills in his time with Holland's Golden Glory fight team, I'm going to pick him to win over Herman.

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes

Mark: This one comes down to Florian's cut. If his drop in weight class went well, he should dominate. If, however, he comes in wasted from the cut--and he was definitely already thin--then Nunes could take him. With a new nutritionist, a new strength and conditioning coach, and Firas Zahabi training him, I'm betting the cut went well for Florian. I expect him to dominate and ultimately end the fight with either a submission or a TKO.

Kyle: Kenny Florian will be venturing into his fourth UFC weight class when he drops to 145 to challenge Diego Nunes. The winner may be the next fighter to face champion Jose Aldo. Nunes comes off a three-fight win streak, including an impressive split decision win over former champ Mike Brown. Florian comes off a decision loss at 155 to Gray Maynard--nothing to be ashamed of, considering that Maynard went on to fight a five-round draw for the lightweight belt. Florian's used to tougher competition than Nunes in a heavier weight class. The question is how well he's going to perform after cutting another ten pounds from his already emaciated frame. He's got good training in nutrition, strength and conditioning, though, so I'm betting that he'll come through the cut okay. Florian by being the bigger, better kick-boxer.

Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin

Mark: In what is sadly a rarity in this sport, this fight features two guys who disdain trash talking, appear to be genuinely good people, and who have great skills. Of course, all most fans want is to see them beat the holy hell out of one another. I expect the fans will get their wish, because unless Carwin takes down dos Santos and falls victim to a quick submission attempt, an outcome that is possible but unlikely, someone's getting knocked out. The oddsmakers are going with dos Santos, probably because of his superior striking and conditioning. I really want to buck them, and Carwin does have a game plan for victory: take down dos Santos and punish him. The problem is, dos Santos is notoriously hard to get on the mat, and he trains with the Noguiera brothers, so he gets up quickly when he is down. So, I have to side with the oddsmakers and call this one for Junior dos Santos.

Kyle: This should be a short fight. In twenty-six fights between them, Carwin and dos Santos have only had three go past the first round. Expect both men to come out swinging hard. Carwin will try to get a take-down. Dos Santos will probably stuff it. In striking, Carwin has the edge in power, but dos Santos has dazzling speed for a heavyweight. Carwin is fifteen pounds heavier. He's also nine years older and recovering from spinal surgery. Dos Santos is younger, faster, and fresher. He has ample knockout power. Nothing in his previous fights has suggested that his chin is anything but granite. This should be a short fight. It will end in KO. And Junior dos Santos' hand will be raised in victory.

Tune in tomorrow to see how we fared and, as always, don't rely on us for betting advice!

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