Saturday, August 27, 2011

UFC 134: Kyle and I pick 'em

We haven't posted any fight picks in over two months, so when Kyle suggested it, I jumped at the idea. This card is loaded with good fights, so it's going to be a joy to watch.

Here are our picks for the preliminary fights that are not on Spike TV or the PPV event, though you can catch them live on the UFC's Facebook page.

Yves Jabouin vs. Ian Loveland

Mark: Loveland is an experienced 135-pounder and a wrestler. Jabouin is making this cut for the first time and a striker. Expect Loveland to be in better shape and able to take down Jabouin and grind out a win, maybe even get a TKO from ground-and-pound.

Kyle: Jabouin's dropping a weight class after losing his first fight in the UFC. Loveland's also coming off a loss, to future 125-lb. champ Joseph Benavidez. In most wrestler-vs.-striker match-ups, I bet on the wrestler, and that goes double if the striker is cutting hard to make a lighter weight class for the first time. Loveland by takedown and grind.

Yuri Alcantara vs. Antonio Carvalho

Mark: Both guys are making their first appearance in the UFC, but Alcantara has fought in the WEC and thus seen a higher level of competition. He has twice as many fights as Carvalho and some serious striking power, so expect Alcantara to win, probably by TKO.

Kyle: Both fighters are tough guys with good records and a mix of KO and submission victories. Alcantara has fought a higher level of competition, though, including a win in the final WEC event over Ricardo Lamas. Alcantara should be able to earn the victory.

Erick Silva vs. Luis Ramos

Mark: Another match in which both guys are new to the UFC. Silva has lost only one fight and had a full training camp. Ramos took the fight on three weeks notice and has six losses. Silva for the win.

Kyle: Silva's 12-1 and hasn't lost in almost four years. Ramos is 19-6 and is taking this fight on three weeks notice. Silva by demolition.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Johnny Eduardo

Mark: Eduardo fought for 15 years before he got this chance to debut in the UFC. Unfortunately, he's not likely to emerge from this one a winner. He's probably a better striker than Assuncao, but on the ground, where all but one of his losses has come, he has no chance.

So, of course, Assuncao will take him down and submit him.

Kyle: Assuncao has struggled in his UFC/WEC career, going 3-3 in both shows combined. But that includes a close fight with former champ Urijah Faber and a split decision loss to the always-tough Diego Nunes. Johnny Eduardo has a much more impressive record over the last couple of years but has faced much weaker competition. This will be Eduardo's first time in the big show. I expect the veteran Assuncao to send him packing back to the local shows.

Paulo Thiago vs. David Mitchell

Mark: Mitchell is one of those guys who goes undefeated until he hits the UFC, runs into a superior class of fighters, and exits the big show quickly. He lost by decision in his debut against Anthony Waldburger, a fighter who's far worse than Thiago in every way.

This one feels like a match that the UFC chose to make sure the home country had a sure win (not that Brazil needed the help). Expect Thiago to dominate Mitchell and ultimately finish him, probably by submission.

Also, expect Mitchell to be without a UFC contract before the end of the week.

Kyle: Paulo Thiago's day job is kicking in doors for BOPE, the special operations police battalion in Brazil. (If you haven't already, watch the excellent movie Elite Squad to better appreciate the sheer badassery involved.) In his time with the UFC, Thiago's fought Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez and knocked out Josh Koscheck. David Mitchell, who lost his only previous UFC fight to Anthony Waldburger, doesn't have anything to bring that Paulo Thiago doesn't have a ready answer for. Thiago by domination.

The next two fights are available for free on Spike starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Dan Miller

Mark: Poor Dan Miller. He's one of those fighters who's good, quite good, but not good enough to make it out of the pack of middleweights. Palhares is just a little bit better than Miller in almost every facet of the game, and he's probably a great deal stronger. Palhares would love to finish Miller and use this fight to climb in the middleweight rankings, but I don't think he will. Instead, he'll probably grind out a decision and leave Miller looking a great deal worse for wear.

Either way, though, Palhares will take this one.

Kyle: While his brother Jim has been destroying opponents down at lightweight, middleweight Dan Miller has struggled in his UFC career. He's lost decisions to Nate Marquardt, Michael Bisping, Demian Maia, and Chael Sonnen. Palhares also lost to Marquardt but otherwise has had a more impressive run, finishing four of his UFC fights by submission. Palhares is a freakishly strong grappler with good wrestling and jiu jitsu skills. He should be able to take Miller down and control him for the win.

Thiago Tavares vs. Spencer Fisher

Mark: Fisher wants to stand and bang, go for a Fight of the Night bonus, and hope for the best. Tavares wants to lean on Fisher, wear him out, take him down, score some points, and repeat.

Unfortunately for those who want a striking contest, Tavares has the strength and skill to control the fight. Unless Fisher lands a lucky strike and ends it, which I don't see happening, Tavares will impose his will and grind out a decision win.

Tavares in a fight that may send you to the kitchen for early dessert.

Kyle: If there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that this fight will largely take place on the feet. Fisher's a sprawl-and-brawl fighter in the style of Chuck Liddell. He'll try to shrug off Tavares' takedown attempts and throw heavy leather. Tavares is probably a better technical striker, but I think that Fisher has the brawling skills to pull off the upset. Fisher by knockout.

To catch the excellent main card, you'll have to pony up the cash for the PPV or head to a bar or club that's showing it.

Luis Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov

Mark: This one should be a doozy, as two light heavyweight powerhouses go at it. The undefeated Nedkov could win if he brought a great game plan, had a great camp, and stayed cool in his UFC debut. That's just too many "ifs," however, so expect Cane to wear him down and walk out the winner.

Kyle: Cane is a brutal striker with a UFC record that's a mix of wins and losses but never a dull fight. Nedkov is an undefeated bear of a Bulgarian with a wrestling background and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but rudimentary striking skills. Ordinarily, I'd give the grappler the edge, but this is Nedkov's first fight in the UFC, and Cane is a big, big step up in competition for him. Cane by KO.

Ross Pearson vs. Edson Barboza Jr.

Mark: Pearson is a gamer who loves to strike, but Barboza is an undefeated striker with more power, killer kicks, and better skills. This one should not go to decision, but it should go to Barboza in a short and exciting fight.

Kyle: Pearson's an English fighter with good enough hands to earn a 4-1 record in the UFC. The undefeated Barboza is 2-0 in the UFC but has more weapons at his disposal, having finished opponents with punches, a choke, and twice by leg kicks. The last are likely to make all the difference in this fight. Expect Barboza to stay on the outside and punish Pearson's legs to deprive him of mobility before going in for the kill. Barboza by superior Muay Thai.

Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira

Mark: Nogueira is one of the sport's heavyweight legends, and after hip surgery he's trying to make his mark again. Schaub, though, is a younger, stronger fighter who's improving rapidly with every bout. The UFC is making this his coming out party, and he will not disappoint them. I expect it to go to decision, though a knockout is possible given how much damage Big Nog has sustained over the years. Either way, Schaub will win and move up the heavyweight ranks.

Kyle: Nogueira's condition is a big question mark. Since losing his last fight to current UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez in February 2010, Nogueira has been out recovering from surgery on both knees and both hips. A year and a half is a long time to be out of competition. Brendan Schaub's a rising star in the UFC, and all four of Schaub's UFC wins have come in the time that Nogueira's been inactive. Schaub's heavily favored in this fight, but I'm betting that Nogueira comes back improved by his surgery. Schaub looked less than impressive in his most recent fight against Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic. I think that even after his layoff, Nogueira's a tougher opponent than CroCop, and I think he's going to take the win.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Forrest Griffin

Mark: Most predictions I've read go for Shogun, but I don't buy it. I think Griffin will use a solid game plan and his superior reach, along with some kicks and a willingness to absorb a lot of punishment, to grind out a decision win.

Kyle: The thing with Shogun is that you never know which Shogun is going to show up. Will it be the one who dominated Chuck Liddell and took the belt away from Lyoto Machida? Or will it be the one who was dominated by Forrest Griffin in 2007, struggled against Mark Coleman, and gassed completely against Jon Jones? Griffin has a more consistent work ethic. He's lacking in knockout power, but he has good technique and is a conditioning machine. He won't get tired. He won't quit. And he's just too big for Shogun. Shogun walks around at 205. Griffin walks around at 250 when he's not fighting, and isn't fat at that weight. This is going to look like Shogun's and Griffin's last two fights: Shogun was dominated by the much larger Jon Jones. Griffin dominated the much smaller Rich Franklin. Which is to say, it's going to look like the first Rua/Griffin fight back in 2007. Forrest Griffin for the win.

Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami

Mark: Anderson Silva is one of the two current legitimate candidates for best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. (GSP is the other.) The only question in this fight is how Silva will beat Okami, not if he will. The answer will depend on whether Okami chooses to attack and thus fall into the Spider's web, or hangs back and brings out the taunting, dancing Silva.

Either way, Silva's hand will be up at the end of the match, and he'll be moving on to fight either Dan Henderson or Chael Sonnen.

Kyle: Like Rua and Griffin, Silva and Okami have fought before. In their previous fight, Silva controlled Okami for most of the first round before being taken down late in the round. Silva immediately tied Okami up in his guard and then finished him with an illegal up-kick that looks like it shouldn't even be possible. One second, Silva has both of Okami's legs grapevined, the next second Okami's flat on his back and barely conscious. Nothing about the fight gives a viewer the impression that Okami has any weapons with which to threaten Anderson Silva. He can't land punches. He struggles for takedowns. And when he gets a takedown, he can't do anything with it. Anderson Silva's going to win this because he's just on a different level. From Okami, and from everybody else.

We disagree on only two picks, so the margin of victory won't be much. Tune in tomorrow to see how we fared.

As always, don't rely on us for betting advice!

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