Saturday, September 24, 2011

UFC 135: Kyle and I pick 'em

Tonight's UFC 135 has so many fun fights that Kyle and I decided to put ourselves to the test once again. Here's how we seem the bouts going, starting, as always, with the three that won't be on cable TV. (You can catch them, though, on Facebook.)

We've only posted one other set of fight picks recently, so we decided it was time to do another.

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.

James Te Huna vs. Ricardo Romero

Mark: Pit an okay striker against an okay grappler, and the grappler will usually carry the day. Romero is the better wrestler here, so I'm going with him.

Kyle: Te Huna and Romero both have impressive records outside the UFC, but have only gone 1-1 since coming to the big show. This is do or die for them. Romero is the better grappler. Te Huna is the better striker. In such cases I'm inclined to pick the better wrestler. Romero for the win.

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Cole Escovedo

Mark: Expect a full three rounds of ugly, back-and-forth fighting as neither man is likely to finish the other. In the end, I'm going with Escovedo as the winner by decision of a close bout.

Kyle: Mizugaki and Escovedo are both crossovers from the WEC, where they have long records and have faced some of the best bantamweights in the division. They have similar styles, combining journeyman-level striking skills with journeyman-level grappling. This should be an even, incremental fight. But I think Mizugaki's a little bit tougher and has held his own against slightly stronger competition in the past. Mizugaki should take it in the end.

Junior Assuncao vs. Eddie Yagin

Mark: Pretty much all I know about Yagin is that he's won seven of his last eight fights, and this is his UFC debut. I've read several folks picking him, but I'm going with Octagon jitters affecting him and Assuncao getting a much-needed victory.

Kyle: After losing fights to Kurt Pellegrino and Nate Diaz, Junior Assuncao got sent back to the minors, but four years and seven victories later he's back in the UFC and fighting for a second chance against newcomer Eddie Yagin. I don't know much about either fighter, but I''m picking Yagin because he comes from a stronger team. He trains at Alliance MMA with Joey Beltran, Travis Browne, Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, and Brandon Vera. Assuncao trains with Rory Singer in Georgia, where there just aren't as many UFC-caliber fighters to push him to a higher level. Yagin to win.

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

Tony Ferguson vs. Aaron Riley

Mark: Aaron Riley has participated in a lot of great fights and logged a ton of victories, but this fight won't be one of them. Tony Ferguson will beat him both striking and on the ground. I don't expect this one to last three rounds before Ferguson emerges the victor.

Kyle: Ferguson is the most recent winner of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and Riley is the experienced past-his-prime veteran that the UFC is using to build Ferguson up further. Riley's a game brawler, but Ferguson is better-conditioned and more technical. Expect Ferguson to wear Riley down, avoid his haymakers, and get the win.

Nick Ring vs. Tim Boetsch

Mark: Ring will enter the Octagon undefeated but will exit with his first loss as Boetsch, who should now be comfortable at 185, will be just too strong and too tough for him to handle. It's 50-50 whether Boetsch finishes Ring, but Boetsch will win.

Kyle: Nick "I'm not gay but my boyfriend is" Ring was the best thing about season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, but he's going to have his hands full with Tim Boetsch. Boetsch, aptly nicknamed "The Barbarian," looked like an absolute beast in his first fight at 185, smashing Kendall Grove for three rounds straight and sending him packing right out of the UFC. Ring is a technical kick-boxer who's going to want to keep his distance and punish Boetsch with leg kicks from the outside. But Boetsch has the wrestling chops to tie up with Ring, dirty box against the cage, and drag Ring to the ground for more abuse. Boetsch by assault and battery.

To see the final five fights, you have to pony up for the PPV.

Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt

Mark: Ben Rothwell could win this fight. All he has to do is piss off Dana White by playing it safe, flicking jabs, clinching on the fence, taking down Hunt, and walking out with the decision.

Alternatively, Rothwell could do what the UFC wants him to do: stand in the center of the octagon and trade punches with Hunt in a bid to land the Fight of the Night bonus--a bonus likely to be far larger than his paycheck if he wins.

I'm really torn on this one, but I'm hoping a desire to win after over a year in rehab leads Rothwell to fight intelligently. So, I'm going with Rothwell--but I'm not at all sure I'm right to do so.

Kyle: When 524 pounds of ham-fisted heavyweights walk into the cage Saturday night, somebody's getting knocked out. That much we can be relatively sure of. Rothwell's best chance is to get Hunt to the ground and dominate with ground-and-pound. But I don't think he's going to be able to resist the temptation to brawl, and Hunt has head and hands of granite. Hunt by KO.

Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi

Mark: If this were the Gomi of a few years ago, when he was tearing up fighters in Japan, he'd still lose to Nate Diaz--but the fight would be closer. Gomi is not that guy any longer, and the competition in the UFC is way tougher than it was in Japan. Diaz will do what the Diaz brothers do: flick and jab and slap and generally annoy from a distance, slowly but surely chop up Gomi, and hope Gomi takes him down so he can pull a submission. Whether by points or submission, though, Diaz will walk out the winner.

Kyle: Four years ago, Gomi was solidly beaten by Nate's older brother Nick--only to see the decision overturned when Nick Diaz tested positive for smoking marijuana before the fight. Nick and Nate have similar styles, and Gomi hasn't gotten any better in the meantime. Diaz should be able to frustrate Gomi on the feet with pitter-pat strikes, tie him up on the ground with superior jiu jitsu, and earn the win.

Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton

Mark: The UFC must be thinking ahead and wanting another undefeated heavyweight, because that's the only reason I can figure they would feed Broughton to the undefeated Browne. Browne will destroy Broughton in a fight that won't last long.

Kyle: Browne comes into the ring with a five-inch height advantage and an undefeated record. He's beaten Stefan Struve and fought Cheick Kongo to a draw. Broughton is a step down for him. It's not a step that he should have any trouble taking. Browne by knockout.

Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck

Mark: I've never found a reason to like Josh Koscheck, and just about everything I've seen him do has increased my dislike of him. So, I'd love to see Hall of Famer Matt Hughes spank his blond butt. The problem is, Hughes at his best would have had a tough time with Koscheck, and Hughes is no longer at his best. Koscheck will be better in every area and walk away the winner.

Kyle: Like most wrestler vs. wrestler match-ups, this one will probably take place entirely on the feet. Unfortunately for Matt Hughes, despite his recent work on improving his striking skills, he's at a tremendous reach disadvantage vs. Josh Koscheck. Expect a kickboxing match between powerful and competent strikers with Koscheck eventually getting the knockout.

Jon Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

Mark: I would love to see Rampage win this fight, simply because it would continue the win-it-and-lose-it pattern that's been dogging this Light Heavyweight championship for a while. Rampage even has a puncher's chance, because if Jones gets sloppy, Rampage can knock him out with one punch.

Jones won't, though, get sloppy. Greg Jackson will have trained him too well, and he's generally not an emotional fighter.

Without sloppiness to help him, Rampage will have to face the harsh reality that's afflicted everyone who's faced Jones: Jones is bigger, stronger, and has a vastly longer reach than he does--and Jones is insanely talented.

Jones will win this one, and everyone else at 205 will be left desperately trying to figure out how to beat him.

Kyle: This is Jones's fight to lose. Jackson brings some of the best boxing in the UFC, but Jones simply has more weapons, especially his tremendous reach advantage. Jones should be able to use leg kicks to chop down Jackson the way Forrest Griffin did, but with even more size and aggression. Jackson has a puncher's chance, but the odds are that he's going to lose the fight everywhere it goes.

Tomorrow, I'll report back on how we did.

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

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