Saturday, 8 August 2009

UFC 101: Declaration

With the fallout of last month’s record-breaking event still resonating, UFC returns with another action-packed card this Saturday. As with all UFC pay-per-views these days there are enough diverse and interesting match ups to appease the most cynical ‘fan’, with the top two fights providing the star power attraction.

While my picks for UFC 100 didn’t exactly paint me as an “expert” (although no one could foresee Bonnar losing a decision (!) to Coleman), I will continue to persist with a run-through of the line-up and my predictions below. Also, this column (you’ll be glad to read) will be significantly shorter than the last. Apart from not being as arsed, I’m still reeling from the death of the genius that is John Hughes.

So, let’s start at the top…

UFC Lightweight Championship: ‘The Prodigy’ BJ Penn vs. Kenny ‘KenFlo’ Florian

Everyone familiar with MMA knows what skills “Baby Jay” possesses: exceptional stand up, extraordinary jiu-jitsu and the flexibility of a Romanian Olympic gymnast (to name a few). Florian is a very good, well disciplined all-rounder who has deservedly earned his title shot with a current 6-0 win streak.

As long as Baby Jay can combine his natural ability with the right mentality, he should easily overwhelm ‘KenFlo’ in every department. Florian will wisely keep away from a grappling contest, but keeping it standing won’t be too shrewd a move either. BJ’s going to control this wherever it goes, inevitably finishing sometime in the third (before he gets too tired). Penn submission in the 3rd.

Light-Heavyweight: Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva vs. Forrest Griffin

This is an excellent challenge for Anderson Silva, who has looked decidedly lacklustre in his last two Middleweight outings. His pound-for-pound status is on the decline so he will want to put in an impressive performance against the People’s Champ ™. Griffin himself won’t just view this as another chance to boost his “scrappy underdog” mantle. He’ll want to bounce back convincingly from losing his title and prove that he does actually belong amongst the MMA elite.

There’s no doubt Griffin will pose a genuinely stern test for Anderson. He’ll have a nice size advantage over the Brazilian and will look to use this to smother his offence. Silva’s precision striking is well documented and it’s impossible to think he won’t seriously test Forrest’s chin throughout. As a three round contest, Anderson won’t have much time for his usual feel out process, so he’ll have to push it a little bit more to get Forrest to engage. While I think Griffin has the necessary for an upset, I can’t see it myself. There’s an outside chance of it going the distance but I’m pretty confident Silva will find his range sometime during the 2nd, ending it the brutal fashion we’ve become accustomed to. Silva TKO in the 2nd.

Middleweight: Ricardo ‘Big Dog’ Almeida vs. Kendall ‘Da Spyder’ Grove

At a spindly 6’6, Grove will have significant reach over Almeida. He will no doubt look to utilise this advantage to work his way into the comfort of a Muay Thai clinch where he can unload his array of knees and elbows. Almeida is a jiu-jitsu specialist who will want this thing to hit the ground as soon as. If it does, it should be a clinic from there on in.

This fight has me torn. I like the ‘Big Dog’ but he hasn’t impressed me since his return to the UFC. Kendall is by no means a top contender in the Middleweight division, but I do think he has the appropriate tools to do the job on the Almeida. However, Kendall’s long limbs are right for the plucking and I’d be less than surprised if Almeida takes one home with him. I’m really interested to see how this one pans out and will just favour ‘Da Spyder’ to eek out a decision victory. Grove majority decision.

Welterweight: Amir Sadollah vs. Johny Hendricks

After a wealth of injuries and such, Sadollah finally makes his (proper) UFC debut since winning the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. He impressed on the show with a combination of calm and decisive finishing. Hendricks I have no clue about. Apparently he’s a wrestler and he’s got himself an Evan Tanner/hobo beard.

Unsurprisingly I’m going to take Sadollah. He seems like a genuinely likeable guy who has shown legitimate promise. He’s also a black belt Sambo (Russian martial art) which is discipline we rarely see in mainstream MMA. Sadollah submission in the 2nd.

Lightweight: Josh ‘The Dentist’ Neer vs. Kurt ‘Batman’ Pellegrino

Neer is a big lightweight with solid stand-up and ruthless aggressive intent. Pellegrino is an accomplished grappler with decent mat skills to match.

I certainly favour Neer in this one because Pellegrino has never really impressed me. Neer, if anything, is made of tough stuff and doesn’t seem stupid enough to get caught in a fight ending submission. Plus, he’s a mean looking sucker. Neer TKO in the 3rd.

Welterweight: Tamdan ‘The Barn Cat’ McCrory vs. John ‘Doomsday’ Howard

McCrory is a young fighter who has shown some real glimpses of potential in previous outings. His scrawny frame has supposedly packed on some pounds in recent months so he now has the physique to complement his skill set. Again, I don’t know enough about Howard to form a proper opinion but his last fight (and UFC debut) was a less than impressive split decision victory.

I like McCrory’s unorthodox style and with nearly a foot in height difference between the two (McCrory’s 6’4 while Howard’s 5’7) I see him taking full advantage of Howard’s one-dimensional approach.

McCrory unanimous decision.

Middleweight: Thales Leites vs. Alessio ‘Legionarius’ Sakara

I’m not really sure how a fighter can go from pay-per-view headliner to prelim afterthought. I suppose that’s how seriously the UFC took Thales Leites middleweight title challenge. However, Leites returns against an opponent clearly fed to him so he can reclaim a little pride after April’s abomination against Anderson Silva.

Sakara has zero ground game and Leites is a black belt in jiu-jitsu. This is an equation that offers an obvious result. Sakara’s only hope is that Leites is stupid enough to try and bang with him, as the former professional boxer should effortlessly win that. Nonetheless, the Italian won’t get a chance as Leites will have him on the ground and tapping in no time. Leites submission in the 1st.

Lightweight: Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley

This is a rematch following a controversial stoppage in favour of Nelson this past March. I didn’t see that fight, all I know is that decision cost me about £180 in a tenner accumulator.

My choice remains the same as it did for the first fight. Riley will be too aggressive for Nelson and will steamroll the Hawaiian with some vicious ground-and-pound retribution. Riley TKO in the 1st.

Middleweight: Matthew Riddle vs. Dan Cramer

Two Ultimate Fighter combatants square off here in what appears to be a fairly even contest. Both are just beginning their MMA careers, but the UFC top brass are definitely looking at Riddle to excel.

While these two have similar styles, the one difference seems to be in power. This is where Riddle should win the fight. I imagine it will be a scrappy affair, but Riddle’s core strength will see him through.

Riddle unanimous decision.

Welterweight: George Sotiropoulos vs. George Roop

Roop doesn’t really have anything outside of some decent striking. Sotiropoulos has good jiu-jitsu and an overall power that Roop won’t be able to match. The obvious result sees Sotiropoulos overwhelm his smaller opponent for us never to hear from Roop again. Sotiropoulos submission in the 1st.

Welterweight: Jesse Lennox vs. Danillo ‘Indio’ Villefort

These two are making their UFC debuts and I’m not going to pretend to anything about either. From what I’ve read it should be Villefort’s to lose and the odds suggest that as well. Villefort submission in the 2nd.

The betting odds for many of these fights have been a lot better than recent events. There’s decent value in a few here so me and my boy Moore have picked 7 of the 11 for our accumulator. They are as follows:

  • Kendall Grove
  • Amir Sadollah
  • Josh Neer
  • Tamden McCrory
  • Thales Leites
  • Aaron Riley
  • Matthew Riddle

This gave us odds of 31/1. And despite a current streak of 0-6, I’m surprisingly confident. Hopefully this’ll be the first deposit in the ‘Vegas’ fund. It’s happening.

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