This Saturday the UFC continues it’s unrelenting march to world domination with their first visit to Australia. The land of crocodile dundee, excessive lager consumption, boomerangs and silly corked hats * hey who doesnt love a stereotype 🙂 * is in for a treat because there are some quality matchups on this card. When the UFC ventures outside of the USA, the card always consists of a few “local” fighters and this one is no exception with lightweight standout and (previously) perenial undercarder George Sotirolpoulos taking centre stage for the Aussie contingent. This card also sees the first all Australian fight on a UFC card with veteran Elvia Sinosic taking on Chris Haseman. Joe Silva has also bunged a kiwi in the shape of James Te Huna in there for good measure to make sure the Aussies nearest neighbours are represented on the card. Whilst the undercard fights don’t exactly jump out as potentially instant classics there are still some interesting matchups and whilst looking into the records of some of the lesser known fighters on this card I discovered that while you may never have heard of them, some of these guys have definitely been grafting on the lesser known shows throughout the MMA world.
Elvis Sinosic 8-11-2 vs. Chris Haseman 20-16-0 – Light Heavyweight
In the first fight of the night we have the first ever all-Australian UFC fight. Veterans Sinosic and Haseman square off for the second time in their careers. Their first encounter back in 1997 ended with Sinosic being submitted by the painful and unorthodox “chin to the eye” submission. You certainly don’t see that move too much in MMA nowadays! Sinosic has a solid ground game and in his first ever UFC fight he submitted Jeremy Horn, however in his 6 other UFC fights he has drawn a blank being TKO’d by a who’s who of MMA including Evan Tanner, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin and Mike Bisping. The Bisping fight did get him fight of the night honours but was last foray into the UFC until this weekend. He has only had one fight since that loss to Bisping and that was another TKO loss to heavy handed british KO artist Paul Cahoon on Cage Rage. He hasn’t fought since 2007 and although the UFC has brought him back to get the Aussie fans behind some local hero’s you have to wonder how long he is going to last in the UFC given the talent they have in their LHW rosta.
Haseman is a fighter I had heard of but couldn’t remember anything about. Turns out he fought Evan Tanner at UFC38 in the UK but lost a decision. His record is extensive and he has literally fought anybody who’s anybody in MMA. This list includes: Fedor(!!), Matt Hughes, Mario Sperry, Murilo Bustamante and Akihiro Gono.
Both fighters will be looking for the “W” in front of their home crowd but I’m not banking on this being a fight that will set the world on fire. Both men are in the twilight of their careers and neither has fought in over 2 years. Sinosic probably has the better ground game of the two and although he has been on the recieving end of some severe GnP beatdowns he has shown toughness and tenacity. I think this fight will go to the mat and will be finished there, with Sinosic grabbing the glory with a submission win in rd 2. Sinosic sub rd2
*EDIT* As of 19/02/2010 news has filtered through that Sinosic is injured and this fight has been dropped completely from the card.
James Te Huna 11-4-0 vs. Igor Pokrajac 21-6-0 -LightHeavyweight
The third local fighter making his way to the octagon will be James Te Huna who squares off against Cro-Cops training partner, Igor Pokrajac. Te Huna is on a five straight win streak culminating in victory in the CFC light heavyweight grandprix. With the majority of his wins coming by way of T/KO we can expect him to be looking to land bombs on his adversary from top position. Pokrajac himself is no stranger to trading hands with his opponents, that said each time he has taken a step up in class he has been found out and he was handled with relative ease by veteran Matyushenko in his last UFC outing. With hometown advantage and riding a win streak like his, I have to favour Te Huna in this bout. Because of his opponents toughness the likely outcome is going to be a decision win for Te Huna, but I would like to see him end this fight inside the distance and watch he fares against some of the other LHW elite in the UFC so I’m going against my instincts and rooting for a finish. Te Huna TKO rd 3
Goran Reljic 8-0-0 vs. C.B. Dollaway 9-2-0 – Middleweight
Reljic has had a long lay off with a serious back injury and despite being the far more talented fighter this may be the deciding factor in this fight. How well his recovery has gone and how his back holds up in this fight is critical to his chances of winning. There is no way Dolloway can match Reljic on the feet here and he maybe won’t fancy his chances against the Gracie Barra brown belt and former European BJJ champ on the floor either. If he can use his wrestling skills to smother Reljic and keep top position then he maybe has a chance, especially if Reljics injury decides to play a factor. Given the fact that this is only hope though, and that Reljic has no doubt undergone months of rehab and weeks of intesive prep for this fight I think the injury won’t play a part and Reljic will go 9-0 after this fight with a big KO win, following on from his KO of the night performance against Wilson Gouviea at UFC84. Reljic KO rd 2
Stephan Bonnar 11-6-0 vs. Krzysztof Soszynski – Light Heavyweight
Stephan Bonnar is one half of perhaps the defining fight in UFC history. The TUF1 runner-up fought a 3 round war with Forrest Griffin that signalled the explosion of the popularity of the UFC. For that he probably always has a place in Dana Whites goodbooks. However on performances alone, Bonnar has never lived up to the promise of that night. He is coming off of the dreaded 2 losses in a row run of form that usually sees fighters get cut from the UFC is they lose another. He was tooled by Jon Jones and GnP’d into oblivion by Mark Coleman, who himself has been cut after his loss to Randy. His opponent Soszynski is a very hard fighter to finish and is tough as nails. This isn’t going to be an easy night for Bonnar. On the ground the Team Quest trained Soszynski probably has the advantage and he has the wrestling smarts to be able to put Bonnar on his back. On the feet you could argue that former golden gloves champ Bonnar edges it, but Soszynski can bang and although perhaps not as slick with his striking he definitely has more power. I think Bonnar is in line for his third loss in a row here, but given his past services rendered to the UFC I don’t think he’s finished. Soszynski decision
Chris Lytle 27-17-5 vs. Brian Foster 13-4-0 -Welterweight
Welterweight veteran Lytles last 3 fights in the Octagon have all seen him take home fight of the night honours so this one is looking the best bet for a war on the undercard. Foster is coming off the back of a (some would say) surprise TKO win over Brock Larsson at UFC 106. Lytle is the epitomy of a fighter who won’t go quietly, he has never been submitted and has only been stopped twice in 49 career fights (both on cuts). His form however is patchy and he seems to run a lose, win, lose, win pattern in his fight record. The most wins he has ever strung together is 4 submission wins in 2004. Foster is certainly the favourite if youth and determination count for anything. His strong wrestling will be key in this fight and although Lytle is definitely the better boxer and almost certainly the better submission artist, I don’t think he can hang with Fosters wrestling and will find himself on his back. Whether Foster can find the finish from there is doubtful and provided he doesnt leave an arm hanging for Lytle to grab onto he should find himself seeing out a decent decision win against the veteran. Most of his losses come by way of submission though and if he is going to lose this fight then it will be by Lytle catching him out off his back. I’m going to stick with Foster for this one though. Foster decision
*EDIT* As of 19/12/2010 news has come through that Rothwell is out with a sickness bug. New opponent for Cro-Cop!!
*EDIT #2 * Fighters only is reporting Cro-Cop receieved a bad cut in training and has had stitches but will not pull out, this could be bad if he fights with the cut and it is opened up by his opponent during the match. Read article here
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic 25-7-2-1nc vs. Anthony Perosh10-5-0 – Heavyweight
Perosh comes in as a super-last minute replacement for Rothwell and as a result will instantly be a massive underdog in this fight. Cro-cop must be rubbing his hands with glee like a bond villain at the prospect of having his opponent downgraded like this. That is not to be disrespectful to Perosh but he is not as fierce a challenge as Rothwell may have proved to be. Cro-Cop isnt the same guy who kicked peoples heads off their shoulders in Pride. Something changed in him after the Gonzaga loss and he is lookin a shell of his former self when he steps in the octagon. This is his chance to get that UFC win and hopefully do so in some style. Perosh (whose nickname is “the hippo” – easily one of the worst ones yet!) is no stranger to the UFC but his time with the organisation was short-lived after he got smashed by Jeff Monson at UFC61. He also has a recent loss to fellow UFC 110 competitor James Te Huna in the final of the Cagefighter Championships. You;d have to say that Perosh has a punchers chance here, but I have a feeling he is literally a lamb being brought to slaughter in this one. Props for stepping mr Hippo, but you are getting KTFO’d in this one. Mirko needs this win. Cro-Cop KO with kicks of thunder!! rd1
Ryan Bader 10-0-0 vs. Keith Jardine 15-6-1 – Light Heavyweight
It’s fair to say that the opponents undefeated TUF winner Bader has faced in his career to date, don’t stack up in comparison with UFC stars Vera, Griffin, Lidell and Gouveia. All of whom have been on the wrong end of Jardines awkward but effective striking style. Bader is taking a big step-up in level against Jardine who has become somewhat of a gatekeeper for entry into the Light-Heavyweight elite. With 3 losses in 4 and no stoppage victories since he defeated Griffin, this status could be in jeopardy and the infamous Jackson game-plan had better come good for Jardine this saturday. Whether Jardine will have an answer for Baders wrestling is the question here, I’m not sure that he will. Bader should be able to get this to the mat comfortably whenever he wants and that isnt good for Jardine. Bader has shown he can bang but is not wild and won’t get drawn into a brawl with Jardine. This ruins Jardines night and will mean that he gets dry-humped to a decision loss against Bader who will have enough to put Jardine on his back but not enough to put him away. Bader decision
Joe Stevenson 31-10-0 vs. George Sotiropoulos 11-2-0 – Lightweight
Stevenson comes into this a pretty heay favourite and has designs on getting back up to the top of the lightweight heap and getting a rematch against BJ Penn. Sotiropoulos will have other ideas with his first fight on a UFC main card, his first in the UFC in his backyard and a 4-0 UFC record to protect. His grappling is looking amazing and I think on the floor he will be too much for Stevenson, this maybe won’t be enough though as Stevenson is looking like a born-again fighter since he began training with Jacksons MMA camp. Any fighter coming out of Greg Jacksons will come in with a good gameplan and Joe will no doubt be well instructed in what he has to do to take this. Once again wrestling is going to be the weapon that decides this one. Sotiropoulos will want this on the mat with Stevenson fighting off his back. Stevenson may fancy his striking over Sotripoulos but will also be happy to go to ground, but only if he is the one in top position. I’m torn for this one and I think Stevenson has the tools to win this, but as I always make at least one underdog pick, this one is gonna be it. With home advantage and a slick submissions game I think this could be the night that George Sotiropoulos secures his status as a main card fighter, sending some of the bigger fish in the lightweight pool his way. Sotiropoulos submission rd3
Wanderlei Silva 32-10-1-1NC vs. Michael Bisping 18-2-0 – Middleweight
Can you say WAAAAAAAR??? I am dying to see a great scrap and this could be a potential fight of the night contender to rival “mr fight of the night” Lytle. This is a must win fight for both, Wandy needs to show he can still hang in the UFC after losing 5 in his last 6 and Bisping needs to show that he is more than just a mid-level fighter. This is the best possible fight for both guys as Bisping is a great opponent for Wandy on his down to MW and having the possibility of a win against Wanderlei puts Bisping back in the race for a crack at one of the other major players in the division. Obviously as a Brit I would love Bisping to win this, but it’s Wandy!! Every MMA fan loves Wandy, he’s a legend. So as a fan I’m in a win-win situation here. Bisping will need his standup defence to be in much better shape that it was against Hendo and he will need to be quicker to get off his back than he was against Kang. Wandy is a stark raving lunatic and if he unleashes hell with his GnP then Bisping playing guard like he did off his back against Kang won’t cut it. He needs his takedowns to be on-point and he needs Wanderlei on his back, but I have a feeling Bisping will come in with a point to prove and will start this fight looking like he is going to go toe-to-toe with the Axe-Murderer. After a while though i see this plan being aborted, hopefully by choice rather than by virtue of the fact that Wandy has stretched him out on the canvas. If Bisping can time the striking and get under those punches to get Wandy down then I think he can win this. If he get’s brave and/or cocky he is going to sleep. I hope it’s the former. I’m going with Bisping by Tko late on but this could end with another lights out for “The Count”. Bisping TKO rd 3
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 32-5-1-1NC vs. Cain Velasquez 7-0-0 – Heavyweight
This one could be a title-shot fight. Dana has already hinted at the fact that it will be the winner of this fight and not the winner of the interim showdown between Mir and Carwin that get’s first shot at Brock Lesnar when he is back to full fitness. Velasquez has been ferocious in his race up the heavyweight rankings and this could be a case of the unstoppable force colliding with the immovable object. Nog takes a beating better than anyone, then when you least expect it he submits you. This is what Velasquez will have to deal with in this fight. Nogs submission game is one of the best in the heavyweight division – particularly off his back, so he will have no concerns about the younger more powerful wrestler being able to take him down. Against Randy, Nog showed great guard work and was able to sweep him and put together submission attacks in combination nullifying the attacks that Couture could get off when he was on top. It will be harder for him to do this against Velasquez and although he was impressive against Couture we should remember that this was two fighters that are getting on into the ends of their long distinguished careers. Velasquez is the young, hungry upstart who could seriously hamper Nogs dream of getting that UFC heavyweight belt around his waist before he leaves MMA behind: and his GnP will hurt a damn site more than Coutures ever could! On the feet Nogueira has the skill and range to keep Velasquez at bay but he should beware the power that Cain brings to the table. This fight is going to come down to the shape Noguiera is in and just how much he has left to give in a sport that has seen him take some serious punishment over the years. Cain is taking a big step up in class facing Nogueira but it is a step he must take and is ready for. This is another fight i just can’t call easily. My head is saying Velasquez will just bring too much intensity for Nog to take but my heart is saying the veteran can find a way to win this. This will either end with a sub win for Nog or a decision for Velasquez and i’m going with my heart pick to take Nogueira by submission in round 2
************** UPDATED WITH RESULTS *******************
James Te Huna vs Igor Pokrajac – My Pick: Te Huna TKO rd 3 Actual: Te Huna T/KO rd3
Goran Reljic vs C.B. Dollaway – My Pick: Reljic t/ko rd2 Actual: Dollaway decision
Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski – My Pick: Soszynski Decision Actual: Soszynski T/Ko (cut) rd 3
Chris Lytle vs. Brian Foster – My Pick: Foster Decision Actual: Lytle Sub rd 1
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Anthony Perosh – My Pick: Cro Cop T/KO rd 1 Actual: Cro Cop T/KO rd2 cut
Ryan Bader vs. Keith Jardine – My Pick: Bader Decision Actual: Bader TKO rd 3
Joe Stevenson vs. George Sotiropoulos – My Pick: Sotiropoulos sub rd 3 Actual: Sotiropoulos Decision
Wanderlei Silva vs. Michael Bisping – My Pick: Bisping T/KO rd 3 Actual: Silva Decision
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez – My Pick:Nog Sub rd 2Actual: Velasquez T/KO rd 1