The UFC returns to Newark, New Jersey for the first time since November 2007 with a great looking card that includes a huge title fight at Welterweight (especially if you’re a UK MMA fan) and 1 fake title at Heavyweight which although for the dubious honour of “interim champ” should be a cracking scrap. In the lesser of the two matches we see Frank Mir facing off against the undefeated Shane Carwin and of course in the main event, Georges St Pierre and the UK’s newest favourite son, Dan Hardy go at it.
After the unfortunate events surrounding the results of a CAT scan and the subsequent withdrawal of Thiago Alves from the card, Ben Saunders will now step up to face Jon Fitch in what could end up being a number 1 contender match in the Welterweight divison.
Can you spot the difference? Yup the UFC airbrushed Hardy’s tattoo. This was discussed at length on various message boards around the world and one conspiracy theory was that it was airbrushed as it is based on a Tibetan Prayer and the UFC wants to get into China. This was confirmed by Dana himself as reported on fightline.com (and pretty much every other news site).
“I’m trying to get into China. I don’t need anti-Chinese government stuff on my fighters”
The linked article goes on to say:
Hardy’s tattoo is a phrase written in Sanskrit and derived from a Tibetan Buddhist prayer, “Om Mani Padme Hum” which CagePotato describes as meaning “Hail the jewel in the lotus.” Basically it represents Hardy’s mantra that if he keeps working hard he’ll reach his goals. The real point is that it’s a Tibetan prayer and Tibet is a sore subject for China. Basically, Tibet wants to be recognized as an independent nation and China isn’t having that and the whole thing is kind of a mess.
So there you have it, paranoid MMA fans in “being right” shocker and also confirmation that Dan Hardy will certainly not get a fight on UFC China unless he gets himself some laser treatment.
Right then, distracting opening banter out of the way – onto the fights!!
Matthew Riddle 3-1-0 vs. Greg Soto 7-0-0 – Welterweight
Team Pellegrino fighter and bjj purple belt Soto makes his debut against Xtreme Couture fighter Riddle. Riddle is coming off a beating at the hands (and feet) of Nick Ospiczack at UFC 105. His 3 fights prior to that were all decision wins. No doubt his training at Xtreme Couture has rounded out his game and he will be hungry to improve on his most recent peformance. A tough debut for the undefeated Soto who, whilst posessing a great record is completely unproven at this level. Riddle has had ALL his professional fights in the UFC and Soto looks to be tailor made for him. Although Soto is no doubt a more than capable fighter, I think Riddle will outwrestle him and ultimately grind out the decision win although he will obviously be looking for his first finish, a lot will ride on how good Soto’s guard is, because there is no doubt he will find himself on his back early on in this fight. Riddle decison
Tomasz Drwal 17-2-0 vs. Rousimar Palhares 10-2-0 – Middleweight
Powerful striker Drwal makes another bow at middleweight after a dominating run at lightheavyweight which included 10 TKO wins. His first fight at middleweight went against expectations afterfans who expected a slugfest with equally heavy handed McFedries were treated to a Drwal submission win early in the 2nd. Palhares is a jiujitsu wizard but his wrestling and striking game are nowhere near Drwals level. Dan Henderson showed what a decent striker with good wrestling can do and shut down Palhares’ game. Drwal will be looking to do the same and will want this off the floor at all costs. Drwal has only been submitted once in his career and that was way back in 2004. He is certainly experienced enough to stay out of danger here. I think he’s a good bet to take a TKO victory here. Drwal TKO rd 3
Jared Hamman 11-2-0 vs. Rodney Wallace 9-1-0 – Light Heavyweight
Both coming off debut UFC losses this could be one of those “loser waves goodbye to UFC” fights that Dana and Joe Silva seem to be keen to put on lately. Wallace is a decent grappler but not much of a finisher, Hamman clearly favours the striking game and rarely sees the later rounds of the fight. This is going to come down to whether Hamman can keep this on the feet and lay some of that power on Wallace. I don’t know if his game is varied enough to do that and if this gets to the ground its all Wallace. I think Wallace is going to come straight out looking to take this down and will finish this one early. Wallace submission rd1.
Ricardo Almeida 11-3-0 vs. Matt Brown 11-7-0 – Welterweight
The big-dog vs The immortal. Another classic striker vs grappler matchup. Brown has 5 of his 7 losses coming by way of submission and that’s a bad look when you’re facing off against a grappler of Almeida’s calibre. Almeidas cut to Welterweight may be a factor here and if he gets it wrong and finds himself struggling to take Brown down and gassing quickly, it will be a very short night for the Brazilian. In fact the longer this goes on the more it will favour Brown who looks like he can throw punches all day long. Almeida is no stranger to the later rounds having won his last two fights by decision, but the weightcuts can do strange things to a fighter. Brown could pull off an upset here, but as I am eternally biased towards great grapplers when I’m not sure on the outcome I will stick with my usual prediction of a win by the power of zoozhitsu!! Almeida submission rd 2
Nate Diaz 11-5-0 vs. Rory Markham 16-5-0 Welterweight division.
Diaz goes against the grain of most UFC fighters in this fight by going UP in weight to face dangerous striker Markham in the final bout of the undercard. Diaz is going to need to be careful that his propensity for getting into brawls doesnt end up biting him on the ass in this fight as Markham has serious power. Diaz will need to be smart, use his wrestling well and get this to the floor where he can unleash his undoubted submission skills. Markham will want to avoid the floor like the plague and his gameplan is likely to consist of baiting Diaz into doing something foolish so he can land that big fight ending shot. I honestly don’t think Diaz can hang with the welterweight elite and so don’t know what he hopes to achieve by venturing up into one of the most stacked divisions in the organisation but fair play to him for having the balls to do so. He should get off to a good start here as I predict that he can get the finish on Markham here and he won’t be drawn into a brawl. Diaz submission rd 1
Fabricio Camoes 10-4-1 vs. Kurt Pellegrino 14-4-0 – Lightweight
Camoes is coming off a narrow decision loss against Caol Uno at UFC 106. Pellegrino is on a 3 fight win streak with 2 decisions sandwiching a submission win. Pellegrino has the momentum coming into this fight and has fought a much higher calibre of opponent and that could be the deciding factor in this matchup. With his aim of getting back into the title picture at the forefront of his mind and a fighter who is still green in UFC terms this could be Pellegrinos night. This fight could turn out to be a classic grapplefest and as a fan of that side of the game I am glad this has been moved up to the main card following the loss of the Ellenberger vs Saunders fight due to the unfortunate Alves situation. The longer this fight goes the more it favours Pellegrino and I think he will nick this with a submission late on after frustrating a tired Camoes. Pellegrino Sub rd 3
Mark Bocek 8-2-0 vs. Jim Miller 16-2-0 – Lightweight
Another matchup that sees 2 great grapplers going at it, sees local boy Miller facing off against BJJ black belt Bocek. Both men share a 2 common opponents: One in Mac Danzig, Miller coming out the victor and Bocek not being so fortunate, both men lost to Frankie Edgar but Miller took it to a decision and Bocek was TKO’d. Miller might be happy to keep this standing as he showed some decent skills on the feet in some of his past fights and is certainly much better at this range than Bocek. If it stays on the feet we can expect to see Bocek stopped inside the distance. If it plays out mostly on the ground Bocek should fare a little better but despite being the higher ranking BJJ’er, I would still expect to come out on top as his wrestling is better and he should be able to get into good striking positions on the ground whilst avoiding any sneaky submissions. Whichever way you cut it, this is likely to be a bad night for Bocek and I think this could end in a TKO in Millers favour. Miller TKO rd 3
Ben Saunders 8-1-2 vs. Jon Fitch 21-3-0 – Welterweight
Saunders has some balls, he actually ASKED for the Fitch fight following Alves being declared unfit to fight. Im sure Ellenberger was a bit pissed at having trained for a fight he won’t have, but the fight fee and win bonus he is apparently being paid will maybe appease him a little! Saunders is clearly ambitious and is looking to make waves in the division, Dana has alluded to the fact that if Saunders wins this he will be next in line for a shot. He maybe should have afforded the same guarantee to Fitch but perhaps that goes without saying. Fitch has long been considered the number 1 contender and despite getting dominated for 5 rounds by GSP when he did contest the belt he is still regarded as the top dog in the “ATT three” at welterweight. We may see the winner of this fight the winner of Daley vs Kos for number 1 contender slot, although if Fitch and Kos win…the likelihood is this won’t happen. Fortunately Daley will knock Koscheks fraggle looking head into row z so that won’t be an issue, but I digress! In this fight I think it’s just a step too far for Saunders. While his rangy, effective style of striking is effective and in actual fact is better than Fitch’s stand up game, I don’t think Fitch will have any trouble closing the distance and dominating with his wrestling. Fitch is notoriously not a finisher and hasn’t finished a fight since 2007. I don’t expect this to be any different but do see the decision going his way. Fitch decision
Shane Carwin 11-0-0 vs. Frank Mir 13-4-0) – Interim Heavyweight Title
OK well regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised with my pick here. I hate Frank Mir and can’t bring myself to pick him. Whilst he probably has a more polished standup game than Carwin, his arrogance will almost guarantee that he will aim to prove this in style and that is what will get him KTFO’d. Carwin has had 11 fights, all 11 have ended in the first round by T/KO in his favour. That is an incredible statistic. Whilst the quality of opponent isnt the best and when he did take his last step up in class against Gonzaga he was nearly exposed, he did show the ability to recover and pull it out of the bag. He has been waiting to get back into the Octagon for a long time after the illness suffered by Lesnar that has kept him out of the game for so long. Much as I hate giving props to Mir, he does have one of the most complete ground games in the Heavyweight division and Carwins is completely unproven. If Mir can get under the big shot and put Carwin on his back i could be left screaming at the TV again as Mir escapes what could have been a very satisfying to watch beatdown. Conversely, if he ends up on his back, he can still scramble well enough to catch hold of something. I hope though that Carwin can do a Brock on old Franky boy and just overwhelm him with a big shot and some nasty GnP. Frank Mir cannot take a beating and hates getting hit, this is a fact. If Carwin can lay that hand on him just once, it will be enough to put Mir right out of his game and get that rabbit-in-the-headlights look in his eyes that he had when he experienced Brocks onslaught. Whatever happens, this aint going the distance. On the basis of all that I have said about Mir I have to stick to my convictions and pick Carwin by TKO in rd 2 after a tentative first round. But I won’t be surprised if Frankie nicks this (gutted but not surprised!). Carwin TKO rd 2
Georges St-Pierre 19-2-0 vs. Dan Hardy 23-6-0- 1 – Welterweight Title Match
I’ve pretty much covered my thoughts on this fight in my article on UKMMANEWS so if you haven’t read this already please do. For those of you who can’t be arsed I will summarise briefly. Let’s get this straight, I think GSP is the man. He is a tremendous athlete and a dominant champion. But I really think Dan Hardy can do it. Whilst GSP is a more than competent striker, I don’t believe he has the same skillset as Hardy in terms of his timing and range of combinations. Hardy is going to be no pushover and despite popular opinion does bring a lot to the table for GSP to deal with. The man just doesnt know the word quit. His submission awareness and defence is superb and he has never been knocked out. I genuinely believe GSP cannot and will not finish Hardy. If he dominates with wrestling and takedowns as he has done so many times before then of course he will win the decision. But Hardy has been in camp for 14 or so weeks training for exactly that. He is going to be well prepared for avoiding this type of game and getting the scramble off the takedown when he does hit the mat (which is inevitable). I just have a feeling about this fight and I really hope that we see the first UK based UFC champion being crowned on saturday night. I’ll be applauding whoever wins and if it is GSP then Dan’s time will come again. He is in the UFC to stay whatever happens tomorrow night. But I’m prepared to put my money where my mouth is and am having a punt on the Outlaw to take this one inside the distance. Hardy TKO rd 3
************ UPDATED WITH RESULTS *****************
Matt Riddle vs Greg Soto – My Pick: Riddle Decision Actual: Riddle (Soto DQ’d illegal kick rd3)
Rousimar Palhares vs Tomasz Drwal – My Pick: Drwal t/ko rd3 Actual: Palhares Sub rd 1
Jared Hamman vs Rodney Wallace – My Pick: Wallace Sub rd 1 Actual: Hamman Decision
Kurt Pellegrino vs Fabricio Camoes – My Pick: Pellegrino sub rd 3Actual: Pellegrino Sub rd 2
Ricardo Almeida vs Matt Brown – My Pick: Almeida sub round 2 Actual: Almeida sub rd 2
Nathan Diaz vs Rory Markham – My Pick: Diaz Sub rd 1Actual: Diaz TKO rd 1
Jim Miller vs Mark Bocek – My Pick: Miller tko rd 3Actual: Miller decision
Jon Fitch vs Ben Saunders – My Pick: Fitch Decision Actual: Fitch Decision
Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir – My Pick:Carwin tko rd 2Actual: Carwin T/KO rd 1
George St Pierre vs Dan Hardy – My Pick:Hardy tko rd 3Actual: St Pierre Decison