UFC 117 – Silva vs Sonnen: Preview and Predictions

With July being a fairly dead month for UFC activity following the spectacular UFC116 (with the exception of last weekends UFC on Versus 2 show), we will be treated to another night of great fights. Not least of these, is the middleweight title clash between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. Chael has been doing an awesome job of hyping this fight and getting under Andersons skin, Silva has been erm…. training with Steven Seagal. Whilst we can be fairly sure that we will be treated to a shot of mr Seagal sat cageside and throwing up the “fighters fist” at some point during the broadcast, it is also pretty much a given that – should Anderson come through this test – it will not be by way of aikido wristlock! There have been a couple of signs that “the Spider” is once again contemptuous of his opponent going into this fight: The videos on the internet of him training with Seagal (come on – are we supposed to believe he is REALLY training with Seagal to help him prep for Sonnen?) and the recent conference call where he was mono-syallbic in some of his responses and brushed off all Sonnens trashtalking as “funny”, being cases-in-point. In that same conference call he also claimed to not be bothered by Dana Whites criticism of his win over Demian Maia in Abu Dhabi:

“I’m telling you right now, if he acts like that again in the ring, I will cut him. I don’t care if he’s the pound for pound best fighter in the world. I don’t care if he’s the middleweight champion.”

It will be VERY interesting to see if we see the Silva who destroyed Griffin or if we see the Silva of rounds 4/5 of the Maia fight. If it’s the latter then I hope Dana comes good on his promise of cutting Silva immediately. Personally I’m torn between hoping Silva shuts Sonnens big trap and wanting Silva to actually take a loss so he snaps out of this “I’m-above-all-this-UFC-shit” persona and starts kicking peoples asses again!

The main card of this show was due to be a Brazil vs USA affair, but unfortunately Thiago Silva has withdrawn from his fight with Tim Boetsch and in his place we have debutant Todd Brown.
This is a packed with big fights: Fitch vs Alves could end up being a title contender decider. Certainly a significant fight, but not one I’m massively excited about. Also Roy “big country” Nelson will duke it out with Junior Dos Santos for a #1 contender match in the Heavyweight division. Winner gets to fight whoever comes away from UFC121 with the HW strap between Lesnar and Velasquez.

Before we get to all those though, as is cutomary it’s the undercard first: Let’s get it on!


Ben Saunders 8-2-2 vs. Dennis Hallman 42-13-2 – Welterweight
I must admit I was a little surprised at the UFC bringing Dennis Hallman back when they put him against John Howard at the TUF10 finale (which he lost by KO in the 3rd round after winning the first two). I am even more surprised they are bringing him into a UFC main card. After testing positive for drostanolone and nandrolone in 2007, “Superman” Hallman didnt fight until again until 2009 when he put together two first round submission wins. Hallman does have the distinction of being the only man other than GSP to have 2 wins against Matt Hughes and this is the only possible explanation one could have for Hallman being back: to give Matt Hughes a chance of redemption. To make this a feasible matchup however, Hallman needs wins. Putting him in against Saunders may not be conducive to this outcome. Saunders has struggled against top level Welterweight opposition but has pretty much blown through the rest. Hallman certainly has the grappling pedigree to make it a miserable night for Saunders but will need to avoid his dangerous standup game. Saunders will be comfortable off his back having gained his brown belt in BJJ earlier this year but Hallman has never been submitted in 57 fights and 33 of his 41 wins are by submission. Simply put: Saunders needs this off the mat and to be able to survive if(when) it gets there. Hallman needs to close the distance and not get caught in the thai clinch, putting Saunders on his back and working from there. Saunders could do nothing much against Fitch when they fought at UFC111 and this is Hallmans blueprint to win: Dryhump the hell out of “Killa B”. The one problem is his takedowns aren’t in the same league as those of Fitch. Whilst we could witness an upset with Hallman taking a spoiling decision, I think we are much more likely to see Saunders will wreck the Hughes/Hallman reunion party with a TKO Saunders TKO round 2

Todd Brown 11-1-0 vs. Tim Boetsch 11-3-0 – Light Heavyweight
On paper two pretty evenly matched fighters here. Boetsch finishes fights and rarely is finished himself, with the only person to stop him thus far in his career being Matt Hammil. Brown finishes fights and has only been stopped once in his career with a decision loss to Josh Hendricks. The difference is that Boetsch has previous big show experience after chalking up a W-L-W-L 4 fight record in the UFC. Boetsch has certainly been in with a better class of opponent and whilst he can be over-aggressive at times, I think he will have Browns number, hopefully in the style of his awesome win against David Heath. Boetsch decision.

Johny Hendricks 8-0-0 vs. Charlie Brenneman 12-1-0 – Welterweight
This one is a wrestle-fest, which in MMA usually means one thing: Decision!! However both these men have shown the ability to stop their opponents with punches and hopefully this fight will produce some fireworks. On paper I think Hendricks is the better fighter at striking range and in the clinch. With both men having such a strong wrestling base this is a tough one to call and will be decided by whoever has the superior wrestling skills and the better conditioning! Whilst I’d love to see a big KO, this one has decision written all over it. I’m taking Hendricks decision.

Stefan Struve 19-4-0 vs. Christian Morecraft 6-0-0 – Heavyweight
The undefeated Morecraft is in unchartered waters in this fight: He is fighting an opponent even taller than him. At 6’8″ Morecraft always has the reach advantage, not so against “the skyscraper” who clocks an impressive 6’11”. Struve uses his massive frame to great effect on the ground, but does not put it to such good use when at striking range, he resembles a baby giraffe when he strikes and against a monster like Morecraft he may struggle on the feet, much the same as he did against Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos and – at points in their fight – Paul Buentello. Morecraft has never been out of the first round but is taking a big step up in class and fighting a much more experienced opponent. Morecraft will be looking to make an instant impression on the big show, but he may find his coming out party ruined by the grappling of Struve. To win this he HAS to put the pressure on Skyscraper from the start and put his fists on the lanky Dutchmans jaw. A 23 fight veteran at only 22 years of age, Struve will be working hard to plug the holes in his game and will be looking to bounce back from the loss to Nelson – only the 4th of his career. I’m taking the experience and superior grappling of Struve to be enough to see him through Morecrafts early assault, drag this to mat and take the submission. Struve sub rd 1

Rodney Wallace 9-2-0 vs. Phil Davis 6-0-0 – Light Heavyweight
Following the withdrawal of Stanislav Nedkov due to injury, Rodney Wallace now has the dubious honour of facing off against Phil “Mr Wonderful” Davis. Since coming to the UFC Wallace has suffered 2 decision losses after making it to the big show on the back of a 9 fight win streak. Davis is a phenomenal athlete, an NCAA Division 1 Wrestler and prolific grappler. The two men share a common opponent in Brian Stann, Davis came through the test with a unanimous decision win, Wallace lost the decision. There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this fight other than everything Wallace can do Davis can do better. Arguably Wallace has more power, but is not crisp in his striking and tends to throw wild (as he showed in his fight against Hamman). I see Davis getting the takedown and handing Wallace his first submission loss, either that or taking the decision. But I like to see a finish, so I’ll go with submission! Davis Submission round 3

Dustin Hazelett 12-5-0 vs. Rick Story 10-3-0 – Welterweight
Im a big Hazelett fan, his grappling style is awesome and you know at any minute he is capable of pulling out some crazy submission-of-the-night funky shizzle. However he could be up against his kryptonite in Story who is a strong-as-an-ox wrestling machine. Story isnt much of a finisher but is more than capable of eeking out a decision win here. His last 2 wins have been split decisions and a lot of people (me included) say his last win against Nick Osipczak went the wrong way. Hazelett hasn’t faced any decent wrestlers, with the exception of Koscheck who KO’d him. “McLovin” is going to have to avoid taking any big shots and stay off his back if he wants to win this and I sincerely hope he does. However I just got a feeling in my stomach that Hazelett is going to get wrestle-stomped here. There is no way he has suddenly morphed into a striker tough enough to take Story out (no-one has done that yet) and when it inevitably hits the ground I’m concerned about his ability to keep from getting flattened out and smashed by his far more powerful and athletic opponent. Story by dry humping decison (prove me wrong Mclovin PLEASE!)

The main card
Junior dos Santos 11-1-0 vs. Roy Nelson 15-4-0 – Heavyweight
Roy “big country” Nelson is on a roll but I fear the wheels are going to come off this ride in spectacular fashion in this fight. Dos Santos is a beast, plain and simple. His boxing skills are excellent and although he is largely unproven on the ground in MMA, he does hold a brown belt in BJJ which has to count for something. Of course for a main of his frame, Nelson is a surprisingly good grappler, but let’s not forget that up until now he has faced fairly pedestrian opposition in comparison to the level of opponent Dos Santos has been in with. When he has stepped up in class – with fighters such as Jeff Monson and Andrei Arlovski, he has come off worse. Also with the best will in the world, one cannot ignore big countrys frame, if this goes into the later rounds you have to wonder how he will fare, especially under pressure. His best chance is to get Dos Santos down and get top position. He has beaten Frank Mir in a grappling match before and hung with Jeff Monson but this is MMA and if its Dos Santos on the other end of the strikes then you know you are going to be in trouble if you take too many shots. I see Dos Santos controlling distance, picking shots and taking the wind out of the mulleted one and handing him only the second KO loss of his career. Dos Santos T/KO rd 2

Matt Hughes 44-7-0 vs. Ricardo Almeida 12-3-0 – Welterweight
This is an interesting match in that Hughes has beaten two of Almeidas coaches in Renzo Gracie and Matt Serra. But Almeida poses a very different problem that the other two matches. Almeida is younger, faster and far more relevant than the two aforementioned coaches. This will only be his second match at welterweight and at 170lbs he is a legitimate contender and a worry for the rest of the division. His submissiono skills are elite and whilst he doesn’t really have any standup to speak of, neither does Hughes and so that range of the fight becomes fairly irrelevant. Whilst the last win on Hughes records shows a TKO win, don’t let that fool you. He fought a Gracie who hadnt competed in 3 years and yet was still able to stuff most of the takedown attempts of the main who once laid waste to the Welterweight division with his power and wrestling ability, seemingly able to pick people up and slam them at will. That Matt Hughes is gone and no matter how much he tries to covince everyone otherwise, he isn’t that man anymore. This is Almeidas fight to lose and after his last performance I don’t think anyone is giving Hughes much of a chance in this match even as an upset pick. On the ground this is all Almeida, regardless whether he gets put on his back or not (remember Serraa didn’t do too bad off his back against Hughes and he is far smaller than “the big dog”. If by some strange quirk the fight does play out on the feet, I’d still give it to Almeida. In short this is a bad fight for Hughes. Whilst he may just have enough left in him to see this through to the final bell, I do not believe he has what it takes to wrestlestomp anyone anymore. Almeida has only finished 2 of his last 6 opponents and I don’t think he’ll make it 3 in 7. But I do think he will be dominant and leave no doubt in the judges minds. Almeida decision

Clay Guida 26-11-0 vs. Rafael dos Anjos 14-4-0 – Lightweight
One thing you can say about Clay Guida is when you see his name on the card you know what you are going to get. This is both good and bad: Good, because he brings it all and maintains a furious pace for as long as he is still fighting making him exciting to watch. Bad, because if we as the fans know what we are gonna get, so do his opponents. He is tough, has cardio for days and will not stop trying to push the pace and win the fight, but he is predicatable. He also has struggled with good grapplers and in Dos Anjos he is going to hit another wall. A BJJ black belt and Muay Thai specialist, Dos Anjos has horribly powerful leg kicks and some very effective and lightening quick grappling. After getting off to a bad start in his UFC career, he seems to have found his groove and surprised Terry Etim in his last fight. Guida won’t mind standing and trading but he seemed to struggle to work out the timing of Kenny Florians southpaw style and in Dos Anjos he meets another southie, so far so bad for “the carpenter”. If he does his usual bullrush and actually gets the takedown he is in a world of hurt on the mat. Dos Anjos has the ability to turn him into a human pretzel and that is actually the way I see this fight being won. I’m taking Dos Anjos submission round 2 in this fight.

Jon Fitch 22-3-0 vs. Thiago Alves 16-6-0 – Welterweight
These two fighters have actually met before 4 years ago and shock horror – Fitch actually finished that fight. I know Fitchs grinding style gets a lot of shit and that’s because, well it’s BORING! There is an argument that GSP is going the same route but at least GSP has a semi-legitimate excuse, he has the UFC gold to keep hold of and so doesnt take risks. Fitch got Fitched by GSP and has been angling for a rematch since, putting together a 4 fight win streak of – yup you guessed it – decision wins. This being the case I think it is a very safe bet to say that Alves wil not be stopped in this fight. One thing that worries me (and probably also plays on Alves mind) is that it was only March when he was found to have a brain malformation. He has been operated on successfully and has been given the medical all-clear but this still has to play on a guys mind. If he was fighting a big banger then one could argue this would be more of a concern, so that being the case perhaps Fitch is the ideal guy to be facing. Fitch will want no part of Alves standup and will be looking to get this down and hump the Brazilians leg for 15 minutes. Alves is no stranger to fighting wrestlers. in his last 3 fights he has faced Koscheck, Hughes and GSP, only losing to the champ. Fitch is a massive welterweight and will no doubt have his way with Alves when he is fresh, but it will be hard work. As we get into the later rounds this is when his exertion will start to tell. I think Alves has the tools to finish off Fitch and I sincerely hope I’m right. The last thing I want to see is a Fitch vs GSP fight and whilst I think GSP will remain that one notch above everyone else in the division and remain the champ, I’d rather see him rematch Alves than Fitch. Alves TKO round 3

UFC Middleweight Championship fight
Anderson Silva 26-4-0 vs. Chael Sonnen 24-10-1 – Middleweight
Ok so this is the big one and as the saying goes “the bullshit stops when the cage door locks”. This is great because i have had about enough of reading Sonnen’s trash talking of Silva (and Lance Armstrong and whoever the hell else he has a bee in his bonnet about lately!). I don’t think Sonnen really needed to try so hard to sell this fight, it sells itself. It’s Anderson Silva ffs! Obviously the spider hasn’t exactly endeared himself to fight fans with his last few performances (with the exception of the Griffin fight) and I suspect a lot of people will actually be hoping he loses. To be honest i sort of was too. But after reading everything Sonnen has been saying lately I’ve changed my mind and I really hope Silva unleashes the beast and knocks this fool out. The more likely outcome though is that Silva submits Sonnen who has been known to be susceptible to submissions in the past. This is largely due to his tendency to go for broke with his GnP from inside the guard just that little too much and leave himself open. He definitely can take Silva down, I have no doubt about that. But Silva has the advantage of being long limbed and this really helps give his active attacking guard an extra dimension. The bigger problem for Sonnen is that in taking Silva down he has to get in close. Silva absolutely comes into his own as a fighter when his opponent comes to him, I believe this goes a long way to explaining his performance against Maia. I’m not excusing it, after round 2 it was a farce but Maia is not without blame and at least he made a go at the champ towards the end of the final round. We won’t see any butt scooting from Sonnen and he isnt above taking a few shots to close an opponent down, but this isnt any old opponent. This is the man who Ko’d Tony Fryklund with a funky reverse elbow uppercut. This is the man who KO’d Forrest Griffin going backwards. This is the man who has virtual laser-beam accuracy in his punches and an innate ability to make every strike count. All this adds up to a whole lot of gas expelled by Sonnen in the run up to this fight for the reward of getting beaten wherever this fight goes. The only variable we can’t truly count on is when exactly Silva decides to flick the switch. Will he play with Sonnen and drag the fight out, or will he seek and destroy from the opening bell. One person who will definitely be looking for the latter is Dana White. If Silva gets bored and starts breakdancing then we may see the unprecedented move of the p4p number one in the world fighter being dropped from the top MMA promotion in the world. Fortunately I don’t think we will see this become a reality and I really think Silva will turn it on for this fight. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes I’m right! I honestly am torn between a submission finish and the KO. I think the submission is more likely given the gameplan of the opponent but man I hope we see Sonnen get stretched out. Silva Submission round 3 (after 2 rounds of making Sonnen look like an ass)

**************UPDATED WITH RESULTS*****************
Ben Saunders vs. Dennis Hallman – My Pick:Saunders TKO rd2 Actual: Hallman decision
Stefan Struve vs. Christian Morecraft – My Pick:Struve sub rd1 Actual: Struve KO rd 2.
Tim Boetsch vs. Todd Brown – My Pick:Boetsch decision Actual: Boetsch decision
Johny Hendricks vs. Charlie Brenneman – My Pick:Hendricks Decision Actual: Hendricks TKO round 2.
Phil Davis vs. Rodney Wallace – My Pick:Davis sub rd 3 Actual: Davis decision
Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story – My Pick: Story decision Actual Story TKO round 2.
Junior dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson – My Pick: Dos Santos TKO rd 2 Actual: Dos Santos decision
Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida – My Pick: Almeida decision Actual: Hughes technical submisssion rd 1
Clay Guida vs. Rafael dos Anjos – My Pick: Dos Anjos sub rd 2 Actual: Guida sub (injury) rd3
Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves – My Pick: Alves TKO rd 3 Actual: Fitch decision
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen – My Pick: Silva sub rd3 Actual: Silva sub rd5


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