Another UFC, another title on the line and a battle for stylistic pride as boxing takes on MMA in the co-main event. The Toney vs Couture match has been getting most of the attention in the run up to this event, but the Lightweight title re-match between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn headlines the card. BJ will be looking to get the gold back after being awarded an instant rematch following his shock defeat in their last encounter at UFC 112. Edgar pulled off the upset no-one thought would happen with a crisp striking display, excellent footwork and – perhaps most surprisingly – takedowns. After the event, it was reported that BJ was suffering an illness and this seems feasible, if a little too convenient, given his lacklustre display. After his demolition of Diego Sanchez I wasn’t alone in thinking that BJ would rip through Edgar with ease. In this fight he HAS to do that, two losses on the bounce, in the weight division he has ruled for an age, would be devastating for Penns legacy.
Talking of devastating – what would the repercussions be should James Toney pull off the shock against Captain America? That would be a loss that would reverberate throughout the fightworld, not just MMA and would open the floodgates of boxers moving over to MMA. Boxers have been very vocal about their thoughts on MMA as it gained popularity, saying it wasn’t credible like boxing and the athletes that participate were not on a par with boxers. Well the time has come when a boxer finally puts up. Full credit to James Toney for stepping up, but he is taking on a huge task stepping into the Octagon with Randy Couture.
Elsewhere on the card, two of team Roughhouse’s up and comers and contestants in TUF 9: ‘Slick’ Nick Ospiczack and Andre Winner are back in action in fights that look very winnable for the Brits. There will also be a number one lightweight contender matchup between Kenny “Ken Flo” Florian and Gray “the dirty leghumper” Maynard (ok I made up the Maynard nickname). Both men have a legitimate claim for being the man that should be facing Edgar today were it not for Penns immediate rematch and after Saturdays fight we will know who the next people to contest the Lightweight strap will be.
So waffle over, I’m going to jump straight into the undercard: Let’s get it on!
Mike Pierce 12-3-0 vs. Amilcar Alves 11-1-0 – Welterweight
In a wrestler vs grappler matchup, newcomer Alves – a nova uniao prospect and teammate of the awesome Jose Aldo faces off against established UFC wrestlestomper Pierce. Pierce has one loss in the UFC handed to him by another welterweight uber-wreslter, Jon Fitch. I hope Alves has been learning a lot of standup from his mega-talented stable mate Aldo, because despite his BJJ pedigree, if this hits the mat he may find himself in trouble. Pierce is more than capable of grinding this one out, is very hard to finish and despite being fairly small for a welterweight has held his own against stellar opposition in #1 contender Fitch. Alves is pure grappler with a judo background and legitimate BJJ credentials. With a teammate like Jose Aldo – who many say has a striking game that may even be better than Anderson Silvas – there is a chance that Alves has been working to round out that part of his game. A 59second KO via knee of his last opponent would seem to indicate that he has indeed been working his striking. But he has had all his fights in Brazil and has never faced a wrestler of Pierces ilk. The smart money here is on a Pierce decision and that is my pick. Much as I would love to see an Aldo-esque demolition from the Brazilian newcomer over his Amercian foe, it just doesn’t seem to likely. Pierce decision
Nick Osipczak 5-1-0 vs. Greg Soto 7-1-0 – Welterweight
Osipczack is a fighter who looks better and better everytime I see him. A surprise package in the TUF9 show and with some excellent displays in the octagon since the show, his skills are somewhat at odds with his fight record (he had only had 3 pro-fights before getting onto TUF). In his last outing he lost a very close decision to Rick Story, a fight I personally thought he has won. Soto is trained by Kurt Pellegrino and holds a brown belt in BJJ. Both men have fought Matt Riddle with Osipczack victorious and Soto being dq’d following an illegal upkick. For me Osipczack has the more complete game. He is certainly the better striker, and if we compare both mens performance against their common opponent then you have to say that Nick comes off looking like the much better bet for the win. Whilst the ground is obviously Sotos favoured arena, he was not as successful as Osipczack in reversing position on Riddle – a fighter who is a very strong wrestler with good base. Osipczak is better in every range this fight could go and I think Nick will punish Soto on the feet with crisp punching and his excellent kicks, forcing Soto to shoot. From here the neat sprawl and top control of the Brit will put him in a position to be able to finish the fight. Osipczack TKO rd 2
Dan Miller 11-4-0 vs. John Salter 5-1-0 – Middleweight
Miller appears to be a fighter on the slide and is staring at the prospect of a 4th straight loss and his marching orders from the premier division of MMA. In fairness to him, those losses have been to Sonnen, Maia and Bisping and he took all 3 to decisions. But his strategy in those fights was somewhat confusing: He tried to strike against a superior striker in Bisping and didn’t choose to exploit the weaknesses in Maia’s stand-up game. Salter was slated to fight Phil Baroni and whilst on paper he could be regarded as not in Millers league, the reality is that he is a very dangerous opponent. This is especially true when you consider the slide that Millers career seems to be on right now. Off his back Miller isn’t particularly dangerous and Slater has the wrestling chops to put him there and make it another bad night at the office for Miller. Miller does have the better standup game and in 16 fights has never been finished so I am not about to write him off in this fight. On the feet Miller wins, almost certainly not by knockout but he can do enough to win the standup exchanges in the judges eyes. If he can stay off his back or catch one of his fight ending guillotines as Salter comes in then we could see the New Jersey native back to winning ways. Salter is certainly not a can in this fight and has a great chance to send Miller packing from the UFC, but I have a feeling that if Miller can get his head right and fight the correct fight, he has more than enough to take this comfortably.
Andre Winner 11-3-1 vs. Nik Lentz 18-3-2 – Lightweight
Lentz is a strong wrestler and Dre is a very slick puncher who will happily punish the slightest mistake made by his opponent. This is very likely to play out with Lentz doing all he can to put Winner on his back, but he won’t be the first man to ever try and do that. Winner, clearly, will want this on the feet and will look to use his footwork and lightning handspeed to pick Lentz off as he moves in. Neither man has been much of a finisher in recent fights: With the exception of Winners obliteration of Roli Delgado at UFC105 the Brit hadn’t finished a fight since 2006. Lentz spent his early MMA career tearing everyone he fought a new one but since making it to the UFC has eeked out 2 decisions and a majority draw. In his last fight with Rob Emerson, he was rocked in the second round but recovered well. Emerson had some success with his striking but Lentz used his clinch really well to negate the striking threat. I’m sure he will look for something similar on Winner after the opening exchanges. If Winner can negate the threat of the clinch and keep Lentz at range then his superior striking should win him this fight. If Lentz can close and use his wrestling, then Winner will have to draw on every bit of the grappling skill he has learned at Leicester Shootfighters under the tutelage of Nathan Leverton. I think Winner has all the tools to claim another scalp in the UFC but the wrestling and all-round toughness of Lentz will make this a very hard fight. Whilst I’d like to see Dre finish this, I think we will more likely see a 3 rounder with Winners hand raised following the judges ruling at the end. Winner decision
Joe Lauzon 18-5-0 vs. Gabe Ruediger 17-5-0 – Lightweight
Ruediger makes an unexpected appearance in the UFC after being blasted by Dana White during the Ultimate Fighter 5 (a show on which Joe Lauzon also appeared!) for his refusal to make weight and told he wouldn’t ever fight on the big show. A 6 fight win streak and an injury to Terry Etim means that the stars have aligned for him to make his return to the big stage. Unfortunately he does so against local favourite Joe Lauzon and his natvie Boston crowd are going to be like a third man in the ring against Ruediger. “J-Lau” is a UFC favourite ever since his debut KO win against Jens Pulver. He has won 1 Ko of the night and 2 submission of the night honours, his 2 losses in the promotion also were declared fights of the night. Lauzons fights rarely go the distance and he brings it every time he steps in the Octagon. I think Lauzon trumps Ruediger in every range and anywhere this fight goes favours the local boy. For me Ruediger gets bounced right back out of the big show following a submission loss as the Boston crowd blow the roof off for their localboy-done-good. Lauzon submission round 1
Pay per view Main Card
Nate Diaz 12-5-0 vs. Marcus Davis 17-6-0 – Welterweight
After not performing as well as he’d hoped at lightweight, Diaz went UP to Welterweight, defeating Rory Markham in his first fight at 170lbs. This came with Markham actually failing to make weight and so technically was classe as a middleweight bout. This time in a true 170lbs match, he will face “the irish hand-grenade”. This looks to be a very winnable fight for Diaz. Davis is showing the signs of age and has struggled with younger “punches in bunches” type fighters recently. Whilst he still retains a nice boxing style, he seems to have lost that extra bit of “fizz” which Diaz posesses in abundance. Should this hit the floor, it gets even worse for Davis as Diaz has an fantastic guard game that has given many a fighter trouble. His no hand, gun-flexing, bird-flipping triangle choke of Kurt Pellegrino remains one of my favourite UFC submissions ever. I really don’t see anywhere that Diaz will be troubled in this fight and it should be another W for the Cesar Gracie brown-belt as he attempts to make a run at the elite of the division. Diaz submission rd 2
Demian Maia 12-2-0 vs. Mario Miranda 10-1-0 – Middleweight
This should be the fight when we see Maia back to doing what he does best: Making human pretzels out of his opponents. If there was ever a time when Maia should go back to doing what he does best, it’s this fight. Whilst he is also a jiujitsu blackbelt, Miranda is much more adept than Maia at striking range. Maia, in his recent fights, seems to have decided he is actually a striker and chosen to compete at a range where he is not as his best. This time round, he needs this on the mat and he needs to avoid the clinch striking of Miranda to get there. When (and I do think it will be when) he achieves this, Miranda is all but done. I don’t think anyone is as good as Maia on the ground at 185lbs. Possibly not anyone in the whole of MMA (but that is another debate). I sincerely hope Maia chooses to seize the initiative and take this fight to Miranda from the bell. Miranda obviously will be only too aware of this and will endevaour to keep things upright, but for me it’s only a matter of time. Maia submission rd 2
Kenny Florian 13-4-0 vs. Gray Maynard 9-0-0 – Lightweight
In a match that will determine who will be up next to contest the lightweight belt, favourite Kenny Florian will be looking to hand Maynard his first career loss. Maynard is an ugly grinding kind of fighter in the mould of Fitch and although it is horrible to watch as a fan, there is no denying the methods effectiveness. Florian is a very intelligent fighter who has really evolved into a great strategist with razor sharp striking and a great submission game. Since hitting 155 he has only lost 2 out of 11 fights and both those were title matches. 7 of the 9 wins came by way of rear naked choke. Maynard in contrast likes to grind out decisions and has not finished a fight since his 10second KO of Joe Veres (whoooo???) at UFN 11 in 2007. Let us not forget also that Florian is a Boston kid and will have serious home advantage in this fight. The key to this fight is Florian staying off his back. If he can do it he can win, if he gets put on his back there is a great chance that Maynard will be able to take the fight. The likelihood of Kenny being on his back for 3 rounds though is very slim. I cannot see Maynard finishing this one, there is nothing except a lucky punch that makes me think that since the spit decision win over Nate Diaz, Maynard will suddenly be a finisher. Florian on the other hand, is a proven finisher and so for me this is Florians fight. I just cannot see Florian being kept on his back for the whole 3 rounds. I think Florian will find an opening at some point in the later rounds and submit the bully to earn his 3rd shot at UFC gold. Florian submission round 3
Randy Couture 18-10-0 vs. James Toney 0 -0-0
In the fight that has dominated the headlines for this UFC event, Randy the Natural Couture carries the pride of MMA into the octagon against a true star of the boxing world James Toney. Let’s not go overboard with praise for Toney though, he is after a pay day and that’s it because he has become irrelevant in the boxing world. I don’t love the way he has been able to trash talk his way into a co-main event on a massive UFC card against a super-star of our sport, but it is what it is. It is simply un-thinkable that Randy could lose this. Sure Toney can bang but all he has is a punch. He is out of shape, he isn’t really training with a reputable MMA gym and he is up against one of the best exponents of greco-roman wrestling (aka boxers Kryptonite) in our sport. One of the articles I read on this fight said it best about Toney: “he has eaten his way up the weight classes in boxing”. He is another example of a guy who has been punched in the head too many times and won’t let it go. In a way MMA really has nothing to gain from this fight. This is not the pride of boxing in there going toe to toe with the best there is in MMA. This is a fat, washed up, old man of boxing going in against a man who, whilst still a superb athlete and an amazing fighter, is off the pace in relation to the rest of his division. Randy should be able to comfortably avoid the power of Toney and will waste no time in putting him on his back, after clinching and putting him against the cage. This will be a submission, this will be in the first round and this will be the end of Toneys MMA “dream”. Randy submission (head and arm triangle) Round 1
UFC Lightweight Championship
Frankie Edgar 12-1-0 vs. B.J. Penn 15-6-0
This is a rematch of their UFC112 encounter when Edgar shocked the world by handing Penn his first loss at 155lbs since 2002. Whether he has a sinus infection as reported, or he took Edgar too lightly, or he simply tried to hard to KO him instead of doing what he should have and taken him to the mat is irrelevant. What matters is what happens on saturday and how this fight goes down has a huge impact on the legacy of BJ Penn as one of the greatest 155ers of all time. For me, we saw the absolute best of Frankie Edgar back in April, we didn’t see the best ever BJ Penn. I really hope that on Saturday night we will. Whilst the fight at UFC112 wasn’t the walkover that one judge saw it and for some it was actually a fight BJ should have won, I don’t think the judges will need to worry about causing any controversy in Boston. I really don’t think their cards will be consulted. I don’t think we will see Penn play the striking game again with Edgar, not because he isn’t capable but because he will want to make a statement. This fight will see BJ at his devastating best and if I was a betting man I would be fairly comfortable betting my house on that fact (my wife maybe not so much though!!). Edgar is the champ and cannot be completely discounted and this post isnt intended to just write him off. If BJ Penn plays his game then Edgar will win, simply because its a game he’s better at than BJ. He is quicker, sharper and has great footowork. I don’t think he has the same power as Penn but that doesn’t matter when it goes the distance. BJ has to know this though and because he is so driven to be a fighter that goes down in history I am sure he won’t play the same game he did in the last fight. This hits the mat with BJ initiating the takedown and it is one way traffic for the prodigy. I say he takes this inside 3 rounds. Penn submission round 3
***********UPDATED WITH RESULTS *******************
Mike Pierce vs. Amilcar Alves – My Pick: Pierce Decision Actual:Pierce submission (armbar) rd3.
Nick Osipczak vs. Greg Soto – My Pick: Osipczack TKO rd 2 Actual: Soto decision
Dan Miller vs. John Salter – My Pick: Miller (no method predicted) Actual: Miller submission (guillotine choke) rd 2
Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz – My Pick: Winner Decision Actual: Lentz decision
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger – My Pick: Lauzon sub rd 1 Actual: Lauzon submission (armbar) rd 1
Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis – My Pick: Diaz sub rd2 Actual: Diaz technical submission (guillotine choke)
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard – My Pick: Florian sub rd3 Actual: Maynard decision
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda – My Pick: Maia sub rd2 Actual: Maia decision
Randy Couture vs. James Toney – My Pick: Couture sub rd 1 Actual: Couture submission (arm triangle choke) rd 1
Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn – My Pick: Penn Sub rd 3 Actual: Edgar decision