Ok ladies and gents here it is: The UFC’s final event of 2011. On paper the card as a whole doesn’t exactly look like a barnburner but there are some great fights dotted around it. These all pale into insignificance though when up against the main event. That is going to raise the roof of the Bell centre in Montreal. On the back of the TUF12 series and the smack-talking of a certain fuzzy-haired wrestler from AKA we finally get to see Koscheck vs GSP.
Koscheck has done his utmost to get inside the head of the champ but it doesn’t appear as though the mindgames have worked. Team GSP dominated team Koscheck in the TUF house and the home crowd this Saturday will be hoping they see GSP do the same. Koscheck hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Canadian fans, or to the champ himself but he genuinely doesn’t care. It is obvious he enjoys playing the ‘heel’ part and it seems he believes he really will be declared the victor this weekend. Read on to find out what I have to say about that!
Another fight I am looking forward to is the return of Thiago Alves. He has famously struggled with his weight and this has showed in a couple of poor performances in the octagon. If we are to believe all that we are told, he now has his diet and weight issues well in hand and is on course to dish out a beating to John Howard come showtime. Alves is the sort of fighter I really enjoy watching: Brutal, Aggressive and entertaining and Howard is going to have his work cut out for him if Alves, as I hope, enters the arena in the shape of his life.
So, as always……. Let’s get it on!
John Makdessi 7-0-0 vs. Pat Audinwood 9-1-1 – Lightweight
Ok let’s deal with the nickname issue first: If fights were won on nicknames alone, then Pat “awesomely awesome” Audinwood would be the champ at every weight in the UFC, Dream, Strikeforce and any other event you care to name. Any fight name that uses 2 kinds of awesome has to be awesome right? So do his skills match his monikers awesomeness? 5 of his 9 wins have been decisions, the other 4 have been submission wins. His first UFC fight was a quick loss to Thiago Tavares, a fight in which he was out of his depth against the judo and jiujitsu black-belt – who came in as a late replacement for Audinwoods original opponent Aaron Riley. Audinwood has a wrestling base like so many athletes starting in MMA now, but he was not an elite level competitor. Makdessi is a Canadian kickboxer so will have hometown advantage in this striker /wrestler match. The Canadian stopped his first 6 opponents inside the distance, but a look at those opponents uncovers a 12-17-0 combined record: Not exactly elite fighters. His last fight was a decision win against veteran Bendy Casimir, a stalwart of the European MMA scene but who is currently on a pretty big losing streak. Makdessi’s home advantage may help him overcome the Octagon jitters but in my opinion his aggressive style of striking plays into the hands of Audinwood. I see Audinwood wanting none of the striking game, taking this to the mat early and submitting the Canadian. Audinwood submission round 1
Ricardo Almeida 12-4-0 vs. T.J. Grant 16-4-0 – Welterweight
A surprise undercard appearance for Almeida, who as a 3rd degree BJJ blackbelt and elite-grappler was touted as a Welterweight contender when he debuted at the weight against Matt Brown (having previously campaigned at Light Heavyweight and then winning the pancrase middleweight championship). His last fight against an ageing Matt Hughes was billed as a revenge fight after Hughes beat his mentor Renzo Gracie. What happened was Hughes used his brute strength to slap on what wikipedia is calling a “farmaconda choke” and submit Almeida in the first. If Almeida has any illusions of competing at the highest level in one of the most talent-rich divisions in the UFC, he has to beat TJ Grant on Saturday night. Grant has hometown advantage and is a fairly decent grappler himself, although not on Almeida’s level. As a mixed martial artist though, he is certainly a more rounded fighter than the Brazilian. If Grant decides to go to ground with Almeida though, he will be making a mistake. If he is intelligent and uses his superior standup then he should take a decent decision win here. That said, Almeida has never lost back to back fights, and if he has been working diligently on the weaker areas of his game (ie his stand-up) he could surprise Grant. To be fair the smart money is a Grant decision here but I’m going to take a punt on Almeida, as I love the jits. Almeida submisison round 2
Matt Riddle 5-1-0 vs. Sean Pierson 10-4-0 – Welterweight
Matt Riddle is another one of those fighters that I inexplicably hate. Maybe it’s his arrogance, maybe it’s his stupid face, maybe it’s all the crap he said in the run up to UFC 105 and his fight against Nick Osipczack (who smashed him by the way and has been criminally cut by the UFC after being robbed in 2 of his 3 last fights). Maybe it’s a combination of all these things. I’ll admit the guy is undoubtedly a talent. Not too many fighters have ALL their professional fights in the UFC to be fair. Riddles opponent and the person I am pinning my hopes on to smash his stupid face is Sean Pierson. Pierson is another hometown fighter who will have the crowd on his side during this match. He, like Riddle, is a strong wrestler and since losing out to Jesse Bongfeldt back in 2007 is on a five fight streak, stopping all his opponents in the very first round. I will be rooting for more of the same to be dished out to Riddle, although I expect the American to be a harder opponent than his previous 5. Riddle has a powerful, grinding style that I don’t particularly enjoy watching, but it is effective. Pierson needs to control the distance and control the clinch in order to come away with the “w” here. I see this one going the distance with Piersons hand being raised at the end. Pierson decision
Jesse Bongfeldt 21-7-0 vs. Rafael Natal 12-3-0 – Middleweight
Not a lot of information out there on either of these guys really. Jesse “water” Bongfeldt is on a 7 fight win streak and has a decent submission game, with a big win over fellow under-carder TJ Grant and also a win over another debutant on this card – Sean Pierson. All these recent wins have been stoppages but he hasn’t fought at all in 2010. Natal dropped a decision to Rich Attonito at UFC Fight Night in September in his debut for the organisation and prior to that was 12-2 with the vast majority of his wins by submission. Both men are fight finishers, but Bongfeldt especially stands out with his very impressive fight resume. Although he will have UFC debut nerves to contend with, he is on home-turf (is there a theme developing here with Canadian fighters on this card you think?) and he looks to be the pick here. I think this is has the makings of a great fight and my pick is Bongfeldt via TKO, as the BJJ blackbelt Natal has never been submitted. Bongfeldt TKO round 3
Dan Miller 12-4-0 vs. Joe Doerksen 46-13-0 – Middleweight
This fight pits two savvy, well rounded fighters against each other. Doerksen had seen a 7 fight win streak snapped in double-quick time by a sneaky CB Dolloway guillotine at UFC 119. Miller rebounded from his loss to Michael Bisping with a submission win against John Salter at UFC 118. This is a pretty even match-up in terms of skill set with Miller perhaps edging the striking game. Whilst he is very good on the ground himself, he will probably look to avoid the submissions of Doerksen and try and keep this on the feet. Doerksen is yet another Canadian fighter on the undercard who will enjoy the majority of the crowds support, but has done a lot of octagon-miles and you wonder how long it will continue. Although Miller is only a mid-level fighter in terms of the UFC 185lbs division, I think he will have the veterans number. Expect to see El Dirte tough it out into the later rounds and then succumb to a choke in the 3rd. Miller Submission round 3
Dustin Hazelett 12-6-0 vs. Mark Bocek 8-3-0 – Lightweight
I seem to be picking a lot of submission wins for this event so far and that is pretty unusual in UFC events of recent times. But this is another matchup where I think a submission finish is inevitable. Hazelett has some of the funkiest submissions around and now that he is dropping back to lightweight he is going to find it easier to latch onto these against much smaller guys. McLovin is 6’1″ and will have a great reach advantage over the much smaller Bocek. Bocek is a decent grappler and won’t go quietly but at least Hazelett shouldn’t have to worry about having his bell rung like in his last fights against Paul Daley and Rick Story. Whilst Bocek has a great smothering grappling game with nice transitions, it is Hazeletts size advantage and flair for pulling out a sub from the weirdest of positions that gets my vote here. Mclovin submission round 2
Thiago Alves 17-7-0 vs. John Howard 14-5-0 – Welterweight
Dana White wants Alves at 185lbs given his recent struggles to make weight but Alves is convinced his best class is Welterweight. With a new work ethic and a new dietician on board, I’m hoping Alves can once again make waves at 170lbs and be validated in begging Dana to give him one more chance at this weight class. You can be sure if he messes up the cut for this one, there is no-way Dana will let him fight 170lbs again. His opponent – John Howard – scored 2 big KO’s against Dennis Hallman and Daniel Roberts (Ko of the night) to make the UFc top brass sit up and take notice. He was given a shot against wrestler-stomper Jake Ellenberger and despite showing promise on the feet, he was taken down at will and eventually subdued by a GnP assault. In this match he will get the sort of fight he likes… a standup war. This fight is a strong contender for KO of the night awards and I’m rooting for my man the pitbull to come away with the goods. Don’t let me down Thiago! Alves KO round 2
Joe Stevenson 31-11-0 vs. Mac Danzig 19-8-0 – Lightweight
Big fight for Danzig this, after dropping 4 in his last 5 he has to be dangerously close to being cut – especially with a lot of lighter guys coming in from the WEC now. Joe Daddy has dropped 3 in 5 but his opponents have been of a higher standard and he has 3 fight of the night awards in those 5 fights too. Admittedly Danzigs last loss (Matt Wiman) was perhaps a little harsh on him as the ref stopped it thinking he was unconscious when he clearly wasn’t and certainly hadn’t tapped. Nevertheless I think Joe Daddy takes this fight pretty comfortably. Danzig will pose a threat wherever the fight goes but I just think Stevenson has a slightly better set of fighting tools than Danzig and will probably edge him on conditioning. Danzig doesn’t get submitted too often (just twice in 27 fights) and this one should go the full 15. Stevenson decision
Jim Miller 18-2-0 vs. Charles Oliveira 14-0-0 – Lightweight
One for the factoid fans: Jim Millers appearance on the same card as his brother Dan makes the Millers only the second set of brothers to appear on the same UFC event (the first being the Lauzons at UFC 108). The Nogueiras would have been 2nd at UFC 119 but Big Nog pulled out the Mir fight. Random facts aside this is a big fight for both guys. Oliveira has one of the more impressive records in the UFC and the possibly the best in the whole LW division. He is also an extremely exciting fighter with an impressive array of strikes and a superb ground game. Miller is a solid workhorse type fighter. His loss to Gray Maynard (the only one in his UFC career) displayed his heart as he was dominated but didn’t stop going for it. He has an impressive ground game himself and will possibly even fancy his chances if it hits the mat. Miller is a division 1 wrestler as well as BJJ blackbelt and he combines the two well. He doesn’t have the same sort of finishing rate as his opponent though and will be wary of being caught out in this fight. I think Miller could well stifle the flair of Oliveira here and use his wrestling to completely shutdown the offence of the Brazilian. Whilst I would like to see this play out as a much more open and spectacular fight, I can see this settling into a pattern fairly early with Miller hitting takedowns then backing out of submission attempts or Oliviera simply getting up. I don’t think Oliveira has been tested against this calibre of American style wrestling based fighter. It could prove to be his kryptonite! Unless Oliveira can catch a submission to end things early, I think Miller takes this on the score cards. A third successive submission of the night award for Oliveira is a punt if you are a betting man (or woman!), but I can’t see it myself. Miller decision.
Stefan Struve 20-4-0 vs. Sean McCorkle 10-0-0 – Heavyweight
This is a very strange fight to have as a co-main eventer. Struve has the look of an awkward baby giraffe in a lot of his fights but has a dangerous submission game, due in no small part to his uber-lanky 6’11” frame. He is up against a loudmouth trash-talker in McCorkle who made a name for himself on the internet as a famous internet-troll and now tries a bit too hard to live up to that ‘hilarious’ trash-talker mantle. Both men like to finish fights and have had no problem declaring their disdain for one another, so expect a bit of bad blood here. The key thing in this fight is Struve will not have the sort of height advantage he is used to. He also doesn’t tend to fair too well against big punchers, so a big puncher that is much closer to his own height could cause him problems. McCorkle is exactly that kind of fighter and – while the purist in me hopes that Struve can end this with beautiful jiujitsu and shut McCorkles pie-hole in the process -that ending would be a little too good to be true. McCorkle could do a Roy Nelson job on Struve here and land a big shot that puts the lights out early. McCorkle gives away 4 inches in height but he is a much thicker set and stronger man and I see Struve struggling against him unless he has miraculously developed footwork that doesn’t make him look like bambi after a night on the absinthe. McCorkle KO round 2
Georges St. Pierre 20-2-0 vs. Josh Koscheck 15-4-0 – Welterweight Championship
So onto the big one. GSP is a dominant champion and contender for p4p greatest, but has been criticised for not putting opponents away. He tends to play the safe “Greg Jackson” game (as Dana White might say) of doing enough to win, but ensuring he wins at all costs – even if that means stifling his opponent. Koscheck is widely hated and embraces his role as “the bad guy” up against GSP’s Captain Canada. For sure Kos will have to contend with an arena full of boo’s as he walks to the Octagon this weekend. Koscheck is a much better fighter than he was the last time these two fighters met. He has gone 6-2 since they fought, with GSP going 6-0. Of their 6 wins each since the last fight, Koscheck has finished 4 inside the distance and GSP 3. Bear in mind also that GSP has had 10 extra minutes to finish all the guys he has fought.
Koschecks striking is the thing he has improved on most but he is not a striker with the same skill level as GSP. There is fierce power in his right hand, but that is mostly because he throws it from Row z. His wrestling pedigree is unquestionable but GSP stuffed virtually all his takedowns last time they met. GSP is a more gifted athlete, a more intelligent fighter and he doesn’t let emotions like anger get in the way of what he needs to do. I guess what I’m trying to say here is I can’t see GSP losing this fight, unless we see a Matt Serra moment occur. This is, of course, a very real possibility and if it happens we will only be able to watch as Canada implodes before our very eyes as however many thousand people watching in the arena and in bars around the country all draw a sharp intake of breath at exactly the same time. It has to be said that this is an extremely unlikely occurence (GSP getting Ko’d I mean, not Canada imploding. That shit could happen fo’ real!). GSP should put points on the board comfortably for as long as it stays on the feet and if he times Koscheck lunging in, he should be able to put the AKA fighter on his back pretty easily. This is where it gets difficult for Kos: Sure he has great wrestling but when fighters get put on their back by GSP they don’t find it too easy to get up, no matter how good their wrestling is. On the flip-side, what happens if Kos puts GSP on his back? THAT would be a real interesting thing to see as I genuinely can’t remember the last time I saw that happen. There will be plenty of folks out there watching who have had a punt on Koscheck to take this and if you have a few quid spare in your pocket it has to be worth a shot, but I expect to see Koscheck lose this fight. I would LOVE to see GSP finish this in style but the way both guys fight we could be in for a 5 round grind. I say GSP takes this by decision but I hope we see a dynamic striking display from the champ and a big finish. I’m no Koscheck fan and would love to see him truly humbled. As for what happens for GSP after that (assuming I’m right)…. who knows. Maybe Dana has a nice xmas present of a certain Mr A.Silva vs GSP in 2011 lined up for us! GSP Decision
***************** Updated with Results *********************
Pat Audinwood vs. John Makdessi – My Pick: Audinwood sub rd1 Actual: Makdessi decision
TJ Grant vs. Ricardo Almeida – My Pick: Almeida sub rd2 Actual: Almeida decision
Matt Riddle vs. Sean Pierson – My Pick: Pierson decision Actual: Pierson decision
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Rafael Natal – My Pick: Bongfeldt TKO rd3 Actual: Majority Draw
Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett – My Pick: Hazelett sub rd 2 Actual: Bocek submission (triangle choke) rd 1
Joe Doerksen vs. Dan Miller – My Pick: Miller sub rd 3 Actual: Miller decision
Thiago Alves vs. John Howard – My Pick: Alves KO rd 2 Actual: Alves decision
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig – My Pick: Stevenson decision Actual: Danzig KO rd 1.
Jim Miller vs Charles Oliveira – My Pick: Miller decision Actual: Miller submission (kneebar) rd 1
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle – My Pick: McCorkle KO rd2 Actual: Struve TKO rd 1
Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck – My Pick: GSP Decision Actual: GSP Decision