UFC 137: Penn vs Diaz – Preview and Predictions

It has been three weeks since we had a UFC event and to make up for it, the UFC are putting on 4 big events over the next four weeks, then taking a brief breather before hitting us with the massive fights of december which include Jones vs Machida and Lesnar vs Overeem.

For this event the UFC poster department have been working overtime! We have had three different main events so far, with GSP originally slated to fight Diaz, who no-showed at a press conference and was immediately removed from the match and swapped with Condit who was slated to fight BJ Penn in the co-main event, leaving GSP vs Condit and Penn vs Diaz. Now that GSP is off the card with an knee injury, Condit will be sidelined to wait for the title fight and Penn vs Diaz is the main event. Even without a GSP fight on the card, this is still a great card but it maybe won’t sell as well without a PPV king like GSP on board. Still, hardcore fans will relish the opportunity to see Penn vs Diaz, which has all the makings of a really exciting fight. Both men have high level jiujitsu and great striking and this one has fight of the night written all over it if both fighters perform to their full potential. Ably supporting the headline fight, we have two big heavyweight matches in the shape of CroCop vs Nelson and Kongo vs Mitrione. We will also see the UFC debut of another Japanese standout when Hatsu Hioki faces off against George Roop.

So if you are hoping to earn yourself a little bit of extra pocket money in time for christmas with a little flutter on the fights, have a read of my predictions: You may find I help you get lucky, or you may start bombarding me with emails to complain about your wasted cash. Either way read on for my take on how the action will go down this coming saturday night.

Let’s get it on!

Dustin Jacoby 6-0-0 vs. Clifford Starks 7-0-0 – Middleweight
Two undefeated fighters making their UFC debuts. I am completely unfamiliar with both so I cannot really make a prediction for this fight based on anything other than stats. Fortunately I love a good stat and some MMAMath so let’s give it a go! Starks is a later replacement for the injured Brad Tavares, He was a NCAA Div 1 wrestler and has 3tko’s and 1 submission win in his perfect 7-0-0 career. Jacoby is an interesting prospect: He has only been taken out of the first round by one of his 6 opponents and won his last bout in 37 seconds. He is pretty huge for a middleweight at 6’4″ and will enjoy a significant reach advantage. He trains out of Matt Hughes gym so his wrestling won’t be too shabby either. With 5 TKO’s to his name, it is pretty clear he favours the striking game and given the reach disparity I am picking him to add another TKO to his list! Jacoby TKO rd 1

Francis Carmont 16-7-0 vs. Chris Camozzi 15-4-0 – Middleweight
Carmozzi is a TUF 11 alumni who was forced off the show with an injury. He made 3 appearances in the UFC defeating Hammortree at the TUF 11 finale, then decisioning Dongi Yang before Kyle Noke subbed him in the first round of their match at UFC 127. He then decisioned Joey Villasenor in Shark Fights (a match that was originally scored a draw before a ruling found one judges scores were added incorrectly). He returns against Francis Carmont a former light heavyweight riding a 5 fight win streak in smaller promotions. In an interesting but unrelated fact I have actually fought on the same card as Carmont, so erm…. yay me! Carmonts game has come on leaps and bounds since the days of fighting in smokey, seedy nightclubs in Essex though, and in his last fight he beat UFC veteran Jason “Dooms” Day. Camozzi should be a much sterner test and is a game fighter. Carmont has it all to do in this match and as the debuting fighter he needs to adjust quickly to the pressure of the big show. This is a tough match to call, but although the momentum seems to be with Carmont I am picking Octagon jitters and the big show experience of Camozzi to tip the scales in his favour. Camozzi decision

Daniel Downes 8-2-0 vs. Ramsey Nijem 4-2-0 – Lightweight
Downes fights out of the Roufussport team who are making a big splash currently with some great fighters coming through. His UFC debut was at the TUF 13 finale where he was ultimately outclassed by Jeremy Stephens, a much more experienced fighter than himself, but showed great heart and toughness (that Kimura!!! owwwwww!!). Nijem was a contestant on the show and made the welterweight final, where he lost by KO to Tony Ferguson. Nijem is a former NCAA Div 1 wrestler and despite having less experience than his opponent, he seems to be a favourite coming into this fight. Understandable given his performances in TUF and the fact he is coming down from Welterweight. I like Downes though: He is by no means the finished article, but has the heart of a lion, an improving game and a great team behind him. Downes is my underdog pick. Downes by decision

Brandon Vera 11-5-0 (1 NC) vs. Eliot Marshall 10-3-0 – Light Heavyweight
At 34 Vera, is one of the elder statesmen of the UFC light heavyweight division and this may be his last roll of the dice with the premier promotion in MMA today. Eliot Marshall should provide a big test on the mat, as he is a blackbelt in BJJ with half his career wins coming by way of submission. Marshal is a TUF alumni with a 3-2 record in the UFC. Clearly Vera has the egde on the feet in this match, and has also fought a much higher class of opponent. Despite his prolonged absence from the Octagon and his recent spate of nasty facial injuries I would put him in as a favourite to win this. He has never been submitted and he has only been stopped twice: By Werdum (controversially some would say) and Jones. If Vera can utilise his excellent muaythai skills to keep this standing and pour it on Marshall from the start, I think we will see him get the win. Obviously every fighter has a punchers chance on any given day, but I think we can rule out Marshall being competitive on the feet, so he desparately needs to get this to mat. If he gets to the clinch he needs to contend with Vera’s blend of Greco Roman and thai clinchwork which he has used to great effect on many occasions. Even if he gets it to the floor it is not a foregone conclusion, as Vera is a BJJ brownbelt himself and despite only having one submission win, he can use his guard effectively to stay in the fight. I say Vera has way more tools to win this and I think he will stop Marshall inside the 15. Vera TKO rd 2

Bart Palaszewski 35-14-0 vs. Tyson Griffin 15-5-0– Featherweight
A majority decision against Manny Gamburyan, got Griffins 145lb campaign off to a successful start and as Palaszewski finally makes his UFC bow and drop to 145, Griffin will look to carry on building momentum towards a title charge. If he can rediscover the sort of electric form he showed in the lightweight division, Griffin can be a real propsect at 145. His showing against Gamburyan wasnt exactly awe-inspiring but it was his first fight at the weight, so hopefully now he has done it once he will come in a little more like his old self in this match. His opponent is a tough one – Palaszewski has only been stopped 4 times in a 48 fight career and that should tell you everything you need to know about the toughness of the man. A Jeff Curran Blackbelt, the Polish native has posted 34 wins in his career and 15 of those were by KO. His power was clear to see in his match against Shalorus and despite losing the match, he threw everything at his opponent and most mere-mortals would have fallen. Griffin is an exciting, dynamic fighter when he is “on” and his greatest skill is his wrestling. He has a clear advantage here and should be able to use this to control the fight. Palaszewskis power is a concern, but Griffin has enough about him to survive any onslaught as long as he doesnt make a mistake. On the ground if he keeps everything tight and doesnt leave any limbs dangling, for “Bartimus” to latch onto, I think Griffin can do enough to take this on the judges cards. Griffin decision

Dennis Siver 19-7-0 vs. Donald Cerrone 16-3-0 (1 NC) – Lightweight
This is a great matchup with both fighters currently on a tear at lightweight and both eyeing a title shot. On most of the other events the UFC has put on this year, this fight would surely make the main card, but the two men will have to be content with being the lead-in fight to the main event section of the show. On paper this is your classic striker vs grappler match, but despite his kickboxing pedigree Siver has more submission wins than KO’s. Cerrone is no slouch on the feet either – as evidenced by his KO of the night performance against Oliveira last time out – but it is on the ground that he really tears it up and in his last 10 career wins, 7 were by submission. Siver started off slowly in the UFC going 1-3 before being cut. He got a quick win in a German promotion and came back to the UFC and since then has gone 7-1 pocketing 4 bonuses (2 KO of the nights, 1 fight of the night and 1 submission of the night). Cerrone is a fight of the night magnet himself, having trousered the bonus 6 times since joining the WEC and subsequently the UFC. Cerrone has a decent height and reach advantage in this match and he should look to exploit this early – avoiding the punishing kicks of Siver. I give a slight edge to Cerrone in the wrestling and on the floor but Sivers squat, powerful frame and sturdy base make him a difficult proposition for any lightweight to takedown. If Siver can’t land a power shot to unsettle Cerrone though, I think he is in for a long night as Cowboy picks him off from distance on the feet and threatens submission after submission off his back if the action hits the mat. I see this one going to the judges, with Cerrone edging it on the cards. Cerrone decision

Hatsu Hioki 24-4-2 vs. George Roop 12-7-1 – Featherweight
Japanese superstars who have excelled in their homeland have tradtionally struggled in the UFC. For many Hioki is the last outstanding Japanese fighter who hasn’t already fought in the UFC. The other recent Japanese MMA mega-signings (Kid Yamamoto, Gomi, Akiyama, Omigawa) have fared pretty poorly in comparison to the expectations fans had for them. Hioki may be the man to claw back a little respect from the naysayers who speculate that JMMA is over. He has victories over the likes of Hominick and Curran and is without doubt a huge talent. Roop is a gamer and TUF veteran from series 8, currently enjoying his second run with the promotion. His record is somewhat patchy. He scored a huge KO over Chang Sung Jung, but then lost to hominick and followed that up with a body punch KO of highly touted Josh Grispi. The key to the fight is likely to be whether Roop can land his strikes. If he can’t he is going to get blitzed on the ground. Anything can happen in MMA and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Roop stretched Hioki out, as we’ve seen him do it to tough guys before. However, I think Hioki is at a grappling advantage as he should be able to get under the length of Roop and training at Tristar with GSP and the like won’t have hurt his wrestling ability. Once Hioki starts to time Roops striking and work out how to deal with the range deficit, he will get hold of Roop and this is going to the ground where it is end game for the American. Hioki sub round 2

Jeff Curran 33-13-1 vs. Scott Jorgensen 12-4-0 – Bantamweight
This matchup will be an awesome scrap between two very good fighters. Jorgensen is tough as nails with excellent conditioning and looked impressive in his WEC run before hitting the brick wall of Dominick Cruz. Curran is an elite grappler and a veteran of MMA with 47 matches to his name. As you would expect the vast majority of his wins have come via submission and he has only won with strikes once in his entire career. That said he has only been stopped with strikes twice and most of his losses came by way of decision. If Curran can impose his will on the mat, then the conclusion of this fight is inevitable, but he has to deal with a much younger, better conditioned opponent who edges him in the wrestling game. Jorgensen has only lost by submission once, but hasn’t faced the level of submission fighter that Curran is. If he makes one mistake on the mat, Curran will pounce on it. Perhaps the smart money goes on Jorgensen, but ever the grappling fanboy – and this is definitely a heart over head pick – I am really hoping Curran pulls out a submission of the night performance and chalks one up for the “old men” of the game! Curran submission rd 3

Mirko Filipovic 27-9-2 (1 NC) vs. Roy Nelson 16-5-0 – Heavyweight
Say it ain’t so Mirko! Another UFC fight and the impending possibility of another horrific UFC beatdown for the veteran. I am afraid I am firmly in the “should have hung the gloves up” camp when it comes to Mirko’s career. Since joining the UFc he has looked a shell of his former ass-kicking, head smashing self. With a 4-5 UFC record he has been pretty uninspiring and doesnt look right mentally. There is something in his eyes when he gets clipped that just screams out that he doesnt want to be in that Cage. Against Nelson, who is in the best shape of his entire career if the photos doing the rounds on the interwebz are anything to go by, he is really going to struggle. “Big Country” has a granite chin (see the Dos Santos fight), deceptive conditioning, decent wrestling and a blackbelt level ground game. He is pretty much krytponite to the current incarnation of CroCop. Maybe CroCop will have a little success with his striking early on and there could be a little of the old magic still in that left leg of his. But all signs point to another loss for the Croatian sadly. Nelson TKO rd 2

Cheick Kongo 16-6-2 vs. Matt Mitrione 5-0-0 – Heavyweight
Kongo is one of the scariest looking dudes in the UFC, if not the whole wide world. He is carved out of granite and physically one of the most intimidating men in the sport. But appearances can be deceptive and he often does inexplicable things in fights he should comfortably win. Mitrione has been a bit of a surprise package, a former NFL player, he learned his trade under Chris Lytle and now fights under the RoufusSport banner. He has made massive leaps forward in his game since appearing on the Ultimate Fighter (and losing to James McSweeney of all people). His striking has holes but is only going to improve under his current team, and he has a left hand that could derail a freight train. This should be a standup extravaganza and that has to be what the fans are hoping for, but we may well see Kongo opt for the takedown here. If he can get Mitrione on his back and keep him there he could TKO him, but I don’t think we are going to see any elite grappling from either man. Kongo showed incredible resilience to bounce back in his last fight against Pat Barry and he will need that against Mitrione who will no doubt look to pour it on his opponent. Kongo has shown that he will struggle against the elite hevayweights in the sport and his game doesnt seem to have evolved too much in the time he has been with the promotion. Small improvements in wrestling maybe, but he is still pretty much a kickboxer. Mitrione has shown already that he is progressing in every fight and that could be the key here. How much has he improved and is he able to pass the “gatekeeper test” posed by Kongo? I think he probably can, but it will be his toughest fight yet. Mitrione decision

B.J. Penn 16-7-2 vs. Nick Diaz 25-7-0 (1 NC) – Welterweight
If this isnt fight of the night I will eat my own head! I am so excited for this match. Both men can pretty much do it all: Striking and submissions they are pretty much even and there isnt a lot to separate the two. Neither men are known as great wrestlers, but diving into the stats shows that BJ Penn actually has pretty decent success with his takedowns and his takedown defence is right up there with the best in the game. He has been working with Matt Hughes in the run up to this fight and you wonder whether is a clear indication of his intention to take this one to the mat. Both men are jiujitsu blackbelts, with Penn probably having the edge, but the frame of Diaz could pose challenges for the Prodigy. Diaz hasn’t lost a match since 2008, and in his 10 fight streak he has only gone to the judges once. Diaz is going to want to come out and make this a brawl, using his excellent boxing to try and break Penn early. It is not necessarily the power of the punches, but the volumne that causes his opponents to fold against him. Even uber-strikers like Paul Daley have crumbled under the offence from Diaz.

BJ Penn always fights like he has something to prove, and against Diaz he really has. There is no doubt he wants another shot at the title and he opted to show the world he can hang in there with the wrestling elite of the 170lbs division by wrestling Fitch to a draw. He puts striking and takedowns together really well and then backs it up with an awesome submission game. If Penn is sensible and goes with a good gameplan (not exactly something he is known for) then he is going to try and put Diaz on the mat early. The formula for this fight seems simple: More time on the feet – advantage Diaz; More time on the mat – advantage Penn. It is so hard to pick a winner because both men have more than enough about them to win it. Diaz has better conditioning without a doubt. If he is able to stuff Penn and keep on peppering him with strikes, pushing the fight into the later stages, you have to figure he will edge it on the cards. Can Penn KO Diaz? Well Paul Daley couldn’t so it’s unlikely, but then Daley couldn’t deliver an accurate follow up to the knock down he did score on Diaz. Penn definitely has power, arguably more than Diaz and if he is sprightly enough with the follow up then a KO loss for Nick – as shocking as that may be – could happen. Can Diaz sub Penn? To be fair this result would be even more shocking than a Penn KO, but again it is not out of the question. He is awesome off his back and has the kind of flexibility in his hips and legs that lets him do things not many other grapplers can. The most likely scenario for me is a classic 3 round war that goes to the judges. My heart is always with BJ who is my favourite UFC fighter by a country mile. But Diaz has looked unstoppable for a long long time. I’d like to cop out and not make a decision and just enjoy the fight, but that kind of defeats the object of this article; So I am going to go with my heart and opt for BJ Penn to nick this by hitting more takedowns and being more active on the ground. However this isn’t going to be a walkover and it really could go either way. Penn decision

******************** UPDATED WITH EVENT RESULTS ******************
Jacoby vs. Starks – My Pick: Jacoby TKO rd1 Actual: Starks decision
Camozzi vs. Carmont – My Pick: Camozzi decision Actual: Carmont decision
Nijem vs. Downes – My Pick:Downes decision Actual: Nijem decision
Vera vs. Marshall – My Pick: Vera TKO rd2 Actual: Vera decision
Griffin vs. Palaszewski – My Pick: Griffin decision Actual: Palaszewski KO round 1.
Siver vs. Cerrone – My Pick:Cerrone Decision Actual: Cerrone submission (rear naked choke) round 1.
Hioki vs. Roop – My Pick: Actual:Hioki Sub rd 2 Hioki split decision
Jorgensen vs. Curran – My Pick:Curran Sub rd 3 Actual: Jorgensen decision
Filipović vs. Nelson – My Pick:Nelson TKO rd 2 Actual: Nelson TKO (punches) round 3.
Kongo vs. Mitrione – My Pick:Mitrione decision Actual: Kongo decision
BJ Penn vs. Diaz – My Pick:Penn decision Actual: Diaz decision


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