Friday, November 20, 2009

UFC 106: Predictions

I went 6-5 (%54.5) at UFC 105, which was slightly disappointing. In fairness, with six upsets, it was a tough night for a lot of people, but I take full responsibility for a few of my misses. I fell into the trap of undervaluing Micheal Bisping based on his KO loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100, and I also failed to go with my gut on the Gustaffson and Siver fights. My record now stands at 115-65 (%63.9) and 14-4 (%77.8).

I know that UFC 105 was just last week, which could have led to a case of MMA-fatigue for some, but there won't be another numbered UFC card until the middle of December (UFC 107 on Dec. 12th). You don't want to sit around for a whole month with only T.U.F. 10 to tide you over, do you?

Ranked Fighters Include:

Forrest Griffin (#5 LHW), Tito Ortiz (#25 LHW), Josh Koscheck (#4 WW), Anthony Johnson (#16 WW), Antonio Rogerio Nogeuria (#9 LHW), Luis Arthur Cane (#10 LHW), Paulo Thiago (#7 WW), and Marcus Davis (#20 WW).

Main Event:

205 lbs.: Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz (-105) vs. Forrest Griffin (-125)

I traditionally breakdown the main event in great detail before revealing my pick, but I'm just going to call this one straight-up: a one-sided beat down favouring "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy."

Tito Ortiz (15-6-1, 14-6-1 UFC) claims he was hampered by chronic back pain in recent fights and that, after a successful surgery, he's now feeling healthy for the first time in years. Even with that bulging disk, Tito has been holding his ownin the UFC: he survived Lyoto Machida's onslaught, fought Rashad Evans to a draw, made it to the third round against a vintage Chuck Liddell, obliterated Ken Shamrock (twice), and, before that, defeated Forrest Griffin by split-decision at UFC 59. The point is, the "Tito's-washed-up" talk was a bit premature considering he hasn't been fighting at anything near %100. At UFC 106, I think we'll see a repeat of the first round of Ortiz vs. Griffin I, but for all three rounds this time.

I don't mean to sound like I'm totally disregarding Forrest's development over the last few years, because it has certainly been impressive. That said, I just don't think he's physically explosive enough to handle the pressure Ortiz is going to put on him. Without a doubt, Griffin's best weapon is the leg kick, but overusing it might only make it easier for Ortiz to take him down. Tito has been diligently closing holes in his game as well, as evidenced by his recent work with Freddie Roach- the greatest boxing coach in the world and Manny Pacquiao's head trainer. Forrest's best bet might be to rush Tito right off the bat in hopes that Tito's ring rust from his 18-month layoff will make him susceptible to an early finish. Ultimately though, I don't think Griffin will have any answers for Ortiz's takedowns or his patented ground'n'pound from full-guard.

I don't think Tito Ortiz will take a serious run at the title, but, if he's really as healthy as he says, I think he'll get by Forrest Griffin at UFC 106 with relative ease.

Ortiz by TKO, Rd.3.

Main Card:

170 lbs.: Anthony Johnson (-130) vs. Josh Koscheck (EVEN)

The trendy pick is definitely Anthony Johnson (8-2, 5-2 UFC) by K.O, but not so fast. He looked fairly unstoppable in his recent knock out of Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 105 and, aside from losing to Kevin Burns via eye poke, Johnson's only loss in the UFC was in his second fight against Rich Clementi, but there are still lingering questions about "Rumble's" cardio and his ground game.

Josh Koscheck (13-4, 11-4 UFC), on the other hand, is very well known to UFC fans. He's been among the most active fighters in the welterweight division with an average turnaround time of just over 3 months. Once considered a one-dimensional wrestler, "Kos" has recently built up a reputation as a competent striker, which was bolstered by his (T)KO of Frank Trigg at UFC 103.

Koscheck should have a significant wrestling advantage, but it's difficult to know whether he'll even attempt takedowns or opt to fight "Rumble" standing just to prove a point. Actually, doing so might not be as bad of an idea as it sounds. Johnson has tons of power, but his technique is still a bit jerky, so it's possible that Koscheck could pick him apart. Ultimately, "Rumble's" reach and power advantages should be negated by Koscheck's superior kickboxing technique and top-tier grappling. If Koscheck fights smart and keeps Johnson guessing, I think there's a solid chance he pulls out the victory.

I'd estimate there's a %40 likelihood that "Rumble" is just too strong and knocks "Kos" out cold, but that means that, in my mind, "Kos" still has a better than average chance to win.

Koscheck by Unanimous Decision.

205 lbs.: Luis Arthur "Banha" Cane (+120) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (-150)

Luis Arthur Cane (10-1, 3-1 UFC) is basically undefeated with his only loss having come by way of an illegal beatdown via knees to the head of James Irvin while "The Sandman" had a knee down. Cane has scored eight of his ten wins by way of (T)KO; however, he had some trouble in his last two fights against Sokoudjou and Steve Cantwell. It's possible that his brawling style is beginning to falter against top competition in the UFC. If that's the case, the road won't get any easier against Rogerio Nogeuira (17-3, 0-0 UFC) whose technical boxing and superior ground game could give "Banha" fits. Though his chin is not quite as legendarily as that of his heavyweight twin brother Roderigo, Rogerio has only been (T)KO'ed once in his career. He should be able to sit back all night and out-box Cane when "Banha" attempts to rush in throwing wild haymakers.

I'm a big fan of Luis Arthur Cane, but I think he's in over his head against BJJ master, PRIDE stand-out and all around great fighter, "Lil Nog" Nogueira.

Nogueira by Unanimous Decision

170 lbs.: Phil Baroni (+160) vs. Amir Sadollah (-200)

Amir Sadollah (1-1, "-" UFC), the surprise winner of The Ultimate Fighter 7, is easily the most hyped fighter in all of MMA that possesses an official record of one-and-one. His submissions are his strong point, but he has yet to threaten any opponent standing up. At the same time, Phil Baroni (13-11, 3-5 UFC) is the only fighter to have remained relevant with a 13-11 record. Fans love these guys more for their heart and charisma than for anything they've done recently inside a ring or cage.

But who will win? I know this much, "The New York Bad Ass" will probably win the first round with a furious barrage of strikes. The unknowns are a) whether Sadollah can survive that early barrage given that he was (T)KO'ed by a wrestler in his last fight against Johnny Hendricks, and b) whether Sadollah's can win the next two consecutive rounds or lock in a late submission against Baroni who usually runs out of gas by the third round.

The conventional pick here is Sadollah based on the widespread belief that he has the goods, which predominates despite the lack of evidence to support such a notion, and the assumption that Baroni is a washed up has-been, which, in fairness, is a bit more convincing. Still, Baroni must realize that this is possibly his last chance to go down in MMA history as a solid competitor. I think he'll finally fight smart enough to avoid gassing before either winning at least two rounds or knocking Sadollah out cold, whichever comes first. I'm not immensely confident of that, but I'm willing to put it out there.

By the way, all you Baroni haters should take note that he's only been submitted twice in his whole career, which has been 12x longer than Sadollah's in terms of fights despite the fact that Baroni is only four years older.

Baroni by K.O., Rd. 1

170 lbs.: Paulo Thiago (-200) vs. Jacob Volkmann (+160)

Paulo Thiago (11-1, 1-1 UFC) burst into the mainstream MMA consciousness with his first-round (T)KO of Josh Koscheck at UFC 95. That surprising win, combined with Thiago's then-unblemished record, led to him being ranked as high as fourth in the world at welterweight, thus making him the most overrated fighter since Matt Serra defeated Georges St-Pierre. Since then, Thiago has come down to earth somewhat after suffering his first career loss to Koscheck's good friend Jon Fitch. I said he's overrated, which is still true even at his current #6 spot, but Thiago does have excellent submissions skills and obviously, given the result of the "Kos" fight, a decent amount of power. That said, the wrestling prowess of Jacob Volkmann (9-0, 0-0 UFC) who won three NCAA Div. I wrestling titles and last year's World Grappling Championships (no gi) at 176 lbs, should be enough to negate Thiago's jiu-jitsu.

Thanks to the various neurosis of Karo "The Heat" Parisyan, Volkmann gets to introduce himself to UFC fans by taking out the highly-ranked, if undeservedly so, Paulo Thiago.

Volkmann by Unanimous Decision

Under Card (Guaranteed To Air On SpikeTV):

170 lbs.: Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis (-225) vs. Ben "Killa B" Saunders (+185)

Ben Saunders (7-1-2, 3-1 UFC) has not accrued the type of octagon experience that's usually required before an up-and-comer gets thrown in with top-ranked contenders. Nonetheless, his JDK-clinch massacre of Brandon Wolff last December was so transcendentally bad-ass that Saunders was immediately given the go ahead to start fighting top-ten guys. That didn't work out very well for "Killa B" against Mike Swick and his odds don't improve much against Marcus Davis (16-5, 8-2 UFC). Davis should be extremely motivated after suffering a close, split-decision loss to now number one contender Dan Hardy at UFC 99. Davis' stand-up technique is significantly better than Saunder's and, if he prefers, Swick has already shown that holding "Killa B" down is not exactly difficult.

Saunders does have a much longer reach and arguably more flashy, if unrefined, stand-up, but Davis' superior skill and octagon experience should more than negate those potential advantages-- meaning that Saunders will return to fighting lower-level guys to improve his all-around game, while Davis should get one more shot at the division's elite.

Davis by (T)KO, Rd. 2

185 lbs.: Kendall "Da Spyda" Grove (+155) vs. Jake Rosholt (-190)

Kendal Grove (10-6, 5-3 UFC) has seemingly been on the verge of getting cut by the UFC for about two years now. Coming off yet another loss, this time to Ricardo Almeida who will now fight as a welterweight, "Da Spyda" desperately needs a win here or he'll drop to having lost four of his last six. I just don't see how the lanky Hawaiian can pull that off against Jake Rosholt (6-1, 1-1 UFC), a magnificent wrestler who just got finished submitting Chris Leben at UFC 102. Rosholt is one of the best American college wrestlers of his generation having won three Div. I national titles for Oklahoma State. If Almeida, whose wrestling is decidedly sub par, was able to take Grove down repeatedly, there's no reason to think Rosholt won't walk right through him. At the same time, if Rosholt's ever-improving stand-up negated Chris Leben's power-punching, he shouldn't have trouble navigating his way through Grove's flying, octopus-like tentacles, which, though painful, don't pack that much wallop.

Rosholt's relentless takedowns and subsequent barrage of ground'n'pound should get Grove frustrated enough for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy to lock in a crowd-pleasing submission.

Rosholt by Submission, Rd. 3.

Under Card (May Not Be Broadcast):

170 lbs.: Brian Foster (+400) vs. Brock Larson (-600)

Brock Larson (26-3, 3-2 UFC) should steamroll Brian Foster (12-4, 0-1 UFC) here. In fact, this fight was likely only arranged to give Larson a tune-up after his disappointing decision loss to Mike Pierce. Larson is stronger, way more experienced, and should finish Foster with ease. Still, at these odds, a value bet on a power-puncher like Foster might not be such a bad idea if you fancy a gamble.

Larson by (T)KO, Rd. 1

155 lbs.: Fabricio "Marango" Camoes (+150) vs. Caol Uno (-180)

Japan's Caol Uno (25-12-4, 3-4-1 UFC) can do no wrong in the eyes of many MMA fans. As a result, his reputation as a world-class competitor far outstrips what you'd expect if you only saw his UFC record or were told that he has lost three of his last four. Uno is a decent fighter with some decent submissions, but I believe he's the odds favourite here based mostly on name recognition. Unlike Uno, Brazil's Fabricio Camoes (10-4, 0-0 UFC) is on a tear right now, having won seven consecutive fights since September, 2006. Like Uno, he's also a submissions specialist, but Camoes brings far more raw power to the octagon. Another telling fact is that, in the three years since September of 2006, during which time both fighters have gone to battle seven times, Uno has had five fights go to decision, while "Marango" has finished every fight with only one making it to the second round.

I don't mean to rip on Caol Uno, who is at the tail end of a very respectable career, but I think Fabricio Camoes is ready to step into the MMA spotlight and will do so via upset stoppage here.

Camoes by (T)KO, Round 2.

155 lbs.: George Sotiropoulos (-500) vs. Jason Dent (+325)

Ultimate Fighter 6 stand-out George Sotiropoulos (10-2, 3-0 UFC) possesses high-caliber jiu-jitsu and solid all around skills to help distinguish himself from the pack at 155lbs. Sotiropoulos, an Aussie who now lives and trains in the USA, should be a lock to appear on the card at UFC 110 in Australia, but the quality of his opponent will likely be determined by his showing at UFC 106. Luckily for Sotiropoulos, Jason Dent (19-9, 1-2 UFC) shouldn't pose much of a threat. They're both submission specialists, which means that neither is very likely to submit the other, but, whereas Sotiropoulos has tapped some very legit guys, Dent has mostly feasted on inexperienced opposition at regional shows in the Mid-West.

Outside of his slight grappling edge, I believe Sotiropoulos has distinct advantages everywhere else. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!

George Sotiropoulos by Unanimous Decision

I really didn't set out to pick so many upsets, but it's a crazy sport and I just calls'em as I sees'em. Enjoy the fights.

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