This Saturday's UFC 94 is one of those events for the MMA faithful. This will probably be the best UFC card of the year, top to bottom. The only one this year that may top it could be UFC 100. And that's only if Dana White has an unusual extravaganza of great fights being reserved for that event.
I am by no means a mixed martial arts expert, but here is what I think will happen this weekend.
Matt Arroyo (3-2-0) vs. Dan Cramer (0-0-0)
These are both veterans of The Ultimate Fighter reality show. I have seen a few of Arroyo's fights, and my only knowledge of Cramer is what was shown on TUF. Two young, hungry fighters trying to make a name for themselves. I just think Cramer looked better on the show than Arroyo has shown in is offerings thus far in the Octagon.
Prediction: Cramer by first round TKO
Jake O'Brien (10-2-0) vs. Christian Wellisch (9-3-0)
I have not been overly impressed with what I have seen from Wellisch. O'Brien is coming off a lopsided loss to Cain Velazquez. I see O'Brien regaining the form that he showed in dominating Heath Herring and win this one with ease.
Prediction: O'Brien by Unanimous Decision 30-27
Chris Wilson (13-4-1) vs. John Howard (10-4-0)
The UFC debuting Howard has held titles in WFL, Ring of Combat, and Combat Zone. Wilson went the distance with Sherdog.com world-ranked Jon Fitch, in a fight that saw Howard rock Fitch early. I just don't see Howard winning his first match inside the Octagon.
Prediction: Wilson by 2nd round KO
Manny Gamburyan (10-4-0) vs. Thiago Tavares (17-3-0)
This fight matches two guys with similar styles. They both like to use their strength to overpower their opponents, they both have good submissions, and they are both looking to bounce back from loses.
The difference will be Manny's Judo throws against Thiago's Muay Thai. I see Tavares using his striking to keep his shorter opponent at bay and not allowing Gamburyan to utilize his throws.
Prediction: Tavares by Unanimous Decision 29-28
Jon Fitch (21-3-1) vs. Akihiro Gono (28-13-7)
Gono is coming off a hard-fought split-decision loss at UFC 8p to Dan Hardy. Fitch is coming off a five round routing at the hands of Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. Gono likes to think his strength lies in his experience. He'll be experiencing unconsciousness as Fitch regains his dominant form that propelled him to a title shot in the first place.
Prediction: Fitch by first round TKO
Nate Diaz (10-2-0) vs. Clay Guida (24-6-0)
Diaz has been perfect in the Octagon since being crowned the winner of TUF season five. With older brother and UFC vet Nick Diaz in his corner and in his ear, Nate's attitude is beginning to overshadow his blossoming skills.
Guida has won three of his last four fights, with his only loss being to Roger Huerta at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in December 2007. Guida was winning by a landslide until getting caught with a knee, then getting choked out in the third round.
Diaz likes to use his length to keep his opponent at distance until he is ready go take it to the ground and look for a submission. Guida fights with constant energy looking to push the pace, and is not afraid to use his strength and wrestling to control the match on the ground. Diaz may just be the future of the Lightweight division, but Guida's pressure looks to be more than Nick's little brother can handle.
Prediction: Guida by third round TKO
Karo Parisyan (26-5-0) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (11-0-1)
Parisyan is looking to bounce back after a controversial stoppage lose to Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night last April. Coming into this match healthy after battling Panic Attacks and a back injury that caused him to pull out of a scheduled match against Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 88, the Judo practitioner is looking to get himself back into the Welterweight title picture.
The Korean Kim is 2-0 in the UFC with victories against England's Jason Tan and TUF alum Matt Brown via split decision in his last fight. Kim is also proficient in Judo, holding a fourth-degree black belt.
A win against a fighter the caliber of Karo would definitely make Kim's stock skyrocket. Unfortunately, Parisyan has already fought a who's who of the division's best and Kim just doesn't stack up yet.
Prediction: Parisyan by Unanimous Decision 30-27
Stephan Bonnar (14-4-0) vs. Jon Jones (7-0-0)
When you think of the name Stephan Bonnar, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Admit it, you said the two wars with Forrest Griffin. For all the images of Bonnar swinging for the fences in their epic battles, he is more than a MMA fighter with two Golden Gloves Boxing titles.
Stephan has a good ground game with great submissions, just ask James Irvin and Mike Nickels who both tapped to "The American Psycho." Jon Jones won his UFC debut in August with a unanimous decision victory over fellow first timer Andre Gusmao.
Jones is a junior college wrestling champion and a Greco Wrestling All-American who is very athletic and has very unorthodox striking. This has all the makings of an exciting fight, but Bonnar should have the advantage in this one.
Prediction: Bonnar by second round submission
Lyoto Machida (13-0-0) vs. Thiago Silva (13-0-0)
This match up of undefeated warriors should vault its winner closer to a potential title shot later this year. Machida's tactical counter striking is not the most pleasing style to watch, but is very effective. The lack of excitement in his fights is probably why he has not been fast tracked to a shot against the 205-pound king.
Silva can be very aggressive, but his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also makes in dangerous in a ground war. This will probably see Silva pushing the action, chasing the defending Machida around the ring while Lyoto is just counter punching until he finds an opening. I like an aggressive fighter in most cases, but catching Machida is just what he is hoping Silva will do.
Prediction: Machida by Unanimous Decision
Main Event for the UFC Welterweight Championship Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre (17-2-0) vs. Lightweight Champion BJ Penn (13-4-1)
This rematch of a disputed split decision won by St. Pierre in 2006 is the talk of the MMA world. For the first time in UFC history, two current champions will face each other. Both men can claim a Sherdog.com world ranking in the top five pound-for-pound.
St. Pierre seems to get better every time we see him. He has won nine of his last 10, only losing in a mental stumble against Matt Serra, which he later avenged. His combination of explosiveness and athleticism is seemingly unmatched among the 170-pound division.
Penn could very well be the best mixed martial artist in the world bar none, if only we would see the dedication to training that befits a true world champion every time out. Penn has looked like the kind of world champion we have all hoped for in his last handful of fights, but can he continue to be that man.
GSP has looked unstoppable in his last few fights, but the question is whether he can overcome the mental errors that have plagued him in past big fights. I think this will be the early front-runner for Fight of the Year, and should set the table for the kind of match that every UFC fighter should aspire to have. This is a coin flip, but I have to pick someone.
Prediction: St. Pierre by Unanimous Decision 49-48