UFC 97 takes place April 18 in Montreal. The card features the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and a lot of Canadians.
It’s not the best card we’ve seen, but there are enough interesting fights to make this card worth watching.
Here are my picks for the fights. Bet them, if you wish.
Anderson "Spider" Silva vs. Thales Leites
Anderson Silva has run through every fighter the UFC has put in front of him. He hasn’t lost cleanly (Silva was disqualified in 2006) since 2004. His last loss was to Ryo Chonan, who is coincidentally on the undercard for UFC 97.
I don’t see Thales Leites putting up much resistance against the Spider. Thales Leites has padded his record with some unspectacular wins over Pete Sell, Drew McFedries, and a suspect win over Nate Marquardt who had points deducted twice for dubious illegal strikes.
Silva is the UFC’s closest fighter to boxer Mike Tyson—the good first round KO machine instead of the face-tattooed Tyson. But, like Tyson, Silva needs to keep his head in the game and not repeat his lackadaisical approach he showed against Patrick Cote. Otherwise, Silva will get "busted" in one of next fights.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Silva by TKO."
Chuck "Iceman" Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Liddell, 39-years-old and loser in three of his last four fights, will enter the cage against Shogun Rua.
Rua entered the UFC with much fanfare after winning fight after fight in PRIDE. But he's been a mere shell of the fighter we saw dominate the Japanese circuit. Rua promises to be in shape after a lackluster display versus UFC Hall of Famer, Mark Coleman. Liddell still believes he is a contender.
Yet, as much as I love Liddell, I don’t see it.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Rua to win and the fight goes the distance."
Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Brian Stann
We all know Krzysztof Soszynski from his recent appearance on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, but Soszynski is a veteran fighter with a well-rounded game. His awkward striking will cause trouble for his opponent.
Former WEC light heavyweight champion, Brian Stann, makes his UFC Debut. Stann holds a record of 6-1 with all of his wins coming in the first round. This fight would be a preliminary bout on any other card but Soszynski’s TUF appearance pushes it to the PPV card.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Soszynski by submission."
Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk
Hardonk is looking to continue to build on his impressive 2008 with a win over Cheick Kongo. Kongo, on the other hand, is looking to get over the hump and put himself into title contention.
Kongo had a big win over PRIDE legend Mirko Cro-Cop, only to lose his next fight via a disappointing split decision to Heath Herring at UFC 82. He’s put together two impressive wins and with a win over Hardonk, Kongo could face the winner of Mir-Lesnar later this year.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Kongo by TKO."
Steve Cantwell vs. Luiz Cane
After Zuffa made the decision to fold WEC’s 205 lbs. division, Champion Steve Cantwell is fighting for job security and the UFC didn’t do him any favors by matching him up against Luiz Cane.
Cane is 9-1 and his only loss came by disqualification after he delivered knees to the head of a downed James Irwin.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Luiz Cane by TKO."
Eliot Marshall vs. Vinicius Magalhaes
In a fight between TUF 'also rans,' Rory Gold says, "UFC Bettors should take Magalhaes by submission."
Denis Kang vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam
Dennis shouldn’t be on the undercard but he lost his first match coming into the UFC so he jumps into the Octagon to fight Muay Thai specialist, Professor X.
Critics claim Kang is unable to win when the spotlight is on him. Kang needs this win to prove he belongs and to prove his critics wrong.
Rory Gold says "UFC bettors should choose either fighter by submission."
Kang should win but he has to keep his head in the game and not get caught up in the madness that is Xavier Foupa-Pokam.
Jason MacDonald vs. Nate Quarry
The Athlete takes on the Rock.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Quarry, but McDonald will be tough fighting in his home country.
David Loiseau vs. Ed Herman
Former contender and Montreal-native David Loiseau gets a chance at redemption fighting Ed Herman.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take David Loiseau."
Mark Bocek vs. David Bielkheden
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Mark Bocek."
Ryo Chonan vs. TJ Grant
Ryo Chonan has faced much tougher competition and holds the distinction of being the last man to cleanly beat Anderson Silva.
TJ Grant has an impressive record but he’s facing a warrior in Chonan.
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Chonan."
Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman
Rory Gold says, "UFC bettors should take Sam Stout, if only because Hands of Stone is a much better nickname than Handsome for a fighter."