This weekend, the UFC will make history when UFC 83 takes place on Saturday, April 19, in the Bell Centre in Montreal. Reportedly the venue will hold over 22,000 people and be one of the biggest North American mixed martial arts events of all time. Five main card bouts will air with the main event being the rematch between former Ultimate Fighter winner Matt Serra and Montreal’s own Georges St. Pierre.
UFC 83 does not have as many headliners as you’d like on a card but does boast fights that should be exciting. This event is important to the landscape of the UFC because it will provide answers to three important questions.
1) Is Georges St. Pierre ready to live up to the hype and reclaim his title?
2) Can Rich Franklin rebound from two crushing defeats at the hands of Anderson Silva?
3) Will Michael Bisping dropping to middleweight make him a better fighter?
These three subplots combine to present an interesting event and the capacity crowd will make for an electric atmosphere. Fight fans should be prepared for a solid but not sensational night of fights.
Georges St. Pierre versus Matt Serra (welterweight title on the line)
Make no mistake about it, when St. Pierre is focused, he is a force to be reckoned with. In August against Josh Koscheck, St. Pierre entered the ring looking like he was all business and dominated Kos (by out wrestling the wrestler) en route to a unanimous decision victory. To close out the year, St. Pierre used Matt Hughes to set an example and abused the former champ, making it perfectly clear he was rededicated.
GSP is one of the most talented athletes to ever participate in MMA. His striking is dynamic, he is dominant as a wrestler, taking him down is next to impossible, and his athleticism and speed is second to none. If GSP was an NBA player he’d be “The Chosen One,” Lebron James. Similar to James, GSP has positioned himself as the new breed of athlete in his respective sport. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can deal with the pressure as James has.
In their last fight, Serra was able to close the distance and force GSP backwards which resulted in Serra being able to catch him with a flush shot. He took advantage of the stunned GSP and finished him off. Needless to say he did what was necessary and got the job done. Serra is no slouch despite being a two-time underdog. He is a formidable striker with heavy hands but is more impressive on the ground. Serra is a practiced jiu-jitsu black belt and is comfortable from his back, where he might find himself often courtesy of GSP’s takedowns.
I can see George St. Pierre implementing one of two strategies. The first would be keeping Serra far away and turning the fight into a kick boxing match from a distance. St. Pierre has long arms and is most effective when firing off a straight jab. For GSP the jab allows him to keep his opponent off balance and at a length in which GSP is comfortable. GSP will want to use the jab to set up combinations and leg kicks. Serra is short with stubby arms and little reach. Keeping Serra at a distance will allow GSP to dictate the pace and do what he wants on his feet. Serra likes to throw body shots and in order to reach GSP he tends to lunge. Look for GSP to try and counter with the left hook.
However, if Serra is able to get inside on GSP then I expect him to take Serra to the mat and ground n’ pound him as he did effectively against Koscheck. Although Serra is comfortable on his back, GSP should be able to overpower him but must be comfortable of getting caught in an arm-bar or kimura.
Ultimately, I believe GSP is simply too talented, has properly refocused himself, and will not lose this fight. If Serra is to lose a grudge match against Matt Hughes would be exciting and also marketable. GSP would have a plethora of options. He could fight number one contender Jon Fitch, take part in a much anticipated rematch against BJ Penn, or move up to 185 and challenge champion Anderson Silva in what would be arguably the biggest fight in mixed martial arts history.
Prediction: GSP by TKO, round two
Rich Franklin versus Travis Lutter
Style wise, this is a chess match type fight. Lutter submits guys and Franklin knocks them out. Lutter is going to want to take this fight to the ground while Franklin is going to try and keep it standing. I think the fighter who is able to apply their game plan is the one who comes out on top.
Franklin is in a precarious situation. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Clearly he is unable to beat the champion, yet he has proved he is one of the best middleweights in the world. Another loss would force him to reevaluate his career. In order to get back on track, Franklin must punctuate this fight with an impressive performance. A win would also set in motion a potential fight with Nate Marquardt, which in my opinion would be a fantastic bout.
Although Lutter lost to Anderson Silva, he took the fight into the second round, mounted Silva at one point, and has posed the most difficult challenge for him. If he were able to submit Franklin which is a possibility (Yushin Okami almost forced him to tap last July), then he would be on his way to regaining a title shot.
To me Franklin has always been a bit overrated. He is a very good fighter but has never beaten anybody exceptional. Franklin was in a unique position because he was the gatekeeper to a weak division for several years. Franklin strikes me as a somewhat one dimensional fighter. He is a solid but not outstanding striker, who is good in the clinch and can defend takedowns. Despite being well rounded he does not distinguish himself in any area. This fight is up for grabs, but in the end I see Lutter working Franklin the same way he did Patrick Cote. Franklin might beat him up but if Lutter is in shape, he will take a beating but work for a take down, get it, and tap Franklin out.
Prediction: Lutter by submission, round two
Michael Bisping versus Charles McCarthy
Ever since winning the Ultimate Fighter, the UFC has really tried to push Michael Bisping. Unfortunately for the UFC, Bisping has been unable to live up to the billing. Still, he did manage to accumulate three wins in a row against decent fighters, proving he is an above average, but not yet elite fighter. Bisping was awarded a gift split decision against Matt Hammill and then lost a hard fought battle to Rashad Evans in his last two bouts. The question is, will Bisping be able to properly translate into a middleweight.
All indications point to Bisping being better suited for that division. Although competitive at light heavyweight, at times he seemed to get out muscled (taken down at will by Hammil and pushed around by Evans). If he is able to keep his strength and agility at that weight he could be a star there.
“I do feel light, though, and it did take a little while for me to get used to being this light. But my strength is exactly the same,” Bisping said. “I’ve been rolling and sparring with Rampage and he said despite him weighing more than when we trained together last year, I am just as strong in the clinches, against the cage and on the ground.”
If this is true then middleweight is the right place for him. The drop in weight also helps solidify a thin division to begin with. If he is able to continue his improvement and be a strong middleweight he could become a major contender
Charles McCarthy poses a threat to Bisping because of his slick jiu-jitsu (which he doesn’t allow anybody to forget in interviews, proclaiming himself the best practitioner in the UFC). But I think this is a statement fight for Bisping and he is going to fulfill his promises of throwing McCarthy a beating. His takedown defense improves with each fight and he should have the edge in striking. I expect Bisping to welcome himself to the new division with an emphatic knockout.
Prediction: Bisping KO in round one