The Ultimate Fighting Championship will reach a historic milestone on July 11—UFC 100——and while some of the sport's original critics labeled mixed martial arts as a passing fad (like rap music), 16 years later, fight fans are religiously tuning in for monthly pay-per-views and the weekly installment of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter series.
UFC 100 has been billed as premier event this year, but in reality, its an average fight card with a memorable three-digit number attached to it.
UFC 94 in January, for instance, featured George St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn as the main event, and I have never seen such support for MMA amidst a Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas. Sure, there were Cardinals and Steelers jerseys to be seen around the casinos, but in reality, it looked like a civil war had been moved to the desert. Lines were clearly drawn between Hawaii and Canada.
During that trip, I met two Montreal fight fans, who told me that they'd bought one-way plane tickets, two passes to UFC 94, and then emptied the rest of their wallets at the sports book with a $1,000 each on "GSP." Now, that's dedication!
UFC 100 is more about the number than the matchups. It proves to everyone that MMA is not "human cockfighting;" it's a sport that deserves as much respect as the "major" sports.
It features athletes from the United States and abroad, and it is one of the only sports which can truly claim to crown "World Champions." I've never seen the Yankees play a team from overseas in the World Series, but I've certainly watched men from the United States face the toughest in the world (Brazil, Russia, Canada, etc.) while defending the coveted UFC Championship.
Breakdown of the fights for UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Interestingly enough, despite defeating Lesnar before he became champion, Mir is the underdog going into this fight. It's disgraceful that Lesnar received a title shot against Randy Couture so early in his career.
While every one else from Rashad Evans to Thiago Alves had to earn their way to the top, Lesnar got to cut in line due to his pure size and popularity from World Wrestling Entertainment. He has a long way to go before he gets the respect that a UFC Champion deserves. Knocking out Randy with a toaster-sized fist to the back of the head does not impress me.
Prediction: Frank Mir by submission, Round Two
UFC Welterweight Championship: George St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves
A year ago, I said that Thiago Alves was only welterweight in the UFC with a shot at beating GSP; now, we see if I was right.
Alves has exceptional jiu-jitsu skills, yet since he's so exposive on his feet, he really needs them. Since Alves is every bit as dangerous a striker as GSP, I don't see him being taken down as easily as B.J. Penn. Plus, Alves has no neck, so if he and St. Pierre get into a headkicking contest, I don't see Alves getting into trouble there.
Prediction: Thiago Alves by TKO, Round Two
Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping
The two coaches from the most recent edition of Spike TV's TUF series will finally meet in the cage after countless promotions on the The Ultimate Fighter.
Bisping is a former contestant on the show, but he never received a title shot at 205; as a result, he trying to become a top contender at 185.
Henderson is a former dual title holder in PRIDE, and he was champion at both middleweight and light heavyweight a short time ago, but he wasn't able to dethrone champions Anderson Silva or Quinton Jackson when he signed with the UFC in 2007.
Henderson is coming off two straight wins including one over former UFC Champion Rich Franklin. Both of these fighters have good boxing skills, but Bisping doesn't carry any knockout power, and Henderson's Olympic-level wrestling should prove far superior. Look for Henderson to dictate the action in this one and either knockout Bisping on his feet or wrestle him like there is no tomorrow.
Prediction: Henderson by split decision.
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago
Jon Fitch, a legitimate badass, went five rounds with GSP for the welterweight title! Enough said.
Paulo Thiago, he is Brazilian, and his name is Paulo Thiago! The guy's last name is just as badass as his first, come on! Moreover, he just knocked out Josh Koscheck in under two minutes to improve to 6-0. Thiago came to the UFC from the reputable Jungle Fight organization where he won five consecutive fights by decision or first-round submission.
This will be a war. Either Thiago gets the best of Fitch with a crazy submission, or Fitch will be in his face the entire fight for a clear-cut decision win.
Prediction: Fitch by unanimous decision.
Jon Jones v. Jacob O'Brien
O'Brien will be coming down from heavyweight to light heavyweight after two consecutive losses to heavyweight powerhouses Cain Velasquez and Andrei Arlovski, but unfortunately for him, he'll be facing the 205 division's newest sensation Jon "Bones" Jones.
Both of these guys are wrestlers, and both of these guys have wins by TKO. But Jones is too fast, too elusive, and too good to be stopped in his prime by this guy. I don't know any better wrestlers than Jon at 205 except maybe Rashad Evans, and at 6'5", he'll control the fight on his feet too, even against a big boy like O'Brien.
Completely biased opinion here—Jon's a friend of mine—he's gonna smoke this fool just like he smoked Stephon Bonnar.
Prediction: Jon Jones by TKO, Round One
Jim Miller v. Mac Danzig
Everyone is really impressed with Mac Danzig and for good reason. He's has over 20 fights, a winning record, and was the eventual winner of TUF Season 6, but don't sleep on Jim Miller from Sparta, N.J.
Miller trains with UFC veteran Frankie Edgar and is the younger brother of UFC middlweight fighter Dan Miller. While Dan Miller's resume includes a handful of first round submissions and plenty of wins by decision, Jim Miller is just the opposite, usually winning his fights by decision or third-round submission.
His cardio is excellent; his wrestling and boxing are good; and he never quits on himself. If Miller isn't controlling the tempo, he's merely grinding out the minutes and waiting for that one opportunity to strike. This will be a tough test for Miller, but I bet he's up for it.
PREDICTION: Miller by submission, Round Three
Other notable matchups for UFC 100 include:
Stephan Bonnar vs. Mark Coleman
Alan Belcher vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Tom Lawlor vs. C.B. Dollaway
Jonathon Goulet vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Shannon Gugerty vs. Matt Grice