Despite being in the middle of moving across the province of British Columbia and having very limited access (or time, for that matter), Saturday night marks the return of the UFC after a longer-than-normal hiatus, so I thought I would make a brief return too.
With everything in boxes, the usual week-long Fight Week Previews series has been on break as well, but have no fear, this installment of the Punch-Drunk Predictions features a quick synopsis of my thoughts on each fight.
It also carries with it a challenge, as fellow Bleacher Report writer Darren Wong has thrown down the gauntlet, looking to claim the bragging rights for successful selections for UFC 104. Never one to back down, I've gladly accepted and look forward to gloating about my win later this week.
Fight Week Previews - The Abridged Moving Version
(all records as per UFC.com)
Stefan Struve (21-3) vs. Chase Gormley (6-0)
Struve has the vast experience despite being just 21-years-old. Additinoally, he's fought twice under the bright lights of the UFC, losing his debut to Junior dos Santos before submitting Dennis Stojnic at UFC 99.
However, Stojnic cut "The Skyscraper" badly in that fight and while Gormley is short on experience, he's got the power to put his Dutch opponent on the canvas.
Kyle Kingsbury (7-2-0, 1 NC) vs. Razak Al-Hassan (7-1-0)
Really, does anyone outside of the Kingsbury and Al-Hassan calling circles care who wins this fight? Kingsbury is another former TUF contestant who hasn't found success in the Octagon, while Al-Hassan's debut had him on the wrong end of a very gruesome looking armbar courtesy of Steve Cantwell.
Reach in your pocket and pull out a coin.
Jorge Rivera (16-7) vs. Rob Kimmons (22-4)
Rivera is a seasoned veteran who has been in the cage with a long list of quality opponents. Now he's facing Rob Kimmons, whose biggest win to date is either over Joe Vedepo or Rob Yundt.
Yushin Okami (24-4) vs. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1)
Okami certainly deserves better than being buried on the undercard, having compiled a 7-1 record in the UFC and once being in line for a title shot against Anderson Silva, whom he holds a DQ victory over.
That being said, he hasn't been able to stay healthy and has to work his way back up the ladder, starting with Sonnen, who enters the fight off a dominating upset win over Dan Miller at UFC 98.
Antoni Hardonk (8-5) vs. Pat Barry (4-1)
In the UFC's unofficial first kickboxing match, the veteran Hardonk takes on a fellow leg kick enthusiast and former training partner in the less experienced Barry.
This fight will be entertaining while standing, but painful if it somehow hits the floor, as Barry's ground game is almost nonexistent and Hardonk isn't much better.
Get that coin you had out earlier and give it another flip. Or, use this time to refill your cup and get a few snacks before things get interesting.
Ryan Bader (10-0) vs. Eric Schafer (13-3-2)
"Darth" Bader was impressive in his post-TUF debut against veteran ATT member Carmelo Marrero and the win was made even more noteworthy upon learning the Arizona Combats Sports product tore his MCL and PCL during the fight.
Schafer is a BJJ black Belt under Pedro Sauer riding a two fight winning streak since returning to the UFC. That being said, Houston Alexander and Antonio Mendes do not possess the strength and promise of the former two-time All American from Arizona State.
Anthony Johnson (7-2) vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (11-3)
Yes, Anthony Johnson is a tremendous athlete and has a very bright future in the sport. That being said, Yoshida represents a big step up in competition for "Rumble" after having earned wins over Kevin Burns, Luigi Fioravanti and Tommy Speer.
While Yoshida hasn't defeated anyone of great consequence either (War Machine and Brandon Wolff), his move to Greg Jackson's School of Awesomeness in MMA is enough to pique my interest in this opening match-up of the broadcast.
Joe Stevenson (35-10) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-4)
Speaking of guys who have moved to Albuquerque... Stevenson was back to the Joe Stevenson of old last time out against Nathan Diaz, utilizing his strong wrestling base and not getting into a boxing match where he is can get beat.
While Fisher has solid skills on the ground as well, his bread and butter is standing and banging, as he's got a good chin and enough weapons on his feet to trade with the best the lightweight division has to offer.
Gleison Tibau (29-6) vs. Josh Neer (25-8-1)
Just because they don't belong in the middle of the PPV broadcast doesn't mean these two don't deserve coverage.
Tibau is replacing Sean Sherk and brings a vast edge on the ground against Neer, who was outwrestled and ultimately defeated by Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 101 using a very similar ground-related approached.
Cain Velasquez (6-0) vs. Ben Rothwell (30-6)
Don't get me wrong: I think Cain Velasquez has as bright a future in the UFC as just about anyone, but he's not there yet in my books. He's got as many career fights as Rothwell has losses.
While that may not mean much to some, the former Affliction and IFL heavyweight has far more experience and has been to deeper waters than the Arizona State standout has ever faced. Cheick Kongo and his deficient ground game were a perfect opponent for Velasquez last time out, but now he needs to step it up a notch and I don't know if he's truly ready for the next level.
Lyoto Machida (15-0) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-3)
My analysis of this fight is actually quite simple:
Lyoto Machida has never been beaten, never lost a round in the UFC and barely gets touched when he steps into the cage, while Shogun looked horrible against a fighting fossil (Mark Coleman) and earned the title shot by defeating a defensively-deficient Chuck Liddell.
You don't get to 15-0 by accident... The Machida Era continues.
Punch Drunk Predictions
Chase Gormley over Stefan Struve (TKO R1)
Razak Al-Hassan over Kyle Kingsbury (TKO R2)
Jorge Rivera over Rob Kimmons (Submission R1)
Yushin Okami over Chael Sonnen (Unanimous Decision)
Antoni Hardonk over Pat Barry (Submission R1)
Ryan Bader over Eric Schafer (TKO R2)
Yoshiyuki Yoshida over Anthony Johnson (Submission R2)
Joe Stevenson over Spencer Fisher (Unanimous Decision)
Gleison Tibau over Josh Neer (Submission R3)
Ben Rothwell over Cain Velasquez (TKO R2)
And in the Main Event of the Evening...
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua via TKO, Round Three to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Now touch gloves and come out swingin!