The world of MMA, and MMA news, seems to go through various phases. I’m talking in terms of theme here - one general overarching subject that seems to dominate the matchmaking, the analysis, and the discussion. There was the “anything can happen” phase. There was the “Pride fighters can’t hack it in a cage” phase. There was even the “spectacle = money” phase (not yet ended) and the “maybe Keith Jardine is actually an elite fighter” phase (ended very quickly).
Now it seems were in the “poor judging” phase of MMA. Last month, we had the complete shit storm that was the Machida/Rua controversy (though I’ll admit that things worked out just fine as far am I’m concerned). Then just last week, we had a great many people calling foul at the decision in the Couture/Vera fight (though I think the real robbery happened on the way to the ring - for shame, England).
So when Lesnar decided to give a title shot to the intestinal infection he had been ducking for over a year, it left a big void in the main event of UFC 106. How do you fill the gap? You get someone to match Brock’s mouth, someone to match Brock’s popularity, and oh yeah - rely on some controversial judging, this time from over 3 years ago.
Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin 2
The biggest problem is that no matter how exciting and epic the commercial makes it seem, no one was calling for this fight before it was made. I realize that Lesnar’s sickness and Mark Coleman’s pre-fight injury (he‘s already been booked into a fight with Randy Couture) forced this fight into existence, perhaps prematurely. I don’t “blame” Zuffa for this, in fact this event proves the UFC brand’s ability to market any fight as meaningful. Still, the timing of this fight is all wrong, and it basically represents the first ever “loser leaves town” match ever held as a UFC main event.
For Tito, it represents a return following a year and a half layoff, major reconstructive back surgery, and a whole lot of nothing. We have no idea how Ortiz is going to be coming off the long break, and he really gains nothing career wise from this fight except a win over a guy he’s already beaten. He’ll only get one shot to prove his best days aren’t behind him, and this is basically it. A loss could be a big, possibly permanent stumbling block on his road back to the title.
Despite all this, Forrest Griffin may be under even more pressure Saturday night. A loss would be his third in a row, and his second to the same guy. His bandwagon is awfully empty these days after Anderson Silva devoured his soul, and I doubt the fickle MMA fan base would stand by him through another loss, especially another blowout. The simple truth of this fight is that one guy will continue to be regarded as an elite level fighter, and one guy will not. It’s that easy.
Which is a same, because if you put all that shit aside this should be a blockbuster fight for the UFC between two of it’s biggest draws ever. The original fight WAS highly contentious - in another time and place this rematch would be hotly anticipated.
Predicting the outcome of this fight is next to impossible because of how big an x factor Tito is. He’s been out of action for nearly two years - surely ring rust is going to work against him coming into such a big fight. At the same time, Tito claims that his extensive back surgery has finally cured him of his longstanding lower back issues - so maybe we’ll see “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” at 100% for the first time in years. Who knows.
If Tito is healthy, with the cardio to go three hard rounds, he could give Forrest real problems. Still, I’d be lying if I said I was anything less then 100% cheering in Forrest in this one, so it just feels hypocritical to root for him in the real world and bet against him here. Nothing against Tito, but Forrest has always been a favourite and I’m picking him to take it once again. As long as we don’t have a repeat of this we’ll be all good. I say another decision, this time going Forrest’s way on all 3 judges cards.
Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony Johnson
Remember the “Mirror Matches” from the original Mortal Kombat? Where your fighter would fight an exact duplicate of him or herself…only slightly off color That’s what this fight feels like.
In the one corner we have Josh Koscheck, an all-American wrestler with great size, speed and athleticism who has shown tremendous power in his strikes since transitioning to MMA. In the other corner, Anthony Johnson, a solid college wrestler with tremendous size, speed, and athleticism who…you get where I’m going?
Ok, so it’s not a perfect clone fight. Koscheck is a highly decorated wrestler with a slick ground game who all to often gets himself into trouble on the feet. Johnson, on the other hand, has some versatile and devastating kickboxing, but has looked downright confused on the ground before. It all comes down to who can force the fight into the area of the opponent’s weakness - and in that regard, I give “Kos” the advantage.
If Koscheck is really serious about winning this fight so he can call out GSP (who I’m sure will not be impressed) he needs to go back to what brought him to the dance: wrestling. His last few fights, he’s been content to be a purely stand up fighter, and it’s brought mixed results. Against Johnson, it’s the riskiest strategy, as “Rumble” outranges Koscheck and arguably hits harder.
“Kos” needs to establish the threat of takedowns early, and often. What makes Georges St. Pierre such a effective striker is that his opponents quickly come to fear the takedown - Josh Koscheck needs to learn this lesson. Using his wrestling offensively the whole fight, Koscheck drags Johnson into the later rounds, wears him out, and TKO’s him.
Luiz Cane vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueria
Say what you will about the main event. UFC 106’s undercard is stacked, and this fight proves it. Anyone who isn’t excited for this fight is crazy - it has fight of the year all over it. Not to mention that it is a pivotal clash in the stacked LHW division.
Luiz “Banha” Cane has quietly amassed one of the best resumes of any of the up and comers at 205. His only loss was to James Irvin due to an illegal knee. Since then, he’s gone 3-0 in the UFC against serious competition, with 10 wins overall. He’s never been stopped in MMA competition. Did I mention he’s a black belt in BJJ and trains at American Top Team? Simply put, this guy could be the future of the division.
But if he is, he’ll have to prove it against Rogerio Nogueria, the twin brother of that other big Brazillian guy. Undoubtedly the only top ten LHW fighter outside the UFC for the last few years, the smaller Nogueria brother is finally in the UFC and ready to tangle with the big dogs again. I can’t wait. If the elder (slightly) Nogueria is any indication, then were in for some very exciting fights.
Rogerio bring a smaller version of his brothers strengths to the fight - meaning he’s got a world glass Jiu-Jitsu game, an iron chin, and endless heart. Rogerio may arguably have the edge over Rodrigo when it comes to stand up, as he’s a two time Brazilian national boxing champion who also medaled at the Pan Am Games. The downside is, he’s not quite as bullet-proof as his heavyweight sibling.
Luiz has the power to test “Little Nog’s” chin, and could also prove difficult to submit. Nevertheless, I don’t think he’s quite ready for the gut check fight Nogueria is going to give him. Get ready for a war - and look for Nogueria to take it, either by decision or late submission.
Karo Parisyan vs. Dustin Hazelett
I can’t wait for this fight. Dustin Hazelett is a awesome to watch, and this fight is going to be his coming party against a…wait, wait a second…oh yeah. That’s right, this fight isn’t happening. Once again, Karo Parisyan has pulled out at the last minute.
The reasons I’ve heard circulated are anxiety, failure to get licensed, a naggin knee injury and complete drug addiction. I don’t really care - I haven‘t heard one that comes close to justifying why he had to break the news two days before the fight. So Dustin Hazelett gets paid his purse - and gets to spend Saturday night in the stands after training six days a week for three months to fight somebody.
Sorry, but Karo Parisyan is out of chances with both me and UFC management. Good luck at Burger King - bro.
Amir Sadollah vs. Phil Baroni
This feels more like the punch line of a joke rather then an actual, main card fight. One the one hand we have Baroni, perhaps the premier journeyman of the sport with a near 50% record. Coming off a one sided loss to fellow stepping stone Joe Riggs, Baroni is looking to continue his…campaign?…in the UFC, in arguably the sports deepest division. To say he is a long shot is a gross understatement.
But he may be getting a reprieve in his first fight. Amir Sadollah was the dark horse pick on The Ultimate Fighter 7 (I picked him from the start for the record) and his surprise winning of the tournament combined with his affable personality made him the Forrest Griffin of his season. Unfortunately, he was then sidelined for over a year with a revolving door of injuries. When he finally returned to the Octagon, he was dispatched by Johnny Hendricks in 29 seconds.
So we don’t exactly have a P4P top 10 calibre fight here. Still, if Sadollah is injury free there’s the potential for some fun. Sadollah is only 1-1 in his official MMA career, and we still don’t know a lot about him. Baroni has the ability to possibly press him in the standup like Hendricks did - but I don’t see it. Baroni was past his moment when he fought Frank Shamrock - if Amir is anywhere close to actually being a legit fighter he should take this one. Sadollah via submission in the first round.
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