Let me begin by saying that I have never written a preview column for a card that I am this excited about. Every main card fight piques my interest, with the exception of Fitch vs. Pierce (more on them later). And do you know what that means? It means I get to ramble and gush about some of my favorite fighters, pick them to win, and then watch them come apart in sections like a Dahmer victim. Good times!
Since none of the undercard fights really rip a hole in my shorts, here are my quick picks …
Kevin Burns def. TJ Grant by submission (bigger butthole on his chin), rd. 2
Edgar Garcia def. DaMarques Johnson by submission (triangle choke), rd.1
Matt Wiman def. Shane Nelson by decision (unanimous)
Ricardo Funch def. Johny Hendricks by decision (split)
Alan Belcher def. Wilson Gouveia by TKO (kick), rd. 3
Rousimar Palhares def. Lucio Linhares by decision (unanimous)
Onto the main card …
Paul Buentello (27-10, 3-1 UFC) vs. Stefan Struve (18-3, 2-1 UFC)
I’m really happy to see Buentello back in the UFC, if only because I get to see him shadowboxing menacingly while drizzle falls in the background. Oh, and also because I look forward to the possibility of …
“Don’t fear me … *dead silence* … fear the consequences.”
Name me a way you can top the awkwardness of “Don’t fear me …” that doesn’t involve Joe Namath and Suzy Kolber. You can’t. I love Paul for this. Any who, he’s going to want to get inside and rough up the fragile Struve with uppercuts and knees.
Struve wants to notch another submission win, so he won’t be shy to pull guard if and when Paul closes the distance, and he’ll immediately start working his rapid-fire sub attempts from there until he finds one that makes Buentello tap.
Buentello is deceptively quick with his strikes, and he has always possessed one of my favorite stand-up games in MMA . He is unique; how many other 6’3 fat guys can you think of with lightning quick hands and no reach? I’m rooting like hell for him to win, but for once, I’m going to listen to my brain over my heart and pick Stefan Struve to submit Buentello at the end of the second round.
Kenny Florian (11-4, 10-2 UFC) vs. Clayton Guida (25-10, 5-4 UFC)
You’ve heard of the Overbearing Little League Dad? Well, Keith Florian is the Overbearing MMA Brother. Not five seconds goes by in any Kenny Florian fight where Keith isn’t screaming at the top of his lungs. And it’s always something painfully obvious, like “GET AN UNDAH-HOOK!” or “DON’T TAKE SHOTS TO THE HEAD!” Against Penn, Keith should have just screamed “BECOME A DIFFERENT FIGHT-AH!” He’s like Phil Baroni after ten Johnny Vegases.
This is quite the clash of styles. It’s like putting George Clinton next to Eric Clapton: the “Wild Man” and the “Drab Master of Technique”. Who would YOU root for? Of course, rooting has nothing to do with the way this fight is going to go. Clay will score takedown after takedown before getting overzealous with his ground and pound and falling into yet another submission loss that will probably make me lose faith in society.
Wait, what am I saying? I have literally changed my mind since I started writing this. Guida threw Josh Thomson around like a rag doll for five rounds, and Thomson is a much better wrestler than Florian. And since we know that Guida will always come forward, he’s going to bully his way to a decision here. You’re damn right I just changed my mind.
Frank Mir (12-4, 10-4 UFC) vs. Cheick Kongo (14-5-1, 7-3 UFC)
Ah yes, it’s the old “striker vs. grappler” matchup. You already know what this fight comes down to, so I don’t even need to say it.
Wait, I need to say it? OK well … Kongo needs to keep it on the feet. Mir needs to take it to the ground. Kongo has superb kicks and always seems to use every inch of his 6’4 frame to his advantage. He’s good in the clinch. His punches are somewhat awkward, but he isn’t exactly fighting Badr Hari here. While Mir’s stand-up has clearly improved over the years (if you don’t believe me, watch his second fight with Wes Sims sometime … I kept having to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t at the Double Duece), make no mistake about it, he needs a takedown, and one of Kongo’s limbs to take home with him.
I guess the deeper question is, can Mir hold Kongo down? He isn’t known for his takedowns, only what he does once he has you there. And Kongo’s grappling has gotten a little better, but he can't afford to take another 236 shots to the head and expect to win a decision.
This fight is truly 50/50 to me. It’s one of those fights where you’ll be able to tell right away which guy has it. I’m going to say that Mir “has it” and armbars Kongo from the guard midway through the first round.
Mike Pierce (10-2, 1-0 UFC) vs. Jon Fitch (20-3, 10-1 UFC)
Poor Jon Fitch keeps having guys pull out due to injury. It’s like he’s fighting an endless stream of David Terrell’s. So I can’t really kill the UFC here for putting this matchup together. But, let there be no doubt, Pierce’s chances in this fight are slim. Very slim. Like, Nicole Richie slim.
Mike Pierce’s lone UFC bout was a one sided blanketing (is that a word?) of Brock Larson, who proved in his last fight that his prime has been over for about a year and a half. Pierce has great takedowns, great top control, and …. Yeah, that’s’ about it.
They have similar stifling styles, but you wouldn’t exactly say they were mirror images of each other; Pierce is basically the homeless mans’ Fitch, or in other words, Billy Baldwin to Fitch’s Alec.
This is Fitch’s fight to lose. He has everything going for him here: experience, UFC experience, stand-up ability, size (both are big welters, but Fitch is HUGE) and probably heart, even though we haven’t seen Pierce in a situation where he needs that yet. The beating Fitch took from GSP was staggering.
Look for Fitch to get taken down a few times early, but methodically outclass Pierce and finish the fight via submission late in the second round.
BJ Penn (14-5-1, 11-4-1 UFC) vs. Diego Sanchez (21-2, 10-2 UFC)
Easily gets my “Fight of the Night” stamp of approval, which is awesome because it’s the main event. Haven’t been able to say that for awhile. But I think BJ takes this, for 5 reasons:
1. BJ’s record is deceiving because he stupidly kept jumping weight classes. In his career, BJ is a sterling 10-1 as a lightweight, with the lone setback coming to Jens Pulver eons ago. He’s since avenged the loss. Since that scrap and the uneventful draw with Caol Uno, BJ has never been in any kind of trouble when he’s fighting at 155 pounds. Had he just stayed there his whole career, I bet anything we’d be saying things like “he’s the LW Fedor” and “Man, what scenario would have to occur for this guy to lose? You’d need like 35 things to happen.” Diego is 2-0 at 155, and while they were both impressive victories, both were decisions. BJ finishes the majority of his fights.
2. While Sanchez’s BJJ has gotten a lot better (although not necessarily by choice; he kept finding himself on his ass with bigger WW’s on top of him), he’s never had to deal with someone at BJ’s level or even approaching it. Diego is awesome when scrambles ensue, but BJ is much too cerebral to let Diego run circles around him. BJ can dictate where the fight goes. Both guys are good in all areas of BJJ, though I’d definitely give BJ an edge on the bottom and Diego might get the nod from the top because of his relentless ground and pound once he gets you there.
3. BJ’s jawline and head? Huge. Ha-yooooge. I’m starting to think that this plays as much of a factor as heart and striking acumen does when it comes to knockouts. It’s the same reason I think Rampage Jackson will beat Rashad Evans (after “The A-Team” flops like Manu Ginobili), namely: Rashad will have to hit Quinton roughly 30-40 more times than Quinton hits him to do any real “damage”. Look at the heads. The heads tell the story. The heads always tell the story. Theres’ a 78% chance I’m serious.
4. BJ once said something along the lines of “I can hurt you real bad in ten seconds, or I can fight you for 25 minutes and when I feel like it’s time, then it’s time”. This would sound grandiose and cocky if almost anyone else said it. But he’s right. He really does have an “On/Off” switch. He was turning in a relaxed evisceration of Sean Sherk through three rounds, jabbing Sherk’s face at will and sneaking in a right hand or two when necessary … but then he connected with that left hook and knee and suddenly it was like he had just been administered an eight ball. He finished Sherk seconds later. I don’t think Diego is going to come out and just start swinging like he did with Guida; he’s got to know BJ Penn’s history. But if he does, um, good luck with that, Diego.
5. Heres’ Diego’s chance: outlasting Penn and wearing him out. Of course, this was Florian and Sherk’s master plan as well. And it, um, didn’t work out very well. Then again, even Sherk doesn’t have the motor Diego does; Diego just never stops. This might have thrown BJ off a little in the past, but Penn seems locked in right now.
Lastly, both guys are lunatics, but BJ is the more seasoned loon.This fight will go back-and-forth for awhile before BJ uses his battle-tested stand up to rock Diego, get on top of him, roll him over, and earn the “that’s a wrap!” line from Rogan as he secures a fight ending rear naked choke in round number four.
TUF Finale: 3-2