UFC 109 Preview: The Weigh-In
No matter if it's the UFC or a small regional promotion in the middle of East Jesus, Nowhere, the day before the fights always includes one thing: the weigh-ins. Now, the same applies to the day before the fights here at Five Knuckles.
Welcome to The Weigh-In.
Before each event, the entire card will be put under the microscope and broken down into small, digestible morsels of information to help you know what to look for the following day when the action starts.
Since it's me, you can also expect the same honest, opinionated analysis you've come to expect.
Notice I said expect and not something like love or enjoy? The goal is to get your reading and reacting, not agreeing with everything I say. After all, where's the fun in that?
Let's get started...
Words can't describe the excitement I have for seeing Rolles Gracie make his debut. Call me sentimental, but any Gracie setting foot inside the Octagon brings me back to the day I fell in love with this sport watching Royce Gracie submit everyone.
Undoubtedly, the Gracie legacy and name carries expectations and pressure, so Rolles will have that to deal with tomorrow night. Each of Rolles's three fights have ended in customary fashion (read: submission) and while his opponent for his UFC debut has changed at the last minute, the gameplan remains the same: take him down and submit him.
For Joey Beltran, Saturday night could be a night of mixed emotions. While he's accomplishing a dream of fighting with the biggest organization in the sport, he's taking the fight on short notice and walking into the cage with The Next Generation of Gracie submission experts and the outlook doesn't look so good.
"The Mexicutioner" (great name!) is coming off a win over former UFC veteran and Kimbo combatant Houston Alexander at 5150 Combat League's New Year's Revolution three weeks ago, so conditioning shouldn't be a problem. Beltran has good power, but is 0-2 against Tony Lopez, a 17-2 submission specialist who fights for King of the Cage.
Gracie + Not So Good Against Submission Guys = Thanks for coming out, Joey.
Tim Hague (10-2-0) vs. Chris Tuchsherer (17-2-0)
There was a time that I felt partially responsible for Tim Hague's seven-second defeat at the hand (not hands) of Todd Duffee. At the time, the fighters who were kind enough to agree to an interview with me were on a serious losing streak and Hague became another victim of what was then The Keyboard Kimura Curse.
As this fight approached, I contacted "The Thrashing Machine" about another interview, which he declined until after the fight. Curse or not, I'd have declined to speak with me too after what happened last time.
This is probably a make-or-break fight for both guys, despite Hague having a win over up-and-comer Pat Barry and Tuchscherer having to contend with repeated kicks to the nads in his lost to Gabe Gonzaga at UFC 102. Back-to-back losses don't sit well with the brass and both fighters need a win to avoid that scenario.
Tuchscherer is one of few men to fight in the YAMMA Pit, and member of the same Minnesota Martial Arts Academy as the heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar. Like everyone else to come out of that camp, Tuchscherer has solid boxing and wrestling, and is a big, thick dude.
The Canadian Hague will have a three-inch height advantage and possesses better submission skills than "The Crowbar," which he showed in submitting Barry in his UFC debut last May. What he also needs to show is the ability to not walk into a big right hand right off the hop.
These guys are fairly similar in styles and close in all aspects, with Hague's submission skills on the ground being the only real different between the two. That said, he likes to throw hands as much as the next guy and we've seen him catch one on the button before. The only button we've seen Tuchscherer take a shot is the mommy-daddy button...
Remove coin from pocket, flip, pick accordingly.
God bless the UFC!
Last week, Strikeforce trotted out 387 possible opponents for up-and-coming former pro wrestler Bobby Lashley before settling on The Ultimate Fighter 10 reject Wes Sims. The squash match went as planned, Lashley remained undefeated, and the marketing potential stays intact.
Now, the former collegiate wrestling superstar Phil Davis makes his UFC debut, and instead of finding a random heavyweight for "Mr. Wonderful" to beat on and showcase his improving skill set against, the former Penn State star gets Brian Stann, ex-Marine and one-time WEC light heavyweight champion.
There is no denying the wrestling chops of Davis, who has to go Paul Orndorff-style and get "Mr. #1-derful" put on the ass of his fight shorts. He's also a blue belt in jiu-jitsu under Master Lloyd Irvin and won the 2009 No Gi World Championships in the super heavyweight class. Basically, the kid is an athletic specimen who is now taking a big step up the ladder to test further test himself and see if he belongs.
Brian Stann is a significant challenge. The former Marine who earned a Silver Star for his efforts in Iraq has gone 2-1 since the UFC purged the WEC light heavyweight division, defeating Steve Cantwell in the rubber match of their rivalry and scoring a Unanimous Decision win over tough newcomer Rodney Wallace at the TUF 10 finale in December.
Experience will be a big plus for Stann, as he's competed at the top of cards and under the bright lights before, while Davis admitted earlier in the week to being exhausted by the process that is competing at a major UFC event.
If it goes to the ground, Davis has a huge advantage with his wrestling and jiu-jitsu experience, but if Stann can keep it standing and get back to his feet when he does hit the floor, the former WEC champion could secure a third straight win.
Rob Emerson (17-8-1) vs. Philippe Nover (9-2-1)
Both these guys seem like good dudes, the kind of guys you want nothing but the best for. Emerson came of as extremely likable in his interview with Mitch Ciccarelli earlier in the week, just as Nover did when he spoke with Tommy Kail. Unfortunately, one of these good guys is going to lose, and it could earn them a pick slip.
Nover is the more interesting story, returning to the cage after giving everyone a scare in September when he had a seizure in the locker room prior to his fight with Sam Stout. Heralded on Season Eight of The Ultimate Fighter for an all-around game that led Dana White to over-indulge in Anderson Silva comparisons, Nover lost the finale to Efrain Escudero and followed it up with a controversial stoppage loss against Kyle Bradley.
With Bradley now out of the UFC, it would be hard to envision Nover remaining a part of the plans for the lightweight division with a third-consecutive loss. The same can be said for Emerson, another former TUF contestant who has seemingly survived by being a part of that program.
"The Saint" is 2-2 with a no contest in five fights since coming off of Season Five of The Ultimate Fighter. His wins have come over Keita Nakamura and Manny Gamburyan, a fellow TUF 5 contestant who now makes his home at 145 with the WEC. Since his 12 second knockout of "Manvel the Anvil," Emerson was wrestled and submitted by Kurt Pellegrino and systematically kicked apart by Rafael dos Anjos.
Both guys are in dire need of a win to keep receiving pay checks from the UFC. Emerson likes to keep it standing, but Nover has solid Muay Thai and boxing, as well as being far more accomplished on the ground. He (Nover) also has the added push to prove to everyone that September's seizure was a one-time thing and the he's back and ready to prove White's early comparisons weren't entirely wrong.
"The Young Assassin" will tell you that his record is closer 41-9-3 the UFC Web site purports it to be, but even where it stands now, two things are certain about Melvin Guillard: (1) he's got solid and powerful striking, and (2) he knows how to get submitted.
After his loss to Nate Diaz at UFN 19 before the TUF 10 debut, Guillard joined forces with Greg Jackson. Hopefully, the Yoda of MMA has taught the self-assured Guillard a thing or two about not falling head-first into guillotine chokes. If he's added a lecture on leaving the cockiness outside the cage and just focusing on the task at hand, we might see a new-and-improved Guillard inside the cage tomorrow night on Spike.
If Jackson's lessons haven't sunk in, we could see the same Melvin Guillard we saw in September; the one that was on the receiving end of another submission defeat, as Ronnys Torres is Nova Unaio product with strong jiu-jitsu and a lot to prove.
It's been over a year since Torres was first signed by the UFC, and slated to face Guillard, ironically enough. Injuries and surgeries have dominated the time between then and now, and while Torres's admission that he likes to bulk up between fights and cut somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 pounds has alarmed some, he's never come in over the 155-pound requirement, so the skepticism might be a little premature.
While fight fans are certainly more aware of the flamboyant Guillard, Torres is riding an eight-fight winning streak, with five of those wins coming by way of submission. How does Guillard usually lose again?
While a couple other fights on the card might be "Loser Leaves Town" bouts, this one almost certainly is, as both Danzig and Buchholz enter their Spike TV Prelims Live bout on the kind of losing streaks that spell doom for a UFC fighter.
In their last five fights combined, they're 0-5. Yikes!
Danzig has drawn every last ounce of life he can from winning Season Six of The Ultimate Fighter. Not to take anything away from the veteran, but he was clearly the best of a bad bunch, as only Ben Saunders and George Sotiropoulos remain from that season.
While his losses have come against better-than-average competition (Jim Miller, Josh Neer and Clay Guida), a fourth-straight tick in the "L Column" and an escalating TUF winner contract will prove to be the end of Mac Danzig's run in the UFC.
Justin Buchholz doesn't even have the advantage of winning a reality TV show on his side. He's 1-3 in four bouts with the UFC and needs this win more than I need to stop eating fast food. After accumulating an impressive 7-1 record before first stepping inside the Octagon, Buchholz was viewed as a potential star-in-the-making, even getting covered as such in Fight! Magazine.
Staying positive, both guys are high-energy fighters and this has the potential to be Fight of the Night. I will almost guarantee that a Daniel Day-Lewis movie will take place (There Will Be Blood) and people will feel bad for the guy who gets cut next week, because the loser is getting cut.
Write that down.
Before the "old men" end the show, two "not quite as old men" open the pay-per-view portion of the card in a battle that has become hugely entertaining, just as everyone hoped and expected when this fight was announced. Unfortunately, the pre-fight entertainment might be the best part of this battle between two veterans at the tail end of their careers.
Marginally-controversial decision or not against Matt Hughes, Matt Serra hasn't won a fight since April of 2007, the night he shocked the world and defeated Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title in what will forever be the biggest upset in MMA history.
He's engaging, he's entertaining and he's a Guido through-and-through, but outside of that, he's a 9-6 fighter who should probably be fighting at lightweight, but can't stand to make the cut to '55 anymore. Other than GSP, Serra has only other welterweight win was over Chris Lytle in the TUF 4 finale.
Not that Frank Trigg has been beating people left, right and center either, but at least he's earned a win in the last two years. In addition to having a "tramp stamp" and going by the nickname "Twinkle Toes," Trigg has fought seven times in the span of Serra's last three bouts, including earning wins over Kazuo Misaki, Edwin Dewees and Falaniko Vitale. While they may not be household names, they're wins and that is something Serra can't claim as of late.
Without question, this fight is going to be won on the ground. Either Serra uses the great jiu-jitsu skills we often hear about but have yet to really see on display, or Trigg works his superior wrestling and top game to grind out a win with a little ground-and-pound mixed in for good measure.
I'm already more interested in hearing what each has to say after the fight than I am about watching the fight itself.
No need to break out the MMA math here and do the "Demain Maia submitted Chael Sonnen in the first round, while Miller wasn't able to do much against Sonnen last time out, so Maia should score an easy win."
MMA math doesn't work. It's fun from time-to-time, but so are all kinds of exercises in futility, like jogging.
What does work is having spoken with Maia last week and hearing just how focused he is on this fight and this fight alone. Most interviews, you cover the fight at hand and then venture off into other areas of discussion. Not with Maia; all he has on his mind right now is Dan Miller and continuing to show everyone why he is considered one of the foremost BJJ practitioners on the planet.
The Jersey boy is no slouch, though, despite what the MMA math might lead you to believe. Sonnen is a different breed and a strong wrestler with a history of getting caught in submissions. Remember, Maia is outstanding at pulling guard and did so to draw Sonnen into his world.
The same won't be as easily accomplished against Miller, a BJJ black belt himself under Renzo Gracie pupil Jamie Cruz. Miller should look to keep this fight standing for as long as possible; as much as he's a grappler and submission fighter, he is head and shoulders above Maia in the stand-up game, at least from what little we've seen and expect from his Brazilian foe.
Going to the ground with Maia is like me driving past McDonald's on an empty stomach. No matter how hard you fight it, you know what's going to happen. Maia is going to submit you, and I'm going to roll through the drive-thru.
McChicken meal with a root beer, please.
The rubber match of Paulo Thiago's personal trilogy against AKA is a fight I'm very keen on. For starters, rubber matches are generally entertaining, and while this will be the third different member of the American Kickboxing Academy welterweight trio the Brazilian has faced, it still feels like a traditional trilogy fight, and that's kinda cool.
Additionally, I have never been sold on Mike Swick.
To me, he's a guy that is pretty good at everything, but not great at anything. He's basically the fighting equivalent of my writing; I'll give you a good effort every time out, produce the odd moment that makes you take notice, but at no point do you think "this guy is the next big thing in this business."
Thiago might not be the next big thing either (read: he's not), but he's shown the ability to finish Swick's sidekick Josh Koscheck, battle for the full 15 against the second-best welterweight in the company (Jon Fitch) and showed moments of improved all-around skill in his Unanimous Decision victory over Jacob Volkmann last time out.
Plus, the dude works with the Brazilian Special Forces. If you don't know about the gangs and drugs and violence and plight Thiago undoubtedly witnesses on a regular basis on his day job, let me put it to you this way: Entering the cage with the possibility of getting is face punched in by Swick is a vacation.
Ultimately, this is a serious coin-flip fight and it just comes down to which side of the coin you like best.
I'm coming to like Chael Sonnen the more media members put microphones in front of him. After all, what more do you want as a writer than a guy who is going to give you super-quotes every single time? Of course, being a great source of soundbites doesn't help him in the cage.
Nate Marquardt is better at everything than Sonnen. Marquardt has said so, countless media members have said so, and Sonnen himself pretty much said so on Wednesday after his live workout.
He also said that while "Nate the Great" is better at individual aspects of fighting, he's a better "fighter," but that's Chael Sonnen for you. Remember, this is the same guy who to this day will tell you that he didn't tap in his first fight with Paulo Filho.
Sonnen has one method of victory and one method alone: drag Marquardt the ground and keep him there for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, getting him on the ground is a difficult task to begin with and not getting submitted while down there is another problem altogether.
Additionally, Marquardt is on a roll on his feet, putting together three-straight T/KO wins that have included some seriously Street Fighter-esque strings of offense. That kick-backfist-knee-uppercut combo that finished Wilson Gouveia was nasty.
While my official Punch Drunk Predictions will come tomorrow, there is nothing about this fight that has me thinking Sonnen can come away with a win. Maybe that's a good thing for Sonnen. After all, it's back-to-back upsets that got him here in the first place.
Some people have misconstrued my message in yesterday's piece about the place these men hold in the history books of this sport.
I'm not saying that being critical of this fight isn't allowed, and that we have to pretend like this fight has serious implications for the UFC light heavyweight division, although I do think a Randy Couture win puts him into title consideration just because he's Randy Couture.
This fight is a couple years beyond it's expiration date and certainly nowhere near the impactful and anticipated headliners set for UFC 111 and 112, respectively. That much is without debate. That said, I believe that these two men have done enough for this sport over the years to earn a show of appreciation, respect, and gratitude from the legions of people who call themselves fight fans.
Long before we were picking apart matchups and following each fight announcement with opinions at the ready, Couture and Mark Coleman were winning UFC tournaments and heavyweight titles. Without them—and a number of other pioneers—the UFC wouldn't have made it beyond the early days and into the sport so many of us follow passionately.
As for the fight itself, the word "grindfest" comes to mind, if it's even a word. Couture will battle inside, mix in some dirty boxing and look to utilize the same tactics he did against Brandon Vera against Coleman. Coleman will follow a similar course, utilizing his wrestling to shoot for doubles and hopefully work some ground-and-pound.
While Couture vs. Nogueira proved to be an entertaining scrap, this one reads like a bit of a snoozefest. Whether it works out that way will be determined tomorrow, and even if it is a boring bout, it doesn't mean these "old men" don't deserve the respect and admiration of anyone who identifies themselves as a fight fan.
Originally posted at FiveKnuckles.com.
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