The UFC’s global expansion continues as they head into Sydney, Australia Saturday night for UFC 110.
This card, in my opinion, is definitely worthy of a first time event in a new country.
Every match-up is an interesting clashing of styles and it should definitely be a card that Aussie fight fans eat up. (I tried my hardest to make a Men at Work/Vegemite sandwich joke right there, but I decided not to for stereotypical purposes)
Here are the fights for Saturday’s main card:
Heavyweight Bout: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez
Middleweight Bout: Wanderlei Silva vs. Michael Bisping
Lightweight Bout: Joe Stevenson vs. George Sotiropoulos
Light Heavyweight Bout: Keith Jardine vs. Ryan Bader
Heavyweight Bout: Mirko Filipovic vs. Ben Rothwell
Mirko Filipovic vs. Ben Rothwell
Both men definitely have something to prove when they head to the octagon on Saturday night. First, let’s start with Mirko Filipovic. The man known as “Cro Cop” has looked more like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” during his time in the UFC. His record since his 2007 arrival is 2-3, with one of those losses being a highlight reel knockout to Gabriel Gonzaga via head kick. Both of his wins have come by referee stoppage due to punches, however the competition he faced in both of those fights was mediocre at best.
This fight is a chance for Cro Cop to get back in the mix of the heavyweight division. In all of his fights, Cro Cop has looked very tentative and he hasn’t even tried to use his signature kicks. To have any shot against Ben Rothwell, Cro Cop has to bring back the old Cro Cop of years past: nasty leg kicks that set up his left high kick to the head. If you’ve ever seen those knockouts on Youtube, when you see them they force you to have the “NBA Players at the Dunk Contest Face,” where your lip goes to one side of your face and it looks like you just witnessed a brutal car accident.
This fight is also very important for Cro Cop’s opponent, Ben Rothwell. He’s coming off a controversial loss to Cain Velasquez, one of UFC 110’s main event participants. Some people, including Rothwell, feel as though the fight was stopped prematurely and he wasn’t able to keep fighting. During the Velasquez fight, Rothwell looked a little nervous early, probably due to that fight being his first in the UFC. I’m sure he’ll be a little calmer this time around, and ready to bring it when the time comes on Saturday.
This fight is going to be a barn burner. Both fighters like to stand on their feet, bang, and keep coming. If it ends up being a boxing match, I have to give the edge to Rothwell because I think he has the better hands. But if Cro Cop decides to start using his lethal kicks, than I believe the edge goes to Cro Cop. Don’t be surprised however if Rothwell decides to bring the fight to the ground if he’s losing the stand-up battle. Rothwell is very talented at ground and pound and Cro Cop in the past has been susceptible to getting beat up pretty bad on his back. This fight has all the makings of being a short, yet very entertaining 3 minutes of fighting.
Rothwell wins due to referee stoppage (punches) three minutes into round one.
Cro Cop’s performances in the UFC have been uninspired and lackluster to say the least. I think he comes out and gives the same performance Saturday night. I think that Rothwell will set up the takedown early by throwing a couple punches, and then take Cro Cop down, eventually pounding him out.
Keith Jardine vs. Ryan Bader
This fight was supposed to be catch weight fight between Keith Jardine and Rich Franklin, but an agreement couldn’t officially be made. From this, Ultimate Fighter Season Eight winner Ryan Bader gets to fight Jardine. All of the pressure in this fight is on Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine. Jardine has lost his last two fights against pretty stiff competition (UFC: 102, loss to Thiago Silva, knock out due to punches; UFC 96, loss to Rampage Jackson, unanimous decision).
In both of those fights, Jardine was put on his back and a lot of damage was inflicted on him. Jardine needs a great showing during this fight to keep his place in the UFC light heavyweight division. For Ryan Bader, this is a huge opportunity. Keith Jardine is still a pretty big name in the 205-lb division, and if Ryan Bader were to pull out a win, this would really catapult him into the heights of the division. The best part about this fight for Bader is that he’s the heavy underdog, so no real pressure is on him. Bader can just go about his business, try and implement his game plan, and pull out a victory.
Jardine needs to keep his distance, and put his spastic, jittery striking into effect to keep Bader at a distance. Bader is a decorated wrestler, who has heavy hands once he gets his opponents to the ground. Jardine in the past couple of fights has been open to punches once he gets on his back. If this fight stays on the feet, Jardine has a vast advantage as far as striking is concerned. However, if Bader gets a couple of takedowns early and gets his confidence, Jardine will be in for quite a battle.
Jardine wins by unanimous decision
I’m not quite sure that Ryan Bader is ready for this type of spotlight just yet. This is a big stage for him, and I’m not sure his stand-up ability is ready to compete with a guy like Keith Jardine. I think that Bader will be able to take Jardine down a couple of times, but I think for the most part, Jardine keeps Bader at bay and wins with points standing up.
Joe Stevenson vs. George Sotiropoulous
Joe Stevenson is finally on the rise again in the lightweight division. Before his fight with Nate Diaz last June, he had lost three out of his last four fights (loss to B.J. Penn, win against Gleison Tibau, loss to Kenny Florian, loss to Diego Sanchez) and it seemed as though he couldn’t put it together. However, in the fight with Diaz, he dominated Diaz for three rounds and came out with an impressive victory. Then in October, he looked downright unstoppable against Spencer “King” Fisher, stopping the fight with some nasty elbows from an on top position.
With Kenny Florian having a tough fight with former Pride superstar Takanori Gomi upcoming, maybe an impressive win here and a loss by Florian, puts “Daddy” in line for another lightweight title shot with B.J. Penn. His opponent George Sotiropoulous is definitely an interesting story. He had a good showing in the Ultimate Fighter Team Serra vs. Team Hughes show, making it to the semi-finals. He then won his next two fights after the show, but injuries forced him to miss the next 18 months. George then decided that he wanted to move down in weight class, from welterweight to lightweight. He’s won both his fights at 155, and his next fight is definitely the toughest in his career in facing the “Daddy.”
A majority of this fight could be on the ground. Both fighters have black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have a majority of their wins on the ground. (Daddy Stevenson, 14 out of 31 wins have come by submission, Sotiropoulous, seven out of 13 wins have come by submission) George (I’m calling him this because I really don’t want to spell out his last name every time I reference him) will definitely have the home-field advantage, fighting in his native Australia. On the ground, I’m going to give the edge to George, because Stevenson in the past has been susceptible to submissions (four out of his five losses have been by submission). I think the best way for Stevenson to win this fight is to keep it standing up. His striking his superior to George’s, and he definitely has one punch knockout power.
Stevenson wins by split decision
I think this fight is one of the favorites for “Fight of the Night.” Both of these men are evenly matched and this fight will be highly competitive. What wins the fight for Stevenson is his striking. He’s vastly improved his striking in every fight, and I think he gains enough points on his feet to squeak out a victory against George. Expect the crowd to be electric due to them rooting for a fellow countryman.
Michael Bisping vs. Wanderlei Silva
If the Rothwell/Cro Cop fight is going to be a barnburner, than this one is going to be an inferno. Strikes, strikes, and more strikes. This fight is going to be quite a test for Michael “The Count” Bisping. This is the second fight out of three that matches Bisping up with a fighter than can turn the lights out very quickly and violently. His first one was against Dan Henderson, and if you’re a fan of the UFC, you know what happened.
For those of you that don’t know what happened, Bisping’s head was almost removed by Dan Henderson’s right hand and it was one of the nastiest knockouts in UFC history. That knockout was definitely embarrassing for Bisping, seeing that he talked an uber amount of junk going into the fight, calling Henderson old and washed up, guess not. His last fight however was a great bounce back fight, defeating a tough opponent in Dennis Kang, who had him reeling in the first round. However, “The Count” stopped the fight in the second round with some filthy strikes and knees.
His opponent, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, has to win this fight to save any credibility he has left. Silva has lost five out of his last six fights, and he’s been knocked out cold in three of them. You have to wonder when he’s going to start feeling the effects of those knockouts, if he hasn’t already. No matter what age Silva is, he’s always dangerous to put someone to sleep with one right hand. Will we see a glimpse of the dominant “Axe Murderer” that steamrolled through the Pride Fighting Championships? Time will only tell.
Both fighters love to stand up and bang, so expect this fight to stay on the feet throughout. Bisping’s game plan should be to use the jab early, and move in and out. Hit Silva with a couple of quick shots and move back to get out of Silva’s range. The slower the pace is of this fight, the better chance that Bisping has of winning. For Silva, the faster the pace of this fight, the better the chances of him winning. Silva likes to push the pace, throw haymakers in bunches, and if he can, get his opponent in the Muay Thai clinch and throw vicious knees. Silva’s going to push the pace early, and try to corner Bisping and grab him in the clinch. This fight is going to be fun.
Michael Bisping wins by unanimous decision
There’s going to be some great exchanges in this one, but I think in the end, Bisping will win by points. It really would be dumb of him to try and out-slug the always slugging Wanderlei Silva. Bisping’s game is counter-punching and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch Silva off guard with counter strikes. I believe that Silva has definitely lost a step, if not two. He’s not as quick with his movements as he used to be, Bisping will use that to his advantage when he’s counter-striking Silva’s wild haymakers. No big knock-out shots by Bisping, just smart strategy, as he wins his second straight fight.
Main Event of the Evening: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez
Both fighters are hot coming into this fight, Nogueira has won four out of his last five fights and Velasquez is 7-0 in his career, beating Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell in his last two fights. “Minotauro” Nogueira is one of the most decorated heavyweights to ever participate in MMA. He is a former Pride and UFC heavyweight champion and is never out of a fight.
On countless occasions he’s taken a beating that weaker men would have submitted to, only to come out the victor. For example, in his fight with Tim Sylvia, he took a pretty good beating throughout, only to pull guard late in the fight and submit Sylvia with a guillotine choke, winning the Interim Heavyweight title at the time. Cain Velasquez is trying to become established like Nogueira, and he’s definitely on his way, recording a 7-0 record so far in MMA.
A win against one of the best heavyweights to enter the octagon will definitely catapult Velasquez to the top of the heavyweight class. However, it seems as though that time and time again, Cain is rarely mentioned as one of the best heavyweights in the world. The names of Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Nogueira, and Brock Lesnar usually are named before him. His wins have been good, but he doesn’t have that signature win yet. Minotauro Nogueira would definitely be that signature win.
It will be interesting to see what Cain Velasquez chooses to do against Nogueira. Cain is a very good wrestler, and so far he’s been able to take guys down when he wants, with no consequences. However, against a world-class Jiu-Jitsu practitioner like Nogueira, if Velasquez isn’t careful taking down Nogueira, he’ll end up in a submission and have to tap or have a limb broken. Nogueira has the advantage on the feet, being a very skilled boxer, as he showed in his last fight with Randy Couture. Velasquez hasn’t had to show off his stand-up skills very much, since he’s taking all of his opponents down very easily. He’ll definitely need to be able to strike a little with Big Nog, to potentially set up a take down.
Minotauro Nogueira wins by submission in the second round
I think this time, Cain Velasquez gets caught being overaggressive with his takedowns. He’s never faced anybody that could roll on the mat with the precision that Big Nog does, and I think Big Nog catches Velasquez in a submission that ends the fight in the second round. Early in the fight, I think Cain will try and strike with Big Nog, bur fail miserably. From that, I think Cain gets frustrated and tries for a takedown. This will lead to the submission win for Big Nog. After Cain is not able to beat Big Nog, Big Nog will be back atop the heavyweight division, looking for a title shot.