UFC 111 will mark the first of three-straight major events with a combined total of five championship fights.
UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre will make his highly anticipated return to defend his crown against Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy.
Taking place in Newark, N.J., UFC 111 will also feature the unnecessary return of the interim championship in the heavyweight division while Brock Lesnar recovers from his ailment.
A number of the fights have the odds-on favorites to win—but in this sport, an upset victory is around just about every corner. Despite the odds stacked against them, any of the big underdogs are more than capable of stunning the world.
Let's see if the card lives up to its star-studded expectations.
*Unfortunately, the scheduled rematch between Jon Fitch and Thiago "The Pitbull" Alves was scrapped due to an abnormality of the brain in a prefight CAT scan on Alves, forcing "The Pitbull" to withdraw from the fight.
With a last-minute shuffle of the card, the UFC has filled the void left empty by Alves with Ben Saunders. The fans win with this one, considering the other option was forcing one of their best welterweights off the card.
Sadly, Saunders' original opponent in Jake Ellenberger is now left without an opponent and will be forced to sit out of UFC 111.
These things happen in the fight business, but as we've seen in the past, the UFC will make Ellenberger's time spent training worth it. He will get paid the amount he would of earned to show, as well as what he would of earned had he won the fight.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Dan Hardy
The UFC hype team has done a great job in turning around the general consensus of Dan Hardy's chances in the upcoming welterweight championship fight. Many fans have gone from "No chance in hell" to "Well, he might be able to knockout the champ."
Great Britain's first-ever fighter to compete in a championship bout with the UFC has been on quite a tear as of late. In Hardy's past 13 fights, he has tasted defeat just once—which was a disqualification because of an inadvertent low blow to Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
Since joining the UFC, Hardy has been labeled the underdog in four straight fights. Embracing the role, Hardy silenced the critics' doubts with a good mix of tae kwon do and muay thai.
Improving with every fight, Hardy has put fans on notice with his feet-wobbling counter-punches.
With this strategy, "The Outlaw" is undefeated inside the octagon and has earned a shot at the champion—to the outrage of many. Honestly, though: Who else was available?
At the time, Hardy was the only one winning consistently. Although he didn't finish his last two fights, he won in an impressive fashion over two known names. Throw in his brash personality, and you get the type of talk that turns the prefight hype into a euphoric buzz.
This time around, Hardy has been a bit more humble in his prefight talk. He still has the "tell-it-how-it-is" attitude, but he has been much more respectful toward Georges St. Pierre.
He respects the champion's abilities, but Hardy is still fully confident that he has what it takes to dethrone St. Pierre with his own set of skills. Remember Matt Serra?
That being said, St. Pierre's loss to Serra was the true beginning of his legacy. It's clear that the loss opened the floodgates of St. Pierre's heart and determination.
Already a well-rounded fighter inside the cage, St. Pierre has been working nonstop on any and all of his weaknesses. Just like any true champion, he improves with every single fight.
Despite making everybody look amateurish, he doesn't look past any opponent whatsoever—whether it's a Dan Hardy or a B.J. Penn.
In St. Pierre's rematch with Penn, he used his strength and conditioning to muscle Penn around the cage in any way that he wanted. Penn's world-class takedown defense eventually fell prey to St. Pierre's dominant takedowns.
Hardy may have a strong base and sprawl, but St. Pierre's takedowns are second to none. There is no doubt in anybody's mind that this fight is going to hit the ground at some point.
It's possible that Hardy can muscle his way out of the bottom position—but just like his takedowns, St. Pierre's control is second to none. You have to be a very skilled tactician on the mat to be able to escape from his clutch—and Hardy isn't quite there yet, despite his work under Eddie Bravo.
St. Pierre will play this fight patiently until Hardy leaves himself open for a takedown. From here, there will be a battle for control—but St. Pierre will ultimately find his base and grind Hardy's patience down to the core.
Hardy turns over and gives up the rear-naked choke in the second round, becoming the fourth official title defense for Georges St. Pierre.
Winner: Georges St. Pierre
Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir
Shane Carwin was originally supposed to battle for the heavyweight strap against Brock Lesnar—but then...well, you know what happened. So instead, Carwin will duke it out with the beefed-up version of Frank Mir for the meaningless interim title.
At 35 years of age, Carwin still has potential to do some big things—but the window of opportunity is slowly closing.
Yes, he has destroyed his first 11 opponents in less than 12 minutes, collectively—but the lack of action inside the cage should be a serious disadvantage coming into this fight against the former heavyweight champion.
This fight against one of the division's elite fighters will determine where the Greeley, Colo., native really stands in the UFC's logjam division.
With his godly strength, Carwin is more than capable of cleaning the clock of Mir and scoring the upset of the night. However, much to my dismay, Carwin's striking isn't as good as it's been cracked up to be.
He throws some decent combinations—and if they land, it's lights out, no matter how tough the opponent is. But Carwin is sometimes stiff on the feet, and he has very little head movement.
If it wasn't for Carwin's granite chin, his perfect record wouldn't be so perfect right now. In quite a few of his fights, Carwin has taken some big shots from average strikers at best.
So he is in a tricky situation against Frank Mir: Does Carwin look to box with the much more fluid boxer, or does he try to take the fight down for some ground-and-pound against the jiu jitsu black belt?
This Catch-22 for Carwin doesn't bode well for him—especially because Mir has been bulking up with an extreme training regimen—which he began after Brock Lesnar pummeled his face into mush in July 2009.
Some people believe that Carwin is a slightly smaller, more technical version of Lesnar—so it's a training regimen that was needed with the sudden rise of dominant wrestlers such as Lesnar, Carwin, and Cain Velasquez.
With his extra bulk, Mir is now packing some extra strength—as evident by his overhand left on Cheick Kongo, which sent the Frenchmen flying back five feet.
Mir's fluid footwork and head movement should keep Carwin guessing as Mir picks his shots. Considering that he has a strong pedigree in grappling, Mir can really let his hands loose in this fight without worry of a ground war.
Both fighters seem content with trading punches on the feet to start, so the advantage goes to Mir. After realizing that Mir is a much more technical striker, Carwin will look to shoot in for a takedown.
It's possible that he scores the takedown, but Mir is great at keeping his composure off of his back. However, I doubt the fight makes it that far—Mir takes the fight by guillotine choke in the first round.
Winner: Frank Mir
Jon Fitch vs. Ben Saunders*
Big props go out to Ben "Killa B" Saunders for stepping in against the world's consensus number two ranked welterweight. Unfortunately for him, Saunders is stepping in against the world's number two ranked welterweight.
Not to take anything away from Saunders or anything like that, but he showed he wasn't ready for a big step up in competition in his only loss to Jon Fitch's training partner in Mike Swick.
In Saunders' fight with Swick, he was out-matched in speed and technique. In this writer's opinion, Fitch is a couple notches above Swick in both departments.
Saunders definitely has the skills to defeat Fitch, especially if he utilizes his newly-found quickness with his reach to keep his opponent on the outside.
Plus, as we all saw in his fight against Marcus Davis, Saunders is packing some middleweight-type of power with his elbows and knees.
However, as stated before, Fitch is a step ahead of most welterweights in the world of MMA. In 21 fights, Fitch has only lost once, and that was to the UFC's 170 pound champion, Georges St. Pierre.
During this span, Fitch has shown tremendous heart and a rock-solid chin against some technical strikers. Some much more technical, and much stronger than Saunders. It's still possible, but Fitch being knocked out by Saunders isn't very likely.
Besides, it's hard to KO somebody off of your back. With Fitch's wrestling and outstanding control, Saunders will find himself in that position before he can even throw a knee to counter the takedown.
Here, Saunders' jiu jitsu brown belt will receive a serious test against Fitch's guerilla jiu jitsu (combination of jiu jitsu and judo) black belt.
Add in a similar approach that Swick took against Saunders, along with Fitch's vehemence on the ground, and a victory for the number two ranked welterweight is very likely.
Look for Fitch to silence his "lack of finishing ability" critics with a submission victory this time out.
Winner: Jon Fitch
Mark Bocek vs. Jim Miller
Mark Bocek received a big step up in competition after winning his third-straight fight—stepping in against Jim Miller on UFC 111's opening main card bout.
With only 10 fights under his belt, Bocek has battled some skilled competition prior to his bout with Miller—but he has failed to come out on top both times against Frankie Edgar and Mac Danzig.
Now, after choking out three-straight foes with a rear-naked choke, the American Top Team jiu jitsu black belt looks to catch his fourth-straight win.
Although most of Bocek's wins have come from his technical grappling, he has shown vast improvement in his hands. He has decent head movement and footwork, although he still appears stiff on his feet. But he has come a long way since his UFC debut.
Despite this, Jim Miller is on another level compared with Bocek. The New Jersey native holds two common opponents with Bocek—with varying results.
While Bocek succumbed to strikes at the hands of Edgar, Miller went three hard-fought rounds with the No. 1 contender. After Bocek was choked out by Danzig, Miller outpointed the TUF Season Six winner for a unanimous decision victory.
Miller is a looser and much more technical striker compared with Bocek— so expect the Canadian to look for a takedown quickly. However, with Miller's jiu jitsu brown belt, he should be more than equipped to deal with it if he winds up in a bad spot.
Chances are that he won't as Bocek struggles against the bigger names—Miller takes this fight by TKO in the second round.
Winner: Jim Miller
Fabricio Camoes vs. Kurt Pellegrino*
Since the fight between Ben Saunders and Jake Ellenberger has been scrapped, the UFC was in need of another fight to fill the main card. So in steps Fabricio "Morango" Camoes and Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino.
To many fans, this fight seems like a filler type of fight. Maybe so, but this fight has more implications than one might think.
Pellegrino has rattled off three straight victories over some scrappy fighters while Fabricio Camoes is undefeated in eight consecutive fights. An impressive finish could vault the winner into the midst of contenders in a very deep division.
Both fighters have a pair of TKO's on their resume, but let's not be foolish here; this fight is bound to hit the ground and a grappling war will ensue shortly thereafter.
Camoes, who made his UFC debut at UFC 106 against Caol Uno, has shown some heavy hands in his past. Not much technique though, winging punches as he chases his opponents down.
Effective if it connects, but it's also very draining on the energy tank, as evident in Camoes' debut. However, against Pellegrino's skill set, his sporadic punches may also leave the opening that "Batman" will be looking for.
Once the fight hits the ground, expect both fighters to be very active. It will probably come down to who makes the first mistake.
Pellegrino has battled some great fighters throughout his nine UFC fights, including several skilled jiu jitsu practitioners such as: Junior Assuncao, Joe Stevenson, Alberto Crane, Nate Diaz, and Thiago Tavares.
"Batman" is past the UFC jitters coming into his tenth UFC fight. Camoes, on the other hand, appeared to struggle with his first time under the lights.
Expect a calmer, more technical version of Camoes this time around, making this fight very close. However, after grappling through two rounds, expect Camoes to make a big mistake on which Pellegrino will capitalize.
Winner: Kurt Pellegrino
Preliminary Card (Spike TV)
Nate Diaz vs. Rory Markham
Rory Markham is set to welcome Nate Diaz into the welterweight fold. While Diaz will be a much smaller fighter compared with Markham, he is not at a loss in the 170-pound division with a beefed-up frame.
Both men are good boxers, but Diaz holds a technical edge over his opponent. He is lighter on the feet and much more diverse with his attack.
On top of that, he could easily outgrapple Markham despite the difference in size. Markham struggles from his back—and Diaz has the uncanny ability to lure fighters into a grappling war.
Diaz has a much more well-rounded attack and will force Markham to tap after a brief boxing exchange.
Winner: Nate Diaz
Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Brown
Another new addition to the 170-pound division, Ricardo "Cachorrao" Almeida looks for a fresh start against Matt "The Immortal" Brown.
This is a very dangerous fight for Almeida's debut at welterweight, as Brown is well- rounded in all areas. He has shown the ability to recover and finish the fight from any area.
That being said, Brown has struggled against superior grapplers in the past—and Saturday won't be any different.
A third-degree jiu jitsu black belt, Almeida will latch onto a submission in the first round and send Brown back to the drawing boards.
Winner: Ricardo Almeida
Preliminary Card (Unaired)
Jared Hamman vs. Rodney Wallace
Winner: Rodney Wallace
Tomasz Drwal vs. Rousimar Palhares
Winner: Tomasz Drwal
Matthew Riddle vs. Greg Soto
Winner: Matthew Riddle