There are two belts on the line at UFC 112 and not too many people are giving the challengers much of a chance as they head into this weekend's event in Abu Dhabi, against two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters.
There is always the often resurrected term of the "puncher's chance," but both challengers aren't known for their knockout abilities.
So do these fighters have a chance at all?
Of course they do, after all, this is mixed martial arts.
While fights can certainly be predictable in it's outcome, the odds-on favorite's victory isn't always set in stone. This is why many fans dish out half a Benjamin every month to the UFC.
If it was the case, then why would the man written off so easily, even show up to the fight?
To quote former NFL coach Herm Edwards, "You play to win the game."
Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia
Demian Maia received a lucky break when Vitor Belfort was forced to pull out of his title fight due to a shoulder injury.
Since the newly-determined No. One contender Chael Sonnen, is still recovering from injuries due to his last fight, Maia was the only logical replacement.
Maia, who is coming off of a hard-fought grappling war with Dan Miller, has captivated UFC fans with his outstanding Jiu Jitsu.
In six of his UFC victories, five have come by submission.
Coming into MMA with an outstanding Jiu Jitsu resume, Maia had a step-up in grappling experience over the rest of the middleweight division.
Many people believed if he could develop a solid striking attack then he would become a serious threat to Anderson Silva's title.
In his last fight against Miller, Maia displayed his work with Wanderlei Silva paid off. He had much-improved hands and although it wasn't overly impressive, his striking was much better than his past UFC performances.
He better hope his striking is 100 times better than it was in his last fight because Silva has made great strikers look like rookies.
The best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Anderson Silva has got where he is today with a polished, well-rounded attack, but is most notable with his superior striking.
Known for his devastating Muay Thai clinch that has muscled around opponents much larger than him, Silva is also a black belt in Taekwondo.
Additionally, Silva is also one of the best boxers inside the cage. His work in the art of Capoeira has made his footwork and head movement very fluid, making Silva one of, if not, the most elusive fighter in the UFC.
Add his ability to end a fight with one strike, it appears Silva has the victory secured.
The middleweight champion also holds a black belt in Judo, as well as in Jiu Jitsu in which he received from the Nogueira brothers. Despite this, don't expect Silva to foolishly display his grappling prowess.
He knows Maia has the grappling edge, so watch for Silva to display a low stance to avoid Maia's take-down, similar to his fight with Thales Leites.
Maia does have a grappler's chance, but every fight starts standing up. Silva's size and experience should be more than enough to keep it there.
Expect Silva to finish Maia with his superior striking in the third round.
Winner —Anderson Silva
B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar
The New Jersey native, Frankie "The Answer" Edgar has been on a role since entering UFC.
The lone loss of his career came to Gray Maynard back in 2008, making many wonder why Edgar earned the title shot over the undefeated Maynard.
The answer to that question is simply this, he has beaten better competition more impressively than Maynard. No offense to Maynard's past opponents.
Edgar has wrestled his way to a majority of his victories, but recently has displayed the type of all-around attack needed to vie for the title.
In his bout against former champion Sean Sherk, Edgar showed off lightning-quick mobility where he kept his opponent out of his comfort zone. Edgar used that footwork to pick apart the much larger Sherk with a flurry of combinations, which ultimately earned him the decision victory.
Against an unknown, yet very dangerous fighter in Matt Veach, Edgar once again displayed his improved boxing.
After rocking Veach, Edgar wasted no time in showing off his work with Jiu Jitsu aces Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie by sinking a rear-naked choke in the second round.
Despite his vast improvements, Edgar appears to be in over his head going into this title fight against B.J. Penn. The man known as "The Prodigy" is simply better in all aspects of the sport.
While Penn may not be as fast on his feet as Edgar is, his hands are much quicker. In addition to his hand-speed, Penn is much more accurate and powerful. Plus, Penn sets his combinations up more efficiently with one of the best jabs in the sport.
Edgar will be picked apart if he tries to trade punches with the champion. What can he do? Shoot for a take-down.
Not likely. Penn's take-down defense is considered the best in the sport.
The man can defend take-downs from much stronger wrestlers on one foot alone. His rubber-like limbs make Penn almost impossible to take-down unless his opponent goes by the name of Georges St. Pierre.
However, should Edgar score a take-down, he's still in danger. Penn's guard is nearly impassable with the flexibility of his legs. Throw in reversals and his endless arsenal of submissions, and Penn has Edgar beat here as well.
There is always the "puncher's chance" for Edgar, but it seems highly unlikely in this fight.
Penn wins by submission in the second round.
Winner —B.J. Penn
Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
The once-controversial Renzo Gracie finally makes his UFC debut at age 43. While many believe he will never be a contender in any division, one thing Gracie does bring to the table is a series of interesting fights.
Like many of the other Gracie family members, Renzo's fighting style revolves mainly around his grappling credentials. He holds a sixth degree black belt in Jiu Jitsu under Carlos Gracie Jr.
Despite his age, Gracie has submissions under his belt. He is also skilled in Judo, with a black belt.
Unlike many of the other Gracie's, Renzo isn't a one-dimensional fighter. He isn't the best striker in the world, but he can hold his own. Long enough to gain a clinch resulting in a take-down.
However, he's heading into this fight against a much larger and stronger wrestler in Matt Hughes.
While Hughes' days at the top of the division that he once dominated are over, his days of interesting match-ups are not.
Similar to Gracie, Hughes isn't necessarily known for his striking skills. He does just enough to set up a take-down, where he explodes and drives his opponents down forcefully.
When the fight hits the ground, Hughes will have to stay busy to avoid Gracie's submission attempts. Hughes may not always be the most active when he's on top, but he has been good at stifling submissions.
This fight will be a long, drawn-out combative chess match. The key in this fight will come down to conditioning, which many feel Hughes holds the advantage.
Look for Hughes to earn his second victory over a Gracie, this time a decision over Renzo.
Winner —Matt Hughes
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Terry Etim
Since joining UFC, Rafael dos Anjos has been fed to the wolves. The results showed he wasn't ready for competition against the likes of Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin.
Losing his first two UFC fights, dos Anjos was given another chance to prove himself and succeeded by earning two victories over Rob Emerson and Kyle Bradley.
Dos Anjos earned these victories by keeping his opponent off guard. His head movement could be better, but it's certainly not the worst.
The thing that makes dos Anjos' striking good, is that he possesses Jiu Jitsu skills, where he holds a black belt. He doesn't have to worry about fighting from his back like many other fighters do.
Although, since joining the UFC, dos Anjos has struggled to finish opponents with his attack and opponent Terry Etim is a tough cookie to finish.
Etim has struggled against larger, stronger wrestlers in his MMA career. His two losses came to Gleison Tibau and Rich Clementi.
Since those defeats, Etim has improved dramatically with his sprawl. He has won four straight fights, all of which his opponents struggled to take him down.
Earning a majority of his victories by submission, Etim can play the grappling war against dos Anjos. His long limbs have helped him secure or escape many submissions in his past.
Although he's finished a majority of his fights by submission, Etim's quick and dynamic striking can put an end to his opponent's night.
That being said, expect Etim to once again find a submission and end dos Anjos' night, likely with some sort of choke.
Winner —Terry Etim
Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz
Since winning the TUF 3 contract, Kendall Grove has had a roller-coaster career in the UFC. Many expected big things immediately after he won the six-figure contract, but he has been unable to string together a number of wins to become a threat at middleweight.
Well-versed in Muay Thai with his long legs and sharp knees, Grove does have the power to end the night of any fighter. But much like Brandon Vera, Grove hasn't been able to throw all of the ingredients together to execute his plans.
Grove is a tall fighter that utilizes his reach effectively. You often hear that tall fighters need to "fight tall," and this is something he does quite well. He uses his kicks and jabs to keep his opponent at a distance.
He continues to improve in his fights, especially in the Jiu Jitsu department as evident by his last victory over Jake Rosholt, where he choked out Rosholt with a triangle choke in the first round.
One area that Grove has continued to struggle with is his wrestling. He has a hard time matching up against large, athletic wrestlers.
This spells trouble for him.
If he hasn't improved his sprawl, then Mark Munoz, a Division I National Champion and All-American wrestler for Oklahoma State University, will have no trouble.
With a solid base in wrestling, Munoz is very dominant in controlling opponents on the ground. Especially since he has dropped down to middleweight where he is larger than most of the division.
Since he's great at wrestling, Munoz has put in serious work with the other aspects of his game.
His striking has improved dramatically.
For example, in his last fight against Ryan Jensen he displayed improved footwork and head movement. As he continues to train, there's no doubt that his wrestling power will convert to his hands.
Not only is he improving at striking, Munoz made a move to the Black House camp to work on his grappling. Home to the likes of the Nogueira brothers, Munoz has put in extensive Jiu Jitsu training.
Absorbing knowledge like a sponge, Munoz has evolved from a great wrestler to an all-around fighter.
Expect him to show improvements against Grove, most likely by testing his chin and pounding him out of consciousness.
Winner —Mark Munoz
Phil Davis vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Winner —Phil Davis
John Gunderson vs. Paul Taylor
Winner —Paul Taylor
Nick Osipczak vs. Rick Story
Winner —Rick Story
Brad Blackburn vs. DaMarques Johnson
Winner —DaMarques Johnson
Paul Kelly vs. Matt Veach
Winner —Matt Veach
Mostapha Al Turk vs. Jon Madsen
Winner — Jon Madsen
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