Expect nothing short of fireworks in perhaps the most stacked MMA card this year. Can Chael Sonnen back up his words and dethrone the pound for pound king? What will be the outcome this time around in the long-awaited Fitch/Alves rematch?
Could the end be near for Matt Hughes? Who will become the new #1 contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship?
The questions will become answers on Saturday night. I encourage you to read my breakdowns to see why I made the predictions that I made. At the end of the breakdowns, I will have my official picks listed. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the fights!
Anderson “The Spider” Silva Vs. Chael Sonnen
Key Victories :
Silva (Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, Patrick Cote, Nate Marquardt, Thales Leites, Chris Leben, Hayato Sakurai, Jeremy Horn, Carlos Newton, James Irvin)
Sonnen (Nate Marquardt, Paulo Filho, Yushin Okami, Dan Miller, Jason Miller, Jason Lambert, Trevor Prangley)
The hype for this bout has far exceeded original expectations. We all have Chael Sonnen to thank for that. For months, he has talked more trash than Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans combined. Does Sonnen truly believe the things that are coming out of his mouth?
No one knows for sure. I do know one thing though. He truly believes he can beat Anderson Silva. With the right mindset and style, Sonnen makes for a very formidable opponent against the proposed pound for pound king.
While Sonnen attacks his wardrobe, English speaking abilities, and willingness to take fights, Silva sits behind the shadows quietly listening. Will Sonnen’s trash talking throw him off his game?…Or…Will it infuriate him and bring out the Anderson Silva from every fighter’s nightmare? The man who made Forrest Griffin’s punches look like bullets from the matrix. The man who turned Rich Franklin’s nose into a broken, yet straighter version of Owen Wilson’s.
Whatever happens, let’s hope for a great performance and a satisfying finish…Not a regretful Sonnen balled up in the fetal position two minutes in. Well, I guess that would be satisfying for some.
Born in Curitiba, Brazil, Anderson Silva is a black belt in BJJ, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo. He is also a yellow belt in Capoeira. To those accusing Silva for his Michael Jackson Thriller-like antics, Capoeira is an art form that incorporates martial arts, music, and DANCE.
Silva is a member of Team Black House alongside longtime friends, the Nogueira brothers, Lyoto Machida, Paulo Filho, Junior Dos Santos, and Jose Aldo. In twenty-six bouts, fifteen have come by KO. He currently holds the longest active winning streak and the record for the longest winning streak in UFC history. At UFC 112, he severely busted up Demian Maia en route to a lopsided unanimous decision.
Fighting out of Portland, Oregon, Chael Sonnen is an NCAA Division I All-American Wrestler, a two-time University National Champion in Greco-Roman, and a U.S. Olympic team alternate. He trains at Team Quest with fighters like Dan Henderson, Matt Lindland, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Sonnen is currently on a three fight win streak. At UFC 109, he took a huge upset in impressive fashion over top ranked contender, Nate Marquardt.
Keys to Victory :
In a recent interview, Sonnen said, “I think a black belt under the Nogueiras is saying, like, ‘I got a free toy in my Happy Meal’.” Pop quiz time! What do Trevor Prangley, Forrest Griffin, Jeremy Horn, Renato Sobral, Paulo Filho, and Demian Maia all have in common? They have all submitted Chael Sonnen. Horn in particular has submitted Sonnen twice.
People are forgetting Anderson Silva is a black belt in BJJ with an extremely underrated guard game. Silva has the ability to seek out submissions and land devastating elbows from bottom. If taken down, he has to employ this tactic on Sonnen. Don’t remain stagnant and allow Sonnen to impose his will.
On the feet, Silva can be his usual dominant self. He has to be a little more careful to avoid being taken down. Sonnen is leagues above Demian Maia in the wrestling department. Distance and timing will be key in Silva’s avoidance of the takedown.
Silva has to also be careful throwing kicks and especially flying knees. Every kick gives Sonnen an opportunity to catch the leg and land an easy takedown. With his accurate and explosive technique, Silva may be able to avoid getting his leg caught. Flying knees are a completely different story. If he misses or doesn’t rattle Sonnen, he has all but guaranteed himself to be taken down.
Despite showing improved standup, Sonnen needs to strike when needed and be consistent with his takedowns. Silva does a lot of taunting and gesturing in his bouts. Sonnen has to ignore what Silva does and stay with his own gameplan. The one thing Sonnen has going for him in this bout is his ability to snag takedowns from the outside.
Travis Lutter and Nate Marquardt all took Silva down with outside shots. Unless he gets a good body lock, Sonnen should stay away from the clinch area. Silva has the most devastating Muay Thai Plum in the game.
Throughout the bout, Sonnen has to avoid becoming lackadaisical in his approach. He has to count on Silva being there to make him pay for every mistake. On the ground, Sonnen should keep a good base and control Silva’s hips. Silva has long legs and will constantly look for submissions. Sonnen needs to be patient and drag Silva into deep waters with a grinding onslaught of takedowns and ground and pound.
Chael Sonnen poses a significant threat stylistically for Anderson Silva. I just don’t see it coming together for him on fight night. Unless he’s been training with Chris Brown, Sonnen has nothing for Silva on the feet. Silva will happily dance around every punch landing three or four of his own in return. Sonnen can definitely take Silva down, but his submission defense may not be enough thwart Silva’s advancements.
All of the trash talk leading up to this showdown is a win-win for Sonnen. His stock has grown regardless of the outcome. Fighters like Dan Hardy and Paul Daley have utilized similar tactics. Their notoriety soared because of their pre-fight antics against bigger named competition. Win, lose, or draw, Chael Sonnen is a smart man.
Look for Sonnen to make things interesting by snagging a takedown or two. He may even steal a round. One mistake will be all that’s needed for Silva to lock up the triangle finish from bottom. After this fight, maybe Sonnen will seek out a Happy Meal?…or at least some submission defense.
Jon Fitch Vs. Thiago “Pitbull” Alves
Key Victories :
Fitch (Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez, Paulo Thiago, Mike Pierce, Ben Saunders, Akihiro Gono, Brock Larson)
Alves (Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Karo Parisyan, Marcus Davis, Chris Lytle, John Alessio)
It is a complete an utter travesty that this fight isn’t getting the hype it deserves. In my pound for pound rankings (coming soon), Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves make the top ten. If I play devil’s advocate, the only reasoning I can give for the lack of promotion is that this bout has been postponed multiple times. The UFC could be tiptoeing around this fight just in case it falls through again. In any case, fans should get ready for one of the biggest showdowns this year.
This bout is actually a rematch from the UFC Fight Night card on June 28, 2006. On that night, an upkick and a barrage of punches led to a TKO victory for Fitch. Since that fight, Alves’s vast improvement has garnered him significant victories over Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, and Karo Parisyan. A win here could get one of these guys within distance of a rematch with Georges St. Pierre.
Fighting out of San Jose, California, Jon Fitch was a four-year letterman and captain of the Purdue University Wrestling Team. He currently trains at American Kickboxing Academy with Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, Cung Le, and Josh Thomson. His style consists of Wrestling, Kickboxing, and Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu (black belt).
In many MMA rankings, Fitch is currently listed as the #2 Welterweight in the world. He is an incredible 21-1 in his last twenty-two bouts. His lone loss came to GSP in August 2008. At UFC 111, he tenderized Ben Saunders’s face for three rounds.
Thiago Alves was born in Fortaleza, Brazil. He started training in MMA at the age of seventeen. Training at American Top Team, he is surrounded by guys like Thiago Silva, Jorge Santiago, Mike Brown, and Alessio Sakara. His style is predominantly Muay Thai and BJJ (brown belt).
He is currently ranked on most MMA lists as the #3 Welterweight in the world. After losing to Fitch, Alves went on a seven fight win streak. He was finally stopped at UFC 100 in a Welterweight title bout with GSP.
Keys to Victory :
There is no secret to what Jon Fitch must do to win and possibly keep his facial features intact. He has to be consistent and successful with his takedowns. Disguising the shot and Alves’s ability to stifle fence clinches will be two major problems facing Fitch come fight night.
On the feet, Thiago Alves is easily one of the best strikers in the Welterweight division. Alves isn’t dumb either. He knows what Fitch wants to do in this fight. The whole fight will come down to Fitch’s ability to be successful enough on the feet to setup takedowns.
When Fitch shoots in, he needs to catch Alves out in the open. Alves is very strong from the clinch and will be nearly impossible to drag down if pushed against the fence. Fitch has to avoid telegraphing his takedown attempts. He can’t allow himself to get sloppy as the fight wears on. I hope Fitch has been working on defending and countering leg kicks. Alves kicks like a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
Thiago Alves will have the definitive striking advantage. He needs to put together a workmanlike performance on the feet and remain patient. Fitch is as durable a fighter as they come. He can likely take whatever manly violence Alves dishes out. Alves also has to be prepared to defend plenty of takedowns.
In the bout with Josh Koscheck, Koscheck seemingly forgot that he was a wrestler and chose to engage Alves on the feet. Fitch is a more methodical fighter. Expect to see plenty of takedown attempts.
Despite losing to GSP, Alves was active from all positions. That can’t change in this fight. Fitch won’t mind lingering in stalemated positions to grind out a decision. If pushed against the cage, Alves has to keep scoring points with short punches, knees, and elbows. When taken down, he has to land strikes from the bottom and constantly seek out opportunities to scramble and explode back to his feet.
On June 28, 2006, Jon Fitch’s hand was raised after his TKO stoppage of a young, up-and-coming Brazilian. On August 7, 2010, that honor will be bestowed upon Thiago Alves. Fitch will really struggle grabbing takedowns. His mediocre striking will be his undoing. Alves will avoid takedowns and take Fitch apart on the feet. A bruised and bloodied Fitch will stare hopelessly down at the canvas as the judges give Alves the victory and his title aspirations.
Clay “The Carpenter” Guida Vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
Key Victories :
Guida (Nate Diaz, Mac Danzig, Josh Thomson, Marcus Aurelio)
Dos Anjos (Terry Etim, Rob Emerson)
Fans can expect fireworks when the Lightweights hit center stage. Guida and Dos Anjos are rarely involved in boring fights. On one side, you have the crazed, Ritalin-depraved Guida battling back to relevancy. On the other side, you have hungry, submission-savvy Dos Anjos looking to reel in the biggest win of his career.
Fighting out of Johnsburg, Illinois, Clay Guida trains at Jackson's MMA. His style is predominantly Wrestling. In the UFC, he has earned three “Fight of the Nights” and one “Submission of the Night”. Guida was the first ever Strikeforce Lightweight Champion after defeating Josh Thomson in March 2006. He inherited his nickname “The Carpenter” from his previous occupation.
After compiling a 20-6 record, Guida got an opportunity to fight in the UFC and started training full-time. At UFC On Versus 1, he submitted Shannon Gugerty via Arm Triangle in the second round.
Rafael Dos Anjos fights out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is a black belt in BJJ. Out of fourteen wins, seven have come by submission. Dos Anjos currently trains at Gracie Fusion. Along with BJJ, he has made strides in his Muay Thai thanks to the Sityodtong Team at Evolve MMA.
Dos Anjos is on a three fight win streak. At UFC 112, he demonstrated his dangerous ground game against budding UK superstar, Terry Etim. He transitioned from a Kimura and submitted Etim with an Armbar in the second round.
Keys to Victory :
For Clay Guida to win this fight, he’s going to have to calm down and be more methodical with his approach. What!? A calm and methodical Clay Guida? Is that even possible? I don’t really know. Guida’s hyperactive style has often landed him in trouble against stiffer, proven opposition. Dos Anjos is a game opponent with great submission skills. Guida has to control the fight and avoid getting careless.
Before shooting for takedowns, Guida should test the standup. I believe he has the better boxing of the two. Dos Anjos is an improved Muay Thai artist, but his hands remain relatively sloppy. Yes, the same could be said about Guida, but Dos Anjos tends to prioritize his standup with heavy leg kicks instead crisp punching combinations.
Guida has to check the kicks and get the better of the exchanges. If the standup fails, he has to shoot for takedowns and work from guard. Dos Anjos remains very active from bottom. Guida has to be careful in transitional scrambles.
Rafael Dos Anjos needs to be patient. Six of Guida’s eleven losses have come by submission. His overly aggressive style makes him susceptible to getting caught in dangerous positions. Dos Anjos should take his time and force Guida into making a mistake. He has to avoid a scrap fest.
Clay Guida keeps a pace few can hang with. Dos Anjos has to pace himself and mix things up with simple one-twos and takedowns. He should really load up on his overhand. Guida isn’t great at checking leg kicks. A simple kick feint could open Guida up to a massive overhand.
If taken down, Dos Anjos has to keep an active guard. Guida doesn’t mind lingering in full guard to work his ground and pound. Dos Anjos must remain vigilant of opportunities to initiate sweeps, submissions, or scrambles.
If this fight ends early, I see Dos Anjos winning by submission. If it goes the distance, Guida will be awarded the decision. I choose the latter. Guida and Dos Anjos will put on a “Fight of the Night” performance. The fight will play out close on the feet. Guida will get takedowns but struggle to land anything significant inside Dos Anjos’s guard. After surviving a memorable war and various submission attempts, Clay Guida will walk away with the split decision.
Matt Hughes Vs. Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida
Key Victories :
Hughes (Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, Frank Trigg, Hayato Sakurai, Carlos Newton, Chris Lytle, Joe Riggs, Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie)
Almeida (Nate Marquardt, Kazuo Misaki, Kendall Grove, Ikuhisa Minowa, Matt Brown, Ryo Chonan)
Matt Hughes needs one of those memory erasing devices from “Men in Black” to erase the catastrophe that occurred at UFC 112. He took on Renzo Gracie in a proposed “legend vs. legend” bout. Instead of two legends, it ended up looking like a fight between Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in “Grumpy Old Men”. MMA fans were saved 4:40 in the third round when Gracie finally passed out from heat exhaustion.
This fight represents a crossroad in the long, decorated career of Matt Hughes. After losing to GSP (twice) and Alves, Hughes’s place in the Welterweight division has become a question mark. Is he still a legitimate Welterweight contender?…or…Has Father Time completely caught up with the UFC Hall of Famer? The answer comes in the form of Renzo Gracie student, Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida.
Matt Hughes fights out of and was born in Hillsboro, Illinois. At Hillsboro High School, he won two Class A State Wrestling Championships. His wrestling success continued in college as a two-time NJCAA All-American and a two-time NCAA Division I All-American.
After leaving Team Miletich, Hughes started the H.I.T. Squad (Hughes Intensive Training). The gym features fighters like Robbie Lawler (co-owner) and “TUF” reality standouts, Jon Madsen and Tommy Speer. Hughes is a former two-time UFC Welterweight Champion and currently holds the record for most wins in the UFC.
Fighting out of Hamilton, New Jersey, Ricardo Almeida is a member of the Renzo Gracie Combat Team. His style consists of BJJ, Boxing, and Wrestling. He is a 3rd degree black belt under Renzo Gracie. At ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club), Almeida has placed top four on five occasions. He has placed first in two CBJJ Brazilian Championships and one CBJJ Pan American Championship.
This isn’t the first time Almeida and Hughes have met. Hughes defeated Almeida in 2000 at ADCC. At UFC 111, Almeida submitted Matt Brown in the second round by Rear Naked Choke.
Keys to Victory :
Hughes needs to get back to his wrestling. Almeida is great from his back, but wrestling isn’t just about getting a takedown. Hughes has to use his wrestling to shut down Almeida’s offense. He should use his striking to close the distance. Footwork will be important as it will be needed to cut Almeida’s angles off.
Hughes needs to press Almeida against the fence and rough him up with short strikes. From that position, he can opt to either keep striking or take the fight to the ground.
On the ground, he has to be careful in Almeida’s guard. If he can stay active from the clinch position, it may prove more effective for Hughes to keep pummeling Almeida from that position. On the feet, Hughes has to use more effective blocking. The “paddy cake” stance has to go. It leaves him completely open in exchanges.
Distance will be key for Almeida. He has to utilize good footwork in his movement in and out of range. Hughes will most likely seek the clinch to drag the fight to the ground. Almeida is the superior striker and should use his boxing to outpoint Hughes on the feet.
He can’t allow Hughes to trap him against the cage. When the distance closes, he needs to strike at angles and circle away. Almeida has to be scrappy in this fight. He needs to control the action and remain active from every position.
It’s time for a bold prediction. Hughes will be on the losing end of the exchanges. He will make it up on the cards with an occasional takedown and good clinch work. The fight will be fairly close heading into the third round.
A tired and beat up Hughes will attempt a telegraphed takedown. Almeida will defend and take Hughes’s back. The ref will step in as Hughes taps to a Rear Naked Choke. If I’m right, Nostradamus should move out of my parking spot. If I’m wrong, you can find me at the local bar drinking away my sorrows.
Junior Dos Santos Vs. Roy “Big Country” Nelson
Key Victories :
Dos Santos (Mirko Cro Cop, Fabricio Werdum, Gabriel Gonzaga, Gilbert Yvel, Stefan Struve)
Nelson (Stefan Struve, Brendan Schaub)
Junior Dos Santos is about to have the weight of the world on his shoulders…..literally. He will fight Roy Nelson in a bout with title implications. According to Dana White, the winner of this fight will be next in line to challenge either Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Junior Dos Santos fights out of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He trains at Team Black House with Anderson Silva, the Nogueira brothers, Lyoto Machida, and Paulo Filho. His style is Boxing, Kickboxing, and BJJ (brown belt). All but three of his victories have come by KO. At UFC On Versus 2, JDS stopped Gabriel Gonzaga in “Knockout of the Night” fashion.
Fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada, Roy Nelson’s style includes BJJ (black belt), Boxing, and Shaolin Kung Fu. Along with ADCC experience, he has a grappling victory over Frank Mir at a tournament in 2003 at Grappler’s Quest. He is the TUF Season 10 winner and a former three-time IFL (International Fight League) Champion. Out of fifteen wins, eight have come by knockout. Nelson has earned “Knockout of the Night” in his last two bouts.
Keys to Victory :
In this handicap match, JDS has to take Nelson’s belly out of the equation. He needs to keep a good base and effective sprawl to keep from ending up on his back. If there is one question mark surrounding JDS, it’s his ground game. Nelson will be looking to exploit any possible holes in his game.
JDS has to use good range and pick Nelson apart on the feet. He doesn’t want Nelson grabbing hold of him. During exchanges, JDS should watch out for the overhand. Nelson throws that thing like he’s pitching a fastball.
Roy Nelson has to realize and understand that JDS is not Brendan Schaub or Stefan Struve. JDS is arguably the best striker in the division. We’ve seen what happens to fighters when they get scrappy in the pocket with JDS. They tend to end up taking a dirt nap in the first round.
Nelson has to find a way to drag this fight to the ground. I’m not saying he couldn’t throw a hail mary and catch JDS. Why take the risk? JDS has a solid chin and heavy hands himself. With title implications on the line, Nelson has to fight a smart fight.
On the ground, Nelson has to demonstrate good top control. He can’t give JDS opportunities to scramble free after every takedown. Solid ground and pound and constant pressure from “belly control” should be enough to wear down the Black House protégé.
“Belly Control” won’t prove effective in this one. Nelson will overreach during a standup exchange in the first. JDS will immediately pinpoint the mistake and deliver a corrective counter. A wobbled Nelson will desperately reach for a takedown. The desperation will quickly come to an end as JDS finishes Nelson with a barrage of punches that’ll seal his date with Lesnar or Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight Title.
Anderson Silva By Round 2 Submission
Thiago Alves By Unanimous Decision
Clay Guida By Split Decision
Ricardo Almeida By Round 3 Submission
Junior Dos Santos By Round 1 TKO