I hate to keep doing this to my faithful BR readers, but yes, I'm making yet another writing comeback. Wait, you say I don't have any faithful readers? ... Oh. I see. Well, I'm doing it anyway. That was awkward.
UFC 117 is a fantastic card from top to bottom. It features a headliner that is sure to piss people off no matter what happens (love those), two compelling scraps with No. 1 contender status up for grabs, the token "Clayton Guida is overmatched, but he still has a chance because of too many Red Bulls" scrap, and the token "lets send Matt Hughes out on a high note ... oh wait, he might not win this? Screw it, we're doing it anyway" scrap.
In MMA, we act like we know exactly what's going to happen in any given fight. When something unexpected happens, we act far more surprised then we should.
For instance, when Takanori Gomi flattened Tyson Griffin on Sunday, I reacted like Gus Johnson after the Petruzelli-Kimbo fight (elation mixed with complete shock).
And really, I shouldn't have been that surprised. I mean, it's Takanori Gomi! I was supposed to be shocked that TAKANORI GOMI knocked someone out?
He's made a career of knocking guys senseless. It'd be like being stunned after hearing that Paulo Filho missed weight.
That being said, I enjoy writing previews. So just humor me.
Which UFC 117 fight are you most looking forward to?
Roy Nelson (15-4, 2-0 UFC) VS. Junior dos Santos (11-1, 5-0 UFC)
As much as I enjoy Roy Roy's work, I think that playing any sort of stand up game with Cigano would be ... unwise. So he's gotta take him down.
Unfortunately for Roy, when Gonzaga briefly got Cigano's back and dragged him to the canvas, Cigano reacted like the entire surface of the Octagon had the ebola virus rubbed all over it. And Gonzaga is much quicker than Roy.
Roy has to find a way to cut Cigano off and press him against the cage. If he can do that, he can execute his signature outside trip takedown, and from there, who knows.
Roy has excellent top control, but I have a hunch that Cigano will avoid the ground like the plague. Both have good hands, but Cigano's are better; he's a better counter puncher, he puts together better combos, and he most likely has more power.
This is sort of a tough one to call, but I definitely don't see it lasting the full 15 minutes. This is because I think Roy is going to gas far before that, and Cigano is gonna finish him off with horrifying punches. Roy will protest the stoppage.
Cigano by TKO, round 2.
Matt Hughes (44-7, 17-5 UFC) VS. Ricardo Almeida (12-3, 4-1 UFC)
Hughes is coming off a win over the spectre of Renzo Gracie, who happens to be Almeida's trainer. Thus we have the classic "student looks to avenge the master's loss" storyline.
It's a solid storyline, especially since it's going to come true. The common theme is that Almeida will sub Hughes within five minutes; however, Hughes has always been good at getting caught in triangles, waiting for his opponents' legs to tire out, then pretending he didn't tap (see Verissimo, Renato).
The UFC wants Hughes to ride gracefully off into the sunset, since he's been such a great company man over the years. To expect him to win this fight, though, is unrealistic at best and catastrophically moronic at worst.
Though I could see a sub from Almeida, I think he outstrikes Hughes for three rounds and controls the fight on the ground to score a unanimous-decision win.
Hughes will then fight Dennis Hallman (who has beaten him twice in a combined 37 seconds) and Almeida will fight someone a bit more relevant.
Almeida by unanimous decision.
Thiago Alves (16-6, 9-3 UFC) VS. Jon Fitch (22-3, 12-1 UFC)
Jon Fitch might have the most methodical style ever. He slowly takes you down, he slowly pats away at your body and head, he walks away with a unanimous decision win, and he goes home and has a cream soda. It's like putting your iPod on shuffle and ending up with the same song ten times in a row.
Bear in mind, I'm not being critical of Fitch. He isn't a very athletic guy, and he's an absolutely giant welterweight, so holding down his more athletic foes makes a ton of sense for him, and it's worked so far in his stellar UFC career.
He's running into a dynamo, though, in Thiago Alves. Alves brings a lot to the table; brutal leg kicks that are among the best in MMA; superb power in all limbs, with a solid sense of strategy; and the distinction of being one of approximately 2,197 MMA fighters nicknamed "Pitbull".
The only concern I have for Thiago is the long layoff. You saw how it affected Patrick Cote in the Belcher fight; Belcher totally overwhelmed Cote with kicks in the first round, but Cote found his rhythm with punches in the second before Belcher ragdolled him.
I see something similar happening here. Fitch will grind out a solid round before Thiago finds his range, connects with kicks, knees, and haymakers, and finally TKO's the brick wall that is Jon Fitch. Hey, it's gotta happen sometime to Jon. I think this is that time.
Alves by TKO, round 3.
Clayton Guida (26-11, 6-5 UFC) VS. Rafael dos Anjos (14-4, 3-2 UFC)
To me, Clayton Guida is the ultimate gatekeeper. He'll always whip up on the Shannon Gugerty's and Mac Danzig's of the world, but if he's fighting anyone who has even heard of the top ten, he will get destroyed in an "Ike vs. Tina" kind of way.
I'm not sure if this is the case here (him getting destroyed, I mean), but Raffy certainly has more ways to win than Guida does, the most notable one being "cranking on a limb or cutting off the blood flow to the brain."
Many Guida fans would point to the fact that he's been working for some time now with Greg Jackson, the "master" of game plans.
I put "master" in quotation marks because for every game-planning clinic that Rashad Evans puts on, there's Keith Jardine getting leveled by yet another left hook or Leonard Garcia throwing Tiger uppercuts like a drunken wino.
Secondly, how much can you really change a guy like Guida? I'd hate to see him re-enact the latter stage of Igor Vovchanchyn's career, where he got technically proficient to the point that he completely lost his identity as a fighter.
I like the Clay Guida that sucks, because he has more grit. If that makes sense.
Rafael dos Anjos has made a nice turnaround in his UFC tenure, most recently submitting a rising Terry Etim with a textbook armbar at UFC 112.
His striking is always improving, and his transitions on the ground are sublime. I don't know if he's ready for the top tier just yet, but he's definitely prepared to deal with the likes of Clayton Guida.
Guida will make a fight of it like always, pressing Raffy against the cage and taking him down at will. Around takedown 4 or 5, Raffy will grow impatient and slap on a fight-ending armbar.
dos Anjos by sub, round 2.
Anderson Silva (26-4, 11-0 UFC) VS. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1, 4-3 UFC)
Here's what I don't get about Chael Sonnen: his middle name is "Patrick." Now, if your first name was "Chael," and your middle name was "Patrick," which name would YOU go by? You picked Patrick, right? Please tell me you picked Patrick.
Anyway, you've gotta give Chael props for his consistent verbal assault on everything Anderson Silva. He's been as venomous as possible every time a microphone has been near him.
He's criticized Silva's anti-promotion tactics, insisted that he would "beat a hole in his face", said that Silva "hasn't fought anyone in the top ten" (um ... what?), said he was going to "retire him," and even claimed that Silva has "been ducking me for four years" (my personal favorite, since Chael's second UFC stint began in February 2009, and Anderson wasn't even in the UFC during his first one).
On the other side of the Octagon, Anderson Silva always seems to have something to prove, even though he's undefeated in 11 UFC fights. His last fight with Demian Maia was downright goofy. I don't know what Anderson was thinking that day, but I'd wager that he wasn't thinking about a highlight reel KO.
Does Anderson care about his legacy? At this point, it'd hard to make a case that he does.
Still, Sonnen will be in his face from the opening minute; he tends to strike from a close distance to set up tie-ups more easily. In other words, I think Sonnen will force Anderson to finish him.
Sonnen simply has no outs. The best case scenario for him would be to steal a boring round or two grinding away on top, ala Dan Henderson. But I don't see it.
To quote Bill Maher (which I may never do again) "Republicans are good at winning elections, but they can't govern."
This is Chael in a nutshell; he can "win an election" (talk his way into a title fight) but he can't "govern" (i.e. win said title fight). Plus, he's a failed Republican! Don't tell me that quote didn't work.
Sonnen will fail on several takedown attempts and get picked apart like a Christmas goose.
This will last about a round and a half before Anderson gets bored and defecates on him with strikes from everywhere, followed by his immediate retirement from mixed martial arts.
Silva by TKO, round 2.