Live from the Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, the Ultimate Fighting Championship brings a major night of free fights to SpikeTV on Saturday.
The main event features a clash between top middleweights to determine the next No.1 contender for the Middleweight Title. The rest of the card is littered with a bunch of fun scraps that should serve as appetizers before UFC 123 next Saturday.
I encourage you to read my breakdowns to see why I made the predictions that I did. At the end of the breakdowns, I will have my official picks listed. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the fights!
Key Victories :
Marquardt (Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann, Jeremy Horn, Wilson, Gouveia, Rousimar Palhares, Dean Lister, Joe Doerksen, Ivan Salaverry, Kazuo Misaki)
Okami (Mark Munoz, Evan Tanner, Dean Lister, Jason MacDonald, Mike Swick, Alan Belcher)
The battle for middleweight supremacy continues in this No.1 contenders bout. Vitor Belfort was originally penciled in for this fight, but he was promoted to a 2011 title fight with Anderson Silva after Chael Sonnen tested positive for PEDs.
After being dominated by Sonnen in February, Nate Marquardt quickly finds himself back in the hunt. In a twisted way, Sonnen's failure has brought holiday bliss to Marquardt and Belfort. We'll see if Marquardt can capitalize on this golden opportunity when he takes on Top 10 contender Yushin Okami.
Fighting out of Denver, Colorado, Marquardt trains at Jackson's MMA, High Altitude Martial Arts, and Grudge Training Center. He is a second degree black belt in BJJ. In 30 wins, 15 have come by submission. Along with BJJ, his style consists of boxing, kickboxing, and gaidojutsu.
Before the start of his UFC tenure, Marquardt was noted for being a three-time Pancrase Middleweight Champion. He notched up a first round TKO stoppage over Rousimar Palhares at UFC Fight Night 22.
Okami was born in Kanagawa, Japan. He trains out of Team Wajyutsu Keisyukai, but recently he has been working with Chael Sonnen and Team Quest. In the UFC Okami has racked up an impressive record of 9-2 with his only losses coming to Sonnen and former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin.
At UFC on Versus 2, Okami took a split decision victory over Mark Munoz.
Keys to Victory
At UFC 109, Sonnen was persistent with his wrestling and painted the mat with Marquardt's back sweat for three rounds. Marquardt has to stay active in all areas because Okami can present some of the same technical problems.
On his feet, Marquardt should have the slight advantage. The strides Okami has made in improving his striking shouldn't go unnoticed. He will be a formidable threat on the feet. Marquardt needs to best the exchanges and be prepared to defend the takedown when Okami changes levels.
He'll have to be careful in his pursuit of Okami in the standup. Okami is a great counter-fighter, and he'll be looking to take advantage if Marquardt gets overly aggressive.
If taken down, Marquardt needs to stay active from bottom. Okami has strong top control and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. It will take constant vigilance and scrappy scrambles to escape "Thunder's" top game.
If he doesn't want to get Donkey Kong'd on, Okami can't overstay his welcome on the feet. Marquardt packs a lot of power to go along with good technical boxing chops.
Okami needs to push the action and work for takedowns. Against Sonnen, Marquardt had no answer for the constant pressure and multiple takedowns. Okami should be able to implement a similar strategy. On the ground, he should prioritize control over passing. Marquardt's frustrations tend to lead to idleness when trapped underneath a domineering grappler.
If you're a gambling man, Okami may be a nice pick up as an underdog. Styles make fights, and Okami certainly has the tools to pull off the upset.
With that said, fans can expect a slow and technical chess match in this one. Okami will try to force Marquardt's hand by staying patient on the outside, but the lessons learned in Marquardt's loss to Sonnen will carry over. Look for Marquardt to take his time on the feet and edge out the exchanges.
Okami will struggle to find his range as he opts to stand and trade instead of mixing up his offense. The inability to keep Marquardt guessing will hurt Okami in snagging the few takedowns he does pursue—stuffed like a turkey—Marquardt takes this fight by unanimous decision.
Key Victories :
Sakara (Thales Leites, James Irvin, Elvis Sinosic)
Rivera (Kendall Grove, Nate Quarry, Travis Lutter, David Loiseau)
In the co-main event, Alessio Sakara faces Jorge Rivera in a bout that will likely deliver some brief fireworks.
It's not that both guys are complacent in mediocrity, but it's amazing that these longtime veterans are relatively unknown to the majority of fans. This is a great opportunity for one of these fighters to reinvent himself in the public eye and cut ties with past inconsistencies.
Born in Rome, Italy, Sakara is a brown belt in BJJ. He trains at American Top Team and boasts a professional boxing record of 8-1. His training partners include Thiago Alves, Thiago Silva, Mike Brown and Jorge Santiago.
The majority of Sakara's victories have come by KO (9). At UFC on Versus, he took a first round TKO stoppage over James Irvin.
Fighting out of Milford, Massachusetts, Rivera trains at Team Sityodtong with Stephan Bonnar and Marcus Davis. His style consists of Muay Thai and BJJ. Out of 18 victories, 12 have come by KO. Rivera is currently on a three fight win streak, with his most recent victory coming by TKO stoppage over Nate Quarry at UFC Fight Night 21.
Keys to Victory
Despite his technical boxing prowess, Sakara's sloppy defense has landed him on the receiving end of one-sided beatdowns in the past. Rivera may not have the same boxing efficiency, but he packs more than enough power to waste "Legionarius" if given the opportunity.
Sakara needs to keep his hands up and work his offense from the outside. He was solid against Irvin in moving in and out of range while utilizing body shots and one-twos. His approach in this fight should be similar. Rivera is a better boxer than Irvin, and he'll also present style problems for Sakara in the clinch.
Sakara has to angle his offense and use good footwork to keep Rivera from closing the distance.
Rivera can't allow this fight to become a Boxing match. He needs to use all his standup tools in a balanced attack. In past fights, Sakara has shown a vulnerability to knees. Rivera needs to use his boxing to close the distance setup clinch work.
Timing and patience will be key for Rivera. Sakara tends to let his hands drop throughout a fight. Rivera needs to be aware of these opportunities and look to take advantage. Despite carrying a professional Boxing record, Sakara isn't a stranger on the ground. Rivera needs to be prepared in all areas because Sakara will likely revert to grappling mode if he's losing the exchanges.
On the feet, Rivera can control the range of the fight with leg kicks. Instead of checking kicks and moving forward, Sakara usually avoids them by jumping completely out of range. Rivera can use this to his advantage if he needs to create separation.
It would be quite the surprise if this one goes the distance. Sakara will string together vicious combinations and pick "El Conquistador" apart in the exchanges. It will only be a matter of time before "Legionarius" lands that fight-ending shot that garners him a spot on the next Ultimate Knockouts DVD and a hefty Knockout of the Night bonus.
Key Victories :
Winner (Rafaello Oliveira, Rolando Delgado)
Siver (Spencer Fisher, Paul Kelly)
There was quite a bit of complaining coming out of Andre Winner's camp about wrestling and stalling following his UFC 118 decision loss to Nik Lentz.
On Saturday night, Winner won't have to worry about his suspect take-down defense when he takes on tough kickboxer Dennis Siver.
Fighting out of Leicester, England, Winner trains at Team Rough House with Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Ross Pearson. Most people remember him from The Ultimate Fighter Season 9: The United States vs. United Kingdom, where he was defeated in the finals by Ross Pearson.
Since the show, Winner has compiled an even 2-2 record in the UFC. The majority of his wins and losses have come by decision.
Dennis Siver fights out of Mannheim, Germany. His style includes kickboxing, sambo, and BJJ (purple belt). Despite a knack for engaging opponents on the feet, the majority of Siver's wins have come by submission. He recently rebounded from his loss to Ross Pearson at the TUF 11 Finale with a unanimous decision upset over Spencer Fisher.
Keys to Victory
Winner needs to take Siver out of his comfort zone by being aggressive. Siver tends to struggle when forced to fight off his heels. The primary concern for Winner heading into this bout will be Siver's unorthodox kicks. If allowed space and time, Siver's striking offense can be devastating on the outside.
Winner can take Siver's kicks away by closing the distance and working his clinch game. He should use the clinch to pummel Siver with knees and short punches. It's going to take a workmanlike effort for Winner to win this bout. Siver is as tough and durable as they come.
While Winner should try to close the distance, Siver has to keep the exchanges in the open. He needs to use his kicks to frustrate Winner and setup the rest of his offense. Range will be the key for victory. Winner will likely seek the clinch, but Siver can avoid this by moving straight back and using good lateral movement when the pocket closes.
In the exchanges, Siver needs to keep Winner guessing with kicks, punches, and feints. Winner isn't nearly as technical, but he packs a devastating overhand right. Even with a stellar chin, one well-placed shot could have Siver getting scraped off the mat CSI style.
This fight will look similar to the Winner-Pearson fight. Winner will work to close the distance, but his clinch game will get nullified by Siver's tough defense. Siver will land the cleaner shots in the open and edge out all three rounds for the unanimous decision.
Key Victories :
Sobotta (Kerim Abzailow)
Sadollah (Phil Baroni, Brad Blackburn, C.B. Dollaway)
Wondering who Kerim Abzailow is? Yea, me too. Peter Sobotta hasn't won a fight in over two years, and Mr. Abzailow was the last guy he defeated.
It looks like the hype train is continuing its push of Amir Sadollah. We'll see if the train continues to chug along, or if it crashes embarrassingly on Saturday night.
Fighting out of Balingen, Germany, Sobotta is a kickboxer and submission wrestler. He teaches and trains at Planet Eater MMA.
In the UFC, Sobotta's record stands at 0-2, with both losses coming to James Wilks and Paul Taylor. A military commitment could be one of the primary reasons Sobotta has struggled on the big stage.
In over two years, he has only fought three times.
Sadollah fights out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He trains at Throwdown Training Center and Xtreme Couture. The linked camps include guys like Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard and Evan Dunham. Sadollah is a black belt in sambo and a purple belt in BJJ, but he relies heavily on his improving Muay Thai.
In June 2008, Sadollah defeated C.B. Dollaway to become the Season 7 winner of The Ultimate Fighter. Since the show, he has compiled a 3-2 record in the UFC. At UFC 114, he lost a lopsided decision to Dong Hyun Kim.
Keys to Victory
The last thing Sobotta needs is for this bout to turn into a stand-up war. He doesn't have the striking acumen or cardio to slug it out with Sadollah for three full rounds. The ground will be his best option, but he'll have to be persistent in his efforts to get the fight there.
Sadollah is a guts and glory fighter. He will continue to push the fight no matter what you throw at him.
Sobotta has to get takedowns and grind out the feisty Xtreme Couture student. This isn't the most exciting of game plans, but it's the most likely scenario for victory. Sadollah isn't an easy guy to finish. Top control will be key. As long as Sobotta stifles Sadollah's scrambles, he won't have to wear himself out chasing for takedowns.
Sadollah has to show better takedown defense if he ever wishes to climb the Welterweight hierarchy. It would be quite surprising if the takedown clinic put on him by Kim didn't ignite some sense of urgency. While Sobotta isn't as skilled as Kim, he will present some of the same technical hurdles.
Sadollah needs to avoid the takedowns and out-point Sobotta on the feet. He'll have to be careful throwing kicks. A sluggish kick could mean an easy take-down for Sobotta. If taken down, Sadollah needs to be more active in searching for openings to scramble. He doesn't want to become fixated on securing hopeless submissions if he's behind in the scorecards.
This is far from a give-me fight. Sobotta poses some serious stylistic problems for Sadollah. Still, Sadollah should definitely be the favorite in this fight. Sobotta will work hard for take-downs and control the fight early, but he'll begin to tire as rounds go by and the action heats up. A late surge from Sadollah will stop Sobotta cold in the third round by TKO.
Key Victories :
Soszynski (Stephan Bonnar, Brian Stann)
Reljic (Wilson Gouveia)
In the main card opener, Krzysztof Soszynski looks to rebound from his cardio meltdown at UFC 116 when he takes on Goran Reljic.
Fighting out of Temecula, California, Soszynski is a member of Team Quest. His teammates include Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Matt Lindland. A wrestler, boxer, and BJJ artist, Soszynski has finished the majority of his fights by submission (10). He is 1-2 in his last three bouts with both losses coming to Stephan Bonnar and Brandon Vera.
Reljic fights out of Zagreb, Croatia. His style consists of BJJ (brown belt) and kickboxing. He has trained under Pride 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix Champion Mirko "Cro Cop", and he currently trains with the Gracie Barra camp in the UK. Since his middleweight debut in February, Reljic has dropped back to back losses to Kendall Grove and C.B. Dollaway.
This bout against Soszynski will mark his return to the light heavyweight division, where he has never lost a fight.
Keys to Victory
Against Bonnar, "The Polish Experiment" didn't prove successful after blowing his wad in two gut-wrenching rounds of action. For the sake of this fight and future ones, Soszynski needs to stop swinging haymakers like a knockout is his only chance for victory.
He needs to pace himself and conserve energy by using lighter strikes to set the heavier ones up. There will be chances to unload against Reljic, who is quite fond of throwing kicks. A well-timed straight would remedy any leg or body kicks thrown by the Croatian.
Despite being an underrated kickboxer, take-downs are also a factor when dealing with Reljic. Soszynski has to avoid the take-downs and outwork Reljic on the feet. Patience will be the key. If Soszynski is overly aggressive, he could find himself fighting the majority of this bout from his back.
With Soszynski being such a physical specimen, Reljic has to rely on footwork and octagon awareness. He is unlikely to sustain the heavy volume of strikes that Bonnar did. When Soszynski charges, Reljic needs to circle off to keep from getting bullied against the cage.
In the open, he can slow Soszynski's advancements with leg kicks. With Soszynski's tendency to load up on every punch thrown, Reljic will have to utilize good head movement and non-sluggish counters. A telegraphed strike against a fresh Soszynski isn't likely to end well for the Gracie student.
Reljic needs to mix things up with strikes and take-down attempts to wear Soszynski down. Soszynski's cardio has nosedived on him in the past.
Reljic will take his time and use kicks to wear Soszynski down on the feet. This strategy will test Soszynski's patience as he tries to force the action, but Reljic will counter that aggression with successful take-downs. A well-executed plan and varied attack will net Reljic the unanimous decision.
Nate Marquardt By Unanimous Decision
Alessio Sakara By Round 1 KO
Dennis Siver By Unanimous Decision
Amir Sadollah By Round 3 TKO
Goran Reljic By Unanimous Decision