February 27th is rapidly approaching as the end date for UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch, which is headlined by a welterweight contender battle between Jon Fitch and BJ Penn at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Topping what transpired in the MMA world over the last couple of weekends will be a lofty task, but there are plenty of exciting things surrounding UFC 127 to anticipate. This will mark the UFC’s second venture into the Land Down Under, following UFC 110, to the undeniable delight of Australian fight fans—some of the most energetic, frenzied spectators in the world.
UFC 127 sold out within moments of going public, making it the fastest selling event, along with UFC 115, in the promotion’s history. That happens to be an astonishing accomplishment considering the many Georges St-Pierre headlined events we’ve seen in Canada over the last couple of years.
Clearly when Aussies aren’t being one with nature—boxing with kangaroos, juggling scorpions and black widows, wrestling with alligators—they are eagerly awaiting live mixed martial arts action.
The stage has been set. All pieces are in place, leaving us with the familiar, but agonizing, task of waiting for the next two weeks to fly by so we can get our fix.
Let’s take a peek at a few early predictions we can count on happening once UFC 127 lands in the southern hemisphere February 27th.
Young British bruiser and Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson has a chance to regain his lost momentum in a preliminary bout against aging veteran Spencer Fisher.
UK fans will have the pleasure of watching this British Bulldog go mental on Fisher on ESPN UK; unfortunately the world's digital pirates will be forced to find alternative viewing methods since Spike TV will not be showing any prelim bouts from the event.
Pearson was riding high on his status as a young prospect at lightweight, until it all came to a crashing halt after being submitted by Cole Miller at UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Palhares back in September.
The tenacious striker and former bricklayer from Sunderland will find his way out of the desert after utilizing his superior striking against a less explosive fighter in Fisher. Keep those peepers peeled for an early TKO victory or a decisive decision victory for young Pearson.
Will the imperial ambassador from Great Britain be booed by the Aussies or embraced as a historic hometown hero?
"Fosters, Australian for beer!" Everybody is familiar with the in-your-face slogan from one of Australia's most famous exports—alongside Mad Max and talented blond actresses. If UFC 110 set any kind of precedent for future Aussie events, it was for the rest of the world to take notice of their fans’ rambunctious passion for a good time.
And what’s a good time without a little intoxication—a Bingo Hall "binger" or celebrating your 10th step? I’ll be the spokesperson for all my ambitious young readers: what a drag! The world as a whole can be mapped out based on the prevalence of alcohol in a society.
Everybody likes to cut lose a bit after a long day in the office or rice fields or jungle, depending how on a typical day is occupied in different areas of the planet, but some cultures take it to the next level.
Thanks to the World Health Organization, countries are ranked based on total consumption per capita on a yearly basis in order to find out which country gets the most crunk. Before you start killing cans of Budweiser in patriotic glory with your sexually confused “brothers” during pledge season, the United States limps in at No. 13 on this list—a sad statistic for all my binge drinking weekend warriors.
Where do the funny sounding Australian foreigners come in at: No. 5, respectively behind powerhouses like Germany and Ireland. Due to my overly fortified liver (thanks to hundreds of years of drinking and liver damage by my German ancestors), I can attest to my fellow Caucasian brothers’ ability to get rowdy for long periods of time.
The argument could be made that making a run at a title at 36 is a little late in the game for a fighter that has near 50 professional fights. If that ultimate goal has yet to be reached, maybe it never will be. Don’t tell that to Chris Lytle, a veteran company man, who has fought through the ringer in his exciting, yet mildly successful, seven-year UFC career.
For a fighter like Lytle, the time is now if he really wants to make a last ditch effort at the welterweight strap. Suffering a loss to newcomer Ebersole, would dry up future shots at contention status for the firefighter from Indiana.
Despite the losses, Lytle has made a healthy living in the octagon, garnering seven fight awards, second only to current middleweight champion and Steven Seagal protégé Anderson Silva. His total award money comes in at around $300K—not a bad chunk of change for a middle-of-the-pack fighter.
Lytle shouldn’t have too much to worry about with Ebersole; he possesses superior ground skills and difficult striking to get past. Be on the lookout for a patent Lytle submission later in the fight. Either way, Ebersole is the type of guy Lytle can put away in impressive fashion.
If there’s one thing that never fails to depress fans watching Michael Bisping fight, it’s that cringing moment when the Brit is retreating, back against the cage, rolling to his opponent’s power hand. This riddle rarely ends well for “The Count,” who has suffered a gruesome knockout and some wobbly moments against Wanderlei Silva that could have normally been avoided.
The most memorable example went down at UFC 100 against heavy-handed Dan Henderson, who delivered a vicious overhand right that sent Bisping’s head into the stratosphere. Unfortunately for Bisping, his little folly imprinted itself on such a historical card and also became an instant photoshop sensation.
This rudimentary mistake baffles most fans and pundits, alike, since Bisping has evolved to a highly competitive level since his days on The Ultimate Fighter while acquiring an impressive record of experience within the octagon.
Come to think of it, the reason is right in front of our faces. Most British fighters have done a formidable job overcoming such a habit, native to their land, but not Bisping. Growing up in a country that decided to drive on the wrong side of road did no favors for Bisping the fighter, who is constantly rolling away from the power in the wrong direction.
UFC 127 will be no different, especially since “The Count” will feel so at home in Australia with the amateur British accents and all the loos filled with toilets that flush counter-clockwise. Fear not countless Bisping fans, your hero might resort to rolling into Rivera’s power, but his speed and technique will be too much for his older opponent to handle.
Look for a decisive decision victory for the Manchester native.
Australia’s native son, George Sotiropoulos, may no longer reside in the largest island in the world, but due to his breakout success in the UFC, he is certainly the face of MMA in Australia. The lightweight contender got married in New York City and currently lives in Washington, thousands of miles of away from his birthplace—a far cry from reppin’ your hood.
Regardless of locale, Sotiropoulos remains the most popular Aussie to ever grace the eight-sided cage. Maybe he wins this “esteemed” title by default due to the lack of high profile Australian competitors; when he comes out and begins his journey to the Octagon on February 27th, the crowd will erupt in collective madness. The Acer Arena will be pulsating with cheers for the hometown superstar.
To top the madness off, Sotiropoulos’ win over German opponent Denis Siver should propel the Aussie into the heart of a fight-loving nation. So long as “Sots” avoids rushing into Siver’s power, he’ll have numerous advantages throughout the fight: speed, technique, elite ground and endless cardio.
The title of this slide will be the first question uttered immediately after the event concludes as Dana White takes the podium. This type of press persistence is a typical play for reporters from the countries that the UFC only visits once or twice a year.
Rest assured, as soon as Dana and the banged up warriors enter the post-fight presser area, somebody will let that question rip. Many journalists use this common strategy to insure that their turf is in the mind of a promoter, even if he's still presently on their side of customs.
Despite the lack of star material hailing from down under, Australia is poised to become a UFC stronghold, a country eager to accommodate the UFC’s wishes. Smart money (kangaroo bucks) says after UFC 127, Australia will become a more frequent stop for the UFC in the following years to come.
The perennial No. 2 welterweight in the world is known for not only possessing some of the meanest wrestling in MMA, but also for reflecting a strange facial resemblance to The Muppets character Animal. Apparently, the Animal look is popular amongst HBO leading men as well.
Personally, I’m a big fan of guys sporting the rustic beard look for fights, a trend that combats the conventional all shaven, put together look a lot of fighters prefer. As small of a community as they are, it’s always refreshing to see a fighter walk to the ring looking like a lumberjack or a badass version of the guy selling Street Wise in front of my Starbucks or a hardcore Zach Galifianakis fan.
When Fitch grows out the beard, he becomes a manlier version of himself, striding to the Octagon, opening and closing his mouth like he has a nervous tick—hence the Animal reference. Look at the difference between the GSP fight and the Alves fight: no beard and then beard.
He'll be nice and bearded up for the Penn fight; that's all I'm saying.
How many more contender fights can Jon Fitch win before he earns his second crack at the title? He’s coming off a decisive victory over Thiago Alves in what was coined as a contender bout, winner getting Georges St-Pierre, again. Unfortunately for Fitch, luck was a former Strikeforce title holder named Jake Shields that night and he lost his spot in line.
Being on a five-fight win streak, losing only to the welterweight champ two years ago, just doesn't cut it for the UFC brass over beating Dan Henderson. At the very least, Dana White and Joe Silva proposed an interesting way to pass the time until the next title shot by offering Fitch a fight with BJ Penn, a legend and former champion.
The most dangerous aspect to constantly proving yourself as the perennial No. 2 in a division, is being one hard fight—with a top-flight guy—away from being pushed further away from what was rightfully deserved in the first place.
That lingering reality follows Fitch into his fight with Penn at UFC 127. If Fitch losses, he gets bumped down the ladder despite having already earned a shot at the title by beating Alves.
But, the announcement was made stating that the winner between Fitch vs. Penn would go on to fight the winner of Shields vs. St-Pierre as the No. 1 contender. There are some lopsided risk and reward imbalances coming into play for each fighter. This is a great opportunity for Penn to get fast tracked to the belt, but a terrible risk for Fitch—especially considering how much more work he’s put into the welterweight division, climbing back to contention after being defeated by GSP.
Due to timing and assuming Fitch does win, will he be faced with yet another contender fight if a superfight between Anderson Silva and GSP is made this year?
BJ Penn is a perfect example of how crucial mental strength is for a highly competitive fighter in mixed martial arts. Mental fortitude, whether it’s motivational or psychological, has always been a hindrance for Penn throughout his legendary career.
At any stage of his career, fans have witnessed Penn battling these demons, his embodied Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde complex. It is anybody’s guess as to who shows up on fight night between Penn’s two alter egos. When Baby J shows up to the Octagon, we’ve seen a sluggish and tired Penn, but when BJ speed walks to the cage with a fiery rage in his eyes, magical stuff happens.
It wasn't too long ago that we saw "BJ" fight. The stars aligned perfectly during his recent bout with Hughes and everybody got to see the inner destroyer Penn has the potential to be, knocking out the former champ within minutes of the first round. If Penn hasn’t eradicated his ghost of lightweight past and shows up to fight Fitch like he did Edgar, BJ fans better just wait for the DVD.
It’s no secret what key elements will come into play with a bout between fighters like Jon Fitch and BJ Penn: takedowns. Fitch is infamous for his ability to take guys down and keep them down with his dominant wrestling. From that top position, Fitch makes his opponents weak, frustrated and deficient in points on all the score cards.
On the other hand, Penn is equally notorious for his takedown defense, traditionally being one of the hardest guys in MMA to bring down to the mat. His knack for staying on his feet, occasionally balancing on one leg with his back to the cage, is a special rarity in this game.
Lately though, two fighters exposed a few rusty spots in Penn’s armor, pinning him to the mat and nullifying any potential submission offense in both fights. Those two opponents were Georges St-Pierre and Frankie Edgar, both current champions of their respective divisions.
Jon Fitch is another elite wrestler with great all-around skills in every discipline, a close replica of the same winning formula used to beat Penn, who has struggled with top wrestlers in the last couple of years.
At some point in the fight, Fitch will impose his strengths and take Penn down, where he’ll have no problem controlling the smaller framed Hawaiian. Fitch is just too tenacious and resilient not to capitalize on Penn’s weaknesses, especially if he comes under prepared.
The only advantage that can be given to Penn is his boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he has failed to use the latter off his back after having a bigger, stronger wrestler on top. Even with the boxing edge, it will take a lot of unanswered punches to crack Fitch’s iron chin enough to beat him.
Stylistically, this fight is a nightmare—not the good Diego kind either—for the kid from Hilo. We’ve seen it before; it’ll be another day at the office for the blue-collar grind extraordinaire and still No. 2 welterweight contender, Jon Fitch.