UFC 135: Insights, Analysis and Predictions of the Entire Card
UFC 135 comes to you live from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, on September 24.
In main event action, current UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon "Bones" Jones will defend his title for the first time against former champion, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
If the main event bout does not excite you, then a clash between welterweight hall-of-famer Matt Hughes and former No. 1 contender Josh Koscheck should send electricity through your veins.
Further action includes a heavyweight slug-fest between Travis Browne and the Brit, Rob Broughton.
Additionally, Nate Diaz will look to regain momentum in the lightweight division as he challenges the veteran, Takanori Gomi.
Rounding out the main card action will be an additional heavyweight match up between Ben Rothwell and the kick-boxing giant from New Zealand, Mark Hunt.
Please follow along as I dissect and predict the winners for the entire night's card.
Enjoy the fights.
I welcome your comments.
Facebook Fight No. 1: James Te-Huna vs. Ricardo Romero
UFC 135 will begin on Facebook with a light heavyweight bout between James Te-Huna and Ricardo Romero.
A solid kick-boxer from New Zealand, Te-Huna possesses eight knockout victories in 12 total wins inside the cage.
1-1 in the UFC, Te-Huna will be looking to add Romero to his list of KO'd opponents on his fight resume.
Also 1-1 under the UFC banner, Romero will need to utilize his full offensive arsenal against the hard-hitting New Zealander.
Athletic and with excellent ground-and-pound, Te-Huna will try to take this fight to the ground and finish Romero with strikes.
A slick jiu-jitsu practitioner, Romero has the edge in the ground game and should be able to capitalize on Te-Huna's lack of skills on the mat.
I do not see this fight going the distance. If Romero competes off of his back, he will secure a tapout victory. However, Te-Huna's power in the stand-up can finish Romero on their feet.
In the end, Romero will ultimately secure a submission win.
Winner: Ricardo Romero via Round 2 arm bar
Facebook Fight No. 2: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Cole Escovedo
Bantamweight action between Takeya "The Intelligent Sniper" Mizugaki and Cole "The Apache Kid" Escovedo will be sure to entertain the Denver fans.
Both competitors have faced top-tier talent in the past. Mizugaki has battled Miguel Torres, Scott Jorgenson, Rani Yahya and Urijah Faber. Whereas, Escovedo has challenged Jens Pulver, Renan Barao, Michael McDonald and the aforementioned Faber.
Mizugaki is a gamer. Not one to tap from a choke hold, "The Intelligent Sniper" will battle for all three rounds working diligently to secure a victory.
Similarly, Escovedo is known for his heart and determination inside the Octagon. This former WEC bantamweight champion was forced into semi-retirement from an staph infection that left him partially paralyzed.
Battling back, "The Apache Kid" has re-claimed his former championship prowess inside the Octagon.
A very challenging matchup to determine a victor, I am going to provide Mizugaki with a slight advantage because of his ability to take fights into the later rounds and battle for the entire 15 minutes.
Winner: Takeya Mizugaki via unanimous decision victory
Facebook Fight No. 3: Junior Assuncao vs. Eddie Yagin
Concluding the Facebook matchups will be a lightweight duel between Junior Assuncao and Eddie "The Filipino Phenom" Yagin.
With an overall MMA record of 12-4, Assuncao makes his return to the UFC after a four-year hiatus. With a 1-2 record prior in the famed Octagon, Assuncao is currently on a six-fight winning streak.
Conversely, Yagin will be making his UFC debut this Saturday in Denver.
15-4-1 in his 20 professional fights, Yagin has shown a balanced skill-set inside the cage equating to five knockout, five submission and five decision victories.
Stylistically, it is an interesting lightweight bout. Assuncao's black belt in BJJ should provide him the defense needed against "The Filipino Phenom," who has enjoyed four submission wins by guillotine choke.
Assuncao will look to keep this fight standing where he can battle Yagin on their feet. A solid stand-up pedigree will award Assuncao the opportunity to pick apart "The Filipino Phenom" in the stand-up exchanges.
With only two (T)KO losses, I do not foresee Assuncao knocking out Yagin. However, the Brazilian will secure a decision victory because of his relentless pace in the stand-up exchanges.
Winner: Junior Assuncao via unanimous decision victory
Spike TV Fight No. 1: Nick Ring vs. Tim Boetsch
Action on Spike TV begins with a middleweight bout between Nick "The Promise" Ring and Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch.
Besides having potentially the worse nickname in MMA, Ring is a very solid all-around competitor inside the Octagon.
Training out of Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald, Ring has amassed a very impressive, undefeated 12-0 MMA record.
Possessing solid stand-up skills and a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Ring can defeat his opponents standing or on the ground.
Looking to revive his career in the middleweight division, Boetsch is following up his impressive defeat of Kendall Grove at UFC 130 with this clash with Ring.
A versatile fighter, Boetsch has secured six knockout victories and five submission wins during his career.
Both Ring and Boetsch have equally talented stand-up skills. The more dynamic wrestler, "The Barbarian" will have the advantage in the take-down department. However, Ring possesses an advantage in the jiu-jitsu game.
Similar in skill-sets, this fight will be a back-and-forth affair with Ring earning a slight advantage in the striking as well as the submission attempts.
In the end, the overall abilities of the Canadian will out-duel that of Boetsch awarding Ring a decision victory.
Winner: Nick Ring via unanimous decision victory
Spike TV Fight No. 2: Tony Ferguson vs. Aaron Riley
A lightweight bout between Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson and Aaron Riley concludes the evening's action on Spike TV.
Ferguson, winner of season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, is a high-level boxer with seven career knockouts to his credit.
Defeating his previous four opponents by (T)KO, Ferguson is known for his fast hands and devastating power.
Possessing a contrast in styles, Riley is submission specialist with 14 career victories by tapout.
Training out of Jackson's Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Riley has excelled in match ups with those competitors who lack an advantage in the stand-up game.
However, like in this bout with Ferguson in which his opposition can push the tempo with strikes, Riley has lost six of his 12 defeats by KO.
Susceptible to the knockout, Ferguson will implement his game plan with that result in mind. Pressuring Riley with his boxing prowess, "El Cucuy" should be able to expose Riley's weaknesses in the stand-up striking and secure a (T)KO victory.
A very experienced and knowledgeable competitor, Riley will provide moments of brilliance on the ground. However, his inability to stand and trade in the center of the Octagon with the hard-hitting Ferguson will ultimately be his downfall.
Winner: Tony Ferguson via Round 2 (T)KO
Main Card Fight No. 1: Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt
Main card action begins with a heavyweight duel between Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt.
With a 31-7 overall record as a professional, Rothwell has amassed 18 knockout and 10 submission victories in his 31 total wins inside the cage.
Hunt, a former kick-boxing stand-out with an iron chin, has had minimal success as a mixed martial artist.
With a 6-7 record during his career in MMA, Hunt can stand and trade with just about any practitioner. However, Hunt's excellence on his feet is thwarted by the liability he has on the ground. In short, Hunt has absolutely no ground game.
With six of his defeats in MMA by the way of submission, Hunt is a liability on the ground and Rothwell would be best advised to take Hunt down and secure a submission win.
Assuming that Rothwell can limit the damage that Hunt delivers on their feet, this fight should end quickly for Rothwell as he locks up a submission and Hunt's lack of jiu-jitsu is once again his Achilles heel.
Winner: Ben Rothwell via Round 1 arm-bar
Main Card Fight No. 2: Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
Light weight action continues with a desperation fight between Nate Diaz and "The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi.
I state desperation because the loser of this matchup will most likely receive their walking papers from UFC President, Dana White.
Both competitors were highly-touted talents when they burst onto the UFC scene. Diaz, a former Ultimate Fighter series winner, has not lived up to expectations, securing an 8-4 record within the UFC.
Normally, an 8-4 UFC record would equal promise in the sport's biggest promotion. However, Diaz's four losses have all been at the hands of the top-tier talent, including Clay Guida, Gray Maynard, Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald.
Acquiring the reputation of not being able to defeat the greatest of opposition, Diaz needs a victory over Gomi to ensure his longevity within the UFC.
Like Diaz, Gomi entered the Octagon with tremendous acclaim.
Competing worldwide, "The Fireball Kid" acquired an excellent reputation for being a gifted boxer with an excellent chin.
With a 1-2 record under the UFC banner with both defeats by tapout, Gomi's weakness to submissions exposed a liability in his skill-set.
Because of Diaz's pompous, self-centered attitude, I am sure that he will want to stand and trade in the center of the Octagon with an extremely talented and gifted boxer in Gomi.
If Diaz is capable of removing his ego from the equation, his talents in jiu-jitsu will overcome "The Fireball Kid" and Diaz will be back on the right path.
However, if Gomi can lure Diaz into a boxing match, the Japanese star will surely outpoint the Stockton native and look to defeat the former TUF champion with a knockout.
In the end, Diaz's arrogance and over-confidence in his stand-up skills should be his downfall. However, the overall skill-set of Diaz will overwhelm Gomi and the Stockton native will secure a decision victory over "The Fireball Kid."
Winner: Nate Diaz via unanimous decision victory
Main Card Fight No. 3: Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton
As the legendary Jim Ross from WWE would proclaim, this heavyweight matchup has all of the making of a "slobber knocker!"
Travis "Hapa" Browne is undefeated in mixed martial arts with an impressive 11-0-1 overall record, 2-0-1 in the UFC.
A tremendously gifted athlete at nearly 250 pounds, "Hapa" unloaded a superman punch on Stefan Struve which sent the "Skyscraper" careening to the ground at UFC 130, earning Knockout of the Night honors.
Possessing the skill-set necessary to break the top 10 of the heavyweight division, a win for Browne over Broughton should place this Hawaiian native in elite company.
The lesser-known Broughton crosses "the pond" for his second UFC matchup this Saturday in Denver.
The hard-nosed Brit is a battle-tested and experienced practitioner with an overall record of 15-5-1.
Considering that both big men like to stand and bang, I do not see this match up going the distance. Wanting to add another knockout victory to his undefeated record, Browne will employ the same tactics that have awarded him such success as a fighter: I will knock you out before you knock me out.
Similarly, Broughton will be looking to make a name for himself with an upset victory over "Hapa." Relying on his boxing prowess and solid chin, the Brit will surely be more than happy to engage with Browne in the center of the Octagon.
Both men want a KO victory and the bonus that comes with that illustrious honor. Browne's skills on his feet are slightly greater than that of Broughton.
When this bout is complete, Browne's hand will be raised in victory and he will finally crack the top 10 of the UFC heavyweight division.
Winner: Travis Browne via Round 1 KO
Main Card Fight No. 4: Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck
Originally slated to compete against Diego Sanchez, the hall-of-fame welterweight competitor Matt Hughes will now face Josh Koscheck.
Hughes, coming off of a 0:21 second knockout defeat at the right hand of BJ Penn at UFC 123, will be looking to potentially finish his career with a solid victory over a high-level competitor like Koscheck.
Conversely, Koscheck has been sidelined since his match up with Georges St-Pierre in 2010, providing time for his orbital bone to heal.
Unlike Hughes, whose career is in its final stages, Koscheck will want to utilize a victory over the hall-of-famer to propel himself back into contention talk for the welterweight title.
On paper Koscheck has the advantage over an aging Hughes. However, pride is a tremendous motivator. And Hughes did not reach his level of success and stardom inside the Octagon on talent alone. Hughes is driven by his pride and his willingness to work hard to be the best.
Both fighters are virtually mirror images of one another. Both are solid on their feet. Hughes and Koscheck have tremendous wrestling pedigrees. And both competitors have complimented their skill-sets with an above average jiu-jitsu game.
The variable in this matchup is the enormous pride that Hughes possesses. This hall-of-fame fighter has been contemplating retirement for some time now. And I can guarantee that with the body of work Hughes possesses, he will not go out with a loss.
In the end, this back and forth matchup will come down to Octagon control this Saturday. Hughes's strength, power, determination and pride will ultimately secure a decision victory.
Winner: Matt Hughes via split-decision victory
Main Card Fight No. 5: Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson
Main event action at the Pepsi Center features a light heavyweight matchup between the current champion, Jon "Bones" Jones and the former title holder and Pride middleweight champion, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
After weeks of trash talking by both Jones and Jackson, a "spygate" scandal that rivals that of the New England Patriots, and an unleashing of euphemisms via Twitter, both fighters will enter the Octagon this Saturday with more than a professional score to settle.
Clearly more athletic, Jones's talents inside the Octagon are unrivaled within the light heavyweight division. A dynamic striker with the ability to deliver punishment from all angles and with all weapons, "Bones" is a solid threat on his feet.
A much different style of threat, Jackson is a one-punch knockout machine. More of a pocket striker with excellent counters and very powerful hooks, "Rampage" has ended the nights of top-tier talent with a single punch, including that of the legendary Chuck Liddell.
Considering the magnitude of this fight, and the heated controversy following the two competitors inside the Octagon this Saturday, both fighters will want to send a message to not only the UFC and its fans, but to one another as well.
And that message is: "Do not mess with me."
A motivated Jackson poses a huge threat to that of the champion. In the past, "Rampage's" lack of focus, training and motivation has plagued him in big fights. However, this battle on Saturday will be different.
Jackson has been training since his victory over Matt Hamill in the spring. Re-defining his nutrition, supplementation and current training program, "Quinton Jackson speaking to MMAMania" target="_blank">Rampage" feels better than ever and possesses the skill-set to defeat the highly talented Jones.
Acquiring a legendary status without a single title defense, "Bones" may want to leave his ego outside of the Octagon and expose Jackson's weakness on the ground by taking "Rampage" to the mat and delivering a savage beating from the guard.
If Jones is caught up in a striking battle on their feet, a counter right hook by "Rampage" can mark the end of "Bones's" reign as champion.
A tough match up to predict a victor, I do believe that "Rampage" has gotten underneath Jones's skin which will ultimately be the champions downfall.
Wanting to literally beat Jackson, Jones will decide to stand and trade with "Rampage" in the center of the Octagon falling right into Jackson's game plan.
Suffering only three knockout defeats in 40 professional fights, Jones will not be the one who adds another KO loss to "Rampage's" record.
On the contrary, Jackson's counter right hook will land on the jaw of "Bones" ending the young champions meteoric rise to prominence with a single punch.
Winner: Quinton Jackson via Round 2 TKO