UFC 136: Analysis, Insight and Predictions for Saturday Night's Card
UFC 136 comes to you live from the Toyota Center in Houston on October 8. It should be an action-packed card, a dual main event features two championship title matches.
Current UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar looks to retain his belt in the trilogy matchup with Gray Maynard. Additionally, Jose Aldo will defend his UFC featherweight title against No. 1 contender, Kenny Florian.
Main card action also includes a middleweight bout between the always talkative and demonstrative Chael Sonnen and the hard-hitting former Marine, Brian Stann. An exciting featherweight matchup features Leonard Garcia against Nam Phan, and rounding off the main card will be a lightweight bout between Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon.
Please follow along as I provide analysis and predictions for the entire UFC 136 card.
Enjoy the fights.
I welcome your comments.
Facebook Fight No. 1: Steve Cantwell vs. Mike Massenzio
Action begins on Facebook with a middleweight matchup between Steve "The Robot" Cantwell and Mike "The Master of Disaster" Massenzio.
Both competitors are coming off of a defeat in their previous UFC matchups. Additionally, both Cantwell and Massenzio have faced tough competition in their past, including bouts against Brian Stann.
Cantwell, 7-4 overall in MMA, possesses a black belt in jiu-jitsu and has earned four submission victories.
A solid stand-up striker, "The Robot's" Muay Thai skills are excellent and he has traded with top-level strikers in the past, including knocking out Stann in 2008.
Massenzio, also a black belt in jiu-jitsu, is 12-5 overall with six submission victories. A solid wrestler with developing Muay Thai skills, Massenzio will be looking to add a victory to his 2-3 UFC record.
Both competitors need a win to make a statement in this highly talented middleweight division.
Cantwell holds the edge in the striking department, whereas Massenzio has an advantage in the wrestling game.
Due to the importance of this matchup and what the outcome means towards the futures of both fighters, an impressive victory is needed to gain recognition within the UFC.
Look for "The Robot" to leverage his Muay Thai skills in the onset of this matchup. With an 89 percent successful takedown defense, Cantwell will be able to shrug off the takedown attempts of Massenzio and keep this fight standing where he will pick apart "The Master of Disaster" and secure a victory in his return to the UFC.
Winner: Steve Cantwell via Round 3 TKO
Facebook Fight No. 2: Aaron Simpson vs. Eric Schafer
The second matchup on Facebook is another middleweight duel between Aaron "A-Train" Simpson and Eric "Red" Schafer.
Simpson, known for his outstanding wrestling pedigree and developing boxing skills, possesses a 9-2 overall MMA record, 5-2 within the UFC. Training out of Phoenix with fellow UFC alum Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader and CB Dollaway, the "A-Train" has excellent ground control and utilizes his wrestling base to grind out decision victories.
Schafer is making his middleweight debut this Saturday in Houston. Typically competing within the light heavyweight division, Red is looking for a new path of success at 185 pounds. A black belt in jiu-jitsu, Schafer has eight submission victories during his career.
Struggling at times with solid strikers, the development of Red's boxing skills will be necessary to exploit any weaknesses on the ground and secure a tapout.
Simpson's strengths as a wrestler would typically fall into Schafer's strengths as a jiu-jitsu wizard. However, Simpson has a sizable advantage in the stand-up game against the developing boxing skills of Schafer.
Exploiting this advantage, the "A-Train" will look to knock out Schafer in the stand-up exchanges. If that fight strategy does not work, Simpson will take this matchup to the ground and grind out a decision victory. With zero losses by submission, Simpson's jiu-jitsu defense will keep him out of harms way against the ground attack of Schafer.
In the end, Simpson's boxing will overpower Schafer and the "A-Train" will secure his sixth victory inside the Octagon.
Winner: Aaron Simpson via Round 2 KO
Facebook Fight No. 3: Zhang Tiequan vs. Darren Elkins
The 18-1 Zhang "The Wolf" Tiequan flies halfway around the world from Mongolia to compete in his second UFC matchup against the 12-2 Darren "The Damage" Elkins.
This featherweight duel pits the submission skills of Tiequan against the wrestling pedigree of Elkins.
Lethal off of his back and in the transitions, "The Wolf" has secured 10 submission victories throughout his career. Competing mainly in the Far East, Tiequan will be looking to secure a tapout victory against the solid wrestler in Elkins.
Elkins is 2-1 in the UFC, securing a controversial decision victory over Michihiro Omigawa in his previous matchup at UFC 131.
Neither competitor holds a sizable advantage in the stand-up game. Elkins takes his matches to the ground and delivers excellent ground-and-pound. This fight strategy falls directly into Tiequan's brilliance from his back.
The advantage in the jiu-jitsu department for Tiequan will be the difference in this featherweight matchup. Securing a submission victory, the Chinese native will improve on his 1-0 record within the UFC.
Winner: Zhang Tiequan via Round 3 triangle choke
Facebook Fight No. 4: Joey Beltran vs. Stipe Miocic
In the evening's sole heavyweight matchup, Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran returns to the Octagon to battle the hard-hitting Croatian, Stipe Miocic.
Beltran is known for his boxing prowess and his propensity to stand in the center of the Octagon and trade punches with his opponent. Competing in memorable matchups already in his early career, Beltran's battle with Pat Barry was one for the ages. A heavy-hitter, "The Mexicutioner" will need to learn from his duel with Barry when facing the kickboxing brilliance of Miocic.
Making his debut inside the famed Octagon this Saturday, Miocic is a former Golden Gloves boxing champion and Division I wrestler who is a solid striker on his feet.
Delivering a wide arsenal of attacks in the stand-up exchanges, Miocic will look to replicate Barry's approach in the stand-up exchanges and chop down Beltran with savage leg kicks opening up punches to "The Mexicutioner" in the process.
Beltran will need to check these kicks if he has any hope of surviving three rounds against those thunderous blasts. Additionally, constant movement and a solid conditioning foundation will allow for Beltran to maneuver in and out of punishment while delivering pinpoint punches to the Croatian.
This tremendous matchup will not be short of fireworks. Both competitors will look to knock out one another and will risk their safety in the process.
Miocic's kickboxing skills will prove to much for Beltran and the Croatian will secure a victory by repeatedly damaging "The Mexicutioner's" legs with savage blows.
Winner: Stipe Miocic via unanimous decision victory
Spike TV Fight No. 1: Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens
Potentially capturing Fight of the Night honors, this lightweight matchup between Anthony "Showtime" Pettis and Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens has all the makings of a main event.
Pettis lost his inaugural debut bout in the UFC against Clay Guida via unanimous decision in June. An exciting, creative, stand-up striker with tremendous talent on his feet, Pettis is the former WEC lightweight champion.
Opposing Pettis, Stephens is also an exciting stand-up striker with a boxing background and incredible power.
Both competitors possess excellent stand-up skills. Pettis is an unorthodox striker, utilizing a variety of kicks and punches to damage the opposition, whereas Stephens is known for his boxing prowess and thunder in his punches.
This slugfest will provide countless highlight-reel moments as "Showtime" looks to deliver on his moniker and KO Stephens for his first UFC victory.
Conversely, "Lil' Heathen" will attempt to weather the storm of Pettis and secure his 15th knockout victory inside the cage.
Stephens's only weakness is his submission defense. Pettis possesses a purple belt in jiu-jitsu with six submission victories. I do not see this fight being won by tapout, however.
Both Pettis and Stephens will be looking to make a statement in this extremely deep and talented lightweight division. To do that, a knockout is needed to rise the ladder of this competitive 155-pound weight class.
In the end, Stephens will weather the attack of Pettis and rely on his experience inside the Octagon to provide Pettis with his second straight defeat in the cage.
Winner: Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision victory
Spike TV Fight No. 2: Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Middleweight action concludes Spike TV's feature of UFC 136 as former No. 1 contender Demian Maia takes on fellow countryman and former Sengoku middleweight champion, Jorge Santiago.
Maia, possibly the sport's most lethal jiu-jitsu practitioner inside the Octagon, is well known for his grappling brilliance and ability to finish fights from any position with a submission.
Still evolving as a stand-up striker, Maia's weakness on his feet prevents the Brazilian from becoming an overall threat inside the Octagon.
Santiago is coming off of a destructive defeat at the hands and knees of Brian Stann.
Like Maia, Santiago is brilliant on the ground. But unlike Maia, the former Sengoku champion possesses knockout power and has earned nine KO victories in his 23 total wins.
Both competitors need a victory to erase the memory of their last matchup inside the Octagon. Look for Maia to weather the stand-up exchanges and attempt to secure a submission on his fellow black belt on the ground.
Considering Santiago's advantage on their feet, it would be in the best interest of the former champion to keep this fight standing and look for a knockout.
In the end, Maia's inability to earn a victory on his feet will be his shortcoming as Santiago will pepper Maia in the stand-up exchanges and be able to defend against any submission attempts.
Winner: Jorge Santiago via unanimous decision victory
Main Card Fight No. 1: Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon
Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard rides his five-fight win streak into Houston against the savvy and experienced Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon.
Quickly becoming one of the premiere competitors within the lightweight division after moving his training camp to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and utilizing the brilliance of the Jackson Submission Fighting team, Guillard has improved exponentially over his past five matchups.
One of the most explosive fighters within the entire UFC, "The Young Assassin" has steam-rolled through the 155-pound class en route to four (T)KO victories in his last eight bouts.
Well regarded for his ground game, Lauzon is a seasoned competitor who possesses 16 submission victories in his 20 professional wins.
Truly a contrast of styles, Guillard will look to push the pace against Lauzon and pummel the Bridgewater, Mass., native with his gifted arsenal of strikes.
Conversely, "J-Lau" knows that he will not defeat Guillard on his feet. Wanting to take this matchup to the ground, Lauzon will attempt repeated submission holds looking to add "The Young Assassin" to his impressive list of defeated opponents.
As skilled and talented as Lauzon is, Guillard's metamorphosis under Coach Jackson has been remarkable.
A victory for "The Young Assassin" this weekend would set up Guillard for an opportunity against the lightweight champion.
Knowing this future, Guillard will defend all of Lauzon's submission attempts en route to a TKO victory and establishing himself as the No. 1 contender for the title.
Winner: Melvin Guillard via Round 1 TKO
Main Card Fight No. 2: Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan
Engaging in their second matchup at UFC 136, Nam Phan earned a split decision victory over Leonard "Bad Boy" Garcia in December of 2010.
Both featherweight fighters are well-known within the fighting community. Garcia's wild punches and full commitment to his strikes makes him very dangerous inside the Octagon. Conversely, Phan is a much more orthodox stand-up striker relying on his technique and form to deliver pinpoint punches and jaw-rattling kicks.
This second bout between Garcia and Phan will not disappoint. Both fighters will want to please the fans as well as the UFC brass this Saturday at the Toyota Center.
Garcia will not deviate from his traditional game plan. Look for the "Bad Boy" to stand in the center of the Octagon and swing wildly looking for a knockout.
Phan, on the other hand, will utilize his outstanding footwork to open up striking angles and tag Garcia will a myriad of straight punches and head kicks.
In the end, Phan's stylistic striking ability will once again win out over Garcia's big looping punches.
A tremendous matchup; do not blink during this fight.
Winner: Nam Phan via unanimous decision victory
Main Card Fight No. 3: Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
In a matchup that all fight fans will be talking about at the water cooler on Monday, the proverbial goat Chael Sonnen battles the former Marine and hard-hitting Brian "The All-American" Stann in this middleweight contest.
Most notably known for either his loathing of the entire country of Brazil, any Brazilian named Silva, his attempted run for state representative in Washington, his legal issues outside of the Octagon or his near capture of the middleweight championship back in August of 2010, Sonnen is a polarizing figure for the UFC.
Either you hate Chael Sonnen or you love him.
What is not in question, however, is Sonnen's ability inside the Octagon. Founded on his wrestling pedigree, Sonnen is 25-11-1 as a professional fighter with losses to top-tier talent including the aforementioned Silva, Demian Maia and Forrest Griffin.
With a 61 percent successful takedown rate and delivering a crushing 265 strikes on the ground, Sonnen's approach to this matchup will fall in line with his previous fights: take the fight to the ground and deliver a brutal ground-and-pound attack.
Unheralded for his stand-up striking ability, Sonnen has developed very solid boxing skills, which open up numerous takedown opportunities.
Defending the takedown at a 60 percent rating, Stann has improved in his grappling abilities since his drop to the middleweight division.
A powerful, exacting striker, "The All-American" has expanded his offensive arsenal to include rib-cracking knee strikes and nose-shattering punches.
Looking to keep this fight standing, Stann will keep his range from Sonnen and utilize straight punches and powerful knees to combat the takedown attempts of Sonnen.
Considering that this matchup is the middleweight contender bout and the winner will be next in line to challenge Silva for the title, both competitors will take chances inside the Octagon to secure a victory.
Even though Sonnen is an outstanding grappler and will secure numerous takedowns against Stann, I believe that Stann's improvements under Greg Jackson and the development of his ground game will ensure his safety off his back.
Possessing an advantage in the stand-up striking department, Stann will find his range against Silva and eventually drop the Washington native with a hard right hand, opening the door for a TKO victory.
Securing the No. 1 contender ranking, Stann will ultimately challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight championship.
Winner: Brian Stann via Round 3 TKO
Main Card Fight No. 4: Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
In the co-main event of the evening, Jose Aldo looks to defend his UFC featherweight championship belt against the No. 1 contender, Kenny Florian.
Currently riding a 12-fight win streak, outside of his initial title defense against Mark Hominick in April, Aldo has been dominant.
Potentially the greatest athlete to compete in the UFC currently, Aldo's talents are limitless. A savage striker with the ability explode at the drop of a dime, Junior is not only quick and elusive, he is also extremely powerful and precise.
Delivering brutal leg kicks, Aldo's ability to change levels and alter his striking angles with his diverse offensive arsenal cannot be replicated.
Looking to prove that he is not the fighter who defeated Hominick, Junior will be relentless and aggressive in his matchup with Florian.
The quintessential underdog, Florian is constantly defeating opponents that experts claim are above his skill set.
With victories over Diego Nunes, Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson and Joe Lauzon, Florian has earned victories over some of the best in the UFC lightweight and featherweight divisions.
Excellent off of his back and with a tremendous jiu-jitsu game, Florian has developed a solid stand-up striking offense to compliment his brilliance in the submission grappling.
Even though Florian is a worthy adversary, Aldo's athleticism, speed, quickness and power will be too much for the savvy veteran.
Looking to make an impact as champion, Aldo will not only want to prove that his lackluster performance against Hominick was a fluke, but that he is the No. 3 ranked pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
When this excellent featherweight bout concludes, Aldo will retain his title and prove that he is rightfully the No. 3 greatest fighter on the planet.
Winner: Jose Aldo Junior via Round 4 TKO
Main Card Fight No. 5: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
The featured event of the evening is the trilogy matchup between current UFC lightweight champion Frankie "The Answer" Edgar and Gray "The Bully" Maynard.
Without a clear cut winner in their split decision draw back on New Year's Day, these two dynamic competitors will once again battle for lightweight supremacy in front of the thousands in attendance at the Toyota Center.
A back-and-forth affair on January 1, Maynard dropped the champion numerous times in the first round only to then be dropped by Edgar in Round 2.
If Saturday's duel between Edgar and Maynard is anything like their first two bouts, we as fans will be blessed with yet another eye-popping, jaw-dropping championship fight.
The skill sets of both competitors have been analyzed in tremendous detail in the past. Both are excellent wrestlers with outstanding stand-up skills. Both have incredible cardiovascular conditioning and supreme movement when delivering their punches.
Maynard will have the size and strength advantage over Edgar. However, the champion possesses an unrivaled heart and determination and a never-say-die attitude that translates into victories inside the Octagon.
Truly a difficult matchup to predict a victor, I believe that Edgar will once again have the answer over Maynard and earn a five-round decision victory over "The Bully," providing Maynard with his first loss inside the Octagon and claiming the title as the sport's top 155-pound fighter.
Winner: Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision victory