Unfortunately, UFC 137 will go down as another card in 2011 where the main event was ruined by injuries.
Georges St-Pierre will no longer be defending his welterweight crown against Carlos Condit due to suffering a knee injury in training.
Instead, the main even will feature BJ Penn taking on Nick Diaz in what seems to be an unofficial title eliminator bout at 170 pounds. Whether or not UFC President Dana White would put the winner of this fight in front of Condit for a title shot is anyone's guess.
The co-main event will be a heavyweight showdown between two heavy-handed fighters when Cheick Kongo takes on Matt Mitrione, and the other 265-pound battle between Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Roy Nelson should be a fun one as well.
The little guys have their time to shine in this one as well, when Hatsu Hioki takes on George Roop in a featherweight battle, while Scott Jorgenson takes on Jeff Curran in a bantamweight scrap.
Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Dale De Souza, Jordy McElroy, Jeffrey McKinney, Dwight Wakabayashi, and myself, John Heinis, are tell you who gets their hands raised on Saturday.
Take a look inside for the fight by fight breakdown.
John Heinis: Hioki's nickname is "The Iron Broom." Does anyone have any idea what that means? Anyway, his 24-4 record is definitely a bit inflated, but the BJJ black belt does have quality wins over Mark Hominick, Marlon Sandro and Jeff Curan before he dropped a weight class.
A shooto veteran, Hioki is a grappler with a fast shot and slick transitions on the ground that often either leaves his opponents tapping out or defending submissions for most of the fight.
However, Roop is no slouch, looking impressive in his past two wins against Jung Chan-Sung and Jos Grispi.
A knockout loss to Mark Hominick at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2 was disappointing, but this is a fighter whose stock is rising at 29 years old.
Hioki looks like he should win on paper pretty decisively, but I wouldn't be surprised if Roop pulled one out of a hat here.
Hatsu Hioki via split decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: If there is one fighter that I have been dying to see in the UFC above all others, it would be Hatsu Hioki. With apologies to Alistair Overeem, Hioki is making his much awaited debut at UFC 137 against George Roop in a fight to see who is soon in line to challenge for the featherweight crown.
Hioki is 24-4 in his career with an amazing 14 submission wins, and all have come overseas in Japan and in Canada. Hioki is a submission specialist who surely wants to mix it up with Roop, eventually taking it down to the ground.
George Roop's 12-7 record and unorthodox style are a bit of an enigma in the division these days with a bad loss to Mark Hominick sandwiched in between two impressive knockout wins. One a head kick over The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung, and the other a body punch over Josh Grispi in his last bout. Roop is lanky and rangy and has some ground game as well; it is an intriguing matchup to see who will stay in the top five contenders in the division.
Prediction: Japanese fighters usually have a lot of trouble adjusting and fighting well over here in the UFC.
Hioki has been hyped up quite a bit in his career, and he is not young; there is a reason he has not fought over here yet. Roop's range will pose a real problem, and I also think he will out muscle Hioki, proving the Asian fighter to be a bit overrated.
Roop unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jeffrey McKinney: In the opening bout of the night, Japan’s Hatsu Hioki will make his UFC debut against TUF alum George Roop.
Roop has basically traded wins and losses since appearing on the Ultimate fighter, and has bounced around between featherweight and bantamweight. The last time we saw Roop, he defeated former featherweight title contender Josh Grispi with a hard punch to the body.
Hioki is on a four-fight winning streak and has been looked at as the second or third best featherweight in the world.
Roop is a tough guy, but Hioki has yet to be stopped in his career. His four losses have all come by decision (three by split decision).
I believe Hioki will win and put his name in the mix of guys that could challenge Jose Aldo.
Hioki by submission or decision
Jordy McElroy: Newer fans may not be aware, but Hatsu Hioki’s entry into the UFC is a major deal.
Alongside Chad Mendes and Tyson Griffin, he has been touted as one of the few featherweights in the world with the ability to threaten UFC champion Jose Aldo.
Unlike most Japanese fighters, Hioki’s strong wrestling base gives him a great opportunity to make some noise in the States. Against George Roop, he meets a scrappy featherweight with a long reach to go along with improved boxing skills.
Unless he lands something significant on the feet, it’s tough to envision Roop taking this fight. Hioki isn’t the type of fighter to stray away from his game plan to appease standup fanatics.
The attending fans may not enjoy it, but the former Sengoku champion will put on a grappling clinic and eventually catch Roop in the final round with a submission.
Hatsu Hioki by round 3 submission (rear naked choke)
Dale De Souza: Ask many MMA fans which fight is the most underrated fight on the main card of UFC 137, and chances are that they mention this fight.
MMA fans who watched the WEC know that Roop is a good fighter of TUF 8 fame and ever since the then-Lightweight dropped to Featherweight, he’s found considerable success in the form of a knockout win over Chan Sung Jung and a knockout win by body-shot over Josh Grispi.
However, as good a knockout artist as Roop has proven to be, he’s has not faced anyone with the slick submission game or the unrelenting top game of Hatsu Hioki.
People like to write off Japanese fighters because they seem to falter when they get to the Octagon, and others love to write off Hioki’s wins over Mark Hominick, Marlon Sandro, Ronnie Mann, Takeshi “Lion” Inoue and Jeff Curran because none of them came in the UFC, but don’t be shocked if Hioki wins.
Roop is a talented, evolving prospect, but so is “The Iron Broom,” and if anyone could halt Roop’s momentum on a big stage (besides Jose Aldo), it’d be Hioki.
Hatsu Hioki by first round submission (arm triangle)
John Heinis: Why is this fight on the main card over Donald Cerrone vs. Dennis Siver? Clearly that fight deserves to be in this spot.
Jorgensen is a decent all around grappler, but he's still more of a wrestler than anything else, with six of his 12 wins coming via decision.
Meanwhile, Curran is a second-degree black belt in BJJ, so while his KO
power is almost non existent, he has 19 submission victories in 33 career wins.
Anyone with wrestling chops can beat Curran comfortably (Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, Joseph Benavidez); granted, Jorgensen's record is a bit padded in my opinion.
Still, I expect "Young Guns" to get the job done here.
Scott Jorgensen via unanimous decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: Scott Jorgensen has been in the contender conversation of the lighter divisions for a few years now, but he has always come up just short in the big fight as evidenced by loss to Dominick Cruz.
At 29 years of age and with a 16-4 record in MMA, the time is now for Jorgensen to take that next step into the consciousness of fans around the world. He has a fast paced, wrestling and top game, and he needs to scramble quickly and often to get the upper hand in this one.
Jeff Curran is a very experienced, tough boxer and mixed martial artist who has also had a tough go himself in his fights against the best in the world. Curran is 33-13.
This will be Curran's debut in the UFC after years of fighting in the smaller shows, and I'm sure his emotions will be running wild when the bell rings. He will look to keep Jorgensen off with his boxing and point his way to a victory.
Prediction: Jorgensen will be too much and too hungry for the nervous veteran Curran, and Jorgensen will wrestle and ground and pound from top position. Curran will wonder what the hell happened in this one.
Scott Jorgensen via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jeffrey McKinney: Scott Jorgensen and Jeff Curran will meet in a battle between two form WEC title contenders.
Jorgensen is coming off of a big KO against Ken Stone. While in Stone’s closed guard, Jorgensen landed a right punch that put Stone out.
Curran is coming into the fight winning four of his last five.
Curran is the more experienced of the two fighters, as he’s fought in over 40 fights and is a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Despite this, Curran has fallen short in some of his biggest fights of his career. I believe Jorgensen has enough defense to be able to outlast Curran.
Scott Jorgensen by Split Decision
Jordy McElroy: This is an interesting pairing, considering Jeff Curran is 4-5 in his last nine bouts.
He makes his UFC return against Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen, who is currently a top-five bantamweight and former UFC/WEC title contender.
This will be an uphill battle for Curran. Jorgensen is the better wrestler and striker of the two. Curran has seen minor improvements in his boxing, but he is predominantly a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
If he doesn’t get consistent takedowns, he’s going to be in big trouble, and this is asking a lot against a guy like Jorgensen, who was a three-time PAC-10 NCAA Division I Champion wrestler at Boise State University.
Jorgensen is rarely ever in a dull fight. If you add that with Curran’s tenacity and will to survive, the UFC has the recipe for a fun bout.
With that said, the bulk of the action will come from three rounds of Jorgensen’s fists pummeling Curran’s face.
Scott Jorgensen by unanimous decision
Dale De Souza: Jeff Curran, WEC veteran, former victim of Urijah Faber, and cousin of current Bellator Featherweight contender Pat Curran, finally brings his second-degree black belt-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game and his crisp boxing game to the UFC at long last, but he doesn’t get an easy fight by any means.
Take the connection with Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Warren for its worth circa October 2011, but having an aggressive wrestler like Warren has to help Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen out a little bit.
Think about it: A natural Featherweight like Warren helps Jorgensen get a feel for a featherweight-turned-bantamweight like Curran will try to do to him.
Curran puts up a 4-3 Bantamweight-only record against Jorgensen’s 12-4 pro record, but will the experience be enough to etch a win over Jorgensen?
It might be enough to give Jorgensen a tough fight, but don’t count on Jorgensen getting the worse end of this bout, especially considering what he’s able to do standing up and on the ground.
Scott Jorgensen by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
John Heinis: Good to see Roy Nelson finally taking his conditioning seriously; there is no reason to believe that he won't look like the best version of "Big Country" in this fight.
On the other hand, Cro Cop is clearly an aging legend whose UFC career has been a train wreck.
After easily knocking out Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67, Cro Cop got a rude awakening at UFC 70 when he got knocked out by a Gabriel Gonzaga head kick. He then lost the aforementioned decision to Cheick Kongo at UFC 75.
After three "keep busy" fights with DREAM, Cro Cop came back to the premiere MMA organization with a win over Mostpha Al-turk (don't pretend you know who that is). The Croatian kickboxer was then thoroughly picked apart by current No. 1 contender Junior Dos Santos.
It looked like Cro Cop may bounce back with a couple wins over Anthony Perosh and Pat Berry; however, he never really got his second win, though, as he then suffered consecutive knockout losses to Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub.
Long story short, Cro Cop's 4-5 record in the UFC had folks more or less praying for his retirement after a loss in March.
Not that Roy Nelson's been a stud recently, dropping his past two fights to Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir, looking absolutely terrible in his most recent performance at UFC 137.
Still, I think Nelson just has more gas left in the tank here, and the fact that Cro Cop's jaw is made of glass now doesn't hurt either.
Roy Nelson via 3rd round TKO (punches)
Dwight Wakabayashi: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic is a fading legend in the vain of Wanderlei Silva, Matt Hughes and even Rich Franklin, and it is hard to predict whether there is really anything left in the tank for the once well-oiled Mirko.
He is 27-9 in his career and has a career highlight reel matched by few around him, but he is coming off of two bad losses, to Brendan Schaub and the other to Frank Mir. His striking is a shell of what it once was, but it is always his only chance. Problem is, you have to be able to take a punch to throw one, and Cro Cop is more and more prone to fall.
Roy "Big Country" Nelson has had to make some major changes in his career and training coming off his losses to Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir. Nelson has had to adjust for cardio's sake, to prove to his boss that he is serious about getting big money fights in his career.
He is 16-5 and is no doubt a talented all-around fighter, and he will look to knock Cro Cop down before getting top position for the finish. He should be able to rock Cro Cop from the top leading to a submission or even a TKO.
Prediction: Nelson will look to stomp the legend and show that his performance against Frank Mir was a fluke and he really is a top 10 heavyweight in the UFC. He will toss and punch Mirko around in this one, leading to a ground finish by TKO.
Roy Nelson via 2nd Round TKO
Jeffrey McKinney: In a battle between two big heavyweights, Roy “Big Country” Nelson will meet Mirko Cro Cop.
Both men are coming into the bout with two straight losses.
Although a loss is a loss, Cro Cop comes off looking like the worst of the two fighters.
His last two losses have come by KO.
Although many fans would like to see him win one more fight before he hangs it up, Nelson has a tough chin, heavy hands and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Although the cards are stacked against Cro Cop, expect him to throw leg kicks and try to finish the fight standing much like he’s done in Pride FC.
Nelson also won’t be a guy to pull any punches, as he’s willing to stand with anybody.
It could be a fight that’s an absolute war and possibly fight of the night.
Although it would be nice to see Cro Cop win one more bout, I believe Nelson will put him out.
Roy Nelson by KO
Jordy McElroy: This is a make or break fight for legendary heavyweight Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
Coming off back to back devastating knockout losses, Cro Cop is in danger of getting his UFC walking papers and riding off into the sunset for good.
Cro Cop’s UFC tenure has been a big disappointment since his arrival. He desperately hopes to return to the Mirko of old who tore through the heavyweight ranks in Pride.
Unfortunately, he faces a tremendously game opponent in Roy “Big Country” Nelson, who is also coming off consecutive losses.
In a way, this is a loser leaves town bout.
As a hardcore fan of the sport, you want to give Cro Cop the benefit of the doubt. Fans continuously cling on to the past with memorable highlight reels and interviews. Once upon a time, Cro Cop was the most feared striker on the planet, but the past is the past.
Mentally and physically, Cro Cop isn’t the same fighter he used to be. The greats all take a tumble at some point, and for Cro Cop, his time has finally come.
Neslon won’t finish the Croatian, but he’ll stay busy with his standup and nab a couple of takedowns to ride out a unanimous decision.
Roy Nelson by unanimous decsion
Dale De Souza: Let’s face it, both guys need a “W” in order to salvage their runs in the UFC.
“Big Country” Roy Nelson gets a free pass from me, because although he obviously got tooled and schooled by Frank Mir, he showed his “iron belly” against Junior Dos Santos when he took shots from “Cigano” that would have put out any other Heavyweight (besides Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez).
But Mirko Cro Cop is a slightly different case.
Mirko looked great against Pat Barry and showed that although a title run is pushing it, he can still hang with some of the best at 265.
Of course, Frank Mir put him out in round 3, as did Brendan Schaub, and so there may be a question of whether Mirko really does have more left in the tank than we’d like to believe.
After all, many questioned Mir and Schaub simply because their knockouts came two rounds later than they were supposed to, but many also anticipate that Nelson has something riding on this fight that Mir and Schaub didn’t.
Nelson could be cut if he loses on Saturday; Mir and Schaub weren’t risking their jobs.
I for one hate to see Mirko call it a career, especially considering that his career—despite his rollercoaster of a UFC run—is among one of the best Heavyweight careers ever in the sport, but when you have to go, you have to go.
Nelson will have the honor of facing Cro Cop on Saturday, and I for one would expect him to make the best of the situation.
Roy Nelson by late first round KO
John Heinis: The French kickboxer is coming off a dark horse Fight of the Year candidate against Pat Barry in June, where Kongo knocked out "Hype or Die" in the first round after Kongo himself looked to be down and out early in the fight.
This is a class fight to determine who's the contender and who's the pretender in the UFC's heavyweight division.
Kongo seems forever destined to be a gatekeeper with losses to Gilbert Yvel, Carmelo Marrero, Heath Hearing and most recently, getting choked out by Frank Mir in his over 10 year UFC career.
It should be noted, though, that Kongo did earn a unanimous decision victory over a still very game Mirko "Cro Cop" Filiopovic at UFC 75, though.
Meanwhile, Matt "Meathead" Mitrione comes in with a perfect 5-0 professional record. The former New York Giant got his name on the MMA map by knocking out Kimbo Slive in May of last year, and has defeated the liked of Joey Beltran, Tim Hague and Christian Morecraft since then.
As is often the case in the heavyweight division, don't expect this one to go to the score cards. Both guys are heavy handed and like to stand and trade, although both their wrestling skills are adequate if the situation calls for it.
Mirtione seems as game as any blue chipper in the sport, and Kongo has rarely stepped up to the plate in his career, so I think Meathead leaves Kongo counting the lights.
Matt Mitrione via second round KO
Dwight Wakabayashi: Cheick Kongo fought himself back into the fans' hearts with his "Fight Of The Night" performance against Pat Barry in June.
Kongo is sometimes a maddening man to figure out, as he seems like he can accomplish so much more than he does against the baddest in the division. His striking is formidable but can be predictable due to his inability to bring more to his game. Kongo is 16-6 and will look to use leg kicks and reach to hold Mitrione off.
Matt "Meat" Mitrione who you think is in over his head and then he ends up pulling out a victory as his undefeated 5-0 record shows. Mitrione is taking a big step up in Kongo, but nothing really surprises me with "Meat." I wouldn't be surprised if he uses his boxing, takedowns and ground control to grind out a win over a fighter who should clearly be better than Mitrione.
Mitrione couldn't possibly dominate Kongo and be amongst the Frank Mirs, Roy Nelsons and Daniel Cormier's of the division, could he?
Prediction: Mitrione will be a real test for Kongo's heart because I think he will look to take him down and grind him out. He has shown a great ability to know what is coming in a fight, and I believe he will be one step ahead of the French striker all night.
Matt Mitrione unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jeffrey McKinney: Cheick Kongo will meet Matt Mitrione in the co-main event of the night.
Kongo is coming off of a come from behind victioy against Pat Barry, while Mitrione has won all five of his UFC fights.
Although Kongo is the more experienced of the two, Mitrione has looked better and better in each fight.
Kongo brings with him some great kickboxing as well as the ability to overcome adversity.
Mitrione has won four of his fights by knockout, and despite being a big heavyweight, is quick and agile.
This will be the biggest test of Mitrione’s career. Although it could be a close fight, I believe Mitrione will have what it takes to go to the next level.
Matt Mitrione by Decision
Jordy McElroy: Immediately after this bout was promoted to co-main event status, UFC 137 tickets seemingly became a little easier to get your hands on.
This isn’t a knock on Kongo or Mitrione. The UFC did the right thing in moving this bout up the card after an unforeseen injury forced UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre out of his scheduled bout with Carlos Condit.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a bout fans are necessarily clamoring to see.
Kongo is about as consistent as the 2011 Dallas Cowboys, and Mitrione is still banking on potential more so than actual superstardom.
Still, this is an important bout in the heavyweight division. A win over Kongo would be huge for Mitrione’s progression up the heavyweight ladder. For Kongo, a victory would be a big step in his resurgence as a potential title contender.
Kongo can be an incredibly lethal striker, but he tends to shy away from exchanges and get sloppy when his opponent is pressing forward. His chin has also been a bit shaky as of late.
Mitrione has the style to give Kongo fits in the pocket, but he’ll have to beware of wild counters from the massive Frenchman.
Kongo’s power is devastating, and Mitrione doesn’t want to get scraped off the canvas like Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 4.
Another area to watch is the wrestling. If Kongo manages to drag this fight to the ground, Mitrione could be in some serious trouble. Kongo is known for extracting pools of blood with his sword-like elbows.
As long as this fight stays out of the clinch, it should be fun. This journalist is banking on a fairly even three-round battle ending with Mitrione’s hand raised.
Matt Mitrione by unanimous decision
Dale De Souza: Talk about two freaks of nature.
Matt Mitrione has certainly cooked his “Meathead” moniker from his TUF 10 days, and the end result has been a well-done career that saw wins over Marcus Jones and Kimbo Slice followed up by wins over Joey Beltran, Tim Hague and Christian Morecraft.
Mitrione feels that a win over Kongo will ask no questions except for one, which will be something to the effect of “When is he finally going to get an elite Heavyweight?”
That generally happens after a bout with Cheick Kongo, who is looking as though he might finally be getting over that hump that some fighters struggle to climb, and if you don’t buy that, ask Pat Barry.
After the arguable Comeback of 2011, Kongo has earned a renewed faith in both his takedown game and his kickboxing, neither of which need to take a backseat to many in the division.
Kongo would do well to not overlook MItrione, though, as Mitrione has been a Duke Roufus boy for a long time, as well as a friend to Pat Barry.
Yes, Kongo is not a force to be overlooked, as he has the likes of Quinton Jackson and Michael Bisping working with him, as well as UFC up-and-comer Rob Broughton, but even on Kongo’s best day, who’s stopping Mitrione from having a better day come fight time?
Matt Mitrione by second round TKO
John Heinis: The main event that was never supposed to be. Nick Diaz goes from being barely employed to being in the main event in a matter of weeks...ridiculous.
I was going with Penn in this one ever since I heard it announced, but given Diaz's recent comments, I am now completely convinced "The Prodigy" walks out with the "W."
Diaz has recently said he idolized Penn, second guessed his decision not to go into boxing and overall, just heavily implied his heart won't be in this one.
Could it all be a ploy and we see the best version of the Cesar Gracie black belt we've ever seen?
Sure, it could be, but I don' think Nick Diaz is smart enough for that.
Additionally, 10 wins in a row don't impress me when the highest-level opponent of the bunch is Paul Daley.
Diaz clearly has the better cardio, and the striking and grappling are awfully close, but Penn has the better wrestling and one-punch knockout power and that will be the difference in this one.
I think it's a great fight to watch, but I think Diaz gets the upper hand when Penn starts to gas out.
BJ Penn via unanimous decision (29-28)
Dwight Wakabayashi: BJ Penn is in the midst of one last climb to the welterweight title that he wants around his waist so badly. Whether it's Georges St-Pierre holding it or not, the 16-7 mixed martial arts wizard wants another shot at it before he calls it a career.
Penn is now faced with brash, scrappy Nick Diaz in his path to the top, and he is going to need all his boxing, footwork and ground game savvy to get himself past Diaz. Penn is a step up in every facet of the game, except for conditioning, and that is one of the most important elements in a fight.
Diaz has made his usual grand entrance back into the UFC, and he has picked a hell of a fight to get back in to the top of the mix of the best in the world and get his title shot once again. Diaz comes in as the king fighter of the outside world, as no doubt he was the best fighter outside of the UFC leading up to his jump over from Strikeforce.
It's no secret the 25-7 Diaz is on an incredible roll in his career, but Penn is quite a step up from his last opponent, Paul Daley. Diaz will have to use his reach advantage to beat Penn to the punch while pushing the pace on the former champion. Diaz has the pedigree to hang with Penn on the ground, but I think he will want to keep it standing up and box to victory.
Prediction: Penn is definitely a step up from any fighter Diaz has faced in his recent run and that will play out in this fight. Penn will be quicker, crisper and tougher, and he will out fight Diaz all over the cage to a decision.
BJ Penn via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jeffrey McKinney: B.J. Penn will meet Nick Diaz (knock on wood) in the main event of the night.
What started out as Penn taking on Carlos Condit and Diaz challenging Georges St-Pierre is now a bout where the winner could be next in line for a title shot.
Both Penn and Diaz come into the fight as two of MMA’s best boxers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experts. Both are also two of MMA’s most colorful fighters.
Diaz has not lost a fight since 2007, but the best fighters he’s faced have been a past his prime Frank Shamrock and Paul Daley.
Penn, on the other hand, has went from losing two straight at lightweight, to knocking out Matt Hughes in 21 seconds and fighting to a draw with Jon Fitch, ending his five-fight winning streak.
It’s hard to pick a winner in this fight. One thing that is for sure is it will not be boring.
This could go either way, but Penn sounds like the more motivated of the two. That could spell trouble for Diaz.
BJ Penn by Decision
Jordy McElroy: The absence of Georges St-Pierre versus Carlos Condit does make this card look a bit thin, but from a stylistic perspective, this should’ve been the true main event to begin with.
BJ Penn versus Nick Diaz is a dream match, and it would be shocking to see any disappointed faces leave the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night.
It’s interesting to see the amount of faith fans have in Diaz as possibly the successor to St-Pierre’s welterweight throne. Currently, Diaz is a riding a 10-fight win streak and was the former Strikeforce welterweight champion.
Those stats won’t tell you that only one of those wins came over an end of the line top-10 welterweight in Paul “Semtex” Daley. In all of those victories, none came over a world class grappler.
This seems more like a case of fans letting infatuation for stats clear their judgment. Diaz is a solid top-10 fighter, but who can definitively say this UFC run will go over better than past ones, where he was absolutely torched by strong grapplers in Diego Sanchez and Sean Sherk.
Penn is a monumental step up from the competition Diaz has been facing in Strikeforce and Dream, and it won’t take long before the cold splash of realization hits fans in the face.
Look for the “The Prodigy” to drop Diaz on the feet and follow up with some thundering ground-and-pound to net the first round TKO stoppage.
BJ Penn by round 1 TKO
Dale De Souza: Can I get a Split Draw here?
Aww, come on!
Okay, you win.
Anyway, both guys are stylistically similar, but there is a key difference between BJ Penn and Nick Diaz…and no, it’s not that Penn has won titles in the UFC while Diaz won a Strikeforce title.
Diaz is a high-volume endurance fighter and he’s Stockton’s answer to Rocky Balboa, while Penn is a quick, accurate fighter who, like Diaz, finds the kill and goes for it.
Now, it’s hard for me to choose who will will because this fight is exciting enough to be a Fight of The Year candidate, and it could also go both ways, but if I can’t get a split draw, I’ll stick with a more realistic choice.
Just don’t expect anyone to look at the light and wonder where they are when it happens.
Nick Diaz by Split Decision (29-28 x2)
John Heinis: Fight of the Night: Penn vs. Diaz
Knockout of the Night: Matt Mitrione
Submission of the Night: Donald Cerrone
Dwight Wakabayashi: Fight of the Night: Penn vs. Diaz
Knockout of the Night: Roy Nelson
Submission of the Night: Donald Cerrone
Jeffrey McKinney: Fight of the Night: Penn vs. Diaz
Knockout of the Night: Roy Nelson
Submission of the Night: Donald Cerrone
Dale De Souza: Fight of the Night: Penn vs. Diaz
Knockout of the Night: Roy Nelson
Submission of the Night: Hatsu Hioki or Donald Cerrone