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Top 20 MMA Fights Of 2012

January 07, 2013 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

2012 was a mixed year for Mixed Martial Arts on the biggest stages. There were some major highs and some serious lows. Let’s start with the highs which included the emergence of several big name MMA promotions including One FC in Asia and the World Series of Fighting in the USA. Other highs included the addition of Women’s MMA to the UFC as the women will finally get their chance to shine on the world’s biggest stage for fighting, and they owe a lot of that to the work of all-female fight promotion Invicta FC. Georges St. Pierre, the UFC’s king of Pay Per View made his long awaited return from injury in a classic bout against Carlos Condit, the addition of the UFC’s Flyweight division has yet to put out a boring fight and the UFC’s deal with Fox continues to prove a strong move for both the UFC and the Fox networks.

Unfortunately for all the highs this year brought, they may have been more than equally brought down by the lows of 2012. The injury bug ran rampant across the UFC causing a number of bouts being scrapped, switched at the last minute or delayed, moving forward this is going to be a serious hurdle for the UFC and the MMA world and they need to figure out a way to get a handle on it. Other lows included the complete cancellation of UFC 151, something that no fans of the world’s biggest fight promotion could have ever saw coming. Perhaps the biggest low of 2012 has to go to Zuffa’s poor handling of the Strikeforce brand leading to its slow death, which is set to occur early in 2013.

Still with all of the highs and all of the lows and all of the cancelled and late-notice replacement fights in the middle, 2012 was still a highly entertaining year for fight fans. We were treated to more UFC events than ever before, many of them for free on Fox, FX or Fuel TV. The emergence of Bellator and ONE FC as viable alternatives to the UFC putting on exciting cards throughout the year has also added a new avenue for fight fans to get their daily dose of violence. Moving forward anyone can see it’s a great time to be a fight fan. During the slow start to the MMA season in 2013, (the UFC doesn’t have an event until January 19th and Bellator doesn’t kick off their season on Spike TV until January 17th,) there is ample time for you to check out some fights that you may have missed in 2012. For those of you looking to sate your fight fix, here are the top 20 Mixed Martial Arts bouts of 2012.

20. Lightweight Bout: Eduard Folayang vs. Felipe Enomoto at ONE Fighting Championship: Pride of a Nation. August 31, 2012 at Smart Araneta Coliseum – Manila, Philippines

The Fight: These two men engaged in what was basically a kickboxing bout for a full three rounds. Both men threw with bad intentions throughout the fight, stringing together excellent punching combinations as well as a few flashy kicks and knee strikes. The most entertaining moment of the bout came late in the second round when Folayang dropped his opponent with a huge right hand and followed it up with nasty ground and pound, but couldn’t quite seal the deal. The only thing that really stopped this fight was the lack of a finishing effort from either fighter in the third round, Folayang was content to coast to a victory and Enomoto should have been trying harder for a comeback finish.

The Finish: After three rounds all three judges scored the contest 30-27 for Folayang earning him a clean sweep of the scorecards.

19. Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim at UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes. January 14, 2012 at HSBC Arena – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Fight: Etim has always been known for being in exciting fights, and this bout in Brazil was no exception. Etim pushed forward in the opening round, but Barboza was one step ahead of him the whole way. Shrugging off takedown attempts and landing a lot of damaging leg kicks. The pace slowed slightly in the second round, but remained an entertaining slugfest that continued to take place largely on the feet. Heading into the third round, many people felt that each fighter had a round each and the third would likely decide the fight. Early in the second round Etim continued looking for a takedown but was shocked when Barboza threw a Spinning Heel Kick that landed flush on the jaw and Etim was out cold.

The Finish: Barboza won the fight via Knockout from the spinning heel kick at 2:02 of Round Three. It also earned him Knockout of the Night honors.

18. Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller at UFC 155: Dos Santos vs. Velasquez. December 29, 2012 at MGM Grand Garden Arena – Las Vegas, Nevada

The Fight: This bout was entertaining from the opening seconds as both men surged out of their corners and met in the middle of the cage. A very dominant first round for Miller ensued as his striking looked sharper than ever. He used a variety of punches and short elbows to open a nasty gash on Lauzon’s forehead and it looked like this one might be over early. In the second round it was more of the same, the cut on Lauzon’s face opened almost immediately but that didn’t slow him down as he was taken down and nearly mounted. Lauzon would quickly reverse the position and spent the end of the second round punching from the top and looking for a leg lock submission. The third and final round was just as intense as the rest of the fight as the two men went right back to it as soon as the round started. Lauzon pushed forward through a battered and bloody face searching for a way to steal the fight. Miller landed the better punches throughout the round, but Lauzon was constantly moving forward. A late submission attempt almost landed for Lauzon, but in the end it wasn’t quite enough.

The Finish: After three rounds Jim Miller took home a Unanimous decision, winning with three straight scores of 29-28.

17. Flyweight Bout: Louis Gaudinot vs. John Lineker at UFC on Fox 3: Diaz vs. Miller. May 5, 2012 at IZOD Center – East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Fight: So far ever since the UFC has introduced the Flyweight class to the world, it has provided nothing but exciting bouts. While there may be nothing like the big Heavyweight hitters for the casual fan, many MMA fans can’t get enough of the 125-pound class. This bout was no exception. Within about thirty seconds this bout looked more like rock-em-sock-em robots than a professional MMA bout. The first round was filled with wild punches and reckless striking exchanges, back and forth ground action and a couple of near submissions. The second just picks up right where the first left off, in the second Lineker went fishing for a takedown and got trapped in a guillotine for his trouble. He tried to fight it off, but it was no use and he went to sleep before he tapped out.

The Finish: With only seconds left in the second round, Lineker shot for a takedown and Gaudinot was able to lock up a guillotine choke. He refused to let up and eventually choked the Brazilian out cold earning himself a technical submission with only six seconds to go in the second round.

16. Featherweight Championship Bout: Joe Warren vs. Pat Curran at Bellator 60. March 9, 2012 at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino – Hammond, Indiana

The Fight: Warren has always done his best work as a wrestler, after a couple of lopsided losses because of him being reckless on the feet, he was looking to wrestle his way to a victory in this fight. Early on he pressured Curran constantly, trying to earn a takedown, but Curran did an excellent job of keeping himself upright, and landing punches during these exchanges. In the second round Warren managed to actually get the bout to the ground. Although he didn’t have much success, he did manage to open up a small cut on Curran’s face. In the third round Warren was again looking for a way to work the fight to the mat. Curran continued to defend well and landed a beautifully timed knee that rocked Warren. Curran pressured the champion to the fence and poured on an onslaught of punches that Warren absorbed without going over. Despite him being clearly out on his feet, the referee gave him way too long to recover.

The Finish: After the big knee in the third round, Curran simply butchered Warren against the cage. He threw everything he had at Warren and it still wasn’t enough to drop Warren, whose chin is absolutely insane. Despite not going down though, it was clear that Warren was out on his feet and was basically defenseless as the referee allowed him to take way too many shots. Despite the impressive third round TKO victory at 1:25 for Curran, this one was marred by the terrible officiating.

15. Lightweight Bout: Evan Dunham vs. TJ Grant at UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort. September 22, 2012 at Air Canada Centre – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Fight: Evan Dunham has long been known for being in exciting scraps, in fact his bout against Nik Lentz came in around number 22 or so when I was re-watching fights compiling this list. TJ Grant is a bit more known as a grinder, but these two put on a great fight for the fans in Toronto. The first round saw Dunham try to work his striking from the outside, while Grant was constantly pushing forward and trying to work in close. The second round saw both guys simply swinging for the fences. Dunham went for some kicks and Grant landed a massive knee that absolutely tore Dunham’s face open. Despite the blood pouring from the open wound on his face, Dunham continued to push the pace near the end of the round swinging wild punches and looking for a couple of late head kicks. In the third, with blood covering his face and likely needing a finish to win, Dunham set to work at doing just that. Flying knees, head kicks, haymaker punches, takedowns, ground and pound he threw it all at Grant, but the Canadian was able to make it to the final bell.

The Finish: After three rounds many people thought that Grant would have it in the bag, but with takedowns in each of the rounds, some people believed Dunham might have done enough to steal a decision. When the scores were read it provided some strange results 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 all for Grant, who took a Unanimous Decision.

14. Women’s Bantamweight Bout:  at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman. August 18, 2012 at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, California

The Fight: These two women were the final preliminary caMiesha Tate vs. Julie Kedzierd bout and it certainly seemed like it pissed them off. Kedzie was an up-and-comer in the division and Tate had just lost her title to Ronda Rousey and was looking to get back on track. In the first round, despite being a substantial betting underdog Kedzie absolutely brought the fight to Tate. Coach Greg Jackson laid out a sprawl and brawl game plan for Kedzie and she followed it to perfection, even landing a big head kick that almost had Tate out cold near the end of the first. The second round was nearly the exact opposite of the first. Early on Tate scored a takedown and from there spent nearly the entire round trying to land submission after submission. She came close with a rear naked choke, then a triangle, then a guillotine, then full back mount with ground and pound. In the third round Kedzie opened up with some great low kicks, before landing a head kick to Tate’s face that dropped her once again. As she pounded away looking for a finish, Tate managed to snag an arm and look for submission, after a failed attempt, she transitioned to an armbar and in a bout of irony won with the move that ended her title reign.

The Finish: After getting dropped by a headkick early in the third round it looked like the upset was ready to happen, but Tate toughed it out and managed to compose herself enough to grab a submission. After losing the triangle, she did an excellent job to secure the armbar and force the tapout from her opponent at 3:28 of the final round.

13. Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship Bout: Daniel Cormier vs. Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier. May 19, 2012 at HP Pavilion – San Jose, California

The Fight: This bout was an entertaining story as Cormier; a late replacement and tournament alternate battled grizzled veteran Josh Barnett in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. This was the fight to prove if the unbeaten Cormier was the real deal or not. He proved to everyone not only is he the real deal, but he is a serious top contender in the Heavyweight division. This fight lasted all five rounds, so I’m not going to go into detail about the whole bout. Cormier showed off a significantly improved striking game as he outworked the veteran Barnett on the feet over the course of the entire 25-minutes. Cormier’s NCAA Wrestling background also came into the spotlight as he had little trouble landing several takedowns over the course of the fight and controlling the usually crafty Barnett on the ground rather easily.

The Finish: Although Barnett survived to the final bell, he was never really in control of the fight and never had a quality shot of winning. One judge gave him a round, but the other two saw it as a clean sweep as Daniel Cormier won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship via scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.

12. Featherweight Bout: Eddie Yagin vs. Mark Hominick at UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans. April 21, 2012 at Philips Arena – Atlanta, Georgia

The Fight: This one was supposed to be a tune-up fight for Hominick. A way to get the Canadian former title contender back in the win column. Apparently no one told Yagin that as he came to scrap it out. Hominick was definitely the more talented and technical striker, but Yagin did his best to not allow Hominick to get comfortable. He stayed aggressive throughout the entire first round, constantly pressing and constantly throwing punches, a slip from Hominick lead to some nasty ground and pound from Yagin that left Dominick’s face a mess. As the second started Yagin again tried to prevent Hominick from getting comfortable. As the Canadian’s eye continued to swell shut, Yagin continued to pound away at that side of his face. Despite Yagin controlling the opening four minutes or so of the round, Hominick came alive near the end of the second and was firing big punches and working the body well. At the end of the second both men’s faces were bloodied and battered. The third round was by far the best for the Canadian but he couldn’t earn a stoppage despite doing significant damage to his opponents face. In the end, some good natured ribbing ended the fight as Hominick ended with some push ups in the Octagon while Yagin responded by doing some sit ups of his own.

The Finish: After a bloody and fun three rounds it came down to the judges. The scores read 29-28 Yagin, 29-28 Hominick and 29-28 for the winner by Split Decision Eddie Yagin.

11. Lightweight Bout: Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard at UFC 150: Henderson vs. Edgar II. August 11, 2012 at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado

The Fight: One minute and sixteen seconds, that’s how long this fight lasted. That 76-seconds was non-stop action as these two went right for it from the opening bell. After throwing a head kick with bad intentions that missed, Cerrone ate a huge left hand and was rocked early. Guillard swarmed with a flying knee and follow up punches, somehow Cerrone survived. Cerrone again went for a high kicked and although it was mostly deflected, it managed to wobble Guillard slightly. Cerrone smelled blood in the water and attacked with a huge right hand that floored Guillard, knocking him completely out.

The Finish: After the glancing high kick Cerrone could see that Guillard was hurt. He threw a big right hand that landed right on the button and put Guillard out for good. The Knockout of the Night victory came at 1:16 of Round One.

10. Welterweight Bout: Jon Fitch vs. Erick Silva at UFC 153: Silva vs. Bonnar. October 13, 2012 at HSBC Arena – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Fight: Jon Fitch has never really been known for being an exciting fighter, more of a boring wrestling-based grinder who uses takedowns to defeat his opponents. His opponent for this bout Erick Silva was a top up-and-comer from Brazil, who was known for a string of first round stoppages. Many people thought this one had snoozer written all over it, the others were hoping for a quick knockout for the young Brazilian, everyone was wrong. Fitch didn’t stray too far from his wrestling based offense, but instead of being content to control his opponents with light ground and pound, Fitch looked like a man possessed. He threw huge ground and pound and was constantly creating submission opportunities in the first round, a significant change from his usually conservative style. The second was by far the best round for the Brazilian as he scored early with some strikes before landing a takedown of his own. Silva managed to grab the back mount midway through the round but was unable to fully sink in the choke. In the third, Fitch’s gas tank took over. Silva is a quick finisher, not known for his gas tank when the fight goes late, Fitch has been there plenty of times and he took over in the final round.

The Finish: This fight did make it to the judge’s cards, but it was not a typical lay-and-pray outing from Jon Fitch. After the scores were read, Fitch had taken home a Unanimous Decision with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. After the bout Fitch admitted that he knew he had to become more of a showman and a more exciting fighter if he wanted another chance at the Welterweight belt.

9. Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera at UFC on Fox 4: Shogun vs. Vera. August 4, 2012 at Staples Center – Los Angeles, California

The Fight: This was another fight that was supposed to be a blow out for one of the fighters. Everyone expected Shogun to simply obliterate Vera en-route towards a possible rematch against Jon Jones. Vera was apparently out of the loop on that. The first round was as one-sided as most expected it to be. Shogun earned a quick takedown and threw elbows early. Vera later pulled guard and was close with a guillotine, but Shogun finished the round pounding away at Vera. In the second round, Rua really started to slow down. A big punch early hurt Vera, but he managed to battle through it and even landed a big shot of his own that rocked Shogun. Despite being out landed on the feet, Vera was sticking with Shogun through most of the round and even managed to score a late takedown to possibly steal the round. By the third round, both fighters were exhausted and the round was light on significant action. In the fourth round, there was finally the big punch that the crowd was looking for. Rua pushed Vera against the fence and began landing a few shots, the final one sending Vera to the canvas. Rua was relentless on the ground and despite being given all kinds of time to recover by the referee, he was finally forced to wave it off.

The Finish: With both fighters so exhausted heading into the fourth round, it looked like this one might be destined for the scorecards. However, against the fence Shogun landed some big clean shots, finally sending Vera to the ground. Despite the exhaustion Rua gutted it out on the mat and continually blasted Vera with ground and pound, finally earning a TKO victory at the 4:09 minute mark of the fourth round.

8. Welterweight Championship Bout: Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit at UFC 154: Condit vs. St. Pierre. November 17, 2012 at Bell Centre – Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Fight: This was a fight that many fans were waiting for. UFC Welterweight Champion was returning to the cage after more than a year off due to a significant knee injury and follow-up surgery to take on Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit. A lot of people questioned how GSP would look after such a long time off and if ring rust would play a factor in the contest. After watching the first round, it certainly didn’t appear that way. GSP did what GSP does, some light striking to set up a takedown and top control. Despite that, Condit was very active from his back and landed some decent punches and elbows from the bottom. GSP however landed an excellent elbow that opened up a nasty gash on Condit’s forehead that was coated with blood instantly. The second round featured more of the same, but in the third, things began to change. Condit found more success in the stand up game. His unorthodox combos began to confuse the champion and Condit was able to land a massive headkick that sent the Canadian Champion sprawling to the mat, clearly rocked. Condit pounced on GSP and smashed away with great punches and elbows, but GSP managed to hang on. He even scored a late takedown to try and steal back the round. The fourth and fifth rounds were nearly mirror images of one another, with GSP setting up takedowns and controlling Condit from the top. To his credit though, Condit never gave up fighting from the bottom, constantly throwing elbows, punches and looking for possible submissions.

The Finish: After the full 25 minutes, this one went to the scorecards. Georges St. Pierre defended his title via Unanimous Decision, taking the contest by scores of 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45.

7. Welterweight Championship Bout: Nate Marquardt vs. Tyron Woodley at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy. July 14, 2012 at Rose Garden – Portland, Oregon

The Fight: Once one of the best Middleweights in the UFC, Marquardt looked excellent as he made the cut to 170-pounds for his Strikeforce career. Taking on undefeated Tyron Woodley for the vacant Welterweight Championship, he was looking to secure himself a home in Strikeforce. Woodley was a talented wrestler who was undefeated, but was criticized for a couple of less than entertaining fights. This bout was exactly what both men needed. They were at each other looking for a finish from the opening bell. The first round saw Woodley stagger Marquardt, only to see Marquardt return the favor a minute later and nearly sink in a guillotine choke. The second saw both men continue to move forward aggressively, alternating turns as the aggressor. The third round was the best for Woodley as he was able to drop Marquardt with a short punch. Woodley followed up with some big offense that seemed to tire him, as his pace slowed significantly near the end of the round. The fourth round was where these two warriors finally found a finish.

The Finish: Other than Edson Barboza’s wheel kick knockout, this one for me is the knockout of the year as it was a thing of absolute beauty and brutality all rolled into one. Battling against the fence, Marquardt landed two short elbow strikes, a left hook and then an absolutely massive uppercut that put Woodley out cold. The official knockout victory came at 1:39 of Round Four.

6. Welterweight Bout: Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez at UFC on Fuel TV 1: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger. February 15, 2012 at Omaha Civic Auditorium – Omaha, Nebraska

The Fight: This was a promising fight from the get-go as Ellenberger is always willing to bang and Diego Sanchez isn’t known for boring, slow-paced fights. Although the bout started somewhat slow, it didn’t take too long for them to get going. After about 90 seconds these two went toe to toe, banging it out. The close round ended with a couple of big punches that rocked Sanchez, sealing it for Ellenberger. Ellenberger continued to batter Sanchez on the feet in the second round, landing a steady stream of counter punches, while avoiding most of the big punches from his opponent. Near the end of the round Ellenberger landed a big takedown and finished the round with some ground and pound from the top. Knowing he would likely need a finish in the third round to steal this bout, Sanchez charged out and went after it from the first second of the round.

The Finish: Sanchez couldn’t find the finish he needed to steal the fight, so this one went to the judge’s scorecards. In scores that surprised no one in the audience, Ellenberger took home a Unanimous decision. The scores were29-28 for Ellenberger across the board.

 5. Lightweight Championship Bout: Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson at UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson. February 26, 2012 at Saitama Super Arena – Saitama, Japan

The Fight: The first bout between these two Lightweights was one of the best fights of the year. This bout went the full 25-minutes and it was nearly non-stop action across the whole time. I won’t go into full round by round details here, because this is one fight you have to see to believe. The striking was very even throughout the entire fight and the action was non-stop on the ground as well. The best strike of the bout by far came in the second round when Henderson landed a huge up kick that flattened Edgar and bloodied his nose. The rest of the bout was filled with rollicking back and forth action that took mostly on the feet, but with some interesting grappling moments thrown in there. After 25 minutes this one headed for the judge’s scorecards.

The Finish: This was one of the most highly controversial judging decisions of the year, probably followed up only by the second bout between these two. Both men felt they had done enough to win the bout, and even members of the media who were scoring the bouts for websites like Sherdog and MMAJunkie, were split on who had won this bout. In the end it was a Unanimous decision for new champion Benson Henderson, who took it by scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.

4. Women’s Bantamweight Championship Bout: Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey. March 3, 2012 at Nationwide Arena – Columbus, Ohio

The Fight: Last year it was Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley for the Welterweight title, this year it’s Ronda Rousey taking on Miesha Tate for the Women’s Bantamweight title that has the honor of the best one-round fight of the year. Wild striking exchanges, trip takedowns, stellar grappling and a gruesome submission were all involved in this entertaining bout. At the end of the day Ronda Rousey became the champion and started her rise as a media darling.

The Finish: After a highly entertaining four minutes of action Rousey began to unleash a wild assault of ground and pound. She then seized an opportunity to sink in her patented armbar submission and torqued it with everything she had. It took her elbow popping before Tate would finally submit, but at the 4:27 mark of the first round that’s what happened.

3. Flyweight Tournament Bout: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall at UFC on FX 2: Alves vs. Kampmann. March 3, 2012 at Allphones Arena – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

The Fight: This was the first bout in the UFC’s Flyweight tournament to crown the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion. It turned out to be an excellent bout with plenty of action everywhere the fight took place. Despite there being a lot of exciting striking in this contest, I think the most exciting action took place on the mat. Sweeps, scrambles, submission attempts and ground and pound were all in heavy supply for this one. As the second round ended the fight still was incredibly close, but Johnson was beginning to look tired while ‘Uncle Creepy’ looked fresh and ready to go. It certainly seemed that way as the third round started as McCall came out firing off kicks. With less than a minute to go, McCall landed a beautiful takedown and absolutely unloaded with everything he had working for a finish.

The Finish: This one was also marred in controversy. Despite being one of the best fights of the year, it was not immune to a little bit of suspect judging. After three rounds, this bout went to the judges. The scores were 29-28 Johnson, 29-28 Johnson and a 28-28 Draw. Afterwards at the post fight conference it was announced that a mathematical error lead to the scores being announced improperly. The actual scores should have been 29-28 Johnson, 28-28 Draw and 28-28 Draw for an outcome of a Majority Draw. Instead of sudden death overtime, these two men would face off again later in the year.

2. Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4: Shogun vs. Vera. August 4, 2012 at Staples Center – Los Angeles, California

The Fight: If you were going to show someone who is new to MMA what this whole UFC thing is all about, this is absolutely the fight you should have them watch. Late notice replacement Jamie Varner and the always exciting Joe Lauzon came to absolutely throw down in this Lightweight war. Both of these guys threw all kinds of exciting strikes and it started with the opening round. The first round was contested entirely on the feet, as Lauzon and Varner threw low kicks, high kicks, flying knees, elbows and punches at each other. The second round started the same way that the first ended, with punches winging through the air. The second round featured some slick grappling as both men scored takedowns, only to watch the other reverse the position and hunt for a submission of their own. In the third round Varner looked noticeably tired but came out swinging for the fences anyways. The finishing flurry itself was a thing of beauty, as this fight won a very deserved Fight of the Night award.

The Finish: This submission finish was truly a sight to behold. With Varner in trouble and tiring quickly, he shot for a takedown and landed it successfully. Lauzon pulled off an excellent sweep from the bottom to reverse the position and get Varner’s back. As Lauzon was searching for a rear naked choke, Varner managed to switch it back over. Lauzon took the opening to throw his legs up and snatch Varner in a triangle choke. Varner did his best, but Lauzon landed a few elbows from the bottom, clamped the hold in tighter and Varner had no choice but to tap at the 2:44 mark of round three.

1. Featherweight Bout: Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV 3: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier. May 15, 2012 at Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virgina

The Fight: And that brings us to the best fight of the year in my opinion. If Lauzon-Varner at number two is what you should show people to introduce them to MMA, this is the fight you should show them to make them love MMA. I’m not even going to talk about this fight at all, except to say that it’s in my top ten fights of all time and that’s saying a lot. Wild punching exchanges, exciting ground work, excellent submission offense and a couple of near misses all along the way. Watch this fight.

The Finish: A minute into the fourth round and it seemed like the tide might be turning in the bout. But after the Korean Zombie landed a flying knee, Poirier shot for the takedown immediately. Dangerous move against the crafty Korean who snatched up a D’Arce Choke from the headlock position and cinched it in tight for the victory.

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UFC 155 Dos Santos Vs. Velasquez Results and Wrap Up

December 30, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The UFC made its return to the land of Pay Per View last night and although some fights left fans wanting a bit more, the other bouts were loaded with action that more than made up for it. If you were unable to see some of the undercard bouts, I highly suggest you try to do so by any means possible. Melvin Guillard versus Jamie Varner, while slightly slower than expected was an entertaining bout. As well the Featherweight tilt between Leonard Garcia and Max Holloway was a highly entertaining slugfest that went for a full fifteen minutes. Add in impressive TKO victories for Heavyweight Todd Duffee and Bantamweight Erik Perez and there is some top shelf violence for those of you that like it that way.

Moving on to the main card, some of the bouts didn’t quite live up to the hype. Others such as the co-main event between Lightweights Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller more than exceeded the hype, as those two men engaged in a bloody back and forth brawl that is a definite contender for Fight of the Year consideration. The Main Event was also solid as two of the best Heavyweights in the world collided in a much better effort than their first bout on UFC on FOX 1. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this card and take a look at what could be next for them.

Derek Brunson defeated Chris Leben via Unanimous Decision after Three Rounds

The boo-birds were out right away at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for this Middleweight fight that kicked off the PPV. Although Leben is often a fan-favorite due to his slugging style, his wrestling-based opponent Brunson wanted no part of it. Brunson crowded Leben throughout the contest using clinches and takedowns to control Leben and give him very little space to get his offense going. Leben himself offered little resistance, as after a year off due to suspension, he looked like a man who wasn’t used to being in the Octagon. He looked tired and slow, and his takedown defense was almost non-existent. He was never really in too much trouble, but he definitely wasn’t ever close to winning either. Unfortunately as commentator Joe Rogan stated, the unamused look on Chris Leben’s face after Brunson’s celebration after the fight might have been the most entertaining part of the bout.

What’s next for Brunson? This card was loaded with Middleweight talent, so one might think a winner from one of the Middleweight bouts up the card would make sense for Brunson, but I think that’s too large a step for him right now. Although he earned a victory, he didn’t look great doing it and it definitely wasn’t a breakout performance. With Strikeforce officially closing its doors, I think the best fight for him would be to welcome one of his former promotion-mates to the UFC. Tim Kennedy is facing Trevor Smith at the final Strikeforce event and the winner of that bout makes some sense.

What’s next for Leben? He’s got problems, everyone knows that, but he’s always going to have a spot in the UFC because of his style. Alan Belcher got knocked off by Yushin Okami later in the card, and would prefer an opponent who would keep the fight standing. Leben fits that bill and would likely produce an entertaining rebound fight for one of the two. Belcher is almost the perfect opponent for him right now.

Yushin Okami defeated Alan Belcher via Unanimous Decision after Three Rounds

In the pre-fight hype videos Alan Belcher claimed that Yushin Okami couldn’t beat him if he kept the fight standing. Apparently he convinced everyone, including Okami, of that fact. Okami did what he usually does, a solid one-two jab combination right into takedown attempts and top control. Belcher had a few bright spots, as he snagged a couple of submission attempts, but none were ever close and they all ended with him in the unenviable position of being beneath Okami. In the end the Japanese fighter cruised to a Unanimous Decision.

What’s next for Okami? He’s turning into the Middleweight version of Jon Fitch. He’s good enough to beat almost anyone in the division, but he’s going to get absolutely slaughtered against the champion. Add to that he’s got a somewhat boring wrestling based approach to fighting and it’s hard to keep giving him meaningful fights where he’s likely going to knock off top contenders or up-and-comers with little fanfare. Still he moves up the ladder and a bout against other main card victor Costa Philippou might make sense. The other potential bout is one against Hector Lombard who recently scored an impressive stoppage against Rousimar Palhares.

What’s next for Belcher? Belcher’s hot streak got seriously derailed and he’s going to need to prove he can handle a wrestler like Okami before he ever gets a shot at a serious top contender at Middleweight. Still, he’s going to need a rebound fight and like I said, previous main card loser Chris Leben is the perfect foil for him. Someone who is willing to stand and trade with him and who is weak on the ground if things go bad. If the UFC wants to rebuild Belcher, he’ll get Leben next.

Costa Philippou defeated Tim Boetsch via TKO (Punches) at 2:11 of the Third Round

This wasn’t a breakout performance for Philippou that many people thought it might be. In fact, this was a truly bizarre fight. Boetsch controlled the opening round, throwing wild, looping punches that were scoring against the usually competent striking defenses of Philippou. In between rounds Boetsch complained to his corner of a broken hand and in the second, an accidental head butt opened a massive gash on his forehead and an eye poke only increased his vision problems. In the third round, he was reduced to pulling guard, but didn’t have an answer for Philippou’s ground and pound, as the referee stepped in to save Boetsch in the third round after he seemed to be looking for a way out.

What’s next for Philippou? Considering the bizarre circumstances of his win, his slow start, and the less than impressive fight from him overall, I wouldn’t complain about a possible rematch between these two. However, with Boetsch’s broken hand, he’s going to need time off. Philippou should still receive a step up in competition and needs to prove he can handle a talented wrestler, which is why I think a bout against other main card victor Yushin Okami makes a lot of sense. If they choose to go another route, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, should be making the leap to the UFC soon enough. If he wins his bout at the final Strikeforce show against Ed Herman, I think Souza is another good fight for Philippou.

What’s next for Boetsch? Hand surgery, I guess. In all honesty, this is kind of a crappy result for Boetsch, since he took some unfortunate illegal shots to derail his game plan, which was definitely working in the first round. Still, he was undefeated in the Middleweight division until last night, so I doubt they give up hope on him yet. He’s not going to drop severely down the rankings with the circumstances surrounding the loss, so he’s in kind of a weird spot matchmaking wise. I really don’t know what they do with him here, I guess he’s going to take a step down. Karlos Vemola was supposed to fight Leben on the card, but pulled out due to injury maybe him. That or throw him against Belcher or Leben, although I think Leben is too far a step down, and I think those two should fight each other. Other than that maybe Jake Shields if he stays at Middleweight.

Jim Miller defeated Joe Lauzon via Unanimous Decision after Three Rounds

This one earned Fight of the Night honors and it definitely deserved it. These two guys engaged in a bloody brawl that was back and forth and had action until the final bell. Miller looked the best I’ve ever seen him and his recent loss to Nate Diaz seems to have lit a fire inside him. He may be a permanent gatekeeper in the ultra-packed Lightweight division, but he’s a tough one. His conditioning was top notch for this bout and his dirty boxing looked better than ever, as he used a tight clinch to deliver some big punches and short elbows in the first round that caused the giant gash that caused Lauzon to lose a ton of blood. To his credit Lauzon proved how tough he was in this bout, even with blood pouring out of that massive cut, he refused to let the doctor stop it and he kept coming until the final bell, sinking in a late leg lock that nearly stole the fight and in fact stole him the round on a couple of scorecards.

What’s next for Miller? He’s had fourteen fights in the UFC and he’s won most of them. His only three losses have come to the current Lightweight Champion and two of the last three Number One Contenders in Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard. He’s a true grinder and his improving striking is only going to make him an even tougher challenge for most guys. I think Rafael dos Anjos has been impressive lately and deserves a step up in competition, as the Lightweight Gatekeeper, that puts him right in Miller’s wheelhouse.

What’s next for Lauzon? He proved he’s as tough as they come and dangerous any time he’s still in the fight. He’s always going to struggle against powerful wrestlers and the elite fighters of the Lightweight division, but he’s a highly entertaining fighter with decent striking and dangerous submissions. Sounds like another top Lightweight that recently lost a title fight. Indeed a bout between Lauzon and fellow TUF 5 alumnus Nate Diaz could be an action packed affair. Give the two of them a headlining slot on an FX or Fuel TV card and give them five rounds to go bananas, fireworks are sure to follow whether that fight takes place on the feet, on the ground or anywhere in the building.

Cain Velasquez defeated Junior dos Santos to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship via Unanimous Decision after Five Rounds

For those that wrote off former champion Velasquez after his poor performance in their first bout, they were treated to a significant wake up call. Velasquez came out guns blazing against Dos Santos and immediately brought the fight to the Brazilian Champion. Although many expected Cain to be somewhat laid back like he was in their first bout, he caught everyone, including Dos Santos off-guard when he came right after him in the first round. That first round told the story of what would end up being a very one-sided contest. Cain scored an early takedown and Dos Santos was able to slip through and get back to his feet, but it didn’t slow Velasquez down. He continued forward, pressing him against the cage. Partway through the round he landed a big right hand that dropped Dos Santos for the first time in his UFC career and ended the round battering him with ground and pound. Dos Santos was clearly gassed after the first round and spent several of the next rounds trying to recover, while Velasquez continued to push the pace. Although he eventually slowed himself, he was still able to outwork Dos Santos both in the grappling department and somewhat surprisingly in the striking department en-route to a clean sweep of the scorecards, winning with scores of 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43.

What’s next for Velasquez? The Heavyweight division has a whole lot of top fighters, but they are in a weird position, where they don’t have any clear cut favorites to become the number one contender. Alistair Overeem is expected to get the first crack at Velasquez, but he’s going to need to get by Antonio Silva first, and that’s no guarantee considering what we’ve seen in the past from fighters returning from year-long suspensions. The other option is Fabricio Werdum should he emerge victorious against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but that fight isn’t taking place until after the filming and airing of TUF: Brazil 2. The leading candidate was Daniel Cormier who recently won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and is heading to the UFC, but Velasquez and Cormier are teammates and have already said they wouldn’t fight each other. No matter what happens, Overeem or Werdum or someone else entirely, Velasquez could be facing a bit of a layoff while the division sorts itself out.

What’s next for Dos Santos? He’s going to need to get a win or two before he gets another crack at the title. Granted if things shake out the right way, he may only need one impressive victory like Velasquez did, but the list of contenders is long and growing in the Heavyweight division. The best two possible matches I can think of for Dos Santos are the loser of the upcoming Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve fight at the UFC’s next London event, (provided it’s Hunt, since a rematch with Struve is probably not necessary for Dos Santos.) The other option is the loser of the upcoming Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva bout, since either one of those two would be an intriguing bout, especially with the bad blood between Dos Santos and Overeem.

Full UFC 155 results & winners…
Cain Velasquez defeated Junior Dos Santos via unanimous decision to regain the UFC heavyweight title
Jim Miller defeated Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision
Costa Philippoud efeated Tim Boetsch via third-round TKO
Yushin Okami defeated Alan Belcher via unanimous decision
Derek Brunson defeated Chris Leben via unanimous decision
Eddie Wineland defeated Brad Pickett via split decision
Erik Perez defeated Byron Bloodworth via first-round TKO
Jamie Varner defeated Melvin Guillard via split decision
Myles Jury defeated Michael Johnson via unanimous decision
Todd Duffeed efeated Phil De Fries via first-round TKO
Max Holloway defeated Leonard Garcia via split decision
John Moraga defeated Chris Cariaso via submission

Chael Sonnen: The Voice of Reason: A V.I.P. Pass to Enlightenment

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UFC 155 Results: Cain Velasquez Regains UFC Title

December 30, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Cain Velasquez is an animal! Velasquez mauled Junior Dos Santos in their UFC 155 rematch proving to the MMA world that his 64 second loss to the JDS was a fluke. Velasquez won a unanimous decision to regain the UFC heavyweight title in one of the most one-sided UFC title wins in years.

Dos Santos could not stop the shot. Velasquez dominated the former champion on their feet and taking him to the ground. Velasquez had his way with Dos Santos at UFC 155, absorbing very little to punishment at all from the champion. UFC commentator Jor Rogan proclaimed at one point that he had not seen such a dominant performance by a challenger over a champion since Anderson Silva defeated Rich Franklin for the middleweight title several years ago.

Velasquez opened up looking to strike and takedown the former champion. Dos Santos did a good job early on of avoiding any serious damage until Velasquez connected with a right hand. Dos Santos was never the same after eating the shot. Velasquez swarmed in and tried to end the fight in the first round to no avail yet the tone was set by the challenger.

The rest of the fight saw Velasquez have his way with Dos Santos. Velasquez practically took Dos Santos down at will. Junior had very little offense throughout the fight and looked tired and beaten when he came out for the second round. Velasquez never stopped and was relentless in his attacks. I’ll give Dos Santos credit as he hung around for five rounds, longer than I thought he would. Dos Santos did connect on a nice uppercut as the third round. Unfortunately Dos Santos had nothing left and couldn’t follow up.

Velasquez nailed a body shot followed by an uppercut in the fourth round that staggered Dos Santos. Somehow or another Junior held on. Junior again put something together towards the end of the fourth round but couldn’t follow up. Velasquez’s cardiovascular conditioning throughout the fight was just unbelievable.

Seeing Junior standing at the start of round five after being brutalized throughout by Cain was real impressive. Junior stopped Cain from getting a takedown and wound up hitting a nice left to Cain’s body. Junior seemed to recover well by this point. Dos Santos hit a right hand and kept Cain’s takedowns at bay. Velasquez finally got the takedown at about 2:30. Cain smothered him with ground and pound. Junior got back up. Junior connected in a clinch. Velasquez hit a head kick with about :30 seconds to go. Junior looked like he had been brutalized while Cain looked like he wasn’t even scratched as the fifth and final round closed. Velasquez was shortly named new UFC champion by unanimous decision.

What’s next for the UFC world champion? In my opinion I think Cain is the most well rounded UFC heavyweight champion in history. He should have a dominant reign as champion barring an injury. He could face either Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum if either man wins their next fight. Overeem would be the favorite but Dana White mentioned that Werdum would be a top contender if he wins his next fight against Big Nog.

I’d love to see a third fight between JDS and Velasquez. I think this rivalry has the potential to be one of the greatest trilogies of all time. It wouldn’t shock me to see fight number three in the fall or winter of 2013.

Look for a full recap and analysis of UFC 155 here on the Camel Clutch Blog shortly by Lee McGregor.

Full UFC 155 results & winners…
Cain Velasquez defeated Junior Dos Santos via unanimous decision to regain the UFC heavyweight title
Jim Miller defeated Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision
Costa Philippoud efeated Tim Boetsch via third-round TKO
Yushin Okami defeated Alan Belcher via unanimous decision
Derek Brunson defeated Chris Leben via unanimous decision
Eddie Wineland defeated Brad Pickett via split decision
Erik Perez defeated Byron Bloodworth via first-round TKO
Jamie Varner defeated Melvin Guillard via split decision
Myles Jury defeated Michael Johnson via unanimous decision
Todd Duffeed efeated Phil De Fries via first-round TKO
Max Holloway defeated Leonard Garcia via split decision
John Moraga defeated Chris Cariaso via submission

Chael Sonnen: The Voice of Reason: A V.I.P. Pass to Enlightenment

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UFC 155 Dos Santos Vs. Velasquez 2 Predictions & Analysis

December 29, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The UFC returns to the land of Pay Per View this weekend with their traditional New Year’s Eve card. Despite not technically taking place on New Year’s Eve, the UFC has more than made up for it by packing this card with talent and intriguing match-ups from top to bottom. Headlining the card is a rematch that everyone has been clamoring for since their first meeting as the headliner for the UFC’s first event on the Fox Network as UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos battles the man he defeated for the title Cain Velasquez.

The co-main event of the evening features a Lightweight tilt that will move the winner significantly up the ladder in terms of placement in what is arguably the UFC’s deepest division as Joe Lauzon battles Jim Miller. Three Middleweight bouts are on the docket for the rest of the main card and many of them feature top ranked contenders. First up are Middleweight brawlers Tim Boetsch taking on Constantinos Philippou. The next Middleweight contest features former number one contender Yushin Okami taking on emerging contender Alan Belcher. The opening contest of the Pay Per View Main Card features fan and Dana White favourite Chris Leben taking on Strikeforce import Derek Brunson.

Preliminary Card (Facebook): Flyweight Bout: Chris Cariaso vs. John Moraga

Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso is a 31-year-old fighter from Oakland, California. He is a member of the Fight and Fitness Gym in San Francisco, California. Cariaso holds a career record of 14-3 and recently won his UFC Flyweight debut at UFC on Fuel TV 4. John Moraga is a 28-year-old former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the MMA Lab in Arizona where he trains with UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. He holds a career record of 12-1.

Quick Pick: John Moraga via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway

Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia is a 33-year-old fighter from Plainview, Texas. He is a member of Greg Jackson’s Team training in New Mexico. The brawler and fan favourite holds a career record of 15-9, but has never been knocked out and hasn’t been in a boring fight throughout the course of his career. Max “Blessed” Holloway is a 21-year-old fighter from Waanae, Hawaii and is the youngest fighter on the UFC roster. He is a member of the Gracie Technics Gym in his hometown and holds a career record of 6-1.

Quick Pick: Max Holloway via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (Facebook): Heavyweight Bout: Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee

Phil De Fries is a 26-year-old fighter from Sunderland, England. The massive Brit is a talented grappler who now trains in the USA with the Alliance MMA Gym in Chula Vista, California. He holds a career record of 9-1 with 1 No Contest. Todd Duffee is a 27-year-old fighter from Evansville, Indiana. Duffee is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California and those striking skills have earned him the record for the fastest Knockout in UFC history at 7 seconds. He holds a career record of 7-2.

Quick Pick: Todd Duffee via KO in Round One

Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury

Michael “The Menace” Johnson is a 26-year-old fighter from St. Louis, Missouri. He is a member of the Blackzillians training in Boca Raton, Florida. The former TUF cast member holds a career record of 12-6, but is currently on a three fight winning streak. Myles “The Fury” Jury is a 24-year-old fighter from Hazel Park, Michigan. He is a member of the Alliance MMA Gym in San Diego, California. He holds a perfect professional record of 10-0.

Quick Pick: Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner

Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard is a 29-year-old fighter from New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a member of the Blackzillians training out of the Jaco Hybrid Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a career record of 30-11-2 with 1 No Contest. Jamie “The Worm” Varner is a 28-year-old fighter from Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former WEC Lightweight Champion who trains out of the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey. He holds a career record of 20-7-1 with 2 No Contests. This bout was supposed to take place two weeks ago at The Ultimate Fighter finale, but a last minute illness to Varner forced the bout to be postponed.

Quick Pick: Melvin Guillard via TKO in Round Three

Preliminary Card (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth

Erik “Goyito” Perez is a 23-year-old fighter from Monterrey, Mexico. He now resides in the USA and trains with Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He holds a career record of 12-4, but is 2-0 in the UFC with two stoppage victories. Byron Bloodworth is a 29-year-old fighter from Lynchburg, Virginia. Bloodworth is a member of the Iron Clutch Fitness Gym in Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a professional record of 6-2.

Quick Pick: Erik Perez via Submission in Round One

Preliminary Card (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Eddie Wineland vs. Brad Pickett

Eddie Wineland is a 28-year-old fighter from Houston, Texas. Wineland was the inaugural WEC Bantamweight Champion. He trains out of the Duneland Vale Tudo Gym in Portage, Indiana. Wineland holds a career record of 19-8-1 with 16 Stoppage victories. Brad “One Punch” Pickett is a 34-year-old fighter from London, England. A former Cage Rage Featherweight Champion he now trains stateside with the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. Pickett holds a career record of 22-6.

Quick Pick: Brad Pickett via TKO in Round Two

Main Card (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson

Chris “The Crippler” Leben is a 32-year-old fighter from Portland, Oregon. Leben is a fan favourite known for his iron chin and his brawling style, but lately he’s also become known as a troubled fighter who will be returning from a one-year-suspension. He was a cast member on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter and has been in the UFC ever since. He is a member of the Icon Fitness MMA Gym in Oahu, Hawaii. The brawler holds a career record of 22-8.

Derek “Wrecking Ball” Brunson is a 28-year-old fighter from Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a former NCAA Division 2 All-American Wrestler from the University of North Carolina. He is a member of Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico. Brunson has power in his hands, but his technical striking skills are still developing. He does his best work on the mat, when he can control his opponents by using his top shelf wrestling skills. After starting his career undefeated at 9-0, he has suffered two straight defeats in 2012 to move his record to 9-2.

Analysis and Prediction: To me I think this one comes down a lot to how Leben responds to being off for a year. Brunson has shown some promise in his fights, but he still remains a pretty raw and unproven talent against top shelf competition. Besides Jacare Souza, Leben will be by far his stiffest competition and he’s taking the fight on late notice. Leben is a more complete striker and he’s probably been drilling takedown defense since his loss to Mark Munoz. Really I have a hard time imagining Brunson winning this fight, unless Leben looks like a shell of his former self. Chris Leben via TKO in Round Two

Main Card (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher

Yushin “Thunder” Okami is a 31-year-old fighter from Kanagawa, Japan. A former UFC Middleweight Title Challenger, Okami is one of the top Middleweight fighters in the UFC. Okami is a talented grinder, who does his best work using a ground based, wrestling and top control oriented game plan. He holds a black belt in Judo, which he uses well to earn trips and takedowns when standing. Okami is a member of Team Quest, training with Chael Sonnen in Portland, Oregon. He actually holds a career victory over Belcher already, having defeated Belcher in his UFC debut. Okami holds a professional record of 27-7.

Alan “The Talent” Belcher is a 28-year-old from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Recently after an eye injury caused a yearlong layoff and almost cost him his career, he has reeled off four straight stoppage victories and has emerged as a rising contender in the Middleweight division. Belcher is a talented striker who holds a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and a black belt in Duke Roufus Kickboxing. Belcher is also an underrated grappler who holds a brown belt in Judo and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Belcher is a member of the Roufusport Gym in Biloxi, Mississippi training under famed kick boxer Duke Roufus. He holds a career record of 18-6.

Analysis and Prediction: Belcher is a talented striker and his grappling game is definitely significantly underrated by a lot of people, but this isn’t a great match up for him. Okami is massive for Middleweight and he’s strong and perfectly content to wrestle his way to victories. In his last bout Okami was thoroughly dominating Tim Boetsch on the ground until a third round miracle comeback. Belcher is talented and dangerous on the feet, but I really don’t think Okami is going to give him time to get comfortable there. I expect a steady stream of one-twos and takedowns from Okami as he wrestles his way to a decision victory. Yushin Okami via Unanimous Decision

Main Card (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Tim Boetsch vs. Constantinos Philippou

Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch is a 31-year-old fighter from Lincolnville, Maine. He is a former NCAA Wrestler from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and often uses his wrestling skills to grind against his opponents on the mat. Boetsch is also a talented striker with big power, who owns a black belt in Jeet Kune Do. The former Light Heavyweight fighter has enjoyed a string of success since dropping to the UFC’s Middleweight division as he is currently on a four fight winning streak, including victories over Nick Ring, Kendall Grove, Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. Boetsch is a member of the AMC Pankration Gym in Maine. He holds a career record of 16-4.

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Constantinos “Costa” Philippou is a 33-year-old fighter who was born in Limassol, Cyprus. He now resides and trains in New York City, New York where he is a member of the Serra-Longo Fight Team. Philippou is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but does his best work in the striking department. He is a talented and powerful striker who is technically sound and can throw bombs with the best of the Middleweight division. Currently riding a four fight-winning streak, Philippou holds a pro record of 11-2 with 1 No Contest.

Analysis and Prediction: Philippou has come a long way since his UFC debut where he was outworked on the mat by Nick Catone, but the game plan to defeat him likely remains the same. Boetsch has had a successful run since making the drop to Middleweight and he’s simply massive for the weight class. His style has remained the same as he remains a true grinder. He does his best work in close, using clinches to utilize dirty boxing and score trips and takedowns from there where he can work his top control game and ground and pound. Philippou needs to keep this fight at a distance if he wants to be successful, but I don’t think his footwork can keep him at range long enough to win this fight. Despite some success for Philippou I think Boetsch moves his way up the ladder another rung. Tim Boetsch via Unanimous Decision

Main Card (Pay Per View): Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller

Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon is a 28-year-old fighter from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Lauzon is best known for his highly entertaining style of fighting, as he’s taken home 11 post-fight bonuses during his UFC career. Lauzon’s striking is decent and fundamentally sound, although at times he uses a bit too much boxing and not enough kicks to be wholly effective. Still, he does his best work on the mat, as the purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is excellent at creating submission opportunities during sweeps on the mat. The former Ultimate Fighter cast member is the head trainer of his own gym Lauzon MMA in Massachusetts and holds a career record of 22-7.

Jim Miller is a 29-year-old fighter from Sparta Township, New Jersey. Miller is taking this fight as a late replacement for Gray Maynard. Miller is one half of the Miller Brothers, as his older brother Dan also competes in the UFC as a Welterweight. Miller is a member of the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey, where he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Miller is an aggressive fighter who is constantly moving forward against his opponents. His striking is fairly rudimentary, but he has decent power and a strong one-two which transitions well into takedown shots that he blends well. On the mat, Miller is a talented grappler who is dangerous anytime that there is a scramble on the mat. He holds a career record of 21-4.

Analysis and Prediction: Both of these guys are aggressive and love to fight balls to the wall. Both are also decent strikers that do their best work on the mat, so it will be an interesting styles clash to say the least. Lauzon has to be one of the best first round fighters in the UFC, as he absolutely storms out of the gates constantly searching for a finish, if he’s smart he’s been watching Nate Diaz’s one sided beat down of Miller over and over to glean some tips from it. That loss may also be important to Miller, since it will be his first fight since and how he responds to that loss will say a lot about how this fight goes down. Miller has the skills to grind out a decision using his wrestling to control and dominate Lauzon on the mat, but Lauzon is very dangerous at any time. As it is I think Miller uses takedowns and top control to wear out Lauzon and eventually comes away with a decision victory, sealing the deal in the third round. Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision

Main Card (Pay Per View): Heavyweight Championship Bout: Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez

Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos is a 28-year-old Brazilian fighter from Santa Catarina, Brazil. He is the reigning and defending UFC Heavyweight Champion, a belt that he won from his challenger Cain Velasquez. Dos Santos is one of the most talented and hardest hitting strikers in the Heavyweight division, owning 11Knockouts in 15 career victories. Dos Santos also has excellent grappling skills, holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under famed fighter Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Dos Santos is a member of the Black House Gym, training with Team Nogueira in Bahia, Brazil. Dos Santos is a dangerous fighter, who already holds a career victory via first round knockout against Velasquez. He holds a professional record of 15-1 and hasn’t lost since November of 2007.

Cain Velasquez is a Mexican-American fighter from Salinas, California. The 30-year-old is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Velasquez is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California and is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. Velasquez holds a brown belt in Guerilla Jiu Jitsu, which is a form of submission grappling more suited to modern MMA. Despite his previous loss to Dos Santos, many people have claimed that he took the bout with a significant knee injury since it was the UFC’s debut on Fox, and really shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place. Still, he remains a dangerous fighter wherever the bout takes place, as his striking has been rapidly improving and he’s a nightmare for anyone to handle on the mat. In his last bout he absolutely demolished Antonio Silva on the ground and left him a bloody mess, before finally earning a TKO in the first round. Velasquez holds a career record of 10-1, with his only loss coming against Dos Santos.

Analysis and Prediction: For many people the biggest question heading in to this contest is ‘Can Cain earn a takedown against Dos Santos?’ A man who has proven to be nearly impossible to takedown in the UFC, in fact he’s only been taken down once in his entire UFC career and it lasted for only seconds. For me, I think a more important question to consider is how is Dos Santos going to be able to handle himself if he does in fact end up underneath of Velasquez.

Cain has one of the most aggressive and nasty top games in the Heavyweight division. He throws ground and pound with bad intentions and his elbows can absolutely end your night as they cause significant damage. Cain is also a better striker than he showed in the first bout and to be honest, I think the injuries to both fighters are significant enough that the results of the first contest are barely even useful in a true fight analysis. Dos Santos’ trainers claim that he has one of the best ground games in the Heavyweight division, but even that isn’t going to be enough to contain Cain Velasquez, if he manages to score a takedown.

Dos Santos is surely going to be focusing on keeping this bout upright. Despite his claims that he’s ready to submit someone in the UFC, I’m not convinced he’s going to be pulling guard against a wrestler as talented as Velasquez. So for him, he’ll need to use footwork and an effective sprawl and brawl style to keep the bout standing and look for the big knockout shot. He’s shown that he can knock out almost anyone, if he hits them cleanly. Unfortunately I don’t think Velasquez will be nearly as slow or hittable as he was in their last encounter.

I don’t think Dos Santos can keep Velasquez at bay, and I think his advantage on the ground is far more significant that Dos Santos’ edge on the feet. That alone, combined with the fact that we’re going to see a significantly better and strong Velasquez make me think it’s going to be time for the challenger to reclaim his belt. I think he stops Dos Santos with strikes in the third round. Cain Velasquez via TKO in Round Three

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UFC On FOX 4 Shogun Vs. Vera Predictions & Analysis

August 03, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The injury-bug has continued to plague the UFC this summer and after a fairly disappointing effort in Calgary, Alberta for UFC 149, the UFC is hoping to right the ship this weekend on network TV. The UFC rolls into the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California this weekend for their fourth offering on Fox.

Dana White and the hype machine have stoked the fires in an effort to try and gain casual fan interest in this card by promising that one of the Light Heavyweights in the Main and Co-Main Event will be one of the next men to challenge for the Light Heavyweight Championship. As Eric has discussed already in a couple of excellent blogs, the effort is almost laughable from a credibility point of view, but it’s a stroke of marketing genius that is surely going to get a few more eyeballs on the product come Saturday night.

The Main Event of the evening sees former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looks to punch his ticket to another shot at the championship as he brings his high-octane style to the cage against former Heavyweight title hopeful Brandon “The Truth” Vera. The co-main event features two more Light Heavyweights looking to get into the title hunt as Ryan “Darth” Bader takes on Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. Two more bouts fill out the main Fox Televised Card as Joe Lauzon battles Jamie Varner in Lightweight action and Mike Swick returns from an extended layoff to take on DaMarques Johnson in Welterweight action.

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Flyweight Bout: John Moraga vs. Ulysses Gomez

John Moraga is making his UFC debut in this bout. Moraga has only one defeat in his professional career and that was to recent Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson. Moraga is a member of the MMA Lab and Arizona Combat Sports Gym in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a professional record of 10-1 with 6 stoppage victories. “Useless” Ulysses Gomez is a top Flyweight fighter who has cut his teeth in the Tachi Palace Fights organization and is a former TPF Flyweight and Bantamweight champion. Gomez is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has the majority of his wins via Submission. He is a member of Simpson Go’s Cobra Kai Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada and holds a professional record of 9-2.

Analysis and Prediction: Both of these fighters are submission experts and talented grapplers. The one knock against Moraga is that his competition is super soft. Gomez has fought some of the top names in the Flyweight division under the Tachi Palace promotion and although his results have been mixed, he’s at least been to the show. His big fight experience carries him through as he takes a submission victory late in the bout. Ulysses Gomez via Submission in Round Three

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Manny Gamburyan vs. Michihiro Omigawa

Manvel “The Anvil” Gamburyan is an American-Armenian fighter from North Hollywood, California. He was a finalist as a Lightweight on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Gamburyan is a black belt in Judo and a black belt in Kyokushin karate. Gamburyan is a grinder, who does his best work on the mat, using takedowns and his Judo based top control to dominate his opponents on the mat. He isn’t the most talented striker, but he’s thrown some big power punches in the past and has shown an ability to knock opponents out. Gamburyan owns a career record of 11-7. Michihiro Omigawa is a Japanese fighter from the Hidehiko Yoshida dojo in Tokyo, Japan. Like his opponent he is a black belt in Judo. Omigawa has had success in a number of Japanese promotions including Shooto, Deep and Sengoku. Omigawa has a career record of 13-11-1.

Analysis and Prediction: Both men are top-level Judokas, so the likely scenario is that their Judo cancels one another out. With the grappling game being about even, the likely event is that the person who earns the takedown and ends up on top will win the battle on the mat. The person more likely to score takedowns is Gamburyan. Omigawa is undoubtedly the more technical striker, but he tends to get into brawls and he hasn’t shown stout takedown defense in the past. Gamburyan uses takedowns and top control to grind a decision out. Manny Gamburyan via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Heavyweight Bout: Phil De Fries vs. Oli Thompson

Philip De Fries is a fighter from Sunderland, England. He is one of the better grapplers in the Heavyweight division who has the majority of his wins by Submission. De Fries has stopped six of his opponents in the first round and most of his wins are by Rear Naked Choke. De Fries has a career record of 8-1, with his only loss in the UFC to Stipe Miocic. Oli Thompson is another British fighter from East Sussex, England. Thompson is a former strongman competitor and fared well as a professional strongman. Thompson doesn’t have the greatest of striking skills and his grappling game is based more so on strength than on actual technique. Still he has translated that brute strength relatively well as he owns a career record of 9-3.

Analysis and Prediction: This fight is likely going to be a slow and sloppy affair, but with that said, someone has to win. Neither man is a talented striker, but Thompson hits harder. Both of these guys are pretty terrible wrestlers, but are talented with submissions. I think Thompson will be able to use his brute strength to overpower De Fries and work away from top control. I doubt he gets a submission, but he gets enough top control time to win the decision. Oli Thompson via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Josh Grispi vs. Rani Yahya

Josh “The Fluke” Grispi was formerly one of the top prospects in the Featherweight division, but his hype train has been seriously derailed in his last two fights. Grispi is only 23-years-old and has shown some serious flashes of brilliance in the past, it’s hard to make what’s going on with his last two bouts. Grispi is a member of the South Shore Sportfighting Gym in Rockland, Massachusetts. He holds a career record of 14-3. Rani Yahya is a 27-year-old Brazilian fighter from the Constrictor Fight Team in Brasilia, Brazil. Yahya is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is one of the top grapplers in the Featherweight division. Despite starting his career with fairly limited striking skills, he has shown some significant improvements in his skills and although he still has some shortfalls. Yahya holds a career record of 16-7 with 14 wins via Submission.

Analysis and Prediction: I have a really hard time figuring out what’s going on with Grispi. To be perfectly blunt, he’s sucked up his last two fights and his striking looked absolutely awful. In almost all of his bouts before that he’s looked impressive and technically sound. Yahya is definitely the more talented grappler and if this bout goes to the mat I think Yahya has the chops to submit him. Still I believe in Grispi and I think he rights the ship on Saturday night. He keeps the bout standing long enough to take a decision. Josh Grispi via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado

Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis is an American fighter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Davis is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Penn State University. He is a member of the Alliance MMA gym in Chula Vista, California. He has translated his wrestling skills well to the Octagon, although at times he struggles with mixing his strikes with takedowns to close the distance. Davis is a competent grappler but he is coming off of his first career loss in a bout where he was completely dominated in the striking game for five rounds by Rashad Evans. Still Davis is a top prospect and holds a career record of 9-1. Wagner “Caldeirao” Prado is a Brazilian fighter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is a late-replacement for Chad Griggs who was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Prado is a member of the Team Nogueira Gym in Brazil and is a Muay Thai striker with seven stoppage victories. Prado is a physically massive fighter who throws his looping punches with bad intentions. Prado is undefeated as a professional with an 8-0 record.

Analysis and Prediction: There is a decent chance of an upset in this one, although not a great one. Prado hits incredibly hard and throws his punches with bad intentions. Davis is a pretty awful striker and struggled against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in their bout, if he lets Prado hit him that much there’s a good chance he’s sunk. Davis is significantly better than anyone Prado has faced before and is the top grappler that has ever tried to take Prado down. If he scores one takedown, that will likely be enough to seal the fight, as I like Davis to transition for a submission, but his striking isn’t good and he struggles at closing the distance. Don’t be surprised to see Davis win, but there’s an upset brewing. Wagner Prado via KO in Round One

Preliminary Card (Fuel TV): Featherweight Bout: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan

Cole “Magrino” Miller is an American fighter from Macon, Georgia. Miller is a member of the American Top Team fighting out of Boca Raton, Florida. At 6’1” Miller is one of the tallest and lankiest fighters in the Featherweight division. Those lanky limbs along with his grappling ability make Miller a tough submission threat for any fighter to deal with.  Miller holds a career record of 18-6.  Nam Phan is an American fighter from Westminster, California. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Karate and has recently switched his training camp to join the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento. Phan is a talented striker with a fan-friendly style who isn’t one to shy away from a brawl, but he’ll be significantly overmatched in the grappling department against Miller. Phan holds a career record of 17-10.

Analysis and Prediction: Phan may be a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but he is damned near useless at grappling from bottom position. In his last bout against Jimy Hettes he was absolutely worked on the mat and was just pummeled from top position. Although Hettes is a step above Miller in grappling ability, the American Top Team fighter still has excellent top control and nasty ground and pound. If Phan can’t control Miller on top of him, he’s going to be in for another beating. He wins the striking exchanges, but doesn’t hit hard enough to stop Miller, eventually Miller gets on top and brings the pain. Phan was able to survive under Hettes, so I doubt Miller is able to earn a finish, but it should be a fairly one-sided decision. Cole Miller via Unanimous Decision

Main Card (FOX): Welterweight Bout: Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson

“Quick” Mike Swick is an American fighter from Houston, Texas. He is best known for his stint on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Swick is a well-rounded fighter who has decent striking, solid takedown defense and a nasty guillotine choke. He is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. Swick has been dealing with a number of ailments and injuries lately and this will actually be his first bout in over two years, his last bout coming at UFC 109 in February of 2010. Swick holds a career record of 14-4. DaMarques “Darkness” Johnson is an American fighter who is a former cast-member on the UK vs. USA season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a member of the Elite Performance Gym in Sandy, Utah. Johnson is also a well-rounded fighter who has split his most recent bouts, going 3-3 in his last six. Johnson holds a career record of 16-10.

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Analysis and Prediction: The biggest concern for Swick is obviously how he is going to adjust to being back in the cage after over two years on the sidelines. However one thing to note is a big part of his layoff was a stomach disease, which has forced him into a much healthier diet, which should actually have a positive effect on his weight cut to 170 pounds. Johnson is almost a mirror image of Swick, although not quite as quick and not as technically sound. If Swick can get into a rhythm and doesn’t look completely ring-rusted he’ll take a lopsided decision. Mike Swick via Unanimous Decision

Main Card (FOX): Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner

Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon is an American fighter from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Lauzon is a member of the Reality Self Defense Gym in his hometown. Lauzon is a talented grappler with 17 career wins via Submission. Lauzon is a purple belt in BJJ who is best known for his stint on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter after his stunning upset of coach Jens Pulver before the show. Lauzon is an entertaining fighter who is known as a bit of a bonus hunter in the UFC owning seven Fight Night bonuses in his UFC career. Lauzon is best known for his grappling skills but he actually has decent striking and can throw knockout blows if given the opportunity. He holds a career record of 21-7. Jamie “C-4” Varner is an American fighter from Phoenix, Arizona. He is a member of the MMA Lab and Arizona Combat Sports Gym in Glendale, Arizona. Varner recently returned to the UFC after being cut and made a huge impact by defeating the formerly undefeated top prospect Edson Barboza by Knockout. Varner does his best work by grinding his opponents, using takedowns and top control to outwork his opponents. Varner’s striking is definitely not technically sound and he’s a bit too hittable, but he throws nasty power in his hands and his overhand right can put anyone to sleep, just like he showed against Barboza in his last bout. Varner holds a career record of 20-6-1.

Analysis and Prediction: Lauzon is well rounded but is a bit overhyped in my opinion. He is a very talented grappler, but doesn’t do his best work unless he is able to take his opponent down and work from top control. Against Varner he’ll struggle to get the fight to the mat, as Varner is the more talented wrestler and the physically stronger fighter. Striking wise Lauzon is more technically competent, but Varner has the big lights out power. Although Varner gets hit a bit too much, he was able to walk through some serious shots against Barboza before landing the big power shot. If he can weather Lauzon’s opening salvo Varner should be able to take over late in the fight. He lands a big power shot late in round two and throws his name into the race for Comeback Fighter of the Year. Jamie Varner via KO in Round Two

Main Card (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader

Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida is a Japanese-Brazilian fighter from Bahia, Brazil. Machida is a black belt in Shotokan Karate and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Machida is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion from the Black House Gym in Brazil where he is a training partner of UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers. Machida is best known for his elusive, counter-striking style, which he uses to great effect. Machida is an expert at creating space and forcing his opponents into making mistakes and leaving themselves open to counters. Machida holds a career record of 17-3.

Ryan “Darth” Bader is an American fighter from the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. Bader is best known as the winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Bader is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Bader relies mostly on his wrestling skills during his bouts as he looks to use takedowns and top control to outwork his opponents. Bader is also talented at using ground and pound to create openings, allowing himself opportunities to advance his position and pass the guard of his opponents, moving himself to more advantageous positions. Bader is coming off of a career win against Quinton Jackson at UFC 144 in Japan. In addition to his strong wrestling skills, Bader also packs a big punch with his big overhand right, although he is somewhat slow and predictable with the shot and opens himself up well for counters at times. Still he owns a career record of 14-2 and is a big win away from title contention.

Analysis and Prediction: Machida is one of the most difficult fighters to game plan for, simply because his style is very hard to emulate. Bader’s best chance lies on using a tight jab and takedowns to keep Machida fairly grounded. Machida is a black belt in BJJ, but he hasn’t shown any elite submission skills from his back and Bader is unlikely to be submitted in that fashion. Bader loves to throw his overhand right, but that is just asking for trouble as that will leave him wide open for Machida counters, which is basically his bread and butter. Bader will get flustered and eventually get reckless trying to chase down Machida. When this happens he leaves himself wide open for the counter kill shot, which Machida lands and stops the fight late in round three. Lyoto Machida via TKO in Round Three

Main Card (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a Brazilian fighter from Curitiba, Brazil. He is a former member of top Brazilian Gym the Chute Boxe Academy, who now fights out of the Universidade da Luta (University of Fighting) out of his hometown. Rua is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is also a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Rua is best known for his highly aggressive style, which includes power punches and snapping leg kicks. Rua is constantly moving forward, constantly pressuring his opponents and is extremely talented at cutting off angles inside the Octagon, forcing his opponents into corners and taking advantage of the striking exchanges. Rua was the winner of the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships Middleweight Grand Prix. Rua is coming off of a Fight of the Year bout against Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 139. He holds a career record of 20-6.

Brandon “The Truth” Vera was once thought to be the top title contender at Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight in the UFC. Those days are long gone, but Vera finds himself with the chance to leap right back into title contention with a big upset victory against Rua on Saturday night. Vera is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who is a member of the Alliance MMA Gym in San Diego, California. Vera is a well-rounded fighter with Muay Thai skills and Greco-Roman skills. Vera has looked impressive against lower-tier competition in the past, but the knock against him has been that he fades in the face of pressure. Facing an opponent like Shogun, he’s certain to encounter some pressure and violence. Vera holds a career record of 12-5-1.

Analysis and Prediction: Brandon Vera was once the pride of the UFC, expected to be a top contender at both 205 and 265 pounds. Those days are long gone and Vera has been less than impressive in recent years. Vera does some of his best work from the clinch, allowing him to employ both his Muay Thai and Greco Roman skills at the same time. Unfortunately for him Rua is absolutely nasty from the clinch and he has absolutely devastating knees, which will ruin anyone’s night. Vera has looked impressive in the past, but hasn’t in a long while. He was dropped by Eliot Marshall and was absolutely destroyed by Thiago Silva (Silva failing a drug test is the only reason he wasn’t cut from the UFC.) Shogun comes blitzing right out of the gate and storms Vera. Vera does his usual thing and folds up shop at the onslaught, earning Shogun an impressive stoppage victory in the first round and probably a shot at the Light Heavyweight Championship. Mauricio Rua via TKO in Round One


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UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson Predictions & Analysis

February 23, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes it’s somewhat long-awaited return to the Land of the Rising Sun, this weekend when they hold their first card in Japan since UFC 29 all the way back in the year 2000. They are returning to the former hotspot of PRIDE Fighting Championships, the massive Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The main Pay Per View card of the event has been amped up to four hours of run time and has added an additional two bouts.

Featuring a main event for the UFC’s Lightweight Championship between challenger Benson Henderson and champion Frankie Edgar, the UFC is offering a very solid card this weekend. Also the card features nearly every Japanese fighter employed by the UFC, so it offers a lot for the hometown crowd as well as a number of intriguing bouts for those of us who will be watching the card from the comfort of our own living room.

In addition to a potential barn-burner in the Main Event, this card offers a lot of intriguing bouts throughout the entire main card. The heavyweight bout between Mark Hunt and Cheick Kongo could turn into a complete slug-fest. The lightweight contest between Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon could feature all kinds of crazy high-octane action and that bout has some definite title implications at 155-pounds. A potential number one contender bout in the Featherweight division will take place when world-ranked Hatsu Hioki takes on Bart Palaszewski. Bouts featuring Quinton Jackson, Ryan Bader, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jake Shields, Yushin Okami and Tim Boetsch round out the main PPV card. Let’s get right into the action.

Preliminary Card Bout (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Zhang Tiequan vs. Issei Tamura

Zhang “The Mongolian Wolf” Tiequan (anglicized Tiequan Zhang) is a Chinese-born fighter and is the first fighter from China to fight for the UFC. He is a member of the Black Tiger Team from China, as well as a notable member of China Top Team. Zhang is a BJJ, Sanshou and Shuai Jiao (Chinese Wrestling) based fighter. He is a brown belt in BJJ and excels when the fight hits the mat. Zhang is one of the better grapplers in the Featherweight division who has good takedowns with decent kick-boxing skills. Zhang started his career by going 14-0, stopping all of his opponents. Zhang has a career record of 15-2 and has never been finished in a fight.

Issei Tamura is a Japanese born fighter, who fights out of the Krazy Bee Dojo in Tokyo, Japan. He is actually taking this bout as a late-replacement for the injured Leonard Garcia. Tamura is a wrestling based fighter who has spent the majority of his career under the Japanese Shooto promotion’s banner. Tamura is relatively new to MMA, making his pro debut in June 2008. Tamura is fairly undersized as a Featherweight fighter, who cuts relatively little weight to make 145 pounds, and stands only 5’5” so he may be fairly undersized in this bout. However, he remains a strong wrestler who is able to takedown and control his opponents as the base of his offense.

Analysis and Prediction: There is a lot to say about Octagon jitters, as they have been the downfall of many fighters in the past. Also account for the fact that Tamura is a late replacement and is somewhat undersized for the division, there is a lot going against him in this bout. In Zhang’s previous fights he has hunted submissions relentlessly, sometimes at the expense of winning the bout. This proved to be his downfall in his last bout against Darren Elkins, where he was taken down because of his willingness to go after Guillotine Chokes which never really came close to stopping the bout. Tamura isn’t the greatest of fighters, but he has the tools to beat Zhang here, unless Zhang has worked considerably on his game planning and cardio, he’s going to struggle against someone who is perfectly willing to grind away at him from top control. Issei Tamura via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris Cariaso

Takeya Mizugaki is a 28-year-old fighter from Ibaragi, Japan. Mizugaki formerly fought for the Shooto promotion in his native Japan, before being brought in as supposed cannon-fodder for then WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres. Mizugaki ended up going five rounds, in a highly entertaining slugfest that earned him some serious job security. Mizugaki is a striker first, with developing ground skills, but he definitely prefers to keep his fights in the pocket. He is a member of the Shooting Gym Hakkei gym in Kanagawa, Japan. Mizugaki has done well in both the WEC and UFC, falling only to the elite of the division (Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles, Scott Jorgensen, Miguel Torres) but has defeated all other comers. Mizugaki owns a professional record of 15-6-2.

Chris “Kamikaze” Cariaso is a 30-year-old fighter from San Fransisco, California. Cariaso has fought for a number of large MMA promotions including Strikeforce and Elite XC before signing with the WEC. Cariaso is a striker with solid kick-boxing skills who like his opponent has fared well but has fallen against the higher-level fighters in the Bantamweight division. Cariaso also adds competent grappling skills to his strong kick-boxing background, which makes him a tough match up for nearly anyone in the division. He owns a professional MMA record of 12-3.

Analysis and Prediction: Both of these guys are strong strikers with competent ground skills. Both men would also much prefer to stand in the pocket and trade with their opponents rather than work the fight to the mat. The similarities do not end there, as they both have fared well against mid-level competition but have struggled against the upper class of Bantamweights. The biggest thing here may be that Mizugaki will enjoy a four-inch height and reach advantage, which could be the downfall of a striker like Cariaso. This one is likely going to feature three rounds of back and forth kick-boxing, but don’t be surprised if it degenerates into a brawl at times. One of a number of potential Fight of the Night contenders here, but the Japanese fighter takes it on home soil. Takeya Mizugaki via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Middleweight Bout: Riki Fukuda vs. Steven Cantwell

Riki “Killer Bee” Fukuda is a 31-year-old fighter from Tokyo, Japan. Fukuda is a boxing and Shooto based fighter, who was an All Japan University Wrestling Champion. He has fought for a number of notable MMA promotions including DEEP, Dream, Elite XC, Shooto and K-1. Fukuda is a member of the Grabaka Gym and is a very grinding fighter. Fukuda is very tough and durable who is constantly moving forward. He throws solid one-two combinations as a way to close the distance against his opponents before shooting for takedowns. From top control he is very effective at grinding away at his opponents with constant ground and pound. One thing that may be concerning for Fukuda is that he has been out of the cage for over twelve months due to injury. Fukuda owns a career record of 17-5.

Steven “The Robot” Cantwell is a 25-year-old fighter from Long Beach, California. He is a former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion who now trains out of the One Kick’s Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cantwell has had a bizarre history with the UFC, pulling out of a number of fights due to undisclosed injuries, one of which Dana White said “May cause him to never fight again.” When he is fighting Cantwell is a strong grappler with mediocre striking skills. He does however own a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but outside of a few fights, hasn’t really been able to translate those skills effectively to the cage. Cantwell has a career record of 7-5, but hasn’t won a bout since 2009 and is likely fighting for his employment in this bout.

Analysis and Prediction: Fukuda is being thrown a soft-ball here from the UFC in my opinion. He is coming off of a long layoff and is getting an opponent tailor-made for him to beat. Cantwell is a fairly sloppy striker and although Fukuda isn’t the second coming of Muhammed Ali, he’ll likely hold the edge striking. On the ground Cantwell had nothing to offer Mike Massenzio who is a pretty comparable grappler to Fukuda, so it’s unlikely that Cantwell can do much to stop Fukuda from taking him down. He’s too tough to be finished, but he’s likely going to drop a clear cut decision to the Japanese fighter. Riki Fukuda via Unanimous Decision

Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto is a 34-year-old fighter from Kanagawa, Japan. A few years ago Yamamoto was one of the most feared fighters in the lighter weight-classes in the world. His stellar wrestling background as well as strong striking and knockout power that is abnormal for a man so small, made him a nightmare for many opponents. Since coming over to the UFC, he has not fared as well, dropping back to back decisions and is 1-4, in his last five bouts. Fighting out of his own Krazy Bee Gym in Tokyo, Japan he’ll be looking to get back on track in this bout. Despite his recent struggles, his approach to fighting remains the same. Strong wrestling that he uses to keep the bout standing, while hunting for the huge right hand that can end anyone’s night. Despite his recent struggles Yamamoto owns a professional record of 18-5.

Vaughan Lee is an English fighter from Birmingham, England. He is a member of the Ultimate Training Centre in Birmingham, England. Lee is a fairly well-rounded fighter. During his fight against Chris Cariaso, Lee was able to dominate Cariaso on the ground for the first round. He has also shown fairly strong kick-boxing skills in previous fights. However, in his bout against Cariaso, once he was taken down, he showed very little ability to do anything from his back. Lee also has significant power in his strikes as well, as he holds a number of first round stoppage victories on his resume. Still he remains a fairly hot and cold fighter, with a professional record of 11-7-1.

Analysis and Prediction: This is a fight that’s likely going to take place on the feet. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in either fighter, but I think Yamamoto holds enough advantages here to win the bout. His wrestling hasn’t looked great in recent bouts, but he was once a contender to join the Olympic Wrestling team for Japan, so it’s unlikely that Lee will be able to work the bout to the mat easily. In a striking battle, Yamamoto struggles at times against fighters who are faster than him, which I don’t actually think Lee is. Throw in the home crowd advantage and it’s likely that “Kid” will land a huge right hand at some point that ends the Brit’s night. Norifumi Yamamoto via TKO in Round Two

Preliminary Card Bout (FX): Lightweight Bout: Takanori Gomi vs. Eiji Mitsuoka

Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi is a 33-year-old fighter from Kanagawa, Japan. Formerly the face of the lighter weight-classes in PRIDE, he is the former PRIDE Lightweight Champion. During his peak he was the Lightweight version of Chuck Liddell. A striker with big power who threw massive looping punches that hit with a ton of power, while using his strong wrestling skills defensively to avoid being taken down to the mat. Things have been tough for Gomi since 2008, as his skill set has since deteriorated. His wrestling skills have not gotten any better and his striking has slowed with age. He is no longer the feared striker he once was, as in his last bout he was outclassed in the striking department by Nate Diaz. Outside of an impressive one-punch KO of Tyson Griffin in 2010, Gomi hasn’t looked like his former self in a number of years. Still, his one-punch KO power has to be respected and he is still one of the most recognizable Japanese fighters in the history of the sport. Gomi holds a professional MMA record of 32-8 with 1 No Contest.

Eiji Mitsuoka is a 36-year-old fighter from Saitama, Japan. He is accepting this bout on late notice as an injury replacement for George Sotiropoulos. Despite his relative unknown status in North America, he has fought for a number of major Asian MMA promotions including Dream, DEEP, World Victory Road and PRIDE. Mitsuoka is an extremely talented grappler with limited striking skills to complement. However, he recently took a year long sabbatical from competition where he trained exclusively in striking skills, so who knows what kind of impact that might have. Mitsuoka is a member of the Wajyutsu Keisyukai RJW Fight Team. Mitsuoka holds a professional MMA record of 18-7-2.

Analysis and Prediction: Despite the fact that he holds little name value, Mitsuoka is a dangerous opponent and is one that Gomi cannot overlook. Striking, Gomi holds a distinct advantage, as he throws significantly better combinations and hits harder than Mitsuoka, even with his deteriorating speed. However, Gomi has always been prone to gassing out and being out-classed in the grappling department. Mitsuoka is extremely tough and durable, having never been stopped due to strikes in his career. If Gomi hasn’t improved his cardio issues, it is entirely possible that he pummels Mitsuoka for two rounds, before getting taken down and submitted in the third. It’s actually the outcome that I’m predicting. Eiji Mitsuoka via Submission in Round Three

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Lightweight Bout: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon

Anthony “Showtime” Pettis is a 25-year-old fighter from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a member of the Roufusport Fight Team based out of his hometown, where he trains regularly with fighters like Alan Belcher, Pat Barry and Ben Askren under legendary kick-boxer Duke Roufus. Pettis is a very well-rounded fighter with backgrounds in Muay Thai, Tae Kwan Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Pettis was the final WEC Lightweight Champion and actually defeated headliner Ben Henderson at the WEC’s final show to win that title. Pettis has very flashy and quick striking skills, perhaps being most notable for “the Showtime Kick” where he scaled the cage wall, before delivering a head kick to Ben Henderson in their bout. On the ground Pettis has an active guard and is very active from both the bottom as well as top control, constantly searching for sweeps and submission attempts. Pettis holds a career MMA record of 14-2.

Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon is a 27-year-old fighter from Brockton, Massachusetts. He trains at his own home gym Lauzon MMA in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Like his opponent Lauzon is a very well-rounded fighter. He is a competent striker who can put together combinations well, as well having a very impressive and aggressive grappling skill set. Lauzon is a former cast-member of The Ultimate Fighter, where he was defeated in the semi-finals by Manny Gamburyan. Lauzon is coming off one of the biggest wins of his career at UFC 136 when he stunned Melvin Guillard with a big punch, before latching onto his back and submitting him via Rear Naked Choke. Lauzon has a professional record of 21-6, including 17 wins by way of submission.

Analysis and Prediction: This is an extremely intriguing bout and is a serious contender for Fight of the Night. Pettis is one of the flashiest strikers in the Lightweight division, but in his last bout showed that he could follow a game plan if needed by outwrestling and grappling Jeremy Stephens. Pettis was controlled by Clay Guida, but Lauzon doesn’t have the wrestling chops to control Pettis on the mat like that. Most likely this bout takes place wherever Pettis wants it to, which means it will likely turn into a striking battle. Lauzon is decent, but he’s shown a tendency to gas out in the later rounds and he won’t be able to keep pace with “Showtime.” Pettis will wear him down with leg kicks and body punches before finally stopping the bout in the third round. Anthony Pettis via TKO in Round Three

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Featherweight Bout: Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski

Hatsu “Iron Broom” Hioki is a 28-year-old Japanese fighter. He is a member of the ALIVE Shooto & Jiu Jitsu Academy in his hometown of Tokyo, Japan but also trains at the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada alongside Georges St. Pierre. Hioki has fought for a number of notable organizations including TKO, Shooto (where he was the Lightweight Champion) and World Victory Road. Hioki is a competent striker, who can put together stellar combinations and has a very strong chin, but his bread and butter is his grappling game. Hioki is a black belt in BJJ and the majority of his wins have come via Submission. From top control Hioki is absolutely relentless, constantly pressing to pass guard and throw ground and pound as well as search out submission opportunities. Hioki’s professional MMA record is 25-4-2.

Bart “Bartimus” Palaszewski is a Polish born fighter that resides and trains in Illinois. He is a member of Jeff Curran’s Team Curran gym in Wonder Lake, Illinois. Palaszewski despite not yet being 30 years old is a veteran of the fight game with 50 career professional bouts. Despite his training with Jeff Curran and his black belt level in BJJ, striking is where Palaszewski is most confident. He throws solid combinations with big power. He recently made the drop to Featherweight and had impressive results as he flattened Tyson Griffin at UFC 137 with a huge left hook that knocked Griffin out cold. Palaszewski owns a career record of 36-14.

Analysis and Prediction: I’ll admit a couple things right away here, 1) I bet pretty big on Hioki against George Roop. 2) It was a less than impressive victory for someone who is touted as the number two Featherweight fighter in the world, 3) I actually had it scored 29-28 in favor of Hioki. With that out of the way, we move on to this bout. Hioki struggled against Roop’s lengthy frame, but striking has never been his strong suit, he is often willing to oblige opponents in that realm, but he prefers the ground. Against Palaszewski he faces a BJJ black belt, that should be significantly better on the ground than he actually is. This one will certainly come down to Hioki’s ability to get the fight to the mat. Palaszewski hits hard and hits often, so this fight could end at any time, but in front of a home crowd and with octagon jitters out of the way, I think Hioki finds a way to drag Palaszewski down to the ground and runs game on him from there, eventually earning a late stoppage. Hatsu Hioki via Submission in Round Two

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch

Yushin “Thunder” Okami is a 30-year-old fighter from Kanagawa, Japan. He is a Judo based fighter, with a black belt in that discipline. Okami also has very strong wrestling skills which he has continued to improve since beginning to train in the USA with Chael Sonnen at Team Quest. In addition to his strong wrestling and Judo skills, Okami is one of the larger fighters in the Middleweight division and is extremely strong which aids him in controlling his opponents on the ground. Okami has decent technical boxing, backed mostly by a solid jab and basic one-two combinations, but he uses his strikes simply to close the distance and get into a clinch with opponents. From there it’s a Judo throw, or a double leg takedown away from hitting the mat, where Okami can grind away on his opponents with ground and pound from the top. Okami holds a professional MMA record of 26-6.

Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch is a 31-year-old fighter from Lincolnville, Maine. Like his opponent he is a Judo and Wrestling based fighter. After struggling as a Light Heavyweight fighter an improved diet and drop to Middleweight has rejuvenated him as a fighter. Boetsch often struggled to control his opponents at 205 pounds, but now is better able to impose his wrestling skills against Middleweight fighters. Boetsch has proven very competent in the clinch in his UFC career, showing good dirty boxing skills, with nasty uppercuts, as well as a strong ability to earn takedowns using his Judo skills. Boetsch holds a career record of 14-4.

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Analysis and Prediction: Boetsch has found new life at Middleweight. As a Light Heavyweight, he faced some of the biggest, toughest wrestlers in the division and was completely man-handled by most of them. However, at Middleweight he hasn’t had that problem. Against Okami, he may be back in problematic territory. Okami is one of the biggest, strongest fighters in the Middleweight division. Okami probably has the better stand up. The only area I really think Boetsch has an advantage is in the clinch with his dirty boxing, but it’s unlikely Okami let’s him hang out there for very long before he takes him down. On the ground Okami is one of the best grinders out there, constantly pounding away at his opponents. Boetsch has big power, so if Okami gets baited into a firefight it’s possible he could be in trouble. But Okami has never shown himself to be reckless, he’s a controlled fighter, who usually follows the game plan and even though Boetsch knows what it is, he doesn’t have the track record to stop it. Yushin Okami via Unanimous Decision

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Welterweight Bout: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields

Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama is a 36-year-old fighter from Osaka, Japan. He is a 3rd degree black belt in Judo and also holds strong boxing skills. He currently splits training time between Team Cloud in Japan and Jackson’s Submission Fighting in New Mexico. Akiyama is making his Welterweight debut in this fight, so it may be interesting to see how the weight cut affects him, as he has never really been known for having strong cardio. Still, he was a small Middleweight fighter and fans have been calling for him to shed the weight for a while now, so it’s unlikely to have a massive impact on him come fight night. Akiyama’s biggest issues have always been his cardio and is inability to game plan, often resorting to brawling against fighters and ignoring his obvious ground advantages. Still, because of his amazing chin and ability to withstand punishment he’s mostly gotten away with it (save for his last bout against Vitor Belfort where he got annihilated striking and KO’ed for the trouble.) Akiyama holds a professional MMA record of 13-4-2.

Jake Shields is a 33-year-old fighter from California who is a member of the famed Cesar Gracie Fight Team where he trains regularly with Gilbert Melendez and the Diaz brothers. Shields has fought for and held titles in a number of notable MMA promotions including Elite XC, Shooto and Strikeforce. He is a black belt in BJJ as well as a former NCAA Division 2 Wrestler at San Fransisco State University. Shields is best served when using his wrestling to get the fight to the mat and then working his high level Jiu Jitsu skills against his opponents. His stand up is fairly rudimentary, although he can absorb a lot of punishment, which usually keeps him out of trouble, in fact Jake Ellenberger was recently the first person to finish Shields via strikes in more than 10 years of pro completion (and that was a week after Shields’ father and manager had passed away, so it’s hard to ignore the psychological effects that likely had on Shields.) Despite his recent setbacks, he remains one of the best Welterweight fighters on the planet and is probably the top one or two grapplers in the UFC’s Welterweight division. Shields owns a professional MMA record of 26-6-1.

Analysis and Prediction: This bout has some serious contrast in styles. Neither fighter has great striking, but of the two, Akiyama’s is definitely better. If Akiyama could stay disciplined when striking, he would hold a significant edge, but his tendency to throw wild punches often ends up hurting him. On the ground Shields is an absolute beast, his blend of NCAA level wrestling and BJJ skills, combined with great athleticism and strength makes him tough for anyone to handle on the mat. His striking is surprisingly bad for someone who’s been in the fight game for as long as he has, but it’s rarely been a problem for him in the past. On the ground Akiyama is no slouch, but he is not a dynamo from his back. His grappling game is mainly focused on being effective from top control. On the bottom against a fighter like Shields, he’s going to be focused on covering up and playing defense, the perfect chance for Shields to capitalize on a small mistake and latch onto a submission. Akiyama has also always had problems with his cardio and after cutting weight to drop a weight-class, I doubt it’s going to improve in this fight. Shields on the other hand has fought in numerous championship bouts and has looked solid over all five rounds, so we know he won’t slow down. If Akiyama gets tired in round three, expect him to get taken down, pounded on and Rear Naked Choked for his troubles when he turtles up. Jake Shields via Submission in Round Three

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Heavyweight Bout: Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo

Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt owns one of the strangest resumes in all of MMA completion. A former Super Heavyweight fighter who used to weigh in at well over 300 pounds, but has since made the permanent cut to 265 pounds to make the UFC’s heavyweight limit, Hunt is one of the most powerful strikers in all of MMA. Hunt holds career victories over Wanderlei Silva, Ben Rothwell and Mirko Cro Cop, but has losses to other fighters like Sean McCorkle and Melvin Manhoef. As a former professional K-1 Kickboxer that is where Hunt’s skills lie. The New Zealand born fighter is now a world traveler, training at a number of notable MMA Gyms in his quest to improve his all-around MMA game, his most recent stop was at American Top Team. Hunt holds a professional MMA record of 7-7.

Cheick Kongo is a French born Heavyweight fighter from Paris, France. Kongo trains at the Wolfslair MMA Academy in Paris. The 36-year-old stands 6’4” and with an 82 inch reach regularly holds reach advantages over his opponents. Kongo is a kick-boxer first and foremost with backgrounds in Muay Thai, Savate and traditional kick-boxing. Recently he has shown a more dynamic MMA game, with an ability to game plan, by utilizing wrestling and top control against his opponents. Kongo is very successful in the clinch, where he can use knees to the body to wear out his opponents, before searching for a takedown. Although his ground game is fairly basic, he still excels at sitting in guard and posturing up to use his size to deliver ground and pound to his opponents. Kongo holds a professional MMA record of 17-6-2.

Analysis and Prediction: This one is definitely one of the more intriguing bouts on the card, that could go a couple of ways. It also feels as though it’s a bit of a throwback to the sideshow fights that Pride used to put on. Kongo is a kick-boxer, but he doesn’t have the most solid of chins. In his bout against Pat Barry he tried to strike which earned him a ticket to queer street and if it wasn’t for Barry’s poor decision-making he probably could have won that fight. Instead Kongo made the epic comeback. Against a powerful striker like Hunt, it’s hard to think that Kongo will be making any kind of comeback if he takes anything more than a jab directly to the chin. Hunt is fairly one-dimensional, but he has been improving in other areas. However, Kongo has also improved considerably recently. In his most recent bout against Matt Mitrione he used a plethora of leg kicks and a newfound wrestling skill set to dominate Mitrione for three rounds. If he employs a similar approach against Hunt, he should be able to outwrestle the samoan for three rounds, but if he chooses to stand and trade, it becomes a dicey situation for the Frenchman. Overall, Kongo has shown himself to be getting smarter, so I think he plays this one safe and earns a clear unanimous decision, but if he decides to trade, it could be upset city for Mark Hunt. Cheick Kongo via Unanimous Decision

Main Card Bout (Pay Per View): Light Heavyweight Bout: Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is a 33-year-old fighter from Memphis, Tennessee, but he will be returning to his second home for this bout. Jackson is a former standout from the Pride Fighting Championship days and is loved by Japanese fight fans. He’s already stated that he’s looking forward to putting on a show for the locals. Jackson is a strong striker and a decent wrestler, however, he prefers to use his wrestling mostly for defense, preferring to stand and trade with his opponents. Jackson is probably one of the most straight-forward fighters in the UFC. He comes to bang. Jackson constantly uses his footwork to shuffle around, searching for the opportunity to throw a counter right hand, or a big overhand hook, all of which have the potential to end any fighter’s night. Jackson owns a professional MMA record of 32-9.

Ryan “Darth” Bader is a 28-year-old fighter from Reno, Nevada. Bader is best known as the winner of the eighth season of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter. Bader was a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler, winning three Pac-10 Championships during his time at Arizona State University. Bader is a member of the Power MMA Team and a former member of Arizona Combat Sports Fight Team. He prefers to use his wrestling in his fights, using takedowns and top control to earn points on judge’s scorecards, while using ground and pound to wear out his opponents. Since his time on the reality show, Bader has continually improved his striking skills and is now a fairly competent boxer. Still, his boxing skills are fairly basic, throwing simple combinations and sometimes winging big power punches. Despite his skills being somewhat rudimentary, no one can knock his ability to throw with power as he has earned several recent KO victories. Bader’s career record is 13-2.

Analysis and Prediction: Many people seem to think that Bader has a decent chance at pulling off the upset in this one. The easiest thing to point to is following the game plans that Jon Jones and Rashad Evan have both used successfully against Rampage. Leg kicks, fighting at range and then dragging him to the mat at every opportunity. Rampage’s weakness has always been that he’s too straight-forward. He doesn’t check leg kicks… ever, it’s a serious problem for someone so high on the Light Heavyweight food chain. His other problem coming into this bout is his love for the Japanese fans. At a recent press conference he admitted that he fought stupidly in his Pride days, not fighting intelligently and instead fighting for fan reaction instead of winning, and even worse than that, he’s promising to do it again!

Bader has the tools to win this fight, but it won’t be easy. Rampage has some of the greatest takedown defense in the division and is extremely durable. His loss to Jon Jones was pretty lopsided, but he has lasted the longest of any of Jones’ victims in the UFC so far, so that has to say something. Also, you can never count out the power in Jackson’s counter-punches. The perfect game plan for Bader is to stay outside, work the leg kicks intelligently and use a solid jab to set up his takedown when closing the distance. From the bottom, Jackson has very little to offer other than covering up and trying to scramble, so if Bader is patient he should be able to control the bout on the mat for the majority of the time that it stays there.

All of this of course is easier said than done. Rampage is one of the biggest punchers in the division and is probably the most well-rounded striker that Bader has ever faced. Jackson is an expert at using his footwork to avoid getting trapped in the cage and his massive frame and brute strength make him a nightmare to try and work to the ground. His counter-punching style is extremely effective and if he says he’s willing to let the fists fly in the cage, it could be lights out early for Bader, who’s chin was somewhat exposed by Tito Ortiz. Even if Bader tries to replicate the game plan that Evans used, it’s worthy to note that Rampage won the third round of that fight and after shrugging off a takedown attempt landed some huge uppercuts that nearly knocked Rashad out cold. If the same thing happens to Bader, history has proven that he might not be able to last like Rashad did. Quinton Jackson via TKO in Round Two

Main-Event Bout (Pay Per View): Lightweight Championship Bout: Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson

Benson “Smooth” Henderson is a 28-year-old fighter from Colorado Springs. Henderson is probably best known as a former WEC Lightweight Champion. Henderson is an extremely aggressive fighter, constantly pressing forward against his opponents. Henderson is a member of the MMA Lab Fighting Team in Glendale, Arizona. He has a background in a number of different martial arts disciplines, including a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was a former NAIA All-American Wrestler when he was in college. Henderson is a decent boxer, but he lacks the high-level technical aspects such as strong footwork and tight defense to make him a truly strong striker. Instead he relies more on pressure and getting in close. In clinches there are so many things that Henderson can do including punches, knees, elbows, takedowns and submission attempts, it’s hard to defend against, because opponents never know exactly what’s coming. On the mat is where Henderson truly excels as he uses his strong wrestling base to earn takedowns and is very dangerous from top control, constantly forcing opponents to work to avoid submissions and ground and pound. Henderson owns a career MMA record of 15-2.

Frankie “The Answer” Edgar is the reigning and defending UFC Lightweight Champion. Edgar is a 30-year-old fighter from Toms River, New Jersey. Edgar is a member of the Renzo Gracie Combat Team based out of New Jersey. There Edgar is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Ricardo Almeida and also trains his boxing under Mark Henry and his Muay Thai skills under the tutelage of Phil Nurse. Before joining the UFC Edgar was an NCAA Division 1 Wrestler at Rutgers University. Edgar is the best boxer in the UFC’s Lightweight Division, using strong footwork, hand speed and incredible timing to overwhelm his opponents in exchanges. Edgar also uses angles well, constantly moving around, which makes him difficult to wrestle against as he is never straight ahead for wrestlers to shoot for takedowns or force him into clinches against the fence. Edgar owns a professional MMA record of 14-1-1.

Analysis and Prediction: This one definitely has the potential to be five rounds of intense, high-paced, back and forth action. The fighting styles of both men definitely lends itself to this one going all five rounds. Edgar is one of the most difficult fighters in the UFC to finish, as he’s escaped more submissions than anyone else and has never been knocked out in his entire career. Edgar on the other hand has shown how hard he is to finish, mainly throughout his trilogy of fights against Gray Maynard, where he was rocked in nearly every fight, before storming back to win the remaining rounds in those bouts.

Henderson has said in media interviews that he plans to use his size and cut off the cage against Edgar, to try to trap him against the walls. However, that might be easier said than done for him, as Edgar’s footwork is extremely impressive and will not be easy to control in the cage. Edgar will almost certainly have the speed advantage on the feet, so it’ll be tough for Henderson to try and trap Edgar without taking a number of punches for his trouble. The other problem is that Edgar is an excellent wrestler himself and his ability to sprawl and brawl is extremely impressive, it definitely will not be smooth sailing for Henderson in this realm.

Henderson has been impressive in his last few fights, but it’s important to note that Edgar will be the best striker that he has faced in a long time. And the last time he faced a striker of this calibre, he lost to the “Showtime Kick” to Henderson, in the WEC’s final show. Edgar will certainly want to keep this bout standing, as he has a decided advantage there. Trained under Ricardo Almeida in Jiu Jitsu, the champion is certainly no slouch on the ground, but it’s that area where his opponent excels. Henderson can really push the pace if this fight hits the mat, his ability to create scrambles and pressure opponents during those scrambles, is what makes him very dangerous and it was one of the tools he used to defeat both Clay Guida and Jim Miller.

This fight is going to come down to who can impose their game plan on the other man. Both fighters have strong, solid cardio and can fight for all five rounds, and both have done it several times before in their careers. Both fighters are also able to push the pace on their opponents, so it will be interesting to see which fighter begins to slow down first. For Henderson, although it’s something that’s been missing a bit from his game lately, he should be looking to throw a high volume of leg kicks. As Carlos Condit showed against Nick Diaz, nothing slows down a strong boxer more than leg kicks. Edgar is very quick and agile on his feet, but if Henderson can land some big leg kicks to slow the champion down, he’ll have more success trying to stalk him down throughout the fight.

For Edgar, I imagine he’ll fight at a range. He is an expert at closing the distance quickly and darting in and out before taking a lot of return fire. His superior footwork, combined with Henderson’s at times sloppy striking defense, should allow Edgar ample opportunities to get combinations off. Once he hits Henderson it will be just as important that he gets away quickly, Henderson will likely be the larger and stronger fighter in the cage, so Edgar will want to avoid spending any extended time in clinches with Henderson, where the challenger can begin to control the pacing and placement of the bout. Overall, I think Edgar is highly criticized as a UFC champion, but he definitely should not be. Solid wins over Maynard, BJ Penn (twice) and Sean Sherk are nothing to laugh at. At the end of the day, I think his boxing will be too much and he’ll be too quick on the feet for Henderson to slow down and control. I’ll take Edgar by a close, but ultimately clear and unanimous decision. Frankie Edgar via Unanimous Decision

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Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard 3 Set For UFC 136

July 16, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The on again/off again Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard fight is officially back on. After a lengthy delay the two top UFC lightweights will attempt to avenge their previous draw at UFC 136. A UFC featherweight championship co-headlines the Texas event.

I have to give the UFC a lot of credit. After coming into the summer with some mediocre lineups, the promotion has recently assembled several stacked cards for the fall. UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard3 is no exception. The UFC will bring two UFC championship defenses and a solid undercard to Houston Texas on October 8.

UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will try and put his rivalry with Gray Maynard to rest for a third time in October. The two were originally scheduled to headline UFC 130 back in May. Unfortunately both had to pull out of the fight due to injuries, leaving the UFC with one of its worst main-events in recent history.

I keep reading about how this match isn’t appealing as a headliner and I don’t get it. I thought their last fight (their second) was one of the most exciting fights of the year. That first round especially may be the best first round of any fight in the UFC this year (I’d go with Daley vs. Diaz overall). I have no qualms about seeing these guys go five more rounds and I can’t imagine with the right kind of hype that anyone else will either. This is the kind of rivalry that makes MMA fun to watch.

Jose Aldo will defend the UFC featherweight championship for only a second time against former, well actually he hasn’t won anything of significance, Kenny Florian. The UFC hasn’t learned their lesson about Florian in that Ken-Flo continually comes up short in big fights. To be fair, he looked fantastic in his last win over Diego Nunes at UFC 131. Yet I think it is a little ridiculous to give the guy (or anyone) a title shot after one win in the division. Actually it is preposterous!

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Chael Sonnen returns to the UFC which should surprise nobody that knows anything about the Texas commission. Sonnen will fight Brian Stann in what will likely be a number one contender match in the UFC middleweight division. The good news for Chael is that he could test positive for high levels of testosterone, rip off a new home owner, and lie under oath on the way to the show and he’d still likely be allowed to fight by the great Texas State Athletic Commission.

Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon is signed with most speculating that Guillard would be next in line for the UFC lightweight title if he wins his fight. Demian Maia will also try and rebound from a bad loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 131 and face Jorge Santiago in a battle of middleweights.

The only real bad news here is that it had been rumored for a long time that UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez would make his return at UFC 136 in Houston against Junior Dos Santos. He still could, but I doubt the UFC would book three world title fights on the same show. Unfortunately the loss of the champion likely means that Velasquez’s recovery from shoulder surgery may be going a little slower than expected.

UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3 card…
UFC Lightweight Championship bout: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
UFC Featherweight Championship bout: José Aldo vs. Kenny Florian
Middleweight bout: Brian Stann vs. Chael Sonnen
Middleweight bout: Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago
Lightweight bout: Joe Lauzon vs. Melvin Guillard
Heavyweight bout: Dave Herman vs. Mike Russow
Featherweight bout: Josh Grispi vs. Matt Grice

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Top 20 Biggest Upsets In MMA History

June 21, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

I don’t think it gets much more exciting in MMA than seeing a big upset. There is something about seeing an upset that electrifies a live crowd and can put you on the edge of your couch at home in seconds. Today I look back at twenty of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

All of these upsets were based on odds and reputation coming into the fight. Yes, in hindsight years later some of these wins weren’t exactly big upsets after all. However, at the time the handicapping of the fight prior to the event told a much different story. It is hard to believe seeing Tim Sylvia fight today that anyone would consider the loss to Randy Couture an upset, however the MMA community thought much different at the time as an example of what I am talking about.

So today in no particular order I go back through relatively recent history in and outside of the UFC and take a look back at some of the most exciting MMA upsets history. Keep in mind that I am putting these fights in no particular order of importance because let’s face it, an upset is an upset no matter how big or small the win is.

One last thing. Keep in mind how some of these fighters rebounded after their upset loss. Some came back stronger while others like many on the list never recovered. As big as the win is for the underdog, the loss could be absolutely traumatic for the loser and I think that is why we love upsets so much in MMA.

Joe Lauzon knocks out Jens Pulver September 23, 2006 - The home coming for Jens Pulver turned into a star-making night for his counterpart. Pulver was returning to the UFC for the first time in over four years and this fight was meant to be a showcase for the former champion. Instead, Pulver was looking up at the lights 0:47 seconds later.

Forrest Griffin chokes out Shogun Rua September 22, 2007 - Rua came in with all of the videos and hype from Pride FC. The UFC 76 odds had Griffin as a +250 underdog to Rua who was a -300 favorite. Rua came out strong early but Griffin held his own and gained confidence throughout the fight. Rua cut Griffin badly in the second round from an elbow but Forrest continued to fight back. Rua appeared to be gassed by the middle of round two and started to fade. Griffin came out inspired in the third round and caught Rua with a rear naked choke for the win with less than a minute to go in the fight for the upset.

Randy Couture defeats Chuck Liddell via TKO June 6, 2003 - Chuck Liddell had been blowing through the competition and was due a UFC light heavyweight title shot at Tito Ortiz. Instead of fighting Liddell, Ortiz left the UFC as champion to make a movie. Needing a big name and an easy win for Liddell, the UFC looked to Randy Couture. Couture moved down for the first time in his career after it appeared that the heavyweights were just too big for Captain America. With Ortiz in limbo, the UFC set up an interim title match and what was supposed to be the official crowning of the Iceman.

This fight was set up for Chuck Liddell to win and I don’t think anyone in their right mind expected Couture to even hang with Liddell, who had accumulated 10 straight wins. The Iceman was coming off a first round knockout win over Renato Sobral against Couture’s two straight losses at heavyweight. Couture was also just days away from his 40th birthday.

Couture did what no other man was able to do in the UFC against Liddell and that was take him down at will. Couture would smother the Iceman with takedown after takedown frustrating the heavy handed light heavyweight. Couture also won the striking battle against Liddell. Whether it was frustration or exhaustion, Liddell was getting just as outclassed on his feet as he was on the ground. The Natural eventually opened up an onslaught of ground and pound on Liddell in the third round that wound up ending Liddell’s 10-fight win streak

Nick Diaz taps out Takanori Gomi February 24, 2007 - After four years in the UFC, Diaz left the company for Pride Fighting Championships. Pride FC wasted no time putting together one of the most anticipated fights in MMA between Diaz and lightweight champion Gomi in a non-title fight.

Diaz was a heavy underdog with +317 odds to Gomi’s +347 odds. The fight was arguably the 2007 Fight of the Year with just brutal back and forth action. Gomi got a quick take down early but it was a different fight when they went to their feet. Diaz just peppered Gomi on the back and forth attacks with an onslaught of strikes. The end of the first round saw Gomi looking desperate and confused as Diaz walked back to the corner confident and cocky.

The second round saw Diaz come out fired up. Takanori Gomi opened up a cut under Diaz’s eye that saw blood pouring out of the face of Diaz. It got so bad that the ringside physician had to step in and examine Diaz. Diaz was cleared. After being dominated in the stand up game, Gomi took Diaz down. Unfortunately Gomi wound up in Diaz’s guard and shortly thereafter was tapping out to a Gogplata in one of the most exciting fights in Pride FC history.

Unfortunately Diaz showed up positive for marijuana in the pre-fight drug test and the fight was later ruled a no-contest.

Robert Berry knocks out Ken Shamrock on March 8, 2008 - Who, yes that Robert Berry..wait a second who? The MMA community knew that Ken Shamrock was done after being battered by Tito Ortiz in two straight fights, although Shamrock never got that memo. Shamrock’s first fight outside of the UFC was supposed to be one of his many comebacks. The only place that Shamrock came back to was the loss column.

Arguably Shamrock’s lowest moment came when he was knocked out by a journeyman MMA fighter at Cage Rage 25. The fight was stopped and Berry was awarded a TKO win 3:26 into the first round against the former WWE intercontinental champion. Shamrock went into the fight as a -220 favorite.

Frank Mir submits Brock Lesnar February 2, 2008 – This was Lesnar’s UFC debut and let me tell you, the UFC weren’t shy about promoting Lesnar’s WWE past. A collection of WWE stars right out of Legends of WrestleMania were show in the building throughout the night building a WWE vs. UFC theme for the fight. Lesnar was even announced as a former WWE champion with old wrestling footage to boot. It was certainly quite a spectacle indeed.

What I remember most about this fight is that in the weeks leading up to it and in my writings on phillyburbs.com I never believed Lesnar could beat Frank Mir. I thought Mir was too experienced here and that Lesnar would go into the fight over confident. I remember getting into several arguments with callers on my radio show about it, yet I didn’t think it was a huge revelation. Well, in this case I was right.

Lesnar bull rushed Mir and opened up with the same ferocity he unleashed against Kim. Lesnar dropped Mir pretty quickly and the Las Vegas crowd went nuts. Could an inexperienced athlete beat a credentialed former UFC champion in his second fight? Nope. Mir was too smart for him and caught Lesnar with a kneebar. Mir showed a lot of guts looking for a spot as strikes rained down on his head. Mir tapped Lesnar in 90 seconds to a stunned crowd. Was Lesnar exposed as a fraud or did he just need more time to learn? The MMA world would find out six months later.

Fabricio Werdum taps out Fedor Emelianenko June 26, 2010 - He is human after all. Fabricio Werdum tapped out Fedor Emelianenko and shocked the world at Strikeforce. This was the first loss for Fedor Emelianenko since the blood stoppage in 2000 and arguably the biggest upset in MMA history. Even more shocking is that the win came seconds into the fight via tap.

Fedor Emelianenko engaged Fabricio Werdum and hit him with a flurry of strikes. Fabricio went down and Fedor went after him. I immediately thought that this was a terrible move for Fedor. The story going into the fight was that Fabricio had the superior BJJ game and if it went to the ground, Fedor could be in trouble. It went to the ground and Fedor was in trouble. Fabricio immediately caught him in a triangle, trapped Fedor, and tapped the Last Emperor for the first loss of his career (unless you count the blood stoppage in 2000).

The loss was the first of Fedor’s career and supports many critics who thought that Fedor was overrated the last few years. While Fedor was routinely ranked as the best MMA fighter in the sport, critics cited Fedor’s lack of competition as reason why he shouldn’t be ranked highly. It has been almost five years since Fedor has fought quality competition and it looks like there was something to it.

Antonio Silva defeats Fedor Emelianenko via TKO February 13, 2011 - As dramatic as Fedor’s last loss to Fabricio Werdum was, this one was huge. Fedor was a 5-1 favorite coming into the fight on most books. Silva vs. Fedor was thought by most as an easy first round fight for Fedor. Most MMA fans were already talking Overeem vs. Fedor in the semi finals way before the bell even rang on this one. This was a fight that Fedor had to win.

Fedor looked great early on in the fight. Fedor came out swinging while Silva looked scared at times to engage. Silva started countering and nailed Fedor with a beautiful jab which backed up the Last Emperor. It appeared to me that it was at this moment that Silva started to gain confidence and get aggressive. Fedor continued to swing for the fences yet at the same time leave himself wide open for counters.

Round 2 was a different story and one of the most dramatic rounds I have seen since Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen. Big Foot Silva dominated Fedor and was just beating him ferociously with strikes. In my opinion, if it wasn’t Fedor the fight would have been stopped as he looked defenseless at one point with Silva just dropping strikes from the mount. Silva clamped on an arm-head choke at one point and it looked like it was over. Somehow Fedor escaped and the crowd went crazy.

To me, it looked like Silva had punched himself out at this point. Silva just sat on top of Fedor for the remainder of the round, went for a kneebar, but was reversed. As the round ended I was fairly confident that Silva had blown himself up and Round 3 was going to be a much different story. Unfortunately there was no Round 3.

It was a real shame as this fight was turning into a classic. Fedor Emilenanko was dominated and on the brink of submission several times yet ended the round in a somewhat dominant position and looked ready for war. Knowing he needed a knockout to win, I think it would have been an electrifying third round and the conclusion of a classic either way. Yet make no mistake, it should have been stopped as Fedor’s eye was closed shut.

Pete Williams knocks out Mark Coleman May 15, 1998 - Mark Coleman was a wrecking machine during this time period. He just came off his first career loss to Maurice Smith, but Pete Williams was not Maurice Smith. Coleman took a year off and was thought to be coming back with a vengeance. Coleman was a heavy favorite in this fight. Williams was a replacement for Randy Couture who was injured training for the fight.

Coleman was strong, a great wrestler, decent striker, but he was huge…too huge for a long grueling fight with an MMA fighter. Williams capitalized on Coleman’s fatigue after about ten minutes and just pounded away at a defenseless former champion. Williams took advantage of his immobile target by nailing him with a kick to the face that dropped the big man in his spot. Williams’ win is still regarded as one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

Randy Couture defeats Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight title March 3, 2007 - When I wrote my blog about Couture retiring I referred to this fight as overrated. I still think some people look back at this fight as more monumental than it really was to the overall history of the UFC. However in terms of Randy Couture, it was certainly one of the biggest nights of his career and arguably the most memorable.

The fight is one of those fights that you will never forget if you watched it live. At 44 years of age, Couture came in as an underdog, although not as big as history would like you to believe. Couture was in retirement and coming off of knockout losses in his last two of three fights. He had not even fought at heavyweight for five years. The champion Tim Sylvia had 12 years, 7 inches, and about 100 pounds on Couture so the visual was quite an intimidating picture.

Couture dominated Sylvia in the fight and took down the big man like he was James Toney. Couture rocked Sylvia with a punch early and the place just went wild. The crowd went into an absolute frenzy with every takedown and Couture just continued to school Sylvia for five rounds. As a fight it was fairly one-sided although the crowd reactions made this a very exciting fight. It was a huge win and a tremendous comeback for a guy that was ready to ride off into retirement a few months earlier.

Frankie Edgar defeats BJ Penn April 10, 2010 - Frankie Edgar shocked the world and handed BJ Penn his first loss in the division since 2002, becoming the UFC lightweight champion. To some this was an upset, to others there was nothing surprising about the performance of Frankie Edgar.

BJ Penn walked into UFC 112 as a -700 favorite on the Vegas sports books going into his match against Frankie Edgar. In my UFC 112 preview, I wrote that I felt that the match was much closer than the betting odds indicated. While I didn’t expect Edgar to win the match, I knew it was going to be anything but an easy night for BJ Penn.

Frankie Edgar had a brilliant game plan. Edgar stuck and moved for five rounds with constant head movement which confused the champion for 30 minutes. BJ Penn was never able to corner Edgar and impose his will with strikes or ground and pound. Edgar never stopped moving and confused Penn with movements, strikes, and takedown attempts for all five rounds. Penn was obviously frustrated going into the championship rounds.

I don’t think there is any question that Ray Mercer knocking out Tim Sylvia in 9 seconds is the biggest MMA upset of all-time. Yet, it was not the only big upset in MMA history. Mercer’s win inspired me to look back at some of the most exciting upsets in Mixed-Martial Arts.

My first exposure to MMA was the hybrid pro wrestling/MMA company UWF. I loved the quick kicks and fast wrestling. That said, my interest in MMA goes back about 20 years. Rather than go through 20 years of MMA, I figured I’d just take a look at strictly upsets that ended in knockouts or TKO over the last few years.

Keith Jardine defeating Chuck Liddell September 22, 2007 - Keith Jardine just came off a knockout loss to Houston Alexander. After being knocked out in less than a minute, the Dean of Mean looked like easy pickings for the Iceman who had never suffered back to back losses in his career.

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This was supposed to be an easy fight for Liddell before getting a title shot. Liddell was dominated from the opening bell. This was the first time Liddell had gone the distance in five years. Jardine just picked him apart for three dominating rounds. Jardine got the win via a split decision and hasn’t done much since.

Gabriel Gonzaga knocks out Mirko Cro Cop April 21, 2007 - This was an undercard fight at UFC 70. At the time, Cro Cop had just come over from PRIDE FC where he was one of the most dominant heavyweights in the world. Cro Cop was signed with the intention of a big money match with UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture.

This was Cro Cop’s second fight in UFC. I think the reason Brock Lesnar got a title shot in his third UFC fight was because of this upset right here. On paper, this was supposed to be an easy setup for Cro Cop. However, most people forget that Gonzaga was 3-0 at the time and would have been in line for Couture if not for Cro Cop’s signing.

Cro Cop nailed Gonzaga with a roundhouse kick early. It looked like it was over. However, Gonzaga responded with a rare Cro Cop takedown. Gonzaga surprisingly dominated Cro Cop on the ground. The finish was predictable, roundhouse kick to the head for a brutal knockout. The only difference was it was Gonzaga delivering the fatal blow to the most dangerous kicker in MMA. Cro Cop hasn’t been the same since.

Matt Serra knocks out Georges St-Pierre April 7, 2007 - UFC 69 was headlined by St-Pierre’s first defense of the UFC welterweight title. St-Pierre would be defending against Matt Serra. Serra earned the shot by winning The Ultimate Fighter. Serra was a tremendous underdog considering the fact that he barely won his last match and St. Pierre just destroyed Matt Hughes.

I remember how much I hated the fact that Serra was getting the fight. I hated Serra on The Ultimate Fighter. He was a big mouth who hadn’t done anything. Even his final match went to a controversial decision. I had no interest in seeing such a lopsided match.

This is why nothing is ever a given in UFC. St-Pierre likely felt as I and others did. He took Serra lightly. St. Pierre looked like he was toying with Serra. Serra caught him with a punch that rocked him. Serra seized the moment, mounted St-Pierre, and unleashed a barrage of punches. Serra got the win and the UFC welterweight title. Over four years later this is arguably remembered as the biggest upset in UFC history.

St-Pierre subsequently destroyed Serra in their rematch one-year later.

Seth Petruzzelli knocks out Kimbo Slice October 4, 2008 - I hesitated putting this one on the list. However, due to Kimbo’s hype it at the time this has to be considered one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, in addition to airing on CBS. Petruzzelli was a very last minute replacement for Ken Shamrock who got cut warming up for the fight.

I hesitated because on paper, this is exactly the result that should have happened. Kimbo was a product of a hype machine coming off of his fights on You Tube. Elite made him their star attraction. Kimbo rolled through his first fights, yet had a lot of trouble in his previous fight with James Thompson.

There is still a lot of mystery to this fight. Petruzelli at one point claimed he was paid extra not to take Kimbo down. Regardless, Petruzelli was an experienced MMA fighter. Petruzelli was 9-4 going into the fight, including a win over Dan Severn in 2004. If it wasn’t for the Kimbo-hype, Petruzelli would have been an easy favorite going into the fight.

The fight was over in 0:14 seconds. A right hand by Petruzelli put the star of Elite XC on the ground for the knockout. Not only did Petruzelli knock out Kimbo Slice, but he knocked out Elite XC. After word got out that Petruzelli may have been paid not to take Kimbo down, Elite’s world came crashing down faster than Kimbo Slice.

UFC president Dana White said this after the fight. “What has the guy done to deserve to be in the UFC? Nothing. I don’t consider him a real athlete or anything. He won’t win The Ultimate Fighter. The offer is out there if he wants to take it and he won’t win it. I might put a heavyweight show together just for him.”

Kimbo Slice entered the UFC in 2010 as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter – The Heavyweights. He was eliminated in the first round of the tournament.

Dan Henderson knocks out Wanderlei Silva February 24, 2007 – This was the main-event at PRIDE FC’s second and last United States show. PRIDE FC 33: The Second Coming featured two of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Earlier that night Nick Diaz beat Takanori Gori.

This was a rematch between Henderson and Silva. Silva defeated Henderson in their first match. What you need to keep in mind is how great of a fighter Silva was at this time. Silva was one of the fiercest fighters on the planet. Silva came into the fight with 21 knockout wins.

Henderson was known as a great fighter, but too small to beat a great light heavyweight. Even with Henderson’s credentials, nobody ever saw him as a dangerous knockout artist. This was a great match on paper which was expected to end in a knockout for Silva.

It should be noted that Wanderlei was coming off a knockout loss to Mirko Cro Cop. However, most MMA fans chalked it up to the weight difference and the fact that Cro Cop was best of the fighters in the world. This was not going to be easy, yet Wanderlei was expected to easily handle Henderson.

Henderson had two knockout wins in the past six-years leading up to the fight. Henderson had made statements before the fight indicating that he’d be looking for the knockout. Henderson dominated Silva with knees and ground and pound in Round 1

Silva came out in the second round and tried to turn it into a slugfest. Silva pressed with kicks and punches, yet Henderson continued to counter. Henderson set up a spinning back fist beautifully which rocked Silva. Henderson followed up with a combination of strikes that knocked out the PRIDE FC middleweight champion for the win.

Ray Mercer knocks out Tim Sylvia June 13, 2009 - I don’t think an upset can get much bigger than a former UFC heavyweight champion getting knocked out by a 48-year-old former boxing heavyweight champion in under 10 seconds. That is what happened at Adrenaline III: Bragging Rights when Tim Sylvia took on Ray Mercer.

It should be noted that there were a lot of legal issues going into the fight. It was originally promoted as a boxing event. The event was forced to change the fight to an MMA match. Keep in mind that after changing this to an MMA match, one writer commented, “in a mixed martial arts bout, this could be the biggest mismatch since Hong-Man Choi vs. Jose Canseco.” – MMANews.com Ouch!

Randy Couture’s win doesn’t seem all that impressive now does it?

Chad Griggs defeats Bobby Lashley via TKO August 10, 2010 - The funny thing about MMA mismatches is that they don’t always go as planned. Bobby Lashley’s MMA career came to a halt in Houston after picking one mismatch too many. Chad Griggs never got the memo and handed Bobby Lashley his first MMA loss at Strikeforce: Houston.

After the announcement of Bobby Lashley vs. Chad Griggs, I let loose on a scathing blog here on the website. Bobby Lashley hasn’t fought a quality opponent in his entire two and a half year MMA career. After a few interviews where he talked about wanting to fight competition, specifically Brock Lesnar and some guy named Fedor, Lashley signed to fight Chad Griggs. Griggs had not fought since the spring of 2009 and didn’t even have a picture on his own Wikipedia page. Here we go again with the Bobby Lashley circus.

Well something happened at Strikeforce: Houston. Chad Griggs fought back. Unlike other Lashley opponents who mysteriously all froze when taken down, Griggs continued to fight. Lashley dominated the early portion of the fight but seemed to tire quickly. Griggs never went away, caught a tired Lashley and the fight was stopped at the end of the second round. The bloom was off the rose and Bobby Lashley was officially exposed as an MMA fraud.

Bobby Lashley has only fought once since, a controversial decision over John Ott that highlighted his questionable cardio while Griggs used the win to launch a successful comeback and has gone 2-0 since the fight, recently upsetting Valentijin Overeem in Dallas.

Kazushi Sakuraba defeats Royce Gracie May 1, 2000 - At the time this was considered the biggest upset in MMA history. Royce Gracie was a legend and left the UFC with the “Gracie Myth” still intact. This was Gracie’s second fight since leaving the UFC and he was expected to roll through Sakuraba just as he did Sakuraba’s mentor, Nobuhiko T akada a few months earlier.

Nobody expected a former pro wrestler to be the man to end Royce Gracie’s winning streak. Gracie’s streak of never losing a fight was either 13 or in the 100s if you listened to the hype. That is why the fans went nuts when Gracie was caught in knee bars early in the fight and it appeared he was in big trouble as the fight progressed.

This classic fight came to an end after 90 minutes of brutality. Gracie was just getting brutalized with leg kicks, but wouldn’t quit. Neither man looked like they were any closer to ending the fight than they were 90 minutes prior. Gracie could no longer stand up after suffering a broken femur and his brother threw in the towel. Sakuraba won the fight and became an instant legend in Japan.

BJ Penn submits Matt Hughes January 31, 2004 - While Penn would later go on and become something of a legend, Matt Hughes was the legend at this time. Hughes had run through all of the competition at welterweight in the UFC and was considered unbeatable. That was until he fought BJ Penn.

BJ Penn was no slouch coming into the fight. Penn had only suffered one loss in his MMA career, but unfortunately came up short in a draw against UFC lightweight champion Caol Uno. Due to the lack of competition for Hughes at welterweight, Penn decided to move up in weight and debut in the new weight class against the champ.

Hughes was extremely confident coming into the fight. “After that first round, he’ll walk back to his corner, and he’ll know he made a mistake…I will break him in the first round“. Unfortunately he never had that chance because the fight ended in the first round. After a battle for position on the ground, Penn got Hughes’ back and choked out the champ for the win and the welterweight UFC title.

Honorable Mention: Forrest Griffin defeats Rampage Jackson for the UFC light heavyweight title July 5, 2008 - Rampage Jackson was cocky, confident, and extremely arrogant coming into this fight. Not much has changed right? The two fighters first opposed each other on The Ultimate Fighter which saw Griffin’s team dominate.

Jackson came into the fight off of back to back wins over Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson. Rampage looked unstoppable. Griffin on the other hand only had one big win on his record, a third round upset over Shogun Rua almost a year earlier. It was a nice story but nobody expected this kind of ending.

Griffin just dominated Jackson for five full rounds, obliterating him with leg kick after leg kick. Jackson had no answer for the kicks, nor did he do much to protect himself. Jackson appeared to only have one thing in mind which was to knock Griffin out. However, the leg kicks kept Jackson at a distance and he never had the opportunity to engage. Griffin won a five round decision over the champion and the loss sent Jackson over the edge, almost ending his MMA career.

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