A season of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights, some heated public discourse, a semi-retirement, and an A-Team movie later….and we’re finally ready for Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans (or, if Rampage were in charge of naming the event, “UFC 114: Black On Black Crime”). An unfortunate injury to Forrest Griffin derailed a solid #2 fight with Lil Nog (who’ll now be fighting Jason Brilz on short notice), but UFC remains steadfast as Saturday’s card kicks off a very intriguing summer (Lesnar vs. Carwin, Edgar vs. Penn II, Couture vs. Toney, Wanderlei vs. Sexyama). Let’s take a look at the fights, starting with brief look at the Spike TV broadcast.
SPIKE TV CARD:
Efrain Escudero vs. Dan Lauzon
Despite suffering the first loss of his career to Evan Dunham at UFC Fight Night 20: Maynard vs. Diaz (via Armbar, R3), Escudero takes this. He’s a stronger striker, put away Cole Miller in the 1st round (compared to Lauzon, whom Miller subbed in his last fight at UFC 108), and god knows where Lauzon’s head is at after his recent training camp debacle. It’s never good when your coach and your own brother bail on you…
Jay Pick: Escudero via TKO (strikes), R2
Amir Sadollah vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Kim will likely try to keep it standing & Sadollah’s strength is his sambo/jiu-jitsu background. After UD wins over Brad Blackburn & Phil Baroni, I think Sadollah can weather Kim’s storm and finish this.
Jay Pick: Sadollah via submission, R2
UFC 114 PPV BROADCAST:
Diego Sanchez vs. John Hathaway
Jay Pick: Sanchez via decision
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Jason Brilz
As I noted earlier, this fight was originally supposed to pit Lil Nog against Forrest Griffin. I have a lot of respect for Brilz for taking this fight on such short notice. He’s being given a tremendous opportunity against an established (and, as it relates to his UFC career, quickly rising) star in Nogueira. Unfortunately, I think he’ll be outmatched by Nog’s boxing and superior ground game. This is further highlighted on the fight lines, which have the Brazilian sitting around -500 at the very least. After Lil Nog knocked Luis Cane silly in his debut, I think he’ll do the same to Brilz. Take your time healing up, Forrest…
Jay Pick: Nogueira via KO, R1
Todd Duffee vs. Mike Russow
Now, I highlighted the Junior dos Santos Hype Train as well as the Jon Jones Hype Train in some of my more recent previews. Allow me to welcome you onboard another Hype Train: The Duffee Train (and yes, there is a Simpson’s beer car). After recording the fastest knockout in UFC history against Tim Hague (7 seconds) at UFC 102, Duffee was supposed to take on Paul “the Headhunter” Buentello at 107, but Duffee had to withdraw due to a back injury. Across from him will be Russow, who was also successful in his UFC debut with a UD win over Justin McCully at 102 (interestingly enough, they were supposed to fight one another that night until the UFC pulled Duffee to fight Hague). Russow has a better ground game with 9 of his 12 wins coming via submission so I think Duffee is smart enough to keep it standing. He’s 6-0 overall & we’ve only seen 7 seconds of the 24-year old Duffee in the Octagon, but his size, strength, and those 7 seconds have me convinced. Like a redhead with a great rack, it doesn’t take much to convince me.
Jay Pick: Duffee via TKO, R1
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Miller
Not exactly the #2 fight we were hoping for in Griffin vs. Nogueira, but this MW match-up features two fighters in need of a win. Michael “The Count” Bisping is 1-2 since the beginning of 2009, falling victim to Dan Henderson’s KO of the Night (and year) at UFC 100, beating an overrated Denis Kang at UFC 105, and then, most recently, losing a UD to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110 that was closer than the judges would lead you to believe. Miller,a BJJ black belt under Renzo Gracie black belt Jamie Cruz, is in the same 1-2 spot since last year: a R1 submission win over Jake Rosholt at UFC Fight Night: Lauzon vs Stephens followed by back-to-back UD losses to Chael Sonnen & Demian Maia. While I am not saying Bisping is an elite striker in the division, he holds the edge standing over Miller in that department. Miller’s best chance is to get this to the ground for the submission. Odds have Bisping favored -210/+150. Not a terrible underdog bet considering Miller may be fighting for his job.
Jay Pick: Miller via submission, R2 (Here’s my ‘What the Hell?’ choice)
And now the fight we’ve all been waiting (far too long) to see. As Dana White announced, this fight will determine who gets the first crack at newly-crowned LHW champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. I won’t lie: I’ve gone back and forth on this fight all week. On one hand you have Rampage: hasn’t fought since last March with a UD over Evans’ Greg Jackson teammate Keith Jardine, was embroiled in a bitter war-of-words over accepting the role of B.A. Baracus in the new A-Team movie, etc etc. but can knock out anyone in the division. Is he one dimensional? Sure, but that one dimension is pretty damned powerful. His TUF: Heavyweights coaching foe (Evans) has only 1 loss on his record when he dropped the LHW belt to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 one year ago. Since then, Evans rebounded with a UD over Thiago Silva at UFC 108 to put him back in the hunt.
What Evans lacks in Rampage’s power, he makes up for with a Big Ten wrestling pedigree and speed. Evans used that wrestling acumen to take down Silva at will, but got a little careless in the final round, allowing Silva to reign down some punches that almost gave way to an upset. Betting odds have this basically even, with the slight nod going to Evans. Initially, I had Evans by decision, then Rampage by TKO and the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to go with my first choice.
Jay Pick: Evans via decision
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Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Diego Sanchez, Michael Bisping, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, The A-Team, TUF 10, UFC 114