One of the biggest grudge matches in UFC history goes down this weekend as the UFC returns to the world of Pay Per View for UFC 148.
There have been some notable grudge matches before; Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir, Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz and Rashad Evans vs. Jon Jones all come to mind, but this one may be the biggest of them all as Anderson Silva once again defends his Middleweight title against Chael Sonnen. That championship bout caps off what was once an amazingly stacked card, but has been hampered by injury problems. Still the main card features a number of big names and a few intriguing match-ups and if there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the past, it’s that grudge matches do big business for the UFC anyways.
Main Card (Pay Per View): Bantamweight Bout: Ivan Menjivar vs. Mike Easton
Ivan “The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar is a veteran fighter who is a member of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Menjivar is a talented striker who has a wide variety of strikes that he likes to throw. He’s been fighting professionally since 2001, so there’s a ton of tricks of the trade that he’s seen and there isn’t a whole lot that can surprise him in the stand up game. Menjivar is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but he is a highly capable grappler, despite his not holding a black belt. Menjivar is also very strong in the clinch, where he can employ inside elbows and knees with precision. Against a strong, muscular fighter like Easton, he may struggle at wading into clinches. Menjivar has a career record of 24-8, although it’s important to note that most of his prior fights happened at significantly higher weight classes than his natural 135-pounds.
Mike “The Hulk” Easton is an American fighter from Washington DC. Easton is a very well rounded fighter with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Easton also has serviceable wrestling skills and his muscular frame allows him to outmuscle most of his opponents at 135-pounds. Easton is a member of Team Alliance, where he trains under coach Lloyd Irvin in Temple Hills, Maryland. Easton’s striking is strong, but he focuses mainly on a boxing approach, throwing combinations with his hands and utilizing a decent jab, but rarely mixing in knees or kicks. Despite being known in the past as somewhat of a brawler with big power, Easton has been patient in the striking department in all of his UFC bouts so far. Easton has big power in his hands and if Menjivar isn’t careful, he may get put to sleep. Easton has a professional record of 12-1.
Analysis and Prediction: The Las Vegas line currently has this bout as a dead even pick ‘em contest and I think the odds makers have it right. This is truly a tough fight to handicap as neither man holds significant edges anywhere the fight goes. Both men are also very well rounded and very tough to finish, which also makes it tough to handicap. Menjivar is probably the more dynamic and more talented fighter, but Easton definitely hits harder and Menjivar has gotten a bit sloppy at times in his past couple of fights. On the ground they are both talented grapplers who excel in scrambles, enough so that their ground skills will probably cancel each other out. In bouts like this, I like to take the guy who is more likely to end up on top if the fight hits the floor. Easton is the physically stronger guy and is the better wrestler, if only slightly better. But that’s enough for me in an extremely close fight. Mike Easton via Split Decision
Main Card (Pay Per View): Featherweight Bout: Chad Mendes vs. Cody McKenzie
Chad “Money” Mendes is an American fighter from Hanford, California. He is a member of the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento, California. Mendes is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler for the California Polytechnic State University where he was a Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year. Mendes utilizes his wrestling well in his fights, and has been able to control all of his opponents on the ground, save for his last bout against UFC Champion Jose Aldo. He is often criticized for what many fans perceive as a lay and pray style, however, he has been making improvements in his striking game. His wrestling base allows him to often dictate the placement of the fight, and his takedown ability forces his opponents to always be wary of a possible double leg attempt, which gives Mendes the opportunity to open up with his hands more often and with more success. He holds a career record of 11-1, with the lone loss in his last bout to Jose Aldo.
Cody “The AK Kid” McKenzie is an American fighter from Cordova, Alaska. He is best known to casual fans as a former cast-member of The Ultimate Fighter as well as his famed ‘McKenzie-tine’ a Guillotine Choke that has earned him all but one of his career victories. He currently splits his time in training between the Throwdown Training Center in Spokane, Washington and the Cesar Gracie Fight Team in Stockton, California. After going on a two-fight losing skid, McKenzie was able to right the ship in his last bout and earned a stoppage over talented wrestler Marcus LeVesseur, which makes his timing on dropping a weight-class somewhat curious. He holds a career record of 13-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Mendes is returning from losing in a fight for the UFC title, McKenzie is fresh off of a two-fight losing skid and hasn’t looked overly impressive. This seems like a softball for Mendes to get back on track. In McKenzie’s last bout he was controlled on the ground by a strong wrestler in LeVesseur, before his opponent stuck his head and neck right into a waiting choke, LeVesseur though was having success standing and on the ground. Mendes is a more talented wrestler and probably has better striking than LeVesseur does. Maybe McKenzie thinks he’ll be stronger at 145-pounds, but his lanky frame against Mendes’ compact, muscular frame, I still think Mendes is stronger. He dominates standing and on the ground for most of round one, before finishing the fight in round two. Chad Mendes via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (Pay Per View): Welterweight Bout: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Demian Maia
Dong Hyun “The Stun Gun” Kim is a 30-year-old fighter from Suwon, South Korea. He is a strong wrestler, as well as having a black belt in Judo. Kim is also one of the largest Welterweights in the division and is one of the strongest physically. His striking is mostly a work in progress, but he throws a decent jab and mainly uses it to control distance before shooting in for a takedown. Kim has fought for a number of big name Asian promotions like DEEP and Spirit MC, before being signed to the UFC. Kim trains out of the Busan Team M.A.D. in Busan, South Korea. Kim has dealt with cardio issues in the past, but has often credited it to jet lag, but it remains a possible chink in the armor. Kim holds a professional record of 15-1-1 with 1 No Contest.
Demian Maia is a Brazilian fighter and one of the most talented submission grapplers in the world. He is a third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is a member of the Wand Fight Team in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In his early UFC fights he was mostly a ground specialist, willing to pull guard to take fights to the floor by any means necessary. However, since joining with Wanderlei Silva his striking has improved considerably. He can throw solid combinations and mixes in leg kicks effectively. One of the biggest improvements has also been his footwork, as he looks significantly more comfortable on his feet and this allows him to shoot for takedowns more smoothly than in the past. This will be Maia’s first fight at Welterweight. He holds a professional record of 15-4, but his career losses have all come to elite Middleweight fighters.
Prediction and Analysis: Maia is making solid improvements in his striking, but he has struggled against wrestlers in the past. One needs only to look at his two losses to Chris Weidman and Mark Munoz as examples. I’m weary of fighters who are making their debut in a new weight class and this is no different. Kim is a tough draw for any Welterweight and he’s massive for 170-pounds. Maia surprisingly enough is probably the better striker and he is an extremely dangerous submission artist. However, Kim’s takedowns are relentless and Maia hasn’t shown the ability to stuff very many takedowns in the past. Kim has a background in Judo, so he’s not clueless on the mat, add to that fact he’s often willing to spend a lot of time in top control doing very little and it means there aren’t likely to be very many openings for Maia to capitalize on. This is a tough test for Maia and one that I’m not sure he can pass, in the end there’s just too many factors against him for me to pick the Brazilian. Dong Hyun Kim via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote
Cung Le is an American fighter, formerly from Saigon, Vietnam. He is a former professional Sanshou Kick boxer and at 40 years old has begun to branch off into acting in addition to his fighting career. He is a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. Le is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. Le has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, which combined with his Sanshou background makes him tough to takedown. For those unsure what Sanshou is, it’s a style of kickboxing that also allows takedowns and judo throws, but no ground fighting. Le’s best weapons are definitely his flashy strikes, as he’s able to throw a wide variety of kicks and punches from all kinds of different angles. He has strong takedown defense with good sprawl and has rarely been taken down in his fights, though he’s yet to face an elite ground fighter. This fight is likely no different. Le holds a professional record of 7-2, but is still searching for his first UFC win.
Patrick “The Predator” Cote is a 32-year-old fighter from Rimouski, Quebec, Canada. Cote is a member of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec and also spends time at the Team Sityodtong Muay Thai Gym in Boston, Massachusetts. Cote is an aggressive striker, who loves to move forward behind looping power punches, however, this sometimes leaves him open to counter punchers. Cote was actually recently released by the UFC in 2010, but has since gone 4-0 in regional MMA to earn a ticket back to the big stage. Cote is actually a replacement fighter for Rich Franklin, who was moved to fight Wanderlei Silva in Brazil at UFC 147. Cote has a strong chin and has never been stopped by strikes in his career. He holds a career record of 17-7.
Analysis and Prediction: This might be a potential candidate for Fight of the Night, mostly depending on how Cote wants to play it. Le is a dangerous striker, but at times his kicks are more flash than actual substance. However, Le is light on his feet and is highly capable of outworking his opponents on the feet, as he showed against Wanderlei Silva. Le has struggled on the mat before and if Cote wants to fight smart, he could probably go searching for takedowns. Cote is by no means an elite wrestler, but he’s strong enough and trains with a number of strong wrestlers, enough so that he could probably get Le to the mat. If Cote chooses to strike with Le, he could still win as he certainly packs a bigger punch and has the chin to withstand some of Le’s big shots, but there’s definitely a safer, easier path to victory for the Canadian. Patrick Cote via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Pay Per View): Light Heavyweight Bout: Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz
Forrest Griffin is an American fighter best known as the Light Heavyweight winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Griffin is also a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Griffin trains out of the Throwdown Training Center as well as the Xtreme Couture Gym, both of which are located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Griffin may not be best known for his skill in the cage, but he can definitely fight. Griffin always comes into bouts well prepared and with a strong game plan. He makes excellent use of leg kicks, as well as a strong jab. Griffin is also an extremely large fighter for Light Heavyweight and usually dwarfs most of his competition come fight night. Griffin holds a professional record of 18-7.
Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy/The People’s Champ” Ortiz is an American fighter from Santa Ana, California. Ortiz has stated that this is likely going to be his last professional fight before retirement and the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion will actually be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame before this bout. Ortiz is the founder of Team Punishment in Big Bear, California where he regularly trains for his bouts. Ortiz was once one of the most dominant ground and pound fighters in the world, but his better days are certainly behind him. Significant back injuries, neck injuries and a plethora of other ailments brought on by a life of cage fighting has taken most of the explosiveness out of Tito. Despite his past accomplishments, the fact remains that Tito has only one win in his past eight fights. He is not the same fighter he once was, but will likely be looking to leave everything in the cage for his last career fight. He holds a professional MMA record of 16-10-1.
Editor’s Note: Silva vs. Sonnen will have its own blog coming soon.