The UFC returns this weekend with UFC 112: Invincible. UFC 112 will feature two championship matches, the return of a UFC legend, and the debut of an MMA legend. Anderson Silva and BJ Penn co-headline an event that has the potential to be one of the most exciting UFC shows of the year.
UFC 112 features the return to middleweight of “the Spider” Anderson Silva. Anderson Silva will defend his UFC middleweight championship for the first time in almost a year against Demian Maia. The fight is a far cry from the blockbuster match originally announced between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. Belfort had to pull out of the fight due to injury, so Demian Maia is the lucky or unlucky fighter who will steal his title shot.
This fight screams of a depleted UFC middleweight division. Belfort was really not worthy of being a number-one contender to Anderson Silva. The rightful contender here should have been Dan Henderson. Politics and money got in the way of that one and Henderson is no longer in the UFC. Nate Marquardt would have been another suitable replacement until he got destroyed by Chael Sonnen. So in order to keep Anderson Silva on the card and give the UFC fans a UFC middleweight title, Demian Maia was picked to be the sacrificial lamb.
The bottom line here is that Maia is just a filler for lack of a better opponent. This is probably the most lopsided matchup Anderson Silva has had since the James Irwin fight. Anderson Silva should knock Maia out here in the first round. However, Silva has had a tendency over his career to fight down to opponents. Silva is at his best against top competition, and at his worst against lower competition. Silva’s five-round snoozer against Thales Leites earned arguably the best fighter in all of MMA a standing serenade of boos in Montreal. Sadly, I see this fight going the same way.
As of this writing Anderson Silva is a -700 favorite on BetUs.com. The UFC should really be ashamed of themselves for portraying this as a competitive match and embarrassed to make this a title match. Sure we had Matt Serra and others pull off big upsets but it doesn’t happen often to guys of Anderson Silva’s caliber. Again, I predict an Anderson Silva victory here. There is no reason to think this should go more than one round. Maia is just nowhere near the level of Anderson Silva.
Following his loss to Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn has just gone on a tear in and out of the octagon. Out of the octagon, BJ Penn has completely changed his workout habits and trains in one of the most rigorous strength and conditioning programs in all of professional sports. In the octagon Penn has become more aggressive and has really developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in all of MMA. Losses can do strange things to fighters, but for BJ Penn it looks like it was a big wakeup call.
Frankie Edgar has also been on a tear as of late in the UFC light heavyweight division. Edgar has rolled off three wins in a row, including dominating former UFC champion Sean Sherk for three rounds. I can only judge Edgar by his competition, and he picked apart Sherk for three rounds. Edgar has great striking but lacks that ability to finish opponents. Seven of his last nine fights have gone the distance. Edgar pushed a fast pace in a lot of those fights. It will be interesting to see where his conditioning is if this one goes past three rounds.
Like Anderson Silva, BJ Penn is a -700 favorite. On paper I thought this fight would be a bit closer than Anderson Silva vs. Demien Maia, but Vegas doesn’t think so. I see this fight going into the fourth round. For Frankie Edgar to have any chance against Penn, he needs to try and turn this into a standup war. Diego Sanchez tried that and got slaughtered in B. J. Penn’s last fight. I think the nerves may get to Edgar a bit and we may see a fight which resembled B. J. Penn chasing around Kenny Florian for four rounds. I think BJ Penn takes this one by knockout and officially begins his campaign for a GSP rematch.
Finally, UFC 112 will have one of the more interesting undercard fights to come along in the UFC middleweight division. Former UFC middleweight champion Matt Hughes will take on MMA icon Renzo Gracie in Gracie’s UFC debut. This won’t be the first time we have seen Hughes vs. Gracie in the UFC, but will it end the same way?
I have the utmost respect for Renzo Gracie. How can you not when the world’s most successful submission MMA fighters train under Renzo Gracie? However, Gracie has lived off of his reputation outside of the ring as a fighter for a long time. Officially, Renzo Gracie has 13 wins over the course of an 18 year MMA career. That really doesn’t impress me. Furthermore if you take a look at his wins, Renzo Gracie has never really beaten an elite fighter. He beat Maurice Smith past his prime, the win over Frank Shamrock was controversial, and he split with Carlos Newton. Renzo has losses against all of his elite opponents which include BJ Penn, Dan Henderson, and Kazushi Sakuraba. I hate to say it but I have always felt that Renzo Gracie never took the opportunity to fight in the UFC in his prime due to the competition.
Matt Hughes could either be the perfect opponent or the wrong guy for Renzo Gracie to step into a UFC octagon against. I am a big Matt Hughes fan but I also concede that Hughes is on the downside of his career. At 36 years old and 50 MMA fights into his career, how many more years can he really compete at a high level. Hughes probably saved his career with his most dominant performance in four years when he obliterated Matt Serra at UFC 98 (Can you believe Serra is still trash talking?). Even on the downside of his career, I still enjoy watching Matt Hughes so I am pretty excited to see him back in the octagon at UFC 112.
Vegas odds have Matt Hughes at a -450 for the fight. I am a bit surprised here as I expected this one to be closer on the books. I think this is the perfect fight for Matt Hughes. Hughes tends to do really well against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guys. My only question here is whether the old Matt Hughes’ strength and reflexes are still there to counter Gracie on the ground. For someone like Renzo Gracie, I think Matt Hughes will be just fine. My prediction is a third round submission win from the former UFC middleweight champion and a one and done for Renzo Gracie in the UFC.
The entire UFC 112: Invincible lineup…
Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia
BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar
United States Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
Terry Etim vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Phil Davis
Paul Taylor vs. John Gunderson
Nick Osipczak vs. Rick Story
DaMarques Johnson vs. Brad Blackburn
Paul Kelly vs. Matt Veach
Jon Madsen vs. Mostapha Al-turk
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