As a child, I sent an annual petition to the White House requesting that the day after Super Bowl Sunday be considered a national holiday. Unfortunately, no one ever took me seriously and my strongly worded letters to then-President George H.W. Bush went completely unnoticed. Fortunately, years later, God gave me the gift of mixed martial arts (a bit too late in life, objectively speaking) and now we are all gifted a typically stacked UFC card to precede one of the holiest American sports days of the calendar year. Given that my first prediction piece from UFC 125 had me going a whopping 4-7 on picks (I’m not even sure the clearest of crystal balls could have foreseen the 5 round war-to-a-draw between Edgar & Maynard), let’s hope my February picks fare better than Ben Roethlisberger at a nightclub. Be sure to give your two cents in the comments section below or stalk Mr. Gargiulo on Facebook.
Quick UFC 126 Picks (Un-aired Undercard/Facebook free fight/Spike TV Prelims)
Mike Pierce over Kenny Robertson
Ricardo Romero over Kyle Kingsbury
Gabe Ruediger over Paul Taylor
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto over Demetrious Johnson (live on Facebook)
Chad Mendes over Michihiro Omigawa (Spike TV)
Donald Cerrone over Paul Kelly (Spike TV)
Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos – Bantamweight
After a two fight losing streak that saw him loss the Bantamweight title, his spot amongst the top Pound-for-Pound fighters in the world and a lot of blood, Miguel Torres rebounded at WEC 51 with a rear naked choke victory over Charlie Valencia. Hopefully he carries that confidence, supposedly stronger work ethic and dedication to training with Mark DellaGrotte with Antonio Banuelos, himself coming off a win over Chad George at WEC 51. With an noticeably large height and reach advantage (Torres is 5’9” compared to Banuelos at 5’3”), Torres will be able to keep Banuelos at a distance from landing a big power shot or utilizing his wrestling, which Torres would be able to nullify from the ground with his solid jiu jitsu game. I think Torres takes one step closer to regaining the prominence he once held a short while ago in the new UFC Bantamweight division.
Jay’s Pick: Torres by TKO, R2
Jon “Bones” Jones vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader – Light Heavyweight
I have a soft spot for Bader. The former D-1 All American wrestler has proven to be one of the better TUF winners in recent years and has put together a nice 12-0 record using a combination of size, superior wrestling and power punching. Plus, anyone with a nickname paying homage to Star Wars is cool with me. Unfortunately, Jon Jones is something created out of a Tekken video game, sporting an 11-1 record with a strong wrestling background (JUCO National Wrestling champ), tons of spinning back kicks/punches/elbows/kitchen sinks and is training out of the esteemed Greg Jackson Camp. Recent interviews seem to show a cockier, more self-assured Jones than when he first burst on to the scene two years ago, so some think he may be overlooking Bader. However, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t get slightly influenced by the adulation laid upon the young NY-born star, who is often referred to as “The Future of MMA.” While do not think he will manhandle Bader to the ground quite like he did against Vladimir Matyushenko, Brandon Vera, Matt Hamill and Jake O’Brien, I still think his Mr. Fantastic-like reach and trickery be enough to finish the fight.
Jay’s Pick: Jones via TKO, R1
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha – Welterweight
John Howard’s eye looked absolutely ridiculous after Jake Ellenberger battered it into some weird, puffy shape that somewhat resembled Stewie’s head from Family Guy at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko last August. His reward was supposed to be Jon Fitch in a fight that’d elevate him ‘into the mix’ as Dana White would say for title contention. Instead, Fitch is headlining 127 against BJ Penn and Ellenberger’s consolation prize is jiu-jitsu ace Carlos Eduardo Rocha, who made a splash in his UFC debut against Kris McCray with a slick kneebar at UFC 122. His ground game poses a legit threat to Ellenberger, despite being a +250 underdog, but I think Ellenberger will give a repeat performance and batter Carlos for the win (I don’t think we’ll see a deformed eye though…but maybe…ya never know).
Jay’s Pick: Ellenberger via TKO, R3
Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin – Light Heavyweight
Being a fan of both of these fighters, I am curious to see how the two “company men” fare, especially given recent comments about the loser being required to get some sort of humiliating tattoo. Both men are former champs (Griffin at LHW, Franklin at MW) who share the commonality of getting destroyed by Anderson Silva. Don’t ask Forrest about that fight though. You’ll probably be given a threateningly sarcastic answer involving your mother that the rest of us will find very very funny. Both men have also not competed in a while due to injuries, with Griffin’s last fight being a split decision win over Tito Ortiz back in November ’09 and Franklin ending Chuck Liddell’s career last June.
Despite Griffin’s noticeable size advantage, odds makers have Franklin being slightly favored, hovering around -175. If Vitor Belfort’s hands fly at Ludicrous Speed then Griffin’s are at whatever is noticeably below Light Speed so I don’t see him thumping Rich Franklin quite like Belfort did UFC 103. However, he does have power, a recently-awarded black belt in BJJ under Robert Drysdale and despite the obvious talent, Franklin seemed to be getting the worse of it from a past-his-prime Liddell before the KO. I’m going with Griffin on the ground.
Jay Pick: Griffin via submission, R3
Two of Brazil’s best UFC fighters hopefully will compete for the UFC middleweight title. I say hopefully since, as of the time that this is being written, weigh ins have not happened and the challenger has never formally weighed in at 185. Vitor Belfort, former HW and LHW titleholder, last fought in September ‘09 by clobbering 126’s co-main eventer Rich Franklin at UFC 103 in a 195 lb Catch weight fight… and he struggled to make weight even then. With lightning fast hands, a large frame and a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he has arguably the most tools to defeat The Spider.
Anderson Silva’s skills, however, need little introduction: impeccable striking, amazing head movement, black belt in judo and bjj. The longest title-defense streak in UFC history gave us a thrilling triangle arm bar victory in the final frame of his UFC 117 title defense against Chael Sonnen and has fully recovered from his rib injury, which is a scary thought if you are Belfort. Odds makers have Silva favored pretty heavily and with good reason (Belfort’s recent departure from coach Shawn Tompkins and streaky history don’t help his case). Bottom line, and I think many will agree, if Belfort does not blitz Anderson Silva early and catch him, Silva can win this fight anywhere and I think that is going to happen before round three.
Jay’s pick: Anderson Silva by TKO, R2
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