To say it’s been a big week in the MMA world is a bit of an understatement. I mean, our very own editor and CamelClutchBlog overlord, Eric Gargiulo, got married! That is HUGE. That is way more important than Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce and creating a virtual monopoly on the sport’s landscape (in all seriousness, EG, congrats to you and the new Mrs. in case some of my sarcasm was lost).
Love them or hate them, you have to give Zuffa/UFC credit: a mere week before a huge PPV that pits your rising star against a revered veteran champion, you drop the biggest news the sport has seen in quite some time. In the process, you create a lot of headlines and leverage since, not-so-coincidentally, this event is also being done in Newark at the Prudential Center, a major league sports arena standing in the shadows of NYC where the sport is trying be sanctioned.
Okay that was a slight tangent and may have been over analyzed, but hey, if you agree or disagree, throw some comments at the bottom. Otherwise, let’s go to the picks.
UFC 128 Undercard Quick Picks
Nick Catone over Costantinos Philippou
Erik Koch over Raphael Assuncao
Joseph Benavidez over Ian Loveland
Gleison Tibau over Kurt Pellegrino (Facebook)
Mike Pyle over Ricardo Almeida (Facebook)
Edson Barboza over Anthony Njokuani (Spike)
Luiz Cane over Eliot Marshall (Spike)
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Brendan Schaub
Not terribly unlike the main event, we begin the PPV broadcast with a grizzled PRIDE veteran facing a young, hungry up-and-comer. Mirko Cro Cop has back and forth so many times between stating he wants to hang it up and he’s ready for a comeback that I think I have vertigo just listening to him. His rear naked choke victory over Pat Barry at UFC 115 was more due to the fact that I think Barry wanted to get his autograph rather than win and his most recent fight, a 3rd round KO loss to Frank Mir at UFC 119, was just embarrassing. Brendan Schaub on the other hand, is developing nicely at Greg Jackson’s and showed improved boxing in his decision win over Gabe Gonzaga at UFC 121. I think between youth and the game plan, Schaub will be able to outpoint the Croatian.
Jay’s Pick: Schaub via decision.
Nate Marquardt vs. Dan Miller
Don’t you just love family gatherings? The UFC has paired the Dan and Jim Miller in back to back fights. How cute. Unfortunately, there’s the possibility that one or both of them could lose, thus bringing immense shame to their family and guaranteeing a lot of questions and tears at the next Miller Family BBQ. All joking aside, I give Miller a lot of credit for taking this fight on such short notice since Marquardt’s original opponent, Yoshihiro Akiyama, pulled out due to the devastating events currently happening in his homeland of Japan.
Miller has great jiu-jitsu and rebounded from a three-fight losing streak by rattling off back-to-back wins over John Salter and Joe Doerksen. Nate The Great, on the other hand, has gone 1-2 in his last three, bookending two decision losses to #1 contender Yushi Okami and former #1 contender Chael Sonnen with a KO of Rousimar Palhares at UFC 122. I bet on Marquardt to be hungry last time and it didn’t pan out for me with the stronger Okami, but with the short turnaround and superior striking, I’ll bank on him again. Miller Family starts the night 0-1.
Jay’s Pick: Marquardt via TKO, R2
Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus
Will the Miller Family rebound with younger brother Jim taking on recent WEC import Kamal Shalorus? Both fighters have impressive records, with Shalorus using his wrestling and stand up to amass an undefeated 7-0-2 and Miller utilizing the Miller Family Jiu-jitsu to become a definite lightweight prospect at 19-2. I thought ground wizard Charles Oliveira was going to get him in his last fight, but he wound up pulling off a beautiful knee bar in the first round. Given the level of competition he’s faced (only losses coming to current LW champ Frankie Edgar back in ’06 and most recently to #1 contender Gray Maynard at UFC 96) I think his toughness and ground game will get him #20…and the Miller family bats .500.
Jay’s Pick: Jim Miller via submission, R3
Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland
Finally, Urijah Faber is in the UFC. The former featherweight champ, who may have single-handedly carried WEC long enough so they could be absorbed into the UFC, is looking for another shot at gold, this time at Bantamweight against former BW champ Eddie Wineland. I sure as heck hope Urijah is not thinking about champ Dominick Cruz because Wineland is on a 4 fight winning streak, with his last two fights earning KO of the Night Honors (Can there be extra money thrown in if you KO someone via slam?
I am pretty sure Ken Stone’s life is dramatically shorter from that insane ‘spine buster’ Wineland laid on him at WEC 53). I do think oddsmakers having Faber favored at 5-1 is a bit much here, but I am still betting on The California Kid, who looks to be in phenomenal shape in his new weight class and made a nice splash with his rear-naked choke win over Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52. Some say that stretch of losses to Brown/Aldo at FW meant Faber’s best days were behind him. Tomorrow, I think he’ll prove them wrong.
Jay’s Pick: Faber via submission, R2
In the words of Ron Burgundy: that escalated quickly. This title fight has gotten a lot of press over the past few weeks all over the blogosphere to Jon Jones‘ article in the Wall Street Journal to TV specials and press conferences. So many questions about Jones’ youth, Rua’s knees, Jones’ unorthodox style, Rua’s striking, etc. have been put forth that I am tempted to forego precious sleep for the NYC Half Marathon I am running on Sunday at 7:30 AM just to see this damned fight!
Quick review of recent accomplishments: The Champ is 3-1, with his most recent two being the controversial loss to Lyoto Machida followed by his KO win over Machida at UFC 113 to win the gold. Jones fought just a little over a month ago at UFC 126, where he barely broke a sweat in choking out Ryan Bader in a little over a round. If the increasingly brash Jon Jones thinks trying to stand and trade with a guy like Shogun, who’s experience and technique is leagues above anyone he’s faced and the fact that he can generate 2749 lbs of force with his leg kicks (thanks, Sports Science), he is in for a rude awakening Sunday morning.
He may also be in for a similarly wicked, multi-colored bruise on his leg not unlike that of Faber’s after the Jose Aldo fight. However, while I think in terms of straight boxing/muay thai technique Rua is the far better fighter, Jones is a beast with his wrestling and ability to control the fight’s direction and tempo. We know Shogun Rua is a black belt in BJJ, but I give the edge to the youngster on the floor…where I think he will finish it with some ground and pound/vicious elbows from the mount. Ladies and Gentlemen, your new LHW champ and further proof that the belt in this particular division is like a game of hot potato, Jon “Bones” Jones.
Jay’s Pick: Jones via TKO, R3
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