The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

UFC 105 Predictions: The Forgotten Show

Hunched over and lurking in the shadows of Pacquiao-Cotto comes ANOTHER UFC, one I honestly thought was in like 2 or 3 weeks from now until today. I don’t know if that means I need to get my shit together or there’s just way too many shows or what, but it really is starting to feel like there’s a huge MMA extravaganza every weekend at the moment. Dana and the Fertittas have always used the “football’s on all the time” line to defend the scheduling; times like this will help determine if they’re right, because free show or not it’s hard to build up hype and interest for any given event when there’s always another big one the next week. Anyway, the picks for this one, and I’ll do Cotto-Pacquiao tomorrow or Friday:

Main card

* Light Heavyweight bout: Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera

A triumph of odd matchmaking here, which looks even odder in retrospect. The idea, so far as I can tell, was for Randy to drop to 205, get a win under his belt as Machida beat Shogun, then do Randy vs. Machida as another of those Can-Captain-America-Slay-The-Dragon fights which always do well for UFC. Then Shogun beat Machida but lost a bad decision, bad enough to merit a rematch which itself will be delayed as Machida’s hurt, and so Randy’s stuck fighting a build-up fight against a dangerous but not particularly exciting opponent for the sake of a major event that may well never happen. Such is the nature of the fight game.

I’m going to pick Brandon Vera in this one, with an intense lack of enthusiasm. I HOPE Randy KO’s him in the first 30 seconds or pounds on him for 15 minutes (whichever is funnier), but this is not a great matchup for the older man. Randy looked to my eye significantly slower last time out (which is not a dig at Nogueira’s victory) and his head movement and reactions while striking were almost gone. That’s a bad sign in anyone, worse for a 46 year old. Vera, while he can be incredibly irritatingly passive and boring, is a talented Muay Thai fighter with a far more diverse striking offense than Couture. He’s faster and he probably hits harder. I’m not seeing any way that Couture can win a sustained striking contest here; one punch and get lucky yes, but if this goes rounds on the feet in the center of the cage Couture will almost certainly lose them.

Grappling wise is where Couture should theoretically have an advantage but against Vera it’s less of one than usual if it’s any. Couture is the man coming down from a larger weight here, but Vera did so as well and will come in with 3 listed inches of height and reach on Couture. Couture is the superior wrestler, but Vera has a solid Graeco-Roman wrestling background himself and is the younger and probably more athletic man at this point. That doesn’t make him Couture’s equal in skill or technique, but it likely means he’s got more than enough tools at his disposal to defend himself against Couture’s game- it’s hard to see how Couture can impose himself physically on Vera. What’s more, as much as I hate to write this, Vera’s incredibly passive stance actually seems to afford him some major defensive advantages here: he can tee off on guys as they come in on him using his reach, and because he’s never coming forward he’s also never off balance and in a position to be shot on. He can be rushed and put against the cage, but he actually tends to do really well there with knees and using his height to lean his weight on the other man, smothering takedown attempts and wearing out smaller fighters.

I want Randy to win, but it’s going to be very tough for him to find a way to do so. He’s going to have to get to Vera early and hurt him which sometimes puts him into an even more passive shell, and if he can get a takedown he’s going to have to ride it out for the rest of the round and do some real ground and pound damage because that’s the one position where he has a dramatic advantage. On the feet for any length of time he’s in major trouble, and each takedown is going to be precious because while Vera isn’t the greatest off his back, he’s hard to put there. Randy’s made a career especially late on out of taking advantage of other guys’ mistakes; but Vera at 205 with confidence doesn’t really make a whole lot of them. I hope I’m wrong, but Vera by 3 round decision in another of those classic it-was-entertaining-because-it’s-Randy fights he produces. 2 or 3 or 5 years ago Couture is the easy pick, sadly.

Side notes: there’s a ton of might-happens for this fight. Can Vera hurt Couture and keep him outside with legkicks? How much of a benefit of the doubt does Couture get from the judges for being him? Where’s Randy’s chin at? This has a pretty decent chance of being a Rashomon fight, where everyone sees something different as being the decisive factor.

* Welterweight bout: Mike Swick vs. Dan Hardy

Well I’ll pick a KO for starters. Swick is demonstrably and substantially better on the ground and I suspect if he takes it there he’ll kill Hardy, who doesn’t have a wrestling background and 3 of whose 4 submission wins in 22 overall were by strikes or injury withdrawal. But Swick’s one of those guys who gameplans with his balls at times, and I suspect he’s try to bang it out with Hardy. From there, hey, who knows? Swick is a more varied striker and you’d probably back him to win the rounds, but Hardy hits very hard and strikes to finish more than he does to score points; over the course of 15 minutes it’s guaranteed he’ll land his best punch at least once- if it goes that long. I’m going to take Swick by KO off of some ground and pound in the 2nd, on the theory that while he’s sometimes too much into the quien es mas macho deal, he’s also not stupid- if Hardy’s rocking him he will take it down, and Hardy likely can’t stop him from doing so. Should be a fun fight, although the title implications of it are tragic.

* Middleweight bout: Michael Bisping vs. Denis Kang

Ah, once again the stirring battle of He’s Ok vs. He’s Not Too Bad is joined. At least the Britishers got a real main event this time as well as the inevitable Bisping fight. Both guys come into this one off the back of disappointment: Bisping has been more or less definitively revealed as not a real title level guy, while Kang is still trying to climb out of the grave marked “Another Failed Pride Guy.” I think if both guys are at their recent best, Bisping wins this: he’s faster, a better striker and his takedown defense is good enough to probably keep it vertical for most of the fight. Kang hasn’t beaten a top level guy in probably 3 years or more, he’s into his 30’s, and his gas tank has been questionable of late. He’s not a guy I’d want to put money on.

That said, there is one HUGE variable in this fight which can equalize or tip the balance towards Kang: what’s left of Bisping, neurologically and in confidence? Hendo didn’t just knock Bisping out- he knocked him out in as brutal, violent and vicious fashion as has ever been seen in MMA. More than once in fighting sports history a fighter has taken a KO like that and simply never been the same. Sometimes they fight scared from that point onward, never committing to strikes and being willing to give up at the first sign of danger for fear of the past repeating itself; other times their hearts are still willing but their brains have taken too much abuse, and they never react well to punches again. At this point I doubt even Bisping knows exactly what he does or does not have left, and he really won’t know for sure until he gets in the cage. If Kang is smart he’ll force the issue and go at Bisping hard and immediately, throw big shots to the head and make Bisping react; the Englishman is a good striker but not a devastating puncher, so the danger in doing so isn’t as high as it might be in some circumstances. If Bisping is still all there, fine, retreat to a normal strategy; but he may not be, and there’s a chance that Kang can make him crumble in the first minute and look like a dynamo.

I’m taking Bisping because I think he’s the kind of fighter who mentally can survive something like the Hendo KO better than most, but we really won’t know until the first good shot lands.

* Welterweight bout: James Wilks vs. Matt Brown

Goddamn barbarians, these two. Ordinarily I’d kvetch about them scheduling more TUF guys on the free shows, but this is likely to be all kinds of fun. Both guys go for it hard on the feet, and seem to have exciting fight power: they hit hard enough to hurt guys and not hard enough to easily finish them. The ground is probably where the difference lies, if any- Brown’s younger and stronger and will probably have a slight standing advantage, but Wilks is really pretty good on the ground and 5 of Brown’s 7 losses have been by submission. I’m going to take Wilks in a minor upset on that basis, figuring they’ll end up rolling at some point and Brown leaves too many openings. 2nd round RNC.

* Lightweight bout: Ross Pearson vs. Aaron Riley

Can anyone outside these guys’ immediate families care about this? I saw Riley’s last fight live and it bored me to death, he’s the least interesting of all Greg Jackson fighters, and at this point he seems to have pretty much found his level as Just A Guy helping to fill out 155. Pearson’s young enough to still be a prospect and has a story as the first chipmunk to win TUF, but his last fight was pretty boring in and of itself and if he didn’t have the TV hook behind him this fight would probably be among the last of the untelevised undercard bouts. They both seem like really nice guys though, so that’s nice. Riley’s more experienced and still fairly young at 28 so I’ll take him by decision, but man… does this have to be on television?

Preliminary Card

* Welterweight bout: Paul Taylor vs. John Hathaway

Ingurlund Ingurlund Ingurlund, Ingurlund IngurLUND Ingurluuuund. Ingurlund Ingurlund Ingurlund. Ingurlund. INGURLUND. It’s never a European UFC until two British guys (or better still, two English) have a sloppy ass standup war with some jiujitsu sprinkled on top. Hathaway is the prospect here and Taylor is a solid step up fight for him- not world class or a real contender, but significantly more experienced and not past his physical prime. Hathaway is likely good enough to get it down and control things there, so I’ll take him by decision.

* Lightweight bout: Terry Etim vs. Shannon Gugerty

Now here’s a fight I’d vastly rather see than Pearson and Riley. Both of these guys are very good grapplers which may mean we see some excellent exchanges on the mat… or it may mean that the taller and perhaps more confident in his striking Etim may try to turn this into a standup battle where he has the advantages. I favor Etim partly because he’s an oddball favorite of mine, partly because despite being younger he’s had an equal number of fights against better opposition, and partly because I think he’s probably got both a better rounded game and a higher talent ceiling. I’ll take him by decision.

* Welterweight bout: Nick Osipczak vs. Matthew Riddle

Riddle’s like the “after” picture of Osipczak if you had him live in New Jersey and train with Hulk Hogan for a year, and I do not mean that as a compliment. This is a hard one to call only because Riddle leaves openings to get tapped; outside of that he’s vastly thicker and stronger and has the wrestling base to decide where the fight goes, and while Osipczak is a more technical striker, he’s also a point striker for the most part- he won’t finish Riddle, probably won’t hurt him, and may not even bother him much. The odds are that Riddle holds Osiczak down and blankets him while doing enough GnP to win the rounds for a decision, and that’s the pick, but this is another one where I’m rooting against it.

* Lightweight bout: Paul Kelly vs. Dennis Siver

In war, the English; in sport, the Germans. In this one, Siver.

* Light Heavyweight bout: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jared Hamman

No pick. I try to come up with something for almost every fight, but I know NOTHING about Gustafsson. I’d lean towards Hamann only because I don’t trust it when a Euro debuts on a Euro show in UFC- smells of loading up the card with relative locals.

* Lightweight bout: Andre Winner vs. Rolando Delgado

Really? I’ll take Winner on the theory that being at home will motivate him to do his best and not be so passive.

Overall it’s a pretty decent card for a free show despite the TUF fights placement. The rating should be interesting- it’s got a big star going for it, but Cotto-Pacquiao is the kind of juggernaut fight that tends to squash everything in its way.

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November 11, 2009 - Posted by | MMA

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