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UFC 106 Predictions: Good Stuff

It’s getting almost zero attention in the wake of UFC 104, 105, Strikeforce on CBS and Cotto/Pacquiao all happening in a quick span, but on paper this is a very good card. I’m looking forward to it, despite the disappointment of Karo Parisyan losing his mind and pulling out today. That dude needs some help before his inevitable Strikeforce debut, because he’s got a ton of talent that’s going to waste. It’s really not a good sign that he blatantly lied about the reasons for his withdrawal at first, then sent out someone from his camp to admit that it was due to drugs and not commission issues later that same day.

Shorter preview this time, I’ve written a LOT of these recently.

Main Card

* Light Heavyweight bout: Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin

MMA has a great asset in the fact that its fanbase accepts and is willing to pay for fights like this as main events. Both of these guys are very, very good; neither are, despite being former champions, the best or ever likely to be so again on the probable downside of their careers as they are. But it’s a great clash of personalities and styles and the chances are it’ll be an entertaining or at least compelling fight, the winner of which will probably get another chance to prove themselves just-below-the-best.

Who wins? I like Tito, personally. Without getting into the game of whether he’s finally “really healthy” or not, he’s still got solid wrestling, he can still take guys down, he hits fucking hard on the ground, and his standup has improved to the point where he’s probably underrated in that aspect. I think he can hang with Forrest in the technical standup game, and probably will do so without ever being in trouble given that he’s got a solid chin and Griffin isn’t really a power puncher for the most part. Tito’s added some good leg kicks of late and seems to do a much better job than Forrest of getting his power into strikes. I suspect it’ll be a back-and-forth affair on the feet where Griffin likely lands a bit more often, but Ortiz seems to do more damage and probably has Giffin visibly hurt once or twice over the three rounds, probably off of counter rights thrown over a leg kick as Griffin gets sloppy at times with the way he throws those. Griffin’s just too damn hittable, too likely to overextend and leave himself vulnerable against a fighter like Tito who can be self-contained and wait for the right opportunity.

Griffin won’t likely be able to take Tito down (and probably won’t try), but in turn has been vulnerable to strong wrestlers with excellent top games (see: the Rashad Evans fight). If someone gets finished here, it’ll likely be Forrest from ground and pound. Overall, Tito has (and this is one of the rare times I’ll use this stupid phrase) more tools or weapons, which are likely to make the difference- if a finish is unlikely and the standup is 50/50, all Tito really needs is a takedown and some decent top work in 2 of the 3 rounds and the decision is his. He won their first encounter and while I think Forrest has improved dramatically since then, so has Tito and their basic styles haven’t changed. Ortiz, 3 round decision, mildly controversial.

* Welterweight bout: Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony Johnson

I kinda love a fight like this. Ultimately it turns on the question of: is Johnson as good a Thiago Alves as Thiago Alves is? Alves beat Koscheck and has had great success at 170 because he has very good takedown defense and as a striker is varied and powerful, with both dimensions of his game helped by the fact that he’s bloody huge for the weight. Johnson looks very similar- decent wrestling background, kickboxing-style standup, so huge he’s missed weight twice. The major difference between them is that Alves has proved that he can be that guy against the absolute best out there, whereas Johnson’s best wins so far have been against the Luigi Fiorvantis and Kevin Burns’ of the world. This is the big test.

I’ve heard it suggested that ultimately we don’t really know much about Johnson as a wrestler; he rarely uses it directly in MMA, and while he was a JuCo national champion he never proceeded much farther in the world of pure wrestling so his actual skill level is hard to ascertain. In a division where the best wrestler has zero amateur credentials, you never know. I’m going to guess however that his skills are good enough that, when combined with his size and Koscheck’s Wangish tendencies, this is likely to be a majority standup fight. There’s a chance that if Koscheck gets in trouble he can hit the panic button and take Johnson down, but it’s not a given especially since he often waits until after he’s been hurt to try a shot. Thus we’ve got a heavy-handed boxer who likes to swing hard against a kickboxer with good natural power who uses both his kicks and punches as finisher’s weapons. Both guys like to come forward, both try to finish fights; no one here is a cutie, or focuses on footwork and angles. It’s likely to be an excellent action contest and frankly it’s the proverbial razor-thin pick to make since either guy could win and it’s almost chance which of them gets the big shot first. I’m going to go with Johnson, simply because Koscheck is a bit more hittable and Johnson does have a significant reach advantage which may bother the shorter man.

* Welterweight bout: Amir Sadollah vs. Phil Baroni

As of Wednesday people in and around Baroni’s camp were saying he needed to drop 20 pounds to make weight for this fight. What does that tell you? Baloni’s pretty much just A Guy albeit one with a personality, and he’s back in UFC for two reasons: so he’s not with Strikeforce, and to put over guys like Sadollah. Figure he’ll do so here by 3 round decision when he instantly gasses and “shows heart” by continuing to fight despite not being in condition. Rinse, wash, repeat.

* Light Heavyweight bout: Luiz Cane vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Great fight. Great, great fight. MiniNog has all the reputation in the world, is easy for UFC to get over as a star if he can win since his brother is now so well-established, and brings world-class jiujitsu to a division where it’s seen much less than most. But for all that he also has some doubts swirling around him: he’s 33, an ex-Pride guy, and he arguably (depending on your opinion of Vladimir Matyushenko these days) hasn’t fought world-class opposition in nearly three years- and that was the Sokoudjou fight. Nog needs a win, a good win, to establish himself in the UFC and reestablish himself as a world-class contender. Luiz Cane, meanwhile, is an excellent prospect who for a variety of reasons hasn’t quite made the jump yet- injury trouble, an unexciting game, a dumb DQ loss, language barrier issues, and most importantly the lack of a real high-profile career-defining win. Matching these two up is a natural, since one way or another someone is going to get what they need- either Nog gets a win against a good opponent in his UFC debut which allows him to meet a real contender next time, or Cane gets a career-defining win over a guy seen as world-class in the recent past, who will be recognizable to UFC fans because of his brother. Fantastic matchmaking.

As a fight it should be at an excellent technical level, if not the fastest-paced affair ever. I’ve never been as sold on Cane as some people; he’s a good boxer but not a great one, and he seems at times to be both passive and hittable in a way which most guys won’t use against him, but which a high-level fighter will. Nog is a high level fighter and a particularly good boxer, and I’m picking him to be just a little bit better in a competitive boxing match which goes all 3. Cane can win though, and even if he loses he’ll be back in the future.

* Welterweight bout: Paulo Thiago vs. Jacob Volkmann

Shame about Karo’s drug issues, but I actually really like this fight making TV- Thiago is an excellent ground fighter, and while I confess to knowing little about Volkmann (making his UFC debut in his second televised fight) I do know he’s an All-American wrestler with 6 submission wins in the first round in a 10 fight career. A ground battle like this is always a nice change of pace on a card which is likely to feature a lot of striking otherwise. I’ll take Thiago on the suspicion that he’s a much higher level practitioner, has faced the better opposition, and as an elite special forces policeman he’s likely more used to choking out people in all walks of life. 3rd round triangle.

Preliminary Card (Spike TV)

* Welterweight bout: Ben Saunders vs. Marcus Davis

Can I pick the ref? I hate these guys. Davis is probably more battle-tested and talented, so I’ll take him in what would be a fun standup fight if it weren’t for the participants. Saunders is one of those big dudes who thinks being a big dude constitutes defense, instead of just ensuring that there’s more of him to hit.

* Middleweight bout: Kendall Grove vs. Jake Rosholt

You know, if Rosholt really is the fighter he looked like last time out against Chris Leben he could be really terrifying in a year or two. As a wrestler his credentials are as good as you’ll find below the Olympic level, he’s become a skilled grappler, and his standup defense has all of a sudden gone from atrocious to above-average. Throw in that he’s becoming a solid offensive striker, and it’s hard to find a flaw on him- if the improvement is real. Kendall Grove is a colossal disappointment as a fighter, but he is good enough to probably beat the old version of Roshalt; the newer version kills him dead. I’m going to go ahead and bet on Rosholt being real and take him by 2nd round GNP finish with punches from the mount. Grove’s not a wrestler and as a striker it’s astonishing how bad he is at using his enormous reach to keep guys at a distance, so Rosholt should be able to take this one down at will if and when he desires. He’ll be in some danger there, but he’s very good at passing guard and avoiding sweeps and he might just decide to hang out in side control and slowly pound Grove out. If he chooses to keep it standing he can probably leap in and out with hooks to do some damage, and while he may prove vulnerable to leg kicks it’s hard to see Grove putting him in any real trouble. Rosholt’s just a better athlete by far, and if his skills have caught up to his athleticism than he’s far above Kendall Grove’s level. If.

On a side note, if Rosholt actually gets rid of Grove here he will have officially converted a guy who couldn’t stand him a year ago into an active fan.

Preliminary Card (Non-televised)

* Welterweight bout: Brock Larson vs. Brian Foster

The lesser of two Brocks is still the greater of these two fighters.

* Lightweight bout: Caol Uno vs. Fabricio Camoes

Uno still seems to have something; I thought he beat Spencer Fisher last time out although the fight was close, and he should be able to choose the level against Camoes and take best advantage of his skills.

* Lightweight bout: George Sotiropoulos vs. Jason Dent

Sotiropoulos seems like a much more talented, more complete fighter and particularly better on the ground where this is likely to be fought. Let’s say RNC1, in a fun grappling contest that with luck will make the PPV.

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November 19, 2009 - Posted by | MMA |

1 Comment »

  1. I really like the card, unfortunately I won’t be able to watch it until Sunday night or Monday.

    To be quite honest, I see all fights could go either way. I mean Sadollah should win… should… but I really wouldn’t be all surprised if he lost. Like you said, it is great matchmaking.

    Also, everyone is saying that Karo would go to Strikeforce. I see no chance of that happening as he is an addict and also 32k in debt to the NSAC. I say he fights in Japan where they don’t test him and he can make some cash there w/out paying any commission.

    Comment by kenonbass | November 20, 2009 | Reply


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