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UFC 109 Predictions: Age In The Cage

Real short this time.

I can tell you in advance, the MVP of this show is Joe Silva. There’s no blow-away matches and really only the top two contests have meaningful title significance of any kind, but every match on this card is nevertheless interesting- good matchups of style and ability, clashes of personality, or else interesting showcases for major prospects who in a few years could be hugely important in the sport. For one of UFC’s down-month PPVs that’s about as good as it gets, and I’m excited for this show.

Main Card

* Light Heavyweight bout: Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman

Jamaicans have a great phrase- old time something come back again. This is a fight which can be legitimately said to be 20 years in the making, since the last time these two faced each other was in freestyle wrestling in 1989 (Coleman won) 4 years before this sport was even inaugurated in America; a rather poignant comment on the still-youthful nature of the sport. It will be interesting to see how well that hook ends up drawing. There’s the allure of a Randy Couture fight of course, but for this fight to mean anything more at the box office than Randy Couture vs. (Insert fighter or Brandon Vera here), you’re going to have to have a substantial part of the audience which knows or is at least interested in the history of UFC and MMA and understands why Coleman is a hall of famer and how his and Couture’s careers have intertwined through the years. I think if there was a Japanese equivalent of this back in the PRIDE days it would have drawn huge (and Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Kazushi Sakuraba might have been it), but I’m not sure what this dynamic means in America.

As a fight it’s not really hard to break down: the keys are wrestling and conditioning. On the feet and throwing hands I think Couture is substantially superior- he’s trained it to the point where he’s a solid MMA-style boxer, and he can do it for large periods of time against mediocre strikers without getting his head torn off. His chin is not the best, but Coleman is so slow and so unpolished standing that it’s hard to see him hitting Randy hard and clean. Coleman will want to take the fight down pretty much from the start, especially once he starts running into a hard jab. I suspect he may have some success early given that he remains bear-strong and hard to shrug off when he’s got a gas tank, but the reality is that he ran out of go VERY quickly in his recent fights, and last time out he got a win by holding down a guy with no takedown defense who was throwing spinning back kicks at Coleman’s head because he dreamed about seeing himself win that way; that’s a long ways from consistently taking down and beating up Randy Couture. Couture is aging more rapidly now, but he retains more of his stamina and more explosive athleticism than Coleman. I suspect the first round will be back-and-forth or perhaps even clearly to Coleman, and after that Coleman will slow, his shots will start getting shrugged off, and Couture will just pound on him from there for the last two rounds. The only thing which would really surprise me here is if this doesn’t go to the judges.

* Middleweight bout: Nate Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen

God bless Chael Sonnen, he’s brought some sizzle to a fight which is athletically interesting but until recently had all the personality draw of two Ken dolls going at it. Another simple fight to understand, I think: If Sonnen’s striking has improved to where he believes he can stand with Marquardt, he’s going to get splattered; if he tries to and can take Marquardt down quickly he’s got a chance to hold him down and beat him the same hideously boring way he did Dan Miller. Marquardt has substantial grappling credentials, but from what I understand he’s at his best from top position and not off his back. As to whether Sonnen can get the takedown, I suspect he can. He was a very high level wrestler in a former life, and while Marquardt will likely have the superior strength of the two, he’s not a patch on Sonnen for technique. There is a path to victory here for Sonnen.

All that said, I like Marquardt. I don’t entirely trust Sonnen’s submission awareness, and perhaps more importantly I think he’s likely going to spend more time on his feet than he probably should with Marquardt. Also, despite his wrestling Sonnen is not exactly a dominant ground-and-pound guy, which leaves him in a position to have rounds stolen from him. If he comes out striking and gets rocked early, takes Marquardt down, holds him there for 2-3 minutes, then allows him up by pulling out of a submission attempt and thereby gives Marquardt a chance to end rounds strong, he could easily lose a decision. It’s one of those rare times when I think it’s fair to say that one fighter having more tools really does come into play. Sonnen just has to be too perfect to win with his usual gameplan here, a gameplan he may not even be strictly following. I’m actually going to take Marquardt by guillotine in the 2nd, on the theory that he rocks Sonnen and catches him coming in on a desperation takedown.

* Welterweight bout: Mike Swick vs. Paulo Thiago

Really good matchup of two guys going opposite directions and meeting in the middle, both stylistically and in recent career arc. I like Swick in this one- he’s a much better striker I think, he’ll be motivated to get a win to get back into title contention and possibly to avenge his AKA idrens Koschek, Thiago has already faced two AKA guys in the UFC so presumably they have a substantial dossier on him, and something about Thiago doesn’t sit well with me. He strikes me as fighting up to or down to the level of his opponents- KO’ing Koscheck and giving Jon Fitch trouble, then struggling far more than he ever should have with Jacob Volkmann in a near-pure grappling contest. There were far too many times in that fight where he gave up takedowns, allowed Volkmann to scramble up from the bottom, lost advantageous positions, etc. and if he allows Swick that much wiggle room he’s in a lot of trouble. I suspect this will be mostly a kickboxing match, and Swick will just outpoint Thiago.

* Middleweight bout: Demian Maia vs. Dan Miller

9 times in 10 a KO in the first 30 seconds means little in this sport; I’m not sure if this is that 10th time or not. It’s certainly not news that Nate Marquardt hits really fucking hard and is a better standup fighter than Demian Maia; but it may be news that Maia was so overconfident/undisciplined that he went out there to throw some sort of wacky flying whatever in the first 30 seconds of his biggest fight ever and jumped into a giant right hand. Maia has to be a gameplan fighter at this point in his career- he’s so dramatically superior to everyone else in his weight range on the ground that failing to base everything he does around getting it to that position is essentially tantamount to Wangism. If he goes out there to just do stuff, or take the fight as it comes, or “prove” he’s an improved standup fighter, etc. he’s going to lose to guys he really shouldn’t. With luck, the Marquardt fight was a wakeup call.

If it was, I think he beats Miller pretty easily, probably by RNC in the 2nd or 3rd. Miller has a wrestling background which might help him keep it standing, but it’s high school-level and Maia comes with odd, judo-style trip and throw takedowns anyway instead of straight shots which are easier for wrestlers to defend. If it wasn’t, Maia may lose this one; his standup is not good, and Miller has a good chance of outpointing him if he can keep the fight vertical. I suspect Maia will have learned his lesson, and should win this one.

* Welterweight bout: Matt Serra vs. Frank Trigg

I’m almost disappointed in this one, since the build-up to it was always likely to be better than the fight itself, and both guys have been uncharacteristically quiet and respectful of each other. In the cage it has a chance to be good in the way that two fighters past their best often put on a better fight for action than they might have at their peak, but I suspect that Serra’s known issues with good wrestlers will bite him in the ass on this one and Trigg will get a decision. Serra’s best chance is probably to time Trigg, hurt him with a big shot, follow him down and go for the RNC.

Preliminary Card (Spike TV)

* Lightweight bout: Mac Danzig vs. Justin Buchholz

These guys come into this fight on the back of 5 losses, two for Buchholz and three for Danzig. I get that Danzig has a cool name, TUF fame and a personality which is odd enough to be memorable, but how much proof do you need that he’s found his level and this is not it? He’s 30 and has developed about as much as he’s going to. Buchholz is younger at 26 and might have more promise, but he’s also 8-4 with one of his wins coming by DQ. It’s impossible to care too much about this one. Danzig has faced the better competition and works with the better camp at Xtreme Couture so far as I can tell, and he’s faced the better competition easily. I’m guessing Buchholz is being put here to lose, and I’ll assume Joe Silva knows his business. Figure Danzig by decision.

* Lightweight bout: Melvin Guillard vs. Ronnys Torres

The downside with Guillard is that he’s incredibly stupid- a cocaine suspension, a win pulled from his record due to greasing between rounds, many fights lost due to leaping headlong into submissions, trying to fight a guy after the fight despite having just been choked out, etc. The upside is, and I hate to put it this way because it’s frequently a racist trope, but the man is an incredible athlete. Quick, hard-hitting, remarkably strong for his size, and a decently skilled striker into the bargain. If he could ever sort out his mental blocks (and at 26 and training with Greg Jackson, it’s still possible) he could easily be the lightweight Paul Daley. The trouble is, he could also still be the kind of guy who loses to a Ronnys Torres in hilarious fashion. Torres is a Nova Uniao product making his UFC debut, and I suspect this fight was booked as a double test: has Guillard figured out how not to get tapped yet, and has Torres developed his wrestling and striking enough to survive and utilize his BJJ abilities at the top level? Personally I refuse to bet on Melvin Guillard having learned until he proves he has, so I’ll take Torres by armbar in the 2nd.

Preliminary Card

* Lightweight bout: Phillipe Nover vs. Rob Emerson

Amazingly enough given the immediate name recognition here, this is a matchup of two guys on two fight losing streaks- three if you want to count Nover’s losing battle with pre-fight unconsciousness a few months back. Nover seems to have the much higher talent ceiling in all phases of the game of the two and I think he’ll get the win here, plus New York is better than California, but something about him just doesn’t add up. Like Paulo Thiago and Melvin Guillard on this card, he has a vague feeling of being less than his gifts and skills should allow him to be, and it’s impossible to shake the sense that he may find a way to lose this one.

* Light Heavyweight bout: Brian Stann vs. Phil Davis

Phil Davis is generally considered a top-shelf prospect as a former NCAA wrestling champ, and I doubt they think Brian Stann is likely to put up too much fight given his lack of wrestling background. Davis will probably take a GnP finish in this one, possibly later in the fight if the UFC debut jitters get to him.

* Heavyweight bout: Tim Hague vs. Chris Tuchscherer

Pair of wendigos going at it right here, giant hairy moose-men of the north. Hague is Canadian in a beer-drinking pickup-driving socialist fur-trapper sort of way, while Tuchscherer is a Brock Lesnar training partner- which is to say, the same thing but even more so (minus the socialism). Oh, and he’s a veteran of YAMMA Pit-Fighting, which is always good. I’ll take Tuchscherer for the wrestling background and better training partners.

* Heavyweight bout: Rolles Gracie vs. Joey Beltran

Heavyweight Gracie vs. late fill-in opponent is not a hard call. Rolles by submission in the first. I’m hoping this makes TV, since Rolles has the potential to be incredibly marketable if he ends up being good.

All in all a solid show, perhaps appealing more to harder-core fans who enjoy deep undercards like this one.


February 5, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

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