The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

UFC 111 Predictions: Rudie, It’s A Message To You

Main Card

* Welterweight Championship bout: Georges St. Pierre (c) vs. Dan Hardy

And that message is: “learn to fucking wrestle.” GSP Sub2 (RNC)

* Interim Heavyweight Championship bout: Frank Mir vs. Shane Carwin

Guys like Carwin always fuck with people’s heads. Here’s the quick deal: if it is possible to have simultaneously shown very little during your MMA career and still be one of the best at your respective weight (and it is), then Carwin is a great example of that paradox. Can he wrestle? His credentials say he should be decent, but he never uses it in the cage much. Can he roll? He’s got some wrestler submissions on his record against guys you’ve never heard of in microscopic promotions and he’s obviously never been tapped, but the one time he was in there with a high-level BJJ practitioner the fight never hit the mat. Can he take a punch? Never been KOed, but Gabriel Gonzaga had him dancing off-beat a couple of times in their brief encounter. Bottom line is that we simply don’t know much about Carwin at all in those areas so far- doesn’t mean he’s bad at them per se, just that 11 fights into his pro career he’s a bit of a mystery still.

There is one thing we do know about him though: this fucker can punch. He’s got surprisingly decent technical form particularly on short countershots like the one which erased Gonzaga, and he hits almost ridiculously hard. Mike Tyson had the famous line about how everyone has a plan until they get hit; such has been the story for the first 11 men Shane Carwin has faced off with, and until someone proves otherwise it may be the story for everyone else he faces as well. He has the eraser, and his rise to contention at 265 puts the lie to a lot of the pious cliches about how in MMA it’s only the well-rounded guys who can succeed or how it’s especially important for a fighter to always have more tools and more ways to win. It’s almost appropriate that Carwin is on GSP’s undercard on Saturday, since his right hand is not unlike GSP’s takedowns these days: he’s going to keep going to it until someone stops it, and so far no one can. Sometimes, even in a muti-disciplinary Danny Hodge-podge of a sport like MMA, if you’re just THAT much better than an opponent in one area such that you can impose your will on him using your isolated excellence, you win. It was in proving this point that the Gonzaga win meant so much for Carwin, because he demonstrated there not just that he has ludicrous power (which we knew) but also that he can take shots, be hurt, and yet stay mentally present enough to throw a perfectly timed and very accurate counter shot with power enough on it to put the lights out on a strong heavyweight with one shot. Carwin in the standup game is always going to be dangerous to any possible opponent in just about any situation, and he’s a big strong man with some wrestling credentials who won’t be easy to get off his feet. Trouble.

Frank Mir? What do you want me to say, he’s Frank Mir. Everyone knows his story by now, his strengths and weaknesses, his potential and his reality. If his new bulk-up routine gives him the strength to take Carwin off his feet and get the fight to the ground for any length of time I suspect he’ll tap Carwin, but it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be able to get that done. His best bet is probably to work the clinch game along the cage walls and look for trips. Standing and striking… look, if this goes any length of time then the odds are about 90% that Mir is getting KO’d, 10% that Carwin is getting KO’d, and by “any length of time” I mean about 2 minutes. And yet, in this there may be an opportunity for Mir- Carwin’s longest career bout went 2:11, and among the multitudes of things unknown about the man is his cardio. He’s a wrestler which bodes well, but he’s also 34 and carrying around a huge frame, and has no experience of dealing with both the mental and physical exhaustion which accompanies a long fight. If Mir can be the first guy to force Carwin into having to utilize these untested aspects of his game he has the chance to not only win big, but to make Carwin look very bad indeed if those untested aspects aren’t up to par. That’s the flipside of the monodimensional destroyer profile: they look invincible until someone solves the puzzle.

I think I like Mir in this one, as a puzzle-solver. A lot of the time he’s about 80% as smart as he thinks he is and there’s the chance he may fool himself into thinking his vaunted new standup will let him kickbox with Godzilla (in which case his head will have to be stowed as a carry-on for his return flight out of Newark), but I’m going to assume in this instance that his ego will lead him to want to show this fucker the Majesty Of Jiu-Jitsu. I expect some movement, some clinchwork, a paced and measured offense which is designed to take Carwin to places he’s never been before. I’m thinking Carwin will slow, get taken down or knocked down by a counter as he gets overly aggressive and tries to force something, and eventually submitted in the second round; think a slow-motion version of the Mir/Kongo fight.

* Welterweight bout: Ben Saunders vs. Jake Ellenberger

I have a hunch about Ellenberger here. He hits retardly hard and he’s a much better wrestler than Saunders, who was taken down fairly easily by Mike Swick. Saunders has the more developed and skillful standup on paper, but he also tends to get wild and throws without any defensive responsibility leaving him vulnerable to big power counters of the kind which Ellenberger can and does throw. I could easily see Saunders dominating the first minute or two of this one, walking into a big shot and being finished on the ground. Alternately, if he’s putting Ellenberger under too much pressure on the feet then Ellenberger may just turn to his wrestling and pin Saunders down to try and work some GNP. That position isn’t death for Saunders as I don’t think much of Ellenberger’s defensive positioning in an opponent’s guard (he’s very open to armbars and triangles), but it gives the underdog the advantage of choosing where the fight happens and where he feels most comfortable. Let’s go Ellenberger by KO1 on that hunch.

* Welterweight bout: Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves

I recognize that I’m going to be all alone on my lonesome on this one, but this to me is very nearly the real main event. If they were boxers both of these men would be champion beltholders and this would be a top-level unification bout in all likelihood, something on the order of Devon Alexander vs. Juan Urango but bigger given that it’s a rematch. As mixed martial artists they suffer a bit from UFC’s more aggressive and fan-pleasing matchmaking as both have already had their shots against The Man at 170 and come up wanting, but this is nevertheless still a match between the likely #2 and #3 welterweights in the world. That’s good shit, especially third from the top of the card.

Last time I checked Alves had been installed as the favorite in this one; I understand why- Fitch has been doing just enough to beat guys of late- but to me this one still seems like a coin flip. Alves fought only once all of last year, a fight in which he was brutally and at times embarrassingly outclassed by GSP who continued to dominate rounds against Alves even after being injured. It’s hard to know what that may do to Alves’ psyche. As noted, this fight is a rematch; their previous meeting was at Ultimate Fight Night 5 in 2006 where Fitch won by KO. It’s hard to know if that has any effect on Alves as well, but there’s the old boxing cliche about how when a knockout is rematched to expect the same result but quicker the second time around. Fitch meanwhile has been fighting regularly, three times in 2009 and all wins against quality competition in the form of Akihiro Gono, Mike Pierce and Paulo Thiago, the last of which looks more and more impressive with the passage of time. Alves probably has a higher natural talent ceiling and at 26 he’s likely starting to come into his prime now; on the other hand he’s also a gigantic welterweight who at 26 may also be coming into the start of his time as a middleweight. 3 hard rounds against an ultra-fit grinder like Fitch after a long period of minimal cage time may expose the limits of Alves’ ability to cut weight and stay effective in the cage. Alves clearly hits harder and is light years more effective technically; but Fitch hasn’t been KO’d in 8 years, and Alves has yet to prove that he can stay on his feet to use his striking consistently against a prepared wrestler determined to take him down. GSP couldn’t always keep him there, but he could get him there; Koscheck came in on short notice and decided to try to slug it out with Alves; Hughes was also on short notice, and was not at the peak of his abilities, let’s say.

I think this is going to be a great fight, that much I’m confident in. I think Fitch can take Alves down, but I’m not confident he can keep him on his back for long periods of time; I think Alves can out-strike Fitch, but not badly enough to dispose of him quickly and not in such dominant fashion that he won’t take a few shots coming back. I expect it to be a back and forth, rough-and-tumble affair with a lot of changing positions and tactics. Fitch at this point is the best possible Jon Fitch he can ever be, and has been that guy for quite a while; in 2006 that was good enough to beat a 22 year old version of Thiago Alves who was only 8 months removed from being choked out by Spencer Fisher. In 2010 the onus is on Alves to prove that something meaningful has changed in the interim. He has to rise to the level Fitch has established. Fitch is the sure thing here, the same excellent if drab fighter in every round of every fight against every opponent, while Alves simultaneously has more room to grow and more need to improve. As it stands, I just have too many questions about Alves’ preparation to pick him against a guy like Fitch who A) already beat him once and B) is stylistically similar to and about 80% as good as the man who dominated Alves in his last fight. Alves looks omnipotent against guys who let him do what he wants to do, but Fitch is a pusher and a grinder who keeps the pressure up and never lets an opponent get comfortable. Fitch, decision.

* Lightweight bout: Jim Miller vs. Mark Bocek

Not sure why this is happening, not sure why it’s on the televised-for-sure portion of the card other than that Jim Miller is a Jersey guy and they may want to use him to get the crowd up for when the PPV kicks off. Bocek is great on the ground and all, but Miller is good there as well, better everywhere else and has done better against common opponents. I think Miller will probably just grind Bocek down with better boxing and maybe get a submission-by-way-of-exhaustion late, but likely will end up with a clear decision victory.

Spike TV Card

* Welterweight bout: Nate Diaz vs. Rory Markham

Diaz really SHOULD win this one, despite stepping up in weight and facing a guy who’s never been tapped. Markham hasn’t fought in over a year and got KO’d last time out, he’s coming off a knee injury and branching out into acting, and while he’s heavy-handed enough that he might catch Diaz with a hard counter against Nate’s pecky-pecky offense on the whole he’s just not in the same talent bracket as Diaz. Diaz will not be a small welterweight, and Markham isn’t the kind of wrestler who exposes Nate’s flaws on the ground. I’m thinking Diaz taps him in the second after wearing him down standing.

* Welterweight bout: Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Brown

You have to love fights like this. Almeida is the clear pick and he should win- Brown’s been tapped 5 times and Almeida’s BJJ is world class, Almeida is probably naturally larger coming down from middleweight, Almeida will do better in Brown’s domain than brown will do in his, etc. And yet, there’s reasons to think that Brown has a legitimate chance in this one. This is Almeida’s welterweight debut; there’s no way to tell how the cut is going to go for him first time out, and he has been known to gas and get sluggish in the later rounds already. Brown has looked probably the best he ever has of late, and has good power. My hunch is that Almeida will end up frustrated on the feet and Brown will put a fairly strong hurting on him early in an exciting fight, before getting sloppy and following Almeida down to the mat and into an arm bar. It nearly happened against James Wilks, and Almeida is in a different universe of the submission game from Wilks. Second round finish, let’s say.

Preliminary Card

* Lightweight bout: Kurt Pellegrino vs. Fabricio Camoes

I am not looking forward to this one. If it’s possible to have post-traumatic boredom I think I’ve got it from Pellegrino’s fight at UFC 101, in which he basically used Josh Neer as an unwitting prop in some bad soft-core porn. Camoes is a jiujitsuman and I assume this match was made to try and get Pellegrino to stop doing that (and get another Jersey guy on a Jersey card), and with luck it’ll result in two ground guys doing bad kickboxing. If we’re unlucky, well… yeah. This could be God-awful. I’ll take Pellegrino by decision based on experience.

* Light Heavyweight bout: Rodney Wallace vs. Jared Hamman

Pair of ex-football players trying their hands at MMA, both coming off of losses. I’ll take Hamman the ex-defensive end to tackle Wallace the ex-running back, on the theory that when in doubt, pick the wrestler.

* Middleweight bout: Rousimar Palhares vs. Tomasz Drwal

I love this fight. Did I say I love this fight? I love this fight! Mind you if I weren’t seeing this live I’d be complaining that it was going unaired, but that won’t be a problem so cheers for this one- it’s remarkably good for a second from the bottom matchup. Paul Harris, as he’s known, is probably most famous for giving Dan Henderson fits on the ground before dropping a competitive decision to him at UFC 88, while Drwal is a talented striker who’s been able to take out the Drew McFedries, Mike Ciesnolevicz, Ivan Serati level of fighter so far before falling in his one step-up attempt so far against Thiago Silva. Neither are quite top guys (yet- Drwal is only 28 and Toquinho is amazing in one area) but both occupy the tier of fighter just below the top level and on any given night could beat anyone with a few lucky breaks. I like Harris in this one- he’s very aggressive and while Drwal is not bad at his BJJ by any means, Harris tends to come with great pressure and leg locks which may throw off someone who’s more used to a slower and more conventional style of MMA BJJ. Drwal will have the edge on the feet, but he’s coming off of a submission win and may just fool himself into thinking he’s good enough to roll with Harris and thus let himself be taken down easier than he might. Figure heel hook, first round.

* Welterweight bout: Matthew Riddle vs. Greg Soto

Soto’s a late replacement local dude, Riddle is Riddle- inexperienced, good athlete, decent wrestler. I’ll take Riddle on the theories that late replacements rarely win and UFC likely thinks Riddle can beat this guy. Might KO the dude late.

I will be LIVE at the Rock in Newark for this card, so expect a great deal more talk about it after the show. Looks like a hell of an event on paper; let’s hope it meets that standard in the cage. For whatever it’s worth, I give the main event a 5% chance of being an incredibly memorable all-time fluke upset win for Hardy; professionally trained fighters wearing tiny gloves sometimes produce non-repeatable, outlandish results. Could be a hell of a lot of fun if Hardy gets that lucky.

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March 24, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

2 Comments »

  1. You like Mir, huh? Well how about if Mir wins, I buy you a beer at the fight. If Carwin wins, you buy. You in?

    Comment by Tony M | March 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] previewed this one back in March, and little has changed in the interim other than Alves has suffered a brain injury, had surgery, […]

    Pingback by UFC 117 Predictions: Something Is Happening « The Ship Be Sinking | August 6, 2010 | Reply


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