BloodyElbow.com Staff Predictions for UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008. Apologies for the delay on this post.
Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans
Luke Thomas: I have no qualms with others picking Griffin. There are any number of factors to point to such as Griffin's size and reach, superior BJJ, technical stand-up, excellent gameplanning and more. Evans has the edge in overall speed, power, athleticism and wrestling, but is that enough? But there's more to Evans' game: like Griffin's, his is evolving as well. There are new developments each time we see him that predictions before each fight couldn't possibly have forecasted. While Griffin has the overall more technical ability, cardio and toughness, I believe Evans will have the right timing to match his speed and power. Granted, it's been on fighters with far less polished striking, but Evans has overcome size and reach differentials many times before. That's enough for me to give him the nod here. He has to do something better than I anticipate, but that's what he's been doing all along. Evans by TKO, round 3.
Kid Nate: This could become a very ugly and boring point-fighting match. Both Griffin and Evans have become fairly technical strikers and I'm afraid Griffin won't give Evans the opening he'll need for a big KO. Griffin doesn't have the world's greatest takedown defense so if Rashad goes back to his wrestling roots he's got a good chance. Its hard to lay n pray a five round decision though. I'm going with Forrest in a snoozer. Griffin by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Nate has said so much lately about how much he expects this to be a boring fight but there is a part of me that sees this being the fight of the night as I think both men have grown into confident and mature fighters. Rashad has shown improved striking from both a technical and a power standpoint while Forrest has shown that he can stick to a gameplan for 15-25 minutes against some of the top fighters in the world. I'm looking here for Forrest to use leg kicks early but he has to be very aware of Rashad coming in with a right hand counter or getting a takedown off of it. I just think that we're going to see Rashad looking for the one big strike though and Forrest can take at least 3 of the 5 rounds while avoiding eating the one big strike. I see it being exciting though. Griffin by decision.
Nick Thomas: If anyone is going to be the next person to KO Griffin... it's going to be Evans; following in the footsteps of his teammate Jardine. Can the bigger Griffin win this fight with a decision? Maybe. But I can't stop thinking about Evans brutal KO of Liddell. I think Evans can do it again. Going with Evans by KO.
Michael Fagan: Some are worried that this may end up as a boring points-fight, but I see this being a very smart, strategic, intelligent fight that will captivate me bell-to-bell. If these two guys were of equal size, I'd feel comfortable taking Rashad and not really sweating it too much. However, Forrest's size (and Rashad's lack of) will come into play here. I think Forrest will be able to push the pace to where he wants it while bullying Evans in the clinch and on the fence. If this fight is finished, I think Rashad will be getting his hand raised, but I'm predicting Forrest Griffin by decision.
Cannon Jacques: This fight could go a number of directions, and I don't really have any idea how it's going to play out. If it goes the distance, I can see Griffin winning by executing a smart gameplan that doesn't put him in much danger while he's scoring points. However, I'm going with Evans and his knockout power this time around. Evans by TKO, round 4.
Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira vs. Frank Mir
Luke Thomas: Mir wants to say that he has plenty of ability to defeat guys in MMA by submission who are better BJJ players in sport jiu-jitsu. He points to his submission win over Roberto Traven. There's something to what he saying, but aside from Josh Barnett's kneebar in their first fight Nogueira has weathered attacks from solid BJJ players in MMA his entire career. But is Fabricio Werdum as dominant in BJJ MMA as Frank Mir? That's an open question too, but I'll hedge the toughness and submission acumen of Nogueira against Mir. Early, it could be tough, but the end result is the same. Nogueira via TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: This is a classic matchup of the old PRIDE heavyweight division against the old UFC heavyweight division. Based on his last two fights, I'm willing to give Mir the benefit of the doubt and assume that something approximating the "old" Frank Mir will get in the cage against Nogueira. That won't dramatically affect the outcome, because even at his best, Mir shouldn't be too tough of a matchup for Nogueira. Big Nog has better standup, better conditioning and I don't see him falling for one of Mir's quick submissions. Its a matchup of two talented submission artists, one of whom is known for having the biggest heart in the game, the other, isn't. Nogueira by submission in 4.
Nick Thomas: Can Mir submit or KO Nogueira early in the fight? I don't think so. So that means a fight that goes into the later rounds and from there Nogueira takes this by TKO.
Michael Fagan: Frank Mir came off as a douche on the show, but he's reverted back to his normal likeable self since (even admitting that he came off as an asshole on local Las Vegas radio). With that, though, he's gone on and on about his respect for Nogueira to the point where I'm not sure how eager he is to fight him. Anyone who reads this blog knows that Nogueira is the better fighter in almost every place the fight can go. This will be a battle of attrition for awhile until Frank breaks down and we get Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission, round 3.
Cannon Jacques: I just haven't seen anything out of Frank Mir that leads me to believe he can beat Nogueira. Both have excellent jiu-jitsu, but Mir's striking and cardio are suspect while Nog is a formidable striker known for late fight heroics. The striking will be the difference. Nogueira by TKO, round 3.
C.B. Dollaway vs. Mike Massenzio
Luke Thomas: Massenzio has been a monster on the local circuit and he's going to prove why tonight. Dollaway is a tough match-up for him, but what Massenzio surrenders in fundamentals he's able to make up for in unconventional ability. That is enough for me. Massenzio by TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: I am surprised they are putting Dollaway in this bout -- Massenzio is dangerous on the ground and C.B. is known for falling into submissions. Oh well, I don't much like watching Dollaway fight anyhow. Massenzio by submission in 1.
Brent Brookhouse: Massenzio is the sexy pick here. I just don't think he's the smart one. Dollaway by TKO, round 2.
Nick Thomas: Not sure how well Dollaway’s wrestling is going to work in this match up. I'm thinking once this get's to the ground, Massenzio takes this by submission.
Michael Fagan: It's hard to have much confidence in a guy who falls into two submissions with a guy who had zero previous pro fighting experience. Mike Massenzio by submission, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: Honestly, I'm not really comfortable with either guy in this one. I'll go with the odds makers. Dollaway by decision.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva
Luke Thomas: I do not fault those who pick Rampage. He seemed to do well early in both fights against Silva only to latter succumb via some combination of exhaustion, pain and the relentless offensive assault from Silva. Now he's improved and with a new team that says Rampage is in the best shape of his life. Why not pick him? Because Rampage has an unreal ability to self-destruct. He had the poor luck of having to fight Liddell first in his first encounter with Silva, but has had personal issues that affected his performance in fights most notably in his second fight with Silva. Silva is the ultimate attack dog and pounces of weakness - even ephemeral weakness - like no other. Rampage for sure has the ability to win, but the two brutal defeats tell me to ignore those who ask I not believe my lying eyes. Wanderlei will swallow a ton of punishment early to come back on Jackson later, very similar to their first two fights. Silva, by TKO, round 3.
Kid Nate: I really hate to see either guy lose this fight. There are two big questions in this fight: 1) will Rampage be at the top of his game after leaving trainer Juanito Ibarra and enduring a mental breakdown and associated legal fallout? 2) Is Rampage right that the key difference in a rematch will be the lack of biased PRIDE referees pushing quick standups? I have no idea about #1 but for #2, I'm going to have to go by the evidence I saw in their previous matchups -- Rampage has no answer for Silva in the clinch and even without quick standups, Rampage's ground and pound won't finish Wanderlei. Wanderlei Silva by critical beatdown in 2.
Brent Brookhouse: People seem to forget that the UFC is becoming very "quick standup-y" in recent events. Refs are letting the feelings of the crowd dictate how they handle fights. The crowd is going to want to see them stand and bang and if Rampage gets a takedown the crowd will boo so he is going to have to do A LOT of work on the ground to keep the ref from standing them up quickly to please the crowd. Wanderlei has a striking style that more or less neutralizes Rampage's standup so I think Rampage needs the fight on the ground for a "reliable" avenue to victory. I don't trust the new camp and I don't trust Rampage's mental state especially against a guy who has two devastating wins over him already. I think Rampage is the better fighter right now...but I think when you put these two in a ring or cage together that Silva becomes better for that short time. Wanderlei Silva by TKO, round 2.
Nick Thomas: I still don't think Jackson is all there. He sounded a bit off in his interviews since his breakdown. I can't wait for this fight and after watching what Silva did to Jardine... I'm picking Silva by TKO.
Michael Fagan: Just based on styles, I have no problem picking Quinton Jackson in this fight. However, there's a lot more involved here. Rampage's mental health, Wanderlei's added mileage, the psychology of the first two fights. While I'm happy this card is stacked, it's a little unfortunate this fight is "buried" underneath the title fights as this could be an absolutely monster stand-alone main event if given proper build and attention. Anyway, I'm going to disregard all of the intangibles because they're way too complicated to factor in together. Wanderlei has trouble with guys with crisp striking, hit hard, wrestle, or some combination of the three. Jackson is good at 2 of the 3 and can also bring the fight to the floor if he wants. Silva also has a propensity to lay in his guard at times, which will be a huge mark against him if this fight goes to the cards. Jackson should hold one half of FOTY because if this fight doesn't win, his battle with Griffin will. Quinton Jackson by TKO, round 3.
Cannon Jacques: If it weren't for all the outside upheaval in Jackson's life, I'd be completely confident in him avenging his two previous losses to Silva. I just think his game is much better at this point in time. While I'm a little torn, I'm not convinced that Silva is the same fighter that overwhelmed Rampage, and many others, while with Pride. Jackson via TKO, round 3.
Cheick Kongo vs. Mustafa Al-Turk
Luke Thomas: Obviously we know how this goes on the feet, but Al-Turk is a fairly dominant top guy, much like Carmello Marrero. Al-Turk is also - at least as far as British heavyweights go - a decent enough guard passer. Kongo is supposed to have decent Greco skills, but he seems to lose any defensive grappling techniques under pressure. Al-Turk is the upset choice here.
Kid Nate: Kongo is one European standup fighter who has survived in the UFC. Al-Turk is more well-rounded than your typical British bomber but ain't all that. Kongo has too much technique standing for Al-turk if he can keep it there, but I'm not terribly impressed by either fighter. I'll go with Al-Turk based his potential as a contender being greater than Kongo's after the latter's losses to Herring and Morrello. Al-Turk by decision.
Brent Brookhouse:Al-Turk will be fighting on the undercard for a while after this. Kongo by TKO, round 1.
Nick Thomas: Love all these new HW debuts. Al Turk will get the UFC jitters which means Kongo wins by decision.
Michael Fagan: Jordan Breen says all British fighters suck. Cheick Kongo by TKO, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: I think Kongo will overwhelm Al Turk with his striking. Kongo by TKO, round 1.
Yushin Okami vs. Dean Lister
Luke Thomas: Lister's wrestling is good, but not dominant. Neither is his cardio. Between Okami's takedown defense and the fact that a well-schooled defensive grappler like Yuki Sasaki can effectively neutralize Lister's guard, this is Okami's fight to lose. Okami by unanimous decision.
Kid Nate: Putting this fight on the undercard is a pretty clear signal that Okami is not being built up as a middleweight title contender. My first inclination was to think Okami would beat up Lister pretty much the way Nate Marquardt did, if in a slower and more methodical fashion. But on further thought, I expect Okami to finish Lister where Nate couldn't. Okami by TKO in 2.
Brent Brookhouse: This is a bit like the Werdum fight where the seemingly sure-fire title contender may lose focus being forced to fight in the shadows and gets upset. I just don't see Okami getting beat by Lister who isn't an explosive enough fighter to pull the shocking upset in this situation. Okami by TKO in 2.
Nick Thomas: Please please please let Okami win. I have to see him fight against Anderson Silva. If this goes to the ground... Lister will win. But I'm hoping Okami will keep this standing and win by TKO.
Michael Fagan: Lister is as exciting as molasses, but this fight should still be on the main card over the Kongo/Mustapha and Dollaway/Massenzio fights. I have a thing for Asian fighters and guys who get beat down by "the man," so obviously I'm a huge Okami mark. Plus, his nickname is an omage to Jyushin Lyger, one of my favorite puroresu characters ever. Lister is good at submission grappling, not MMA. Yushin Okami by TKO, round 1.
Cannon Jacques: Okami has a great all-around game. He'll be able to keep the fight from going to the ground where Lister has the advantage. Okami by TKO, round 2.
Antoni Hardonk vs. Mike Wessel
Luke Thomas: I'll throw Joe Rogan a bone and say look out for Hardonk's leg kicks. Hardonk by TKO, round 1.
Kid Nate: Wessel is coming in on short notice to make his Octagon debut and that is always a tall order. Wessel is a former college football player so he should be fairly athletic, but I'm not picking a UFC noob coming in on one week's notice. Hardonk ain't all that, but he hits real hard. Hardonk by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: It's a step up from Sanchez/McCully but it's still not too exciting. Hardonk by TKO in 3.
Nick Thomas:Hardonk by leg kick stoppage.
Michael Fagan: Do I care less about this fight or the Sanchez/McCully fight on the last card? Antoni Hardonk by TKO, round 1.
Cannon Jacques: I don't know much about Wessel, and Hardonk's not a contender. It's hard to get excited about this scrap. Hardonk via TKO, round 2.
Matt Hamill vs. Reese Andy
Luke Thomas: The UFC keeps giving Hamill similar fighter profile's to his to fight yet with the fatal flaw of not being as good as Hamill in wrestling. Andy is tough and has some hands, but with Hamill's huge wrestling and strength advantage with his improved ability to take punishment, it's all Hamill. Hamill, by TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: Andy seems to have caught the boring gene in his time in the IFL. Fairly well-rounded, none of his skills stand out in particular. Hamill should have the clear edge in power and wrestling. But Andy will have the experience edge by a wide margin. I'll go with the man I expect to spend most of the hug fest on top. Hamill by decision.
Brent Brookhouse:Hamill is sloppy and his endurance is sub-par for a guy that needs to work as hard as he does to get the takedowns he needs for his most reliable way to win. Matt also has that awful disease that so many guys are catching where his best skillset gets thrown aside so that he can be a sloppy striker. Andy is well rounded enough that he could be able to avoid the sloppy strikes and get a few rounds by just being a cleaner striker. I'm going to take the risk and follow my gut. Andy by decision.
Nick Thomas: Wrestler vs. wrestler here. Hamill by TKO.
Michael Fagan: I'm not very big on Hamill. Franklin picked him apart and I wasn't particularly impressed with his fight against Boetsch. Andy's not much to talk about either, but I see him frustrating Hamill's wrestling. Reese Andy by decision.
Cannon Jacques: Andy is a solid fighter, but he's not that dangerous. Hamill is pretty good and has the ability to finish opponents. Hamill by TKO, round 3.
Ryo Chonan vs. Brad Blackburn
Luke Thomas: Blackburn has decent stand-up and good enough wrestling, but this is a bad match up for him. Chonan is patient where Blackburn lets his guard down over time. I expect Blackburn to dominate and even often until Chonan waits out a less than consistent Blackburn. Chonan, by submission, round 3.
Kid Nate: Blackburn should have a big edge standing but Chonan should be able to get the fight to the ground and there I don't think Blackburn will have an answer. Chonan by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Standing it's all Blackburn, on the ground it's all Chonan. I'm going to go with Blackburn on the always cliche "every fight/round starts on the feet" Blackburn by TKO, round 1.
Nick Thomas: Great fight here. Chonan by submission.
Michael Fagan: This is a very good bit of matchmaking. I'm not a huge fan of Team Quest, but I think a lot of Japanese guys could benefit from American training camps especially when it comes to dieting and weight cutting. Choan by decision.
Cannon Jacques: I truly don't have a good feel for this fight, but when has that ever bothered me before? Blackburn by TKO, round 2.
Dan Evensen vs. Pat Barry
Luke Thomas: When Duke Roufus backs you, that's good enough for me. Barry by TKO, round 1.
Kid Nate: Evensen is another Euro-brawler who hasn't looked UFC caliber. Pat Barry is not just a K-1 level striker, he IS a K-1 veteran. He's also got a San Shou background so his takedown defense should be better than your average striker coming to MMA. Everyone knows I'm always hopeful that the next traditional martial arts guy will succeed. Barry by KO.
Brent Brookhouse:Evensen isn't...very...good. But um...I like him because he always seems so excited to be there fighting and his entrance makes me smile. So Evensen by submission.
Nick Thomas: If this stays standing, Barry by TKO.
Michael Fagan: I always get excited when I see K-1 level guys get into MMA. Pat Barry by TKO, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: This looks like a fight to showcase Barry. Barry by TKO, round 2.