It's another stacked weekend of combative sports action with the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 Final taking place on Saturday morning at 3 AM EST on HDNet and The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 Finale taking place on SpikeTV on Saturday night. As a primer to all the weekend's action, HDNet will be providing fans with some of the best mixed martial arts that Canada has to offer as Maximum Fighting Championships will air MFC 23: Unstoppable from the River Cree Resort & Casino in Edmonton, Alberta on HDNet LIVE at 10 PM EST on Friday, December 4th.
The main event will feature former UFC middleweight contender Thales Leites taking on UFC veteran Dean Lister in a showcase of Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess. Also featured on the card will be veteran MFC fighter and former UFC competitor Jason MacDonald battling The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 contestant Solomon Hutcherson, and Antonio McKee-trained Emanuel Newton will get a chance to battle back into title contention as he takes on former UFC fighter Marvin "The Beastman" Eastman in light heavyweight action.
Odds courtesy of BestFightOdds.com
It isn't too often we see a main event match-up that features two highly-skilled grapplers who don't have much in their repertoire for striking skills. Normally when we see these bouts, both men end up slugging it out as the ground war is a futile thought due to the equal skill both men have on the ground. That might actually be the end result with this matchmaking, but Lister and Leites have nearly no history of actually ending someone's night on the feet. Past attempts have resulted in some pretty bad fights for Lister, and Leites normally does everything he can to get fights to the ground.
Pick: Lister is an enticing choice here simply because he's grappled against some tough competition in the past, but I imagine Leites will have a chip on his shoulder as he did lose to Silva in embarrassing fashion while dropping a split decision to Alessio Sakara to get booted from the UFC. I'm banking on Nova Uniao to continue their success, and I think we'll see some improvement from Leites on his way to a decision victory over Lister.
Line: Leites' run toward the top of the UFC's middleweight division and Lister's more recent losses to Okami and Marquardt are the most influential factors to the current betting line here. While I think Leites is the favorite, the line probably shouldn't be this wide. It might be beneficial for bettors to take advantage of the +285 for Lister, but it's risky.
Former UFC fighters battle in this middleweight showdown that will give veteran Jason MacDonald the opportunity to snap a three-fight skid against a game fighter in Solomon Hutcherson, who has gone 7-2 in his last nine fights. MacDonald has a fairly well-rounded skill-set that includes a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but many fans would be quick to point out that he has never truly shown that level of skill on the floor, nor has he ever been a dominating striker. Hutcherson mostly brings a typical wrestler/brawler mentality to his style, and his only shot at a win here will come from his striking.
Pick: Hutcherson hasn't been horrible in his last few fights, but conditioning has become a factor as well as his technique in the striking game. He'll likely get a bit tired and begin throwing huge overhand shots at MacDonald, and he'll leave himself open to be taken down to a world that MacDonald should be able to control. Solomon is always good for some entertaining fights, but I'll take MacDonald via decision.
Line: Hutcherson at +450 is way steep, but I don't really see a way for him to win unless he simply catches MacDonald with a flurry. MacDonald's line is rather high for a small event like this... I'd hold out for better lines on some of the other cards this weekend, if you haven't pounced on them already.
Bryan Baker was one of the more promising middleweight prospects in the WEC's middleweight division roughly two years ago, but a complete beatdown at the hands of Chael Sonnen derailed his dreams to be a champion as well as the subsequent demise of the division altogether. Despite the loss, Baker still has some strong victories on his record, a solid wrestling background, and punishing power in his ground and pound game.
Santore's takedown defense is quite poor, but he counters that with terrific sweeps and reversals on the floor. Baker might not be as susceptible to those techniques as Santore's past opponents, and Santore's conditioning has come into play in some of his past fights as well.
Pick: I'll go with Baker in this match-up as he has the ability to put Santore on his back quite a bit without being heavily susceptible to Santore's reversals. He also has the power to escape submissions, and he should be able to do enough damage to warrant a decision victory. He'll need to avoid Santore's knockout power on the feet early in order to win though.
Line: Baker isn't a "lock" by any means, especially in such mid-level middleweight bouts such as these. Santore has a puncher's chance early, and he could sneak in a slick submission at some point, but I'd bank on Baker here.
Ryan Jimmo looks to continue his ten-fight winning streak as he'll take on former MFC Light Heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton in a match-up that will truly test whether Jimmo can swim with better competition. I actually thought Jimmo lost to Marvin Eastman back at MFC 22, and Emanuel Newton happens to have a skill-set that could pose the same problems Eastman gave Jimmo.
Newton recently lost to top prospect Raphael Davis, and he lost to Trevor Prangley at MFC 21 in defense of his title. Both losses weren't exactly stunning as Davis is a highly-regarded talent and Prangley is a hard-nosed veteran, but those defeats should put a fire in Newton. Newton's best assets are his wrestling and conditioning, typical assets of an Antonio McKee-trained fighter. He has a decent boxing game on the feet with a good jab, but he likely won't catch anyone with wicked power for the knockout. He's usually more adept at submissions stemming from his wrestling, but I think Jimmo is good enough to avoid most of that from Newton.
Pick: I gotta go with Newton here. Newton has the conditioning, wrestling, and boxing ability to eek out a decision against Jimmo, and I think he can do just enough damage in top control to keep Jimmo on the defense. I don't think he'll actually submit or finish Jimmo, but he will wear him out.
Line: I'd consider a play on Newton, although I'm not entirely confident as Newton didn't look great against Prangley. Jimmo is no Prangley though.
Dwayne Lewis has been a guy who's been fighting on most of the MFC undercards and having explosive results by TKO'ing most of the competition he's been put up against as of late. He's currently riding a five-fight win streak, but I think that'll come to an abrupt halt against a seasoned veteran like Marvin Eastman. Eastman remained competitive against Ricardo Arona at Bitetti Combat IV, and I think he actually beat Ryan Jimmo at MFC 22, although the judges swayed the decision toward Jimmo instead.
Pick: Even though Eastman's record in his last five fights is 1-4, he's faced some stiff competitors in Drew McFedries, Denis Kang, Ricardo Arona, and Ryan Jimmo. Lewis wasn't able to beat Jimmo earlier in his career, but he's definitely improved substantially. My only fear is that Marvin gets flatlined by a signature early flurry from Lewis, but I'll pick Eastman to win.
Line: I'm picking Eastman to win here, but Lewis does have a history of punching out opponents quickly in the first round. Coincidentally, Eastman got thrashed by both McFedries and Kang in the first round. Can Lewis pull off the same type of upset? He also happens to be 6'1" to Eastman's 5'9" frame, so reach could become a real factor in the striking department. Lewis might be a nice upset bid here.
Joe Christopher (8-2) vs. Jesse Juarez (11-5): I'll go with Juarez here out of Bodyshop Fitness. Christopher is a dangerous submission guy with a mean guillotine choke and a solid armbar transitions, but Juarez has faced slightly stiffer competition and busted up a submission artist in Mikey Gomez twice in Bellator.
Ryan Fortin (3-1) vs. Nick Penner (8-1): Penner was the Canadian Junior Heavyweight Kickboxing champion at one time, so he has a background in striking. As with most kickboxers, he throws powerful leg kicks that have really set up a lot of his wins. The only real problem for Penner is that he should probably be cutting to 205 as he came in at 227 at the weigh-in while Fortin is at around 250. That could spell disaster for him. I'll go with Penner, but I wouldn't be surprised if Fortin uses his added size to punish Penner on the ground.
Ryan Machan (9-3) vs. Kajan Johnson (17-10-1): Kajan's record doesn't look too impressive, but most of his losses came before 2005. He's currently 10-1-1 in his last 12 fights with his lone loss coming at the hands of the UFC's newly-signed Canadian prospect Rory MacDonald. While Machan is a great choke submission fighter, Kajan should be able to handle him here.
Kenny Hamilton (1-1) vs. Billy Hua (0-0): No clue here... Your guess is as good as mine.
Check out MFC 23 on HDNet LIVE at 10 PM EST!