UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine Main Card Picks from BloodyElbow.com
Editor's note: My schedule the last few months has been hectic enough where I have not been able to properly devote enough time to writing and posting predictions. Alas, UFC 96 is no different. Worse, I forgot to do my picks for the under card, so as a general rule, I cannot post on the main card (remember, there's nothing worse than someone who only does predictions for the main card of UFC events). For the record, I like Jackson, Gonzaga, Hamill, Brown, and Maynard.
Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Kid Nate: This really is a very intriguing fight. Jardine is the definitive ugly winner who uses his awkward style, strong leg kicks and good coaching to great advantage...provided he can survive the first minute of the fight. Rampage on the other hand looked small against Forrest Griffin and had trouble with Forrest's kicks. He made good against Wanderlei, but Jardine is a very different fighter than Silva. I think Jackson will be able to take advantage of Jardine's chin here and surely Rampage has trained on checking leg kicks. Jackson by KO in 1.
Brent Brookhouse: I've said it in the past but it is worth remembering that, other than a VERY controversial decision loss to Bonnar, Jardine has never lost a fight in the UFC that has gotten outside of the first minute. Honestly the fact that this is a 3 round fight benefits Jardine more than if we were looking at a 5 round title fight. Jackson's power is legitimate but he showed some serious problems dealing with the leg kicks of Griffin and Jardine's leg kicks are even more solid. I really am struggling with wanting to pick Jardine here but I think he'll be a bit too wide with his punches and an opening will be there for a Jackson counterpunch to finish the night. There is a very real possibility that Jardine wins this fight but I'm playing it safe. Jackson by TKO, round 2.
Mike Rome: Jardine is dangerous if he can turn this into a long, drawn out affair where time runs out as Quinton looks for the KO. However, I don't see that happening. He has too much power, and his boxing is just too good. Jardine's wide boxing style just leaves so many openings for Jackson, I don't think he'll be able to throw those kinds of punches and get away with it. Jackson via KO, round 1.
Michael Fagan: Even Greg Jackson is saying leg kicks won't play a huge part in this fight. Unfortunately for Keith, he has a suspect chin and he's fighting a guy who hits like a mule. Jackson by TKO, round 3.
Cannon Jacques: Jardine is one of those guys that's so unorthodox, yet effective, that he has a decent chance of beating fighters he should not best. Jackson is far more dangerous and is much more likely to end the fight at any point in time. He must avoid the leg kicks or at least check them effectively, because I'm sure Jardine and Greg Jackson have prepared to exploit that weakness. Jackson's boxing is quite good, and I believe he'll be able to land some good shots before the fight is done. Jackson by TKO, round 2.
Chris Nelson: OMG L3G KIX0RS! I fully understand why everyone's looking at these as a big factor, but... they're not going to be a big factor. (I don't think Greg Jackson is trying to work any reverse psychology when he says that either.) If these two had faced one another earlier in their UFC runs, I might have given the edge to the more awkward Jardine. But "Rampage" will be ready here, and for all Jardine's world class training, you can't train a solid chin. Quinton Jackson by TKO, Round 1.
Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Kid Nate: Big test for Shane Carwin here. He's big, a strong wrestler, but doesn't train full time, is a bit older than most prospects and hasn't faced top competition. Gabriel Gonzaga is also a physical powerhouse with good striking and strong jiu jitsu. His question marks are those of heart, conditioning and fortitude. My gut tells me that Carwin is too big and strong to be bullied by Gonzaga and that he will force the Brazilian to quit. Carwin by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I can't get past the fact that Gonzaga does not have a trusty gas tank and if Carwin forces him to work, work, work in the first round he can finish him in the second. I'm going against my initial feelings on the fight here but I think Carwin can wear Gonzaga out and finish him in the second half of the fight. Shane Carwin by TKO, round 3.
Mike Rome: I guess I'm kind of going out on a limb here, but I'm not buying into the Carwin hype until proven otherwise. All we know about how good he is is what we've been told, not what we've seen. I think Gonzaga will overwhelm him in the first, Gonzaga via KO, round 1.
Michael Fagan: Whenever you have guy taking a huge step up in competition, you have to make some leaps of faith with him. I assume Carwin has credible sub defense from the top and has durable cardio. Gonzaga quits in fights where he can't be the bully, and Carwin looks like your prototypical bully. Carwin by TKO, round 2.
Cannon Jacques: This one is difficult to pick, because there is so much that's not known about Carwin. He's a huge guy that's finished all his opponents early in the first round. Gonzaga is a known quantity, a big man with excellent jiu-jitsu who has been known to use some powerful leg kicks from time to time. Carwin has a ton of upside, given his size, wrestling ability, and intelligence. However, Gonzaga is a legitimate top 10 heavyweight with a definite experience edge when it comes to top tier UFC competition. Not to mention, his BJJ skills may be the kryptonite needed against a largely untested wrestler. Gonzaga by submission, round 2.
Chris Nelson: I'm down with Shane Carwin as a major prospect in theory, but there's not enough data to pick him against "Napão," who's nearly as big as Carwin and with a much more complete game than anyone Carwin's faced. Gonzaga will have to use his BJJ pedigree to end this early, 'cause his gas tank is his liability and the deeper this goes, the more it favors Carwin. Napão by Submission, Round 1.
Pete Sell vs. Matt Brown
Kid Nate: Pete Sell has always tended to ignore his jiu jitsu skills in favor of brawling. Brown is showing signs of improvement but its hard to see him as a contender at 170lbs. Hard to believe this is on the main card, really. I'm going to take a flying leap and pick Pete Sell by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I really enjoy Matt Brown's style and if he can continue to develop he can be a really tough competitor down the road. Pete Sell is well past "maxed out" in terms of how far he can advance. Matt Brown by TKO, round 2.
Mike Rome: So hard to care about this fight, but Matt Brown is the better fighter now. Matt Brown via submission, round 2.
Michael Fagan: I think Sell is bigger, stronger, and has better all around skills. Pete Sell by decision.
Cannon Jacques: No easy call here. Neither are top competitors in their division, but Brown is on a bit of a roll. Brown by decision.
Chris Nelson: I forgot Pete Sell was still in the UFC. He's the bigger guy here thanks to his cut to 170, but Luke... I mean Matt Brown was undersized by a few inches against Dong Hyun Kim too and nearly eeked that one out. "Drago" has an exploitable chin and doesn't use his BJJ nearly enough, preferring to stand and brawl. Matt Brown via TKO, Round 1.
Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz
Kid Nate: Another fight I'm excited about. Hamill has done quite well for a fighter who's entire pro career has taken place inside the Octagon. He's not quite a contender at 205 but he's far from being drummed out of the UFC either. For Munoz this fight is a pretty high pressure UFC debut for a very decorated wrestler coming in from the WEC. Presumably Munoz is the better wrestler, but Hamill has the edge in UFC experience and we've seen the power in his strikes. I'm going to go with Munoz here because I haven't seen Hamill making the adjustments he needs to make to keep honing his game. Munoz by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Hamill needs to d-e-v-e-l-o-p his game beyond just sloppy but powerful boxing and wrestling and if he doesn't that what we have seen to this point is the best of Matt Hamill. I really think Munoz can outwrestle Hamill and I don't think that Matt is the kind of guy who reacts well to being bullied. Three rounds of Munoz by takedowns and smothering offense. Munoz by decision.
Mike Rome: Munoz is technically the better wrestler, but Hamill has the UFC experience. This is a hard pick, but Hamill doesn't look great of late. I'm going to go with Munoz via decision.
Michael Fagan: I think people are overlooking Hamill. He has his flaws, and he didn't look great against Rich Franklin, but Franklin is a significant step up from Munoz. Matt Hamill by decision.
Cannon Jacques: This looks to be a pretty close match. There's some debate as to who is the better wrestler. I believe it's close enough in that department that we may see a display similar to Tyson Griffin vs. Sean Sherk, and the fight is determined by other aspects of fighting. That's where Hamill's UFC experience should benefit him. He hasn't shown any impressive techical striking, but he has a great chin and a lot of punching power. Hamill by TKO, round 3.
Chris Nelson: I really don't know how big of a factor wrestling will be in this fight. Both guys have power, but I've only really seen Hamill's chin proven. I haven't seen enough of Munoz to pick him in his first fight in the big show. Matt Hamill by Decision.
Jim Miller vs. Gray Maynard
Kid Nate: This is a fight I'm very excited to see. Miller is a very skilled fighter, well rounded fighter, good wrestling, good submissions, decent striking. He convincingly beat the game Matt Wiman one short notice -- beat him standing and on the ground. Maynard on the other hand is pretty limited as a martial artist, excellent wrestling, power in his hands but not a great deal of striking technique, no jiu jitsu to speak of particularly. However Gray is huge for the weight class and is believed to have a significant wrestling edge. I like Miller's chances though, I think he's got good enough wrestling to force scrambles and avoid losing a lay and pray decision. Maynard might batter him down, but he won't be able to coast. Miller has more ways to win. Miller by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: I don't see all the Maynard hype. He's not a finisher, he is big for the weight and has strong wrestling but his game is SO limited. Miller is dangerous everywhere the fight could go, he lets himself get hit a little more than I like to see but he is so good at flowing with the fight. When it goes to the ground it is completely instinctual for him, there is no taking a break to catch his breath and figure out a plan he is just all out for the full 15 minutes. Diversity will be what determines the outcome. Jim Miller by submission, round 2.
Mike Rome: Tough fight to call, but ultimately Maynard is going to be too skilled for Miller. I suspect Miller will be looking for submissions the whole fight, but by staying on his back the whole time he'll end up losing a decision. Maynard via decision.
Michael Fagan: Maynard's gotten by primarily with his size and wrestling. I think that stops here. Miller's a competent enough wrestler to at least neutralize Maynard, and if not, he has good enough jiu jitsu to stifle him on the floor. Jim Miller by decision.
Cannon Jacques: If this bout goes to decision, I'm inclined to believe that Maynard will be the victor. I really liked Maynard coming out of TUF, but he hasn't been able to finish his opponents frequently; he's, in fact, coming off three straight decision victories. This could be his downfall against someone as dangerous from the bottom as Miller. I expect the fight to eventually get to the ground with Maynard likely on top. That's when Miller will work his excellent jiu-jitsu. Miller by submission, round 2.
Chris Nelson: Maynard surprises me every time by grinding out a "W," even if it's usually not in a particularly thrilling fashion. But Maynard's never faced someone with the dynamic, well-rounded skillset Miller possesses. I say the younger Miller avenges Maynard's win over his Jersey homie Frank Edgar. Jim Miller by Submission, Round 3.