The UFC will tread into new waters on Saturday as the promotion will head to Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia for UFC 110. This will be the UFC's first foray "down under", and the card will feature a number of exciting fights that fans won't want to miss. The main event will feature a heavyweight battle between PRIDE legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and rising star Cain Velasquez as well as a middleweight barn burner of a bout pitting heavy-handed Brazilian striker Wanderlei Silva against Britain's own Michael Bisping.
Australian native George Sotiropoulos will make his biggest step up in competition to date as he takes on Joe Stevenson in lightweight action, and Keith Jardine, Ryan Bader, Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic, and Ben Rothwell will all be in action as well. But before we hit the main card, we'll focus on the do-or-die match-ups and featured newcomers of the UFC 110 undercard.
Headlining UFC 110's preliminary card will be a light heavyweight showdown that will surely get the Australian natives fired up. RINGS veteran and UFC 38 participant Chris Haseman (20-16, 0-1 UFC) will make his return to the Octagon in a rematch with UFC veteran Elvis Sinosic (8-11-2, 1-6 UFC) of a bout that took place back in March of 1997 in which Haseman won via a chin-in-eye-socket submission. The early days of mixed martial arts were certainly brutal, weren't they?
This is definitely an unique battle. Both competitors are well past their primes with Haseman topping the 40-year-old plateau and Sinosic knocking on the door at 39. Both men are also fairly sub-par in comparison to the competition level of the UFC, but the battle is obviously for bragging rights as to who's the legend of the pioneer era of Australian MMA.
Haseman dropped four straight before retiring back in April of 2004, losing to Evan Tanner, Mike Van Arsdale, Akihiro Gono, and Bill Mahood. He recently returned in November of 2008 and knocked his opponent, Yuji Hisamatsu, out in only 0:18 seconds.
Sinosic has been called upon seven times by the UFC with only one appearance resulting in a victory, a win over Jeremy Horn at UFC 30. From that point forward, his UFC career went downhill as he lost to Tito Ortiz, Evan Tanner, Renato Sobral, Forrest Griffin, Alessio Sakara, and Michael Bisping. His most recent loss took place at Cage Rage 24 back in December of 2007 in which Paul Cahoon flipped the switch on Sinosic's on/off button at on 0:21 seconds into the fight. The loss has definitely put some question as to how much can Sinosic's chin take from that point forward.
Breaking it down: This fight should probably come down to a weigh-in decision. Sinosic hasn't been able to handle power in the late stage of his career and Haseman's gameplan over the years has relied on strength. Haseman has some submission ability, but Sinosic was always the more dynamic grappler. The problem, however, was that Sinosic was always vulnerable to be pounded to a pulp while angling for submissions. If Sinosic can show up with some noticeable strength added, I'd be a bit more receptive to picking him. Unfortunately, the Cahoon knockout was brutal enough for me to go with Haseman's power here.
-- photo via brisbanetimes.com.au
While the headlining fight on the undercard is purely for the Australian fans enjoying this live event, an important light heavyweight match-up between The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 runner-up Stephan Bonnar (11-6, 5-5 UFC) and The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 contestant Krzysztof Soszynski (18-9-1, 3-1 UFC) will also take place on the UFC 110 undercard.
Bonnar enters riding a two-fight losing streak with losses to Mark Coleman and Jon Jones while Soszynski lost an unanimous decision to Brandon Vera at UFC 102 after defeating Andre Gusmao at UFC 98.
The importance of this fight lies solely on the shoulders of Stephan Bonnar. He's lost two straight, and while Dana White has stated that Bonnar would always have a job in the UFC in the past -- Bonnar has been less than impressive in recent times. He was tossed around helplessly against Jon Jones, although he did mount an unsuccessful comeback in the third round of that battle. His most disappointing loss, however, came against the aged Mark Coleman, a fight that he was heavily criticized for losing.
Breaking it down: Soszynski was surging before he ran into Brandon Vera, and his size, strength, and experience play an important role as to whether he can defeat Bonnar. While Bonnar also has that experience, Soszynski has been the more dominating fighter recently. Of course, his strength of record over the course of those wins wasn't unbelievably impressive, but he did upset a solid veteran in Andre Gusmao during that run.
Ultimately, this is a great bout in terms of matchmaking. Both guys have some ground skills with Soszynski possibly having a better stand-up game and Bonnar having a slightly better ground repertoire. Unless Bonnar has improved significantly in his striking, Soszynski could edge him out standing. Bonnar hasn't exactly been reliable in putting opponents on their back, and Soszynski won't be the easiest man for Bonnar to tackle to the ground. I think Soszynski can pepper Bonnar with shots on his way to a decision victory in this match-up.
Rest of the Card
Welterweight: Chris Lytle (27-17-5, 6-9 UFC) vs. Brian Foster (13-4, 1-1 UFC): This should be a somewhat interesting fight for bettors and anyone high on Brian Foster. Lytle has the boxing background to give Foster some problems on the feet, but Foster has shown some solid power and scrambling ability to be a pest. If Foster can put Lytle on his back, his expert training in the school of Matt Hughes could prove to be dangerous.
I actually like Foster as an upset bid here, but I'd pick him with caution. Lytle can still be dangerous off his back, and he's nearly unstoppable in terms of being knocked out. Foster will have to press the pace much like his battle with Brock Larson and tire the veteran. Lytle is the safe bet, but I'm not counting out Foster in this one.
Middleweight: C.B. Dollaway (9-2, 3-2 UFC) vs. Goran Reljic (8-0, 1-0): Reljic is coming into this fight after a long layoff due to a severe back injury, but he's dropped to middleweight and taken advantage of training in Las Vegas with Xtreme Couture. That should sure up some of the deficiencies he showed against Wilson Gouveia, but his Brazilian jiu-jitsu and striking game should be his bread and butter in this fight. If he can push the pace and pound on Dollaway enough, he'll sink in the choke while he's dazed and extend his record to 9-0.
Light Heavyweight: James Te-Huna (11-4, 0-0 UFC) vs. Igor Pokrajac (21-6, 0-1 UFC): This should be a pretty evenly matched fight for both competitors. Te-Huna is mostly known for his striking capabilities. He has some good power, decent length, and he has the ability to be a real menace in top control. He'll likely want to punch with Pokrajac until he sees it fit to put him on his back.
Pokrajac is a bit of a mystery in this fight. He comes from a wrestling background, a background that was sought out by Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic in his PRIDE days as a training tool, but he does have some Brazilian jiu-jitsu ability coupled with Thai boxing techniques.
My main concern is that Vladimir Matyushenko was able to pull off some incredible Street Fighter-esque combos on Pokrajac's face in his last outing, and Te-Huna is going to bring some power in his own combinations. I'll go with Te-Huna here as the favorite as I think he'll be able to strike for more power and stuff Pokrajac's attempts to put him down.