They say there are three sides to every story; this guy's side, the other guy's side and then the truth, which usually falls somewhere in the middle. UFC 117 comes to us from Oakland, California with a card that may lack the casual fan appeal - no Lesnar, GSP, or BJ Penn - however, fans of MMA are excited as the card presents many interesting matchups. Not only does it contain a Middleweight title fight; it also possesses two defacto number one contender matches in the Heavyweight and Welterweight division.
Anderson Silva versus Chael Sonnen, UFC Middleweight Championship
Chael's side: I am an All-American wrestler with two National Championships in Greco-Roman wrestling. I am the only man to beat Paulo Fihlo. I have beaten several notable fighters including dominating Nate Marquardt and defeating the last man to beat Anderson Silva, Yushin Okami. Anderson's takedown defense has been shown to be suspect in several fights and I will put him on his back and grind him out. Silva has never faced a fighter like me that won't quit; that will never stop fighting and when I'm on top of him, I will take his will.
Anderson's side: I am the UFC Middleweight Champion for a reason. I have set UFC records with the longest title reign, most consecutive defenses and most consecutive wins. I have not been cut, rocked, or put in significant danger in the UFC. Mr. Sonnen has been submitted seven times in his career and I am a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu holding a submission win over BJJ expert Travis Lutter. My striking is light years ahead of his; he will not stand with me. If he wants to go to the ground, I am comfortable off my back too. Mr. Sonnen has been talking a good game, but on Saturday, he will have to back it up in the cage.
The Truth: The truth is at first glance this looks like a blowout win for Anderson Silva. Chael is not going to stand with Silva and his "only" chance is to take him down and grind him out, hoping for a decision or an opening for a TKO victory. That said it is entirely possible that happens. Sonnen top control is strong and Anderson has been taken down in several of his fights, however, no one could capitalize on it. Sonnen may have the distinct wrestling advantage but each round starts on the feet and this is a five-round fight. It's expected that Silva gets taken down by Sonnen, but eventually Silva will get up and surgically dissect his opponent.
Thiago Alves versus Jon Fitch, Number one contender's match to the UFC Welterweight Championship
Thiago's side: I am not the same Thiago Alves that lost to Jon Fitch 4 years ago. I have some of the best striking in the division with powerful leg kicks designed to take the legs out from under any wrestler in the division. My takedown defense has improved; Fitch's teammate Josh Koscheck couldn't take me down. I have one strike KO power; ask Matt Hughes, another high-caliber wrestler. I am faster, stronger, and have better cardio than Fitch. If Fitch thinks he can bank on his old win over me, he has another thing coming. I will extract my revenge and get my win back.
Jon's side: I beat Alves before, I will beat him again. I know he has improved, but so have I. My striking has improved, both offensively and defensively. My takedowns have gotten better, GSP was able to take Alves down at his leisure; I see no different outcome in our fight. I want to finish him again, but I have no problem in grating out a decision win. Alves hasn't stepped inside the cage in over a year; ring rust will play a factor. I will take him down, ground and pound him, and finish him. 2-0.
The Truth: The truth is Alves hasn't fought in a year since his dominating loss to GSP at UFC 100. Coupled with that is the fact that Alves' original fight with Fitch was postponed due to a brain injury. Cage rust and injury aside, Alves' takedown defense has improved since the fight with Fitch as he stopped Koscheck from putting him on his back. However, Fitch is a different type of wrestler than Josh is and, unlike Josh, is not content to show off his standup skills. Fitch will be looking for the win regardless of whether it is exciting or not. Alves' standup is deadly and has greatly improved since the last fight. His leg kicks are devastating and without the power to drive through his takedowns, Fitch's main weapon is nullified, leaving him vulnerable on the feet. Alves has fought Fitch's American Kickboxing Academy teammate Josh Koscheck before and, with a healthy Alves, this fight should be a carbon copy with Alves' rendering Fitch's takedowns null and void and picking him apart on the feet.
Roy Nelson versus Junior Dos Santos, number one contender's match to the UFC Heavyweight Championship
Junior's side: I am faster than Nelson with better footwork and hand-speed on the feet. If the fight stays standing, I will knock him out just as I knocked out Fabricio and Gonzaga. Roy was picked apart by Arlovski in the standup department and I am a much better kickboxer. If we go to the ground, I am ready. I hold a brown belt in BJJ under the Nogueira brothers and work off my back constantly in training. I have the ability to get back to my feet, where I can destroy him, or submit him from my back. However, the fight won't get to the ground. Nelson doesn't use a double leg; he relies on trips and throws to get people to the ground. To do that, he has to get in my range; he's too slow and I will KO him before that happens.
Roy's side: JDS has finished people off recently, but besides Werdum, who has he really fought that's a good fighter. They're all fighters past their peaks or fighters that never had a peak. Yeah he's fast but I've dealt with fast before. I'm no slouch on the feet and I'm not scared to stand and bang. Ask Schaub and Struve how that goes. I'm stronger than him and will get him to the ground. He's never really been to the ground in the UFC. I don't think his ground game will match up to the hype surrounding it. I will take him down and finish him on the ground. No doubt about it.
The truth: I see this as playing out like the Arlovski fight with the exception that JDS is a better fighter on the feet than Andrei and doesn't have a weak chin. If the fight stays standing, JDS should dominate and finish Nelson quickly. If Nelson is able to close range without getting knocked out and takes JDS down, then the fight becomes more level. JDS' skills off his back have yet to be seen in the UFC. While Nelson does have a great top control game, he was unable to fully control Schaub after taking him down. The ground aspect of this fight is intriguing, but ultimately, it doesn't get there. This should be a standup fight that JDS wins quite quickly.
Matt Hughes versus Ricardo Almeida
Matt's side: I'm Matt Hughes, one of the most dominant champions ever. Sure my standup hasn't always been great, but it's still improving. My wrestling and control have never been in question and my cardio and work ethic is top notch. I beat the teacher in Renzo Gracie and now I will beat the student. He won't want to stand with him, but he's not getting me to the ground. I control where this fight goes and if I want us to stand up, we're standing up.
Ricardo's side: Matt Hughes is a legend. However, he is a legend on the downside of his career. His last match against Master Gracie highlights his descent from greatness. He couldn't takedown Master Gracie, instead choosing to battle on the feet. I'm not standing up with Matt; I want the fight in my comfort zone. I'm a BJJ black belt, I love the mat. Despite his wrestling pedigree, I will get him to the ground; I've done it against bigger and stronger fighters. Once on the ground, I will make him tap and avenge my fallen master.
The truth: The truth is Matt Hughes is old. His fight against Gracie was, I don't want to say an embarrassment, but it looks like I already have. Hughes' skills have declined greatly. He was KO'd by Alves, barely got past a smaller Matt Serra (where he was almost finished and was controlled from Serra's back) and beat up a retired Renzo Gracie. Almeida, on the other hand, is a former middleweight fighter now fighting at welterweight. Since his return to fighting he has picked up right where he left off as a promising BJJ specialist. Hughes dominance in the past was predicated on his strength and physical attributes which have severely declined. Almeida is expected to get the fight to the ground and make the Hall of Famer tap out.
Clay Guida versus Rafael Dos Anjos
Clay's side: I am a juggernaut in the cage with an unrelenting pace that befuddles most of my opponents. I will keep trying to take Dos Anjos down and pound him out on the ground. I am not afraid to stand with him; did you see what Jeremy Stephens did? Whether or not I get a decision or I finish him with ground and pound, one thing is for sure, I will win.
Rafael's side: Guida comes at you like a machine, however like a machine, he's repetitive. His timing is easy to get down and from there I will pick him apart on the feet. He wants to take me down? That's fine. I got a BJJ black belt and several submission wins. I will finish Guida, standing or on the ground.
The Truth: The truth is Clay Guida is like a windup toy; you wind him up and watch him go. If you're able to weather the storm and control the pace, like Florian and Sanchez did, you can beat Guida. That said I don't see that happening for Dos Anjos. On the feet, the fight is close. Guida's standup is primitive (no Caveman jokes), yet oddly effective. Dos Anjos brings a more varied arsenal, yet its success isn't has prominent. Guida faces danger if this goes to the ground as Dos Anjos can tap him. It's likely he could get submitted, but a calm and patient Guida should eke out a decision as judges love takedowns.
Phil Davis versus Rodney Wallace
Phil's side: They don't call me Mr. Wonderful for nothing. I am an NCAA wrestling champion with high-level athleticism and legit submission skills. I have better wins against better opponent and Wallace will be a quick victory.
Rodney's side: My wrestling is no slouch either. Don't count me out of this fight.
The Truth: I'm counting Wallace out of this fight. Even as a late replacement, Davis should win this one easily on the ground.
Johny Hendricks versus Charlie Brenneman
Johny's side: I can beat him standing. I can take him down if I want to. I control where this fight ends up. I will win rather quickly.
Charlie's side: I am a better wrestler than Hendricks and have taken my opponents down easily. From there I will work for a TKO victory.
The truth: Hendricks is a better wrestler and will end up on top to pound out a TKO victory over Brenneman.
Tim Boetsch versus Todd Brown
Tim's side: I will beat him.
Brown's side: He won't throw me like David Heath. We will stand and bang, I have a chance that way.
The Truth: Brown has no chance if they stand up here. What little I've seen of his striking is sloppy Toughman-level. Boetsch should pick up an easy win here.
Dustin Hazelett versus Rick Story
Dustin's side: I am good at BJJ but I like to stand up too. He's a better wrestler than me, but if he wants to go to the ground, I will tap him. Ask Barncat.
Rick's side: My standup is ever-improving. I'm a better wrestler than him and am not scared to go to the ground. Ground and pound victory for me.
The Truth: Rick's standup is about equal with Hazelett's, his work on the ground, however, is not. Rick will get tapped out quickly if he hasn't improved on his control. This is a pick ‘em fight and I see Story's wrestling being nullified on the ground by Dustin's BJJ making this a standard stalemate on the ground and subpar standup on the feet for a 3-round decision in Story's favor as the judges love takedowns.
Ben Saunders versus Dennis Hallman
Ben's side: I am brutal in the clinch. Hallman is old now and won't take me down. If he does, I will get up. Brutal KO victory for me.
Hallman's side: I will take him down. I am a great submission fighter. If we get to the ground, I will submit him.
The Truth: This fight won't make it to the ground. Look for Saunders to finish him on the feet.
Stefan Struve versus Christian Morecraft
Stefan's side: I am taller and have better reach and skills on the feet. If he can get in range and take me down, my BJJ is great and I can submit him or sweep him from the bottom.
Christian's side: I am undefeated. I will remain that way.
The Truth: Morecraft should have a blemish on his record after this fight a Struve is better at every aspect of MMA than he is.
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