Event: UFC 125: "Resolution"
Date: Sat., Jan. 1, 2011, at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV)
Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
Main Card (Televised):
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Luke Thomas: This is a fight that will be largely determined by who controls distance. If Edgar can move in and out, create angles and separation from Maynard while striking, it's his fight to lose. By contrast, if Maynard can force Edgar out of position, stay in close and use that for takedowns in a wrestling match, he'll become champion. It's close, but I like the champion's chances. Edgar by decision.
Kid Nate: Yeah, yeah, Frankie Edgar has improved his game dramatically. Gray Maynard still has his number and will pick Frankie up and slam him down again and again throughout the fight. Gray Maynard by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: I love this fight on paper. It could very well be hideously boring for the masses but to me this is just a wonderful clash of styles and the exact thing that makes MMA great. Unfortunately it's also not exactly easy to write about. Edgar has fantastic footwork and speed that allow him to go in and out while picking opponents apart with quick combinations. Maynard doesn't have what one would call "good footwork" but he's very adept at moving forward and cutting off the cage rather than just moving in a straight line that allows his opponent to simply sidestep and be out of danger. I still think that Edgar is going to "Cruz" him and just pick Maynard apart for five rounds but a Gray win would not shock me either. Frankie Edgar by decision.
Mike Fagan: If discussion about the Countdown show is any indication, a small fraction of people are interested in this fight. Which is a shame because this is as legit a title fight as you'll find. The smart money seems to be on Maynard continuing what he did in April of 2008, but I've fallen in love with Edgar's improved footwork and effective speed. Frankie Edgar by decision.
Leland Roling: I've been under the assumption that Maynard would simply out muscle and expose Edgar once again, but when I really sat down and looked at what Edgar has improved upon in the last year... it's hard to discount him in this fight. Edgar's speed, footwork, and combination punching will be too much for Maynard in this rematch. Frankie Edgar via decision.
Chris Leben vs. Brian Stann
Luke Thomas: There are likely to be several close moments, but Leben's offensive wrestling is underrated. Stann's takedown defense isn't bad, but I don't know if it can hold up over the course of three rounds. I also think Stann can eventually be dragged into a slugfest, which is exactly the sort of thing he cannot win against Leben. Leben by TKO.
Kid Nate: Chris Leben has dramatically improved his game and his attitude. Stann is very, very limited and Leben is better everywhere. Chris Leben by KO.
Brent Brookhouse: We don't really know what to expect from Stann at 185 in terms of cardio or anything but I doubt his core skills have changed. I'm going to stick with the safe pick in Chris Leben. He'll continue his career resurrection until he is forced to fight anyone ranked higher than him.
Mike Fagan: Head over to YouTube and type "Chris Leben smack talking." Now go watch the "Countdown to UFC 125" segment featuring Leben. Inebriated 2005 Leben sounds more lucid and clear-headed than the 2011 model. Guys like Leben and Nogueira are fun to watch because they can take a punch and keep coming forward, but they are the ones at most risk to suffer from things like dementia puglistica later in life. I'm no doctor, so I'm forced to wonder if there's some sort of tolerance for slowed/slurred speech that the commissions allow. In any case, Leben's a better fighter, but once his chin goes, his career will fall fast and hard. Chris Leben by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: Leben's iron chin and knockout power should give him the edge in this fight, but Stann's improving game could surprise us in this contest. Chris Leben via TKO, Round 2.
Takanori Gomi vs. Clay Guida
Luke Thomas: Hard to say, really, but I suspect Gomi's going to catch him while defending the takedown. The longer the fight goes, however, the better Guida's chances. Gomi by KO.
Kid Nate: Clay Guida was custom made to lose to the Fireball Kid. Gomi by KO.
Brent Brookhouse: I don't think Guida can finish here and he's not as effective as Florian at...anything. Even his wrestling is pretty flawed. The longer Guida doesn't finish, the more time Gomi has to connect with a big punch. It'll be a race to see if he can land before the third round ends and I think Gomi will find a way to win it. Takanori Gomi by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Fun fact: Clay Guida is 7-5 in the UFC. Takanori Gomi would be his best win, by far. I think Gomi needs to make the full-time transition to a major camp if he wants to compete at the elite level, but I also think he's a terrible style matchup for Guida. Guida might finish some takedowns, but he won't be overwhelming, and Gomi's going to wax him standing. Should be a fireball showdown, in any case. Takanori Gomi by TKO, round 2, and an army of Pride fans set themselves up for disappointment.
Leland Roling: Gomi eats "wrestleboxers" for breakfast, and the fact that Guida hasn't improved his striking skills in a half decade is bad news. Guida's pace and wrestling may be able to smother Gomi, but Gomi is so good at countering incoming wrestlers with power -- it's hard for me to think Guida can avoid that powerful shot. Takanori Gomi via TKO, Round 2.
Thiago Silva vs. Brandon Vera
Luke Thomas: The problem with Vera is not his skill, but application of it. Go back and watch his fights. You'll notice in his losses, he's generally losing to a more aggressive fighter. High-level fighters can beat Vera through sheer offensive aggression. Vera is too patient and too willing to be selective. Silva's had a long layoff, but I think he wins simply be bringing the fight to the fight. No more, no less. Silva by decision.
Kid Nate: I've given up on the "old" Brandon Vera returning to the Octagon. Thiago Silva is a very dangerous, aggressive opponent but Vera should have the skills to out point him. Vera by decision.
Mike Fagan: Does anyone else notice that Brandon Vera walks in perfect sync to the Black Eyed Peas when he comes out for a fight? I look for it every time, and he never fails to stomp in step with each synthesized drum beat. I bet you'll never watch Vera's entrances the same again. I'm not sure if Silva's aggressiveness will overwhelm or allow Vera effective avenues to counter. So, we'll play MMA math with this one. Vera lost to Jardine, who lost to Silva. Thiago Silva by decision.
Leland Roling: Brandon Vera needs to prove to everyone that all of the arrogance is gone after his loss to Jon Jones. While I think he has a good chance to win on Saturday, I'll have to see it to believe it. Silva's power is going to sting quite a bit, and I'm not sure Vera can overcome. Thiago Silva via decison.
Nate Diaz vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Luke Thomas: I suspect Kim will look to take the fight to the floor with superior wrestling and GNP from there. Kim by decision.
Kid Nate: The Diaz brothers have always struggled against good top control guys and Dong Hyun Kim is nothing if not that. Nate will score on the feet but with no KO power he'll wind up on his back eating elbows and not being able to land a submission. Kim by decision.
Mike Fagan: I just saw "The Fighter" yesterday. As Luke tweeted, Bale is fantastic, Marky Mark is forgettable. This fight reminds me of the scene when Micky is pressured into fighting Mike Mungin. Nate looks flabby at 170, and I would be surprised if he's cutting anything to make the limit. Dong Hyun Kim is a big boy welterweight who can smash Diaz on the mat. The Diaz pitter-patter standup style will probably keep it close, but I've got Dong Hyun Kim by decision.
Leland Roling: Diaz isn't in the lightweight division anymore, and he'll stack up against an equally tall and beefier welterweight in Kim. Look for the clinch to be a major battleground where Kim uses his strength and Judo to punish Diaz on the ground. Dong Hyun Kim via decision.
Undercard (on ION Television):
Marcus Davis vs. Jeremy Stephens
Luke Thomas: I think Stephens is going to knock him clean out. Stephens by KO.
Kid Nate: Marcus ain't what he used to be and there's no way of knowing how the weight cut to 155 will affect him. Stephens by KO.
Mike Fagan: This is a weight cut that's 3 years too late. Wikipedia lists Davis at 5'10", but I don't believe that for a second. I do, however, believe that Davis is going to be 38 in August. Much to the chagrin of the Underground, I still don't think Stephens is ever a top 10 lightweight, but he's a tough fight for Davis in his first foray at 155. Jeremy Stephens by decision.
Leland Roling: Davis has basically stated that he's going to try to use the same gameplan he used against Chris Lytle to win, and the shredded weight will make him even faster. Unfortunately, Davis seems to wilt at the first sign of danger, and I can't pick against the younger power puncher in Stephens with that hanging over Davis. Jeremy Stephens via TKO.
Dustin Poirier vs. Josh Grispi
Luke Thomas: I don't see any reason why Grispi would lose this fight. Grispi by submission.
Kid Nate: Grispi is a very promising talent, hopefully his injuries won't impact his development too much. Poirier is a tough kid but I'm expecting to see Grispi dominate here. Grispi by submission.
Mike Fagan: I wonder how much more excitement would surround this card if Aldo/Grispi hadn't been scrapped. I'm also curious how a mainstream American audience responds to Aldo. It's obvious that the UFC is ready to push him very hard. Anyway, Grispi was about to fight for the title for a reason. Josh Grispi by decision.
Leland Roling: Grispi is a phenom, and Poirier, while a serviceable fighter, won't be able to hang in this contest. Josh Grispi via submission, Round 1.
Phil Baroni vs. Brad Tavares
Luke Thomas: Either guy can actually win this and hell, Baroni's got a damn good shot to do it. Baroni by KO.
Kid Nate: I'll be pulling for the New York Bad Ass to pull one last rabbit out of his hat and stay in the UFC. I'll even pick him to win but that says more about Tavares' limitations than Baroni's up side. Baroni by TKO.
Mike Fagan: The only people begging Dana White for this fight are the friends and families of Baroni and Tavares. Tavares was a forgettable member of a forgettable Ultimate Fighter season. Baroni's fighting to stay above .500. Baroni's definitely gone with a loss, and I imagine Tavares is on a short leash as well. That said, I secretly love watching Baroni fight. Phil Baroni by TKO, round 2.
Leland Roling: I have to admit... watching Baroni's documentary and humility over the last year has made me into a bit of a fan. I'd like nothing more than to see Baroni find some limited success before he moves on, and I think Tavares is the perfect opponent for him. If he paces himself like he has told us he will, he should be able to crush Tavares when the time is right. Baroni via KO, Round 1.
Undercard (may not be broadcast):
Mike Brown vs. Diego Nunes
Luke Thomas: Brown's a hugely underrated grappler. He's going to use that to stop Nunes. Brown by TKO.
Kid Nate: Brown needs this win bad. He should get it. Brown by TKO.
Mike Fagan: It's interesting that I find Shinya Aoki's cryfests to be fake and insufferable, but I feel for Mike Brown when he opens the waterworks in the post-fight. It might be a cultural thing, but I think it's more about the fact that Aoki contrasts his tears by celebrating like a monkey when he submits the Todd Moores of the world. Mike Brown by decision.
Leland Roling: Tough fight for Brown, but Nunes isn't exactly impervious to damage on the feet. He normally eats blows to deliver blows, and you can't eat a Mike Brown overhand. Mike Brown via TKO.
Daniel Roberts vs. Greg Soto
Luke Thomas: I tend to think Roberts can get it done. Roberts by decision.
Kid Nate: Soto has burned me once, it won't happen again. Greg Soto by decision.
Mike Fagan: I just saw that Daniel Roberts was born in Rockford, Illinois, which explains why he currently trains in San Francisco. The only good thing I can see about living in Rockford is that it's about 90 minutes away from Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee. Hell, it's just over two hours away from the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa. This is a tough fight to call. Daniel Roberts by decision.
Leland Roling: I used to frequent Rockford, Mike. And lemme tell you, he left because it's awful. In any case... Daniel Roberts via decision.
Antonio McKee vs. Jacob Volkmann
Luke Thomas: A battle of the wrestlers. McKee has better offensive wrestling at least in the takedown department and that's probably enough to grab a win over Volkmann. McKee by decision.
Kid Nate: Volkmann will be a serious test for McKee and if "Mandingo" gets past him there are plenty more formidable wrestlers where he came from. Maybe McKee's title run starts here. Antonio McKee by decision.
Mike Fagan: Every time I hear McKee's nickname, I can't help but think of the monstrous male porn star. It's unavoidable. "Mandingo" is a much more fitting name for that guy. McKee's in no place to make a run at the UFC title, but Volkmann's going to have to hope for a massive dropoff, I think. Antonio McKee by decision.
Leland Roling: Antonio McKee provided me with hours of comic relief during his run in MFC. There is just something strangely funny about safely wrestling his way to victory and then telling everyone that's exactly what he's doing. Expect more of the same as Volkmann does not have the wrestling to stop "Mandingo". Antonio McKee via decision.