Event: UFC 126: "Silva vs. Belfort"
Date: Sat., Feb. 5, 2011, at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV)
Location: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
Luke Thomas: As I stated on The Fight Fix, I'm not one of the group giving Belfort a gigantic chance here. He's been inactive and is likely unable to make the necessary adjustments over the course of the fight. That or Silva, who hasn't looked good at middleweight in a while, is going to show his age and get KO'd. Either way. Silva by TKO.
Kid Nate: I'm afraid we're not going to see either man at his best tomorrow night. Belfort is coming off the longest lay off of his career. Silva hasn't been himself for a few fights in a row. I'm going to predict an ugly fight featuring lots of dancing by Silva. Silva by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: I think it's pretty hard to deny that Silva hasn't slowed down or looked at least a little "off" since after the Griffin fight. That doesn't mean he isn't still a great fighter, just that age and cage time are catching up with him a little. That being said, this layoff is far too long and I don't trust Belfort to pull the trigger early and often here. Unfortunately I think both men will be a little hesitant to engage early and a little too tired to finish late. Anderson Silva by decision.
Mike Fagan: Belfort's working on a nice tale of redemption, but it's important to note that prior to finishing Rich Franklin, he hadn't won a meaningful fight since Pride 14. Maybe something did change in his mindset in the last couple of years, but it's hard for me to ignore the entirety of a decade-long career of being a headcase. There's also that issue of a 16-month layoff that everyone seems to have forgotten about. Belfort's capable of catching Silva square on the jaw, but it looks like an uphill battle to me. Anderson Silva by TKO, round three.
Nick Thomas: Silva has to keep Belfort away with his reach for the first round. From there Silva can pick apart a slower Belfort while he tries to come in. Silva by TKO.
Leland Roling: I'm not under the assumption that Silva has fallen off the wagon, but I am rather convinced that he's beginning to feel the affects of the aging process. Belfort is no Spring chicken either, but his devastating power and speed in his striking is going to tough for Silva to avoid early. I think this is ultimately Silva's fight to win, but I'm banking on speed and power to overcome Silva's defenses. Vitor Belfort via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: This is a very intriguing match up as Anderson Silva will be facing an elite striker like himself, who has good timing, and also controls the distance very well. Silva has had a legendary run at the top of the division, but stylistically, I think Belfort will be the most dangerous test of his career. There are intangibles that make it a hard fight to predict, like Silva's age, and Belfort's ring rust... and while I usually don't pick a guy who hasn't been in a cage for a year and a half, I'm really smelling an upset here. Vitor Belfort by shocking TKO.
Duane Finley: Anderson Silva is the most dominant mixed martial artist on the planet and I think people have forgotten it. He was put to the wire one time in a dozen fights and it was by a fighter with the one style that has a chance to beat him..wrestling. Vitor is a talented fighter and I think he fights brave when he knows hes better than his opponent. I think Vitor will have a small window where his confidence is elevated but after failing to put Silva away, "The Spider" walks out with the crown and waits for GSP. Silva by TKO Rnd 2.
Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin
Luke Thomas: All things being equal, the bigger guy should win. The complexion of this fight will tell the tale. The uglier it is and the more Griffin's size is a factor, the more likely he is to win. The more this is about movement and precision from the outside, the more likely it is Franklin will win. I'll flip a coin. Griffin by decision.
Kid Nate: Both of these guys win ugly at their best. Griffin has a size advantage and might use that to force a clinch war against the cage. I think Franklin is the more technical striker and will outpoint Griffin standing. Franklin by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Rich Franklin at 205 is better than Rich Franklin at 185. I think that standing up Franklin is going to be able to win the exchanges. Griffin is no slouch but his striking really is a tad overrated as Leland pointed out. Rich Franklin by decision.
Mike Fagan: I'm going to lose my shit if these two start high-fiving and hugging each other (Barney-hugging, not Rashad Evans-hugging) all over the Octagon. That garbage could turn a fun scrap into an unbearable, melodramatic tragedy. Maybe I should start a pre-emptive Twitter campaign. #fightnothugs Rich Franklin by decision.
Nick Thomas: Griffin is going to realize ring rust is for real. Franklin by decision.
Leland Roling: I really can't wrap my head around the talk that Griffin is a great striker. Maybe I'm being ignorant, but defeating a D-level kickboxer in Tito Ortiz via split decision doesn't inspire confidence that Griffin can stand and bang out Rich Franklin. Franklin will be smaller, but I think he can maintain range and out point Griffin to a decision. Rich Franklin via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Much like the main event, this is a VERY hard fight to predict as they have somewhat similar skill set. I wouldn't be surprised on either outcome, but what ultimately made me decide, is that Forrest will be the much bigger guy here. There's a good chance that he might have a lot of trouble dealing with a much faster southpaw who is relatively hard to hit, but I'll have to say Forrest Griffin by decision.
Duane Finley: I think this is the hardest fight on the card to call. Forrest wants to prove that he is still a top notch guy while "Ace" is tired of company man status and wants to make a run. If Griffin can tie Franklin up early and often, the edge goes to Forrest but I see Franklin keeping his range and working long weapons for the win. Both will be dropped at some point during the fight but I have it going to Franklin by decision.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha
Luke Thomas: I am all but certain - as certain as one can be in the unpredictable world of MMA - that Ellenberger is going to crush Rocha. Ellenberger by TKO.
Kid Nate: Ellenberge is a very physical guy with serious wrestling skills. I think he'll grind Rocha down. Ellenberger by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Jake Ellenberger can absolutely control where this fight takes place and that'll allow him to get the win. Jake Ellenberger by decision.
Mike Fagan: There's something delightfully evil about Ellenberger's relationship with Jon Fitch. Ellenberger was supposed to fight Ben Saunders at UFC 111, but Saunders ended up filling in to fight Fitch after Thiago Alves pulled out with his mysterious brain problem. Then Ellenberger is scheduled to fight Fitch on this card, but the UFC Charlie Brown'd him again and matched up Fitch with B.J. Penn at UFC 127. Jake Ellenberger by decision.
Nick Thomas: Ellenberger has the experience and will keep this standing. Ellenberger by decision.
Leland Roling: I love what Rocha brings to the table, but Ellenberger is your standard corn-fed Midwestern wrestler with a knack for weathering the storm and punishing his opponents. If Rocha doesn't slap on something creative early, it'll be a long night. Jake Ellenberger via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Ellenberger is just the better fighter overall, and he has proven it against much better opposition. Ellenberger by decision.
Duane Finley: Ellenberger was given the Fitch fight and then had it taken away. Rocha will be looking for the sub but Ellenberger will fight hard and smart. Ellenberger by decision.
Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones
Luke Thomas: I do think this fight will be competitive for at least a round, if not two. Bader's going to get underneath Jones and see if he can figure out what Jones' game looks like from the Greg Jackson product's back. Eventually, though, I see him either gassing or getting lit up on the feet or both. It's Jones' to lose. Jones by TKO.
Kid Nate: This is a very very exciting fight. Both guys are (or should be 12-0) and have solid wrestling foundations, but that's where the similarities end. Bader has a better chance than many give him due to Jones' less than incredible jab and Bader's take downs. But Jones is just too much. Jones by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Jon is really damn good but the fact that there are people who think he would beat ANYONE in the light heavyweight division right now is kind of crazy. Also crazy is completely writing off Ryan Bader. The biggest thing a fighter can do is win and Bader has done that. That being said, Jones has more ways to win the fight so I'll roll with picking him, but I don't think it's going to be an easy fight. Jon Jones by decision.
Mike Fagan: Jon Jones, the fighter? Love him. Jon Jones, the person? Not so much. I don't mind (read: I love) cocky or brash or flamboyant athletes, either; I'm just not interested in hearing you talk about how humble you are, and then tell me you believe you're going to "take over the UFC." Just tell me how great you are, and how you're going to violate your next opponent, and what you're going to do with his ladyfriend when you're done with him. I can respect that. Jon Jones by TKO, round one.
Nick Thomas: Jones has dealt with wrestlers and will destroy Bader on the feet. Jones by TKO.
Leland Roling: I've read far too many opinions on this fight, and most of the "experts" believe this will be a close fight to call. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I've never been impressed with what Bader brings to the table. I'd expect a bit more improvement from him, and I think Jones will shock people once again with how easily he crushes Bader here. Jon Jones via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: I'm not a fan of the amount of hype Jon Jones has been getting, but I am a fan of his skillset. Bader always has a chance with that huge right hand, but Jones is longer, and more technical both standing and on the ground... I don't think Bader will be the guy who stops this train. Jones by TKO.
Duane Finley: The majority of people seem to have completely written TUF winner Bader off for this fight but the kid has been a winner every stage of his life. It is an interesting fight because Jones is starting to believe the hype which in this case is actually true. Coach Winkeljohn said Jones will blow people away when they see his striking but I think Bader's confidence determines the fight. Nobody has ever thrown Bader around so if Jones attempts to take him down and fails, Bader's confidence will skyrocket. On the other hand, if Jones gives Bader the Matt Hamil special, it's all over. Bader survives but barely and I have Jones by decision.
Antonio Banuelos vs. Miguel Torres
Luke Thomas: Torres, despite being a white belt in shtick (or a black belt in bad shtick), is in another league over Banuelos. Torres by submission.
Kid Nate: Torres really ought to pick Banuelos apart on the feet. Torres by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: There isn't really any reason that Banuelos should win this fight. Torres is going to be a staple of UFC main cards for several years even if he never works his way back to the title. Miguel Torres by decision.
Mike Fagan: I love picking up things through weird avenues. For instance, I know how to say the numbers one through three in Japanese because of puroresu. And I love mariachi music because of MMA and boxing. Mariachi singers could make taking out the trash sound like the most passionate thing in the world. Miguel Torres by decision.
Nick Thomas: Torres has the reach but if he can't finish this inside 15 minutes, I think Banuelos will take the decision. Banuelos by decision.
Leland Roling: Antonio Banuelos will provide some early round excitement with his speedy lateral movement and quick punching ability, but as Torres finds his range -- It won't be long before the former champion finds a rhythm and hammers Banuelos. Antonio is scrappy though, so I expect him to survive. Miguel Torres via decision.
Anton Tabuena: This will be Miguel Torres' coming out party in the UFC. Torres via lopsided decision.
Duane Finley: Torres does his thing and introduces his mullet driven aggression to the UFC. Torres by decision.
Undercard (broadcast on Spike TV):
Paul Kelly vs. Donald Cerrone
Luke Thomas: Kelly is going to break Gareth Davies' heart by getting drubbed by an American who calls himself "Cowboy". Cerrone by TKO.
Kid Nate: Cerrone is too lanky and too skilled and improving too rapidly for the limited Kelly. Cerrone by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: I would like to pick Kelly just because I don't like Cerrone, nor do I think he's all that great. But he's better than Kelly. Donald Cerrone by decision.
Mike Fagan: Every legitimate 155er in the world is calling out Donald Cerrone, so the UFC matches him up with one of their token Brits. I had to recheck Wikipedia to make sure this card wasn't in London or Manchester. Maybe Paul Kelly can tag team with Paul Taylor and call themselves "London Paul-ing" and beat up on Cerrone for me. Donald Cerrone by decision.
Nick Thomas: Cerrone by submission.
Leland Roling: Cerrone has advantages on the feet and on the ground in this showdown. His stand-up should do a number on Kelly's lead leg and chin. Once Kelly realizes that he needs to avoid standing, he'll shoot into Cerrone's world on the ground. Cerrone via submission.
Anton Tabuena: He's the more talented fighter overall, but I don't think Cerrone will be able to finish Kelly. Should be a very entertaining fight though. Cerrone by decision.
Duane Finley: Cerrone doesn't know what a boring fight looks like and he won't find out on Saturday. Kelly is a hardnosed Brit but he will not have the answer for "Cowboy". Cerrone by submission.
Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Luke Thomas: Omigawa's going to break every nerd fan's heart by getting drubbed by a better wrestler. Mendes by decision.
Kid Nate: Omigawa is aging but I don't think Mendes will be getting the take downs as easily as everyone else does. Omigawa by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Takedown, wait a while, punch, wait a bit, punch, ref stand-up, takedown, wait, punch, wait, punch. Chad Mendes by decision.
Mike Fagan: Sorry, Japanophiles, American fighting spirit prevails here. Chad Mendes is going to stomp out another Far East invasion attempt in the best way possible: fifteen minutes of tortuous, smothering wrestling. Don't blame me when you're crying while mashing "F5" for Deep results later on in the night. I warned you. Chad Mendes by decision.
Nick Thomas: Mendes wrestling is going to be the deciding factor. Mendes by decision.
Leland Roling: Interviews with Mendes in the lead-up to this event are quite odd to me. He seems to have no clue what he's getting himself into in this fight. He mentions that he can win anywhere, and that's far from the truth. His top control needs work, and his stand-up still needs to progress. Omigawa is solid in both areas, and he's gotten much better off his back. This is a dangerous fight for Mendes, especially if he isn't taking it that seriously. Michihiro Omigawa via decision.
Anton Tabuena: I hope I'm wrong, but I think Chad Mendes will do what he usually does and grind out the Japanese star. Chad Mendes by Decision.
Duane Finley: Mendes has been the target of some flack as it has been said the WEC hand picked his competition. Now he's in the UFC and they immediately prove this won't be the case as they match him up with the always game Omigawa. Mendes has been methodical in his approach and while the fight will have highs and lows, the Team Alpha Male fighter makes a successful UFC debut. Mendes by decision.
Gabe Ruediger vs. Paul Taylor
Luke Thomas: If Taylor can AT ALL defend the takedown, he's going to light Ruediger's face on fire. Taylor by TKO.
Kid Nate: Paul Taylor will outstrike Ruediger. Taylor by decision.
Brent Brookhouse:I am incredibly excited about most of this card. This fight? Not so much. Paul Taylor by TKO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: If "London Paul-ing" were to emerge as a tag team, would their finisher be called "London Bridge is Paul-ing Down" or "Paul of the Wild"? And, yes, I'm aware that Jack London is American. Pro wrestling never much cared for cultural sensitivity, either. Paul Taylor by decision.
Nick Thomas: Loser goes home. Ruediger by decision.
Leland Roling: Despite Taylor's record, he's put on some exciting performances and been on the short end of the stick when it came to competent judging. Ruediger will be very dangerous on the ground, but Taylor is progressing nicely in his takedown defense. Ruediger will have problems getting Taylor down, and he'll eat a lot of punches and kicks as he escapes the sprawl. Paul Taylor via decision.
Anton Tabuena: This will be another ‘loser leaves town' match, and I think the Brit will be good enough to hold on to his UFC career a little longer. Paul Taylor by Decision.
Duane Finley: Ruediger looked terrible in Boston. Same here. Taylor by decision.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Norifumi Yamamoto
Luke Thomas: I'm not at all a believer that Yamamoto is prepared to compete right away at the UFC level. He's older (33) and has been fighting nubbz competition, no matter what Ikuhisa Minowa's acolytes tell you. I do believe he'll be more competitive at this weight, but not competitive enough. At least not this time around. Johnson by decision.
Kid Nate: I'm a believer what can I say. Kid Yamamoto by KO.
Brent Brookhouse: The benefit to Kid is that he isn't coming in and facing a "big" bantamweight right away. Still I like Johnson to simply outwork Kid here with a varied attack. Demetrious Johnson by decision.
Mike Fagan: If you want to get a friend excited about bantamweights, show him (or her!) a "KID" Yamamoto highlight reel. At his best, the dude is a ball of unmitigated violence. Johnson is a stiff test, and I know Luke has been calling this fight for him since it was announced, but "KID's" still real to me, damnit. This is my Fireball Showdown of the Night. Norifumi Yamamoto by TKO, round two.
Nick Thomas: Johnson is going to grind KID out. Johnson by decision.
Leland Roling: Johnson has the historical edge here. Most of the Japanese imports coming into the UFC have failed miserably, and most fans are going to run with that precedence. For me, I think Yamamoto's striking and blazing fast counters will be problematic for Johnson if he can't overwhelm Yamamoto on the ground. The question is whether Johnson smothers Kid for three rounds. I'll take a chance. "Kid" Yamamoto via decision.
Anton Tabuena: I'm afraid Kid Yamamoto will be another disappointment like his countryman, Gomi, but nostalgia still won't make me pick against him. Kid Yamamoto by TKO.
Duane Finley: Japanese fighters have been known to fizzle under the octagon lights but I think Kid will deliver. For a small fighter everything he does is big and I think he is taking his UFC debut very serious. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto by TKO Rnd 1.
Kyle Kingsbury vs. Ricardo Romero
Luke Thomas: Kingsbury's got more ways to win. Kingsbury by decision.
Kid Nate: Romero by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Mike Fagan is dead wrong here. Both guys sound like porn stars. Kyle Kingsbury by decision.
Mike Fagan: One sounds like a porn star, the other like Lucille Ball's Brazilian husband. And that means you've hit the bottom of the show. Kyle Kingsbury by decision.
Nick Thomas: Romero is a great propect. Romero by decision.
Leland Roling: I'm not a huge fan of Romero's brand of wrestling, and Kingsbury has proven that he can work around the more aggressive wrestlers like Tom Lawlor. He wasn't able to beat Lawlor, but he did manage to stuff him repeatedly and work an effective grappling game off his back. Romero isn't as aggressive, or as skilled as Lawlor in my opinion. Kyle Kingsbury via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Not really that excited for this, but Ricardo Romero by Submission I guess.
Duane Finley: Kingsbury lost three straight coming into the UFC before he stopped the bleeding by beating Al-Hazzan. Romero was getting trounced by Seth Petruzelli in his debut before righting the ship. I think Kyle will fight tough but Romero builds off his first win and makes it back to back victories. Romero by submission.
Mike Pierce vs. Kenny Robertson
Luke Thomas: Pierce is going to crush him. Pierce by submission.
Kid Nate: Pierce is a very formidable welterweight. Robertson is not quite in the same class. Pierce by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Pierce is really, really talented. He's far too talented to be fighting Kenny Robertson. Mike Pierce by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: Another example of Jon Fitch screwing over a 170 pounder. Pierce beats Brock Larson; loses to Jon Fitch; and then fights Julio Paulino, Amilcar Alves, and Kenny Robertson. Hide your kids, hide your husbands, y'all. Jon Fitch gonna find you. Mike Pierce by decision.
Nick Thomas: Pierce by decision.
Leland Roling: Mark my words. Mike Pierce will be an upper-echelon talent in the UFC's welterweight division in a couple of years. The UFC seems to be waiting for him to produce finishes, but he's been dominant against nearly everyone after Jon Fitch. Robertson won't last long. Mike Pierce via submission.
Anton Tabuena: Robertson is undefeated and has looked really good so far, but Pierce has faced much better competition so I can't pick against him on this one. Mike Pierce by Decision.
Duane Finley: Mike Pierce took Jon Fitch to the wire and I think he has a bright future in the welterweight division. Robertson will put up a solid fight early but ultimately he becomes another notch in the belt. Mike Pierce by decision