Date: Sat., March 19, 2011, at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV)
Location: Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey
Main Card (Pay Per View)
Mauricio Rua vs. Jon Jones
Kid Nate: A week ago I was certain I would be picking Jon Jones to win this fight, but the more I’ve looked into it this week the harder this pick has gotten. What an exciting fight! Shogun’s knee is the biggest question mark but Jones’ striking leaves many holes to be exploited. Ultimately I think the knee, the time off, the size and Shogun’s weak TD defense will be the difference. Jones by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Jones has never fought a guy who was very good at more than one thing. The closest he has come is Brandon Vera and Vera’s inability to get out of his own head is crushing. Running forward through wrestlers with no striking and putting them on their back where they don’t have much to offer. Rua has seen pretty much everything you can see in an MMA bout. I really wonder what it will be like for Jones the first time he can’t run through an opponent. Sometimes athletes who feel entitled to success don’t react well when true adversity hits. If (and it’s a huge if) Rua’s knee is truly recovered, I think he wins this. But I say that with no real confidence in the pick and a tremendous amount of excitement to see what happens. Mauricio Rua by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: This fight is exciting because of the unknowns involved. How does Jones handle elite competition? What shape is Rua (and his knee) in after a 10-month layoff? Is the increased media attention a distraction for Jones? Can "Shogun" deal with the size, wrestling, and overall athleticism of Jones? Will God get involved? A lot of people picking Rua do so with visions of a bare-assed Nobuhiko Takada banging on an Odaiko drum, and you can count me among them. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by submission, round 3.
Nick Thomas: On the feet, it's all Shogun Rua; sadly he'll mostly be on his back in this fight. Jones' wrestling, height and reach are going to be the deciding factor. Jones just needs to be aggressive enough to end it early and not get caught in an arm bar. Jones by TKO.
Leland Roling: Every single fight that has come down to my own bias versus what I believe will actually happen in the Octagon has been a flop for me. I always go with the bias, knowing fully that the outcome will likely steer in the other direction. I pick as a fan in situations when I’m torn by the outcome, but I’m going to go against my own fandom of ‘Shogun’ Rua on Saturday night. Jones doesn’t have the striking, nor do I think he’s mentally tough enough to eliminate all the nerves of fighting in such a huge fight. I do, however, believe his wrestling is his means to dominating Rua on the ground. Jon Jones via TKO
Anton Tabuena: Shogun Rua is just the better fighter overall. He has better striking, better jiujitsu, more experienced, and has already proven his mettle against top notch opposition. If you look at all those variables, you might think that Shogun is the easy pick here, but styles make fights, and that is what makes this bout very interesting. Shogun’s biggest weakness is Jones’ biggest strength -- wrestling. Jones won’t win striking exchanges, but if he wants to take this to the ground, he will. Shogun is great at sweeps and getting back to his feet, but can he do that against a great wrestler, who is also much bigger and stronger? It’s a hard fight to predict, but I’m leaning slightly towards Jones on this one. As a fan, I would hate to see it, but Jones might just overwhelm Shogun with takedowns and ground and pound, especially since he’s coming off yet another knee injury. Jon Jones by TKO.
Duane Finley: I’ve been struggling on the picks over the last few cards and I can’t remember being more torn over who to pick than this matchup between Rua and Jones. Every time out we were supposed to see where Jones’s talent gauges but with each showing he destroys whoever is standing in front of him. With that being said, Shogun is an entirely different animal. Where fighters like Bader and Vera were beat before stepping into the cage, Rua thrives in big fights because honestly, how often has Rua not been in a high profile bout? I think Jones will control the first two rounds but I see the tide turning in the third. Shogun faces two huge mountains, the first being Jones and the second being defending a belt that hates to be held onto. I’m going against the grain on this one Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by decision.
Matt Bishop: This is such a tough fight to predict. There are so many X-factors in play here. If Jones can handle all the pressure on him, it’s could be a tough night for Shogun. Thing is, though, this is a huge step up in competition of Jones and he’s never really been hit the way Shogun can hit him. That said, Shogun has been taken down in all his UFC fights and this one will be no different. If he can ride out Jones and weather the storm, I think he can tire him out and take over late. I don’t like this pick one bit, but I’m going to go ahead and make it. Shogun via decision.
Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland
Kid Nate: Faber should be too much for Wineland in every respect. Faber by submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Wineland at his very best is "pretty good." Faber at his best is "really good" to "great." I fully expect both men to be at their best Saturday night. Urijah Faber by submission, round 2.
Mike Fagan: If my sources are correct, Eddie Wineland is training like it’s 1999. Faber has too much to lose to take this fight lightly. Urijah Faber by submission, round one.
Nick Thomas: Faber is the a huge favorite and rightly so. As soon as this hits the ground, it's over. Faber by submission.
Leland Roling: I admire what Wineland has done to get back to this stage in his career. His striking has improved drastically over the years, and his power remains one of his greatest strengths. It’s difficult to dismiss him in any fight, but Faber, at 135 lbs., is a nightmare. Faber takes this one to the floor and smothers Wineland, eventually submitting him. Faber via submission.
Anton Tabuena: Wineland is very dangerous, but I think Faber will take this one with a dominant one-sided decision. Faber by Decision, and he probably gets a shot at Dominick Cruz after.
Duane Finley: There is no doubt this bout is going to be a fast paced, action packed affair but I believe it will all come down to Wineland’s ability or lack thereof to keep the "king of the scramble" off of him. Wineland has serious game but Urijah Faber making his UFC debut and knowing that a shot at Dominic Cruz is waiting for him will be too much for the Hoosier to handle and I have Faber via submission.
Matt Bishop: Wineland’s a tough fighter, no doubt, but Faber is going to be too much for him. If this fight goes to the ground, and chances are it will, Wineland is in big trouble. I think Faber wastes no time, makes an impressive statement and finishes Wineland early. Faber by submission, round 1.
Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus
Kid Nate: Shalorus has nasty power but no striking technique, but his wrestling will make it hard for Miller to impose his ground game. Could be an ugly fight, lots of bad kickboxing with Miller winning on points. Miller by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: The 29 year old Kamal Shalorus throws his punches hard but the lack of technique hurts how much power they actually have. His uninspiring fights with Jamie Varner and Bart Palaszewski have me wondering how much upside he truly has as a 37 year old mixed martial artist. Jim Miller is really, really good. He doesn’t hit as hard as his 54 year old foe, but he will be able to land more often. And on the ground Miller should be able to pull off submissions if he wants to attack or even improve his position with some degree of ease. By the way, Jim Miller deserves a better fight than this. Jim Miller by decision.
Mike Fagan: Does anyone truly believe Kamal is somewhere around 30 years old? The Iranian government says he’s closer to 37. And he looks 37. Listen, El Duque, you aren’t fooling anyone here. Jim Miller by decision.
Nick Thomas: Such a close fight here. Miller gets the slight edge with UFC experience and Shalorus slowing down in the later rounds. Miller via decision.
Leland Roling: Miller is better than Shalorus both standing and on the ground. It doesn’t get much more clear cut than that. Miller via decision.
Anton Tabuena: A talented wrestler like Maynard didn’t want to deal with Miller’s ground game so he tried his best to keep it standing. Shalorus might be able to do the same and stop avoid the ground game, but I don’t think he’s better that Miller standing up. Jim Miller by Submission.
Duane Finley: When Jim Miller defeated Oliviera in his last outing I fully expected to see a much bigger task put on his plate. Miller is a man on a mission and his bare bones all business approach is going to overwhelm Shalorus. Kamal has proven he has a solid chin and strong wrestling but Miller is on a tear and his case for contention will only get stronger after he defeats Shalorus. Miller via submission.
Matt Bishop: Miller’s been riding a big wave of momentum and he isn’t about to lose in his home state to someone he’s better than. Miller by decision.
Nate Marquardt vs Dan Miller
Kid Nate: Marquardt needs to put on a show here to stay relevant in the upper ranks of the division. He’ll do it. Marquardt by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Dan Miller loses to guys in the top 10. Nate Marquardt beats guys outside of it. Nate Marquardt by TKO, round two.
Mike Fagan: Nate Marquardt was going to smash Yoshihiro Akiyama. Miller’s a tougher fight at 185, but he’s a guy Marquardt should handle. Nate Marquardt by decision.
Nick Thomas: Marquardt is not going to lose to Dan Miller. Marquardt lights up Miller on the feet. Marquardt via decision.
Leland Roling: Dan Miller on short notice. I gotta give him props for stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately, he’s stepping into a brutal beating. Nathan Marquardt via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Dan Miller once again proves that he’s a warrior that will step up and fight against anyone, at any time. I hope he wins, but on short notice, and against a talented guy like Marquardt, it’s going to be hard to do. Nate Marquardt by Decision.
Duane Finley: There are few question marks in my book as big as Nate Marquardt. If you were to assemble a complete fighter with well rounded skills Nate would be your prototype but after being manhandled by Sonnen and getting trigger shy against Okami, I just don’t know where Marquardt stands in the divisional picture. With that being said I don’t believe Dan Miller is stronger than Nate in any aspect and I see Marquardt by decision.
Matt Bishop: After a puzzling fight with Yushin Okami, Marquardt needs an impressive win here. I don’t think he’ll come out and be able to blitz Miller but he’ll make a statement. Marquardt via lopsided decision.
Brendan Schaub vs. Mirko Filipovic
Kid Nate : Time for Cro Cop to retire. Schaub by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: As I write this Mirko has a 954-876 edge in voting on the fight preview. That’s a lot of pointless hope. Brendan Schaub by TKO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: I made a hilarious quip about this in The Week In Quotes, but you’ve already read that, right? Schaub joins a line of 6’4", 240+ lb. guys like Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, and Cheick Kongo that were able to physically overwhelm "Cro Cop." It’s time to come to grips, Pride fans, Cro Cop is done. Brendan Schaub by decision.
Nick Thomas: Schaub is going to keep his distance and win via the same way he beat Gonzaga. Schaub by decision.
Leland Roling: PRIDE NEVER DIE! Unless you’re CroCop. Brendan Schaub via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Aaaand, Brendan Schaub gets to add a legend on his resume. This fight is going to make me sad. Schaub via TKO.
Duane Finley: As much I love "Cro Cop" and long for the days of the head kick thunder to return, I have to let it go. Schaub has looked impressive since being KO’d by Roy Nelson and I see youth and strength winning out in this one. Schaub via TKO.
Matt Bishop: Tough fight for Cro Cop. He’s slowed down significantly and is past his prime as a fighter. Injuries have taken their toll and that’s not good when you’re facing someone as athletic as Schaub. Cro Cop, though, is tough and I don’t see Schaub finishing him, but he’ll win convincingly. Schaub by decision.
Luiz Cane vs. Eliot Marshall
Kid Nate: Cane should beat up Marshall on the feet pretty badly. Marshall has a knack for smothering fights with no action. Cane is a Muay Thai wild man who lives for the close range brawl. Bad match-up for Marshall. Luiz Cane by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: Takedowns and top control should allow for Marshall to pull off the win. Of course, if he feels pressured into trying to "be exciting" that could open things up for Cane. Elliot Marshall by decision.
Mike Fagan: Did Eliot Marshall start fighting southpaw? No? Luiz Cane by TKO, round 2.
Nick Thomas: Marshall by weathering the storm and then grinding Cain out for 3 rounds. Marshall by decision.
Leland Roling: Tough call. Do I bank on Cane avoiding Marshall’s Jiu-Jitsu? Cane’s record would indicate that I should as he’s never been submitted, but Marshall can be smothering on the floor. Coin toss for me. I’ll take Cane’s power. Luiz Cane via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: Marshall says he’s retiring after his UFC stint. Cane might make it a bit earlier than he planned. Luiz Cane by TKO.
Duane Finley: Cane’s back is against the wall in this one and a loss could very well cap his UFC run. Marshall battled his way back into the UFC and knows he needs the win to stick around. Cane has a distinct advantage in the stand-up but Marshall takes this one to the canvas and grinds out the victory. Marshall by decision.
Matt Bishop: Cane has looked like an absolute world-beater against fighters who aren’t southpaws. On a few weeks notice, this is a tough one by Marshall, who is primarily a jiu-jitsu player. Cane comes out and returns to form here. Cane by TKO, round 2.
Anthony Njokuani vs Edson Barboza Jr.
Kid Nate: The UFC is clearly hoping for stand up action from this one, hence the Spike TV exposure. Barboza brings a lot more to the cage and Njokuani is going to find out the hard way. Barboza by TKO.
Brent Brookhouse: I have never made it a secret that I like Njokuani’s fighting style, but he’s probably just not good enough to win this fight. Still, this should be fun. Edson Barboza by TKO, round 2.
Mike Fagan: I’ll always love Njokuani for blasting Chris Horodecki in the face, but he’s not much of an MMA fighter. Edson Barboza by submission, round two.
Nick Thomas: Fight of the Night here. This isn't going to be pretty for Njokuani. Barboza by TKO.
Leland Roling: Njokuani thinks he’s a great kickboxer, but he’s going to find out quickly that his legs can’t handle the power of Edson Barboza. Barboza via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: The undefeated guy who has looked impressive against lesser opposition, or the guy who has a better resume but has lost on the times he has stepped up in competition? I usually choose the more experienced fighter who has faced stiffer competition, but I think this will be an exception. Barboza by TKO.
Duane Finley: Njokuani has shown flashes of a solid striking game but he is going to need to be top notch against Barboza. I’m not sure if I’m willing to cosign on the Aldo comparisons just yet but there is no doubt Barboza possesses vicious leg kicks and I think he will be too much for Anthony to handle. Barboza via TKO.
Matt Bishop: Solid fight and it should be a blast while it lasts. Barboza is too good here. Barboza by TKO, round 1.
Facebook "Prelims" (Internet stream):
Ricardo Almeida vs. Mike Pyle
Kid Nate: Not sure why this fight is getting Facebook exposure while Benavidez is left in the dark. Pyle will grind out a win here. Almeida took too many years off from MMA. Pyle by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Pyle had such an amazing gameplan and executed it so well against Hathaway that it really makes me want to pick him. Almeida can be put into weird fights where he never gets anything going. As such I’m going to take Pyle on the idea that he has an idea of how to win this fight and follows through on it. Mike Pyle by decision.
Mike Fagan: Will I be hunted down if I admit that I’m not interested in this fight? These guys are on the wrong side of 30, and they’ve probably hit their ceiling. Ricardo Almeida by submission, round two.
Nick Thomas: If Almeida can beat TJ Grant. Almeida can beat Mike Pyle. Almeida by submission.
Leland Roling: Pyle always delivers some exciting scrambles, but Almeida’s Jiu-Jitsu skills are no joke. Almeida via decision.
Anton Tabuena: Ricardo Almeida’s run through the welterweight ladder got derailed when Matt Hughes’ punch hit him on the button, leading to that choke. He won a decision against TJ Grant last time, and I think this will be two straight, which gets him back in contention. Almeida by decision.
Duane Finley: Outside of the main event this is the matchup that has me the most excited as two submission savvy vets collide. Pyle is reinvigorated and his performance against Hathaway was lights out. Almeida has yet to find his footing at welterweight and while he is stronger than Pyle, it isn’t anything Pyle hasn’t seen before. Remember this is a guy that made his MMA debut against Rampage and choked out Jon Fitch. Pyle wins by decision.
Matt Bishop: This will go to the ground, Pyle will make a mistake, Almeida will capitalize. Almeida by submission, round 1.
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Gleison Tibau
Kid Nate: Pellegrino might end up looking like Caol Uno did against Gleison Tibau -- small and impotent. Tibau by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: I’m liking the idea that Pellegrino can just be so active and make Tibau work so hard that he fades in the second and Kurt takes over from there. God knows I may be wrong. But... Kurt Pellegrino by decision.
Mike Fagan: There’s a lot of things I like about Pellegrino’s game (I’m enamored with his footwork since he found Mark Dellagrotte), but he’s always been a smaller guy at 155. Unfortunately for him, Tibau’s probably the biggest guy int he weight class. I wouldn’t be shocked for Pellegrino to pull this out, but I expect Tibau to Tibau here. Gleison Tibau by decision.
Nick Thomas: Another close fight. Have to go with Tibau with Pellegrino coming off a knee injury. Tibau by decision.
Leland Roling: Solid match-up between two guys on the outside looking in after losses. While I think Tibau’s strength might be a problem, I like Pellegrino in this match-up. I think he’s proven to be more effective on the feet in past fights. As long as he doesn’t get lit up by Tibau’s power, I think he can win on the scorecards. Pellegrino via decision.
Anton Tabuena: I think he will out-muscle and control Pellegrino here for three rounds. Tibau by Decision.
Duane Finley: Pellegrino was rolling until Sotiropoulos derailed him so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back. Tibau possesses dynamite power but if Pellegrino can keep Gleison working, I believe Tibau will fade in the second. Pellegrino by decision.
Matt Bishop: We’re promised a new Tibau here. I’ll withhold judgment until I actually see it. Pellegrino by decision.
Undercard (May not be broadcast):
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian Loveland
Kid Nate: Wish I could see this one live. Benavidez ought to put on a clinic here. Benavidez by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Benavidez is going to destroy Loveland. Joseph Benavidez by TKO, round 1.
Mike Fagan: I guess Ian Loveland isn’t as bad as his record would indicate, but I have no reason to pick against a guy whose only two losses are to the champ. It’s a little odd that this isn’t guaranteed for broadcast, but I’d be shocked if we didn’t see this at some point during the UFC’s five hour block of airtime. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Nick Thomas: How is this fight not being shown... Benavidez by decision.
Leland Roling: Ian Loveland is in for a rough night. Joseph Benavidez via TKO.
Anton Tabuena: The Team Alpha Male fighter will pick up another victory on his road back to contention. Joseph Benavidez by decision.
Duane Finley: Benavidez steam rolls Loveland and puts "Joe-Jitsu" on display under the bright lights of the UFC. Benavidez by submission.
Matt Bishop: Should be a fun fight. Benavidez is going to be too much for Loveland. Benavidez by submission, round 2.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Erik Koch
Kid Nate: If Koch gets a chance to show what he can do on the feet Assuncao will be in big trouble, but he won’t get that chance. Assuncao by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: In a one round fight I’d take Assuncao. In three rounds Koch’s striking will be too much. Erik Koch by decision.
Mike Fagan: Good fight given the circumstances. I’ll take the grappler. Raphael Assuncao by decision.
Nick Thomas: So many close fights on the card. You've outdone yourself Joe Silva. Koch by decision.
Leland Roling: I’m still a little pissed that this isn’t being streamed. Koch is a great up-and-comer out of Duke Roufus’ camp, and as most of you know -- I’m a homer for Roufusport. Assuncao is a tough opponent however, very underrated stand-up game and tough to shake on the ground. Unfortunately, Assuncao likes to trade, and Koch is someone you don’t want to trade with over three rounds. Erik Koch via decision.
Anton Tabuena: I think Assuncao is good enough to win the (slight) upset here. Assuncao by Decision.
Duane Finley: Koch is one of the reasons Duke Roufus’s camp is creating such a buzz and he has lived up to the hype thus far. Assuncao is a tough night’s work for anyone in the cage but I see Koch’s striking taking it’s toll over the course of the fight putting another notch in the win column for Koch. Erik Koch by decision.
Matt Bishop: Great fight for the UFC to pull together on such short notice. Koch by decision.
Nick Catone vs. Costantinos Philippou
Kid Nate: Philippou is coming in on less notice than I need for a lunch meeting. Catone by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Late notice is rough. Nick Catone by decision.
Mike Fagan: Matt Bishop wouldn’t even try to pronounce Costantinos Philippou’s name on the radio show. That about sums up my interest in this. Nick Catone by decision.
Nick Thomas: Catone is coming in with some ring rust, but as long as he doesn't get caught on the ground... It's Catone by decision.
Leland Roling: Catone will probably win, but I’m supporting my Scouting Report on Saturday night. Costa Philippou via decision.
Anton Tabuena: This will be tough for Philippou to pull off a victory as he will be making his UFC debut on extremely short notice. Nick Catone by Decision.
Duane Finley: Catone is coming off a 14 month layoff and with Philippou making his UFC debut it could be a case of ring rust vs. octagon jitters (if you believe in such things). BE’s own Leland Roling has Costa on the scouting report so I’m going with Philippou by decision.
Matt Bishop: Mike Fagan wouldn’t try to pronounce Philippou’s name, either. Catone by decision.