Matt Hughes (41 - 5) vs. Georges St. Pierre (14 - 2): WELTERWEIGHT (For Interim UFC Welterweight Championship)
Luke Thomas: Does anyone remember that Saturday Night Live sketch with Chris Farley where he made constant references to "living in a van down by the river?" Apparently Hughes has decided to train at the exact same place. Look folks, this is academic and I don't need to break this down with any sort of granular precision. GSP is training with world-class athletes in every facet of the game and before this training cycle even began was more talented than Hughes. I don't know that this fight will be the shellacking that their second fight was, but the outcome will ultimately be the same. GSP, TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: The only X factor here is whether or not GSP had enough time to train for this fight. That was Matt Hughes' bet -- that he'd catch his nemesis unprepared. I'm willing to bet that GSP's pre-fight hype is right and he'll be ready. If so, Hughes has very little chance. He can't hang with GSP standing and GSP has some of the best takedown defense in the game. GSP by TKO in 3.
Brent Brookhouse: I think Hughes will be able to do a little better than he did in the rematch but I can't pick against GSP here. Georges is a guy who stays in shape so I don't think the short notice will play into things that much, also this is the third time he has seen Hughes so he doesn't need to spend time reviewing tapes and trying to figure out the style matchup. Look for GSP to win by submission in the fourth round.
Michael Rome: I have a nagging feeling that Hughes will shock the world here, but there's no logical reason I can think of to pick against GSP. He's really better at just about everything than Hughes. I think the fight will be the same as last time. Hughes won't be able to take him down, and St. Pierre will pick him apart standing. St. Pierre via second round KO.
Jeff Comstock: I expect this to be a great fight between the two former champions. I'm not expecting a blowout or a quick finish. I do not however see this fight being decided by the judges. In the later rounds I predict that GSP will land a decisive blow and finish Hughes via KO/TKO, cementing his spot as the world's best welterweight.
Nick Thomas: George St. Pierre - by this.
Chuck Liddell (20 - 5) vs. Wanderlei Silva (31 - 7 - 1): LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Ultimately the style match-up favors Liddell. The Iceman can use his nimble in-ring positioning, long arms and heavy hands to extend punches into Wanderlei's range without absorbing reciprocal punishment. But I'm not convinced Wanderlei's going to get caught. Silva is training like a mad man (snorkel, anyone?) with all the focus and intensity this fight deserves while Liddell has seemingly gone back to the same old well. Liddell counters that no one criticized his training methods and partying habits when he was winning, so what's the difference now? The difference is that Liddell is losing, aging, and is in deep trouble of having those with the hunger for more pass him by with their pre-fight preparation. Provided Silva has a decent gameplan that involves lots of kicks to slow Liddell down, control his timing, and keep him at a distance, The Axe Murderer can assuredly win. And no, this fight will not be won in the clinch. Silva wants this fight more and will do more to earn it. Silva, TKO, round 2.
Kid Nate: This fight on the other hand is very hard to call. Like Luke said, Chuck's skill-set -- featuring sharp straight punches timed to target an incoming opponent -- should be just deadly to Wanderlei. On the other hand, if Wanderlei makes shrewd use of leg kicks and the clinch, he might have a formula to beat the Iceman. I'm going to have to go with Chuck here, he's always spoiled my fun and Wanderlei has always disappointed in the UFC. Liddell by KO in 2.
Brent Brookhouse: I can't help it, I have a soft spot for Wanderlei. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Silva comes in with a solid gameplan and works the clinch for the first round before eventually catching Chuck with a knee to the chin that ends The Iceman's night.
Michael Rome: I think this fight will be the end for Chuck, sadly. His strategy of sitting back and waiting for the right hand to land is not enough anymore. Like a great hitter in a slump, the right hand was just gone against Jardine, and unless he can find it early he's in huge trouble. I see this ending in the second round, KO for Silva.
Jeff Comstock: I've always imagined that Liddell's punching power and size would prove to be too much for Wanderlei. Silva's aggressive style plays into Chuck's strengths and unless he uses a game plan similar to what Jardine used to defeat Chuck, Wanderlei will walk into a big punch. Liddell via KO in round 2.
Nick Thomas: Wanderlei Silva - forcing Chuck to contemplate retirement after this fight.
Lyoto Machida (11 - 0) vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (4 - 1): LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Sokoudjou's fight against Glover Texeira proved that a heavy-handed striker who is willing to exchange with Sok can take the African Assassin out of his element. No one likes to get bullied, but not everyone responds to it poorly. Machida isn't a bully in the head-charge sense, but insofar as he frustrates opponents by avoiding damage, slowing down the fight, and nullifying his opponents' offense he is very much a bully. Despite a great 2007 for the native from Cameroon, he is going to come up short here. Think about this: Machida has never even lost a round in professional MMA. Saturday night will probably be no exception. Machida, Unanimous Decision.
Kid Nate: The question here is if Sokoudjou can overpower Machida. I don't think so. Machida should be able to stymie the African Assassin. Lyoto by unanimous decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Chalk me up as one of the "Machida isn't boring" guys. Lyoto will look to control the pace, slowing the action down and counterpunching his way to a decision win.
Michael Rome: Oh how I want Sokoudjou to win this. I don't know what's more annoying, watching a Machida fight or hearing people claim to like him. I'm going to pick Sokoudjou here because of his apparent hands of granite, but I would not be surprised at all by a UD win for Machida. I just think Team Quest will be able to come up with a strategy to deal with Machida's tactics.
Jeff Comstock: This is a hard fight to call as Sokoudjou is still a question mark in so many ways. I'm really hard pressed to make a pick here. I'll take a bit of a shot in the dark and say that Sokoudjou will land a big shot and drop Machida to continue his streak of surprising KO wins. Sokoudjou KO round 1.
Nick Thomas: Lyoto Machida - stops the soko train by UD
Rich Clementi (29 - 12 - 1) vs. Melvin Guillard (20 - 6 - 2): LIGHTWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: I tend to think Guillard can end this fight with a right hook across the chin a la Rick Davis. Clementi is a tough veteran, but Guillard has a lot of power to offer in both hands to match a lot of aggression. At +185 I don't know that I'd take the bet, but if you can find any odds where he is above 200, take it. As for what will actually happen, this fight could end up looking a lot like Clementi's fight against Johnson, particularly given Guillard carelessness. I'll go with the upset here and call Clementi by RNC, round 2.
Kid Nate: I've got to go with Guillard here. He's too much of an elite athlete for the journeyman Clementi. Although, if Melvin doesn't take the fight seriously or makes a sloppy mistake, Clementi will take advantage. The grudge fight element should make this a fun one. Guillard by TKO in the first.
Brent Brookhouse: Guillard is so explosive that he should be able to win fights like this on athleticism alone. It'll be a highlight reel KO in the first.
Michael Rome: Clementi is coming off a very entertaining win against Anthony Johnson at UFC 76. He looked like he was in a big trouble a bunch of times in that fight, but he weathered the storm and came away with a choke. He has to do the same thing here to win, but I don't see it happening. Guillard is a lot better than Johnson, and I think he's going to put Clementi away early in the first round.
Jeff Comstock: This fight certainly fits in with the "Nemesis" name for the show as these two have plenty of bad blood between them. Guilliard is the superior athlete, while Clementi has the better skill set. I was impressed with Clementi's last few performances and will give him the nod to beat Melvin via submission in round 2.
Nick Thomas: Melvin Guillard - by Clementi trying to bang and getting KO'd
Soa Palalei (8 - 1) vs. Eddie Sanchez (7 - 1): HEAVYWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Soa's move to Team Quest Temecula and drop in weight should be enough to sharpen the Australian's skills and improve both speed and stamina. Sanchez can always land the right hand a la Mario Neto, but Pelelei will push the action up front thereby keeping Sanchez on the defensive. Palelei, TKO, round 3.
Kid Nate: The New Zealander is just too big for Sanchez. Should be a sloppy brawl. Soa by KO in 1.
Brent Brookhouse: Soa will leave Sanchez with a great view of the Mandalay Bay's ceiling following a first round TKO.
Michael Rome: I really have no idea why this is a main card fight. I haven't seen a ton of either guy, but the little I've seen makes me lean toward Palelei. I think the UFC is trying to build him up, and is using Sanchez as a sacrificial lamb again.
Jeff Comstock: Soa Paleiei has been training with Team Quest for some time now and will enter the cage a much better fighter than when he was last seen fighting. Sanchez is a scrappy brawler who should make a fight of it but I like Palelei 2.0 for the win via dec.
Nick Thomas: Soa Palelei - by a nice debut TKO
Luis Cane (7 - 0) vs. James Irvin (12 - 4): LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Cane is the favorite here for a very good reason, but I wonder if his ultra-aggressive style will play directly into Irvin's strengths. As long as Cane doesn't bang on the feet too long and decides to submit Irvin, he should win all day. If he chooses to swing with The Sandman, it'll be lights out early. I'll give Cane the benefit of the doubt and say he wins by TKO from strikes, but on the floor with Irvin's back pinned to the mat in Round 2.
Kid Nate: Hard fight to call here. Irvin is playing the gatekeeper here. No idea if Cane is ready to step up to the majors or not. I'll take a chance here and pick Cane by submission in 2.
Brent Brookhouse: Much as Kid Nate said, a tough fight to call. Unlike Nate though, I'm thinking Irvin is maybe a bit too much of a step up. In the second round James will catch Cane with a flurry. Irvin by TKO in the 2nd.
Michael Rome: n/a
Jeff Comstock: This should be a fun fight between two KO artists. We all know that they can both strike but we also know that Irvin is hapless on the mat and that Cane comes to us from Brazil. I'm going to go out on a limb that he knows some jiu-jitsu and will be the superior fighter there. Luis Cane by ref stoppage in round 2.
Nick Thomas: Luis Cane - by TKO
Manny Gamburyan (5 - 2) vs. Nate Mohr (8 - 4): LIGHTWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Mohr is an excellent athlete and trains with the very respectable Team Curran, but that's not enough in and of itself to win at the UFC level. Gamburyan's gameplan isn't mystery to any of his opponents, so that's why he is forced to polish his skills in that regard as much as possible. Mohr will not be able to stop Gamburyan's takedown and will not be able to stop the submission. Gamburyan, by submission, round 1.
Kid Nate: This one is a no brainer. Gamburyan should have no problem taking Mohr down and pounding out a 3 round decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Ganburyan by submission to strikes round 1. Not much to this one.
Michael Rome: n/a
Jeff Comstock: Manny is a bulldog and should clamp down on Mohr and G&P his way to a victory. I'll guess a TKO in round 2.
Nick Thomas: Manny Gamburyan - by UD
Dean Lister (9 - 5) vs. Jordan Radev (11 - 2): MIDDLEWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: This is a set-up fight for Lister. Radev is by no means a chump, but when the UFC matches a wrestler with fairly rudimentary submission skills against a guard playing submission expert, the results are fairly predictable. Lister, by triangle choke, round 1.
Kid Nate: Radev seems too short for the UFC 185lb division but I don't think Lister has the wrestling skills to get top position on the Bulgarian Olympic wrestler. I also don't think much of either fighter's standup skills. Radev by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: Give me Lister by a bit of a lackluster decision here. Hopefully the loss will drive Radev to drop to 170.
Michael Rome: n/a
Jeff Comstock: Lister enjoys several advantages in this fight and has many more ways to win. Lister will be the bigger fighter, with the better reach and superior submission skills. Radaev is the harder puncher and has a superior wrestling pedigree. Radaev will be looking to keep this fight on the feet as Lister should be able to submit him if the fight hits the floor. Lister will look to employ his longer reach to keep Radaev at range until he can find a way to take Radaev to the mat. Even if he has to pull guard, Lister should get his chance to work from the mat and that will spell disaster for the Bulgarian. Lister via submission, round 3.
Nick Thomas: Dean Lister - by submission after the Radev takedown
Roan Carneiro (11 - 6) vs. Tony DeSouza (10 - 3): WELTERWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: The knock on DeSouza is his age and the chin problems that have plagued him from time to time. Carneiro, on the other hand, has lots of ability but can wilt under pressure. And while DeSouza is the gutsy veteran, Carneiro is the much better overall athlete. I don't know if Carneiro can submit DeSouza, but he can certainly over power and control him despite the Peruvian's wrestling acumen. In what will be a very close fight, I give the ever so slight edge to Carneiro. Jucao, Unanimous Decision.
Kid Nate: DeSouza has the better wrestling skills and definitely trains with a good BJJ camp -- he should be able to nullify Carneiro's submission skills. I'll go with DeSouza by decision.
Brent Brookhouse: DeSouza will grind out a decision victory by using takedowns and superior positioning.
Michael Rome: n/a
Jeff Comstock: A couple of great grapplers square off here. This could come down to who brings the more rounded game to the table. I'll pick Carneiro to win a close decision.
Nick Thomas: Roan Carneiro - by UD
Mark Bocek (4 - 1) vs. Doug Evans (5 - 1): LIGHTWEIGHT
Luke Thomas: Evans is an all-around tough customer, but Bocek is no slouch himself. Most notably, Bocek is actually a respectable wrester even if he was unable to demonstrate those skills against Frankie Edgar. Evans is a strong starter, but leaves his chin in the air during exchanges and can be overwhelmed in later rounds. I expect Bocek to work hard for the win, but I don't think Evans has anything in the tool kit that can contend with Bocek's ground pedigree. Bocek, by submission, round 2.
Kid Nate: I think Bocek has some punching power and that will force Evans to take the chance of taking the fight on the ground. That will prove a fatal mistake. Bocek by 1st round submission.
Brent Brookhouse: Evans is going to make this one a little closer than some might think. That won't stop Bocek from taking an arm for a 3rd round sub win.
Michael Rome: n/a
Jeff Comstock: Bocek had the unfortunate luck to draw Frank Edgar for his UFC debut. I look for Bocek to rebound from that loss and dominate Evans. I'm guessing a submission in the 2nd round.
Nick Thomas: Mark Bocek - by being Canadian.