BloodyElbow.com Staff Predictions For UFC 82: Pride Of A Champion
Anderson Silva (20 - 4) vs. Dan Henderson (22 - 6)
Luke Thomas: A lot of people are suggesting that Henderson's wrestling is going to be the deciding factor here, but it's not. It's certainly of benefit to Henderson, but to boil this match-up down to a style contrast seems very simplistic and clumsy. In my mind, the overriding factor is the game plan, fighting style and attitude of Henderson. Without hesitation, he is going to attack Silva in every aspect of the game. He will come forward without fear or concern for pain and absolutely charge the UFC champion. Folks, that is the only way you can beat Silva. You have to disrupt his rhythm. You have to keep him guessing. You have to put him on the defensive. While I have questions about how Dan can finish the fight, the beauty of a grinder's style like Henderson's is that the style forces opponents to make mistakes and create openings. I'm not exactly sure how Henderson is going to do it, but do it he will. Henderson, TKO, round 5.Brent Brookhouse: This has been one of the most difficult fights in recent memory for me to call. I have switched back and forth a few times but I think I'm finally settling on Silva here. Henderson seems to want to stand more and more lately and I don't know that his strength is going to be there at 185, at least not the same strength that allowed him to put on a good effort against a big LHW like Rampage. Silva is figuring out that the cage allows him to close distance to clinch almost at will and he is also very good at establishing range when he doesn't want to be in close. I also don't feel like most people in that Dan will be able to push Anderson around in the clinch. Dan will have his moments, but in the end I think Silva is good enough to survive the two times I figure this hits the floor and pull off a hard fought decision win.
Kid Nate: Very tough to call. Silva has been a world beater in the UFC, he's been at the top of his game, winning impressively with distance striking (Leben), clinch striking (Franklin x2), jiu jitsu off his back (Lutter) and wrestling (Marquardt). Henderson theoretically brings the exact skill set needed to beat Silva: punching power, an iron chin, and great clinch work. BUT Henderson is also somewhat sluggish at 185 AND he tends to fight sloppy -- for one of the best wrestlers ever in MMA, he ends up on his back more often than you might expect. This could obviously go either way, and I am a big fan of both fighters so....coin toss -- I'm going to go with Henderson by TKO in the 3rd. If only because that creates more exciting match ups down the road and Dan deserves to shine for the American fans who have no idea that he's a Hall of Famer.
Michael Rome: Such a tough fight to pick, but I'm going with Dan. I just think he is very good at avoiding the big blows, and I think he'll give Silva fits up close. Hendersion via TKO, fourth round.Nick Thomas: What a dream match at 185. Another classic wrestler vs. striker fight except this striker is a BJJ black belt and has never been knocked out. Who's chin will crumble first... I'm thinking Henderson's. It's time to call in Matt Lindland because I got Silva by continuing to clean out the 185 division.
Heath Herring (27 - 13) vs. Cheick Kongo (11 - 3 - 1)
Luke Thomas: Again, in my mind it seems clumsy to look at this fight and say Herring's going to win because he's possessive of a better ground game. So what? When have we EVER seen Herring have the singlemindedness to stick to such a restrictive game plan? Never. And Herring cut his teeth in Japan. At heart he is a showman. He doesn't want to win a fight by laying on Kongo for three rounds. And while he's got decent GNP, Kongo's defensive skills are nothing to sneeze at off of his back. Herring will be baited into striking with Kongo and that will be his undoing. Kongo by decision.Brent Brookhouse: I've said it plenty of times on this site. Herring is a bad matchup for Kongo. Kongo has practically no ground game and pretty weak wrestling whereas Herring has good enough striking to survive in Kongo's home. Heath should be able to put Cheick on the ground and pound on him for three rounds. I'm taking Heath by decision here. Honestly the UFC probably would have made a better business decision putting Kongo on the shelf and putting him in against Nogueira while his stock is high. Otherwise we're going to have Kongo going through the same "beat a striker, lose to a decent wrestler, repeat" formula. If Herring wins (as I am pretty confident he will) what do you do? Is Herring now in line to fight Nogueira AGAIN? It'd be Werdum and then...MAYBE Cro Cop...then Heath. There is no sense in the matchup really. But I'm glad that the UFC is sticking by Herring. Herring by decision.
Kid Nate: Much easier call to make. Heath looked to be in really good shape on the preview show. I don't think Kongo's takedown defense has improved that much and Herring can work a beat down. Herring by GnP in 2.
Michael Rome: Bad match up for Kongo. Of course, we haven't seen if his takedown defense has improved in a year since the Assuerio Silva fight, but I'm guessing it's not good enough to prevent Herring from taking him down and beating the crap out of him. Herring via decision.Nick Thomas: I have a feeling Herring is going to try to stand and bang, which means Kongo by TKO. Or Herring tries for the takedown, but I'm sure Juanito has drilled Kongo with 5 months of spawl training, which brings us to the same result. Kongo by TKO.
Alessio Sakara (12 - 6) vs. Chris Leben (17 - 4)
Luke Thomas: I'd like to think Sakara has more to offer to offer at 185lbs than 205 lbs, but I'm not really convinced. His boxing record is a bit of sham considering all 7 of his wins come against opponents with no wins. And while the last time Leben ran his mouth so freely he wound up paying for it dearly, I think his heavy hands, conditioning and very respectable chin (not to mention very underrated ground game) will be the deciding factor against a Sakara who just cannot get it done at this level. Leben, TKO, round 2.Brent Brookhouse: Sakara plays into Leben's strength too much. Plus I'm done picking Sakara...he's screwed me over a few too many times. And you know...the whole looking really bad most of the time thing.Chris Leben by TKO round 2.
Kid Nate: How lame that this fight is on the main card. Sakara is way past his sell-by date and I'm no fan of Leben's either. I guess I'll go with Leben by TKO.
Michael Rome: Back to the losing side for Sakara. No weight cut can change the fact that he's not really a high level fighter. I wasn't particularly impressed with the UK win. Leben via KO, second round.Nick Thomas: Leben + solid game plan + eye of the tiger like he had against Terry Martin = Leben by whatever, let's say submission.
Yushin Okami (20 - 4) vs. Evan Tanner (32 - 6)
Luke Thomas: While I ordinarily say we should never bet on unknowns, I'm going to ignore that advice this time. A lot of questions will be answered about Tanner's abilities come Saturday, but I've got a hunch he might be back to top form. The fact of the matter is that Tanner has more ways to win: he can kick box on the feet, submit Okami off of his back and work vicious elbows from top control. Okami, by contrast, has to be on top. Tanner has faced much better opposition, a wide array of different styles and appears to have mentally righted himself in the course of training with Josh Burkman (a strong wrestler) in Salt Lake City. I expect to see him in close to top form. Tanner, by TKO, round 2.Brent Brookhouse: I am really close to picking Tanner here. I think it is entirely possible that his elbows are the difference here and could lead to a cut stoppage against a guy in Okami who has, almost exclusively, fought guys who play to his strengths over his time in the UFC. As a matter of fact...I'm going to trust my guy and take Tanner by TKO round 2.
Kid Nate: Here's another very hard call. The old Tanner would seem to present a good matchup against Okami BUT he always struggled against bigger fighters. I don't see him getting a triangle on Yushin, nor do I see him getting on top to work his elbows. And Okami is pretty tall for Tanner's standing clinch game. As much as I love Tanner (we're from the same part of the country and I've seen him fight live several times), I'm going to have to go with Okami by UD. Hopefully that will set up the Tanner vs Jeremy Horn fight we've been waiting a decade to see and Okami will get a title shot.
Michael Rome: Again it's a battle of my heart and my brain. Okami taking this via decision is definitely the most likely outcome, but I'd love to see Tanner bust out a triangle and take this. I'm an optimist, so I'm going to pick with my heart. Tanner via submission, round 3.Nick Thomas: Okami wins my man crush pick of the night. I hate not picking Tanner but I think Okami can grind out the win here. Okami by decision.
Chris Wilson (13 - 3) vs. Jon Fitch (15 - 2)
Luke Thomas: I'll keep this brief: Wilson's only way to win this fight is on the feet. Matt Lindland has gone on the record and said Wilson is one of the best strikers in all of MMA and I'm actually inclined to believe him. But his preparation for this fight has been less than optimal and the completeness of Fitch's game is simply going to be overwhelming. Besides that, "Crazy" Bob Cook always has excellent on the spot changes to game plans, so even if Fitch gets in trouble early - he is a bit of a slow starter - he has the tools necessary to find a way out of hole mid-fight. Fitch, by submission, round 2.Brent Brookhouse: I don't mean to sound like I'm discounting Chris Wilson because the dude can bang with some serious power in his hands...but outside of Fitch making a mistake and leaving his chin hanging out to get hit I think it's Jon all day. Wilson is a tough guy and I like to think he can take 3 rounds of punishment...but Fitch wins by UD.
Kid Nate: The Octagon experience and Fitch's all-round game should be too much for the powerful Wilson. Too bad it won't be Karo in there getting beat down by Fitch. While I'm betting on Wilson because the odds are just so jacked in Fitch's favor, I've got to pick Fitch by UD.
Michael Rome: Wilson is talented, but has little more than a puncher's chance here. Fitch is going to dominate him, hopefully putting Fitch into title contention. Fitch via submission, round 1.Nick Thomas: Wilson is no pushover but Fitch is a monster and I'm expecting win #8 from him which ties himself with Royce Gracie's record for the most consecutive wins in the UFC. Fitch by TKO and one step closer to a title shot.
Jake O'Brien (10 - 0) vs. Andrei Arlovski (11 - 5)
Luke Thomas: I can see this being a disaster for the UFC and Arlovski. O'Brien is perfectly willing to lay on Arlovski long enough to stall a decision. He is one of the few fighters whose style I find very dubious. And I fully expect him to try to take down the Belorussian once he tastes the power of Arlovski's thunderous punches. The question is, will he be able to do it for the duration of the entire fight? I'm betting no. Herring rocked O'Brien, but was unable to either hurt him enough or keep him in a position once he was hurt to inflict more damage. Arlovski's sprawl is good, his power is better than Herring's and while Vladimir Matyushenko isn't nearly as big as O'Brien, his limited offensive weapons caused him to overcommit. I see the same happening to O'Brien . Arlovski, by TKO, round 3.Brent Brookhouse: Arlovski is going to win here as long as he fights like a guy who has confidence in his skills. The problem is that every now and then you get the Arlovski that isn't willing to put it all out there, and that is the guy that O'Brien can beat. If Jake wins it probably won't be flashy...but it is a possibility. Just not one that I'm willing to stake my reputation on, Arlovski by disapointingly dull decision. And look for him to re-sign with the UFC by mid-March. As I said earlier, there just aren't enough options left for the heavyweight division for Arlovski to be let go. Arlovski by decision.
Kid Nate: As much as O'Brien always presents the danger of a decision by LnP, I think Andrei has too much riding on this fight not to let his hands go. Arlovski by KO.
Michael Rome: I suspect it is possible that O'brien will ride out a 3 round boring wrestling win, but I don't see it happening. I expect to see a pumped up and rejuvenated Arlovski here, and I think he'll finish it early. Arlovski via KO, round 1.Nick Thomas: O'Brien is undefeated but I can't see him laying and praying for 3 rounds on top of Arlovski. Plus it's been a long year for Arlovski and I'm sure he's ready to put the beating on O'Brien. Arlovski by highlight TKO.
Luigi Fioravanti (11 - 3) vs. Luke Cummo (6 - 4)
Luke Thomas: Stylistically, you have to think Cummo has a decent chance here. He's got very underrated striking, he's lanky and also has very underrated power. But he also hasn't defeated quality opponents in my mind. Fioravanti has a smaller frame, but overall has wins on his record against a much tougher, more well-rounded set of opponents. Somehow, I think this is going to go Fioravanti's way. Fioravanti by decision.Brent Brookhouse: I figure that Dana sees Fioravanti as a bit of a gatekeeper for the TUF guys to deal with from here on. He's a guy that can get muscled around...but Cummo isn't exactly a guy that relys on powering people around. I'm going to go with the slightly more battle-tested guy here and take Fioravanti by TKO in the third.
Kid Nate: I'm surprised to see Fioravanti hanging on in the UFC. I expect Cummo to win by TKO but submission is a possibility.
Michael Rome: A tough fight to pick between two guys that have proven unable to beat high end competition. I'm going to pick Cummo to continue his winning streak here, but wouldn't be surprised if things went the other way..Nick Thomas:Upset #1. I think Fiorovanti will be able to end this fight standing or with some ground and pound hammer fists. Fioravanti by TKO.
Dustin Hazelett (10 - 3) vs. Josh Koscheck (9 - 2)
Luke Thomas: From what I've been reading, I think people are really underrating Koscheck's ground game. We already know about his wrestling, so add to that a purple belt under Dave Camarillio and you've got a formidable grappler. While I've stated Koscheck is a better wrestler than grappler, I think he'll be ok here. He claims to have not watched tape on Hazelett, but I'm betting "Crazy" Bob Cook has and well equip Koscheck with the right game plan. And while Hazelett is certainly a threat off of his back (particularly given his use of a high guard on his lanky frame), Koscheck will also be hellish with GNP. Koscheck really needs to watch his posture here, but I think he'll pull through. And have we really forgotten about the potent right hand of the wrestling standout? I know Jonathon Goulet hasn't. Koscheck by decision.Brent Brookhouse: As I said last week the only real question I see here is did getting beat so badly at his own game (wrestling) by a guy whose biggest strength isn't even in that area shake Josh's confidence in himself. The way I see it this is where being a cocky bastard can serve Koscheck well, he's going to come in and do what he does...use a few straight punches to set up a takedown, GnP assault. Koscheck by TKO in the second..
Kid Nate: Hazelett is another bet I'm placing. He's very tall for the division, hits hard and works very well off his back -- a bad match up for Kos. In fact, despite my initial intention to pick Kos, I'm going to go with Hazelett by submission here. I don't think Kos fights smart enough to win this one.
Michael Rome: I think Koscheck will go back to his wrestling roots and pound out a decision, but with these odds Hazelett is a good underdog bet. Koscheck via decision.Nick Thomas: Koscheck is just too strong for Hazelett. With a little bit of sub defense, Koscheck wins by decision.
David Bielkheden (12 - 5) vs. Diego Sanchez (17 - 2)
Luke Thomas: Please. This one isn't going to be the world's biggest blowout, but I have no doubts about the outcome. Bielkheden has great submissions and hands AND is aggressive. The problem is that aggressive opponents are watch drives Sanchez to fire back. So charge into him all you want. It will only makes things worse. Sanchez also has significantly better cardio and wrestling than Bielkheden, something that worked against the Swede in his loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida. Sanchez, by TKO, round 2.Brent Brookhouse: Biekheden is a durable, well rounded guy but the UFC wants Sanchez back on the winning side which is why David is here. David isn't ready for this step up in competition. Sanchez will get the win by submission in the first round..
Kid Nate: Sanchez should roll. Bielkheden has good BJJ but he's small for the UFC welterweights and Diego is a tough first fight. Sanchez by TKO.
Michael Rome: Bielkheden is taking a massive step up in competition, and he's not ready for it. Diego will mow through him in one round. Diego via TKO, round 1.Nick Thomas: The UFC has given a gift to Sanchez with Bielkheden. Sanchez by complete domination.
John Halverson (16 - 5) vs. Jorge Gurgel (11 - 3)
Luke Thomas: It's tempting to write off Gurgel. For all the talk of his vaunted submission game, he seems to be able to beat the UFC equivalent of subprime mortgage borrowers. That is, the ones who just barely make it and eventually default on their loan from Joe Silva. In my view, Halverson is that type. He's got decent hands, but that's about it. Gurgel could disappoint here and will be tempted to slug it out as Herring will against Kongo, but Halverson's submission game is just too weak for me to trust. Gurgel, by submission, round 2. Brent Brookhouse: Halverson is being brought back into the UFC to get out-grappled by Gurgel. But, I actually like him in this fight. He can bang a little bit better than Jorge and his game is also more "mma-adjusted" than Gurgel's. Halverson will be smart...smart enough to just work his wrestling and not get caught in a submission. See Gurgel vs. Robinson for how I think this fight goes. Halverson by decision.
Kid Nate: Another tough one. As much as picking against Gurgel has worked for me, Halverson is a fairly unknown quantity. I guess I'll stick with the one who brung me and pick Halverson by UD.
Michael Rome: Gurgel looked absolutely awful last time we saw him, and it's really hard to pick him in anything. Halverson is clearly the better standing fighter, and I think he will take this and put Gurgel out of the UFC.Nick Thomas: I'm hoping we'll finally get to see Gurgel's finish with some ground game, even if it took 5 UFC fights to come out. I'm picking Gurgel by home town submission.