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UFC 97: Redemption Predictions

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Ufc97_mediumUFC 97: APRIL 18, 2009
venue: Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada Staff Predictions

Main Card Bouts:

Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites

Luke Thomas: Question: was there a reason to pick to Chonan or Takase over Silva when they fought? No, there wasn't. And there isn't really one here. Even where Leites is stronger Silva is still very capable. However, Leites can absolutely win this fight. He is not only a nasty BJJ player, but he's extremely tolerant of punsihment. That's not enough for me to give him the nod, but if you don't think Leites can win you're positively dreaming. Overall, the rational pick is Silva, but I smell something fishy. Silva, TKO round 3.

Kid Nate: Leites has a very real chance to win this fight on the ground and should be able to get it there. Anderson is a slow starter and has always had trouble with dominating top games. But lets not get crazy, Silva has so many advantages standing and is formidable in his own right on the ground. Leites would really have to have the luckiest night of his life to win this fight, plus he tends to brawl on his feet and that is fatal against the Spider. Silva by KO.

Brent Brookhouse: In MMA anyone can win any fight.  That doesn't mean that you should pick the huge underdog though.  Especially in a fight where Leites' chances have been summed up by "lucky punch" or "get a takedown and submission."  I think you can look to the Marquardt or Kampmann fights to see that Leites isn't at the elite level and likely will just get beat up in this fight.  Also, the idea of failing in a takedown attempt means eating punishment on the inside afterward so that isn't an appealing strategy for Thales.  Silva by TKO, round 1.

Michael Rome:  Leites can win, but that's about all I can say for him.  It's just too obvious what he will try to do.  The right strategy would be to not even attack, make Anderson go on offense, frustrate him and take him down.  I don't think he'll do it, I think he'll get knocked out.  Silva via KO, round 1.

Mike Fagan: Leites' best win is a fight he lost to Nate Marquardt.  To beat Silva, he'll need to come out and show significant improvement or Silva to breakdown.  The UFC's down a good job building him up as a credible opponent, but that just isn't the case.  Silva by TKO, round 2.

Cannon Jacques:  Picking Leites in this bout would be a true case of stepping out on a limb, but I think that would be foolish.  Leites had far too much trouble with Marquardt in that crazy affair to give me confidence that he can do the job against one of the top fighters in all of MMA.  Silva should be able to do what he wants standing.  As long as he's able keep his back off the mat, he will make relatively quick work of the challenger.  I don't think Silva will fool around as he did in the Cote fight.  Silva by TKO, round 2.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Chuck Liddell

Luke Thomas: From what I'm able to tell, Rua plans on using speed and explosion to bait and attack Liddell. In other words, his team is trying to copy the Evans gameplan. But I have my doubts about it's ultimate value. Rua can be baited himself into exchanges and unfortunately for him, doesn't hit nearly as hard and has a shorter reach. Rua doesn't have the takedowns to make Liddell avoid sitting on his punches and will not be able to work close inside. Rua's only real prayer is that Liddell really has aged as much as some speculate and lost some of his ability or that Liddell takes Rua down and gets sloppy. Either of those possibilities is a long shot. Liddell by KO, round 2.

Kid Nate: On top of the stylistic edge in Chuck's favor, people are sleeping on the seriousness of back to back ACL replacement surgeries for Shogun. Not much more than a decade ago, blowing out an ACL was a career ending injury. I'm hoping against hope that Shogun can regain his top form but I just don't see anyway he wins this unless Chuck is utterly decrepit. Liddell by KO.

Brent Brookhouse:  Is Shogun wild?  Sure.  Has he looked bad in his first two fights in the UFC?  Sure.  But I'm sticking by the fact that declines like we're seeing from Chuck in sports are usually severe and if Shogun decided to really work the cardio and can committ to throwing combinations rather than going for single power punches he can win this fight.  If he gasses in the first round I wouldn't be shocked to see Chuck start working takedowns in round 2.  I'm taking Shogun, but with some reservations especially considering I think this fight goes to a decision 9 times out of 10.  Shogun by decision.

Michael Rome:  I think we are going to see much improved versions of both men, and I expect a good fight.  We haven't seen Liddell's takedown defense since his standing game deteriorated, it's not crazy to think that aspect of his game may by weaker too.  Still, I think Shogun is just too wild standing, and is going to get beat up.  I also think he will gas again.

Mike Fagan: It's hard to give Shogun a third chance with his cardio, but it's not fair to have expected him to be in 100% shape after a long layoff due to knee surgeries.  Peak shape or not, he's in for a rough ride with Liddell.  It's probably been overstated that Shogun's striking is overrated at this point, but his biggest strength is his top game and ground 'n' pound.  Liddell just happens to be elite at staying off his back.  Ruh roh.  Liddell by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  Shogun's efforts have been so lackluster as of late, it's difficult to pick him to pull off the upset against a former champion in Liddell who wants to make one last run at the light heavyweight title.  The attacking, but somewhat reckless, style of Shogun puts him in a lot of danger against a counter-puncher the caliber of Liddell.  Couple that with his cardio problems in recent matches, and  I see Liddell finishing the former Pride standout later in the match.  Liddell by TKO, round 3.

Luiz Cane vs. Steve Cantwell

Luke Thomas: Either man is capable of winning this fight, but Cane's durability and power win the day for me. Cantwell will tag him repeatedly and probably test his BJJ, but Cane will hang on until the very young Cantwell over commits. That's when Cane will turn it on. Cane by TKO, round 2.

Kid Nate: Cantwell is VERY young and should continue to improve rapidly. The problem is, Cane is already at contention level in the best division in the sport. Maybe next year kid, but not in 2009. Cane by KO.

Brent Brookhouse:  The first fight with Stann can get thrown out the window in my book, that Cantwell is gone.  He went for broke a bit too early in the rematch and did gas a little bit but Steve has very underrated technique both standing and on the ground.  Cane is also extremely good standing and packs a ton of power and a very solid chin.  Still, there are limits to the human body and no one is impossible to knock out.  This is almost a lock in my mind for fight of the night.  Cantwell via submission, round 2.

Michael Rome:  I'm going to go with the upset here.  Cane is very good, but he allows himself to get hit too much, and I think that will be a mistake against Cantwell.  Cantwell via TKO, round 2.

Mike Fagan: Even though he later avenged the loss, Brian Stann knocked out Cantwell and that's a scary thought when he gets puts up against someone who hits as hard as Cane.  I think Cantwell puts up a good fight, but ultimately falls.  Cane by TKO round.

Cannon Jacques:  Cantwell can win this if he can get it to the ground.  I don't see him knocking Cane out, but I can see him getting knocked out if the fight stays standing for any length of time.  Cane's power in the striking game is just too devastating to ignore.  Cane by TKO, round 1.

Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk

Luke Thomas: Kongo's gameplanning often gets in the way of him winning. It's not an outside possibility that Kongo decides against standing and looks to GNP Hardonk. In fact, I find that more likely than the two working the outside where both will suffer some internecine battle that could end either's night. Instead, I look for Kongo to work top position over Hardonk even with Hardonk's much improved guard. Kongo by decision.

Kid Nate:I'm feeling Hardonk for some reason. He really has been improving on the ground and I think he can hang with Kongo on the feet. On the other hand, reviewing Kongo's fights I think he's bigger, faster, stronger and offers a more diverse set of threats than Hardonk. I'll give Hardonk the edge at range due to his leg kicks, but Kongo should own the clinch. Could go either way but I expect it to end with a KO. Going to go with my gut over my brain here. Hardonk by KO.

Brent Brookhouse:  I don't want to sound like I'm bashing the guy, but a Hardonk win would suck for the UFC.  Kongo fits nicely into the King Kong Bundy role of "title challenger with an impressive physique" (albeit a different kind of physique from Bundy) while not posing any true threat to the champ.  A win here and maybe one more sets him up as a nice "stay busy" challenger for the winner of Lesnar/Mir.  Hardonk just doesn't have that same type of value, which is not to say that he isn't good.  I think Cheick is a bit better and has a more well rounded game and that should carry him.  Kongo by decision.

Michael Rome:  If it stays standing this is basically a toss up, but Kongo is really improving a lot lately.  I think he will use some of his new skills to win a decision.  If it stays standing it's close, but I think Kongo can successfully take Hardonk down and win.  Can't hold Marerro against him forever.  Kongo via decision.

Mike Fagan: People are going to give Hardonk guff for losing to Justin McCully even though McCully isn't as bad a fighter as his reputation warrants.  Hardonk, as a result, will probably always been underrated a bit.  Kongo's a mixed bag himself.  I had him winning the Herring fight live at the arena (I also had a bet on Herring), but he looked terrible and fought an awful gameplan.  His cardio seems to have improved and he looks to have evolved a bit since he came into the UFC, though.  Kongo by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  This one is kind of tough to call.  Kongo's performances are so uneven, and Hardonk just can't seem to get it done against any of the better UFC fighters.  Hardonk could easily pull this off if he can land some punches and/or leg kicks.  Kongo's also an exceptional striker, but I think his wrestling ability and clinch work will be the difference in this fight.  Kongo by decision.

Brian Stann vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Luke Thomas: Soszynski is the more polished striker, but Stann is the more explosive of the two. And even then, Soszynski has doesn't have the same defensive skills Cantwell did that allowed him to pick his shots. Soszynski might tag Stann, but eventually Stann's going to put one of Soszynski's chin he never sees coming. Speed kills, friends. Stann by TKO, round 1.

Kid Nate: What an ugly fight. Stann has power but little technique on the feet and no technique that I've seen on the ground. Soszynski ought to register "jack of all trades, master of none" as a trademark. Still Soszynski's shallow simulation of well-roundedness should be enough to get this win. Soszynski by decision.

Brent Brookhouse: Soszynski is not only a bit overrated lately, he is extremely overrated.  He is a nice guy but in truth was a mid-tier fighter in the IFL and how that has translated into the idea that he can hang long term in the UFC I have no clue.  Stann isn't exactly a world beater with his poor technique but he does have one punch power and that can benefit him against Krzysztof's game.  This is one of the worst technical match-ups of the year but should still be a fun watch.  Stann by KO, round 1.

Michael Rome:  Well, this is obviously on the show because of Stann's marines background, I don't really think much of the fight.  Hard to say, I think Soszynski is a bit overrated lately, and I think Stann will catch him.  Stann is very tough, he can take a lot of punishment, and I think his power wins out.  Stann via KO, round 1.

Mike Fagan: I have no clue why this deserves a PPV spot over Quarry/MacDonald, but whatever.  Both guys are known for their hands and limited ground game.  Soszysnski should still be better on the floor through sheer experience, and he just needs to avoid getting KO'd to win.  Soszynski by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  Soszynski is simply not as good as the TUF hype made him out to be.  Don't get me wrong; he'a solid fighter.  The problems he'll face with Stann are the former WEC champ's power and ability to absorb solid blows and continue seemingly unaffected.  Neither looks to have a definitive advantage on the mat.  This could turn out to be a decent scrap.  I give the advantage to Stann.  Stann by TKO, round 3.

Preliminary Bouts:

Nathan Quarry vs. Jason MacDonald

Luke Thomas: I could see MacDonald having a terrible gameplan and getting worked over by the hard hitting Quarry. I also think people seem to believe MacDonald has better takedowns than he actually does. And if forced to trade with Quarry, it's going to be a short night. I'll give the nod to MacDonald, but I see this fight being a lot closer than others.

Kid Nate: MacDonald should be able to get the takedown and finish Quarry on the ground. If Jason plays dumb and tries to brawl with Quarry he could lose, but MacDonald beats the TUF guys. MacDonald by submission.

Brent Brookhouse: I think if there were more of a sure thing that this fight finishes without going to a decision we'd see it on the broadcast, I think that enough fights will end quickly on the main card that we'll see it anyway.  Quarry has gotten visibly older in a very short amount of time and that doesn't bode well against an athlete like MacDonald. MacDonald by submission, round 2.

Michael Rome:  Super close fight, and also one that means virtually nothing.  I think Macdonald submits him, round 2.

Mike Fagan: Quarry's old, stiff, slow, lumbering.  MacDonald's at the tail end of his peak athletic ability and is has advantages all over the Octagon.  MacDonald by submission, round 2.

Cannon Jacques:  Will MacDonald submit Quarry, or will Quarry put a pounding on MacDonald?  I'll assume that "none of the above" is not an option.  I was leaning toward Quarry, but I think MacDonald can eventually get it to the mat.  MacDonald via submission, round 3.

Denis Kang vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokum

Luke Thomas: Kang went into the Belcher fight with a recently broken ankle that affected his training camp and the fight itself. Provided he has few distractions and not too many injuries, I don't see Prof. X stopping Kang's very underrated wrestling and BJJ. Yes, Kang has flaked on everyone in the past, but he's no Roan Carneiro. Kang by submission, round 1.

Kid Nate: Kang really really ought to be able to get a takedown and a submission in short order here against the one dimensional Foupa-Pokum. Don't bet on it though, the guy's been carrying around a heavy case of bad mojo for a while now. Still Kang is the only reasonable prediction. Kang by submission.

Brent Brookhouse:  I almost want to pick XFP to give Kang some good mojo since he only seems to win when I abandon all hope and pick against him.  Still, I'd like to make some correct picks for once and this SHOULD be a safe fight.  Kang by submission, round 1.

Michael Rome:  This should be an easy fight for Kang.  There's a lot of pressure, I hope he comes through.  Kang via submission, round 1.

Mike Fagan: Denis Kang better not falter again because he's going to find himself unemployed.  This is a fight he should win.  Kang by TKO, round 1.

Cannon Jacques:  This is Kang's fight to win or lose.  He's had trouble staying out of submissions, but I don't think Foupa-Pokum is a big threat in that regard.  Kang by submission, round 2.

David Loiseau vs. Ed Herman

Luke Thomas: A very tough fight to call. I still don't believe Loiseau is the same fighter after the beating he took from Franklin. He lost edge, spark and aggression. Couple that with what should be a relatively easy gameplan to follow for Herman of takedown and GNP and I see no reason other than to pick Herman by decision.

Kid Nate: I expect Herman to get an early takedown and do some damage with elbows. But I also expect him to slip up and let Loiseau back to his feet. The Crow will then bust him up. The Canadian crowd should give him the edge. Loiseau by TKO.

Brent Brookhouse:  This is a really tough fight to pick.  Loiseau has a lot of experience and very good striking, but his "comeback" smacks of can crushing.  Herman has a better all-around game but I think he is suseptable to what Loiseau does best.  I'm going to take the sentimental pick.  Loiseau by TKO, round 2.

Michael Rome:  I may regret this, but I think that seeing as this is Loiseau's last chance, he is going to come out aggressive and overwhelm Herman.  Loiseau via TKO, round 2.

Mike Fagan: Loiseau "resurrected" his career with three wins against garbage fighters outside of the UFC.  Herman hasn't lit the world on fire either, but I think he's well rounded enough to take this down.  Herman by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  Really, both of these guys have a ton at stake in this match.  Loiseau is getting his second, and possibly last, chance to make a run in the UFC.  Herman has dropped two in a row and hasn't lived up to the expectations of some.  A loss by either could mean fighting in smaller shows.  Loiseau is a devastating striker, but Herman possesses a wider array of skills.  Herman by decision.

T.J. Grant vs. Ryo Chonan

Luke Thomas: I just don't know what to expect from Chonan anymore. He seems to be fighting on autopilot: content with counterfighting on the feet and on the ground with no real direction or aim. Grant could succumb to UFC jitters (particularly in such a large arena), but he should be able to win the takedown battle and that should be enough. I like Grant in the upset. Grant by split decision.

Kid Nate: Chonan seems to have lost several steps in the move down from middleweight and maybe his heart just isn't in the UFC. Who can blame him? He was a featured fighter in PRIDE and now he's strictly grinding out his contract in the UFC. Nevertheless, I don't think Grant is quite big-league ready and Chonan should be able to defend the takedowns and submission attempts. Chonan by decision.

Brent Brookhouse:  This Chonan isn't the Chonan that once was a real threat to a lot of guys.  Grant has a lot going for him and even against the competition he has faced a high finishing rate is a good success indicator coming in to the UFC.  Chonan isn't going to quit, but unless he has the "spark" back he is going to have trouble dealing with Grant for a full 3 rounds.  Grant by decision.

Michael Rome:  I witnessed Chonan's loss to Brad Blackburn live, and it really left me with 2 thoughts:  First, he still has a lot of heart, but second, the fire just isn't there for Chonan any more.  He looks slow and plodding, and time is not on his side.  TJ Grant is very powerful and has nice submission skills, I see him taking a decision.

Mike Fagan: Picking Japanese fighters in the UFC seems like a crapshoot these days, but I think Chonan has too much high-level experience.  Chonan by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  Grant has a really nice looking record (13-2) with twelve submission victories to his credit.  The only problem is that he hasn't fought the top guys as Chonan has.  I see that as the difference in this fight.  Chonan by decision.

Mark Bocek vs. David Bielkheden

Luke Thomas: Simply stated, Bielkheden doesn't have the wrestling to keep pace. Yes, he trained with the Swedish national wrestling team for Bocek, but Bocek has more than passable takedowns and on top has nasty top control. He also has the balance, cardio and BJJ transitional experience to keep the BTT rep from launching anything offensive. It won't be pretty, but this is Bocek's fight to lose. Bocek by decision.

Kid Nate: Both guys can grapple but Bocek has a huge edge in wrestling and positional dominance. I expect him to establish top control and grind out a win. Bielkheden has skills on the ground but not enough to tap out Bocek. Bocek by decision.

Brent Brookhouse: Bielkheden doesn't quite have the same kind of game that Danzig features which is what threw Bocek off his game so badly.  I'm picking the better fighter to win here.  Bocek by submission, round 2.

Michael Rome:  Bocek via decision.

Mike Fagan: If picking Japanese fighters is like walking through a minefield, picking against European fighters is like setting the mines.  Bocek by decision.

Cannon Jacques:  I've been impressed with Bocek as of late.  Bielkheden has some solid experience, but I don't think he can hang with the ever-improving Canadian.  Bocek by submission, round 3.

Matt Wiman vs. Sam Stout

Luke Thomas: Stout's might be able to peel Spencer Fisher off of his hips, but that shouldn't fly against Wiman. The gameplan here is no secret for Wiman: takedown, pass guard, and either pound him out or wait until he squirms and hit the submission. Wiman by decision.

Kid Nate: This is a tough one, Wiman is quite well rounded and dangerous at 155. Stout is almost entirely one dimensional, but what a dimension. He's one of the best technical strikers in the division. It all comes down to whether or not Wiman tries to bang with Stout or if he's smart enough and capable enough to get the fight to the ground. Its essentially a coin toss, but I think Wiman has the ability to finish it on the ground and Stout is strictly a win by decision kind of guy. Wiman by TKO (ground and pound).

Brent Brookhouse:  Usually after these predictions someone e-mails me to complain that I pick strikers too much, which is true.  I go with strikers because I have a fondness for striking...but only technical striking.  Stout is a very technical striker and if Wiman fights a stupid fight he'll get knocked out.  I still think Wiman is smart enough to know he can't win standing and work to get the fight to the ground.  If he can do it he'll finish the fight.  Wiman by submission, round 2.

Michael Rome:  I would have picked Stout about 8 months ago, I don't know now though.  He hasn't looked good in his last 2 fights, and Wiman is on a roll.  He is definitely wild and scrappy, but I'm taking Wiman by decision.

Mike Fagan: Wiman's too wild for my liking.  Stout's very well rounded, and I expect him to light Wiman up standing.  Stout by TKO, round 3.

Cannon Jacques:  Wiman is a solid fighter at 155.  Stout could do some damage on the feet, but I see Wiman holding his own standing and taking it to the ground as soon as possible.  Wiman by submission, round 3.


Eliot Marshall vs. Vinny Magalhaes

Luke Thomas: If I felt Marshall was more of an offensive threat standing I'd give him the nod to outlast Magalhaes. For sure, Magalhaes is fragile enough to crumble even to Marshall's reach and jab-cross combos, but I have a hunch Magalhaes will find a way to get this to the floor. From there, it won't matter that Marshall has been training with T's KO and High Altitude MMA. Magalhaes by submission round 1.

Kid Nate: Marshall almost certainly has the striking edge, but has relied on his ground game for most of his wins and will be barking up the wrong tree if he tries to submit Vinny. Magalhaes by submission.

Brent Brookhouse:  Vinny has shown that he just wants the fight on the ground.  Pulling guard, doing whatever he has to to make it happen.  When he tries to stand he usually pays for it.  Still, I don't think he can play the bottom game with Eliot and reliably have success.  I actually think Marshall can take this one, his stand-up is really good and as long as he doesn't end up trying to play off his back I don't think he'll get subbed.  Marshall by playing it safe and winning the decision.

Michael Rome:  Magalhaes by submission, round 1.

Mike Fagan: Magalhaes, as long as he doesn't get punched in the face.  Magalhaes by submission, round 1.

Cannon Jacques:  Both are excellent on the ground, but Magalhaes is probably on another level in that respect.  Magalhaes' striking game is shoddy.  Marshall could take this one if he can keep it standing long enough.  However, I think Magalhaes can get it to the mat and work his jiu-jitsu before he absorbs too many punches.  Magalhaes by submission, round 2.