UFC 69: Shootout Preview

UFC 69 is this Saturday in my former stomping grounds of Houston, TX. Who’s on the card? Glad you asked:

UFC Welterweight Title: (C)Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (Montreal, QC, 13-1) vs. Matt “The Terror” Serra (Long Island, NY, 8-4)
I think most of us are giving this fight to “Jay-Uss-Pey” (that’s how you pronounce “GSP” in French), but I don’t think you can underestimate Serra. He’s one of the first Americans to get a BJJ black belt from the Gracies, and as we saw during TUF4, Serra has got some pretty good wrestling takedowns as well. We also know that his conditioning is top notch, he’s willing to grind out a victory, and that Serra will make weight. The problem, of course, is the pressure that GSP puts on an opponent. “Rush” is probably not going to let Serra control him like BJ Penn did in the early stages of their fight – he needs to dictate the pace. But if Serra can slow things down, he may be able to grind his way to a decision victory.

Now like I said, it’s likely that GSP won’t want to be controlled by Serra, so he’ll concentrate on keeping the fight standing up, where his boxing and karate will come into play. Not to mention height, reach and weight advantage. But if the fight goes to the ground, all that is neutralized. So look for GSP to use his speed, and to draw Serra into his world. And also, look for him to work in a Superman punch and a spinning back kick.

Prediction: St. Pierre, TKO, R2

Lightweights: Roger “El Matador” Huerta (Minneapolis, MN, 16-1-1) vs. Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia (Plainview, TX, 9-1)
Huerta’s obviously a fighter that the UFC is high on, and I don’t think a loss will hurt him any. Garcia has only one loss, but has also only fought once since 2003, and will be fighting for the first time in a year in Houston. He was supposed to take Spencer Fisher’s flying knee last year instead of Matt Wiman, but he broke his fibula and will make his debut on Saturday. A good showing could earn Garcia a WEC contract, at the very least.

Prediction: Huerta, TKO, R1

Welterweights: Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez (Albuquerque, NM, 17-0) vs. Josh “Kos” Koscheck (Fresno, CA, 8-1)
No doubt you’ve heard about the feud these two have had. There’s definitely no love lost between the two fighters and I’m sure that they’re ready to go after each other in a rematch of the TUF semifinals.

Sanchez is a relentless machine who wears an opponent down by keeping constant pressure on him. But three of his last four victories have come via decision, and the win over Joe Riggs might almost be considered an anamoly, especially since it was just barely legal. So the question of whether Diego can finish an opponent has yet to be definitively answered, and training with Oscar de la Hoya is meant to address that. But perhaps he doesn’t need to if he can gas them out.

And Diego will need all the pressure he can bring against an All-American wrestler like Koscheck, who in my opinion was a hidden gem in the TUF Middleweight competition. He’s gone from being just a wrestler to a pretty good MMA fighter. Training at the American Kickboxing Academy has helped his standup tremendously and he knows that this fight could be career-defining for him. Koscheck is planning to let it all hang out here and if he can control Sanchez (which has yet to be done), he can score the upset.

Prediction: Koscheck, Split Decision

Middleweights: Yushin Okami (Kanagawa, Japan, 19-3) vs. Mike “Quick” Swick (San Jose, CA, 10-1)
After laying the beatdown on David Loiseau, you’d have thought that Swick would be in line for a title shot. But incoming star Anderson Silva crushed former champ Rich Franklin, and then was obligated to fight Travis Lutter next. And now that “Ace” is back, Swick has to once again sit on the sidelines and face yet another tough opponent in Okami. Now granted, Okami’s UFC wins haven’t come against stellar names, but he loves to have exciting fights and his ground and pound is pretty impressive.

Swick, meanwhile, is an explosive fighter, as evidenced by the fact that prior to the Loiseau fight, he spent just over 5 minutes in the Octagon over four fights. He should be energized since he’s fighting in his hometown, and I look for him to push the pace early. A win probably means that long-awaited title shot. A loss likely means we’ll finally get to see that rematch with Chris Leben.

Prediction: Swick, submission, R1

Middleweights: Alan “The Talent” Belcher (Biloxi, MS, 9-2) vs. Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove (Maui, HI, 7-3)
Belcher is one of those guys that Okami has beaten in the Octagon and it kinda surprised me when he beat Jorge Santiago back in December. So his reward is to face TUF 3 champion Kendall Grove, which apparently Belcher is looking forward to (since he was overlooked for TUF 3. But his interview on the UFC website makes me wonder if he’s just a wee bit overconfident in taking on the 6’6″ Grove.

Grove, meanwhile, is expecting a standup war and is wary of Belcher’s strikes. And training with Team Punishment has seemed to help Grove mature and better use his height to his advantage. Hopefully, we’ll get to see that war in all it’s glory.

Prediction: Grove, decision.

Heavyweights: “Hillbilly Heartthrob” Brad Imes (Springfield, MO, 5-2) vs. “The Texas Crazy Horse” Heath Herring (Las Vegas, NV, 26-12, 1 NC)

Two good ‘ol boys step into the Octagon and duke it out. Imes hasn’t really shown a lot in the Octagon, but he’s fought twice (and won) on minor shows this year and is looking to prove that it wasn’t a mistake for Xyience to sponsor him. Herring, meanwhile, was supposed to be a high-profile acquisition for the UFC but a loss will probably get him sent to Pride or EliteXC.

Prediction: Herring, TKO, R1

Middleweights: Thales Leites (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 9-1) vs. Pete “Drago” Sell (Long Island, NY, 7-2)
Leites’ debut was spoiled thanks to Danish fighter Martin Kampmann, and now his world class ground game meets up with Serra Jiu-Jitsu student Pete Sell. Sell’s willing to bang, and that could be the difference in this matchup.

Prediction: Leites, submission, R1

Welterweights: “The Irish Hand Grenade” Marcus Davis (Bangor, ME, 10-3) vs. “The Secret Weapon” Pete Spratt (Sherman, TX, 15-7)
This should be a standup battle between the surprisingly improved Davis and Spratt, who has never really impressed me despite owning a victory over Robbie Lawler. After losing to Melvin Guillard in the TUF 2 Finale, Davis has won seven in a row, showing submission skills that none of us figured he had. He still likes to bang though, and hopefully this match should excite the crowd.

Prediction: Davis, submission, R2

Welterweights: Josh “Bring the Pain” Haynes (Portland, OR, 7-7) vs “The Silent Assassin” Luke Cummo (Long Island, NY, 4-4)
Incredibly, Josh Haynes has trimmed himself down from 300 lbs to reach the welterweight limit of 170lbs. It’s probably a good thing, because being a 5’9″ Light-Heayweight meant that he was Michael Bisping’s whipping boy in the TUF 3 Finals. And then he went and lost to Rory fricking Singer as a middleweight. So now he’s looking to stay in the UFC against “The World’s Most Dangerous Nerd” Luke Cummo, who would dearly love to earn a decisive victory in the Octagon. The only problem is that Haynes doesn’t know when to quit.

Prediction: Haynes, decision


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