Inside Fights Roundtable: UFC 79: Nemesis

Welcome to Inside Fights’ roundtable for UFC 79: Nemesis. Our contributors this week are the usual suspects:

Trent Pusey: Inside Fights editor and boxing aficionado.

Kevin Wong: New daddy and jack-of-all-trades at Inside Pulse.

“Iron” Mike Nichols: Inside Fights contributing writer and DVD reviewer.

And for the first time we will include the fan consensus from our Reader Forum for the co-main events.

Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre (Interim Welterweight Title)

Trent: Frankly, I’d rather see GSP-Hughes 3 than Serra-Hughes 1. I guess things worked out for me. I think the lack of long-term training will hurt GSP. Remember, this is a five-round fight since the interim title is on the line. Matt Hughes is indeed a dick and I believe him when he says he wouldn’t have taken this fight if he wasn’t going to win. Dicks take advantage of things like that. It will be a quality fight but Hughes will be in better condition and ought to control the championship rounds for the unanimous decision victory. Hughes by UD.

Kevin: Liddell vs Silva may have been years in the making, but headlining the card is the rubber match between two of the UFC’s most known and popular “homegrown” fighters. Their first match was one of the best one-round fights you’ll ever see, while the second featured Hughes getting whupped for one-and-a-half rounds. Logic says that the younger, quicker, more well-rounded GSP should take this, but there are a few questions to ask:

– Is one month of “intensive” training enough to prepare for Hughes?
– Will Hughes be much more prepared now that he’s the big fish on his own team?
– Is GSP mentally prepared for this fight?

Based on what we’ve heard from GSP, he seems to be ready to go, and that could spell tons of trouble for Hughes. But you can never fully count Matt out – just ask Trigg or St. Pierre himself. If you give him an opening, Hughes is more than willing to show you what a country boy can do. It’s up to GSP to never give him that chance. Georges St. Pierre, TKO R2

Mike: Really, what does Hughes have for St. Pierre right now? In the first fight, he was able to take advantage of a green St. Pierre, but got KTFO’d badly in the rematch. Hughes deciding to stand and trade is like Frank Trigg deciding to give up his back: it can only end badly. Of course, Hughes taking the fight to the ground isn’t necessarily a sure thing, either; ask Josh Koscheck, whose wrestling credentials are even more impressive than Hughes’s. Some of you may be wondering if GSP can break the Jackson camp’s streak of underwhelming performances in big fights, so here’s a hint: yes. Get ready–the St. Pierre bandwagon is warming up again, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. St. Pierre, TKO R2.

Reader Choice: 67% of the readers think St. Pierre will defeat Hughes with KO/TKO as the most favored method of victory.

Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva

Trent: This fight sure was put together out of nowhere, huh? I feel like UFC is rushing it. How do you sum up a fight that has taken seven years to be put together in a short paragraph? It’s going to be a brawl and someone will be knocked out. Hell, I did it in one sentence. Every MMA fan has been waiting a long time for this fight and the UFC has done a good job getting the fans unaware of Wanderlei geeked up for the fight. This one is going to be all Iceman as he scores a second round KO. Liddell by KO, R2

Kevin: We’ve waited a long time for this one. During this time, I got engaged, married and had a kid. There were two elections in Canada. And Chris Tucker actually made a movie.

But I digress. Since that time both men have endured 2-fight losing streaks. The difference here is that Silva hasn’t fought since the beginning of the year, when he lost the PRIDE Middleweight Title to Dan Henderson, so I think conditioning may work against the Brazilian. But unlike Henderson, Silva is “only” looking at a fifteen minute fight, and also Chuck isn’t the kind of fighter to set a blistering pace, so conditioning may not be a huge deal here. Still, ring rust has affected almost all the former PRIDE fighters, and I can’t see Silva being any different. Silva may want to even his Octagon record to 2-2, but I’m thinking that it’s not gonna happen for the “Axe Murderer”. Chuck Liddell, Decision

Mike: I’m so pleased that we finally get to see this fight after both guys are coming off two straight disappointing losses. All kidding aside, this is still the marquee UFC/PRIDE dream match, and regardless of both guys’ records, I was reaching into my pocket to hand over my $40 as soon as the UFC announced the fight. My problem with it, though, is that I find myself spending more time thinking about both fighters’ weaknesses rather than their strengths. For Chuck, it boils down to two things: Motivation (with a capital M) and type of opposition. The first one’s always hanging over Chuck’s head, since he’s rich, famous, and notoriously averse to training super-hard; the second one, though, is a little less obvious. Chuck’s definitely fought some quality guys over the last couple of years, but until the Jardine fight, he hadn’t been in there with someone primarily known for his standup, and we all saw how that fight turned out for him. For all of Chuck’s skill as a counterpuncher, it’s probably a lot easier to say in the pocket and pick your spots when you don’t think that the guy you’re fighting can knock you out. Even if Silva’s lost a step, Chuck’s not going to have that luxury on Saturday night.

As for Silva, the obvious question is this: does a guy who was knocked out pretty brutally in his last two fights have a good shot against a fighter known for putting guys to sleep? The general consensus seems to be that their standup skills stalemate each other, but that Wandy’s mat skills and jiu-jitsu give him a slight edge overall; in my humble opinion, though, Chuck’s takedown defense can negate Wandy’s grappling. It feels like both fighters are evenly matched, but for me, here’s what it comes down to: Silva simply seems like the more focused fighter of the two. At this point in his career, he could easily sit back and rest on his laurels, but he’s given every indication that he wants to succeed in the UFC: he left the comfort of Chute Boxe to start training at Randy Couture’s gym, moved himself and his son to Vegas, and just generally seems like he’s in it for the long haul. Chuck, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have changed a thing after a couple of deflating losses, and why bother? He’s the face of the UFC, its highest-paid fighter, and a close, personal friend of Dana White’s–all of which will get you absolutely nothing once they close the octagon door. Personally, I’m hoping that Chuck brings his A-game, but I don’t see it happening at this stage; by the way, nothing short of an act of God is going to see this fight go more than two rounds, regardless of who wins. Silva, TKO R2.

Reader Choice: 52% of the readers chose Wanderlei Silva to get the win. While the race for the winner is close, 82% agree that this fight won’t go the distance.

Lyoto Machida vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

Trent: He’s just Sokoudjou to me. It took me months to learn how to pronounce his name and now that he joins the UFC they tack on two more names that I can’t pronounce. Screw that. We all know that Machida is lame and the world wants Sokoudjou to obliterate him. I want nothing more than for that to come true but unfortunately Machida won’t let that happen. I expect Sokoudjou to be busy enough to get the decision, even though judges love them some Machida. Sokoudjou by split decision.

Kevin: Speaking of PRIDE fighters and long layoffs, we’ve been waiting a while for the return of Sokoudjou. We may have to wait a bit longer, as he faces the undefeated mountain of suck known as Lyoto Machida. I’d call Machida a Horatio Sanz-level black hole of suck, but the man does win matches. And his style could be what is required to negate Sokoudjou’s explosiveness. Given the long layoff and the opponent, I think all that we should ask of Sokoudjou is to have an impressive outing – one that will show the world what he’s capable of. With that in mind, I’m calling for the upset, and hoping that I’m wrong. Lyoto Machida, Decision

Mike: From all accounts, Sokoudjou fights with an exciting, engaging, up-tempo style that ropes the audience in from the opening bell, so naturally, the UFC matched him up with THE MOST BORING FIGHTER ON EARTH. I mean, I understand that this hasn’t necessarily been the best year for the PRIDE refugees, but couldn’t they find someone a little more fun for him to debut against?

Seriously…I know that James Irvin’s already scheduled to fight someone else on the same card, but why not throw Sokoudjou in there with the ‘Sandman’ and give us all some serious fireworks? Let Machida grind and stall out another decision win over another nobody, and please, please, please keep him off television. As for the fight itself, the optimist in me likes to hope that Machida will screw up and actually let Soku make a fight of it, but the cynic in me knows better. Machida by decision as I die a little inside.

Rich Clementi vs. Melvin Guillard

Trent: Word is that these two chaps don’t like each other very much. Clementi is better on the ground than Guillard but Guillard has the striking advantage. ‘Ol Melvin didn’t look like he could defend very well against anything in his loss to Joe Stevenson. Clementi has a solid chin so I don’t know if Melvin can knock him out. I see Clementi wearing Guillard down on the ground for two rounds. Then Clementi catches Guillard in a choke as Guillard gets desperate. Clementi by submission in round 3.

Kevin: One would hope that Melvin has learned from past experience and won’t be doing coke before a fight. He should be angry at himself, and looking to take it out on Rich Clementi. I’m not a real big fan of Clementi at 155 – he seems to always look a bit tired from the weight cutting, so expect the Young Assassin to get a quick win and get back on the path to redemption (again). Melvin Guillard, TKO R1

Mike: You know, if someone’d asked me to pick the winner here about six months ago, I’d have picked Guillard without even blinking; after watching Joe Stevenson completely tool Melvin, though, I’m inclined to reconsider. Yes, Melvin has crazy punching power, and yes, Melvin has retard strength, but the fundamental building block in MMA is grappling, and without it, there’s really only so far that a fighter can go. I’m sure that Melvin’s wrestling is solid, but his submission defense obviously needs work–five of his six losses have come via submission–and subs and grappling are Clementi’s bread and butter. And don’t look now, but Clementi’s 4-1 in his last five fights: okay, one of those wins is over Ross Pointon, but it’s worth noting that he submitted another huge, hard-hitting lightweight/welterweight in Anthony Johnson in his last UFC fight. You can’t see me flipping the coin here, but I’m going to take Clementi by submission, R2.

Sao Palelei vs. Eddie Sanchez

Trent: Now here’s a fight I can totally get into. If you can’t detect my sarcasm then what I’m really saying is that I would rather watch Season 1 of Hope & Faith on DVD than have anything to do with this fight. I’m sure someone will win, I just don’t care which one it is. I have heard of Eddie Sanchez, albeit for reasons that don’t favor him, but I always pick the guy I’ve heard of over the unknown in these situations. Eddie Sanchez by 1st round TKO.

Kevin: Palalei comes to us from Australia, and he’s a big guy even among the heavyweights. Sanchez will be his toughest test to date, and I think that the California native will probably take this. Eddie Sanchez, TKO R2

Mike: I’ve always admired Sanchez for having the stones so early in his UFC career to take on a guy like Cro Cop, and even if he was seriously outgunned against the former PRIDE Grand Prix champ, he’s looked pretty good since. In good conscience, I can’t look any of you in the eye and say that I know a damn thing about Palalei, so I’m going to take the ‘Manic Hispanic’ here. Sanchez, TKO R1.

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