Inside Fights Roundtable – UFC 82: Pride of a Champion

So we’re going to have the fight of the year in roughly ten hours, and now–as a special treat–you’re going to get what our panel of experts think is going to happen in tonight’s very special events. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Inside Fights’ Three Musketeers of roundtabling:

Trent ‘Milk Chocolate’ Pusey: Inside Fights editor, boxing aficionado, and hater of decisions. For those of you who take these roundtables for granted, I’ll have you know that Trent typed all his predictions with one hand, because he fractured the other one boxing. Now that is hardcore.

Kevin “Creamy Caramel” Wong: Inside Fights Swiss-army knife, capable of writing about anything and everything.

Mike “Chewy Nougat” Nichols: Inside Fights DVD reviewer and columnist. We’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen first: the Fedor-Randy fight, or Mike posting another DVD review. We’re betting on the former…

UFC Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson

Trent: Great matchup. Anderson Silva has literally been knocking out all his competition, but is now matched up against a guy that doesn’t get knocked out. If bigger guys such as Wanderlei Silva and Rampage couldn’t finish Henderson, then I don’t think ‘The Spider’ can do it. While Henderson is known as a wrestler, he has power in his hands. Calling a winner is tough, but picking a winner by decision is cheap. Henderson, KO R3.

Kevin: Yet another ‘champion vs champion’ fight, but this time things seem to be a bit more promising for Henderson. Silva is willing to engage in the clinch, and does not have the distinct size advantage that Rampage Jackson sported in his last fight. The question, really, is whether Henderson will be comfortable fighting at 185. As a former wrestler, we know that Henderson is familiar with weight cutting, but it’s a question of whether he’s willing to continue doing it. And while fighting Anderson Silva is probably not the ideal way to test whether your cut to 185 was a good idea or not, it pretty much had to be done – no sense in delaying a unification bout.

So while there are questions about whether Henderson can continue to compete in the UFC’s Middleweight division, there is none about Anderson Silva. He’s proven to be a force on his feet, and even if you take him down he’s got that BJJ black belt that you tend to forget about because of the aforementioned striking skills. He’s basically dismantled the middleweight division to the point where the next challenger (should Silva win) will be Matt Hughes. So you can see why I’m hoping for Hendo to win. A win here would give us a rematch and – more importantly – time to build up some of the other middleweights.

By the way, how weird is it that this will be the first and only time that the PrideFC Welterweight title will ever be defended? Henderson, TKO R2.

Mike:Cheap? I resent that, pretty boy. Flip a coin here, seriously. I love Hendo, but here’s a very salient point: Franklin and Marquardt fight with Dan’s style (even if Dan’s better at it than either of them), and it didn’t really get them anywhere against Silva’s pinpoint strikes. Of course, Silva’s going to have to prove that he can stop the takedown over and over again, and it’s unlikely that Dan’s going to get caught in anything on the ground, so who knows? Silva, decision.

Heath Herring vs. Cheick Kongo

Trent:I was very impressed with Herring during his Pride days but those days are gone. No word on if Kongo has learned to grapple yet, but that would be good to know. Both men haven’t seemed to fight with urgency in their last few fights. I’ve already made a rule that picking a decision is weak, but I haven’t seen a desire from either of these guys lately to finish a fight. Herring, decision.

Kevin: I’ll be honest here – unless Kongo kisses Herring, I don’t really care about this match. Neither guy is really that good, and this is on the main card only because Arlovski is on his way out. Kongo, TKO R2

Mike: Because he’s from Texas, Herring’ll try and trade a little to start, and then he’ll eventually go after Kongo’s huge fucking Achilles heel. Unlike Assuerio (huh huh–ass) Silva, I don’t think Herring’s going to be content just laying on top of Kongo. Herring, submission R2.

Chris Leben vs. Alessio Sakara

Trent: It turns out Leben wasn’t all that he led us to believe he was during his run on Ultimate Fighter, but the good news here for Chris is that Sakara is a guy that will throw with him. Given that Leben is stronger and has a better chin, this plays right into his wheelhouse. Leben, KO R1.

Kevin: You’d think that more of thet smaller 205ers would take a look at the paper-thin Middleweight division and try to move down, but thus far only Sakara, Terry Martin and Michael Bisping are taking advantage. Mind you, the difference between Sakara and Bisping is that Sakara just isn’t that good. So to see exactly where he stands, he gets the median fighter at 185, Chris Leben. We know that Leben will be hanging and banging, and apart from Anderson Silva, no one’s been able to turn that iron chin of his to jelly. So to expect Sakara to do so (when Terry Martin couldn’t) is a tall order. Of course, Sakara could try and take Leben down, but that, too, is asking for trouble, as Sakara’s ground game is probably at the same level as Hard-Hitting Drew McFedries – that is, nonexistent. The end result – an exciting standup battle with a predictable finish.
Leben, TKO R1

Mike: Sakara’s been hanging out at American Top Team., so I’m assuming that he must have picked up something (if only by osmosis), and in any case, I just have a hard time taking Leben in anything. Sakara, submission R2.

Yushin Okami vs. Evan Tanner

Trent: Evan Tanner? Was Andre Roberts busy? Don’t they have a huge talent pool to pick from yet they still give fights to Tanner and Jeremy Horn? I don’t care about this fight and I’ve just worked myself into a frenzy of spite towards Evan Tanner. That probably means Evan will win so he can fight Horn at a future MMA Senior event. Okami won’t be ready for the wealth of experience. Tanner will be like that guy from the YMCA that wants to play basketball with the younger guys and makes up for being past his prime with too much effort. So much effort, in fact, that he breaks a guy’s hand by boxing him out before the guy can land from a layup, causing him to crash land and break his metacarpal. Tanner by submission whenever he wants to.

Kevin: Nothing says “this division is thinner than Lindsay Lohan” than Evan Tanner coming back and getting a fight on the main card of a PPV. Tanner’s 37 and hasn’t fought in 2 years. Okami is deceptively strong and has only one loss in the Octagon–and he very nearly won that fight. I really can’t see anything that Tanner can do that would garner him the win, so expect Okami to win and expect him to fight Anderson Silva if Silva loses the title fight.

By the way, I only got the Andre Roberts reference because he was one of the fighters on the Sega Dreamcast UFC game.Okami, Decision

Mike:Come on, guys! This is Evan Tanner we’re talking about here! You know: former middleweight champ? Never has a boring fight? Crazier than a loon? Nothing bad can come of Evan Tanner’s return to the octagon.

This pick has no basis in fact–I just have this strange vision of Okami undergoing death by skip knees. Again, this is a longshot, but if you’re gambling based on my picks, you should already be looking for professional help. Tanner, TKO R2.

Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson

Trent: Chris Wilson, welcome to the Trent Doesn’t Know You club. I know the guy you are fighting and he’s on a stupid win streak lately. I have no reason to even consider Wilson in this one. Fitch, submission R1.

Kevin: Chris Wilson previously fought in the IFL and beat Jay Hieron and Rory Markham during that time, so he brings something to the table here, but he’s going against a guy whose star has been on the rise ever since he first fought in the UFC – Jon Fitch. Wilson is a late replacement for Akihiro Gono, and if he puts in a good showing, here we’ll get to see him on a couple of Fight Nights after this. You can never say anything is a sure thing in MMA, but basically Wilson is here to make Fitch look good for that eventual title shot.Fitch, Sub R2

Mike: Wilson’s good, but Fitch is headed for a title shot. Guy on a hot streak + taking a fight on short notice=bad news for Wilson. I mean, he’s a Team Quest guy, so you know he’ll be tough, but Fitch is just too much right now. Fitch, TKO R2.