UFC 84 Roundtable

Welcome to the Roundtable for UFC 84: Ill Will. Somehow, we managed to get more than two guys to comment on the fights – which made the poker game much more lively, since I suck playing heads-up.

So without further adieu, here’s the panel:

Inside Fights main man, Trent Pusey
A guy who puts my DVD Lounge output to shame, Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz
Veteran Inside Pulse writer Jeremy Botter, and a special guest (more on that later)
And me, Kevin Wong, who is wondering how the hell Connelly can manage with two little kids, let alone one.

But first, here’s a shameless plug from Botter:
I’d like to introduce my cousin Bryan, who will be adding his bonus picks to my picks from here on out. He plays in The Favorites with me, and basically we’re using this as an excuse to hype our new record, which releases NEXT SATURDAY, MAY 31st!

OK, the picks:

WONG: Here’s what you need to know – Sherk got suspended for using steroids, got stripped of his lightweight title, and now he wants it back. B.J., on the other hand, doesn’t like Sherk, and needs to dispose of him in his quest to move back up to 170. Most guys would agree that there’s nothing like a motivated B.J., and I have to assume that would apply to MMA as well. We know that Sherk will be ready, willing and able to go 5 rounds, but questions abound. Can Sherk take Penn down and stay away from the submissions? Will Sherk be back to form after a 6+ month layoff? Can those T-Rex arms do any damage to Penn standing? If you give him the openings, Sherk can probably keep a fighter on the ground and work his half GnP/half LnP game, but I can’t imagine that he’ll be able to impose his will against a guy with Penn’s ridiculous flexibility.

Penn has looked really good at 155, but his conditioning has yet to be tested since he’s dropped down in weight. This will probably be his biggest test, but you have to believe that since Penn is determined to dominate the lightweight division he’ll be more than ready to go five rounds. But my thinking here is that the fight goes into the late rounds only because Sherk is controlling the fight, so I’m looking for B.J. to try and finish early. Which, if we’re to judge based on the Pulver and Stevenson fights, he’s gonna find a way to do so.
Penn, Sub R2

TRENT: This is the only fight that can be made for the Lightweight title. Sherk is out to regain the title he was stripped of against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Sherk is a ground and pound figther. Penn generally does well against G & P fighters save for gassing against Matt Hughes in his rematch. You seem to know what you are going to get with Sherk but Penn is the unknown. The safe pick is with Sherk because you know he will be in top condition. A peak Penn is a different story, but I’m going with Sherk by decision.

KUBRYK: Champ B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk (for lightweight title) – Everytime I’ve bet against Penn, he always manages to win. Plus he really seems to have put his fight game together in the last couple years. I like Sherk, despite his horrible nickname, but you can pencil in the Prodigy by Split Decision.

BOTTER: B.J. Penn has long been known as one of the most skilled and extraordinary fighters on the planet. “The Phenom” was the first American winner of the Mundials in 2000, and is also a former UFC Welterweight Champion. Penn defeated Joe Stevenson in a stunningly decisive and one-sided match in January to capture the UFC Lightweight Championship, thus making him only the second man in history (along with Randy Couture) to capture titles in two different UFC weight divisions. He originally became welterweight champion by defeating Matt Hughes, and has stated that his number-one goal as a figher is to win championships in every weight class.

For the past few years, Penn has been known as a guy who had the talent to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Unfortunately, his work ethic has derailed his career at points, as he continually made a habit of showing up out of shape and displayed poor cardio in a few fights. Recently, however, Penn has been a man on fire, and his last two fights against Jens Pulver and Joe Stevenson displayed a far different fighter than we’d become accustomed to seeing. In his January championship win over Stevenson, Penn came into the fight in utterly fantastic shape and completely dominated a man who most people consider to be a very good fighter. He pummeled him standing, out-wrestled him, and ended up submitting Stevenson via rear-naked choke long after “Joe Daddy” had anything remotely resembling a fight left in him.

Sean Sherk is the former UFC Lightweight Champion, a man who was stripped of his title for testing positive for the steroid Nandrolone following a fight with Hermes Franca. It’s not hard to imagine Sherk being a beneficiary of steroid usage, as he as one of the most outstanding physiques in the UFC and is unquestionably the strongest man in the lightweight (and perhaps the welterweight) division. Sherk captured the lightweight championship by beating Kenny Florian at UFC 64.

I’m going to go on record as saying that this will be a one-sided championship fight. The B.J. Penn of 2008 is one of the three best fighters in the world, and he’s coming into this fight with a chip on his shoulder. He feels like Sherk has disrespected the sport and stained the championship belt with his positive steroid test, and a motivated and angry B.J. Penn is a very scary prospect indeed. Penn is far more skilled in every category except for strength and wrestling, but I don’t even think Sherk’s wrestling will be good enough to help him avoid a Penn submission attempt. Sherk has a reputation for being a highly boring fighter, and the only chance he has of winning this fight is to grind out a boring decision using his wrestling skills to keep Penn on the ground and avoid his jui-jitsu. I just don’t think Sean Sherk is skilled enough to do that.
B.J. Penn By Submission

JEREMY’S COUSIN BRYAN: I’ve seen Penn fight a lot more than I have seen Sherk fight. I do know that Sherk likes to take special vitamins and has biceps that appear to have cantaloupes loaded into them. He’s also called the muscle shark. I was really into sharks as a kid but I don’t remember studying that particular shark. I’m going with the guy named after the tennis ball company. I cannot abide fictional animal/fish nicknames. It would have been much more educational for the children if he was called “the great white” Sherk.
BJ Penn over Sean Sherk

“The Dean of Mean” KEITH JARDINE vs. “The Axe Murderer” WANDERLEI SILVA
TRENT: I don’t see how this could be a bad fight. Excellent matchup of two standup fighters that like to push the action. Jardine is coming off of a victory over the guy that beat Silva in his last fight. Still, I think it was easier for Liddell to maintain his focus against Silva than Jardine. While Silva is on a losing streak, I think his ability to recover from danger will set him apart from Jardine. Remember, Jardine was put down by Houston Alexander before besting Liddell. I’ll take Wanderlei by TKO in the 2nd round.

KUBRYK: Keith Jardine vs. Wanderlei Silva – Jardine managed to take a decision from Liddell, but I think Silva stops him here. He’s too vicious I think he’ll be on his game for this one.
Silva by KO, 3rd round.

BOTTER: I wish I had the confidence to tell you that Wanderlei Silva was going to walk into the Octagon and destroy Keith Jardine. I really do.

I just can’t.

The hardest thing about fighting Keith Jardine, the singular thing that makes him such a difficult opponent for people, is that he’s awkward. He’s a light-heavyweight version of Tim Sylvia, a guy who comes at you with a style that’s so strange that it makes for a difficult fight. He’s not a particularly good fighter; he’s just awkward, and it seemingly makes opponents nervous. That’s how he beat Chuck Liddell, and that’s the only way he’ll stand a chance against Silva.

I still expect Silva to come into this fight in full Axe Murderer-mode. He’ll come out swinging until he connects, and I don’t think he’ll be as hesitant against Jardine as he was was in the Liddell fight. Silva loves to fight on the inside, and Jardine doesn’t have the skills to keep him out. I think this one isn’t getting out of the first right, and I’m predicting a TKO for Silva.
Prediction: Wanderlei Silva

JEREMY’S COUSIN BRYAN: Keith Jardine is one ugly dude. I don’t normally go around commenting on if a man is attractive or unattractive, but I felt the need to say this about Keith. Now that I think about it though, his unattractiveness is easy to see so I just wasted three sentences discussing his looks. I also almost hate him. I don’t have a good reason but I do. (Unless I ever meet him at which point I will tell him how handsome he looks and how much better that one Star Wars movie would have been if JarJar Binks had instead been named Jardine Binks. Really, think about it.) Ok, back to the fight. Even though Wanderlei has a weird unAmerican name I’m going to pick him to win. It would be awesome if he would wear a white cape and boots into the ring. Just because.
Wanderlei Silva over Keith Jardine

WONG: Give Keith Jardine credit – he doesn’t back down from anyone, and he’s shown that he can beat some legends in MMA. And here, after beating Chuck Liddell last year, he gets Wanderlei Silva. Silva’s riding a 3-loss streak, and you gotta believe that he wants to get that second win in the UFC. There’s talk of the winner facing the winner of the Rampage-Griffin fight, but that’s a long ways away. What we SHOULD be focusing on here is whether Silva still has it and still has the drive to win. We’ll soon see.
Silva, Decision

KUBRYK: A UFC vet vs. a newcomer. I always go with the man with the experience, so pencil in Gouveia by split decision.

BOTTER: Gouveia actually has a 4 fight UFC win streak. His last fight was against Jason Lambert in January, where he KO’d Lambert near the end of the second round. Reljic is a Croatian fighter and is making his UFC debut. As with the other fights below, I can’t really make an accurate prediction because I don’t know anything about Reljic. I’ve never seen him fight, but I have seen Gouveia fight, so I’m kinda picking him by default.
Prediction: Wilson Gouveia

JEREMY’S COUSIN BRYAN: I have to be honest. I don’t know who either of these guys are so I’m going to have to look to the names to help me find the winner. Since I don’t know the fancy term for studying names and I’m not going to look it up, I’ll just call it Nameology. Wow, that was easy. Creating science is fun! Goran reminds me of that tennis player. I think he is tall. Wilson reminds me of Mookie Wilson. He was on the 1986 Mets which beat my Astros in the playoffs. That makes me sad. I also get sad when I think of that ball named Wilson as it floated away from Tom Hanks in that really long movie. I really need this Wilson guy to lose so I’ll feel better about myself. Goran wins 40-Love.
Goran Reljic over Wilson Gouveia

WONG: Here I am, sandwiched in between jokes about Goran Ivanesovic. But let’s be fair, the guy was the Randy Johnson of tennis, let’s not compare him to a guy we don’t really know in Reljic. You have to give Gouveia the advantage here, but let’s give Reljic the benefit of the doubt since he’s unbeaten, shall we?

OK, that’s long enough.
Gouveia, TKO R2

TRENT: Gouveia is a strong submission fighter and I have no idea who Goran Reljic is. Has the French Open started already? Objective analysis is out the window once I don’t recognize one of the fighters. There’s really no point in me faking it. Gouveia by choke in the first round.

LYOTO “The Dragon” MACHIDA VS. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” TITO ORTIZ
BOTTER: In many ways, this will be the defining fight of Lyoto Machida’s career. If he’s able to beat Tito Ortiz, if he’s able to finish him off and not hump him to a 3 round decision, then Machida will have arrived. He will be the unquestionable number one contender for the light heavyweight championship, and he’ll finally have the big win over a big fighter that he desperately needs to take that next step up the UFC ladder. The crazy thing about Machida is that he’s undefeated; only his boring fight style has prevented him from getting a title shot much sooner. A finish over the departing Ortiz would make Dana White happier than a pig in slop, and he would almost assuredly be rewarded with a title shot.
Prediction: Lyoto Machida

JEREMY’S COUSIN BRYAN: Is Tito still dating that porn lady? Wow, have her looks taken a turn for the worse or what? Oh yeah Jenna. Her face has really seemed to have taken a beating. Tito’s face has also become good at taking beatings recently. He hasn’t been impressive in his last three or four fights. The fight against Rashard was boring. Lyoto is doing a good job of winning, but from what I remember his fights haven’t been exciting. Use this fight as your chance to take a bathroom break, or to go hit on that hot girl over there. No, not the one in the jeans, the one wearing the skirt! ROCK. Lyoto wins with me in the bathroom.
Lyoto Machida over Tito Ortiz

WONG: This is Tito’s last UFC match and he’s not shy about letting us know about it. Tito’s not one to mince words, and if you ignore his curiously quiet outing on Celebrity Apprentice, you can expect a lot of venom to be spewed in the next week or so. The thing is, a lot of that venom is being sent Dana White’s way, and that may not be a good thing. Machida’s undefeated, and while most of his fights have been snoozers, his last one vs Sodojuku showed that perhaps the guy has figured out how to put on an entertaining fight, so you’d hope that Tito has been focusing on the Brazilian instead of the UFC President.

I think Tito’s advantage will be that he should be fighting to win, where Machida’s deliberate pace makes it look like he’s fighting not to lose. Still, I have to think that Machida’s game is better suited to today’s MMA, whereas Tito’s is best suited to beating up Ken Shamrock. Enjoy fighting for Affliction while they last, Tito.

Machida, Decision.

TRENT: I’m most looking forward to what will happen after this fight. Being Tito’s last fight on his UFC contract, and his flare for the dramatic, what will he do/say after his fight? Will Joe Rogan even be allowed to give him a live microphone? I don’t see how they can avoid an interview if he wins, but sadly I don’t see that happening. Ortiz hasn’t beaten anyone relevant since umm…well, you get the point. Machida is a succubus and he will take all the intrigue out of the post-fight antics by winning, thus denying any reason for Ortiz to be interviewed. Machida by decision.

KUBRYK: Machida has an impressive resume, with wins over a lot of top guys. Ortiz hasn’t been impressive lately, and this appears to maybe be his swan song from the UFC, but I think he takes apart Machida towards the end with superior win.
Ortiz by TKO, 3rd round.

JEREMY’S COUSIN BRYAN: Thiago Silva hit Houston Alexander very hard. I’m still afraid of Houston Alexander even when he’s knocked out. Of course I’m afraid of anyone with a first name that comes from a city. ( It’s the first rule of Nameology! Now we are learning!) I do predict Mr. Mendes will last more than a round in this fight. In the second round he will lay down on the mat as the crowd cheers him to sleep.
Thiago Silva over Sergio Mendes


Rameau Sokoudju over Kazuhiro Nakamura
In the battle of the nicknames, Rameau wins easily. The African Assassin is much cooler than Kaz. In fact, Kaz makes me think of Houston Astros second baseman Kaz Matsui. I’m pretty sure Matsui can’t win anything. Except for maybe the title of “Worst injury to ever be placed on the DL for” Yes, it is time to bring up Anal Fissures! Hopefully this will be the last time it is brought up when discussing the UFC. For that to happen I need Rameau “Sodoku” Sokoudju to win. Yes my nickname for him is not nearly as intimidating, but it is great for your brain!

WONG: We really don’t know much about Mendes, but a 14-2 record with 10 early stoppages is not too shabby. Unfortunately, all of his fights have come against a who’s who of “who deys?” This might be trouble against a guy who is 12-0, and 3-0 in the Octagon. A win here probably nets Silva a match against a “name” fighter. A loss probably gets him Stephan Bonnar.
Silva, TKO R1

TRENT: This one is ugly. Not only do I not know who Mendes is, Kevin’s joke is better than anything I could come up with, but I know that Thiago Silva is a beast. Plus, I always pick guys named Silva. Although I quick look at Mendes’ fight history on Sherdog shows that he owns three wins over guys named Silva. That run comes to an abrupt end as Thiago scores a first round TKO.

KUBRYK: Silva’s destruction of Houston Alexander was a beautiful sight. And I can’t bet against him, especially after that. Mendes is a good fighter, but I think this is going to be a sick KO. Silva by KO, 1st rd

BOTTER: This is Antonio Mendes’ first fight in the UFC, and I’ve never seen him fight before, so I can’t vouch for him as a fighter or really even preview him. Or make a prediction on this fight. The only time I’ve ever seen Thiago Silva look good was against Houston Alexander, when he looked downright terrifying, so I’ll leave Bryan to make the accurate pick on this one.
Prediction: Thiago Silva

There you have it, folks. See you for UFC 85: Cursed!

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