UFC 86: Preview & Predictions

This is a show I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Rampage Jackson and Forrest Griffin are two of the most popular fighters in the UFC (and in the MMA world in general), and I’ve been hyped for it ever since I heard the rumor that the fight would be booked.

Some are sad that the buildup to this show didn’t match the same intensity levels that Ken vs. Tito or Serra vs. Hughes did, but as I said over on my blog, this is a fight that doesn’t really need a backstory. Yes, a grudge (whether real or fake) can take a mediocre fight and turn it into one that fans truly want to see, but there are occasions where a fight doesn’t need a storyline, doesn’t need an angle, and this is one of them.

Let’s get on with the preview.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (28-6) (-240) vs Forrest Griffin (15-4) (+190)

Rampage Jackson is one of the top three fighters in the world, no matter what weight class you’re talking about. The only people in the past six years to defeat the popular light heavyweight champion are Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and in victory he has defeated some of the best fighters in the world. He knocked out reigning champ Chuck Liddell with one stunning punch to win the UFC belt and followed it up by beating PRIDE light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson in a grueling 5 round war to both retain his UFC belt and take Henderson’s PRIDE belt, which was then unified into the UFC title.

Forrest Griffin is one of the most popular fighters in the entire UFC. Griffin defeated Stephan Bonnar to win the first season of the Ultimate Fighter reality show — a fight that Dana White has called “the most important fight in UFC history.” Griffin is loved by fans due to his heart, exuberant personality and exciting fight style, which includes both throwing and taking a lot of punches. Griffin moved into the #1 contender slot for Jackson’s belt by beating the man most considered to be the best light heavweight fighter in the world, Shogun Rua.

As much as I love Forrest Griffin and his fights, I can’t help but wonder if he’s over his head in this bout. Forrest doesn’t have a great standup game due to his weak punching power (at least in terms of light heavyweights), and Rampage Jackson is one of the best boxers in the sport. Jackson is trained by Juanito Ibarra, who previously served as the boxing coach for Oscar De La Hoya. As evidenced by his one-punch knockout of Chuck Liddell, Jackson has deadly power in both hands, and Griffin is going to spend a lot of time trying to avoid those hands.

Forrest has two things going for him in this fight — his heart and his stamina. His cardio is legendary, and he’s got the biggest heart in mixed martial arts. But he’s never been in a 5 round war, and Rampage is used to longer fights.

Personally, I don’t believe the fight will last past the second round. Rampage’s punching power will prove to be far too much for Griffin to withstand, and Jackson will knock him out before the end of the second round. If he DOES manage to pull out a victory, then I’ll stand and cheer for him, but I don’t see it happening. Either way this thing goes, UFC wins, because this is a star making performance for both guys.

Prediction: Rampage Jackson by TKO, 2nd round

Patrick “The Predator” Cote (12-4) (-165) vs Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida (9-2) (+135)

Those of you who enjoy wagering will probably find something to like about the line in this fight. Patrick Cote has extremely heavy hands and is a fantastic striker, but Ricardo Almeida is one of the best submission artists in the world. Almeida is a 3rd degree black belt in BJJ, and he’s being heavily underestimated by oddsmakers in this fight. If Cote keeps the fight standing he’ll have an advantage, but if the fight goes to the ground it will only be a matter of time before Almeida submits him. Almeida was able to get Nate Marquardt to the ground in Pancrase pretty easily, and Cote is nowhere near the takedown defender that Marquardt is.

I see Almeida getting this fight to the ground in the first round and submitting Cote with ease. If you’re planning on laying some cash on this fight, it’s probably better to do it soon, because I have a feeling that this line is going to favor Almeida by Saturday.

PREDICTION: Ricardo Almeida by submission, 1st round

Joe “Daddy” Stevenson (28-8) (-220) vs Gleison Tibau (15-5) (+180)

This will be Joe Stevenson’s first fight since his mauling at the hands of B.J. Penn in January. That fight was for the vacant UFC Lightweight title, and Stevenson lost to one of the best in the business, so you’d have to still consider him to be a top 5 guy in the division.

Stevenson is a very, very powerful guy for a lightweight. In fact, he’s stronger than Tyson Griffin, who is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and the only man Gleison Tibau has lost to since moving to the lightweight division.

Tibau is a good fighter, but he’s not in the same class as Stevenson. Joe Daddy is going to take this one by decision

PREDICTION: Joe Stevenson by decision

Josh “Kos” Koscheck (10-2) (-295) vs Chris “Lights Out” Lytle (25-15-5) (+235)

I’ve never liked Josh Koschek, mostly because of his attitude and his boring fights. His recent win over Dustin Hazelett and the post-fight interview, however, proved two things to me: that Kos is capable of knocking someone out, and that he’s learning to respect the sport more with every fight he has.

Chris Lytle has the mythical position of “gatekeeper” in the 170 pound division, in that he’s typically someone a rising star needs to beat in order to gain access to the top guys in the division. He’s a good fighter with flash knockout power, but he’s not in the same class as St. Pierre, Hughes, Serra or even Koschek. He’s got a very strong chin and is very hard to hurt standing.

If Koschek displays the same killer instinct that he had in the last fight, Lytle is in for a short night. I expect a takedown and ground and pound from Kos, most likely in the second round.

PREDICTION: Josh Koschek by TKO, round 2

Tyson Griffin (11-1) (-350) vs. Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio (16-5) (+280)

Tyson Griffin is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. Every single time Griffin fought in 2007, he earned Fight Of The Night honors. Granted, some of that credit will always go to his opponent, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Griffin brings the goods every single time he steps in the cage.

Marcus Aurelio makes his debut on the main card of a UFC show here with his only real claim to fame is a win over Takanori Gomi. Of course, that’s a big claim, as Gomi is considered one of the top three lightweights in the world.

I’m going with the upset here. In his last few fights, Tyson Griffin just hasn’t looked very good. He hardly ever tries to finish, and Aurelio is going to bring that sometimes-deadly underdog mindset into this fight. I think Griffin is going to make a mistake, and Aurelio is going to capitalize on it and submit him in the third round.

Prediction: Marcus Aurelio by submission, round 3

Jeremy Botter is an editor of InsideFights. He also edits the J. Botter Weblog, where you can find all sorts of fun stuff.

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