This is it, the biggest card in MMA history comes to you live this Saturday from Las Vegas. The UFC will put on it’s 100th numbered show and they are ushering in the next 100 cards with a bang. We will see two title fights, the first time since UFC 92, as well as The Ultimate Fighter nine coaches battling for a title shot.
In the main event Frank Mir will battle Brock Lesnar to unify the heavyweight championship. This is a rematch of Lesnar’s first fight in the UFC where he looked dominating early but got caught in a submission giving him his only loss of his MMA career. Both guys are coming in hungry to prove that they are the legitimate champion.
The co-main event boasts another title match between pound for pound great and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre v. Thiago Alves. St. Pierre has basically wiped out the welterweight division save for Alves. Alves doesn’t have the same grappling prowess St. Pierre has but his size and muay thai skills will make for a very interesting match up.
Last but certainly not least The Ultimate Fighter nine coaches, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping, will square off for a title shot at Anderson Silva’s middleweight belt. The winner of this fight has been promised a title shot by UFC president Dana White. While these guys didn’t stir up too much of a rivalry on the show they obviously got on each other’s nerves so hopefully those emotions will bubble up in this bout.
Let’s break down the entire card:
Brock Lesnar v. Frank Mir:
Lesnar is 3-1, 2-1 in the UFC, with two wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands. Mir is 12-3, 10-3 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu-jitsu fighter with good muay thai.
In their last match Lesnar imposed his will on Mir by taking him down quickly and showing his power. However, he was still very raw and Mir used his slick submission game to catch Brock in a kneebar to get the win. This fight will be nothing like that fight.
Lesnar has a much improved game now and Mir is not the same fighter either. Both fighters will be prepared for what they saw last time. Mir should come out and try to pick Brock apart with his technically superior striking like he did with Nogueira and try to stay away from Brock’s power. He also needs to forget about kicks as he’ll be asking for takedowns by throwing those out there.
Lesnar cannot go to the ground with Mir. Brock will be able to dictate where the fight takes place due to his size advantage but taking the fight to the ground is a risky proposition. Lesnar needs to keep this fight on the feet and in the clinch. He needs to use his power advantage to wear down Mir in the clinch a la Randy Couture and then use his devastating power to finish Mir just like in the Couture fight.
Lesnar finished off a legend of the sport in Randy Couture proving that he is a legitimate fighter. However, Couture is an older and smaller version of Lesnar. Mir has a much more diversified game and showed surprising power against Nogueira. I think Mir will have the better game plan and can improvise better than Brock if things get out of hand. Mir has too many ways to win this fight. I’m picking Mir by submission in the third round.
Georges St. Pierre v. Thiago Alves:
St. Pierre is 20-2, 12-2 in the UFC, with 13 wins by stoppage. He has good muay thai, boxing, jiu-jitsu, and is probably the best effective wrestler in MMA. Alves is 16-3, 9-2 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a brutal muay thai fighter with some jiu-jitsu skills.
This will be the first fighter St. Pierre has faced where has not had the size advantage. If St. Pierre is to retain his belt he needs to focus on staying inside of Alves to get the fight to ground while avoiding the clinch. If he can get the fight to the mat he should be use his ground game to earn the victory.
Alves on the other hand needs to negate St. Pierre’s wrestling above all else. He showed very effective sprawls against the former king of MMA wrestling Matt Hughes. St. Pierre proved his wrestling has surpassed Hughes’ back at UFC 79 so Alves will have to step his game up again. If he can stay off the mat and use his power advantage in the striking game, either from distance or in the clinch, he should be able to pull off the (T)KO victory.
Both of these fighters are top 10 pound for pound in my book. However, GSP is just in another stratosphere at this point in time. I like St. Pierre to win by submission in the second round.
Dan Henderson v. Michael Bisping:
Henderson is 24-7, 4-2 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands. Bisping is 17-1, 7-1 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer with some muay thai and jiu-jitsu skills.
This is a classic striker v. grappler match up. Bisping wants to stand and trade while Henderson, if he’s smart, will take the fight to the ground and pound on Bisping. Unless Bisping catches Henderson in a wild flurry (which has never happened) I can’t see Bisping winning this fight.
Henderson has the better power and most importantly the better wrestling so he will decide where the fight takes place. My bet is that Henderson will stand and trade, which he likes to do, until he gets tired of Bisping’s pitter patter shots and takes him down. Neither man has been finished by (T)KO and I don’t see that trend ending here. I’m picking Henderson to earn the decision.
Jon Fitch v. Paulo Thiago:
Fitch is 18-3, 9-1 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good jiu-jitsu and kickboxing along with some muay thai. Thiago is 11-0, 1-0 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu-jitsu fighter with good muay thai and some judo.
Thiago gets this shot at the highly regarded Fitch after shocking the world with his first round TKO victory over Josh Koscheck back at UFC 95. Fitch badly wants to get back into title contention and a win here would be a big step toward that goal.
Thiago is a good grappler when it comes to jiu-jitsu but Fitch has the better wrestling. Fitch is the more technical striker but Thiago has the power advantage. Fitch has proven his toughness time and time again while Thiago is a bit of an unknown quantity.
This is a very tough fight to pick. However, I’d like to think that unless Fitch makes a major mistake and gets caught, on the feet or the ground, his technique, wrestling, and toughness should earn him the advantage in this fight. I see Fitch earning a very tough decision victory to give Thiago his first loss.
Yoshihiro Akiyama v. Alan Belcher:
Akiyama is 12-1, making his UFC debut, with all 12 wins by stoppage. He is a judo fighter with good kickboxing. Belcher is 14-5, 5-3 in the UFC, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a muay thai fighter with solid jiu-jitsu.
Akiyama is the latest import to come to the UFC looking to challenge Anderson Silva for his middleweight title. Akiyama brings an exciting, well rounded game over from Japan and is looking to make an early impact. Alan Belcher is a bit of spoiler though. He ruined Denis Kang’s long awaited debut in the UFC back at UFC 93.
Akiyama is more of a grappler and Belcher is more of a striker however both have enough tools in their belt to be good wherever the fight goes. Both of these guys are exciting fighters who love to finish fights so this should be an exciting match that doesn’t go the distance.
I am always a little concerned about fighters coming to the UFC for the first time, even fighters like Akiyama who have been in front of huge crowds before. The crowds in America are different and fighting in a cage has nuances that must be learned through experience.
I think Akiyama is the better fighter but I think it will be a closer fight than people expect. I like Akiyama to be competitive standing but to use his judo to get the fight to the mat where he can end it by submission. I’m picking Akiyama by submission in the second round.
Mark Coleman v. Stephen Bonnar:
Coleman is 15-9, 6-4 in the UFC, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler. Bonnar is 11-5, 5-4 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with solid boxing and muay thai.
Coleman is simply over the hill and shouldn’t be fighting anymore. However, the commissions keep clearing him and Dana White lets him fight simply because he’s a UFC hall of famer. Bonnar shouldn’t have any issues in this fight. He has the better striking and conditioning. And even if Coleman gets the fight to the ground Bonnar can submit Coleman. I’m picking Bonnar by submission in the first round.
Mac Danzig v. Jim Miller:
Danzig is 18-6-1, 2-2 in the UFC, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu-jitsu fighter with solid boxing. Jim Miller is 13-2, 2-1 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good jiu-jitsu.
This should be a very good match up of grapplers. I like Miller because he can do a better job of where the fight takes place. I think he will take the fight to the mat but he should have top position most of the fight giving him more offensive opportunities and points in the judges’ eyes. I’m picking Miller to win by decision.
Jon Jones v. Jake O’Brien:
Jones is 8-0, 2-0 in the UFC, with six wins by stoppage. He is a wreslter with good muay thai. O’Brien is 11-2, 4-2 in the UFC, with eight wins by KO. He is a wrestler with good striking.
These are two similar fighters in terms of skill sets. However, I think Jones is more athletic and has the better technical skills in both the striking and grappling. I’m picking Jones to win by TKO in the first round.
Dong Hyun Kim v. TJ Grant:
Kim is 11-0-1, 2-0 in the UFC, with seven wins by stoppage. He is judo fighter with good kickboxing and some jiu-jitsu. Grant is 14-2, 1-0 in the UFC, with 13 wins by stoppage. He is jiu-jitsu fighter with some muay thai skills.
Both of these fighters are good grapplers and I think they will probably negate each other on the ground. That leaves it up to who has the better striking. I believe this to be Kim who has shown better finishing power and good technique. I’m picking Kim to win a tough fight by decision to keep the undefeated streak alive.
CB Dolloway v. Tom Lawlor:
Dolloway is 8-1, 2-1 in the UFC, with seven wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good muay thai and solid jiu-jitsu. Lawlor is 5-1, 1-0 in the UFC, with four wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler.
In this match up of Ultimate Fighter alumns the fight will come down to who can impose his will on the other. Whoever has the better wrestling will dictate where the fight takes place. If it takes place on the feet I like Dolloway’s chances but if the fight goes to the mat and Lawlor’s on top I think he could come out the victor. I think Dolloway has the more well rounded game so I’m picking him to win by TKO in the second round.
Matt Grice v. Shannon Gugerty:
Grice is 9-2, 1-2 in the UFC, with six wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler. Gugerty is 11-3, 1-1 in the UFC, with all 11 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu-jitsu fighter with decent striking.
Grice can control where this fight takes place and I like his chances better on the feet than on the mat. With that said both guys are susceptible on the feet so this fight becomes a real toss up. I’m going to pick out of a hat and go with Grice who seems to me to have better finishing power. I’m picking Grice by TKO in the second round.