(Managing Editor’s Note: Ben Bieker is our newest Feature Writer here at RSR, covering the MMA. I, along with the rest of the team, welcome him aboard!)
Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, 13-1-0, #1 Lightweight vs. Gray “The Bully” Maynard, 10-0-0-1, #3 Lightweight
You can bank on two things in the outcome of this fight, first is that there will be a decision victory, and second is that the winner will have to avoid the kicks of Anthony Pettis. Frankie comes into this fight having beaten B.J. Penn, the man most people thought would hold the Lightweight title for a long time, twice. While Gray is finally getting the shot at the title that he and many people thought he deserved a long time ago. This is a collision of wills in this fight as Frankie wants to avenge the only loss on his record, and Gray wants to get the belt he feels is rightfully his.
A diverging point in both men’s careers is their first fight, since then both men have had five fights since then. Those five fights paint the story of how this fight will go, and give a game plan to each competitor to beat their opponent.
Frankie has shown a lot of improvement since his first loss. He beat former title contender Hermes Franca after he fought for the belt, then beat former champion Sean Sherk in a display of striking that UFC president professed he didn’t know Frankie had. He was then supposed to take Kurt Pellegrino but ended up fighting and beating Matt Veach, and after that fight he got his title shot. It seemed like the loss to Gray made Frankie get better because every fight after the loss a part of his game got drastically better.
This culminated in the fights with B.J. because even though he won the first fight many people felt he did not do enough to take the belt from the champion with some rounds looking even. Then in the second fight he did not only outbox the former champion, he outwrestled him taking him to the ground at will, dominating him in a performance reminiscent of B.J.’s fight against GSP. In those two fights Frankie proved that while a little undersized he will pose a problem for any fighter that comes into his path.
Now he takes on Gray Maynard who has always looked nearly unbeatable, but there is a way with the right game plan to beat Maynard. Since his fight with Frank Gray has won, but not always looked impressive, relying more on his power and wrestling to win then clearly evolving his game just as much as Frankie has. He did show good standup in beating the always tough Jim Miller just like Frankie’s fight against Sherk, but since then his performances have not been as great.
When he fought Nate Diaz many MMA sites scored the fight for Nate because it seemed like Nate had used superior grappling and striking on the feet to beat Gray. A similar thing happened when he took on Roger Huerta who he took a split decision over, but Roger was coming off a near 9 month layoff, after lengthy contract disputes. Also, his fight with Kenny Florian was not the prettiest in which he just handled his opponent, but never made any real attempts to finish the fight, just willing to wait and take a decision win without being impressive.
So to beat Gray you need to be able to beat him in all aspects of the game, because at the end of the day his strong wrestling outweighs anything anyone can bring to the table, and if you can’t defend the shot they you will have to get creative with your BJJ from off your back, like Nate Diaz did. In this fight, I would think that Frankie would want to keep it standing because his striking is better than Gray’s even if neither posses knockout power. For Maynard he will be taking the fight to the ground because it won him the first fight so there is no reason it won’t win it for him here. If Frankie cannot defend the shot I see it being a long night for him, and the big question will be the later rounds. In that Gray has never been in a five round fight, and Frankie has taken two fights deep into them. I don’t believe that Gray will run out of gas, but trying to control Frankie for three rounds may tire him out.
The Bottom Line: I don’t know for me Frankie is still the underdog, because no matter how good he did against B.J. Gray has always shown to be the superior wrestler and who knows if Gray had the chance to fight B.J. he might already have the belt around his waist. So I will take Gray in 5 getting a unanimous decision win.
Chris “The Crippler” Leben, 25-46, vs. Brian “All American” Stann, 9-3
There is always the question posed about which MMA fighter another would want with them in a street fight, and lets just say if I was an MMA fighter I would pick Chris Leben, hands down. That is not to say that Brian Stann is a bad fighter, it is just to say that Chris Leben is someone you don’t want to mess with. Don’t let it fool you that he went 6-5 in his last 11 fights on any given day I think Chris could beat any fighter not named Anderson Silva.
He has had some missteps here and there due more to alcohol and not training then getting outclassed. He is one of those fighters that always seems on the verge of getting his life and career on track on track but losses it somewhere. Riding a 3 fight winning streak and having two spectacular performances in a row, Chris looks to have it all together. Let’s hope he doesn’t fail here.
Brian Stann actually asked for this fight. I don’t know why he wanted it, or why they gave it to him. Chris Leben is bad news for any fighter. He showed some good knockout power at the beginning of his career, but it has been over 2 and a half years since he knocked anyone out. That is to not say he isn’t capable, but something has stopped him from doing it.
Leben has not won as many fights by knockout as most would think, with about only half of his victories actually coming by knockout, but what makes his knockouts memorable is they are spectacular. Whether it comes from the jaws of near defeat like his win against Terry Martin, or his tears of blood after knocking out Alessio Sakara.
I don’t really know where Brain holds an edge in this fight. Maybe his wrestling is stronger, but Chris Ji-Jitsu is good from his back, just ask Akiyama if you don’t believe me. Also standing maybe Stann’s striking is more dynamic, but Chris has knocked out many strikers who have had supposed better technique, because if you hurt Chris you may be getting into more trouble then if you didn’t. Brian is not Anderson Silva so he will not be knocking him out, and I doubt Stann will be submitting Chris anytime soon. So he will have had to grow a lot from his last fight if he does not want to lose this one.
The Bottom Line: Pretty much a no brainer here. Leben by second round TKO.
Brandon “The Truth” Vera, 11-5 vs. Thiago Silva, 14-2
Thiago finishes this fight hands down. I know most pundits will say he has ring rust, he is coming off a surgery, and Brandon Vera could always fulfill his potential finally in this fight. The old destructive force that was “The Truth” is never coming back, for those who may believe it is.
Contract disputes and time off has killed the fireball that was ready to take titles in two divisions. You thought the drop to 205 would help, but it didn’t. As a loss to an over 40 fighter and getting your orbital bone blown out in less than a few minutes does not do much the help a fighter’s career. He is nearing the end of his peak as a fighter at 34 years old, and with a killer like Thiago in the ring he doesn’t last much longer in the UFC.
Thiago on the other hand while having gone through a rough patch in his career, after going 1-2, I believe will come back and be a force. The Machida loss was a wakeup call on two parts. First no one knew Machida had power like that and second it showed that you can’t head hunt people like Thiago was. In his next fight, against Keith Jardine, he absolutely destroyed him, but also waited till he had the opening to do so. The loss to Rashad came more from injury than from Rashad being the better fighter. Thiago has been out a year because of that injury and it made him not able to capitalize when he had a chance to finish the fight.
The Bottom Line: Thiago wins this fight because his star is still shining, while Brandon’s has all but burnt out and Thiago will show that as he gives Brandon his second first round stoppage loss in a row.
Nate Diaz, 13-5 vs. Dong “Stun Gun” Kim, 13-0-1-1
I think 170 is the right weight for Nate. Since coming up he has looked really good and seems to have more power in his punches. While he hasn’t fought the best competition he has blown some decent fighters out of the water in Rory Markham and Marcus Davis. While his hands have looked good in his last two fights, he also has a good submission game that helped him go 5-0 in the beginning of his UFC career. He is a dangerous fighter who was very close to beating the number one contender at Lightweight, in Gray Maynard.
Dong on the other hand has not been very impressive in his fights in the UFC career so far. He is technically undefeated, but really has a loss to Karo Parysian. None the less the fight result was overturned and he has not lost yet. To me he reminds me of Yushin Okami in the fact that he puts his opponents into his fight. He does not divert from a game plan and even if it does not look pretty he is able to smother the fighters. He is really well rounded too, being able to keep the fight off the ground, or out strike people on the feet.
This fight will be interesting to watch as, I believe, it is one of the fights on the card with the two most well rounded fighters. If it stays standing Dong could control it with his smothering striking, or Nate could hurt him with his punches. If it goes to the ground Dong could control it their, or Nate could catch him in a submission. Both fighters have the potential to win this fight anywhere, it is just a matter of who is able to implement their game plan better.
The Bottom Line: At the end of the day Nate is able to blend his aggressiveness with his technique very well. I think he will rack up another win over a quality opponent in this fight, putting him in line for a bigger fight at 170 down the road. Nate by unanimous decision, as Dong proves too hard to finish.
Clay “The Carpenter” Guida, 27-11 vs. Takanori “Fireball Kid” Gomi, 32-6
For a fighter who has went 9-8 in his last 17 fights Clay is one hell of a fighter. He epitomizes what Dana is talking about when he says there are two type of fighters who always have a job in the UFC. Either you win fights, or you make it exciting and there is no denying that Clay makes it exciting. He has never been knocked out in his MMA career and it remains to be seen if Gomi will be the first. With a win over Gomi that would put Clay on a three fight win streak and maybe not in contention, but up there in the most crowded division in the UFC.
Gomi is coming off the biggest win of his career in years. For the last few years the vaunted striking of Gomi has been tested, and it has not turned out so well. Most people wanted him picked up by the UFC after the dissolution of Pride, but that didn’t happen and he soon became a less wanted commodity. Most people thought his career was over when the UFC picked him up and he didn’t change any minds with the performance he had against Kenny Florian. In the end, his knockout of Tyson Griffin showed he still has something left to prove and he will need to show it again here, if he wants to stick around in the UFC’s most crowded division.
Gomi would like this fight to play out on the feet, but that is not always how it will happen. Clay is comfortable on his feet, but he has also been rocked there by Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, and Roger Huerta people not all necessarily known for their power. I think if Clay gets hurt he will try to take it to the ground, the question is whether he can get it there. A lot of people don’t know, but Gomi is a really good wrestler, whether he has showed it in his last few fights or not. aIt will be interesting to watch if Clay cannot get Gomi down, or if Gomi is forced to work off his back with Clay on top.
The Bottom Line: Hard to say either Clay will grind out a decision, or Gomi will knockout Clay or hurt him and submit him. I don’t want either to lose, but someone has to unfortunately. Gomi by third round submission after dropping Clay.
The Under Card:
Phil “The New York Badass” Baroni, 8-3 vs. Brad Tavares, 12-6
I don’t wan t to pick against him, but his track record makes me want to. Phil has always been one of those people to me that no matter how much shit he talks, or how good he thinks he is, or how many times he losses I just want to root for him. When he came back to the UFC at welterweight I was hoping he could catch Amir with something, but he looked slow and gassed. I do have a glimmer of hope though as he recently stayed for 2 months in Thailand working on his striking because that is where he will win, it if he does.
This is Brad’s first fight in the UFC since his fight on the live finale. He was close to winning the show, but got stopped by eventual winner Court in the last round on the Ultimate Fighter. He beat Seth Baczynski by decision which was the first of his career. The rest of his fights he has either stopped his opponent due to strikes or has submitted them with a rear naked choke. Obviously the smart idea for Brad to win this fight would be to take it to the ground and try to finish it. Phil still has power in his hands, especially at Middleweight, and for Brad it would be safer not to test his chin against Phil’s hands.
The real determining factor in this fight will be Brad, as he is still new to the sport. He has only 6 fights compared to Phil’s 25 fights. No matter how many losses Phil has he has been in the ring for a fight four times more than Brad has. That did not matter in his fight against Amir, but he was down a whole other weight class, and Phil is a big fighter so who knows how much he was cutting to get down to Welterweight. I’m not going to hide that I would love to see Phil have another repeat performance of his fight against Dave Menne because I know he will never fight for the belt, but I’d like to see him still in the UFC.
The Bottom Line: Like I said before I don’t want to bet against Phil even though he probably won’t win. I am going to go for it and say Phil by first round stoppage due to strikes for old time’s sake.
Marcus “Irish Hand Grenade” Davis, 17-7 vs. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens, 18-6
A loss for either one of these competitors might spell the end of their UFC careers and at the young age of 24 Jeremy might be able to make it back, but as Marcus has been contemplating retiring before this fight, he might just leave the sport all together with another loss. Personally I don’t want to see a loss for either one as they are both two of the more entertaining fighters never disappointing win or lose. With 25 knockouts between their 35 wins we can pretty much tell how this fight will play out too.
Marcus is the product of the Ultimate FIghter. He was late getting into the MMA game as he spent the better part of his athletic career making the rounds on the New England boxing circuit. His first foray into the UFC did not go well as he got beat by Melvin Guillard and then spent some time out of the UFC going on a 5 fight win streak to make it back. Since racking up 6 wins in a row he has went 3-4 losing to the upper echelon of the Welterweight division and beating people he should beat. In an effort not to be a gatekeeper, and make a run at the title, Marcus has dropped down to 155.
Standing in his way is Jeremy who he himself has had some tough times in the UFC. He came into the organization with a 12-1 record at the age of 21. He has went 5-5 in the organization essentially trading wins and losses, but he hasn’t been cut yet because he puts on good exciting performances. He still has the ability to be a title contender at such a young age, but he will need to start putting it together soon with the sudden influx of talent in the lightweight division. A win over Davis will put him at 3-1 in his last four fights and with a few more wins people will forget his earlier losses.
The game plan for both is simple. To stand and trade. The problem here is whether Marcus’ abilities have started to decline. Will he be able to stand and trade when his speed and chin have failed him in the past? Plus, Jeremy has been able to take on high class strikers in the past and beat them or not be knocked out being in the cage with the likes of Melvin Guillard, Spencer Fisher, and Sam Stout would spell doom for most people. Eventually someone will get hurt in this fight and it will be stopped it may just be determined by who gets off first.
The Bottom Line: It is hard to drop a weight class and at an older age it may make it even harder. With the decline in abilities Marcus has showed in his last fight it may show here too, getting stopped in the second round due to strikes.
Josh “The Fluke” Grispi, 14-1, #2 Featherweight vs. Dustin Poirier, 8-4
With these two competitors the fight will not last the whole 15 minutes. There is only one decision between the two fighters 22 wins and Josh has finished his last 8 opponents in the first round. These fighters were no bums either and almost all of them did not even reach the 3 minute mark of the first round. To be honest though, as much as they talk about Jose Aldo being unstoppable I do not see how Josh can be stopped either. He has been knocking people out or submitting them with ease his whole career and I do not seeing it stop here. Dustin is a late replacement and is dropping down a weight class. There is no fluke as Josh takes this fight.
The Bottom Line: Josh by first round submission.
Mike Thomas Brown, 24-6, #4 Featherweight vs. Diego “The Gun” Nunes, 15-1
This is a crossroads fights that can either propel one fighter into title contention for the first time or put one fighter back in the hunt after a rough stretch of fights. Here Mike is coming from the rough stretch in which he lost his belt by getting knocked out, then beat an opponent he was supposed to beat, but then got derailed from his rematch by getting knocked out by Many Gamburyan. Since then he has won one fight against Cole Province, a fighter who has already lost to his next opponent Diego, but Mike was able to finish Cole, something Diego couldn’t.
Diego has went 4-1 in the WEC and is currently riding a 2 fight win streak. His last, and only, loss was to L.C. Davis where he was controlled most of the fight by L.C.’s superior wrestling. His biggest win came over Rapheal Assusanco which came by a very close split decision. Diego was a finisher having finished all 11 of his fights outside the WEC, but he has failed to show that in his WEC career. Mike on the other hand has finished 4 out of his last 5 wins.
Diego’s weakness is when he can be outwrestled, his game shuts down. He will need to have worked on that as Mike is one of the best wrestlers to come out of Maine. Diego will need to focus on his hands as Mike has relied on his power before and it has failed him in the Aldo and Manny fights. He has even stated that he went into those fights knowing he was going to knockout his opponent, which obviously didn’t happen. It will remain to be seen if Mike will rely too much on his hands and get caught by Diego, or if he will fight a smart fight and take Diego down.
The Bottom Line: During Mike’s 1-2 stretch he supposedly had a very rough personal life. It is stated that things have gotten better and I think things will continue to get better as Mike controls this fight in route to a unanimous decision win.
Daniel “Ninja” Roberts, 11-1 vs. Greg Soto, 8-1
This fight is between two fighters that could really become something in the UFC with a little more experience. Both lost their debuts with Roberts getting knockout by John Howard and Soto being DQ’ed when he illegally up-kicked Matt Riddle. Since then Roberts has won two fights, looking impressive when he submitted his last opponent in less than 90 seconds. Greg rebounded from his loss with a win over Nick Osipzak.
The fight is gong to come down as a grappler versus a wrestler. Greg generally drags his opponents to the ground where he either pounds on them or tries to submit them. He will not be able to submit Roberts who has many years of Ji-Jitsu experience, winning multiple titles. It will all come down to whether Greg will be able to control Roberts like Riddle did, or if Roberts will be able to submit Greg like he did to Michael Guymon.
The Bottom Line: Daniel really did looked slick in his last fight and while he does not have many more fights than Greg I think his grappling prowess and experience wins this as he is able to catch Greg in a submission early in the second round.
Jacob “Christmas” Volkmann, 11-2 vs. Antonio “Mandingo” McKee, 25-3-2
Antonio McKee comes into this fight riding a 14 fight win streak. His opponent on the other hand comes in on a two fight win streak after dropping down to Lightweight after going 0-2 at Welterweight. His only two losses in his career, but they were against tough competition in Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. The big question in this fight will be whether or not Jacob will be able to stop the shot of Antonio, as that is where he will clearly want to fight. Antonio likes to drag fights to the ground and control fighters on his way to a decision win. His last fight was only a stoppage since he promised to retire if he couldn’t finish. If he cannot defend the shot Jacob may be spending a lot of time off his back. So he better be working on his submissions and having 6 of his 11 wins by submissions is a good start.
The Bottom Line: A lot of people may not know, but Jacob is a former three time NCAA All American Champion and he showed it in his last two fights by dictating where they went. Jacob takes this by decision, but McKee does not make it easy or exciting.