One of the biggest UFC events of the year is now upon us, and despite some last minute changes to the main card UFC 111 looks set to deliver a quality night of fights for the expected 17,000+ crowd in New Jersey.
See below for our full preview and predictions for the event.
Georges St.Pierre Vs Dan Hardy
Georges St.Pierre steps into the octagon on Saturday night looking to make the fourth successful defense of his welterweight title, and go seven fights unbeaten for the first time in his six year UFC career.
Standing in the way of that is the UK’s Dan Hardy, who is a veteran in his own right with 30 fights under his belt, though just four of them have come in the UFC.
Few people have given the Brit a chance against the man some believe his the pound for pound best fighter on the planet, but despite that Hardy has remained confident in the build-up to the fight, believing that he is the superior striker and has a killer instinct that GSP lacks.
It’s hard to disagree that Hardy’s best chance comes in the stand-up battle since GSP is a phenomenal wrestler by MMA standards and has successfully stifled any threat on the mat from a number of talented opponents in the past.
I do question Hardy’s confidence in his striking and knockout power though. Hardy shows good boxing fundamentals in particular, and does have the ability to throw well-timed counters, but he’s not an especially heavy-handed K.O striker in the way that, for example, his Roughhouse team-mate Paul Daley is.
Personally I believe GSP’s striking is under-rated due to his reliance on his wrestling in recent times. The Thiago Alves fight was a good example of this. Alves is one of the divisions top strikers, yet in the brief exchanges on the feet GSP had the edge, and even knocked down his opponent.
St.Pierre’s chin is also often brought into question, but it’s worth remembering that he has never been knocked out in his eight year career to date, and in the much talked about loss to Matt Serra he was wobbled rather than dropped.
It’s certainly possible that Hardy could connect with a fight-ending left hook, but it feels like that’s the only chance he realistically has against the champion. I expect GSP to show his superiority in all aspects of the game and make a real push to finish this fight via ground and pound in the later rounds.
I’m going for Georges St.Pierre to earn a TKO victory in the fourth round.
Frank Mir Vs Shane Carwin
The heavyweight interim title is on the line when Frank Mir and Shane Carwin fight on Saturday night, but the real prize is the chance to fight Brock Lesnar, a man both fighters have a bone to pick with.
Mir believes that Carwin is a better version of Lesnar, and if that’s the case then he may have his work cut out for him based on his last two meetings with the champ. Personally though I believe Mir is over-rating Carwin slightly.
One area that the former champion will hold a significant experience advantage going into this fight though is in experience. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Carwin due to his imposing physique and impressive KO victories, but he’s still relatively untested. In his eleven fights to date his toughest opponent was Gabriel Gonzaga, and with low ranking fighters Christian Wellisch and Neil Wain filling up the rest of his 3-0 record in the UFC, it’s clear to see that this will be a major test for Carwin.
Another disadvantage Carwin faces is the lengthy layoff he’s had to endure due to Lesnar pulling out of their originally scheduled title bout last year due to illness. That means that it’s now been a little over a year since he last stepped into the octagon.
There are positives for Carwin though. Despite Mir’s successful attempts to put on muscle and mass, Carwin is still the naturally bigger and stronger fighter. He also has a clear advantage in the wrestling department, one of the weaker aspects of Mir’s game. That will of course be countered though by Mir’s BJJ prowess.
This one may well play out on the feet though, and that is an intriguing contest. Carwin is a proven power puncher, with a number of his opponents simply falling straight to the floor like a controlled demolition upon impact. He is not a particularly technical striker though, and it won’t be hard for Mir to find a home for some of his own strikes, which have proven effective in recent fights with the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo.
When two 265lb+ heavyweights enter the cage with 4oz gloves the fight could end at any second, so a win for either fighter will not be a major surprise. My money’s on Mir though. He is right to an extent that Lesnar is similar to Carwin (though I believe Lesnar is the better of the two), and having fought him twice he will know what to expect here. Carwin on the other hand is undoubtedly facing the toughest fight of his career, and I think that will show on the night.
I’m going for Frank Mir to win by submission in Round 2
Jon Fitch Vs Ben Saunders
Due to an irregularity found during a CAT scan Thiago Alves has been forced to pull out of his fight with Jon Fitch, but a replacement has been quickly found in the shape of Ben Saunders.
Often times when a replacement is brought in at extremely short notice the main concern is whether they are in good enough shape to go three rounds, but that’s not the case here since Saunders was already scheduled to fight on the UFC 111 main card anyway.
A lack of time to prepare for the change in opponent is certainly a factor though, and one that will affect both fighters. I believe this will favor Fitch since he is vastly more experienced and has fought a who’s who of the welterweight division during his career, coming out on top in 21 of his 22 visits to the octagon.
I’m sure he would have liked extra time to have prepared for the danger that may come from Saunders most effective weapon – his muay thai clinch, but having already been training for a muay thai opponent in Alves it shouldn’t require too much of an adjustment.
The other issue for Fitch is the clear height and reach advantage his opponent will enjoy, but I suspect he will neutralize this by using his superior wrestling to take Saunders to the mat.
If this fight stays standing then Saunders certainly has a chance, but Fitch is an intelligent fighter and will realize that it’s not worth risking defeat against a last minute replacement. Therefore I see him taking this fight to the floor at the earliest opportunity, and grinding out yet another decision win.
I’ll take Jon Fitch to claim victory thanks to a decision win.
Jim Miller Vs Mark Bocek
Both Jim Miller and Mark Bocek head into this lightweight battle on the back of a three fight win-streak in the UFC.
Miller fought on the main card of UFC 108 back in January, picking up a quick submission victory over Duane Ludwig, but Bocek has so far been plying his trade in the prelims, and so this will be his first taste of fighting under the spotlight.
Bocek is a decent all-rounder, but his real strength is in his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and this fight will get interesting if he can get Miller onto the mat. That will be easier said than done however with Miller being the superior wrestler of the two.
I believe that will be a key factor as Miller’s wrestling can help him to dictate where the fight goes, and I suspect that, in the early stage of the fight at least, he may just fancy his chances in the stand-up.
In his last fight that Miller looked comfortable, and even got the better of the early exchanges with Ludwig who is a quality striker. That bodes well against Bocek who is unlikely to pose a significant threat on his feet.
I believe Miller is one of the best fighters currently rising through the ranks in the lightweight division, and will be too much for Bocek. I see him getting the better of the fight on the feet, and later being skilled enough to work some ground and pound from top position without getting caught in a Bocek submission attempt from his back.
I’m going for Jim Miller to pick up another win via the judges decision.
Kurt Pellegrino Vs Fabricio Camoes
A last minute alteration to the event’s line-up has proven beneficial to Kurt Pellegrino and Fabricio Camoes who find their way onto the main card instead of being buried in the prelims.
It’s an opportunity that Camoes will surely relish in just his second fight in the UFC, and he’ll be hoping to pick up his first win in the octagon after earning a draw against Caol Uno in his first bout.
Meanwhile Pellegrino has become used to alternating between the prelims and the main card during his four year spell with the UFC, and is currently on a three fight win streak.
Both fighters are highly skilled BJJ practitioners which makes this fight an interesting proposition should they decide to test each other on the mat, thought it may well be that they cancel each other out. I suspect Pellegrino’s wrestling could pay dividends here, helping him to control position and enabling him to bring in some point scoring ground and pound.
We’ve seen Pellegrino submitted in the past, and Camoes has the credentials to exploit any holes in his submission defense. It’s tempting to go with the underdog but putting the BJJ element to one side I believe Pellegrino is the better fighter and will use his wrestling to his advantage to win out on points.
I’m taking Kurt Pellegrino by decision.
(Predicted winners in bold)
Ricardo Almeida Vs Matt Brown
Nate Diaz Vs Rory Markham
Rodney Wallace Vs Jared Hamman
Rousimer Palhares Vs Tomasz Drawl
Matthew Riddle Vs Greg Soto