The UFC heads to Montreal, Canada with one of the best title fights of the year tomorrow night as Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua gets a second chance to seize the light-heavyweight title from Lyoto Machida.
See below for our full preview and predictions for what should hopefully be another memorable night of fights.
Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
A little over six months since their first fight at UFC 104, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua are set to do battle once again in one of the most intriguing bouts on the 2010 MMA calender.
The original match-up was a closely fought encounter that played out much like a real-life game of chess – tense, cautious and strategic, but yet by the end of play neither fighter was able to definitively declare ‘check-mate’. Shogun’ appeared to have the edge in most observers opinions yet the judges controversially handed Machida the victory, which paved the way for an immediate rematch.
This time round both fighters are vowing to ensure that this one does not go to the scorecards, but that may be easier said than done. I expect it to be another tactical battle and it will be fascinating to see what, if any, changes both men make to their original plans in order to gain a definitive edge here.
As far as Machida is concerned I don’t expect to see major changes here. His current defensive-minded karate strategy has taken him to 16 consecutive wins and he has a desire to show that his style is more effective, so now is not the time for major reconstruction. Instead I expect him to have refined his sense of range and timing in order to deal with the kicks that Shogun found a home for in the first fight. There’s also rumors from back in Brazil that he may be training hard on his own front / push kicks, and that may allow him to become more effective in the mid-range battle.
With regards to Shogun, I believe he feels his muay thai is superior to Machida’s karate, and having found some success in their previous fight it may well be that he also follows a similar strategy to the first fight. I expect him to be more aggressive though in an attempt to finish the fight, perhaps using his kicks to set-up combinations rather than isolated strikes. I suspect Shogun is the more powerful striker, and if he is more aggressive this time round then he could capitalize on that. The catch is that a more aggressive approach could play right into Machida’s hands as a deadly counter-striker.
It will be interesting to see if either fighter opts to take the fight to the mat at any stage during the fight. If it’s another close bout then point-scoring takedowns could make all the difference in the final decision.
This fight is so finely balanced that it’s difficult to pick a clear winner here. My feeling though is that Machida will have found an answer for Shogun’s kicks, which will therefore leave the onus on Shogun to find a new way to get past his defenses this time round. As we’ve seen in the past Machida’s weaknesses are few and far between so that will not be an easy task. I don’t believe Machida will finish the fight inside the distance, but I think he can outstrike him to a points victory. (I do wonder whether the judges will be biased in favor of Shogun this time round though given what happened in the previous fight.)
I really can see it going either way but I’m opting for Lyoto Machida to win by decision.
Paul Daley vs. Josh Koscheck
Paul Daley and Josh Koscheck have been waging a war of words on one another since their co-main event showdown was announced, and the fight now has added spice with Dana White confirming that the winner will be next in line for a title shot against welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre.
Daley has made an immediate impression since joining the UFC in September, defeating both Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett in a combined time of less than 5 minutes. Koscheck’s route to a potential title shot has been far longer, but after back-to-back wins over Frank Trigg and Anthony Johnson only Daley stands in his way of a rematch with GSP.
There’s no great secret that Paul Daley is going to want to keep this fight standing, and if he can do so he has every reason to be confident in his ability to end the fight as he possesses a devastating arsenal of punches and kicks.
The real question in this fight is how Koscheck will approach it. In the build-up to the fight he’s kept everyone guessing, at times suggesting he’ll stand toe-to-toe with Daley, and at other times implying he’s going to wrestle him to the mat ASAP. The In the end the truth is likely to be a mixture of both. He’ll start out on his feet and see how it goes, and I suspect after discovering that Daley is indeed a superior striker he’ll revert back to his wrestling base.
Daley has proven in his two previous octagon visits that it doesn’t take him long to find a home for his deadly strikes, but it will be a tall order to do so to three quality fighters in a row. If he fails to do so then I can see Koscheck switching into wrestling mode and taking advantage of his opponents less than stellar ground game to secure the victory.
I’m taking Josh Koscheck to win by submission in the second round.
Jeremy Stephens vs. Sam Stout
In a match-up that screamed ‘Fight Of The Night’ from the moment it was announced, lightweight scrappers Jeremy Stephens and Sam Stout do battle on the UFC 113 main card.
Stout is in fact going for his third ‘Fight Of The Night’ award in a row, and is coming off an impressive performance against Joe Lauzon last time out. Stephens meanwhile picked up a ‘Knockout Of The Night’ bonus cheque for dispatching Justin Buchholz back at UFN 19.
Both fighters are happiest when their standing up throwing their limbs in the direction of their opponents and so we should expect nothing less in this encounter. On paper Stephens is the heavier hitter, but that often comes at the expense of finesse as he launches power bombs that certainly are capable of causing carnage if they connect but can just as easily stray wide of the mark.
Stout on the other hand is a more technical striker with a good Muay Thai base. He’s struggled to finish fights recently with his last five all going to decision, but nonetheless his fights are always entertaining. He’s also got a sturdy chin so Stephens may have to do more than just land a single blow if he wants to put Stout to sleep.
It’s hard to imagine this not being a fun fight to watch as both men go toe-to-toe for three rounds. I do think it’ll end up going the full 15 minutes, and I also am confident that Stout’s superior striking skills will shine through as he seizes a comfortable victory at the hands of the judges.
I’m going for Sam Stout to win by decision.
Kimbo Slice vs. Matt Mitrione
Kimbo Slice may not have won The Ultimate Fighter season 10 but he was certainly the star of the show. Matt Mitrione on the other hand didn’t win, and also came out of the show with, to paraphrase his own words, 80% of people probably thinking he was a douchebag.
Luckily for the former NFL player his future in the promotion relied more on his fighting attributes rather than his personality, and so knocking out Jon Jones at the TUF 10 season finale earned him the chance to stick around for a while in the UFC. Kimbo’s fight with Houston Alexander at the same event was dire, though that was more Alexander’s fault for failing to engage rather than the former backyard brawlers and so he walked away with a decision victory.
Ideally both men like to stand and trade, mainly due to the fact that the other aspects of their MMA game are lacking. Slice has solid boxing fundamentals with good movement in particular, but despite the hype from his street fighting days he’s not a devastating striker, particularly at heavyweight. Mitrione striking is less technical but he does have genuine power, and he heads into this fight roughly 30lbs heavier than his opponent and with a four inch reach advantage which could be significant.
With that in mind it’s not a foregone conclusion that Slice will be looking to turn this into a brawl. Mitrione is still very new to the sport and this might be one of those rare occasions where Slice may have accumulated more ground skills over his brief MMA career than his opponent. We saw in his last fight with Alexander that he has a few throws up his sleeve and will use them if necessary. That, together with some ground and pound, and perhaps a little dirty boxing up against the cage may prove fruitful.
I would not be shocked at all to see Mitrione knocking Kimbo out – in fact I’m actually half-expecting it – but if he can avoid turning this purely into a toe-to-toe brawl and take the fight to the floor then I think Slice may just emerge victorious. Mitrione won’t be put away easily though so I do think he’ll have to go the distance to do it though, and that means we can expect the third round to be very sloppy as both men run out of gas.
By no means a confident pick but I’m taking Kimbo Slice to claim a decision victory.
Patrick Cote vs. Alan Belcher
After a nineteen month absence after suffering an injury in his title fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 90, Patrick Cote returns to duty and immediately faces a tough battle against Alan ‘The Talent’ Belcher. Before his injury Cote had been on an impressive five fight winning streak. Belcher has never had a similar run of form, but he is 3-1 in his last four fights with the defeat being a very close decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama.
This could be an entertaining stand-up encounter. Belcher’s showcases some fluid muay thai skills which allows him to mix up his kicks and punches with ease and unleash effective combos, though he does leave himself vulnerable to counter-strikes at times. Cote is also happy to stand and trade, with his most dangerous weapon being his powerful right hand, and it could end the fight if it connects. He also possesses arguably one of the best chins in the UFC which will certainly come in handy here.
The big question mark in this fight is how Cote will perform after a serious knee injury and over a year and a half out of the game. If you go by his form before his injury then he should be the favorite here, but his lengthy layoff cancels out much of that good work and leaves nagging doubts about how he’ll perform. His camp insist he’s looked good in training and Cote himself has appeared confident in the days leading up to the fight, but we’ll only know for sure on the night.
To be fair though Belcher continues to be a somewhat hot and cold fighter so your never really sure which version of ‘The Talent’ is going to show up either.
This is another tricky fight to predict. In the end I’ll go with my gut feeling which is that Belcher will outstrike Cote early in the fight but will struggle to finish him. In his efforts to do so he’ll leave his defenses open giving Cote the opportunity to land a more telling blow that changes the course of the fight.
I’m going for Patrick Cote to win by TKO in the second round.
Tom Lawlor vs. Tim Credeur
Jonathan Goulet vs. Marcus Davis
Yoshiyuki Yoshida vs. Mike Guymon
Joey Beltran vs. Tim Hague
TJ Grant vs. Johny Hendricks
Jason MacDonald vs. John Salter