Rashad Evans vs. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson
So the showdown between the TUF 10 coaches is finally here, six months after it was originally supposed to happen. During that time Evans his picked up a decision win over Thiago Silva while Jackson has been sidelined filming the A-Team movie.
It has in fact been almost 15 months since Rampage last fought, defeating Evans team-mate Keith Jardine by unanimous decision. Of course that bout culminated with Evans walking in to the cage to call-out Rampage, causing a war of words to begin which has been on-going until this day.
There’s no great secret to Rampage’s strategy in this fight -sprawl and brawl. He has the superior boxing in this match-up with good technique, genuine power and notable defensive qualities. He’s also shown excellent takedown defense in the past, and that could be crucial to his chances of winning this fight.
Evans strategy is potentially more unpredictable here. At his core he’s a wrestler, but he has fallen in love with the striking aspect of the game, and, for a time at least, found considerable success with it. After being KO’d by Lyoto Machida though he’s shown a willingness to head back to his roots, as was demonstrated in his fight with Thiago Silva, and I expect to see that continue against Rampage.
The opening round will be crucial. If Evans can secure a takedown that will be huge for his chances of victory. It’ll take Rampage out of his comfort zone and force him to expend valuable energy getting back to his feet, or if not be forced to absorb a damaging ground and pound assault for the remainder of the round. Evans has shown some difficulties getting fighters to the mat at times in the past though, and with Rampage having stuffed shots from talented wrestlers like Dan Henderson and Kevin Randleman before, Evans will have his work cut out for him.
If Rampage is able to keep the fight standing then the odds shift in his favor. The risk here will be if he gets frustrated with Evans tendency to move out of range and showboat. If he stays focused though then when they do exchange I favor Rampage’s crisp, technical striking and solid chin versus Evans wilder looping punches and suspect punch resistance. A potential spanner in the works will be if Evans keeps his distance and uses leg-kicks – a known weak spot in Rampage’s game.
I’ve spent much of this week leaning towards Evans as I’m very wary of picking any fighter who’s coming off a long layoff, particularly when there’s doubts over his physical and mental state. I can’t shake the feeling that Rampage may well be able to use his takedown defense to keep this fight standing though, and if that is the case then it’ll be hard for Evans to survive three rounds without being caught with something meaningful. I still have serious reservations, but I’ll go with the man I think that, on his day, is the more dangerous fighter.
I’m taking Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson to win by TKO in Round 2.
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Miller
Promoted to the co-main event slot due to an injury to Forrest Griffin, Michael Bisping and Dan Miller will be looking at this fight as an opportunity to get back to winning ways.
In his last outing at UFC 110 in February Bisping took Wanderlei Silva to the judges scorecards, but lost by unanimous decision. Miller suffered similar disappointment after going three rounds with Demian Maia earlier in that month.
With two losses in a row Miller now sees this as a must-win fight if he wants to stay in the promotion, and he certainly can’t be counted out. His stand-up was lackluster against Maia, who is himself not a renowned striker, but he can hold his own and has a good chin. His gameplan here though will be to take this fight to the ground and he is an accomplished jiu-jitsu player who will pose a genuine submission threat.
Bisping is himself a well rounded fighter and has shown in the past that he is no slouch on the ground, even from his back against a BJJ black belt like Denis Kang. That means he won’t be afraid to go to the mat, but his natural instinct is to keep the fight standing if possible, and in this particular instance he may well have the tools to exploit weaknesses in Miller’s own striking game.
In his recent fights Bisping’s faced a succession of heavy-handed strikers – Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Chris Leben and Denis Kang – which I believe has made him a little tentative too engage. Miller is not a knockout puncher though, and I expect to see a more aggressive and adventurous Bisping than we’ve been accustomed to seeing lately as a result.
For my money Bisping is the more well-rounded fighter. The fact that Miller has also faced tragic circumstances in his personal life over the past year with his daughter dying and now his young son suffering serious health problems, makes this an even steeper hill for him to climb. I think Bisping will come on strong and while I don’t think he’ll get the clean knockout he craves, I think he will win inside the distance.
I’m going for Michael Bisping to win by TKO in the third round.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira Vs Jason Brilz
Despite the disappointment of not being able to face former champion Forrest Griffin due to an injury, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will still have to be wary of late replacement Jason Brilz who has been quietly cultivating a 3-1 record in the UFC, 18-2-1 overall.
Nogueira’s camp believe he is in the form of his life however, and there were certainly signs of that in his octagon debut last November when he floored highly regarded prospect Luiz Cane in just under two minutes of the opening round.
As his record suggests Brilz is a capable fighter with solid wrestling and a decent top game, and he’ll be looking to take the fight in that direction on Saturday night. This is a major step up in competition though, especially on short notice, so it’s questionable how much success he’ll have in that regard.
Rogerio, like his twin Rodrigo, is very talented on the ground, and has shown in the past that he can use his high level BJJ skills from his back against strong wrestlers. At the same time Rogerio’s striking is ever improving.
He’s worked hard on his boxing, and he has reaped the benefits, winning gold at the South American Games in 2006, and Bronze at the Pan American Games. That success coincided with an increase in finishes in his fights, and after being known for submissions and decision victories in the early stages of his career, he’s now went on to finish five of his last seven fights by TKO or KO.
It will be interesting to see how Brilz copes with the challenge, but I believe Rogerio has too much in his locker, and will cause his opponent major problems whether the fight stays standing or on the mat.
I’m picking Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to win by TKO in the second round.
Todd Duffee vs. Mike Russow
The heavyweight division’s youngest rising star, 24 year old Todd Duffee has been out injured for most of the past year through injury but his seven second knockout of Tim Hague in his UFC debut at UFC 102 is still fresh in most fans memories.
Russow’s promotional debut at the same event and while his unanimous decision victory over Justin McCully went largely unnoticed, it did mark his eight win in a row in MMA competition.
Duffee is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the heavyweight class, looking lean and muscular at 6ft 3″ and 253lbs. While the brief look at his striking in his last fight impressed, don’t be surprised to also see him working inside from the clinch and looking to ground and pound his opponent as he has done prior to his arrival in the UFC.
Russow is no small man himself, standing 6ft 2″ and also tipping the scales at 253lb, though he does not possess the same athletic physique as his opponent. His game is largely based around his grappling, and he has posted a series of submission victories over the course of his career to date, though largely against less than stellar opposition.
I agree with Duffee that he has been over-hyped to an extent but he still shows a lot of promise beyond just the 7 second knockout. I think he’ll be the stronger fighter here,
John Hathaway vs. Diego Sanchez
Life had been going well for Diego Sanchez in the lightweight division until he was handily defeated by BJ Penn late last year, prompting him to pack his bags and return to welterweight.
His first challenge back at 170lbs comes in the shape of John Hathaway, one of the UK’s most promising up and comers who has assembled a perfect 12-0 record so far, including three preliminary bout wins in the UFC.
despite looking outclassed against Penn, one thing you can’t take away from him is his heart. Many fighters wouldn’t have recovered from the first round knockdown in that fight, yet he managed to recover, and despite taking a beating was only prevented from finishing the full five rounds by a cut. That loss marked the first time he has ever been stopped inside the distance, and his only other defeats have come in close decisions to 170lb top contenders Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.
Therefore Hathaway has a tough task on his hands if he wants to make a statement in his first outing on the main card of a UFC card. He definitely has talent though, and it’s worth noting he is a considerably better wrestler than many of his UK counterparts. He’s still young and developing in all aspects of the game which means he’s showing improvements each time he steps into the octagon.
We may well see the best Hathaway yet, but will that be enough? Sanchez is considerably more experienced, is well rounded at this level of competition, has a bottomless gas tank and has fought and matched many of the best at both 155 and 170lbs. I think Hathaway will be a gamer, but I can’t see past the ‘Nightmare’ here.
I’m taking Diego Sanchez to win by decision
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