Main Card:

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida

After Machida lost his way against Shogun, Rampage seems like a return to the kind of opponent that he excels with.  His counter-striking, point-scoring karate style was built for relatively predictable, offensively minded fighters like Rampage.

Rampage already had difficulties an elusive Rashad Evans in his last fight, and Machida is on another level in that regard, and having also brushed aside ‘Suga’ before, things don’t look too promising for the former PRIDE star.

Takedowns could be an interesting variable in this fight.  Rampage rarely uses his wrestling these days, but taking Machida down and working some ground and pound could prove effective.  At the same time, Machida once again demonstrated some terrific leg sweep takedowns against Shogun before getting caught in their second fight, and getting Rampage on his back where he’s least comfortable could be beneficial to his cause if he wishes to mix things up a little.

Overall I think the smart money is on Machida here, though I don’t think he’ll stop the former PRIDE star inside three rounds. To be fair Rampage definitely has the chance to hand the karate master his second KO defeat in a row if he can find a home for his heavy hands, but  I believe his desire to entertain rather than come in with an effective gameplan as Shogun did will ultimately cost him the fight.

Prediction: Lyoto Machida to win by decision.

Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn

Having already seen this fight played out twice before we know roughly what to expect here.  For Hughes finding a way to bring his wrestling and ground and pound in to play is the key to his success.  Meanwhile Penn remains the superior striker, and despite paying homage to Hughes own BJJ skills at the pre-fight press conference the reality is that he’s by far the superior practitioner in that regard.

Much has been made of Penn’s two fight losing streak, but the reality is that they both came to the same man – Frankie Edgar – and Hughes is nothing like the elusive, busy fighter that the current lightweight champion is.  It’s also worth bearing in mind that prior to that Penn had convincingly stopped Kenny Florian and wiped the floor with Diego Sanchez.

Much has also been made of Hughes recent resurgence with three wins on the trot.  The Almeida win was a good one, but prior to that his fight with 43 year-old Renzo Gracie was a mis-match and said more about Gracie’s eroded skill-set and lack of cardio than Hughes striking.  Meanwhile his performance against Matt Serra was solid, but the fight was a lot closer than the unanimous decision result suggests.

Overall I don’t think either fighter has added a great deal to their games since their last encounter four years when both were at the top of the game, and I so think we’ll see a similar fight.  Penn gained the upper hand for much of their previous two fight and I see him doing so again.  I don’t have a lot of confidence in Hughes stand-up in particular against Penn and think a lot of the damage can be done there before a submission later in the fight puts the icing on the cake for ‘The Prodigy.’

Prediction: BJ Penn by submission in Rd3

Joe Lauzon vs. George Sotiropoulos

Lauzon Vs Sotiropoulos certainly has the makings of a fun fight. In many ways the two are fairly similar, both being intelligent fighters with a relatively solid all-round game, but with their ground skills in particular standing out.

Sotiropoulos’s BJJ is particularly special though and a lot of fun to watch.  A black belt for many years he has some of the slickest guard passing in the UFC and is able to pull off Eddie Bravo specialities like the rubber guard and twister with uncommon ease, and importantly is effective with it too. For those reasons you have to give him a significant advantage on the mat.

The striking element of this fight is less certain.  The Australian doesn’t have the same flashy arsenal of moves at his disposal that he possesses on the floor, but he is fundamentally sound and can hold his own.  Lauzon meanwhile has a scrappier style developed from a solid boxing base and possibly could have a slight edge over his opponent, but like Sotiropoulos he’s not a devastating striker and I don’t see either fighter dominating the other in this regard.

Overall I think it’s Soti’s grappling skills that are going to allow him to win this fight, but I think Lauzon is smart enough and crafty enough to hold out for the full three rounds.

Prediction: George Sotiropoulos to win by decision.

Tim Boetsch vs. Phil Davis

Boetsch won some fans in his early UFC career by ragdolling David Heath around the octagon, but he’s never fully lived up to the initial hype since.  Instead he’s settled into the role of a workmanlike fighter, winning some, losing some and generally struggling to make his mark against the next level of competition.

Phil Davis on the other hand has looked to be an impressive prospect since his UFC debut at the start of the year, notching up a 3-0 record in the octagon since.  He’s still a work in progress much the same as Jon Jones was when he began to find his way in the division, but he already has excellent wrestling credentials and like Jones is quickly adding to his game with striking (though less flashy than ‘Bones’) and submission skills, backed up by an excellent physique and a good head on his shoulders.

I get the feeling we’ve seen Boetsch peak, but Davis is still growing and who knows how far he can reach in the sport.  For now I certainly feel he’s got enough in his locker to defeat Boetsch at this moment in time, though he may find it tough to finish him inside the distance.

Prediction: Phil Davis to win by decision.

Maiquel Falcao vs. Gerald Harris

With a 25-3 record compiled primarily in Brazil, Falcao gets a chance to impress on the big stage in his UFC debut against Harris who has earned his spot on the main card with a 3-0 record in the prelims.

Falcao is primarily a striker who’s record is littered with first round TKO victories. Oftentimes the level of competition hasn’t been stellar though, so from that perspective he remains somewhat of an unknown quantity against a more consistent quality of opposition in the UFC.

I think Harris has a good style to combat Falcao’s offensive striking with wrestling being his bread and butter, and I believe if he can drag the Brazilian out of his first round comfort zone and rough him up from top control he can spoil Falcao’s octagon debut with a stoppage.

Prediction: Gerald Harris to win by TKO in Rd2

    Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)

    Matt Brown vs. Brian Foster
    Mark Munoz vs. Aaron Simpson
    Dennis Hallman vs. Karo Parisyan
    Edson Barboza vs. Mike Lullo
    Paul Kelly vs. T.J. O’Brien
    Nik Lentz vs. Tyson Griffin