B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch
The main event of UFC 127 is very intriguing, pitting BJ Penn, the greatest lightweight of all time, against Jon Fitch, one of the most dominant forces in UFC history.
Despite giving up height and reach to his opponent, Penn is the superior striker. He has natural boxing ability backed up by good technique and power, while excellent head movement allows him to trade successfully inside the pocket. Fitch on the other hand is solid rather than spectacular on his feet. He can mix things up a little, but throughout his UFC career he’s lacked the kind of power and authority required to really trouble his opponents.
It’s no great secret that Fitch would rather fight this battle on the mat. Utilizing his wrestling skills to dominate opponents from top control and wear them down over three rounds has always been his M.O and that’s unlikely to change now with a title shot waiting in the wings should he win.
Of course Penn is no stranger to the mat himself, being a highly regarded BJJ practitioner. He’s never been particularly prevalent with submissions from his back though, and given that Fitch will be savvy enough to give him precious little room to work with, and also holds a black belt in Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu himself, it could be a long night for Penn if he gets trapped underneath his significantly bigger opponent.
Therefore Penn’s well established takedown defense, which owes much to his remarkable balance, is crucial to his chances of success in this fight.
You have to admire Penn’s willingness to challenge himself against bigger fighters, but this seems like a tall order for him. On the feet I do believe he can give Fitch serious problems, but it will be hard to lure him into a stand-up battle. Instead I expect Fitch to stick religiously to the blueprint that has got him this far in his career. GSP already showed that relentlessly going for takedowns and stifling the Hawaiian’s own offense on the mat can be successful, and that suits Fitch’s style to a tee.
Jon Fitch to win by decision.
Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera
Bisping Vs Rivera is a fight that didn’t catch some fans imaginations at first has now become the most talked about fight on the card thanks to the pre-fight trash talking between the two.
Rivera believes he has what it takes to put a beating on Bisping in the stand-up battle. The aggressive muay thai fighter certainly possesses genuine knockout power, and that will be a concern to the Brit who has a somewhat questionable chin, and has a tendency to back-up in a straight line with his chin exposed when faced with a sustained offensive assault.
That flaw aside, Bisping is in fact the more technical striker, utilizing good footwork and and showing a good ability to fluently connect with combinations of punches and kicks. What’s been missing from his offensive arsenal is real stopping power in his punches. That has improved in recent fights as he begins to sit down on his punches more, but so far he still has to rely on the volume of his punches to get the job done.
A key difference between the two is in their ground skills. Bisping is an under-rated grappler, with good jiu-jitsu and decent wrestling and ground and pound, while Rivera is more vulnerable on the mat and prefers to keep it standing. The UK fighter was keen to stress his well-rounded skill-set in comparison to his rival at the pre-fight press conference, and could be something he chooses to showcase in this fight.
Bisping’s apparent inability to shore up some of his defensive weaknesses means there’s always a risk of him getting in trouble against heavy-handed opponents. Having said that, since being knocked out by Hendo he’s fought a succession of them, including Wanderlei, Kang and Akiyama and survived. While still dangerous I don’t think Rivera is as dangerous as them, and I expect him to mix it up a little more in terms of his tand-up and ground as he did against Kang, to get a late TKO finish by ground and pound.
Michael Bisping to win by TKO in Rd3
George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver
Sotiropoulos put in his best performance to date in front of his home fans in Sydney last year, and he’ll be hoping to get within reach of a title shot this time round if he can get past Germany’s Dennis Siver.
At this moment Sotiropoulos is one of the most exciting ground fighters in the sport, with extremely smooth transitions on the mat and displaying exemplary use of Eddie Bravo’s rubber guard. On the feet he’s less flashy, but while it’s not his forte he can hold his own in this regard.
Siver is perhaps best known for his eye-catching and effective spinning back-kicks, and be backs that up with more traditional boxing and kickboxing techniques and is a fairly durable, compact fighter. While he’s got several submission wins under his belt, he’s not in the same class as his opponent, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll try to initiate a ground battle.
I definitely favor Sotiropuolos here. I don’t believe he’ll be overwhelmed by what Siver has to offer on the feet as long as he steers clear of that deadly spinning back kick, and on the ground his submission defense isn’t the best which is bad news against the in-form Aussie.
George Sotiropoulos to win by submission in Rd2
Brian Ebersole vs. Chris Lytle
Originally this was supposed to have been Chris Lytle Vs Carlos Condit which would have been a terrific fight, but instead an injury forced the UFC to draft in Brian Ebersole as a late replacement.
It’s a tough assignment for the experienced Australian Ebersole who was plucked from a nice seven fight winning streak in the regional promotions in order to take this fight. He’s not been fighting anyone of Lytle’s caliber though, and Lytle is on form at this moment in time.
Lytle is a tough as nails boxer with a surprisingly effective submission game which he’s only just started to showcase as little more often of late. Meanwhile Ebersole will be trying to implement his wrestling, which will be easier said than done against his crafty opponent.
Ebersole is a veteran and should put up a reasonable showing here, but I believe Lytle is a cut above in terms of overall ability, and will be able to avoid the Aussie’s clutches and light him up on the feet before pulling another submission out of his bag of tricks.
Chris Lytle to win by submission in Rd2.
Kyle Noke vs. Chris Camozzi
Kyle Noke will enjoy the backing of his home crowd when he makes a rare main-card appearance against fellow TUF 11 product Chris Camozzi.
This is a relatively even match-up and to be honest fairly unremarkable bout between two middleweights on the lower rungs of the middleweight ladder who have ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’, skill-set. Neither has particularly dangerous striking so it’s quite possible the most significant action of the bout will take place on the floor.
In an ideal world this would have formed part of the preliminary card, but on the positive side it is a chance for one of them to make a name for themselves.
I can see these two canceling themselves out to a large extent, but I believe Noke is the better of the two, and with the crowd cheering him on I see him getting the better of the exchanges to take the decision victory.
Kyle Noke to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Ross Pearson vs. Spencer Fisher
James Te Huna vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Nick Ring vs. Riki Fukuda
Mark Hunt vs. Chris Tuchscherer
Maciej Jewtuszko vs. Curt Warburton
Anthony Perosh vs. Tom Blackledge