Main Card:

Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida

Jones steps into the Octagon for the fourth time this year tomorrow night, and in Machida he faces one of his most intriguing challengers yet.

The stand-up battle between these two should be fascinating. Jones is one of the most unpredictable strikers around, showing a willingness to be creative and use all eight limbs to attack his opponents, and coupled with a remarkable 84.5 inch reach, some 10.5 inches bigger than his opponent, that makes him a formidable fighter that his opponents to date have struggled to find an answer for.

In Machida we have a fighter who is perhaps best equipped to deal with that threat. For one thing he is accustomed to fighting from range and being able to close the distance quickly when required, he is extremely elusive, and importantly he also has lightning quick reactions which makes him an excellent counter-striker. I expect he’ll attempt to attempt to use that to his advantage – making Jones miss and then making him pay for it.

Wrestling wise Jones obviously has a huge advantage here and if Machida stays to long in the pocket with him he risks having to clinch with him which would be a big mistake as the champions throws from that position are the best in the business. It should be noted however that Machida has some nice trip-based takedowns of his own and it would certainly be very interesting if he could execute one of them and become the first man to get Jones on his back.

If the fight does hit the mat then Machida will have a BJJ advantage, and though he’s not the best finisher from the mat Jones submission defence may be his biggest weakness and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that ‘The Dragon’ could exploit that.

However it’s far more likely that Jones is going to be on top if they do go to floor and his ground and pound is absolutely devastating, using his reach to fire off huge elbows even from inside his opponent’s guard. If Machida gets caught on his back too often then it’s going to be a rough night for him.

Prediction:

It’ll be interesting to see what Machida can do here, but I still can’t see past Jones. He’s bigger, his reach will make life difficult for the Brazilan, and if for any reason the striking battle isn’t going his way then his wrestling affords him a first-class back-up plan. Machida’s elusiveness may allow him to survive beyond the first few rounds, but in the end I see him ending up being finished by Jones before the final bell.

Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd4

Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

These two heavyweights have fought before with Mir emerging as a convincing winner, but Nogueira’s insistance that he wasn’t 100% has finally lead to a rematch.

Big Nog’s striking skills haven’t had a chance to evolve since their last outing as he’s been plagued with various injuries and surgeries. He still has reasonable stand-up, but time has not been kind to him and he’s now slower, more ponderous and has a weaker chin than he used to.

Meanwhile Mir has developed into a pretty good boxer by heavyweight MMA standards, showing good footwork, solid technique and his size and strength increase since they last fought only further enhances his power.

With that in mind you have to think that Nogueira will want to mix things up a little more this time around and will be seeking to showcase his elite level BJJ skills. To do so he’ll have to get Mir down though, and while the former champion is by his own admission not the best wrestler around, neither is Big Nog.

Even if he does succeed in getting him down, Mir is also a high level jiu-jitsu practitioner and so he’s going to be hard pushed to get a finish here. On the other hand I think Mir would more than likely prefer to just stay standing with the Brazilian and won’t be looking for the takedown, though he may opt to clinch up against the cage at times instead.

If this fight goes into the later rounds then cardio could be a factor. Given the amount of time Big Nog has been out of action injured in the last couple of years I still have major doubts about his ability to go three hard rounds. Mir’s extra bulk could also slow him down a little, but overall I’d have to give him the edge in this area of the fight.

Prediction:

I think Big Nog made a mistake in being so vocal about wanting a rematch as this is just a bad match-up for him. Mir has the power to finish him on the feet and the BJJ skills to hang with the Brazilian on the mat, plus he’s bigger, stronger and has less miles on the clock so I just don’t see how he’s going to win. Overall, I can see Mir delivering another beating here.

Frank Mir to win by KO in Rd2

Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Both Ortiz and Lil Nog need a win badly here after more losses than wins of late if they plan on sticking around in the 205lb division into 2012.

I give the striking edge to Nogueira here. He’s a pretty good boxer and I think he’ll be able to counter-strike effectively against Ortiz who’s own stand-up has never been his strong point and is often fairly predictable and somewhat ponderous. Ortiz does have the better chin though, and I think Lil Nog will find it tough to finish him inside three rounds on the feet.

Ortiz’s major advantage in this fight is his wrestling, though after major surgeries on both his back and neck in recent years I still have doubts over his ability to shoot for repeated takedowns. Nogueira’s takedown defence has improved during his time in the UFC, but it’s still not perfect and if Ortiz keeps pushing for it he should eventually get him down.

The problem is that you don’t neccessarily want to go to ground with a BJJ expert like Lil Nog who is very dangerous of his back and as well as a full arsenal of submissions also has some excellent sweeps as well.

To be fair Ortiz is also a surprisingly accomplished jiu-jitsu player and of course it’s well documented that his ground and pound can be deadly. It’s not often that we get to see it these days though, and again I question whether his past injuries will impede him in any way, particularly in the later rounds.

It’s also worth noting that Ortiz during the course of the last week that he’s not in the best shape he’s ever been in and has also spoken for the first time about potentially retiring next year. Those are not the kind of talking points you want heading into such an important fight. He’s also looked very weary in some of his recent fights that have gone the distance.

Prediction:

This is a competitive fight, but Ortiz’s comments this week have made me lose confidence in his ability to pull off the win here. I think it’s going to go three rounds and will end up being fairly close, but Lil Nog’s stand-up will prove to be the difference between them.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to win by decision.

Mark Hominick vs. Chan Sung Jung

Hominick and Jung are two of the toughest guys at 145lbs and are set to collide on Saturday night.

Both men are more than willing to trade blows in the striking realm. Hominick is a classy striker with great technique, nice combinations, speed and movement. ‘The Korean Zombie’ is far less refined and is often reckless with little regard for defense but is very tough and throws down with the kind of intensity that can end fights.

Though striking is his forte Hominick is fairly well rounded and can be a threat on top on the mat with ground and pound. The Korean Zombie has good jiu-jitsu though and some creative flair so he may want to steer clear of that threat – though having said that it didn’t stop him from doing so against Jose Aldo.

I think it would benefit Jung more to take the fight to the floor, but he’s easily lured into a stand-up brawl so I wouldn’t put it past him to do just that even if he’s coming off second best.

Prediction:

I can see Jung getting picked apart on the feet by Hominick who’ll put on a striking clinic and prove that the Zombie is human after all by finishing him inside the distance.

Mark Hominick to win by TKO in Rd2

Claude Patrick vs. Brian Ebersole

Patrick and Ebersole aren’t the biggest names in the UFC, but with a UFC record of 5-0 between them and a combined winning streak of 22 fights they are certainly worthy of some main card love.

Patrick is certainly the more technically sound striker here, showing solid muay thai skills including good offense from the clinch. Ebersole has a more unorthadox style which can appear awkward at times, but that unpredictability can work to his advantage and he’s proven hard to hit and is durable, having lost to strikes just once in over 60 pro fights, and that was against the exceptionally hard-hitting Bellator champ Hector Lombard.

Both men are most comfortable on the ground though. Ebersole has a clear advantage in the wrestling department and he keeps up a good work-rate on the floor with effective ground and pound and submission attempts.

On the other hand Patrick’s BJJ gives him an edge in the submission department which is where most of his victories have come from, being particularly adept with the guillotine choke. Ebersole has been susceptible to submissions in the past so this looks to be his best chance to produce a finish.

Prediction:

Ebersole is a crafty fighter who’s hard to handle and I’m almost tempted to pick him for that reason. Nevertheless, though his wrestling could be a significant factor I do believe Patrick will hold the edge in the striking game while his submission prowess, and Ebersole’s weakness to that, will be his eventual key to victory, and the fact that he’ll be cheered on by the home fans seals the deal.

Claude Patrick to win by submission in Rd3.

Prelims:

Igor Pokrajac vs. Krzystof Soszynski

Jared Hamman vs. Constantinos Philippou

Dennis Hallman vs. John Makdessi

Yves Jabouin vs. Walel Watson

Mark Bocek vs. Nik Lentz

Rich Attonito vs. Jake Hecht

John Cholish vs. Mitch Clarke

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