UFC 105 takes place on Saturday night live from the Manchester MEN arena in the UK. This are a number of very close fights to pick a winner from on this card so I’m very interested to see how it all pans out on the night. I also think there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing a lot of decisions on the night.
Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera
After featuring in one of the heavyweight fights of the year in his unanimous decision loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, 46 year old Randy Couture (16-10) has decided to step back down to light heavyweight where many people believe he is best suited, and of course he has proven it in the past having held the belt in the division two times.
Brandon Vera (11-3) has also made the transition from heavyweight to light heavyweight during his career, and at first he appeared to struggle with the weight cut, looking lethargic in his early fights in the division. The 32 year old has improved since then however and after stronger performances against Mike Patt and Krzysztof Soszynski in 2009, Vera has suddenly found himself thrust into a main event fight against one of his idols.
In recent times Randy Couture has ventured outside of his natural comfort zone and opted to stand and trade with both Brock Lesnar and Antonio Nogueira. That would suit Brandon Vera just fine since he is very much at home there thanks to his excellent Muay Thai base.
Unfortunately for him all the talk leading up to this fight suggests that Couture is ready to return to his wrestling and dirty boxing roots – the tools which helped make him one of the most legendary fighters in the sport.
Vera meanwhile has stated that he wants to push the pace with Couture all the way to the limit and find out how much his 46 year old body can take.
Vera has a definitive advantage if they stand and trade, but Couture will instead use his wrestling skills, making it a long night for Vera. Also, cardio has never been an issue for Couture, while Vera has had problems with this in the past. Couture is used to five round title fights so is unlikely to be broken by Vera in a three round fight.
Vera is not without without skills of his own in the clinch and on the ground so I think he can last the course, but I’m going for a decision victory for ‘The Natural’ Randy Couture.
Mike Swick vs. Dan Hardy
Since emerging from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter Mike Swick (14-2) has shown impressive consistency by putting together a record of nine wins with only one loss (to Yushin Okami) in the UFC. He once again proved his worth in his last fight against Ben Saunders and is now only one victory away from a well earned title shot.
The man standing in his way is Dan Hardy (22-6-0(1)). Hardy has had no easy fights in his three visits to the octagon against Akihiro Gono, Rory Markham and Marcus Davis, but on each occassion he has emerged victorious. Though it hasn’t been officially confirmed, a victory over Swick could see him emerge as the next man to face GSP for the welterweight title.
This is an intriguing fight featuring two fighters who are likely to indulge in a stand-up battle, though neither are not out of their depth if the fight should take a different turn. In the end it really boils down to who you think will get the better of the action on their feet.
Personally I like Hardy’s confident persona and he has the skills to back up his boasts, but in a fight that could go either way I’m leaning towards Swick. I believe he is the more powerful striker and he has proven time and time again that he can overwhelm his opponents with fast combinations. I think he also can use his wrestling to his advantage if required.
Swick says he wants to make a statement in this fight and I’ll take him at his word. Swick by TKO in the 3rd round.
Michael Bisping vs. Denis Kang
Michael Bisping has faced a lot of flack since his stint as a coach on TUF 9 and with after a devastating KO defeat at the hands and elbow of Dan Henderson at UFC 100, many have now written him off as a legitimate contender at 185lbs. It should however be remembered that he still holds a 17-2 record, with his only other loss being to former champion Rashad Evans in the light heavyweight division, and he took him to a decision.
Canadian Denis Kang is an experienced fighter with a 32-11-1(2) record. He made his way to the UFC after knocking out Marvin Eastman in less than 50 seconds, but succumbed to a guillotine choke against Alan Belcher in his debut. He has since recorded a decision win over Xavier Foupa-Pokam at UFC 97 and now looks to make a statement with a victory over Bisping.
While not one of the divisions most talked about stars, Kang is a serious challenge for Bisping as he looks to get back to winning ways. I believe Bisping is under-estimated however, and despite his KO loss to Henderson it shouldn’t be forgotten that he has went the distance with heavy handed strikers like Rashad Evans and Chris Leben in the past.
Kang is a talented fighter and has a number of ways to win with both heavy hands and black belt level BJJ submissions. For a spell he looked very impressive and put together a string of victories but he’s not looked the same fighter in recent times.
I’ve changed my minds several times on this one but I’ll go with my original gut feeling. It’s my opinion that Bisping was overwhelmed by the occasion against Henderson and that led to him make basic errors which cost him dearly. On this occasion, with the home crowd behind him I think we’ll see a better version of ‘The Count’ that can get the better of Kang, but it will be a hard fought fight.
I’m opting for Michael Bisping to win by decision.
Ross Pearson vs. Aaron Riley
After being crowned the winner of the The Ultimate Fighter season 9 lightweight competition, Ross Pearson finds himself in the main card of a UFC event that’s expected to draw some 16,000 fans, a far cry from the small UK shows that the 25 year old has fought for in the past as he compiled his current 9-3 record.
28 year old Aaron Riley on the other hand is an experienced campaigner with 40 fights under his belt (28-11-1) for promotions like Pride, HOOKnSHOOT, Bodog Fights and in his past three bouts, the UFC (he also fought at UFC 37, losing to Robbie Lawler). After avenging a controversial loss to Shane Nelson in his last fight, Riley will be aiming to silence the home crowd by claiming a win over Pearson.
I think a key factor in this fight may be that Nelson has recently been training with Greg Jackson, one of the best coaches around with a knack for coming up with winning game-plans. Nelson also goes into this fight with a significant advantage in terms of experience.
Pearson has shown himself to very durable, and is excellent in the clinch and enjoys wearing his opponents down while pressed up against the cage. If he can do this successfully against Nelson then he certainly has a good chance to win.
I certainly see this one going to a decision, but really it’s almost 50/50 as to who will win. Based on the experience factor, and having Greg Jackson in his corner I’m going to go with Nelson to have his hand raised at the end, but I won’t be surprised if it goes the other way.
James Wilks vs. Matt Brown
The other winner in TUF 9 was of course James Wilks (6-2) who displayed some impressive ground skills in his victory over Demarques Johnson in the final to claim the contract. Despite being born in England, Wilks has spent the past 9 years living in the US, and so Saturday will be the first time he has fought on UK soil.
Matt Brown also emerged from The Ultimate Fighter show (season 7) and although his overall record is a somewhat patchy 9-7 he has claimed three victories in his UFC career to date, with only one loss (a split decision against Dong Hyun Kim). Saturday night will also be his first fight outside of the United States.
If Wilks decides to stand and trade with Brown for extended periods then I think Brown has this one in the bag. He is a tough competitor and I don’t think he will be phased by what the TUF winner has to offer in that department.
I don’t expect Wilks to do that however and if he takes this fight to the ground then I think the pendulum swings in his favor.
Matt Brown has been susceptible to submissions in the past, and that is where Wilks excels. I think he has enough of a stand-up game, as well as a reach advantage, to hang with Brown for just long enough to find a way to get this fight to the ground. From there I think he can find a way to win inside the distance.
I’m going for Wilks by second round submission.
Paul Taylor vs. John Hathaway
Terry Etim vs. Shannon Gugerty
Paul Kelly vs. Dennis Siver
Andre Winner vs. Roli Delgado
Matt Riddle vs. Nick Osipczak
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jared Hamman