Well it’s about that time again, the big show in Columbus is just a few hours away, and so here are my predictions for UFC 82 “Pride of a Champion”.
1. Dan Henderson vs. Anderson Silva for the unified middleweight title.
Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision
This fight was tailor-made for Dan Henderson, even if Anderson Silva’s jiujitsu is top notch, Dan still has an enormous advantage on the ground. The question is, will Henderson be able to put the feared Brazilian striker on his back? And will he do it early enough to make it count? The answer is yes and yes. The only problem I foresee for Dan Henderson would be if his pride (no pun intended) were to get the better of him, and he became engaged in a standing war with Anderson Silva. Henderson has never been knocked out and he might feel like where Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt and Chris Leben have failed, he may succeed with a nice left hook.
But the truth is Henderson should stick to what he does best: takedowns and ground n’ pound. As long as Henderson doesn’t feel the need to prove his chin against Silva’s fists, the fight should be his. Some believe that Hendo will get suckered into Silva’s clinch where he will absorb heavy damage a la Rich Franklin. But I think Henderson will simply shake off the clinch or turn it into a takedown, earning big points on the scorecards all night.
Now, five rounds is a long time to do battle, even for cardio freaks like Henderson and Silva. But I am still going to have to go with Henderson via unanimous decision on this one. Why? Because Henderson might be able to keep Silva down and drop serious bombs, but given Silva’s long legs and ability to defend on the bottom, I don’t think that Dan will be able to finish him off. I do however believe that Henderson will earn more than enough points for dominating on the ground, and so he comes away with the decision.
2. Heath Herring vs. Cheick Kongo
Prediction: Heath Herring via split decision
Yet another striker vs. grappler match-up. Cheick Kongo is no doubt stronger and better standing up, but his ground game appears to be sub-par at best. Heath Herring on the other hand is I’d say at least an average striker, who seeks comfort in the all mighty take down. What does this mean? Herring will probably take one or two of Kongo’s brutal strikes, then shoot on him all night. From there, Herring could be out muscled by the physical specimen that is Cheick Kongo, but even if Kongo is able to get back to his feet Herring will still have enough control of the fight to pull out the decision. And so, I take Heath Herring via split decision.
3. Alessio Sakara vs. Chris Leben
Prediction: Chris Leben via Knockout, Round 2.
It’s always fun to watch Chris Leben fight. Though from looking at him, you might think he is more suited for welterweight. But that’s what great about The Crippler, despite logic and reasoning, he does what he wants to do in the octagon, and that’s going for the knock out, every time, no matter what. Having KO’d Terry Martin, Jorge Santiago and Mike Swick in the past, I say Leben gets his wish once more, and knocks out the much less tenacious and experienced Alessio Sakara. Sakara might be able to stick and move in the earlier rounds but eventually, Leben is going to catch him with something fierce.
4. Yushin Okami vs. Evan Tanner
Prediction: Yushin Okami via unanimous decision.
It’s finally here, the return of Evan Tanner. Problem is, he has the worst possible opponent to go up against. I don’t know who in the UFC made this match up, but the person might have a personal vendetta against Evan Tanner. Its not that Yushin Okami is terribly intimidating, it’s just that his tactics are so difficult to get around.
Okami is great at what he does, and that’s grind out decisions using intelligent, yet hardly entertaining strategy. Even if the Evan Tanner of old comes out and throws everything he can at Okami, it sill probably wont be enough to defeat the younger, stronger, faster, and probably smarter opponent. I don’t like to say it because I’d love to see Evan Tanner climb back to the top of the middleweight division, but I predict victory for Yushin Okami by way of decision…again.
5. Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson
Prediction: Jon Fitch via submission (choke) in Round 1.
The only real no-brainer of the evening. Chris Wilson is a last minute fill-in for an injured Akihiro Gono, and to his credit has a decent record behind him at 13-3. In time, Chris Wilson could become a hell of an MMA fighter, but this match is way premature for the short notice replacement, and I doubt he even sees the second round of action. Jon Fitch is freakishly strong and smart when it comes to grappling. I say Fitch wastes no time taking this one to the ground, and slapping on a choke that makes Wilson tap faster than Gregory Hines.
6. Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake O’Brien
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski via TKO, Round 1.
Undefeated in 10 fights, Jake O’Brien’s only notable win comes over Heath Herring last year at UFC Fight Night 8. O’Brien scored a unanimous decision that night, but tonight in Columbus it’s sure to be a different story. Simply put, Andrei Arlovski is a better fighter with a more well rounded game and experience to match.
Sure this is may be Arlovski’s last fight in the UFC, but that isn’t enough to make him any less threatening inside the octagon. Jake O’Brien will likely shoot for the takedown as soon as possible, but that will either get thwarted by The Pitbull into a sprawl n’ brawl, or Arlovski will employ some sambo once on the ground for a submission. Wherever this one goes, Arlovski has the advantage. It’s just a matter of when and how, I’ll say Arlovski bags himself a TKO victory.
7. Luigi Fioravanti vs. Luke Cummo
Prediction: Luke Cummo via unanimous decision
Luke Cummo is probably the better fighter of the two, his ground game is solid and his stand up is still decent enough to give him a fighting chance against average level competition. Remember, while Luke Cummo is only 6-4, his losses were against guys like Joe Stevenson and Josh Koscheck, both of whom he went the distance with and held his own.
Luigi Fioravanti has impressive striking skills, but he hasn’t proved a whole lot in his past fights compared to Luke Cummo. Fioravanti hasn’t really been able to hang with the top tier competition as much, and I predict he will be incapable of mounting a significant offense once Luke Cummo starts working the ground game. I say Luke Cummo picks up the decision in this one.
8. Dustin Hazelett vs. Josh Koscheck
Prediction: Josh Koshcheck via TKO, Round 3.
Even though Josh Koshcheck is rather hated upon for his underwhelming fighting style, the guy is still a phenomenal wrestler with at least better than average striking ability. Dustin Hazelett has some good experience fighting in the UFC, and will be making his fifth appearance inside the octagon when he faces Koscheck later tonight.
This means that Dustin’s nerves shouldn’t get the better of him when he faces the former collegiate wrestling champ, but it doesn’t mean he is ready for the challenge. No doubt, I believe Hazelett will make things interesting, but Koscheck will still be able to neutralize his game and apply the impending ground n’ pound. I say Koscheck takes this one via TKO in the third.
9. Diego Sanchez vs. David Bielkheden
Prediction: Diego Sanchez via TKO, Round 3.
Honestly, I know next to nothing about David Bielkheden. I know he is Swedish, holds a record of 12-5, and has beaten some people that I also don’t know anything about. So I have to go with Diego Sanchez on this one. Diego must be hungry after losing two boring decisions to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, and I imagine he will be taking his frustration out on one David Bielkheden. From looking at his fight record, David Bielkheden appears to be more of a ground guy which is good, because Diego is a big ground n’ pounder.
Will David’s jiujitsu game be enough to keep Sanchez from getting the better of him on the ground? Probably not. I’m assuming Diego will be taking this on to the canvas fast, where he can tag Bielkheden with strikes which will either earn the TKO, or provide him the opportunity to sink in a submission. Just for fun, I’ll say it goes the TKO route.
10. John Halverson vs. Jorge Gurgel
Prediction: John Halverson via TKO, Round 3.
Jorge Gurgel has phenomenal jiujitsu, but that alone will not enable him to nab the victory over seasoned John Halverson. Halverson is strong enough on the ground to fend off any early submission attempts, and is willing to take chances with striking exchanges. Halverson will probably try some ground n’ pound which Gurgel will try to neutralize with his jiujitsu, but eventually one or two of Halverson’s shots will find a way to Gurgel’s face, and from there its only a matter of time. I say Halverson takes it via TKO in the third round.