UFC 137 Preview: GSP v. Diaz, GSP v. Condit… Penn v. Diaz?!?!
Sadly, an unfortunate training incident has forced Welterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre to bow out of his fight with challenger Carlos Condit on this card, but the UFC is still presenting MMA fans with pretty solid card this Saturday. The card loses a lot of drawing power with the lack of a title bout, but plenty of former champs and fan favorites will still be showing their skills in the Octagon. The explosive and mercurial Nick Diaz faces off against former champ BJ Penn, while perennial octagon contenders Cheick Kongo, Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filopovic, and Roy Nelson all enter the cage looking to have their hands raised at the end of the night.
Denis Siver (19-7) v. Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (16-3, 1 NC)
Both of these fighters enter the cage Saturday sporting impressive win streaks. Siver has won his last four bouts, with wins of Andre Winner and George Sotiropoulos, whereas Cerrone has won his last five, with impressive finishes of Chris Horodecki, Paul Kelly, and Charles Oliveira. Both fighters will be looking for a submission victory, as both athletes have obtained a majority of their victories by forcing their opponents to tap.
Prediction: Cerrone’s stand up game looked very impressive last time he entered the cage against Oliveira, I expect him to continue to bring his A Game and not leave this one to the judges. Cerrone by Submission
Tyson Griffin (15-5) v. Bart Palaszewski (34-14)
This featherweight fight features two fighters looking to improve their standing in one of the UFC’s newest and most competitive divisions. Griffin saw his career at lightweight come to an end when he faced 3 consecutive losses at 155. Palaszewski has also spent most of his career at lightweight but will be bringing his heavy hands to 145 to face the baby-faced Griffin.
Prediction: Palaszewski has struggled against top-flight talent; his greatest accomplishment was earning a split decision win over a 22-year-old Anthony Pettis. I expect Griffin to use his experience in the octagon to grind this one out. Griffin by Decision.
Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2) v. George Roop (12-7-1)
This will be the experienced Hioki’s first fight in the UFC. He is an interesting prospect who is a former Shooto and Sengoku Champion, as well as a competitor in the Pride organization. Hioki is 9-1 in his last ten bouts, and I expect him to continue this trend against Roop on Saturday. Roop is just 2-2-1 in his last five bouts, and I feel as though he is being thrown to the wolves with this booking against Hioki.
Prediction: Hioki is a highly ranked featherweight among various MMA media outlets. I believe he steamrolls Roop on Saturday. His only challenge will be adapting to his first bout stateside. Hioki by Submission.
Scott Jorgensen (12-4) v. Jeff Curran (33-13-1)
This is an interesting matchup between Jorgensen, who is looking for another title shot after losing to Dominick Cruz at WEC 53, and Curran who is looking to resurrect his career after a tough run following a loss in a title bout to Urijah Faber at WEC 31. This bout marks Curran’s first fight in a major organization since defeating Dustin Neace in a Strikeforce bout in 2009. Jorgensen is also looking to establish himself as a top contender for Cruz’s Bantamweight belt against the experienced Curran.
Prediction: I expect this one to be left in the hands of the judges. Curran will be looking for a submission, but the younger Jorgensen has only been submitted once in his career. I expect Jorgenson to grind this one out and climb a rung in the Bantamweight division ladder. Jorgensen by Decision.
Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filopovic (27-9-2, 1 NC) v. Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson (15-6)
Casual fans may have been scratching their heads at who some of the previous contestants I described in this preview were. Now we are into the meat of the card: these two guys are worldwide fan favorites and consistently put on entertaining bouts. Cro Cop is the ultimate badass. He has impressive kickboxing and amateur boxing records to go along with his MMA accolades, while also being a member of the Croatian Special Forces and Parliament. The guy has become a MMA legend by cracking skulls with his devastating leg kicks on countless occasions. But sadly, ever since Mirko has come to the UFC, his career has been somewhat lackluster. He is 3-4 in the organization, but the explosive, brutal Cro Cop of Pride seems to have left his better days behind him. Things like this are making Cro Cop’s image as a policy passing, terrorist killing, knockout machine go by the wayside.
Big Country Nelson is a very interesting opponent for the Croatian Cop. Who knows what kind of shape Nelson will come in the cage with. I have an image in my head of him polishing off a massive hoagie right before he gets his gloves taped up to walk into the arena… Besides his physical fitness, or lack thereof, Nelson is known to have explosive knockout power and phenomenal Jiu Jitsu skills. Both fighters are 2-2 in their last four bouts, but Dana White did suggest that Cro Cop should retire after two consecutive knockout losses. But Cro Cop is a proud fighter and wants to go out with a vintage performance to remind his countless fans of his headhunting days in the past.
Prediction: You never know what to expect from Roy Nelson when he enters the cage, but a combination of Cro Cop’s solid takedown defense and still impressive striking power could spell trouble for Roy. This may be another instance of my MMA fanaticism coming out, but I think Cro Cop goes out with a bang. Mirko Cro Cop by… Knockout?? Sure!
Cheick Kongo (16-6-2) v. Matt Mitrione (5-0)
If you haven’t seen Kongo’s last performance in the ring, you must watch it before you read any further. That performance was absolutely incredible. Kongo has all the looks of a Heavyweight Champion, but he has not been able to put together a run in the cage to earn himself a title shot. I feel as though after his two losses to Mir and Velasquez, Kongo has refocused himself on earning a shot at the strap.
Mitrione is an interesting prospect who has notable victories over Kimbo Slice and Tim Hague. Mitrione was highly impressive in his last win over Christian Morecraft where he knocked his fellow heavyweight down twice before knocking him out in the 2nd round.
Prediction: Mitrione has never faced anyone of Kongo’s caliber in the ring. I think Cheick’s experience in the ring will allow him to withstand the barrage that Mitrione will throw at him and eventually put the former NFL player to sleep. Kongo by KO.
Main Event: BJ Penn (16-7-2) v. Nick Diaz (25-7, 1 NC)
This fight will be great. I have no issue saying that. These fighters are two of the most skilled athletes in the MMA world and have no issue putting on great shows for the fans. Both guys could stand and bang with anyone in their division, and both have all-world skills on the mat in BJJ. If Penn and Diaz were simply rolling in a BJJ exhibition, I’m sure countless fans would still be watching on the edge of their seat. With Diaz being demoted from a title fight on this card for being stubborn idiot and not attending a press conference, he faces Penn in an eliminator bout for a shot at GSP’s strap.
BJ Penn is a true question mark in the world of MMA. He has more talent in his thumb than many fighters that train every single day to possibly earn a chance to fight on the undercard of a UFC event, but he seems to not truly care about bringing the best BJ Penn possibly to the cage every time he is booked to fight. Questions about his training schedule have circulated around him for years, and his dedication to success is often doubted. He reminds me of Darryl Strawberry, all the talent in the world, just didn’t care enough to put it all together and work to be one of the greatest of all time. His early success, earning the nickname ‘The Prodigy” may have been a gift and a curse to Penn. He has earned a championship in two divisions, but it seems like the career of BJ Penn could have given MMA fans so much more. Penn fought to a disappointing draw with Jon Fitch (who actually deserves another title shot, but that’s for another article…) at UFC 127. Prior to that Penn knocked out an aging Matt Hughes, who can be knocked out by a strong gust of wind these days.
Opposing Penn in the cage will be the outspoken Nick Diaz. Diaz has not lost in his last ten fights going back to 2008. He is a BJJ stud as well as a victorious amateur boxer. Diaz brings untapped skill to the cage. If he didn’t carry the brash attitude and have that Diaz brother “Screw Everyone” mentality, I believe he could have had a shot to defeat GSP if he actually got to fight the champ. But due to poor business decisions, Diaz must defeat The Prodigy in order to achieve the goal he set for himself when he joined the UFC, to be Welterweight Champion.
Prediction: I think Diaz will have a chip on his shoulder, as he always does, when he enters the cage of Saturday. I think he will out strike Penn and control the ground game. The only thing that scares me is that Diaz actually has respect for BJ Penn; this is a rare trait for the Diaz clan. Diaz spoke of having an old VHS tape with BJ’s first professional fight on it, a tape he does not know if even BJ has seen. The two have trained together in the past, but I expect Diaz to put that outlandish feeling of respect behind him and decisively beat Penn. Diaz by decision.
As always enjoy the fights! If you have any different opinions about the card let us know in the comment section!