ALar shares his thoughts on Saturday’s 20th anniversary card
We have finally arrived at the UFC’s landmark 20th Anniversary. From Royce to Tank to Bones, the sport has remarkably come a long way. I can still vividly remember that right hook from Rampage that connected on Chuck Liddell’s mohawked melon that got me hooked on the whole guys fighting in cages thing. (I heard that Rampage guy had a fight this weekend or something…)
In my mind, there is no better way to celebrate the meteoric rise of the UFC as a promotion than a Georges St. Pierre fight. This guy has perfectly embodied the evolving MMA athlete over the last 7 years, making him undoubtedly one of the most important fighters in the promotion’s history. His fights are landmarks on the expansive MMA timeline and his reign is approaching legendary status. Though, as many pundits have pointed out, the bearded wrestler from Oklahoma State may provide ‘Rush’ with his toughest test to date. Who do I think will be the Welterweight Champ come Sunday morning? Check out the rest of the preview to find out!
Facebook Prelims (Vegas Favorite in Italics/Pick in Bold)
Gian Villante v. Cody Donovan
Will Campuzano v. Sergio Pettis (Yes, that is Anthony’s younger brother)
Jason High v Anthony Lapsley
Prelims on FOX Sports 1(Vegas Favorite in Italics)
Erik Perez v. Edwin Figueroa
Zuffa is trying very hard to breed Perez into a star in order to corner the Mexican market, but I was nowhere near impressed with his split decision loss to Takeya Mizugaki. I am going with the upset decision for Figueroa who has his job on the line in this one.
Brian Ebersole v. Rick Story
89 career pro fights between these two (67 by Ebersole!) and neither has ever been knocked out. Ebersole has been out traveling the world since last July, while Story has scrapped twice in 2013. I expect the more active Story to take a decision.
Ed Herman v. Thales Leites
After his last few performances, it looks like some time away from the big show truly helped Leites round out his game. Herman is hard headed, but susceptible to submissions. Look for a Leites win by sub.
Donald Cerrone v. Evan Dunham
Interestingly enough, both of these Lightweights are coming off decision losses to Rafael Dos Anjos. With the recent shake ups at the top of the division, an impressive win here could catapult the victor towards the upper level of the 155 pound division. This one is basically a toss up and whoever ‘had the better camp’ or is more ‘motivated’ will likely earn a W. But with hyperbole aside, I always roll with Cerrone in even matchups like this. End the prelims with a bang, Cerrone by TKO.
Main Card on Pay Per View, 10 PM
Tim Elliott v. Ali Bagautinov
Whenever I see, Ali’s name, I can’t help but think of the legendary Northern Iowa hooper Ali Farokmanesh, but that is a story for another blog… No doubt Ali has great power for the weight class, but having watched Elliot’s decision win over Lou Gaudinot at UFC 164, Tim will undoubtedly be too much to handle for the Russian. Elliot’s southpaw stance will stifle Ali’s attacks and earn him a decision win.
Josh Koscheck v. Tyron Woodley
The real question here is, does Josh Koscheck still have it? Robbie Lawler absolutely thrashed him last time out and T-Wood isn’t an easy stepping stone back to the win column. Woodley was grinded to a halt by Jake Shields in June and will be looking for redemption. At this point in time, Woodley is the better wrestler and has explosive striking power. He may not be the most technical guy out there, but I see T-Wood putting Kos to sleep with a big right hook.
Rory MacDonald v. Robbie Lawler
Well, well, now. It seems as the next two fights have already been predetermined by most of the MMA community. Nearly every pre-fight question for young Rory Mac has been about the possibility of fighting teammate GSP. Do these keyboard warriors forget that Rory has to first take out ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler for that question to have any relavence? There is no way around it, Rory’s last fight was Nyquil in the form of a three-round fight. He claims he was tactically brilliant, but he was also woefully boring. The kid really doesn’t do much to ingratiate himself to the moody MMA fan base. Now, we all know he us super talented, but he has never really faced anyone with the same skillset as Lawler. The two “blitzers” that he actually fought (I have trouble calling that Ellenburger tilt a ‘fight’, more like a glorified sparring session), Penn and Diaz, were both incredibly undersized for the division at the time of their matchups. Lawler is rock solid at 170 and hits like Thor’s hammer. His last two wins have been by vicious KOs and he should not been taken lightly.
As for a prediction, I WANT to see Lawler take MacDonald’s ego inflated dome flat off his shoulders. Though, I believe that we see the ‘master tactician’ MacDonald in action again. He will do all he can to disengage Lawler and work towards a decision. Unfortunately, another snoozefest decision for Rory Mac.
Rashad Evans v. Chael Sonnen
The battle of the irrelavent FOX talking heads… Too harsh? But really, what is exactly riding on this fight. Chael is already booked to fight Wanderlei Silva after a TUF Brazil stint and Rashad couldn’t be further from the title picture at 205 right now. Rashad might become slightly more relavent with a win, but what does beating a blown up Middleweight get him? Who knows, but I’ll be tuning in regardless.
As for a prediction, I am going against Vegas here. I truly believe Chael comes out on top in this tilt. Rashad has been unable to pull the trigger since he effectively retired Tito Ortiz at UFC 133. He has been reluctant to throw those massive swooping hooks that saw him KO Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin. Evans talks a big game that he is back to the ‘old’ Rashad, but I think we are just watching a legitimately old Rashad fight. I don’t know what to expect from him anymore. On the flip side, tou know exactly what you are getting from Chael. Elite wrestling, constant pressure, and cardio for days. I think he comes out and pressures Rashad into folding. Vegas loves Evans, but I’ll take a Chael Sonnen smother decision to the bank.
Welterweight Championship Fight
Champion Georges St. Pierre v. Johny Hendricks
I love GSP. I really do. He has been a the perfect example of a mixed martial artist as the UFC has transitioned from no holds barred cagefighting to a mainstream sport. That being said, I’ll throw it out there early. I am convinced he is losing his title on Saturday.
Johny Hendricks is 100% GSP’s toughest test to date, as the title of this blog says… GSP has seen wrestlers with the same level of talent as Bigg Rigg, but add in the combination of Bigg Rigg’s punching power and it is a whole new ball game. Carlos Condit clearly rocked the Champ in their bout and he was seconds away from finishing ‘Rush’. Johny’s power is 5 times that of Condit’s and all of Canada should be holding their breath every time Hendricks connects with a punch on Saturday.
For Johny to win, it needs to be within the first 2 and a half rounds. Why you ask? Johny’s cardio isn’t great. He isn’t super cut like most of the guys you see in the UFC, he carries a ton of muscle and will be weighing in around 200 lbs. the time of the fight. This is an advantage that he needs to capitalize on early. If GSP can keep a distance and work this thing into the later rounds with a series ofprobing jabs and kicks, that does not bode well for Bigg Rigg. That’s why I am thinking Johny lands an early left and downs the Champ. Am I predisposed to this because I already witnessed the infallible Anderson Silva lose this year? Likely, but that still doesn’t change this prediction. Johny Hendricks wins the UFC Welterweight Championship by 2nd Round TKO.