PreView's Picks for UFC 89

I know I stated this with UFN 15, but let me say it again – I love MMA on free TV. Even better than the last free UFC event (and UFN 15 was a great event), we’ve got an actual “numbered” UFC on Spike this time – UFC 89. No title fights, but still some quality match-ups.

As I did last time, I’m throwing in some my rationale with my picks. It worked well for my picks last time (8-2), so maybe I’ll have that same luck this time.

Check after the jump for my picks and explanations.

Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben (Leben) – This was a hard one for me to call, and I would imagine I’m not the only one who had a hard time with it. On one hand, Bisping (16-1) only has one loss, and it was at Light Heavyweight, to current LHW contender Rashad Evans. This will be Bisping’s third fight at Middleweight, and Bisping’s fourth fight in front of his home crowd in England. Bisping’s last fight was in June.

Leben (18-4) is coming off a layoff since March. As all of you know, he was scheduled to fight Bisping earlier this year, but had to answer to some outstanding legal problems.

Both fighters are coming off two wins – Bisping over Jason Day and Charles McCarthy and Leben over Alessio Sakara and Terry Martin. From an athletic standpoint, I’d give Bisping the edge. I also think Bisping may be a better technical striker, but Leben’s striking has improved since the beginning of his UFC career, but he’s still got plenty of KO power. Leben has 10 KOs or TKOs to Bisping’s 11, and both fighters have four wins by submission.

Leben has allegedly been training harder and has straightened a lot of things out, and if this is true, I think it will be clear very early in the fight.

I think Bisping’s best strategy to win is to hang back and stay out of range of Leben’s power punches, while getting in effective counter-punching, working to frustrate Leben until Leben makes a mistake on which Bisping can capitalize. If Bisping can fight his fight, and not rush in looking for a quick win, he could definitely get a unanimous decision or submission victory late in the fight.

I think Leben’s best plan for a win is to take Bisping out of his game. Leben is great at frustrating other fighters, whether it be working inside another fighter’s range or effectively using foot-stomps (on the most underused tools in all of MMA). I think Leben can frustrate Bisping, which will cause Bisping to rush in, looking to end the fight before Leben gets the better of him. At that point, Leben can use his power-punching to take Bisping out.

Bisping has never been knocked out in his pro career, so it’s questionable how good of a chin he has. I don’t know if Leben will be able to actually KO him, but I think he’ll be able to get a TKO midway through the second round. If they’re smart, they’ll use the first round to feel each other out and look for weaknesses.

Leben by TKO (strikes), Round 2.

Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera (Vera) – This is Vera’s (9-2) second fight at LHW, the last being a unanimous decision victory over Reese Andy at UFN 14 in July. Jardine (13-4-1) is coming off a first-round (and first minute) KO loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 84 in May.

I think Vera is going to surprise some people with this fight, and bring back the Vera of old that predicted that he would one day hold the HW and LHW titles. I think Vera’s biggest problem in his fight against Andy was the weight cut. I think he had to cut a lot and that took a lot out of him. However, recent reports have Vera currently walking around at 202 or 203, which is already lower than he needs to be to make 205. He claims to be taking the sport more seriously as he no longer thinks of it as just a hobby like he used to. If his weight really is at 202, that’s proof enough for me. The UFC brass has claimed they’re expanding into the Philippines in 2009, and since Vera is of Filipino descent (his father), and he could get to an even bigger status in the organization with a couple wins going into that expansion. Vera recently did an open workout at Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Philippines.

Vera has only two losses, one to former UFC HW Champ Tim Sylvia, and a first-round TKO loss to Fabricio Werdum (what many consider to be a controversial stoppage). Vera has notable wins over former UFC HW Champ Frank Mir, Assuerio Silva and Justin Eilers

Jardine is coming off his horrible blitz loss to W. Silva at UFC 84. This loss followed a unanimous decision win, which followed a first-round TKO loss to Houston Alexander. 3 of Jardine’s 4 losses came from a first-round TKO or KO – the fourth loss was a unanimous decision loss to Stephan Bonnar (which was some of the worst judging I’ve ever seen).

Jardine obviously has a problem with blitz attacks, so I think the key to a victory by Vera is to get in on Jardine quick and hard and work in some hard shots. Jardine needs to keep Vera at bay and try to slowly break Vera down like he did Liddell.

Jardine has a very odd stance that can confuse his opponents, but I think that Vera could use kicks and his jab to keep Jardine at bay so he couldn’t do any real damage. Jardine trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico, and 2008 has so far been a great year for Jackson, but like I said before, I think this is going to be the return of the old Vera. I think Jardine might be able to hold off Vera for the first round, but I see him going down early in the second. Jardine did rebound well from his TKO loss to Alexander with a decision win over Liddell, but I don’t think he’ll be able to rebound as well this time.

Vera by TKO (punches), Round 2.

Rameau Sokoudjou vs. Luis Cane (Sokoudjou) – Soko (5-2) is coming off a TKO victory over Kazuhiro Nakamura in May and Cane (8-1) is coming off a TKO victory over Jason Lambert in June.

Soko is 1-1 in the UFC, having lost via submission to Lyoto Machida in Soko’s UFC debut. Soko has notable wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, both first-round KO victories.

Cane is also 1-1 in the UFC, having lost his UFC debut to James “Sandman” Irvin via DQ because he kneed Irvin in the face while Irvin was on the ground.

Soko has one 4 wins via TKO or KO and 1 win via submission. His 2 losses are 1 submission loss and 1 TKO loss. 7 of Cane’s 8 wins have come via TKO or KO, and his sole loss is the aforementioned DQ. Soko trains out of Team Quest and Cane out of Gibi Thai.

I think that Cane will go in quickly to look for the KO or TKO. I see Soko (a judoka) throwing Cane and then capitalizing on the ground position for the TKO.

Sokoudjou via TKO (punches), Round 1.

Paul Taylor vs. Chris Lytle (Lytle) – Both fighters are 1-2 in their last 3 fights. Lytle (25-16-5) is coming off a win over Kyle Bradley and losses to Josh Koscheck and Thiago Alves. Taylor (9-3-1) is coming off a win over Jess Liaudin and losses to Paul Kelly and Marcus Davis.

In spite of the fact that Lytle is a former boxer and boasts the nickname “Lights Out”, 17 of his 25 wins are via submission. Lytle is also a tough opponent to take out quickly. 14 of his 16 losses are via decision. Taylor has 5 wins by TKO or KO, 2 via submission and 2 via decision. Of his 3 losses, 2 were submissions and 1 was a decision.

Lytle obviously has the edge in experience and I think he’ll be able to control the fight the majority of the time. I think Taylor is going to give Lytle a decent game, but I see this fight going like Taylor’s fight against Davis – Lytle will use strikes to work through Taylor’s defense and set up a submission.

Lytle via submission (armbar), Round 1.

Paul Kelly vs. Marcus Davis (Davis) – Davis (14-4) is coming off a decision loss to Mike Swick in June. Kelly (7-0) is coming into the fight undefeated, most recently with a decision win over Paul Taylor.

Davis loves fighting overseas. He’s 3-1 in his last 4 fights (3 in England, 1 in Ireland), and his three wins all came in England, in the first round, which is where this event is taking place. Davis is even used to fighting English fighters (like Kelly), as Paul Taylor is also from England.

Both fighters love to bang and I don’t see this one going out of the first round either. It’s kind of hard to predict how Davis could capitalize on Kelly’s weaknesses since Kelly is undefeated. Based on this, I’m going to have to rely on Davis’s strengths. 5 of his wins are via TKO or KO and 7 come via submission. However, since I think Kelly is going to come out swinging, I think Davis will respond in kind. However, whereas Davis was crazy muscular in his last few fights, I hear he’s coming in with a leaner frame this time. I don’t think this is going to affect his punching power, though.

Davis by KO, Round 1.

Shane Carwin vs. Neil Wain (Carwin) – Both fighters are coming into this fight undefeated and both fighters have never let a fight get out of the first round. This is Carwin’s (9-0) second fight in the UFC, the first being a KO win over Christian Wellisch in May. This is Wain’s UFC debut, but he does have the advantage of fighting in front of a home crowd (from Doncaster, England).

I think Carwin is going to quickly work his way up to HW contender status. I know the state of the HW title is going to be tied up for a while with the Couture/Nogueira/Mir/Lesnar business, but I think Carwin is going to build up some wins and wait in the wings for his chance.

Carwin has 4 wins via TKO or KO and 5 via submission. All 4 of Wain’s wins come via TKO. Based on the fighters’ past histories, I don’t see this fight making it out of the first round.

Carwin by TKO (strikes), Round 1.

Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono (Gono) – This will be Gono’s (28-12-7) second fight in the UFC and Hardy’s (19-6) first. Gono is coming off a submission win against Tamdan McCrory and Hardy is coming off a TKO win in another organization.

Gono’s record sports 14 decisions, 7 TKOs or KOs, and 6 submissions. Hardy has 10 wins via TKO or KO, 4 submissions and 5 decisions.

Hardy has the home crowd advantage, and I think he’ll look to end it quickly with a TKO or KO, because he knows that Gono has an advantage in experience. However, I do think Gono will be able to avoid Hardy successfully while landing some good counterpunches of his own. Hardy has never been KO’d or TKO’d, but I think Gono will be able to exploit Hardy’s vulnerability when it comes to submissions. I think Gono will bide his time until he wears Hardy down and get a submission late in the fight.

Gono by submission (armbar), Round 3.

Jess Liaudin vs. David Bielkheden (Liaudin) – This is an interesting one to call. The fight is going to happen at 155 while both fighters are coming off losses at 170. Liaudin (12-10) is coming off a split decision loss to Paul Taylor from this past June while Bielkheden (12-6) is coming off a submission loss to Diego Sanchez from this past March.

Liaudin has 3 wins via TKO or KO, 8 via submission and a single decision win. Bielkheden has won 4 via TKO or KO, 5 via submission and 3 decisions.

In spite of the fact that both have moved down 155, I still think Liaudin is going to have a strength advantage and will be able to outmuscle Bielkheden (much like Sanchez did) until he can sink in the submission.

Liaudin via submission, Round 1

Sam Stout vs. Terry Etim (Stout) – Strangely enough, both fighters are coming off decision losses to Rich Clementi. Stout (13-4-1) managed to at least get a split decision loss while Etim (10-2) suffered a unanimous decision loss.

This is a great striker versus grappler match-up. 8 of Stout’s 13 wins have come via TKO or KO while 9 of Etim’s 10 wins have come via submission.

Stout does have great striking and Etim does have great grappling, but I don’t think either’s individual skill set will be able to overtake the other one’s for a quick end. I think it will be a continuous back and forth between the two fighters until one gets a decision victory.

Stout via split decision.

David Baron vs. Jim Miller (Baron) – Both Miller (11-1) and Baron (16-2) are both making their UFC debuts with this fight. Miller is coming off a unanimous decision win over Bart Palaszewski in the IFL and Baron is coming off a submission victory over Hayato “Mach” Sakurai at a shoot event.

Honestly, I’ve never seen either of these fighters fight except for watching replays on YouTube. Miller is following in the footsteps of his brother Dan, who recently made his UFC debut at UFN 15 (with a submission win over Rob Kimmons). Both men seem to know their way around submissions as Miller has 8 submission victories and Baron has 10. This could indicate to some that they would be transitioning from submission attempt to submission attempt on the way to a decision. Is this possible? Absolutely, but I think Baron has the edge both in striking and being able to take a punch. Baron has 4 wins via TKO or KO while Miller has a lone TKO.

I think Baron will end up on top with a quick victory, surprising Miller with strikes.

Baron via TKO (strikes), Round 1

Per Eklund vs. Samy Schiavo (Eklund) – Both fighters will look to rebound from losses in what is both fighters’ second fight in the UFC. Eklund (13-3-1) is coming off a decision loss to Sam Stout from January while Schiavo (10-5) is coming off a TKO loss to Clay Guida from April. However, before both their losses, Eklund was 5-1 in his prior 6 fights and Schiavo was 6-0.

Both fighters have submission victories; Eklund has 6, Schiavo has 5. However, what I think is more relevant at this point is that Eklund has 0 losses by submission while Schiavo has lost 4 via submission.

I think that the first round will go back and forth between the two fighters, with Schiavo likely winning the round, but Eklund will be able to capitalize on some mistake by Schiavo in the second round to catch him in a submission.

Eklund via submission, Round 2.

So there you have it, folks - if you made it all the way through, you deserve an award. We'll see how it all plays out.


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