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UFC 107 Preview

In MMA on December 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm

UFC 107

The UFC roadshow is in Tennessee this Saturday for what should have been the long awaited showdown between TUF 10 coaches Rashad Evans and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. With Jackson otherwise engaged with his acting career however, the lightweights take centre stage.

UFC lightweight champ BJ 'The Prodigy' Penn

 

BJ Penn vs Diego Sanchez

The lightweight belt is on the line with BJ Penn taking on no.1 challenger Diego ‘Nightmare’ Sanchez. Penn is one of the pound for pound greats the sport of MMA has produced, but his insistence on ballooning up in weight and challenging giant welterweights like Georges St Pierre and Matt Hughes (not to mention 205 pounder Lyoto Machida) has left many onlookers frustrated with his apparent disdain for his rightful division.

His brutal loss to St Pierre at UFC 94 may have left Penn suitably chastened though, and hopefully he can now focus his efforts on dominating his fellow 155ers and building the legacy his skills demand. When he is focussed and motivated, he is easily the most talented lightweight fighter on the UFC roster, and probably the world.

Although he relies almost exclusively on his boxing skills standing up, he is still more than a match for Muay Thai strikers as dangerous as Kenny Florian, Duane Ludwig and Jens Pulver. When Sean Sherk decided to stand with him at UFC 84, he gave a stand-up clinic, showcasing his powerful and accurate jab and great head movement.

Sherk’s decision to stand and strike with the champ was questioned in many quarters, but the fact that a dominant wrestler like Sherk came up with that game plan just highlights the problem for Penn’s opponents – his ground game.

The Prodigy earned his nickname as a result of his world class jiu jitsu game, earning his black belt in just three years and becoming the first non-Brazilian to win the World Championships in Rio. With one of the most dangerous guards in MMA and the flexibility to escape or advance seemingly at will, most of his opponents are faced with a scenario where they are forced to pick their poison with Penn.

This will be his 3rd defence of his belt after destroying two worthy challengers in Sherk and Florian, and his opponents could be excused a feeling of impending doom when they’re lined up against him.

One fighter who won’t be defeated by Penn’s aura though, is TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez. In amassing a stellar 21-2 record, Sanchez has shown the kind of tenacity and toughness which always gives him a chance in a scrap. His two losses have come to powerful AKA members Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck at welterweight. These two were able to negate Sanchez’s relentless ground and pound assault by out-wrestling him and maintaining top position. Sanchez has yet to snag a submission in the UFC, but those two losses (the first of his career) forced him to retreat and re-evaluate.

The Sanchez that returned to action at UFC 82 after an 8-month absence had evolved into a far more dangerous striker, with some powerful combinations and lightning head kicks. The wins which got him back on track came against journeymen David Bielkheden and Luigi Fioravanti, but it was his victories over Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida which earned him his shot, and he undoubtedly deserves it.

His toughness and intensity are his greatest assets, as he has yet to be stopped in a fight (his two losses came via decision), but it’s hard to see how he will trouble Penn with these. His best chance is to secure a takedown and grind the champion down, as it’s almost impossible to see him win any other way. Penn has yet to be submitted or knocked out in his career, and the only weakness he may have at this weight is his suspect cardio.

He seems to have addressed this though, training with Marv Marinovich (father of the famous ‘robo-QB, Todd) and looking excellent while dominating Florian well into the 4th round. Unless the Prodigy is looking past this one for some reason, he should have enough in him to notch a decision or a late sub against the gallant Sanchez

 

Frank Mir vs Cheick Kongo

This titanic heavyweight clash could be one of the most entertaining fights of the night, as the explosive Frenchman looks to avoid getting tangled with Mir while trying his best to land a fight ending knockout.

Since his lacklustre loss to Carmelo Marrero back in 2006, Kongo has twice climbed the ladder only to tumble back to earth with devastating losses to Heath Herring and Cain Velasquez. These losses once again showed up Kongo’s inexplicable lack of any kind of a ground game, and this gaping hole in his game could make this a nightmare match-up for him.

Frank Mir submits Brock Lesnar with a knee bar

In the Velasquez fight in particular, he showed us what he could do by rocking the undefeated prospect at the beginning of every round. Unfortunately though, he was unable to stop even a wobbly Velasquez’s takedowns, and proceeded to get mauled for the remainder. That he made it to a decision is testament to his toughness, but if he spends even half that time on the ground with Mir he’ll be lucky to escape intact.

Submission specialist Mir has had a turbulent career which was punctuated by a horrific motorcycle accident in 2004 which left him unable to defend his Heavyweight belt. He looked a shadow of his former self upon his return, but his recent wins over Brock Lesnar and Rodrigo Nogueira have catapulted him right to the top of the heavyweight ranks. In fact, a win here could see him just one win away from another shot at the gold, and his all consuming passion, a rubber match with Lesnar.

That ‘passion’ (which could be developing into an unhealthy obsession, if recent statements are to be believed) could be a stumbling block for Mir in this match though. His recent admission that he had fallen ‘physically ill’ and missed a few days training after hearing of Lesnar’s illness has the ring of a Captain Ahab to it, and if he takes his eye off the ball against the crushingly powerful Kongo, he might find himself sharing a hospital ward with his white whale.

It may only take one takedown for him to snare Kongo in a vicious submission though, and so lacking has the Frenchman been in anything even resembling  takedown defence, this is one fight that Mir should have enough in him to take.

 

Jon Fitch vs Mike Pierce
Jon Fitch takes on the inexperienced Mike Pierce in a welterweight bout which should be another stepping stone for Fitch on the way to earning another title shot.

Pierce has an excellent record of 9-1 in his career, but has only one win in the UFC so far. That win though, was an impressive unanimous decision over Brock Larson, and Pierce showed that despite his relative inexperience, he will certainly be no pushover.

This is not a good match-up for the American though, as Fitch has shown he is one of the elite wrestlers in the division, and went 25 minutes with Georges St Pierre while taking some horrific punishment. This means that Pierce will have to come up with something special to beat Fitch, as his normal game is either establishing top control to set up some ground and pound, or landing heavy strikes on the feet.

Fitch should have the skills to take this one from top control, and take another big step towards re-establishing himself as a contender.

 

Kenny Florian vs Clay Guida

Kenny Florian returns to the UFC for his first fight since a demoralising loss to BJ Penn, and he hasn’t been done any favours by matchmaker Joe Silva. His opponent on Saturday will be the human Duracell bunny Clay ‘the Carpenter’ Guida.

Guida is coming off a big loss himself, a split decision against Diego Sanchez which could have easily seen the two switch places on this card. That loss will fuel his frightening intensity and he will be looking to take Florian down and do his caveman impression.

This smothering top control style has seen him labelled a ‘lay and prayer’ by some ignorant onlookers, but Guida stays far too active for that, even if he rarely attempts to pass the guard.

Clay 'The Carpenter Guida' in action

He may need to try it against Florian, who has an active ground game and always looks to threaten submissions. Ken-Flo will be far happier keeping this one on the feet though, where his accurate Muay Thai will give Guida fits. The Carpenter’s stand up is powerful, but wild and unrefined. If Florian can land his strikes from the outside and pick his moments to control the clinch he will have a very good chance of finishing this fight within the 15 minutes.

I expect Florian’s striking to earn him a decision, despite a few hairy moments absorbing Guida’s ground and pound.

 

Paul Buentello vs Stefan Struve

This, like the Kongo-Mir fight, is a classic striker-grappler match-up as the hard-hitting Buentello takes on Dutch beanpole Stefan Struve.

Struve has graduated from promotions like the M-1 Challenge to a career in the UFC, and despite a false start against Junior dos Santos, he has gone on to notch two impressive wins in the octagon with submission finishes against Dennis Stojnic and Chase Gormley.

At just 21 years old, he is a thrilling prospect if he can develop his striking and grow to fill out his 7 foot frame. Training in Holland, there is no better place for his kickboxing to improve, but doubts will remain over his chin until he proves the dos Santos beating was just a hiccup. With his telescopic limbs and opportunistic submission game he will always have a chance, but he will need to take Buentello down in this fight.

That’s easier said than done, as the ‘Head Hunter’ has shown vast improvements late in his career. Since his split second knockout loss to Andrei Arlovski in a heavyweight title bout, Buentello has notched 6 out of 7 wins with his only loss coming to the gigantic Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce two years ago. It’s very unlikely that Buentello will latch on a submission, so he will be looking to keep it on the feet and land some hands on the Dutchman, and this fight will hinge on whether he can.

Much as I like Struve and want to see him fulfil his vast potential, I think Buentello’s experience could be the deciding factor in this fight as he takes home the TKO win on his return to the octagon.

 

Undercard:

There are some great undercard fights set up for this Saturday, with the pick of the bouts the scrap between Wilson Gouveia and Alan Belcher. I like Belcher in this match up, as Gouveia has shown a susceptibility to sharp strikers in the past, and an inability to take advantage of his often far superior jiu jisu game.

Elsewhere, expect Rousimar Palhares to dominate Lucio Linhares, with Matt Wiman, Kevin Burns, DaMarques Johnson and Johnny Hendricks all slight favourites in their bouts.

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  1. Interesting predictions, for the most part I agree with you on the main card, although Pierce is an extremely sneaky sleeper. He shouldn’t beat Fitch but given the upsets recently I’d take a flier on him. I also like Struve based on his height advantage and submission skills. I like a few underdogs on the prelims, Hendricks is the only one I agree with you on and even that’s a bit of a push.

  2. I don’t know, I’ve seen Linhares fight a couple of times in the M-1 Challenge and haven’t been overly impressed. Grant seems to freeze on the big stage and I really don’t think Nelson is up to too much, while Wiman is dangerous. We’ll have to wait and see though, these things never go exactly as they should! Cheers for taking the time to read and comment anyway, I should be sticking up previews for all the events in future

  3. You make Johnson favourite eh? We’ve got him at 7/4 against if you fancy him, that might shorten up though. Hendricks and Wiman are fairly strong favourites I’d say.

  4. Again, I wouldn’t bet the house on it or anything, but I think he’s got some skills and solid experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a decision or a submission. I fancy Wiman to take Nelson down, but he can be quite inconsistent, so you never know. It’s a tough sport to predict. It only takes one slip and everyone’s got a puncher’s chance

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