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UFC 109:Relentless

In MMA on February 1, 2010 at 7:47 pm

The UFC have put together a solid but uninspiring card for UFC 109, which, much like 108, has been plagued by withdrawals. The original main event bringing middleweight champ Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort together at last would have guaranteed excitement. Instead, Silva was forced to pull out, and other scraps between Jon Jones – Brandon Vera, Matt Hughes – Renzo Gracie were cancelled. Add the late injuries to Josh Koscheck and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, along with Mostapha Al-Turk’s visa problems, and it’s a seriously damaged event which finally limps into view this Superbowl weekend.

Main Event: Randy Couture vs Mark Coleman

Despite Joe Rogan and the ever excitable Mike Goldberg trying to sell this as a no.1 contender bout, this fight has little or no relevance in the big scheme of things at 205. Both deserve mountains of respect as hall of fame fighters and true pioneers of the sport. But they are both pushing fifty, and should not be fighting top competition at this stage in their careers.

Couture is always tough, and still poses a danger to anyone who can’t extricate themselves from his quicksand clinch, but is only 5-5 in his last 10 fights. Coleman has fared even worse, going 4-5 in his last nine.

Couture (L) and Coleman are both well past their prime

They are both coming off wins, but have looked less than impressive. Couture eked out a much debated split decision over Brandon Vera, while Coleman took the judges’ nod against Stephan Bonnar.

Coleman can still work a damaging ground and pound game, but he might struggle to get Couture down. If he can manage it, he has a chance. It’s far more likely that Couture will wear him out on the feet though, and expose Coleman’s stiff boxing and fading stamina.

Chael Sonnen vs Nate Marquardt

The second fight on the card is a far more interesting affair. Marquardt has a strong claim to being the best middleweight in the world not named Anderson Silva, and has stepped up a level since his loss to the Brazilian back in 2007. Since then, he has destroyed Jeremy Horn, Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia and Demian Maia. The former King of the Cage ran over Kampmann and Maia like a 4×4 over a couple of coke cans, and his whirling finish against the durable Gouveia resembled a Mortal Kombat ‘brutality’.

Marquardt has developed into an elite fighter since his loss to Anderson Silva

Sonnen will provide a different test though. He’s the kind of fighter who won’t win many popularity contests, but is an absolute nightmare to fight. Like the equally reviled Jon Fitch down at welterweight, he provides a reminder to all the ‘just bleeders’ that this is a sport, not an entertainment industry. His smothering of Yushin Okami at 104 was a technical masterclass in top control. Any fighter that can remain vertical or escape from his clutches on the ground can be justly proud of their wrestling ability.

This is no ‘striker vs grappler’ match-up though. That would be a far too simplistic way to view this fight. Sonnen can brawl, and has seven knockouts on his record. On the flip side, his last four losses have come by submission, while Marquardt has 15 sub wins on his ledger.

Having said that, Marquardt should have the edge on the feet, and will be a difficult opponent to pacify on the ground. Nate ‘the Great’ should continue his recent charge towards the strap by adding another quality name to his win column.

Mike Swick vs Paulo Thiago

This was originally set to be a rematch between Thiago and Josh Koscheck, but Swick stepped in to save the UFC even more hassle after Koscheck aggravated an injury ahead of the card.

Seen as a stepping stone for Koschek on his quest to regain the welterweight belt, Thiago stunned the MMA world with a first round knockout over the AKA product a year ago. In true samurai style, Jon Fitch stepped in to avenge his fallen comrade, and taught Thiago a lesson by, um, lying on him for 15 minutes to gain the decision win.

Still, a win’s a win, and it showed that Thiago was not a dead eyed killer to be feared. He is, however, a nuggety opponent who makes his opponent really earn that W. His stand up style looks awkward, but as he showed against Koscheck, he packs a wallop. He also has a polished jiu jitsu game, with 6 submission wins in his 12-1 record.

Mike Swick is a bit of a veteran at this stage, but is still young for the fight game at 30 years old. He had compiled an incredible 9-1 record in the UFC prior to his defeat at the fists of Dan Hardy in November. He lives up to his ‘Quick’ moniker with fast hands and darting footwork. He has five 1st round stoppages on his record, and has some vice-like submissions, notably his infamous ‘Swick-otine’.

Mike Swick needs a win to re-establish himself

That Hardy fight exposed a weakness though. The physically bigger Englishman had no trouble shrugging off his takedown attempts, and bullied him on the feet as Swick lacked the power to cause him alarm.

This weakness will probably prevent him from ever holding a title in the UFC, but it shouldn’t stop him getting a win over Thiago. It could well go to a decision, but he will be well prepared for the his opponent’s power punches. The Brazilian special forces operative has also showed no discernible wrestling prowess in his few octagon appearances, and could struggle to avoid the takedown should Swick shoot in. The ability to control the fight should see the American come out on top, although he will need to stay sharp to avoid those thunderstrikes and slick subs.

Demian Maia vs Dan Miller

Miller’s step up in competition last May ended in disappointment as he ran into a Chael Sonnen wrestling tutorial. Now he continues his MMA crash course as he meets perhaps the most dangerous jiu jitsu practitioner in the sport.

Demian Maia's ground game is a thing of beauty

Maia has the kind of ground game that renders any fight practically a write off should it hit the ground. He’s just on another level to pretty much anyone in the middleweight division. As Nate Marquardt showed though, he’s still just as susceptible as anyone to an old fashioned punch in the mouth.

This could be a problem for Dan Miller however, who primarily has a jiu jitsu base. He’s only claimed one knockout victory in his career, and unless he can make Maia his second victim, this one is going to be another pretzel design workshop for Maia. The Brazilian should be able to drag his opponent down while his senses are still intact and give us another jits exhibition to drool over.

Matt Serra vs Frank Trigg

‘Noo Joisey’ yapper Serra comes up against the veteran Frank Trigg in the final bout on the card in what should be a comeback win for Serra.

Since stunning Georges St.Pierre back in 2007 to claim the welterweight title in one of the biggest shocks in MMA history, Serra has had a pretty tough time of it. A year off with a back injury was punctuated by a brutal revenge spanking from GSP, and another year later his bitter feud with Matt Hughes finally ended in a decision loss.

New Jersey native Matt Serra has had a tough time since his win over GSP

Despite his problems with injury though, Serra should still have too much for an ageing Trigg. The Rochester native looked completely outmatched on his return to the octagon last September as he folded to Josh Koscheck. His piledriving style does not translate well against the new breed of MMA fighter, and he’s lost his explosiveness at the age of 37.

He will probably be beaten to the punch by Serra, and even if he manages to get it to ground, he will have his hands full avoiding submissions against the tough pasta lover. Serra should take this one. If he doesn’t, serious questions will be raised over his future.

Undercard:

Two televised undercard bouts will see Mac Danzig against Justin Buchholz and Melvin Guillard face Brazilian Ronnys Torres.

Danzig desperately needs a win after three straight losses in the octagon, and he should get it over Buchholz. The TUF 6 winner is a solid technician, but just not good enough at anything to really make waves. He’s good enough to prey on any technical deficiencies in his opponents though, and should have too much for Buchholz, who has yet to impress in his 1-3 UFC career.

Guillard, meanwhile, will be out for blood after his loss to Nate Diaz at Fight Night 19. Expect fireworks here, as neither fighter is much of a decision fan.

The heavy handed Melvin Guillard never takes a backward step

In the other bouts, late replacement Joey Beltran will try to outstrike a sub specialist as he takes on 31 year old Rolles Gracie, Phillipe Nover takes on Rob Emerson in a probable kickboxing match, former WEC champ Brian Stann will look to take out UFC debutant ‘Mr Wonderful’ Phil Davis, and heavyweights Tim Hague and Chris Tuchscherer collide as they attempt to put devastating recent losses behind them.

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