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UFC 112 Preview

In MMA on April 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

There’s more MMAyhem this weekend, with two UFC belts on the line in Abu Dhabi. It’s the 3rd event in two weeks, and the 3rd and 4th belts that are going to be on the line. With Machida-Shogun pencilled in for next month, that’s all five belts up for grabs in an unprecedented couple of months of UFC action.

Anderson Silva (c) vs Demian Maia

The main event at 112 sees the return of the man Dana White has been billing the ‘pound for pound best in the world’ for a couple of years now, Anderson ‘the Spider’ Silva. Given White’s penchant for spin though, you wonder exactly how easily he’d ridicule a ‘pound for pound great’ whose last two years have consisted of wins over James Irvin, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and a horrendous looking Forrest Griffin.

You’d imagine he’d relish the challenge, but as Silva is under UFC contract, his position will not be seriously questioned until he loses. And that won’t happen this Saturday.

Demian Maia is the man charged with stopping the Brazilian blender this time, but unfortunately for him and the fans, he looks awfully ill-equipped to do so. As one of the most decorated and skilful jiu jitsu players on the roster, he could make a balloon animal out of any opponent on the mat. That’s how his first five trips to the octagon ended, three of them in the first round and four of them earning him sub of the night bonuses.

He has to get them to the mat first though. As Nate Marquardt brutally illustrated last August, any time Maia spends on the feet will be spent in survival mode against a half decent striker, and Silva is so, so much more than that. Whatever about his quality of opponents in recent times, the quality of Silva’s muay thai has never been in doubt.

Though he showed some improved stand up in his decision win over Dan Miller in February, nothing short of a gatling gun is going to give Maia a chance on the feet in this one. He could try and pull guard, or drag Silva to the mat somehow, but even then, he has struggled to quickly finish those opponents with submission skills. Jason McDonald and Ed Herman were able to survive on the floor with Maia, and he’ll need to dispatch the Spider quickly this Saturday, or risk a KO on the feet.

Silva has also yet to be submitted from top position. His two sub losses have come via triangle choke (Daiju Takase) and freak flying heel hook (Ryo Chonan). Given the improvements in his game in the six years since, his BJJ black belt and his training partners at Black House, don’t expect him to be submitted again without putting up a hell of a fight, even by someone as skilled as Maia.

What’s much more likely to happen is Anderson finding his range on the feet for the first round or so and staying out of takedown trouble, before picking Maia apart with some lightning hands and ghostly head movement. This one will almost certainly end in a KO, and probably quite early on, unless Maia can shock the world against one of the pound for pound greats.

BJ Penn (c) vs Frankie Edgar

Another man with a rightful claim to that particular crown is lightweight emperor BJ Penn. The Prodigy’s case is hurt by his domination at the hands of Georges St Pierre last year, but Penn is at least as dominant at lightweight as St Pierre at welter, or indeed Silva at middleweight. In fact, Penn could even be considered more dominant, as his one and only loss at 155 (since avenged) came at the hands of Jens Pulver more than eight years ago.

Frankie Edgar is the latest challenger to try his luck against the Prodigy, but it’s hard to see how he can pull the upset. Taking down a rubber man like Penn has proven to be incredibly difficult for anyone who hasn’t had a considerable muscular advantage, and even when on his back, he’s proved even harder to control, let alone finish.

On the feet, the 28 year old Edgar has shown steady improvement since his debut win over Tyson Griffin. He’s up against arguably the best pure boxer in the division though. The Answer needs to keep changing the distance and mixing things up with leg kicks if he wants to avoid being ‘Sherked’ by his opponent, but it’s unlikely he can throw too many new looks at Penn, given the 31 year old’s experience. When you’ve picked apart the likes of Takanori Gomi, Kenny Florian and Jens Pulver, and held your own with Georges St Pierre and Lyoto Machida, there’s very little left to see or fear in the world of MMA.

Still the right side of 30 and sporting a highly impressive 11-1 record, there’s a bright future ahead of Edgar. Beyond grinding out a decision or landing some earth-shaking ground and pound though, there’s very little chance of him earning the gold this weekend. After a match-up with Gray Maynard, there’s not much else for Penn to achieve at lightweight, so expect him to vacate the belt after another couple of defences. That’s when Edgar’s real opportunity will arise.

Matt Hughes vs Renzo Gracie

Continuing the ‘pound for pound’ theme, welterweight juggernaut Matt Hughes takes on Renzo Gracie at welterweight a little further down the card. Hughes was once considered one of the greatest fighters in the world of MMA and is one of the organisation’s most dominant champions of all time But his best days are far behind him. His last five bouts in the octagon have seen two decision wins with three fairly comprehensive losses.

Luckily for Hughes, he should even that record up with a win over Renzo Gracie this Saturday. That is, unless his decline is even more terminal than first suspected. Although he carries the famous Gracie name, Renzo’s underwhelming 13-6 record belies the fact that the Gracies have had very little impact on this era of MMA. His notable wins over Carlos Newton, Pat Miletich, Oleg Taktarov and Maurice Smith conjure memories of bygone days, while his last fight was over three years ago, when he claimed a DQ win over Frank Shamrock.

Renzo should put in a better performance than Rolles at 109, and will be determined to restore some of the lustre to his family’s famous moniker, but Hughes should be too experienced and battle hardened to get caught in a submission. Expect him to take this down and stay out of trouble as he grinds it out, probably for a decision win.

Terry Etim vs Rafael dos Anjos

Another rising star from the English MMA scene, Etim has shown a really mixed attack in his UFC career thus far. He looks to be a proper mixed martial artist, winning fights in a variety of different ways. He has so far shown some polished boxing, using quick jabs and solid head movement, excellent leg and head kicks, and a quality ground game which has earned him three ‘submission of the night’ bonuses in his seven octagon appearances so far. He’s recovered well from a rocky 1-2 start to reel off four wins in a row, and at just 24, he could be a coming force in the UFC.

Standing in his way on Saturday night will be Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos, who is on a two fight winning streak himself. The first of those came via decision against the tough but limited kickboxer Rob Emerson, and likely saved him from being cut after an 0-2 start to his career. His last appearance was in January when he earned another decision win over Kyle Bradley.

Dos Anjos has shown some spark in his four efforts so far, and while he’s no knockout artist in the stand up, he does possess some damaging leg kicks that Etim would do well to avoid. He’s also a BJJ black belt and is well versed on the ground, and if he can consistently ground El Tel, he could come away with his arm raised.

Etim will be a step up from his previous opponents though, and dos Anjos would do well to get his third win in a row. Etim is likely to control the stand up in this one, and should be able to work his way out of trouble on the ground. Probably a decision for the Englishman.

Kendall Grove vs Mark Munoz

The opening fight of the night is an intriguing match-up between TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove and dominating wrestler Mark Munoz.

Grove has struggled for consistency at middleweight, splitting his last six fights after a 3-0 start to his UFC tenure. Jorge Rivera and Patrick Cote exposed his weakness against power punching, while his unanimous decision loss to Ricardo Almeida suggested that he struggles off his back if he can’t throw his long legs up and snag a triangle.

Munoz is a tough assignment for the Hawaiian. The Japanese born wrestler is a two time all American, and about as good a wrestler as Grove is likely to come up against. The 32 year old army vet also throws with bad intentions, and could easily trouble his opponent’s suspect chin with his power.

Grove’s 6’6 frame does pose awkward questions for anyone he fights, as his long reach and sharp muay thai is tough to get around. With his credentials, Munoz should be able to ground him, but then he has to stay out of trouble on the mat. Grove’s shown some real opportunism off his back, and the inexperienced Munoz will need to be careful not to get snagged.

On the feet, this one probably favours the TUF 3 winner. He can use his reach and snapping kicks to hurt Munoz, but will have to be mindful of the bombs winging their way his direction. It will probably go to ground though, and then we’ll see just how good Munoz’s ground and pound and submission defence is. If it’s up to snuff, it’s his fight to lose, but any mistakes and he’s unlikely to worm his way off the hook.

Undercard

Joe Silva and his cronies have put together a very interesting undercard for the fans, with no less than four English fighters in action. Paul Taylor takes on John Gunderson, while Paul Kelly is up against the up and coming Matt Veach. TUF 9’s Nick Osipczak has a tough assignment against Rick Story and Mostapha Al Turk will be desperate to stay upright against wrestling machine Jon Madsen in the only heavyweight bout of the evening. Elsewhere, we get another look at the frightening prospect Phil Davis as he takes on the hard hitting Swede Alex Gustafsson, and DeMarques Johnson goes toe to toe with Brad Blackburn.

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