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UFC 113 Preview

In MMA on May 5, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Following the surreal events of UFC 112 and the unsavoury aftermath of Strikeforce’s lacklustre Nashville card, it’s been a difficult month for MMA. Luckily, two of the sport’s brightest lights square up in Montreal this Saturday night for a rematch that should inspire even the most jaded of cynics. So set the video, clear your evening (or early morning), sit back, and enjoy what should be one of the fights of the year.

Lyoto Machida (c) vs Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua

The seismic scrap between these two at UFC 104 last October sparked a controversy which still rumbles on to this day. It seemed that the whole of the MMA world was united in their view that Shogun had upset the odds and executed the perfect game plan to dethrone the seemingly unstoppable Machida. Except the three guys with the scorecards sitting ringside.

A unanimous 48-47 decision for the karateka left many fans livid and poor Rua shedding tears of frustration back in the dressing room. Six months on, he gets his chance to set the record straight.

While I personally felt the Pride veteran had done enough to claim the belt, looking back on the fight itself confirms that it was far from clear-cut. The technical mastery exhibited by both fighters meant that clean, unanswered strikes were few and far between. Thus, the fight hinged on small, crucial elements. Do you score Rua’s constant pressure, or credit Machida for resisting the takedowns? Should the champ’s knees trump the challenger’s chopping leg kicks?

The rematch should hopefully make these questions academic. On Saturday, we will see whether the previously serene Machida can regain his composure and come up with a plan to nullify Rua’s leg attacks. If he can’t, he may not get away with taking such heavy damage again. Similarly, it will be interesting to see whether Shogun can once more stay out of range of Machida’s slick counters and land consistently on the man whose middle name seems to be ‘elusive’.

The x-factor in this one could well be the ground game. We have seen very little of Machida’s BJJ, but given his camp and credentials it would be safe to assume he’s no joke. Will he try and work some ground and pound to put the cap on a couple of rounds? On the flip side, should Shogun finish a takedown we all know just how dangerous he can be, even without his M Bison head stomps.

I’m going to let my head rule my heart on this, and pick Machida to take away another wafer thin decision. But whoever wins, and whatever happens, you can be guaranteed it will be a joy to watch.

Josh Koscheck vs Paul Daley

This meeting between the always game Koscheck and Nottingham dynamo Daley has turned into a bit of a grudge match due to the chirping and twittering done by both mouthy maulers during the build up. To add an extra bit of spice, the winner looks odds on for a TUF season alongside welterweight demi-god Georges St Pierre and the inevitable title shot that would follow.

Koscheck has slumped somewhat in recent times, going 5-3 in the octagon after a 7-1 start. Dig a little deeper though, and it becomes apparent that these losses are not that damaging to his reputation. Apart from the flash knockout at the knuckles of Paulo Thiago, decision losses to GSP and Thiago Alves are highly excusable. Always up for throwing down, and never short of a word or two, Kos is reaping the rewards of his high profile and gamey attitude.

He has one more hurdle to clear before reaching his rematch though, and would be a fool to look past the explosive Daley. Coming from the ever improving Rough House stable, Daley will be eager to starch Koscheck and take a shot at avenging his team mate Dan Hardy. Unsurprisingly for a man nicknamed ‘Semtex’, his dangerous Muay Thai will be the key to a title run.

Daley has made huge strides as a fighter, and his only losses in the last three years have come to Jake Shields and Nick Thompson. A veteran of over 30 fights, he should ask some tough questions of his brash opponent, and if he keeps the fight standing he will probably outclass Kos on the feet.

The outcome of the fight may be out of his hands though. Koscheck has shown an atomic shot and impressive athleticism in his career so far, but also a misplaced desire to ‘prove’ himself standing up. Should he swallow his pride and look to grind out the win on the mat, then there would be little hope for Semtex. Any misguided notions of challenging Daley’s destructive strikng though, and the Brit becomes a heavy favourite.

Hopefully for the sake of the wispy haired one, he’s taken the time to review some video nasties and put to bed any notions of a surprise knockout. The sheer stupidity of standing with Daley would beggar belief, and for that reason I’m picking the American to wear his way to a TUF slot.

Sam Stout vs Jeremy Stephens

After a 2-4 start to his UFC tenure left Stout teetering on the edge of the pink slip precipice, the Canadian rallied to take two ‘Fight of the Night’ wins over Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon. Those victories have earned him a main card showdown with the 23 year old Stephens.

‘Lil Heathen’ Stephens has been struggling himself lately, dropping a couple of bouts to Lauzon and Gleison Tibau last year before recovering with a stoppage of Justin Buchholz. That and his 2008 win over Rafael dos Anjos won him ‘Knockout of the Night’ honours, and that seems to be the ultimate goal in every one of Stephens’ fights. He consistently throws with bad intentions and seems unconcerned with any possible repercussions. That may well play into Stout’s hands, as the Canadian’s technical striking will allow him to evade and counter, while taking his opponent’s base away with leg kicks.

Stephens’ wrestling is underrated though, and I think he’ll be able to take Stout down and work some ground and pound to even things up. Should he be able to take it to ground consistently, I’d back the Heathen. If Stout can stay upright though, it’s a toss-up as power plays technique.

Kevin ‘Kimbo Slice’ Ferguson vs Matt Mitrione

As a showcase of fighting technique, this one should be polar opposite of the main event. Despite resembling Godzilla vs King Kong though, it should still be a lot of fun if you can ignore the sort of stand up flaws that would leave a celebrity boxing crowd aghast.

When two heavyweight brawlers collide in a fight like this, all bets are off. Slice has actually shown some quick hands and improving head movement as his career has progressed. He lacks power and size for a heavyweight though, which could prove fatal.

Mitrione on the other hand, has done his best to discredit the NFL with his constant whinging, backwards ‘mind games’ and leaden footed movement in the octagon. But he showed against Scott Junk that he can ship some punishment, and in his knockout of Marcus Jones he displayed his ability to land a hard shot.

He could easily expose Slice’s papier mache chin on Saturday night, but I’m picking the Bahamian to survive a round and take advantage of the go-kart gas tank that powers Mitrione’s juggernaut frame.

Patrick Cote vs Alan Belcher

French-Canadian Cote returns to the octagon for the first time since his 2008 title shot against Anderson Silva was ended by an untimely knee injury. He is greeted by the hard-hitting Alan Belcher for his comeback fight, and this could prove to be an inspired bit of matchmaking by the UFC brass.

The American’s last three fights have ended in bonuses, two ‘Fight of the Nights’ and one ‘Sub of the Night’ adding some padding to Belcher’s bank account. He is a powerful Muay Thai striker, and has never been known to take a backward step. His reckless style has led to some losses in a 6-4 octagon career, but a fighter like Belcher will always entertain the crowd.

His style should match up perfectly with Cote’s bulldozing stand-up and adamantium jaw, so we could be set fair for a thrilling battle. If Cote returns in form, the ‘The Predator’s ability to withstand the hardest of hits without flinching will allow him to trade in the pocket and land a few telling blows. If he’s rusty though, Belcher won’t give him any chance to settle and could well wear him out and beat him down.

Undercard

A packed undercard that’s just a couple of big bouts away from being a solid main card should give us plenty of compensation should there be any early finishes.

50 fight veteran Joe Doerksen returns to the octagon against Tom Lawlor, while Marcus Davis will be looking to get back on track against the fragile Jonathan Goulet. Two rising prospects do battle as TJ Grant take on the unbeaten Johny Hendricks, there’s a heavyweight collision as Tim Hague and Joey Beltran face off, Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Mike Guymon could find themselves in an eliminator and Jason McDonald returns to fight John Salter.

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