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UFC 114 Preview

In MMA on May 28, 2010 at 1:07 am

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs  Rashad Evans

Now that the A-Team is safely in the can and Jackson has (probably) confirmed his lack of acting ability, the spiteful rivalry between last season’s TUF coaches can finally reach its conclusion. Much trash-talking and general childishness has gone on between these two, and with the tension high and the hate palpable, someone could well be ending this one face down in la la land.

Unfortunately, Dana White has followed the trend of announcing this as a title eliminator, so the question now is whether either fighter will risk his consciousness by leaping head first into a knuckle blender. Both these fighters have shown jolting knockout power in the recent past, Mr T icing arch rival Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, and Evans following up his brutal KO of Chuck Liddell with a stoppage of Forrest Griffin at the same event.

Since then though, they’ve fallen on tougher times. Evans lost his belt decisively to Lyoto Machida, before hanging on to a tight decision over Thiago Silva. Rampage on the other hand, hasn’t fought for over a year since eking out a decision win against Evans’ team-mate Keith Jardine.

Despite his long absence, this fight almost certainly rests on where the former Pride star’s head is at. If he still has the hunger, then he possesses all the tools to win this fight. He has to apply them in the right way though, and stick to a game-plan. His powerful counter-punching style should cause Evans problems on the feet, as he’s unlikely to be overwhelmed by speed. Similarly, his wrestling should be strong enough to negate the takedown, and possibly score one or two of his own to mix things up and sway the judges. Every grappling tussle he wins will edge him closer to victory too, as Evans has shown a suspect gas tank of late.

However, if Evans fights just right, he will take advantage of any mental frailties present in his opponent. Greg Jackson’s fighters invariably fight smart, so expect Sugar to attack the lead leg with stinging kicks and start to wear down his prey with slippery combinations from the outside. If he can score a takedown, then it will be safety first top control on the way to a likely decision.

Rashad certainly has a chance, but the more focussed Rampage is the more that chance diminishes. While the budding film star may not be quite the fighter he could, and perhaps should be, I expect him to have enough in the tank to earn another shot at the title.

Michael Bisping vs Dan Miller

The second fight on the card should be an entertaining meeting of two fighters desperately scrabbling their way back to the top of the Middleweight division. While neither are likely to be cut anytime soon, they’ve racked up only one win between them in their last five fights, and another loss for either here would see them sink into obscurity for the foreseeable future.

Of the two, Bisping is in a better position. As a TUF winner and British star, his value to the UFC goes beyond results. His recent losses have also come at the hands of Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva, with a highly creditable win over Denis Kang in between.

Miller on the other hand, has gone down to Demian Maia and Chael Sonnen. Again, not bad losses to have, but Miller lacks the reputation and resume that Bisping can fall back on.

The desperation should be palpable in this one, and could make for a great fight. Bisping showed against Kang that he is steadily improving on the ground, and he may need these skills against Miller.

While the American isn’t a terrifying wrestler, he is persistent, and should drag it to the mat at some stage. Whether he’s able to do this early in the rounds, and then keep Bisping down is what will likely determine this fight, because Bisping will hold the edge on the feet. The Wolf’s Lair product is a slick and polished kickboxer, and should have too much for his opponent without landing a knockout blow.

While Miller will be able to get the Count down, he will be doing well to finish him there. He will also find it increasingly difficult to land takedowns as the fight progresses and his muscles tire, so I’m gonna go with Bisping in this, probably by decision.

Todd Duffee vs Mike Russow

Illinois native Duffee will be well known to fans who saw him end Tim Hague’s night in just 7 seconds at 102 last August, but despite the hype the 24 year old has attempted to play things down recently.

He has repeatedly said that the fight against Hague could have gone either way, and that Russow is the most underrated heavy on the roster. But such admirable modesty shouldn’t distract from the fact that he is a heavy favourite in this fight.

While some misguided fans calling on him to step up and demand a title shot are getting way ahead of themselves, the UFC brass are not in the business of throwing marketable young prospects to the wolves, especially at heavyweight. They’ve given Russow to Duffee fully expecting the rising star to take care of business, and should he fail, it will be a huge setback in his career.

Russow is a solid fighter, but as Duffee himself has said, he knows his limitations and fights within them. While this was meant as a compliment, it’s also a double-edged one. Russow will be aiming to take Duffee down and grind him out, and there’s no heavyweight that should allow this to happen to him if they have real aspirations at a future title challenge.

We will learn a lot in this fight, about Duffee’s takedown defence, stand up (that 7 second record will almost certainly prove to be an aberration) and overall potential. He will almost certainly win, but the manner of the victory will be key.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Jason Brilz

Originally scheduled to take on Forrest Griffin, an untimely injury to the American left this fight up in the air. Luckily, Jason Brilz stepped in at short notice to replace the former champ. Top marks for bravery, but none for self preservation I’m afraid. It would be a huge shock if Nogueira were to be unduly troubled in this one.

Brilz has actually performed pretty will in the UFC so far, going 3-1 since he joined. Wins over Brad Morris, Tim Boetsch and Eric Schafer will hardly inspire confidence for this one though, as Lil’ Nog is just a few levels above those guys.

It’s hard to see how Brilz can win this one. In past fights, he’s relied on good clinch work and ground and pound to earn decision wins, but Nogueira should have his number in these departments and more. One of the better boxers around, Nog showed just how sharp his hands are when he destroyed Luiz Cane last November. He also possesses the BJJ to give wrestlers nightmares.

Brilz deserves respect for stepping up in this one one, and we all know God (aka Dana White) loves a tryer. But this should be a straightforward win for Minotoro as he continues his quest for the LHW belt.

Diego Sanchez vs John Hathaway

Promising young Englishman John Hathaway gets his shot at the big time in this match-up, as he takes on TUF 1 winner Sanchez in his return to welterweight.

Hathaway has shown some real skills in his octagon outings so far, disposing of Ireland’s Thomas Egan before earning impressive decisions over Rick Story and Paul Taylor. His main weapons are surprisingly good takedowns and some slick matwork.

These probably won’t be enough to overcome the Nightmare though. While Sanchez’s limitations were exposed by BJ Penn, it takes a fighter of that calibre to put him away. Although he’s not spectacular at anything, the New Mexico native has no obvious weaknesses.

Unless Hathaway can show something unexpected, this may be too big a step up for him. The 22 year old has a great future though, and won’t give anything away easily.

Televised Prelims:

Amir Sadollah vs Dong Hyun Kim

Sadollah has had a tough time of it since his TUF win over CB Dollaway, getting summarily smashed by Johnny Hendricks before labouring his way to decisions over Phil Baroni and Brad Blackburn. It’s now or never for the crowd favourite, as another loss could see him fading into irrelevance.

To that end, Korean Kim is hardly the ideal opponent. Sadollah does a lot of his good work in the clinch, which is exactly where you don’t want to be against a judo black belt.

Sadollah has stalled a little in the past year or so, and this is make or break time for him. It’s not an ideal fight though, and unless he can catch his opponent on the feet it looks likely that there could be more bumps in his UFC journey.

Efrain Escudero vs Dan Lauzon

Another hugely significant fight for a TUF winner, Escudero looks to have a far easier assignment against the 22 year old Dan Lauzon.

Lauzon is coming off a 1st round submission loss to Cole Miller, and has reportedly had a very lacklustre training camp. This does not bode well for a meeting with Escudero, who has some nifty submission skills of his own.

Escudero needs a win in this one, and should have more hunger than Lauzon, who sounds like he needs to get his head together.

Undercard:

The rest of a stacked undercard sees Melvin Guillard aiming to KO Waylon Lowe, Luiz Cane make his return against French striker Cyrille Diabate, prospects Aaron Riley and Joe Brammer clashing and Ryan Jensen taking on Jesse Forbes.

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