First, an explanation.
Like most of you reading this, I am a huge MMA fan, perhaps even bordering on the obsessive. I over-think just about every fight, and when not thinking about upcoming fights, I watch old fights. I am a quasi-historian of the UFC from my old gig doing retro reviews over at 411mania, and someone went so far as to link those articles to the UFC wiki pages...something I'm oddly proud of. So, yeah, I'm a big MMA dork.
Luckily, my wife not only tolerates this, but she's actually a fan herself. Be that as it may, she's a very different type of fan than I am, as you'll see below. She can break down technique, knows sloppy stand up from good stand up, gets mad when crowds boo ground fighting, knows Mike Goldberg says the stupidest things imaginable and even has a favorite fighter, GSP—I try to keep my jealousy in check. However, she doesn't obsess like I do (and probably you, too). She's the epitome of the smart, casual fan.
We usually end up having some interesting discussions and arguments over fights, and I thought it might be entertaining to share them and our picks for UFC 112 with you. Though, if she gets more picks right than I do, I may never hear the end of it from her.
Mostapha Al Turk (6-5, 0-2 UFC) -120 vs. Jon Madsen (4-0, 1-0 UFC) -105
Mr: I think Madsen's path to victory is pretty clear cut in this one. Al Turk is a less than stellar wrestler, while that is the best tool Madsen has in the toolbox—if not his only one. Al Turk might have a chance if he's able to keep the fight standing, but I just don't think he'll be able to. Look for Madsen to take him down at will and have good enough top control to avoid any submission attempts from the bottom.
The only question at that point becomes, are we in for three uneventful rounds of "just enough action to win" ground and pound, or has Madsen worked hard enough on his skills to actually get a finish in his first fight on a big show? Personally, whether it's through improved finishing skills or just wearing Al Turk out, I don't see this going to the judges.
Winner: Madsen, TKO, Round 3
Mrs: I don't know either of these guys. I'd put my money on the guy with the better record...unless one of them had a super strength that is the other ones super weakness. Guess my vote is for Madsen.
Mr: Madsen is a wrestler—bald pudgy dude from the heavyweight TUF season. AL Turk is that furry guy that Cro Cop poked in the eye .
Ick to both. Turk lost to Kongo, who has a cute accent, but isn't what I would call a great fighter. My vote is still for Madsen, but most of Al Turk's losses are to punches. Can Madsen punch???? Either way, it seems like Al Turk is going to come out swinging.
Winner: Madsen, Decision...if he doesn't get knocked out!
Paul Kelly (9-2, 3-2 UFC)-115 vs. Matt Veach (11-1, 1-1 UFC)-125
Mr: Veach made a good accounting of himself when he stepped in on short notice against Frankie Edgar at the TUF 10 finale, but the holes in his game that Edgar exploited—poor defensive boxing and a questionable chin—are the exact ones that Kelly will look to take advantage of as well. The problem for Kelly, though, is that he is no Edgar on the feet, and he is certainly no Edgar in terms of wrestling. Veach was able to take Edgar down several times in the first round, including a few emphatic slams.
Coming off his first pro loss to Edgar, Veach knows he can be tagged so look for him to rely on his wrestling and ground the fight early. Kelly is certainly a tough and durable fighter, but in spite of his reputation as a brawler he lacks the finishing power he'll need to take out Veach. But he is tough enough to last three rounds on the bottom if Veach doesn't submit him.
Winner: Veach, Round 2, Submission
Mrs: I don't really like either of these guys...the 11-1 guy has only ever fought one "known" fighter. And lost. Even though Kelly has the cuter accent of the two, I have to go with the American.
Winner: Veach by Submission
DaMarques Johnson( 10-7, 1-1 UFC) -115 vs. Brad Blackburn (15-10-1, 3-1 UFC) -125
Mr: It's always fun when two guys share a recent opponent, as you get to do a little MMAth.
In this case, both guys fought Edgar Garcia in 2009, with Blackburn getting a split decision victory and Johnson getting a submission of the night victory with a first round triangle in a war. Going by that, you'd think Johnson might have a bit of an edge in this one, except that Blackburn has only lost by submission once, and that was five years ago.
While Amir Sadollah battered Blackburn for three rounds in his last fight, Johnson doesn't have the stand up skills—especially the kicks—to do the same. While I think the fight is going to be competitive, look for Blackburn to control enough of the stand up exchanges to get the decision.
Winner: Blackburn, Decision
Mrs: Oh God…Blackburn has a terrible nickname. I liked Johnson on the show, but he got tapped out by that British bloke. He looked strong, but a bit cocky. This has the potential to be a boring fight. Blackburn usually wins by TKO, Johnson only has two TKO losses...so I'm going to say...
Winner: Blackburn, TKO (actually, I think it will be a boring decision, but I'm trying to be optimistic)
Nick Osipczak (5-0, 2-0 UFC)+110 vs. Rick Story (9-3, 2-1 UFC) -120
Mr: Two good, young fighters with decent futures ahead of them going head-to-head always makes for a good fight. Osipczak looked great in dismantling Matt Riddle in his last outing but should have a much harder time with Story based on their similar skill sets.
Both guys have some power in their fists, but both are more than comfortable looking for the win on the ground. Their ground skills could possibly negate each other, leaving us with a stand up battle. While neither guy is a world beater on their feet, they are both good enough to make this an entertaining fight. In the end though, I think the experience of Story wins out.
Winner: Story, TKO, Round 2
Mrs: Gotta go for the Brit. Even though Rick's nickname made me chuckle, and he has a bunch of fights under his belt, and he doesn't seem to quit, ever...my money is on the Brit. I think the easy way out is to say it'll be a decision loss. But I'm going to say RNC first round.
Winner: Osipczak, RNC, Round 1
Paul Taylor (10-5-1, 3-4 UFC) -420 vs. John Gunderson (22-7, 0-1 UFC)+380
Mr: While Taylor has always been exciting in his UFC bouts, I just don't see why he's such a huge favorite in this fight. Gunderson is by no means a world beater, but he is experienced, tough, good on the ground, and has fought regularly at 155. This will be Taylor's first time making the cut in the UFC, and when you add in the travel involved getting to Abu Dhabi plus the heat you have to be concerned that it might be a rough one for him.
Taylor showed some power at 170 lbs, but it wasn't enough to put anyone in the division away, so unless he manages to carry ALL of that power to 155, he is likely going to have to rely on flurries of punches to grind Gunderson down. The problem with that is that if he opens up, the durable Gunderson—who has never been TKO'd—will have a chance to get the fight to the ground, where he'll have a decided advantage. If Marcus Davis could catch Taylor, Gunderson can as well. Just based on the odds, this is your upset pick.
Winner: Gunderson, Submission, Round 2
Mrs: Quick submission by "guns" Gunderson. Terrible…oh it's worse than I thought! Quick Guns!!?!?! Terrible. Meh…I don't really care about these two…is that wrong? Taylor's last five fights have come by way of decision, win or lose. Wait…Gunderson has only been in one UFC fight, and he lost. I'm guessing Taylor is the favorite here, OK. Keep with his boring past and say decision Taylor.
Winner: Taylor, Decision
P hil Davis (5-0, 1-0 UFC) -600 vs. Alexander Gustafsson (9-0, 1-0 UFC)+400
Mr: By no means is Phil Davis a complete fighter at this stage in his career. As a matter of fact, he's pretty much one dimensional and certain fighters would eat him alive. Does anyone think Gustafsson is that fighter? In spite of the good striking and excellent power he's shown so far in his career, he's unlikely to be able to deal with Davis' wrestling ability. If the heavy-fisted Brian Stann couldn't touch Davis, or stay off his back, is Gustafsson likely to fare much better?
He'll have a puncher's chance, but…
Winner: Davis, Decision
Mrs: Hard to say—they are both newcomers to the UFC. Gotta go with the dude who has more fights. The mauler by TKO. When I don't know either fighter I'd usually pick the cuter one, but not this time—I'll go with the guy with the better record and the cute accent!.
Winner: Gustafsson, TKO
Mark Munoz (7-1, 2-1 UFC) -185 vs. Kendall Grove (11-6, 6-3 UFC) +155
Mr: You're going to hear about Grove beating high level wrestler Jake Rosholt a lot in the build up to this fight, but keep in mind one thing about that—Mark Munoz is NOT Jake Rosholt.
Munoz got a big wake up call when Matt Hamill KO'd him in his UFC debut. He hooked up with possibly the best camp in the world and he's become a much more complete mixed martial artist in a shorter period of time than most. He's looked very good since losing to Hamill, and I honestly don't see any way that Grove wins this.
Munoz's stand up is more technical and powerful, which will likely let him get inside of Grove's reach. If Grove opens up with kicks, he's likely to find himself on his back. Grove might have an advantage in the submission game, but Munoz would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to have picked up a few tricks training with Black House.
Winner: Munoz, TKO, Round 2
Mrs: Ooooh…You know how I feel about Da Spider—I say Kendall Grove by submission because I have a crush on him! Hey, he actually spells his nickname "Spyder"...that's kind of lame, but I won't hold it against him.
P.S.: "The Philippines Wrecking Machine" is almost as bad as "The Athlete". BRUTAL.
Mrs: Do you think Kendall will get KO'd?
Mr: Yes, yes I do.
Mrs: Oh, oh…it's a definite possibility. You're mean.
Mr: Munoz has been training with Silva and the Nogueira brothers.
Mrs: Double uh-oh. See, I don't know this shit…and I don't care! GO KENDALL! GO KENDALL !
Winner: Grove by Submission
Terry Etim (14-2, 5-2 UFC)-165 vs. Rafael Dos Anjos (13-4, 2-2 UFC) +135
Mr: I keep waiting for Dos Anjos' good Jiu-Jitsu game to equal a submission, but I'm not sure that will ever happen.
He's turning into a decision king, but at least he's making fights interesting, if not outright exciting, lately, but this might be the fight he finally gets the tap. Etim might be the favorite coming in, but he likes to hit the ground himself, only he's been doing it at the lower levels of the 155lb division. Outside of a win over Sam Stout, there isn't a standout name on his resume, while Dos Anjos gave Tyson Griffin a handful last year.
Etim's on a hot streak, but I think that ends here.
Winner: Dos Anjos, Sub, Round 1
Mrs: I don't really know. I'll say Etim by submission. He seems pretty good and has been in the UFC for a while. I have nothing witty say—no one has a nickname to make fun of. Too bad.
Mr: Did you notice that Dos Anjos looks like Frankenstein?
Mrs: Ha! He does, he really does!
Winner: Etim, Submission
Matt Hughes (43-7, 16-5 UFC) -500 vs. Renzo Gracie (13-6-1, UFC Debut) +350
Mr: I find it funny that the oldest man on the card is the only guy making his UFC debut. Do you think the dreaded "Octagon Jitters" will come into play here? I don't either, but what will come into play is that Renzo hasn't fought in three years and this will be his most competitive fight since he fought BJ Penn in 2005. A Gracie always has the "submitter's chance," but I don't see Hughes leaving many openings here.
As much as I dislike Hughes, he's like the 50 year old golfer making the jump to the Senior Tour here—he's going to dominate. I don't see this fight being very close. Hughes is still a strong wrestler with good top control, and I think Renzo is leaving with a lumpy face.
Winner: Hughes, TKO, Round 2
Mrs: Blah. I would never, ever pick Matt Hughes—except for that time he was fighting Matt Serra, who I HATE! I'm just not a Matt Hughes fan, and I never will be. I personally think both guys are a bit old for the sport and should probably hang up their gloves. I've never seen Gracie fight, so I'm basing this off of stats and what not. But be sure—I will not be rooting for Matt Hughes.
Mrs: Just brought up Renzo's pic. Not what I was expecting at all. Weird.
Mr: What were you expecting him to look like?
Mrs: Is it bad to say "More Brazilian?" Ok, back to the fight.
Renzo hasn't had a fight since 2007??? That's a long time…jeesh. Matt Hughes is a wrestler—so he's most comfy on the ground. But....Renzo is a JJ dude, so he'll also want to be on the ground. If Hughes is stronger—and I expect him to be—he should be able to control Renzo on the ground and GP his way to viceroy.
Winner: Hughes, TKO (BUT I WILL NOT BE ROOTING FOR HIM. In fact, I'll be rooting for RG to arm bar his arm right off! Is that mean?)
BJ Penn (15-5-1, 11-4-1 UFC) -1000 vs. Frankie Edgar (11-1, 6-1 UFC) +500
Mr: On their feet, Penn is the better boxer with better power. In the clinch, Penn is the stronger man with better balance. On the ground, Penn has better top control, ground and pound, and submissions. Edgar MIGHT have a wrestling edge on paper, but Penn is nearly impossible to takedown unless you have a three letter nickname. Edgar is a very, very, very good fighter, but this is the worst championship match up he could have ever asked for.
I imagine this will go like Penn's other title fights—work the jab, tire the other guy out, and go for the kill in the third or fourth.
Winner: Penn, Submission, Round 3
Mrs: Unless BJ is fighting GSP, I would not usually vote against BJ. He's a freakishly good fighter. He can get himself into trouble when he underestimates his opponents, so I hope he doesn't do that this time. Should be short and sweet. BJ by Annihilation.
Winner: Penn, by annihilation?
Anderson Silva (25-4, 10-0 UFC) -850 vs. Demian Maia (12-1, 6-1 UFC)+600
Mr: We all know Maia has one chance here—get the fight to the ground, avoid guard, get the submission. That's it. He'll be eaten alive on his feet, and he knows that. Unfortunately for Maia, not only do the fans know what he needs to do, so does Silva.
Rushing in on Silva is a BAD idea—just ask Forrest Griffin—but Maia can't stay outside and wait for a chance for very long. And it's not like Silva is weak in the clinch—just ask Rich Franklin. I love Maia and think his submissions are things of beauty, and as much as I'd love to see one Saturday night it's just not going to happen.
Winner: Silva, KO, Round 1
Mrs: I can't see it going any other way than Silva destroying Maia. Maia has a Jiu-Jitsu equivalent of a "punchers chance" at winning this fight. Good luck to you sir. Overall, I think it'll be a typical (bordering on boring) fight, and it will be completely one-sided. If I decide to have a nap mid-way through, I'm sure no one will fault me for it.
Winner: Silva, One-sided and drawn out beating