Alright folks it's time for my first set of predictions! Can you feel the excitement!? This weekend's card is chock full of interesting match ups and great storylines. Let's start with the undercard.
Christian Wellisch v. Shane Carwin: Wellisch is 2-1 in his UFC career with a loss to Cheick Kongo and only one win by stoppage. Carwin is 8-0 in his MMA career with this being his introduction to the UFC. All 8 wins have come by stoppage. He is one of the 3 fastest rising heavyweight prospects in MMA and my bet is the UFC gave him a cupcake to get his feet wet. Have to pick Carwin on this one. My prediction is Carwin by submission in the 1st round.
Jason Tan v. Dong Hyun Kim: Tan is 0-1 in the UFC after getting knocked out by middleweight contender Marcus Davis. Overall he is not very impressive with a 5-2 record with only 3 wins by stoppage. This will be Kim's introduction to the UFC sporting a 9-1-1 record with 6 wins by stoppage. He's a slugger and I'm guessing he will probably stop Tan. My prediction is Kim by TKO in the 2nd round.
Rousimar Palhares v. Ivan Salaverry: This is Palhares first UFC fight but he sports a stout 7-1 record with 6 wins coming by stoppage. He is a submission specialist. Ivan, the Canadian journeyman, is 12-5 overall but 3-3 in his UFC career. He is a well rounded fighter but a little long in the tooth so I'm going with Palhares here. My prediction is Palhares by submission in the 2nd round.
Rich Clementi v. Terry Etim: Rich is 31-12-1 but 4-3 in the UFC. He is a well rounded fighter although more of a submission specialist who has been submitted himself a suprising amount. Terry is 10-1 overall but 1-1 in the UFC. He is certainly a submission specialist with 9/10 wins coming by submission. This should be a grappling match which most fans won't enjoy but my guess is there's a good possibility for tapout of the night coming off of this fight. My pick here is Etim by submission in the 2nd round.
Jon Koppenhaver v. Yoshiyuki Yoshida: "War Machine" is facing his first true UFC bout after his stint on TUF 6. He sports a 5-1 record and is 1-0 in the UFC. His one win was not very impressive although he did stop the fight. This is Yoshida's first UFC fight and he sports a 9-2 record with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a stand up fighter and Koppenhaver is a brawler so I expect some fireworks here. I'm going to pick Yoshida and I predict a TKO in the first round against the underwhelming Koppenhaver.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou v. Kazuhiro Nakamura: Sokoudjou needs to win this fight after his dissapointing debut against Machida. Everyone was picking Sokoudjou after two strong fights in PRIDE. However, Machida proved to be too much just like against everyone else he's fought. Sokoujdou needs this fight to stay in the good graces of the UFC brass so he can get back on the televised portion of following cards. Sokoujdou is only 4-2 but 3 of those wins are by KO and two of those KOs came against Rogerio Nogeuira and Ricardo Arona, two very good opponents. I think the loss to Machida was blown a bit out of proportion but another loss will certainly be a problem. Nakamura is 11-7 with his only UFC fight also ending in a loss to Machida. Nakamura does not have Sokoudjou's name so he might actually need this fight more than Sokoudjou. Nakamura has a very very extensive list of fights in PRIDE against a who's who in MMA. He is a grizzled veteran and very experienced. However, most of his wins have come by decision. I think based on talent I have to pick Sokoudjou but if Nakamura wins it won't be as big an upset as people believe but neither of these guys can afford another loss. My prediction is Sokoudjou by KO in the 1st round.
On to the main card.
Wilson Gouveia v. Goran Reljic: Wilson is 10-4 overall, 4-1 in the UFC, and riding a 4 fight win streak. He is a well rounded fighter. Goran is making his debut and has no notable fights but he is 7-0 and a noted submission specialist. I'm going to pick Wilson mostly for his experience but I don't think this will be an entertaining fight. I'm guessing it gets locked up in a ground battle with Wilson winning on a decision.
Thiago Silva v. Antonio Mendes: Thiago is an impressive 12-0, 3-0 in the UFC, and has 11 wins by stoppage. He is a very strong stand up fighter. Mendes is 14-2 but this is his first fight in the UFC. He is mostly a stand up fighter and has 10 of his 14 wins by stoppage. I'm picking Silva due to experience and a flawless record. My prediction here is a TKO in the first round.
Wanderlei Silva v. Keith Jardine: This fight should win best fighter nicknames pitting "The Axe Murderer" v. "The Dean of Mean" but the actual fight is looking pretty promising too. Silva is one of the most accomplished fighters in MMA history and a legend in his own right. He held the PRIDE middleweight championship for 6 years and won the middleweight Grand Prix. Up until a year ago he looked unbeatable. Unfortunately he is riding a 3 fight losing streak and his back is against the wall. Some people see this as the beginning of the end but at only 31 it's a little premature to count Wanderlei out. Keith Jardine also has big hopes riding on this fight. Many think with a win over Wanderlei it will secure a title shot for Jardine after Griffin gets his shot in Nov/Dec . I'm not sure how Jardine has done it at 13-3-1 and at 5-2 in the UFC (and only one fight removed from a crushing KO by Houston Alexander) but he's put himself probably a win away from a shot at the title. I know he stopped Griffin and beat Liddell but a champion that does not make. This should be a standup war with bombs flying from the time the bell rings. I expect this fight to produce the KO of the night. My pick here is a sentimental one for Wanderlei. I'm predicting a KO in round 1.
Tito Ortiz v. Lyoto Machida: This fight has the most bad blood of the evening. Not between Machida and Ortiz but between UFC president Dana White and Ortiz. What has been a long standing fued between the two will finally come to an end Saturday as Ortiz enters his last fight in the UFC. White refuses to re-sign the talented but somewhat outdated and apathetic Ortiz. Ortiz thinks he has 3 good years left in him and doesn't want to waste them feuding with White and never getting a sniff at the title. Undoubtedly Ortiz draws big numbers with his brash style but his performance has deteriorated and he only fights once a year now at best. Ortiz is another legend in MMA holding the light heavyweight title for 3 years. He has compiled a 15-5-1 record almost exclusively for the UFC with 10 wins coming by stoppage. Machida has been handpicked by White to stop Ortiz and send his ass packing with a loss. Machida, who has a very unusual MMA style that combines elements of Karate and Sumo into regular MMA disciplines, is 12-0 with 4 wins in the UFC. Unfortunately he is not an exciting fighter with only 5 wins by stoppage. My pick here is Machida. I think Machida will control the fight by confusing Ortiz and controlling the fight standing up. My prediction here is Machida wins by decision. It doesn't look like the ass whopping White wants but as long as Ortiz loses I think White will be happy. It'll be interesting to see how all pre/post fight camera time for Ortiz is handled. Honestly, I don't give a crap about their feud but I hate Ortiz and I hope Machida sends him packing.
B.J. Penn v. Sean Sherk: The main event looks promising. All this hype about BJ rubbing in the steroid accusations and Sherk saying "I never lost the belt so how can BJ be champion" non sense is all fight hype and I doubt they have any real beef. It will be a great clash of styles though. Penn is the natural. He is incredibly skilled and fluid but his head and heart (along with his conditioning) have been questioned. Sherk is the opposite. He trains incredibly heard and his head and heart compensate for a less than stellar skill set. He usually out hustles and out works his opponents on the ground. This fight really could go either way. I think Penn's head is in the right place now and I imagine it'll be a competitive fight. Penn is 12-4-1 and 8-3-1 in the UFC with 9 wins by stoppage. He held the welterweight title for a bit but gave it up almost immediately. Sherk is 31-2-1 and 6-2 in the UFC with 21 wins by stoppage. He held the lightweight title very breifly before testing positive for steroids and facing a suspension had the title stripped from him. This fight is for Sherk to reclaim his title and his reputation. The fight will go one of two ways. BJ will dominate standing up and will stuff Sherks takedowns with his great BJJ game or Sherk will takedown BJ and ground him into a stoppage. My guess here (and this is a real toss up for me) is that BJ will win this fight. I think we are going to see a good hard fight but I see it going to a decision. I don't think BJ has the power standing up to stop Sherk but I can see him picking him apart and using his BJJ to stay on his feet or at least stay out of trouble if it goes to the ground. I think Sherk is too one dimensional for Penn and that is the only reason I'm picking Penn.
This should be a great night of very high quality fights and I certainly can't wait. Please tune in tomorrow for my TUF recap and stay tuned next week for my UFC 84 review as well as my reduced previews for Elite XC and WEC fights on next weekend. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...