If you don't have Tivo (which, thank god I do) this is the event to watch this weekend. No doubt in my mind on this one. I'll be watching this live and taping UFC Fight Night 14 which I'll preview later. Affliction: Banned marks the triumphant return to the US (and major competition) for P4P stalwart Fedor Emelianenko. Tom Atencio, co founder of Affliction, is running this show with a little help from Donald Trump. While I can't stand Trump I'm glad he's lending his money to what appears to be a promising upstart promotion. Atencio is no slouch when it comes to business and has been around MMA for years so while there will be some growing pains there hasn't been a debut in MMA like this ever and for that he should be applauded. No one has ever put on a show with talent top to bottom like this. I'm really excited to see how they pull this off. They put together what I think is a great announcing team of Jay Glazer, Frank Trigg, and "Big" John McCarthy. They scored a major coup with ring announcer Michael Buffer. I'm a little concerened with the Megadeath performance because it leads me to believe the show could be a little over the top a la EliteXC's debut on CBS. So I guess we'll just have to see what happens. I think it always gets a little tricky when trying to mix entertainment and MMA because you start sliding ever closer to the dreaded "sports entertainment" (AKA professional wrestling) stigma that is like a black hole for MMA legitimacy which MMA has been trying to pry itself away from ever since the inception of the sport. But I guess Affliction wants to do something different to set themselves apart. I'd rather they focus on bringing us more cards like this. That brings us to why anyone who is a real MMA fan will be watching this and taping the UFC. This card has so much top talent that guys who have been on UFC champion are relegated to the undercard here. I can't wait to dive into this and pick these fights!
* On a quick side note I won't be picking the Mike Pyle and Justin Levens fights as I know very little about them or their opponents.
Savant Young v. Mark Hominick: Young is 9-6 with 6 wins by stoppage but no real experience in any big shows. Mark is 15-8, 2-0 in the UFC, 0-2 in the WEC, with 12 wins by stoppage. They're both solid fighters but I'm going to go with Hominick here based on his experience. I'll pick him to win by decision.
Vitor Belfort v. Terry Martin: Belfort is 16-8, 7-3 in the UFC and former light heavyweight champion, 5-3 in PRIDE, with 12 wins by stoppage. He lost his way for a long time battling drug, alocohol, and weight issues. However, since he's come back to Cage Rage in 2007 he's appeared to clean up his act and recommit himself to MMA. He's always been one of the most dangerous strikers in the world when sharp. Unfortunately he's running into a freight train of a striker in Terry Martin. Martin is 16-4, 2-4 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. This should be a great slugfest and I can't imagine this going the distance. Martin's had a bad run lately and with Belfort's resurgance I don't see it getting any better. I'm picking Belfort by TKO in round 1.
Anotnio Rogerio Nogeuira v. Edwin Dewees: Anotonio is 13-3, 8-2 in PRIDE, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a submission expert just like his brother. Dewees replaces Vernon White who was suspended for testing positive for steroids. Dewees is 34-11, 0-3 in the UFC, with 30 wins by stoppage. He is also a submission expert. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Normally two guys as strong on the ground as these two try to beat each other on the feet. Nogeuira is also a great boxer so I expect him to try to keep it standing. However, if it goes to the ground I wouldn't be surprised if Nogueira could win there too. Either way I don't see Dewees winning it's just a question of how. My prediction is Nogueira by TKO in round 1.
Aleksander Emelianenko v. Paul Buentello: Aleks is 13-3, 5-3 in PRIDE, with 11 wins by stoppage. Buentello is 23-10, 3-1 in the UFC, 4-1 in Strikeforce, with all 23 wins by stoppage. Buentello is a striking expert with little grappling skill. Emelianenko with his solid Sambo background should easily get Buentello to the ground and pound him out. My prediction is Aleksander by TKO in round 1. And on a side note has anoyne noticed that the Emelianenkos are like a package deal now? I mean no doubt Fedor is better than his brother but I don't understand how Aleksander doesn't get more fights outside of the cards his brother is on.
Renato Sobral v. Mike Whitehead: "Babalu" Sobral is 29-7, 6-4 in the UFC, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is a submissions expert. He is a controversial figure ever since he was excommunicated from the UFC after intentionally locking on a choke hold after the ref had stopped the fight and putting David Heath out. Mike is 20-5, 1-1 in the WEC, and 0-1 in the UFC, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. I would imagine Mike wants to keep this standing with Sobral's ground game being so good. The question here is can he stay standing? My guess with Whitehead's wrestling background is that he can. Sobral is a tough guy but I see Whitehead winning by TKO in round 2.
Matt Lindland v. Fabio Negao: Lindland is a top ten middleweight. He is 20-5, 9-3 in the UFC, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a ground and pound specialist with a world class wrestling pedigree. I honestly have never seen Negao before and don't know much about him. In the past this come back to bite me in the ass. In this instance though I feel very confident picking someone with Lindland's pedigree and experience to win out. He's more likely to wear down Negao than crush him immediately. I'll pick Lindland by TKO in round 2.
Josh Barnett v. Pedro Rizzo: Barnett is a top 5 heavyweight in my opinion and Rizzo is well past his prime. This is a rematch from many years ago when Rizzo was a beast and Barnett was just starting out and Rizzo crushed Barnett. Now the tables appear to be turned in favor of Barnett who is in his prime and Rizzo who is fighting to remain relavent. Barnett is 22-5, 4-1 in the UFC and was the heavyweight champ until he was stripped for using steroids, 6-4 in PRIDE, and 2-0 in World Victory Road, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is a submission specialist. Rizzo is 16-7, 9-5 in the UFC, 0-2 in PRIDE, with 13 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. This is a real clash of styles. However, I don't see Rizzo as a threat to Barnett unless Barnett has an injury that he is not disclosing (which is not totally out of the question as Barnett is quite injury prone). But all things being equal I'll pick Barnett by decision.
Andrei Arlovski v. Ben Rothwell: This is a battle of top 10 heavyweights. The funny thing here is that even though they've never fought Rothwell knows Arlovski like the back of his hand. Rothwell was Tim Sylvia's training dummy for his 3 fights with Arlovski so Rothwell mimicked him for months. How much of an advantage that is I'm not sure but it is interesting to note. Arlovski is 13-5, 10-4 in the UFC and was the heavyweight champion, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Rothwell is 27-5 with 24 wins by stoppage. He does not have much big league experience outside of the IFL which is not exactly the UFC so the experience edge certainly goes to Arlovski. However, Rothwell is on a 13 fight win streak and looks like the best up and coming prospect in the heavyweight division at the moment. He is a Miletich disciple (so you know he's well rounded) with great hands. Arlovski hasn't looked great even in his wins recently so that is concerning. I think this is Rothwell's chance to prove he belongs at the top of this division. I believe if he comes out aggressive (but not stupid) he can win this fight. I see Rothwell winning by TKO in round 2.
Fedor Emelianenko v. Tim Sylvia: Fedor finally makes his return to the US to face his first real fight in almost 2 years. I don't consider Fedor to be the best heavyweight in the world right now but if he beats Sylvia it would be hard to argue that he isn't considering Sylvia is a top 5 heavyweight. I'm hoping this turns into a great fight and not a boring stalemate. Fedor is 28-1, 14-0 in PRIDE and was the PRIDE heavyweight champ, with 21 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter but is more of a ground fighter. Sylvia is 24-4, 10-4 in the UFC and former heavyweight champion, with 18 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. I'm worried this fight will turn into a boring stalemate although Fedor's fights almost never wind up that way. If Sylvia is smart he'll use his length to pepper Fedor and earn a decision and maybe land a lucky shot. Fedor will obviously want to get inside and take Sylvia down and either submit him or pound him out. Unfortunately this usually leads to a decision. However, I believe Fedor can take Sylvia down and punish him. Also, Sylvia does not have great submission defense with his length. My prediction here is Fedor by submission in round 3.
This should be a great night of fights with a lot of intrigue surrounding how the heavyweight division shakes out, how Affliction does as a promotion running head to head with the UFC, and regarding Fedor's first foray into the American consciousness outside of PRIDE (which was very limited even when he fought here the first time). I just hope Affliction's attempt at a "show" doesn't overshadow the fights themselves. This card is probably the most stacked card of the year for any organization and I'd hate to see it ruined by over dramatization. If you're like me then you can't wait for Saturday! Stay tuned for my UFC Fight Night 14 predictions coming soon! Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...