Hey folks it's that time again! Time for another one of my world renowned preview specials. Before that though I apologize for the time off between posts but it's summer time and everyone needs a break now and then. On to the fights! UFC 86 is shaping up to be not necessarily a great card but a card with a lot of implications on the outcomes of these fights.
Gabriel Gonzaga, who fights on the under card, was fighting for a championship two fights ago and now if he loses this fight could be out of the UFC. A year ago he was a top 10 heavyweight and appeared to be the future of the division but now he's an afterthought. This fight could not be more important. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure.
Josh Koscheck's fight against Chris Lytle is also very interesting. Although a fight in October between Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez is shaping up to be the fight that decides the next number 1 contender, Koscheck is still in the thick of things. Granted he lost to GSP two fights ago but he beat Diego Sanchez the fight before that. If Koscheck can win this fight I think he puts himself in line as the number 2 contender.
The Joe Stevenson fight and the Patrick Cote fight are both intriguing. Joe "daddy" is trying to rebound after his brutal loss to BJ Penn. Cote is making a serious run at a title shot since his loss to Travis Lutter and if he beats Almeida he should be considered the number 2 contender behind Yushin Okami. However, Almeida is no pushover but he'll have to shake off his cage rust in a big hurry if he wants to beat Cote and continue making his way back to a title shot.
Last but most importantly, there is the title bout between Rampage and Forrest. The UFC marketing machine was hoping that by making these guys coaches on TUF 7 that the animosity would come out so they could build a grudge match story line for the fight. They had one blow up but aside from that they have been very cordial and at times even respectful. I understand why the UFC loves grudge matches because it appeals to the lowest common denominator. Blood lust is universal. It's not as easy to understand why two guys who might even like each other would go into a cage and beat the crap out of each other. For true fans such as myself I don't need the rivalry (although when it's for real a la Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz it does add a certain kick to the proceedings). I love seeing two uber talented fighters go into the cage and find out who the better fighter is on that day. And when it's for a belt it makes it so much more interesting. With all that said I can't wait to dive into the predictions so let's go!
Cory Hill v. Justin Buchholz: Cory is 2-0, 1-0 in the UFC, with both wins coming by TKO. I don't know a lot about him outside of the fact that he's a Miletich fighter. Justin is 7-2, 0-1 in the UFC, with all 7 wins coming by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. Justin may have the edge in experience but I'm actually going to go with Hill. Hill looked good in his win, although definitely against worse competition, and I was not impressed with Justin losing to Matt Wiman. My prediction here is Hill by TKO in round 2.
Melvin Guillard v. Dennis Siver: This appears to be Guillard's lost shot in the UFC. He's coming off two losses and his last loss to Rich Clementi was embarrassing after talking so much smack. Guillard is 21-7-2-1, 3-3 in the UFC, with 16 wins by stoppage. Guillard is primarily a stand up fighter. Dennis is 11-5, 1-2 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. Siver is a well rounded fighter. I really have not been impressed by Siver so I'm going to pick Guillard here reluctantly. My prediction is Guillard by TKO in round 2.
Jorge Gurgel v. Cole Miller: Gurgel is 12-3, 3-2 in the UFC, with 9 wins by submission. He is a submission expert. Cole is 13-3, 2-1 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is also a submission fighter. I have to give the edge to Gurgel here. He has more fights against better competition and considering their strength is both on the ground I have to give the edge to Gurgel again. However, because their strength is so similar I think they'll probably cancel each other out. This most likely will be the least eventful fight of the night. My prediction is Gurgel by decision.
Gabriel Gonzaga v. Justin McCully: Gonzaga is 9-3, 4-2 in the UFC, with all 9 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. He is slick on the ground with great striking power. McCully is 8-3-2. He is mostly a stand up fighter. I think this is definitely a rebound fight for Gonzaga. While McCully has a puncher's chance I have to pick Gonzaga here. He is just stronger in all aspects of MMA and I think the UFC doesn't want to see Gonzaga go, with their heavyweight division already so thin. I think Gonzaga would be silly to stand with McCully and give him any chance to win the fight. I think he'll take this to ground fast and dominate McCully. I see Gonzaga winning by submission in round 1.
Tyson Griffin v. Marcus Aurelio: Griffin is 11-1, 4-1 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. Marcus is 16-5, 3-3 in PRIDE, 2-1 in the UFC, with 13 wins by stoppage. He is a submission expert. Griffin is a very impressive fighter who is quickly making his way up the 155 lb ladder. I think that Aurelio has the advantage on the ground but it will be hard to get Griffin there and then to avoid damage if he winds up on top. I have to give this fight to Griffin. I see Griffin winning by decision.
Josh Koscheck v. Chris Lytle: Koscheck is 10-2, 8-2 in the UFC, with 6 wins by stoppage. Koscheck is a ground and pound specialist but his striking is much improved. Lytle is 25-15-5, 4-7 in the UFC, 3-0 in the WEC, with 21 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. Lytle is a "gate keeper" in the division. He's never been good enough to be a title contender but he can beat the riff raff and keep them out of the UFC. This appears to be a warm up fight for Koscheck who appears to be the number 2 contender. As long as Koscheck wins (which he's expected to do) he'll line up right behind the Alves/Sanchez winner for a title shot. I expect this to be a routine win for Koscheck. My prediction is Koscheck wins by decision.
Joe Stevenson v. Gleison Tibau: Stevenson is 28-8, 5-2 in the UFC, with 18 wins stoppage. He is mostly a submission fighter. Tibau is 14-4 with 9 wins by stoppage. He is also mostly a submission fighter. I expect Stevenson to prevail here but again, like the Gurgel v. Miller fight, I expect these two to kind of cancel each other out. I predict Stevenson will win by decision.
Patrick Cote v. Ricardo Almeida: Cote is 12-4, 3-4 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. Almeida is 9-2, 2-2 in the UFC, 2-0 in PRIDE, with 4 wins by submission. This is probably the most interesting match up of the night. Cote is a very strong and technical striker. Almeida is very slick on the ground. Cote is riding a very impressive winning streak over quality opponents. Almeida has one fight back in the cage but his competition wasn't exactly top notch. I think Cote should win this fight as long as he can keep it standing. I honestly don't think Almeida can hang with Cote and my prediction is Cote wins by KO in round 1.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson v. Forrest Griffin: Rampage is 28-6, 12-5 in PRIDE, 3-0 in the UFC, with 20 wins by stoppage. He is a very strong wrestler with great punching power. Griffin is 15-4, 6-2 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. Griffin is also a solid wrestler, a technically sound striker, and has a surprisingly good submission game. I only see two ways for Griffin to win this fight. He either has to stuff Jackson's take downs (which is possible with Griffin's wrestling background) and out strike Rampage for 5 rounds (which is also possible because Griffin has great cardio and Rampage's cardio is good but not as good as Griffin's). The only other way I see this going Griffin's way is if he gets lucky and catches Rampage on the ground early. Rampage will punish Griffin if he gets him to the ground so if Griffin wins that way he'll have to do it before taking a beating and getting sweaty, bloody, and beaten down when it's a lot harder to submit the other guy. I think Griffin will put up a great fight but I don't see him winning. My pick here is Rampage. I don't think Griffin will come in cocky or unprepared like he did against Keith Jardine and get knocked out because he's been preparing for this fight far too long and it's the most important fight of his career. However, I do see Rampage winning another 5 round war to retain his title.
My picks for the bonuses are as follows. Rampage v. Griffin gets fight of the night. Cote gets KO of the night. And Gonzaga gets submission of the night. Alright folks that's it for now. Check back in on Sunday when I'll post my UFC 86 review. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...