Alright folks this is it, the last hurrah for the UFC in 2008 and they are going out with a bang! Traditionally they're end of the year shows are huge and this year is no exception. It will be hard for this card to live up to last month's but with the star power on it they're certainly trying! Let's dig right in to the action:
Dan Evenson v. Patrick Barry: Evenson is 10-3, 0-1 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Barry is 3-0, making his UFC debut, with all three wins by KO. He is a pure striker at this point in his career. This should be a great stand and bang match up. If Barry wasn't making his UFC debut and taking a huge step up in competition I would probably pick him since he is most likely a better striker than Evenson. However, due to the circumstances I am going to pick Evenson to win by decision.
Brad Blackburn v. Ryo Chonan: Blackburn is 15-9-1, 1-0 in the UFC, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Chonan is 16-7, 4-4 in PRIDE, 1-1 in the UFC, with 6 wins by stoppage. Chonan is well rounded. Chonan has much more experience at a higher level and beat a very game Roan Carneiro his last time in the cage. Blackburn is nowhere near Carneiro's level. Chonan will take this fight to the mat and control Blackburn. I'm picking Chonan by decision.
Matt Hamill v. Reese Andy: Hamill is 4-2 overall and in the UFC, with 3 wins by KO. He is a strong wrestler and solid striker. Andy is 7-3, 0-1 in the UFC, with 3 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler. Andy looked terrible in his last fight against a mopey, dehydrated Brandon Vera and Matt Hamill is no Brandon Vera in terms of strength and wrestling. Hamill will use his wrestling to keep this fight standing and crush Andy with his stand up. I'm picking Hamill by KO in the third round.
Antoni Hardonk v. Mike Wessel: Hardonk is 7-4, 3-2 in the UFC, with 5 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Wessel is 6-0, making his UFC debut, with 4 wins by stoppage. He is also a striker. Hardonk should have a field day here using the most brutal leg kicks in MMA since Cro Cop to secure the victory by KO in the first round.
Yushin Okami v. Dean Lister: Okami is 23-4, 2-0 in PRIDE, 6-1 in the UFC, with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a strong ground and pound stylist. Lister is 11-5, 1-2 in PRIDE, 4-1 in the UFC, with 9 wins by submission. He is a submission fighter. This should be an interesting battle on the ground dictated by whether or not Okami can impose his will. Okami was long thought to be Anderson Silva's number one contender before a rash of injuries and a falling out with the UFC's brass due to Okami's boring but effective style (which doesn't sell PPV buys). That is also the reason this fight is on the undercard though if the fights were rated by talent this would probably be the fourth best fight on the card, not the sixth. In any case I'm picking Okami here in his long awaited return by decision.
Cheick Kongo v. Mustafa Al Turk: Kongo is 17-4-1, 5-2 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Al Turk is 6-3, making his UFC debut, with all 6 wins by stoppage. He is also a striker. This should also be a great stand up war. I've never seen Al Turk fight but I'm never a fan of first timers especially on the main card. I'm sticking with Kongo in this fight to win by KO in the first round.
CB Dolloway v. Mike Massenzio: Dolloway is 7-1, 1-1 in the UFC, with 6 wins by stoppage. He is a good ground fighter both in wrestling and BJJ. Massenzio is 11-2, 1-0 in the UFC, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. I think Dolloway will actually use his superior wrestling to keep the fight off the mat. I'll pick Dolloway by KO in round 2.
Quinton Jackson v. Wanderlei Silva: Jackson is 28-7, 12-5 in PRIDE, 3-1 in the UFC, with 20 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler and striker. Silva is 32-8-1, 22-4-1 in PRIDE, 2-3 in the UFC, with 26 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. This is my most highly anticipated fight of the night. These two plain don't like each other (and no it's not just pumped up drama to sell the fight). They've fought twice before in PRIDE with Silva earning vicious KOs both times but Silva is aging and Jackson is hitting his prime. However, it will be interesting to see how Jackson looks since switching camps as Jackson had his most successful period under Juanito Ibarra and company. This fight should be a brutal grudge match matching Jackson's power and wrestling against Silva's heart and Muay Thai. Common sense would dictate choosing Jackson but I'm not sure his head and heart are in this fight so soon since losing the title and going through all his drama outside of the cage. I'm going to pick Silva by KO (again!) in the second round.
Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera v. Frank Mir: Rodrigo is 31-9-1, 17-3 in PRIDE, 2-0 in the UFC, with 22 wins by stoppage. He is well rounded but is a superb submission fighter. Mir is 11-3, 9-3 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. Rodrigo holds the interim heavyweight title and this fight is the other semi final for the true heavyweight title. Whoever wins this fight gets Brock Lesnar next year. Many people want to see Mir in what would be a very marketable rematch. However, I would love to see the human bulldozer go up against the unbreakable man (Lesnar v. Rodrigo respectively). Both Mir and Rodrigo are great ground fighters so I think Rodrigo will definitely try to keep it standing and go into deep water with Mir. Mir's cardio has always been questionable while the exact opposite is true for Rodrigo. Rodrigo must weather Mir's traditional early storm to have a chance in this fight. I admire Mir for his comeback after a terrible accident that almost ended his career. However, after watching him be such a dick as a coach on the last season of TUF I really want to see Rodrigo stomp a hole in his ass. I'm picking Nogueira to win by KO in round 2.
Forrest Griffin v. Rashad Evans: Griffin is 16-4, 7-2 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter who is undervalued on the ground. Evans is 12-0-1, 7-0-1 in the UFC, with 6 wins by stoppage. He is a great wrestler and solid striker. This fight is really tough to predict because both guys are strong in different ways on the ground and both are solid strikers (though Evans definitely has the power advantage). I don't think Griffin can get Evans down early which should be where Griffin wants this fight to happen (with Evans on his back) but Griffin is tough as hell and I'm not sure Evans can get the best of him on the feet. So with that said I think Griffin wins the fight on the feet in the early rounds and then after Evans takes a beating Griffin can get the fight on the mat where he wants it. I'm picking Griffin by submission in the fourth round.
This should be a fantastic night with two titles on the line (including the first title match between two TUF winners which proves that the show is not a cheap ticket into the UFC), an old school PRIDE grudge match, and more solid fighters up and down the card. My pick for fight of the night goes to Quinton Jackson v. Wanderlei Silva. My pick for KO of the night goes to Antoni Hardonk. My pick for submission of the night goes to Forrest Griffin. I'll be back this weekend with my UFC 92 review which will be my last post for 2008. Merry Christmas and enjoy the fights! Until next time,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...