UFC 96 is upon us as the octagon returns to Columbus, Ohio next Saturday. For the second show in a row, no title belt will be on the line. However, the co-main event is much more enticing than UFC 95 so I suppose it will be worth having to pay to watch this card.
There are many solid fights on this card but the co-main event is really the only two stand out fights. The fight between Shane Carwin and Gabriel Gonzaga is absolutely huge for the UFC for a multitude of reasons. The biggest reason being that Shane Carwin (along with Cain Velasquez) is the heavyweight division's great new hope.
Carwin has never been off the prelim card let alone been a co-main event at a UFC PPV. Gonzaga has been in front of crowds like this before and fought against some of the best heavyweights in the world, in one case for a title. It will be interesting to see how Carwin reacts.
The UFC has pegged Carwin as the next big thing. He has the size and potential to be a true challenger in the division very quickly. He has had two tune up fights to get ready for this moment. The question is: is he ready?
The main event is essentially a title eliminator. Unfortunately it only works that way for one of the participants. Jackson and Jardine should be a solid scrap but this fight is all about Jackson.
If Jackson wins he gets another shot at the title. If he loses Jardine will most likely get passed over by Lyoto Machida. This match up still rubs me the wrong way to a certain extent but it should be an entertaining fight so I can't say I won't enjoy watching it.
Alright let's get to the nitty gritty and start picking some fights:
Aaron Riley v. Shane Nelson: Riley is 27-10-1, 1-2 in the UFC, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with some striking skills. Nelson is 11-3, 1-0 in the UFC, with 4 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter.
Riley may have the edge in experience but I think Nelson is the better fighter. Riley has solid BJJ but not like Nelson. I think Nelson will get this fight to the mat and win by submission in the first round probably sending Riley out of the UFC for awhile.
Brandon Vera v. Mike Patt: Vera is 9-3, 5-3 in the UFC, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with strong Muay Thai and wrestling skills. Patt is 12-3, 0-1 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter with good BJJ and improving Muay Thai.
This will be a great clash of styles. If Vera can keep it standing he should win and if Patt gets the fight to the mat he should win. Because of Vera's wrestling I think he keeps the fight standing and wins by TKO in the second round. This gives Vera a nice rebound win and puts Patt on very shaky ground in the UFC.
Tim Boetsch v. Jason Brilz: Tim is 8-2, 2-1 in the UFC, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands. Brilz is 16-1-1, 1-0 in the UFC, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is a good wrestler with developing striking and submissions.
Both of these guys have solid wrestling so whoever can impose their will should win this fight. I think Tim can keep this fight on the feet and I like his striking better so I'm going to pick him to win by TKO in the first round.
Kendall Grove v. Jason Day: Grove is 10-4, 4-2 in the UFC, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a submission fighter with decent striking. Day is 17-6, 1-1 in the UFC, with 16 wins by stoppage. He has a strong submission base but has developed his striking recently.
This is a tough fight to pick but I think Day is looking to bounce back in a big way after his loss to Bisping and Grove hasn't looked good in his last three fights. So because of that I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Day to win by KO in the first round. This loss could be the end for Grove in the UFC.
Tamdan McCrory v. Ryan Madigan: Tamdan is 10-2, 2-2 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with developing submissions. Madigan is 5-0, making his UFC debut, with all 5 wins by stoppage. He has solid striking and BJJ.
By now you all know my policy on UFC rookies. I'll pick McCrory to put an end to Madigan's unbeaten streak with a TKO victory in the first round.
Gray Maynard v. Jim Miller: Maynard is 6-0, 4-0 in the UFC, with one win by KO. He is a wrestler with decent stand up. Miller is 13-1, 2-0 in the UFC, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter.
While Miller is dangerous on the ground I don't see Maynard trying to keep this fight on the feet. I expect him to still take Miller down and impose his will on him with ground and pound while avoiding submissions. This fight won't be a barn burner but I'll pick Maynard to win another decision.
Matt Hamill v. Mark Munoz: Hamill is 5-2 overall and in the UFC with four wins by KO. He is a wrestler with solid striking. Munoz is 5-0, making his UFC debut, with three wins by KO. He is also a wrestler with solid striking.
These guys are like mirror images of each other. However, I think Hamill has fought better competition and while Munoz fought in the WEC (before the LHW division was folded), fighting on the main card of a UFC PPV is a whole different beast. I'm picking Hamill to win by TKO in the second round.
Matt Brown v. Pete Sell: Brown is 8-7, 2-1 in the UFC, with all 8 wins by stoppage. He is a BJJ artist with developing Muay Thai. Sell is 8-4, 1-4 in the UFC, with 3 wins by submission. He is a BJJ artist with some boxing skills.
Neither of these guys are very impressive but Brown has been coming on since his entrance to the UFC. Sell finally picked up his first UFC win at UFC 90 but I'm not sold on him. I'm picking Brown to win by TKO in the second round most likely ending Sell's comeback in the UFC.
Shane Carwin v. Gabriel Gonzaga: Carwin is 10-0, 2-0 in the UFC, with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands. Gonzaga is 10-3, 6-2 in the UFC, with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is a BJJ artist with developing Muay Thai and is also very powerful.
This is a very intriguing match up. Normally Gonzaga can bully his opponents around even though he doesn't have technically superior wrestling. This fight though can totally be controlled by Carwin who is bigger than Gonzaga and has superior wrestling.
If Carwin takes this fight to the ground Gonzaga has the BJJ to still compete. And if Carwin decides to keep the fight on the feet I think Gonzaga has the technically superior striking with enough power to end the fight. Wherever the fight goes Gonzaga is going to have to take a lot of risks to win this fight.
This is another very tough fight to call. I think the result will ultimately come down to whether or not Carwin is mentally and emotionally ready for this. I'm going to go out on a limb again and pick Carwin to win by TKO in the third round. This should set up Carwin nicely to be about two fights away from a title shot. Gonzaga won't be in danger of losing his contract but this would be a significant blow to his hopes of a title shot any time soon.
Quinton Jackson v. Keith Jardine: Jackson is 29-7, 4-1 in the UFC, with 21 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good boxing and heavy hands. Jardine is 14-4-1, 6-3 in the UFC, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer with some grappling ability.
This fight looks closer on paper than it really should be. I think Jackson has the advantage wherever the fight takes place. Jardine's only advantage is his unorthodox style that I'm sure Jackson is preparing diligently for.
Jackson has the better hands, the harder hands, and the ability to control where the fight takes place. If Jardine is smart he'll use leg kicks early and often in the hopes that Jackson didn't learn his lesson from the Forrest Griffin fight. I can't fathom a scenario where Jardine wins unless Jackson is not mentally prepared for this fight (which is highly unlikely after watching his last fight).
For those reasons I'm picking Jackson to win by KO in the first round.
My pick for fight of the night goes to Shane Carwin v. Gabriel Gonzaga. My pick for submission of the night goes to Shane Nelson. My pick for KO of the night goes to Quinton Jackson.
Alright folks this should be interesting. Hope you enjoy the fights! Stay tuned for my WEC 39 review coming tomorrow mostly likely as well as my DREAM 7 preview coming soon. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...