The UFC returns this weekend for their customary Super Saturday card. This year the card is headlined by the first match between UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture and Mark Coleman. The co-headliner features a pivotal match in the middleweight division between potential title challenger Nate Marquardt and the always tough Chael Sonnen.
The main card is also bolstered by a lot of big names such as Mike Swick stepping in on short notice for his injured team mate, Demain Maia looking to get back on the winning path, and two past their prime welterweights, Matt Serra and Frank Trigg, battling it out to stay relevant. The undercard also boasts a lot of fighters looking for new life or looking to make a splash on one of the UFC's biggest nights of the year.
Let's break down the fights:
Randy Couture vs Mark Coleman:
Couture is 17-10 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a former six time champion in two weight classes and has fought the best the game has to offer. He is a dominant wrestler, with solid striking (especially his dirty boxing), and great cardio for a man his age.
Coleman is 16-9 with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a former four time champion across two promotions at heavyweight and has also fought some of the best. He is arguably a better pure wrestler than Couture but his stand up game is suspect and his cardio even more so.
Outside of Coleman landing a hail mary punch I can't foresee any situation that ends with him winning this fight. Randy Couture should be able to keep this fight standing using his wrestling to negate Coleman's and then his striking and endurance will win him this fight. I'm picking Couture to win by TKO in the third round.
Nate Marquardt vs Chael Sonnen:
Marquardt is 29-8-2 with 22 wins by stoppage. He has a great well rounded game. His base is in grappling but he has improved his striking dramatically winning his last three fights via strikes. He has fought all over the world against some of the best competition out there.
Sonnen is 24-10-1 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a wrestler who has great top control. He has also fought a lot of top competition and has put together two very good wins over his last two fights.
On paper Sonnen should be the better wrestler but in practice I don't see him grinding out a victory like he did against Dan Miller and Yushin Okami. I think Marquardt's striking is too good, he is too strong, and his wrestling is good enough to not let Miller hold him down for three rounds. I expect a grind it out win for Marquardt who will score plenty of points on the feet but won't put away the incredibly tough Sonnen. I'm picking Marquardt by decision.
Mike Swick vs Paulo Thiago:
Swick is 14-3 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with improving grappling. He has fought solid, but not stellar competition.
Thiago is 12-1 with eight wins by stoppage. He is a grappler first who likes to strike. He has not faced a lot of top competition until he came to the UFC very recently.
Swick seemed to have found a home at welterweight and appeared to be on course for a title shot until running into Dan Hardy in his last fight. Now he steps in for his injured team mate Josh Koscheck as a late replacement for the rematch that was supposed to occur between Kos and Thiago. Now Swick takes up the banner for AKA and is looking to get his title shot back on track.
Thiago certainly has the advantage on the mat but his tendency is to strike first which is a losing battle against Swick. Swick will be careful knowing the threat of Thiago's ground game looms but once Thiago lets his hands go so will Swick. I expect Thiago to get his first loss by stoppage. I'm picking Swick by TKO in the second round.
Demain Maia v. Dan Miller:
Maia is 11-1 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is as pure a jiu jitsu fighter as you will see in MMA these days. He has faced some quality competition since coming to the UFC.
Miller is 11-2 with seven wins by stoppage. He is also a grappler but with a better mix of wrestling and jiu jitsu. This will be Miller's biggest step up in competition to date.
Both of these guys are coming off tough losses to the guys in the co-main event. Both of these fighters will be hungry and are looking to make a statement in this fight to get back in the title hunt.
Putting a noted grappler like Miller against a jiu jitsu ace like Maia is like feeding lambs to lions. Miller thinks he's good enough to keep top control without being submitted because of his confidence in his own ground game. However, Maia isn't like anyone Miller has seen before.
Maia will be happy to let Miller take him down because that is the first step to him winning this fight. He'll bide his time until he finds his opening to strike and finish off Miller. I'm picking Maia to win by submission in the third round.
Matt Serra vs Frank Trigg:
Serra is 9-6 with five wins by stoppage. He is a grappler first but really likes to let his hands do the talking. He has fought a lot of good competition with mixed results.
Trigg is 19-7 with 14 wins by stoppage. His base is in wrestling but he loves to strike a little too much. Trigg has also fought a lot of good competition but without good results.
Serra and Trigg are both coming off bad losses (Serra is coming off two actually) and even though neither of them have a legitimate shot at the title they both want to remain relevant in the UFC. A win here will help those odds dramatically.
Both of these guys' bases are in grappling but both love to strike. I think Trigg's chin will be tested by Serra's heavy hands. I'm picking Serra to win by TKO in the second round.
Mac Danzig vs Justin Buchholz:
Neither of these guys has had much luck in the octagon lately with Danzig losing his last three and Buchholz losing two in a row. Whoever loses will probably be cut just in case either guy needed any more motivation. I like Danzig because I think he has the better stand up (their grappling could neutralize each other) and he showed promise in his first couple UFC fights. I'll take Danzig by TKO in the first round to put a stay on his UFC execution.
Melvin Guillard vs Ronnys Torres:
Guillard is a complete wild card and is coming off a loss making him a little more unhinged than usual. However, he has recently joined Greg Jackson's camp which means he'll at least come in with a gameplan if not more focused thanks to Jackson's influence. Guillard has a lot of potential he just has to harness it. I don't think he'll need it in this fight though going up against a UFC rookie who has never faced competition even like Guillard. I'm picking Guillard by TKO in the first round.
Phillipe Nover vs Rob Emerson:
Nover has been completely underwhelming since his time on TUF 8 (which is hard for me to say being a fellow Brooklynite). However, Emerson hasn't been any more impressive since his time on TUF either. It's a close fight to call but I'm going with the homer pick and calling Nover by (tough) decision, possibly sending Emerson out of the UFC.
Brian Stann vs Phil Davis:
Stann had a tough introduction to the UFC but since then has righted the ship. Davis is brand spanking new to the UFC and only has four professional fights. Stann might be one dimensional but he has been at this a lot longer against much tougher guys than Davis. I'm picking Stann to hand Davis his first loss and give him a tough introduction to the UFC with a TKO in the first round.
Tim Hague vs Chris Tuchscherer:
Hague is now infamous for his record setting KO at the hands of Todd Duffee but he is no pushover. Chris (I call him Chris because, really, who wants to keep spelling that last name) is also a solid fighter who has faced some decent competition. Both of these guys want to strike but I think Chris' grappling will be the difference. I'm picking Chris by decision.
Rolles Gracie vs Joey Beltran:
Rolles will be the first and only Gracie since Royce to fight in the UFC since Royce came back at UFC 60. Beltran is a powerful boxer. Obviously Gracie is the better grappler. Unless Beltran lands a lucky punch I can't imagine this fight ending any other way than Gracie by submission in the first round. Hopefully this tune up will be the first of many fights for Gracie in the UFC. It will be good to have that name back in the Octagon for awhile (even though his coach and relative Renzo will be making an appearance at UFC 112).