The UFC reaches another milestone as they add another continent to their expanding empire as they touch down in Sydney, Australia this Saturday. This card features an elite heavyweight scrap between former UFC and Pride champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira and the young gun Cain Velasquez.
The co-main event brings together two top middleweight strikers as MMA legend Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva bangs with Michael "The Count" Bisping.
The rest of the main card and under card is littered with notables like Joe Stevenson, Keith Jardine, Mirko "Cro Cop", Stephan Bonner, Chris Lytle, and CB Dolloway. While this card isn't stacked there are plenty of interesting fights to dissect. Let's break them down:
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Cain Velasquez:
Noquiera is 32-5-1 with 22 wins by stoppage. He is a legendary jiu jitsu artist with an equally legendary chin and heart but he is also a high caliber boxer. He has fought the best in the world in the two biggest promotions for the last nine years. He was the original Pride heavyweight champions and held the interim title in the UFC and Pride.
Velasquez is 7-0 with six wins by KO. He is a monster of a wrestler with improving striking and heavy hands. Since coming to the UFC he has faced varying levels of competition with pretty good success.
This is the old dog vs the young gun; the legend against the upstart; insert cliched match up analogy here...
In all seriousness though this should be one exciting fight with plenty of implications on the heavyweight title picture. Most likely whoever wins this fight is one win away from a title shot.
The fight will be an interesting test for both fighters. Cain's biggest strength is his ground and pound but does he want to go to the ground with Nogueira? Nogueira probably thinks he can beat Velasquez on the feet but can he stay upright?
This fight has a lot of questions that can only be answered in the cage which makes it an incredibly difficult fight to pick. So I'm going with my gut and I'm picking Nogueira to pull out a submission victory in the second round.
Wanderlei Silva vs Michael Bisping:
Silva is 32-10-1 with 26 wins by stoppage. He is a legendary muay thai striker. He has fought exclusively in Pride and the UFC for the last 10 years against the best fighters in the world. He held the Pride Middleweight title for 6 years and won one middleweight Grand Prix.
Bisping is 18-2 with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a solid kick boxer with pretty good power. He has had a nice career in the UFC since winning TUF 3. He has also beat better competition since moving down to middleweight.
This has all the makings of fight of the night (which both fighters are prone to do). These two have no qualms about going toe to toe for all three rounds (though no one expects it to last that long). Silva needs this worse than Bisping and Bisping is no Liddell, "Rampage," or Franklin (Silva's three UFC losses).
Obviously Bisping can hold his own on the feet and could wind up picking Silva apart. However, Silva proved he can still bang with his destruction of Keith Jardine. So I'm picking Silva to win via KO in the second round.
Joe Stevenson vs George Sotiropoulos:
Joe is 31-10 with 20 wins by stoppage. He is a very strong grappler and loves to scrap. He has beaten good competition in the UFC but can't seem to beat the upper echelon fighters.
George is 11-2 with eight wins by stoppage. He is almost exclusively a jiu jitsu fighter. Next to fighting Shinya Aoki this is far and away George's toughest fight to date.
The only reason George is on this card and fighting someone this high up on the food chain is because George is Australia's top MMA export in the UFC. No one expects George to win and neither do I.
Stevenson's top control and striking will overcome anything George tries to pull off on the ground. I'm picking Stevenson to win a lopsided though not enthralling decision.
Keith Jardine vs Ryan Bader:
Jardine is 15-6-1 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a kick boxer with an awkward style that often confuses opponents. He has had an up and down career in the UFC but has fought a lot of top fighters in the process gaining invaluable experience.
Bader is 10-0 with seven wins by stoppage. He is still a pretty raw wrestler with some good ground and pound. This fight is far and away his toughest test to date.
Jardine needs this win badly having lost his last two fights. Unfortunately no matter how good Greg Jackson's game plan going in to the fight will be to stop Bader's take downs I can't see Jardine executing. Also, Jardine's awkward striking will have no effect on Bader while lying on his back for three rounds.
I'm picking Bader to win a pedestrian decision. However, I'm really hoping to see a new wrinkle in the Bader's game because now that he's moving up the ladder he's going to run into guys who can neutralize his wrestling. Jardine is too good a fighter to be let go after his third consecutive loss but I'm not sure he would survive a fourth.
Mirko "Cro Cop" vs Anthony Perosh:
Crop Cop is 25-7-2 with 22 wins by stoppage. He was one of the most feared kick boxers in MMA history. He has fought the best in the world between Pride and the UFC and even won the 2006 Pride open weight Grand Prix.
Perosh is 10-5 with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a jiu jitsu fighter. He has fought almost exclusively in Australia where he lives and trains with Elvis Sinosic with a brief but winless stint in the UFC back in '06. He has lost against every notable fighter he has faced.
Perosh steps in for a sick Ben Rothwell literally at the last minute. As far gone as Cro Cop is at this point in his career he can still take care of someone like this as we witnessed when Cro Cop dismantled Mostapha Al Turk. I'm picking Cro Cop by KO in the first round.
Stephan Bonnar vs Krzysztof Soszynski:
Onto fights that matter... Bonnar needs to win in the worst way but I don't think he gets it. I know this is no way to pick a fight but honestly if you lose to a 45 year old Mark Coleman it's time to hang up the gloves. I'm picking Soszynski by decision.
Chris Lytle vs Brian Foster:
Foster got a great win against a tough Brock Larson and really surprised some people (myself included). However, Lytle doesn't lose to guys like this. I'm picking Lytle by submission in the second round.
CB Dolloway vs Goran Reljic:
Reljic was a very promising prospect back in 2008 after surprising everyone to beat Wilson Gouveia in his UFC debut. Unfortunately an injury derailed him for the last couple years. The question in this fight is if he can shake off the rust against Dolloway.
Based on talent Reljic should win but two years makes for a lot of ring rust. I'm not confident at all in this pick but I'm going with Dolloway by TKO in the second round.
James Te-Huna vs Igor Pokrajac:
I've never seen either fighter before though Igor fought in the UFC back in Sept. Te-Huna is a striker and Igor seems more well rounded and Te-Huna has only lost by submission. So I'm picking Igor by submission in the first round.
Author's Note: I have redone the Cro Cop prediction with the late addition of Perosh for the sick Ben Rothwell. Also, I have removed the Sinosic vs Haseman prediction since this fight has been scrapped due to Sinosic pulling out with an injury.