As I prepare to attend my second UFC event I can't help but to wonder "what if." What if Georges St. Pierre gets shocked for the second time in his career by a guy with heavy hands that no one is giving a snow ball's chance in hell? What if Frank Mir's revenge on Brock Lesnar gets derailed by a 4XL fist, giving him a visceral reminder that he can't hang with the big boys?
UFC 111 takes place right across the river from me at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. This is far and away their biggest card to date of 2010. This will be GSP's first fight since UFC 100 and the co-main event features another title fight for the interim heavyweight championship between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin.
I can't wait for Saturday to arrive so let's open up the festivities and break down the card:
Georges St. Pierre vs Dan Hardy
GSP is 19-2 with 13 wins by stoppage. He is incredibly well rounded but his biggest strength is his transition game. He transitions between disciplines possibly better than any other fighter.
He has strong muay thai, wrestling, and ground and pound. He is also well versed in jiu jitsu but does not get to show it often. GSP is one of my top three pound for pound fighters around, has fought everyone there is to fight at 170, and has beaten all of them (as long you count avenging his two losses).
Dan Hardy is 23-6 with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with heavy hands but has a jiu jitsu game that he's never really had to use. He has fought and beaten some very tough guys on his four fight win streak in the UFC.
If you have been watching Primetime you know that all GSP talks about is "taking the fight to Dan Hardy." I guess we'll find out what that means come Saturday but I don't think it means foolishly trading fists with Hardy and seeing who drops first.
GSP definitely has the better wrestling and it is his distinct advantage in this fight along with his freakish athleticism. He should use this and take the fight to the mat where Hardy can't knock him out and St. Pierre can do the most damage. At least that's what I would tell him if I was Greg Jackson or Firas Zahabi.
If St. Pierre wants to take the fight to Hardy we could see a new champion because Hardy has the skill and power on his feet to knock out anyone at 170lbs. As bad as GSP wants to make a statement on his feet I think his instincts will take over. He'll ground and pound Hardy until he makes a mistake and St. Pierre will capitalize for a second round submission victory to retain his title.
Frank Mir vs Shane Carwin
Mir is 13-4 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu specialist first but has been working diligently on his striking lately. He is a former champion and has fought some tough opponents over his career.
Carwin is 11-0 with all 11 wins by stoppage (in the first round!). He is a wrestler who uses his skills in reverse to stay standing and lay guys out with his enormous and powerful fists.
Mir is hell bent on avenging his loss to Brock Lesnar and has really beefed up since UFC 100. He has added a ton of muscle to his frame to compete with monsters like Lesnar and now Carwin. This will be his first test to see if that training has paid off.
Obviously if Frank Mir gets this fight to the mat it could be a quick night but I can't see him doing that against Carwin who not only is a beast of a man but has the wrestling skills to back it up. This fight will take place on the feet and that's a scary proposition for Mir.
Mir is supremely confident in his striking since knocking out Rodrigo Nogueira and handling Cheick Kongo quickly. He also has striking guru Mark Dellagrotte in his corner now. However, all that training and skill can't overcome what happens when Shane Carwin's fist meets your jaw.
I'm really unsure whether to believe in Mir's skill or Carwin's power (though he certainly has skill learning under Greg Jackson's camp). Honestly anything could happen in this fight, but since I have to make a pick, I'm picking Carwin to catch Mir and end the fight in the second round by KO.
Jon Fitch vs Thiago Alves (Authors note: this fight has been canceled due to Alves failing a CAT scan)
Fitch is 21-3 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with some striking and jiu jitsu. He has fought a who's who list at 170lbs, has beaten everyone but GSP, and was the last guy to give GSP a fight since Matt Serra knocked him out three years ago.
Alves is 16-6 with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with a developing jiu jitsu game. Alves has also fought a lot of top flight guys at welterweight and is looking to take out his frustrations of his embarrassing loss to GSP at UFC 100 on Fitch.
These two have actually already fought almost four years ago. Fitch got the win but this was back when Alves really struggled to make weight and would gas out quickly. Alves hasn't had any issues in his last two fights which should make for a more interesting fight this time around.
Obviously Fitch will want to take Alves down so if I was Alves, after the wrestling lesson he was given by GSP, I would've taken the last seven months and focused on take down defense. If he's done this he will have a great chance against Fitch on the feet. If he hasn't, this will be UFC 100 all over again for Alves.
I want to see an exciting fight but I don't think Alves has improved enough to stop Fitch's take downs. I'm picking Fitch to win another grind it out decision. I really hope I'm wrong though and Alves scores a spectacular KO.
Ben Saunders vs Jake Ellenberger
Saunders is 8-1-2 with seven wins by stoppage. He is a striker with a dangerous jiu jitsu game. He was on a tear until he met Mike Swick but has since rebounded and is looking to continue his run at 170lbs.
Ellenberger is 22-5 with eight wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good striking and an improving jiu jitsu game. He has fought a couple tough fighters but his resume isn't stacked.
This should be a fun fight because both guys are talented no matter where the fight takes place. My guess is Saunders wants to stand and Ellenberger wants the take down to avoid Saunders' impressive stand up.
I think Ellenberger is going to have a tough time dealing with Saunders' length in terms of trying to get him down. I'm picking Saunders to stay outside and pick Ellenberger apart for the decision victory.
Jim Miller vs Mark Bocek
Miller is 16-2 with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with a strong jiu jitsu game. Miller has beaten some tough fighters and his only losses came to stand outs Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar.
Bocek is 10-2 with seven wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jistu fighter. He has fought a couple tough fighters without success.
In my opinion Miller is simply the tougher guy. I think his wrestling is better. Also, his jiu jistu is good enough to stay in advantageous positions and score points while staying out of Bocek's traps.
I'm picking Miller to grind out a decision victory. Plus I can't pick against Miller because the crowd will riot if the featured Jersey boy loses to a Canadian.
Nate Diaz vs Rory Markham
This is a tough fight to call. Diaz should be the better fighter in terms of striking skill and definitely on the mat. Also, Markham hasn't fought in over year.
The one thing that worries me is that Diaz is moving up in weight. However, his frame can handle it and he's tough as nails. So with that said I'm picking Diaz to use his length to pick apart Markham for the decision win.
Ricardo Almeida vs Matt Brown
Almeida is a tough out for anyone at 170lbs and this will be Brown's toughest test to date in my opinion. Brown has a solid ground game but nothing like Almeida's. I expect this fight to hit the ground early and I expect a submission victory for Almeida in the second round.
Kurt Pellegrino vs Fabricio Camoes
Pellegrino is no joke and will be all amped up in front of his home state fans. Camoes' introduction to UFC fans ended in a draw which was an inauspicious start for the Brazilian. I'm picking Pellegrino to grind out a decision victory "Dirty Jersey" style.
Rodney Wallace vs Jared Hamman
I honestly have no clue who to pick here. I've only seen both of these guys fight once and neither was great. I'm going to pick the guy who sucked the least in his UFC debut and pick Wallace to win by decision.
Rousimar Palhares vs Tomasz Drwal
This is a good striker vs grappler match up and both fighters have only lost twice. I usually like the grappler in these fights so I'm sticking with Palhares. I'm picking him to win by submission in the first round.
Matt Riddle vs Greg Soto
This is a very tough fight to call. Neither guy has a ton of experience though Riddle has only fought in the UFC so he knows what this stage feels like while Soto is making his debut. However, Soto will be all pumped up in front of his home state fans.
Both guys are grapplers so I think the fight will depend on who can get top control and keep it. I like Soto's skill over Riddle's UFC experience so I'm picking the rookie (something I rarely do) to win a decision victory.