Welcome, ladies, gentlemen, delinquints, mma newbies, afficienados, and fanatics to my very first "Build Up and Break Down". While this article may be a bit early, anticipation is...well, anticipatory. Here, I will delve into the match ups, picks, and drama leading up to each of our fisticly favorite events.
For my first (of many),I'll be featuring UFC 118. On August 28th, the UFC heads to Massachussets to host the third event this month. UFC 118, which has had it's fair share of drop outs and replacements, boasts as much curiosity as it does intriguing match ups. I will feature a breakdown of the main card fights and a predictions list at the end of the post. While these are my personal opinions and picks, I welcome any and all comments, arguements and insight. So, without further ado...
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger- My first thoughts on this match up come in as a tie between shock and disgust. Regardless of any other pertinent or recent information on Gabe, I am immediatley drawn back to season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter". For those that don't recall, Gabe came into the house 20 pounds overweight, attempted to use colonics as a way to cut said weight, indulged in ice cream cake during the cut, and then channeled his own inner Rocky (..."cut me, Mick.", "You don't want to do it, kid!", "Cut me, Mick; Just do it."..) after collapsing and telling his team mates to drag his lifeless form back onto the bike, stating "I can do it, coach!". He was then unceremoniously kicked out of the house, with Dana telling him that he'd just wasted the chance of a lifetime. Now, to the facts...
Gabe has gone 6-0 in his in his last 6 fights, winning the lightweight title for Tachi Fight Promotions, before stepping in to replace an injured Terry Etim. As impressive as this is, TFP is not the UFC, and Joe Lauzon is no roll over tomato can.
For his last fight, Lauzon (coming off of a 1 year lay off and serious knee surgery) faced off with Sam Stout, losing a decision. "J-Lo" is deceptively strong, has servicable striking, a strong ground game, and follows the direction of his corner very well.
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda- Merry Christmas, Maia! Originally scheduled to face Allen Belcher at Ultimate Fight Night 22, the bought was cancelled after Belcher suffered a detached retina. Personally, I would have seen this bout going the same way as the Marquardt/ Maia venture. Instead, Maia now faces Mario Miranda, who is 12-1, and 1-1 in the UFC. Miranda, who is a submission specialist, boasts 6 (t)ko's, and recently finished off David Loisseau at UFC 115. Maia has shown some improved stand up, which I think will only serve in helping get the fight to the ground, which I will officially refer to as "Maia-Land." Even recent title challenger Chael Sonnen, who manhandled Anderson Silva for twenty-three minutes, ended up tapping to the arachnid-like ground game that Maia posseses.
Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis- Allow me to say right off the bat that I can't stand Nate Diaz, but I will try not to let that cloud my breakdown. Diaz has a highly touted ground game that he uses aggresively, especially from the bottom position. His striking (which heavily emulates that of his older brother Nick) is highly overated. Although he has found some success with his pawing and slapping type combinations, he doesn't necessarily have the same power that his brother posseses. Having made the decision to move up to welterweight will only further emphasize this lack of punching prowess.
Marcus Davis, on the other hand, posseses power in spades, as well as proffesional boxing experience. Davis also has an under rated ground game, especially from the top position. Marcus rebounded from his first ever knockout loss to Ben Saunders by making short work of Canadian Johnathan Goulet. While it can never be predicted how a fighter will respond after a knockout, Davis showed no repercussions from the barrage of knees that Saunders placed on his chin. The one thing I would worry about is the amount of scar tissue that Davis has. No one wants to lose from a cut, but Diaz could make it happen.
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard- This is a particularly interesting match up, as it could represent a (tougher) preview of a potential battle with current champ, Frankie Edgar. Since receiving the runner-up spot on the premiere season of the "Ultimate Fighter", Ken-Flo has lost only two fights in the UFC. Firstly, to former light weight champ, Sean Sherk, and then to former light weight champ BJ Penn.
While in the infancy of his UFC career, Ken-Flo showed a possible weakness against physically powerful wrestlers. Being the thinking man's fighter that he is, Florian adjusted his strength training program and became a guy who beats physically powerful wrestlers (Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida to name a couple).
After splitting from long time Muay Thai trainer Mark DeleGrotte, Florian emerged showing a much sharper striking game. His boxing was now more prominent, yet blended well with his Muay Thai. He was utilizing new angles, as well as great in and out movement. He looked similar to...BJ Penn (if you can't beat'em, join em?( and you learn more from a loss than a win)).
Maynard, on the other hand, is a monster of a light weight. As far as sheer power goes, I doubt that there is anyone in the division that can match him (with the possible exception of Sean Sherk). Living up to his nickname "the Bully", Maynard uses his size and wrestling background to dictate where the fight takes place. He has, however, shown a possible weakness to punches-in-bunches, namely in his last bout with Nate Diaz. Florian's exceptional footwork and superior striking could present some problems.
Randy Couture vs. James Toney- This is a curiosity fight that simultaniously makes me nervous and want to giggle like a school girl. The moment that James Toney steps into the octagon, he will become the greatest boxer to ever fight in the UFC. Mixed martial arts, however, is not boxing.
For the past several years, there has been a tension filled comparison between boxing and mma. Both adimantly claim superiorty as far as combat sports are concerned. The fact is this: most fights will go to the ground. Change the parameters to a stand up fighter versus a wreslter and the previous statement becomes: it will go to the ground.
In theory, Randy Couture (wiley and experienced competitor that he is) takes this fight to the ground post haste, where he proceeds to explain to Toney (very politely, of course) why mma is the superior style. But this is more than a fight. This is a power play.
From what I understand, James Toney followed Dana White to three different cities, hounding him for the opportunity to fight in the UFC. Dana, gentle and generous soul that he is, decided to oblige him. But why?
Near it's inception, when the UFC was "bleeding money" (to quote Dana himself), there was an opportunity to sign Mike Tyson. This opportunity was turned down, as Dana wanted to maintain the integrity of the sport. But to now sign James Toney? This isn't a fight; it's about making a definative statement about which sport is "better". There in lies the potential danger.
Everyone has heard about "a puncher's chance", and if anyone deserves that benefit of the doubt it is James Toney. On paper, Couture is preparing for a cake walk. But...what if...Toney lands that "big shot"? Not only could it be a major upset, but it could set mma back as a sport, as well as tarnishing its reputation indefinitely. Think about that.
Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn- First of all, I don't think this fight should even be taking place. This is not Machida versus Shogun, where the majority of viewers (and Dana white as well) felt that Shogun had won the battle and deserved an immediate rematch. Edgar versus Penn 1 was a split decision loss for BJ Penn, and he should have to work his way back up the rankings just like everyone else. With that being said, I feel that this fight will play out in very similar fashion to the first.
BJ has the heavier hands of the two, but Edgar's boxing is crisper. Frankie also posseses better footwork, while BJ relies on his Leben-like jaw to move forward aggresively. Frankie's wrestling should allow him to keep the fight standing, although an attempt at a double leg in the later rounds could always come into play. Likewise, BJ's incredible takedown defense and jui-jitsu skills should be able to neutralize any early round takedown attempts. This will be a war of attrition. BJ has often been criticized about questionable cardio, but I don't feel that this will be an issue for this fight. Look for Penn to come out and stay very aggresive.
Frankie, on the other hand, should make heavy use of his footwork, using a lot of angles and in-and-out movement. Personally, I have learned not to bet against Edgar. He has proven me wrong against Sherk, and then Penn; I won't bet against him for anyone other than Kenny Florian.
Lauzon vs. Ruediger- Lauzon (67/33), via 1st round tko
Maia vs Miranda- Maia (67/33), via 2nd round submission
Davis vs Diaz- Davis (57/43), via decision
Maynard vs Florian - Florian (73/27), via 2nd round submission
Couture vs Toney- Couture (93/7), via 1st round rear naked choke
Edgar vs Penn- Edgar (53/47), via split decision
That concludes it! Once again, thank you to any and all that have taken the time to read my first "Build Up and Break Down". All comments, opinions and rebuttals are welcome and will be responded to.