(This can mean only one of two things: either the UFC is putting on a main event between two MMA dinosaurs, or it’s ‘makeover your dad’ week on "The Ellen Degeneres Show." Photo courtesy of Combat Lifesyle’s presser gallery.)
So who’s going to win the old-timer’s main event bout at UFC 109? Which undercard fighter is most likely to join the ranks of the unemployed after this weekend? Why is my Toyota making that weird sound? At least two of these important questions will be answered in this installment of Ben vs. Ben. Read on to find out which remains a mystery.
There’s some crazy talk that the winner of Randy Couture-Mark Coleman could be in the running for a title shot. Do you have any interest in seeing that? If not, what would you recommend as a next step for the winner and the loser?
BF: If by “in the running,” you mean well behind the winner of Rampage Jackson-Rashad Evans and somewhere just in front of the winner of Tito Ortiz-Chuck Liddell, then sure. In other words, the elderly survivor here is not completely out of the picture. At least not until he is forced to win at least one more fight, at which point he’ll be knocked right out of the picture once again.
Look, Couture has probably got this. Coleman will be tough for a round, maybe a round and a half, but he’s going to fade late in the fight and that will make the difference. As great as Couture’s career has been, he can’t hang with the 205-pound elite these days. Machida, Rua, Evans, Jackson, maybe even Jon Jones, they all beat Couture with superior stand-up/youthful vigor. He was lucky to get out of the Vera fight with a win, but he can’t keep that up all the way to a title shot. That’s not to say there aren’t still some interesting fights for him in the UFC, perhaps against the Liddell-Ortiz victor, or even against the loser. His days of wearing a shiny new belt are over, though.
As for Coleman, I don’t know what to tell you. If he’d been born ten years later, or if headbutts were still legal, a lot of things could be different for him right now. Instead, he needs to find another way to make a living because this pro fighting well is going to dry up sooner rather than later. Might I suggest opening an Arby’s franchise? Just saying, who wouldn’t want to buy an Arby-Q sandwich from Mark Coleman?
BG: To answer the first question: No. No no no no no no no no no. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no. No. Saying that Couture vs. Coleman could produce the next title contender is just a talking point you throw out to hype a main event when there isn’t a belt (or much of anything) on the line. After pulling out of big fights against Brock Lesnar and Tito Ortiz, the injury-prone Coleman has a long way to go before he’s back on Dana White’s good side. And while I’m sure Dana wouldn’t mind seeing Randy get another crack at the gold before he retires, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua are already slated to have their light-heavyweight championship rematch at UFC 113 in May, and then Quinton Jackson will probably get the next shot if he can beat Rashad Evans at UFC 114 later that month, and by that point Jon Jones will have destroyed everybody else in the division and should really be ahead of Randy on the contender ladder even if Couture continues to win fights, which he probably won’t.
But he’ll at least win tomorrow night against Coleman, and he’ll do it via cardio and his maddening clinch-game. Personally, I have no interest in watching the Natural re-hash old wars against Liddell or Ortiz. It would be a lot more interesting to see him try to pull off another miracle against a younger contender — someone like Thiago Silva or maybe the loser of Evans/Jackson. As for Coleman, he’s pretty much served his purpose. Instead of going through the motions in another UFC match, he and Mark Kerr should join Tim Sylvia and Wes Sims at that Adrenaline event and turn it into a nightmarish four-man tournament. You’re telling me you wouldn’t pay $9.99 for a barely-functional Internet stream of that sideshow?
Chael Sonnen and Dan Miller are both 3-1 underdogs in their respective middleweight bouts. Who has the better chance to pull off an upset, and what would it do to the division’s title picture?
BG: Well, they’re both 3-1 underdogs for a reason. But as much as it breaks my heart to say it, I think Sonnen is more likely to pull off the freak upset. As we saw in his last fights against Yushin Okami and Dan Miller, Sonnen has gotten very good at the methodical grind — using his wrestling to slow down the action and find positional advantages. That seems like a wise approach when taking on a well-rounded powerhouse like Marquardt, who’s at his best when he has space to throw bombs and take the fight all over the cage. Three rounds of smothering may be Sonnen’s only chance here, but it is a chance. If he wins, the seventh seal will be opened, unleashing chaos on the world. Sonnen will earn the next shot at Anderson Silva‘s middleweight title, and there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
BF: Have you been huffing computer duster again? Because you’re talking crazy, and I need to know if I should call your sponsor and tell him to meet you down at Staples before shit gets out of hand. There’s no way Sonnen can do the slow, methodical grind thing to Marquardt, who is too strong and too good a grappler to be held down for three rounds.
Miller though, he has a chance. He knows his way in and out of submissions, so he can at least survive a little while on the ground, and Maia can certainly be beat with competent striking. Miller just has to resign himself to ending up on the mat a few times and not get frustrated when it happens. If he keeps returning to the feet and doesn’t get shy about letting the hands go for fear of a takedown, he could win a late TKO or decision. Judges don’t tend to favor the guy who jumps into half-guard, let’s not forget.
Who takes home the end of the night bonuses at UFC 109?
BF: Fight of the Night is there for Coleman and Couture to lose. The main event is always a sound choice for that one, and Dana White knows that Coleman needs the cash and Couture might get royally pissed if he doesn’t see a few extra zeroes added to his total take. Unless they wheeze around the cage for three rounds, they get the nod.
Any time Demian Maia shows up, the Submission of the Night check already has his name penciled in. This time I think he might have a tougher time, since Dan Miller knows a little of this wacky jiu-jitsu stuff, and won’t be subbed as easily as Nate Quarry or even Chael Sonnen. Still, you look around the card and there’s no safer bet, so I’ll stick with Maia.
KO of the Night, for that one I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and give it to Matt Serra. I think he comes out blasting, and while I won’t say that Trigg’s chin is glass these days, it has shown itself to be very glass-ish. Matty takes that bonus back to the barbershop and at least three dudes yell ‘Livin lawge!’ simultaneously.
BG: I also see Couture/Coleman as the front-runner for Fight of the Night, and not just because there’s something inherently entertaining about watching two middle-aged men slug each other in the face. The truth is, there aren’t many guaranteed barn-burners on this card. I’d say Mike Swick vs. Paulo Thiago is the dark horse candidate for the FOTN award, provided that Swick doesn’t play it too safe against the familiar AKA rival.
Demian Maia may be the easy pick for Submission of the Night, but he’s not the only option. UFC first-timer Rolles Gracie — grandson of Carlos Gracie, and the first Gracie to compete inside the Octagon since Royce — is very likely going to choke the shit out of Joey Beltran. If he puts a little flair into it, he can snatch the sub bonus out from under Maia’s nose.
To me, Serra/Trigg has "tedious three-rounder" written all over it. And even though Chael Sonnen is smart enough not to get into a striking war with Nate Marquardt, I still think Nate will eventually find a way to stomp a new mudhole into him and pick up the extra cash. It’s kind of what he does.
Between Danzig vs. Buchholz, Nover vs. Emerson, Hague vs. Tuchscherer, and guys like Frank Trigg and Melvin Guillard coming off ugly losses, there seems to be an inordinate amount of "win or get cut" matches at UFC 109. Which fighter is most likely to get his contract shredded after Saturday night?
BG: Justin Buchholz seems like the obvious choice here. Mac Danzig has lost three straight, and that really has to screw with a guy’s confidence, but getting out-hustled by guys like Clay Guida and Jim Miller is a forgivable offense. Recent failures aside, Mac is simply more talented than Buchholz, who has gone 1-3 in the Octagon against mid-level competition and doesn’t hold an edge on Danzig in any particular area. To me, Nover/Emerson and Hague/Tuchscherer feel like pick-’ems, and I wouldn’t rule out Trigg scraping out a decision over Matt Serra or Guillard overpowering newcomer Ronnys Torres. By process of elimination, Mac Danzig will save his job at the expense of his opponent, who will have to find somewhere else to get his ass kicked for a while.
BF: I think you’re underestimating Danzig’s ability to screw up in important situations. He could absolutely lose this fight. He shouldn’t. Just on talent alone he ought to run through Buchholz, but he should have done the same to Josh Neer. Lately he seems like a guy who’s going in there hoping to not lose, and that’s trouble.
My pick here is Melvin Guillard. He might starch Torres right off the bat, particularly if the Brazilian has a case of the Octagon jitters, but if there’s one thing we know about Guillard it’s that he practically begs guys to submit him. Look at his fight with Nate Diaz. He was winning before he stuck his neck in the guillotine zone. I can easily see him doing something similar here, and the UFC giving him the old win-a-few-in-the-minors speech before putting him on a Greyhound out of town.