With one day to go before UFC 89 (which we’ll be liveblogging, naturally), it’s time for everyone’s favorite self-indulgent exercise: Ben versus Ben. This time around we argue bonuses, the UK-centric undercard, and the mysterious/as-of-yet fictional Millerplata, among other stuff.
How exactly will Bisping/Leben end?
Fowlkes: As much as we’ve heard about Leben’s transformation from immature brawler to well-rounded tactician, a part of me (the part located in the brain region) isn’t totally buying it. Leben may be a more seasoned fighter, but he still knows one way to win a fight when things get hectic and it’s throwing big, looping bombs and hoping one catches his opponent on the chin.
This has worked at times. He hits hard and he can take enough punishment to make that strategy effective. But as strategies go, it’s relatively easy to prepare for, especially for a more cerebral fighter like Bisping. “The Count” is smart enough to avoid a street fight with Leben. He’ll accumulate points and damage but won’t dive in for the illusion of a quick finish, and this will frustrate Leben.
Leben knows he doesn’t want to go to a decision against a Brit in Britain, so the closer to the final horn he gets the more desperate he will become. This is where Bisping will find an opening, drop him with a straight shot, then pour on some ground-and-pound that looks worse than it is, causing the referee to stop it at 4:02 of round three. And Leben is going to be pissed.
Goldstein: I concur. Bisping is a more talented, complete fighter than Leben, and this business about the Crippler maturing is more manufactured narrative than reality. But I don’t think it’ll take Bisping until the third frame to get the stoppage win. As a middleweight, his kickboxing has looked razor-sharp — his last two opponents didn’t make it to the second bell — and his ground capabilities are underrated in general.
The headliners will give the crowd what they paid for in round one, slugging it out like a couple of drunken soccer hooligans, and Bisping will go about finishing the fight in round two, engaging the killer instinct that we’ve seen from him lately. If Leben starts to land more shots in that second round, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bisping clinch with Leben, bully him to the ground and finish him from the top. Either way, it’ll be a stoppage due to strikes at exactly the 4:15 mark of round two.
Who will win the Vera/Jardine and Sokoudjou/Cane fights?
Goldstein: I have the Dean of Mean over The Truth. Though Vera was a heavyweight not too long ago, he’s no bigger than Jardine these days, and apparently he’s not even cutting weight for this fight. And though Jardine is vulnerable against aggressive fighters, Vera looked tentative and spark-less in his last match (his first as a light-heavyweight), and hasn’t put in an impressive performance in two years. I say Jardine learned his lesson for good in the Wanderlei Silva fight, and he’ll be returning to smart game-planning, sticking and moving to a decision win.
As for Sokoudjou and Cane: you hear a lot about Luis Cane‘s nasty striking ability, but if his biggest career win is over Jason Lambert, does it really mean that much? Like many Brazilian fighters — I’m thinking of Gabriel Gonzaga in particular — Cane arrived in the UFC carrying a record padded with absolute scrubs. At least Sokoudjou has knocked out a couple of top ten fighters in his brief career. I think Soko will try to stand and bang with Cane at first, and if that doesn’t work out, he’ll use his judo to clinch and take “Banha” down, then pound him out from the top. If Sokoudjou is the one who winds up on his back, there could be problems. But I still say the African Assassin takes it via TKO in round 2.
Fowlkes: Dammit, that’s pretty much exactly how I see both these fights. But that’s boring, so for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, here goes nothing.
Vera is making too much money to lose to Keith Jardine, and he knows it. There is no more powerful motivation than cash, so he’s going to come out like a buzz-saw and see if Jardine is still vulnerable to being overwhelmed early in a fight. He absolutely can’t allow Jardine to find his rhythm, and unless he’s a complete moron he knows that. Vera via TKO, 0:21 of round one.
On the subject of Cane, he knows he can’t overpower Sokoudjou, so he’ll rely on his submissions prowess to trick the aggressive African. He’ll – get this – allow himself to be judo-tossed just so he can transition directly into the bottom sub game that he’s (hopefully?) been drilling for ten hours every day. That’s feasible, right? Guys? Cane by submission, 3:37 of round one.
Boom! Devil’s advocate played. Only now I feel dirty.
How will the Fight of the Night, Submission, and Knockout bonuses be awarded?
Fowlkes: First, let’s take a moment and appreciate that in the UFC, at least in theory, every fighter on the card from Michael Bisping to Per Eklund has a shot at any or even a couple of these bonuses. Granted, there’s some politics involved (okay, a lot of politics), but still, it’s the most egalitarian system out there.
That said, Bisping and Leben will take Fight of the Night as long as they don’t go and muck it up completely. They’re the main event and a quick finish is unlikely, as is a boring fight, so the money is theirs to lose. KO of the night will go to Shane Carwin, who will probably feel bad and donate some of the money to Neil Wain’s orphaned children (naturally, I assume the childrens’ mother will die of grief).
Sub of the night will go to Jim Miller, who will end up doing something totally weird to David Baron, who is a pretty strong submissions fighter in his own right. But this is going to be crazy. I have no idea what it will look like, but the next day we’ll all be calling it a Millerplata and dudes all over America will throw out their back attempting it on the living room floor.
Goldstein: Bisping and Leben are definitely the frontrunners for Fight of the Night; the sure-to-be amped-up crowd could lend an epic quality to what would otherwise be just another good match. But it’s hard to overlook the track record of Marcus Davis and Paul Kelly. Both men have won the bonus before — coincidentally, in victories over Paul Taylor — thanks to their aggressive, crowd-pleasing style. You can’t go wrong with a couple of tough guys throwing bombs, especially in the U.K. So they’re my dark horse pick, unless their past injuries (Davis’s shoulder and Kelly’s right hand) are still slowing them down.
Dana White might as well pull a Jeremy Lappen and give Shane Carwin a knockout bonus before the fight starts. His highlight-reel KO of Christian Wellisch at UFC 84 was robbed of that event’s knockout bonus by Wanderlei Silva’s rape-choke-aided swarm of Keith Jardine — which was impressive, but lacked the one-punch finality of Carwin’s win. If Shane can produce a similar performance against Neil Wain (and he will), I don’t think the UFC will snub him twice.
As for submission of the night, I’m going to go with Chris Lytle over Paul Taylor. I don’t think Lytle will want to test his standup against a frantic fence-swinger like Taylor. He’ll probably take the fight to the ground where he’ll have a huge advantage. Oh yes, Taylor will tap.
And for the record, the Millerplata is nothing more than an Aokiplata from the north/south position.
If you could only see one fight off the untelevised undercard, which one would it be?
Goldstein: Well, I’m not British, so most of UFC 89′s undercard means very, very little to me. The only thing I really want to see is Shane Carwin’s inevitable destruction of Neil Wain — oh man is that going to be sweet. But since that fight will be so short, it’ll almost certainly make the broadcast anyway, so I’m really hoping that there’s room for the Dan Hardy/Akihiro Gono scrap. Hardy is an exciting slugger who never stops swinging. Gono is a total weirdo whose ring-entrance may or may not involve a blonde wig and a white body-stocking. I predict…magic.
Fowlkes: Hold up, you’re not British? So when you kept pointing at me and shouting, “fag!” you weren’t just asking for a cigarette? You son of a bitch. It all adds up now.
I agree with you on Carwin/Wain, so there’s thirty seconds of the broadcast filled up, but I don’t hold out much hope for Gono/Hardy. I could see it going three rounds, and unless it’s an action-packed three rounds they’ll probably opt to show one of the quicker bouts from the undercard. Sam Stout and Terry Etim could turn out to be an exciting one, regardless of who wins. I’m really hoping to see the Millerplata, though. If for any reason I don’t then I can’t possibly go to bed happy, and just once I’d like to know what that’s like.