Start gathering the beer and microwavable pizza rolls: “Rapid Fire” goes down tomorrow night in Newcastle (3 p.m. ET, noon PT). We’ll be liveblogging the event with round-by-round updates, so be sure to swing by if you don’t want to shell out the money for pay-per-view.
Speaking of money, we’d like to be the first in the MMA blogosphere to make official predictions on who will be taking home the UFC’s traditional end-of-night bonuses, which were a hefty $50k/apiece at UFC 79. To refresh, here’s the lineup:
B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson (lightweights)
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Fabricio Werdum (heavyweights)
Marcus Davis vs. Jess Liaudin (welterweights)
Jason Lambert vs. Wilson Gouveia (light heavyweights)
Kendall Grove vs. Jorge Rivera (middleweights)
Antoni Hardonk vs. Colin Robinson (heavyweights)
Paul Kelly vs. Paul Taylor (welterweights)
James Lee vs. Alessio Sakara (light heavyweights)
Per Eklund vs. Sam Stout (lightweights)
Fight of the Night: Expect a relentless, violent war from Marcus Davis and Jess Liaudin. Not only are both men total sluggers, but they’re both riding significant win streaks that they’ll want to protect at all costs. One more win for Davis and he’ll start getting higher-level competition. One more win for Liaudin and people will finally know who he is. And it’s never a good idea to bet against Kid Bonus. Dark horse: Gabriel Gonzaga and Fabricio Werdum, if they’re firing on all cylinders tomorrow night. Both are coming off of terrible performances in embarrassing losses, and are looking to prove themselves. As for the main event, we see it going one of two ways: Penn wins by early submission (likely), or Stevenson grinds out a relatively boring decision (somewhat less likely). Either way, it won’t be Fight of the Night.
Submission of the Night: Penn, probably. Though if he beats Stevenson with just a simple armbar or rear-naked without any flash to it, the bonus may go to James Lee, a King of the Cage veteran who’s making his UFC debut at “Rapid Fire.” In his last 11 fights, Lee has racked up 10 wins with one no contest, and nine of those wins have been by submission. Known primarily as a boxer, his opponent Alessio Sakara will almost certainly be eating a tap-out loss.
Knockout of the Night: They don’t call him “Hands of Stone” for nothing. Though Sam Stout’s UFC record has been spotty, he was known for his knockouts in the Canadian MMA organization TKO, and we see him coming out on top of Eklund. Dark horse: Gabriel Gonzaga. If he could murder Cro Cop with a headkick, he could do it to anyone.
Make sense? Shoot us your own predictions in the comments section…