Also: Henderson hints that he’s bringing a secret weapon to this fight, but if that doesn’t work, he’ll just have to hit Machida with his right hand. (Makes sense.) Of course, Hendo vs. the Dragon is a matchup of power vs. speed/footwork, but as Henderson puts it, “we’ll see how quick this old man is too.”
UFC on Fox 5 is one of the most stacked cards of the entire year, and it’s free on network television. It contains a pseudo-grudge match between the only man in UFC history to hold the lightweight and welterweight titles, and a rising star who trains with his greatest rival. The co-main event sees a PRIDE legend and one-time UFC champ looking to reclaim his former glory in yet another epic war against a rising contender from a burgeoning MMA scene in Scandanavia. And in the main event, you have the two best lightweights in the world (besides Frankie Edgar) going head to head in the toughest division in the UFC. What more could you ask for?
Well, if the answer to that rhetorical question was “the most brilliant predictions/pre-fight analysis column ever,” then you are in luck, my friend! And because this card is so stacked, there will be not one, not two, not three, but…actually no, there will be three predictions. (Sorry Mike Swick and Matt Brown.) Logophobes, you’ve been warned.
The first of the big three fights on the card is the highly anticipated matchup between a returning BJ Penn and wunderkind Rory MacDonald. Penn’s seeking to reinforce his legacy as one of the best ever in the sport, and Rory’s been giving him even more motivation recently, claiming he’s coming to “hurt [Penn]” who he believes is “fighting for the wrong reasons.” Bold words, but MacDonald’s the type of fighter who’s capable of backing them up. He’s only lost once in his career — a TKO loss to Carlos Condit, in which he won the first two rounds before getting stopped in the waning seconds of the final round. But he holds wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, and aside from the former, all of MacDonald’s victories have come by stoppage.
It should be noted, though, that aside from Condit, Penn is a stronger fighter at this weight than any of the other fighters mentioned. He presents a greater knockout threat than any of them, has better wrestling, and has one of, if not the, best top games of any grappler in the UFC. However, Penn has historically been weak in the cardio department, particularly at welterweight. Even though he looks to be in excellent shape, he’s still carrying more weight than usual, and he’ll be forced to carry MacDonald’s weight as well. While Penn’s revamped his training camp, it’s unlikely he’ll have been able to fix a career-long deficiency, particularly after returning from “retirement.”
On December 7th, 2011, a date which will live in infamy a date upon which some lame stuff happened but probably didn’t quite compare to the violent inception of the United States’ involvement in the deadliest war in recorded history, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierreblew out his ACL while training for a bout with Nick Diaz. Fast-forward almost a year and GSP is set to make his return in his hometown of Montreal, this time against interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. But much like a year ago, the focus is on GSP’s knee. Has it healed completely and will it hold up against Condit’s leg kicks? Will GSP possess the same degree of athleticism that he’s been able to rely on in the past? Will GSP lose because of it?
In short, probably not. This isn’t to say Condit has no chance to win. To the contrary, he’s the most formidable challenger GSP has faced since Jon Fitch, and he’s got a better chance to win. He can match St. Pierre in striking, and if he’s taken down he possesses an active guard. His jiu-jitsu probably isn’t capable of submitting St. Pierre, unless the latter is already stunned with strikes, but it may be enough to get up off his back should he be taken down. Best of all, Condit has a clear target to go for: GSP’s knee. St. Pierre can claim his knee is fine all he wants, but it’s unquestionably a weakness that Condit will seek to exploit for the entire fight.
Furthermore, it’s hard to tell what St. Pierre will step into the ring. Will he be hesitant to engage and overly tentative? (GSP’s critics just jumped up and shouted “But he alreadyis!”) If he gets backed up consistently he’ll get tagged, and there’s no telling how he’ll react to that. GSP isn’t all athleticism and explosiveness, but these traits undoubtedly give him a decided edge over virtually all of his opponents — and after 19 months out of the Octagon, he may not look like the same fighter. There are a large number of legitimate questions that surround St. Pierre’s return, and there’s no real way to answer them until we see him in action Saturday night.
That said, I don’t think they all need to be answered to favor St. Pierre…
(“You know the deal, guys. Whoever puts on the most impressive performance tonight gets the title shot.” [*unzips*] / Photo courtesy of CombatLifestyle.com. For more photos from this set, click here.)
By Ryan Sarr
Who is going to win the “Jon Jones Sweepstakes?” That is the big question heading into the UFC’s fourth venture onto network television tonight. Dana White was so pissed about the boring, lackluster abomination that was the UFC 149 main card, that he decided to award a light-heavyweight title shot to the man who wins the “most impressively“ among the four main and co-main event participants. (Yes, even Brandon Vera) The only problem with this scenario is that all four men — Shogun, Vera, Machida, and Bader — have each been decisively destroyed by Jon Jones in previous fights.
Nonetheless, this fight card is still very intriguing and offers many reasons to tune in. First of all: It’s free on Fox. Second, all four main card bouts are likely to be exciting, fast-paced battles. It also marks the return of the very talented Mike Swick to the Octagon, who hasn’t fought in over two years. Finally, we have a chance to see a true Cinderella story play out once again as Jamie Varner gets a chance to take another huge step up in his comeback by fighting on a main card on network television. So, join me as I break down the main card for UFC on Fox 4 and offer my predictions as to who will emerge victorious.
DaMarques Johnson said in the fight promo, “There’s a 50% chance I’m gonna win this fight, there’s a 100% chance that somebody’s taking a nap,” and Johnson has the track record to back it up: None of his fights in the UFC have gone the distance. The Jeremy Horn protégé has slick submission skills to go along with his heavy hands. We know Johnson will bring a fast-paced, exciting style into the Octagon, and his opponent Mike Swick will almost certainly do the same.
Now I may be in the minority on this one, but I’m actually more excited for Franklin-Silva than I was for Belfort-Silva. Why? Because it’s not a glorified squash match. Look, I’m a big fan of Wanderlei. I can’t think of something more enjoyable than watching that bloodthirsty sociopath do more damage and evoke more terror in Japan in eight years than Godzilla did in over half a century. But between his once-granite chin being reduced to rubble, his age compromising his speed and cardio — all while retaining the punching technique of a wind turbine — Silva is no longer the force he once was. Against a heavy-handed striker, he’s in trouble. Against a striker of Belfort’s caliber, he’s toast.
Fortunately for Silva, Rich Franklin isn’t quite as dangerous. Despite a permanent role on UFC highlight reels with his knockouts of Nate Quarry and Chuck Liddell, Franklin can no longer be considered one of the top strikers in the middleweight division. Like Silva, he’s alternated wins and losses since their last meeting. Both have suffered a brutal knockout loss since then as well; Franklin to Belfort and Silva to Chris Leben. In fact, Franklin and Silva match up fairly well with each other; both have solid stand-up and sound – if unspectacular – ground games. Much like their previous meeting, this has the potential be a close, dramatic fight.
But let’s not admit defeat so soon. We’ll be liveblogging the Shields vs. Ellenberger main card on CagePotato.com starting at 9 p.m. ET, and it would be nice if a few of you showed up to keep us company. Could it be one of those “crap on paper, bonkers in reality” events? Who knows, but consider the following…
All Eyes on Jake: So far, Jake Shields‘s UFC career has consisted of an underwhelming (and razor-thin) split-decision victory over Martin Kampmann, and a rout at the hands of Georges St. Pierre. His dominant stretch of eight-straight stoppage victories in 2006-2009 are a distant memory in the minds of MMA fans, and he needs a dramatic win here, badly. Shields’s dance partner, Jake Ellenberger, has been spent years fighting for recognition, and with four straight Octagon wins over serious competition, he’s starting to get it. Stylistically, the fight might not be a barn-burner, but it could have career-altering implications for the headliners.