411's UFC 74: Respect Roudtable Preview
Posted by Caleb Newby on 08.24.2007
The UFC comes back after over a month long break with UFC 74: Respect featuring Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck and UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture defending his title against the dangerous Gabriel Gonzaga. Join 411mania's MMA team as they preview the entire card!
Wow, it's been awhile, hasn't it? We are back with yet another UFC pay-per-view preview, roundtable style, only here at 411mania.com. I am your host and friendly MMA Zone Editor, Caleb Newby. Maybe it's just me, but I'm very excited for this show as it's been far too long since the last major UFC event. And thankfully we won't have to go through another drought like this for some time, as September is chalk full of MMA goodness. Stay tuned to 411mania's MMA section as these events approach as we'll be providing fighter interviews, news, and some of the fastest play by play this side of the Mississippi. Larry will be handling the play by play duties once again on Saturday, so if you're too poor to order the event, or the lady friend isn't letting you watch it (why are you letting her tell you what to do?) swing on over our way for real time updates.
As for the issue at hand, providing you with the regular insight and wisdom is our MMA staff, with one notable exception, that being 411 Game's Mr. Andrew Mellick. As I read everyone's picks and reasoning while putting this thing together, I was struck by the ingenious methodical picking method he's seemed to have stumbled across.
Ok, let's kick this into high and see how much (or little) our troop of experts really do know!
Clay Guida v. Marcus Aurelio
Lotfi Sariahmed: Man I would like to pick Guida here. He had a Fight of the Year Candidate with Tyson Griffin his last time out and never fails to put on a great bout. But he can't catch a break with these opponents. As long as Aurelio doesn't gas in this fight...which is VERY possible, he should win the fight. He's more talented on the ground than Guida and his stand-up should be enough to beat Clay. But this is the best fight on the card we might not see. Winner: Marcus Aurelio by decision
Matt McEwen: Why is this not on the main card? If any match up screams "Must See" to anyone reading this, this is it. Guida puts his all into it every time he steps into the Octagon, and coming off a very controversial loss to Tyson Griffin, I can't see him as being anything other than super-motivated here. Aurelio is supposed to be a big player in the lightweight division, but he is coming in on a two fight losing streak, and other big PRIDE acquisitions have had mixed results in their debuts. It being the year of the upset, I'm calling for one here. This is one of those fights though that no matter who wins in the Octagon, we all win for seeing it......IF we get to. Winner: Clay Guida, Decision
Morgan Marx: We've seen top rated pride fighters struggle in their UFC debuts (Herring/Nogueira). While Marcus Aurelio is an extremely talented BJJ fighter, his stature is boosted by that one victory over Gomi. I think he'll have trouble dealing with the energy and aggressiveness of Guida. Guida took Din Thomas, another talented BJJ fighter from American Top Team, to a tight decision. I think this time, the outcome will be similar, but in Guida's favor. Winner: Clay Guida (Unanimous Decision)
Ken Kobel: Here is hoping for some quick finishes on the main card so we can see this fight -- it should be fantastic. PRIDE veteran Marcus Aurelio is a BJJ Black Belt and holds a victory over Takanori Gomi. Clay Guida comes to entertain every time he fights but has dropped two very close – and controversial – decisions in a row. I look for this one to go to the ground where Guida is the superior wrestler while Aurelio has a decided BJJ advantage. Guida will bring his ‘A' game once again, but I think ‘Maximus' will catch him in a submission midway through the fight. Winner: Marcus Aurelio – Submission, Round 2
Larry Csonka: This should be a pretty good fight. Both guys need the win and should fight hard. Hopefully they just tear it all up and leave it out there. Guida usually looks good, but I think that Marcus Aurelio gets the win. Winner: Marcus Aurelio, Decision
Andrew Mellick: It's the battle of the losers! Clay Guida is a sub master who, while having an impressive record, has been on the skids of late dropping 4 of his last 6 fights and coming fresh off a heart breaker against Tyson Griffin. Marcus Aurelio also holds a solid record but is coming off two consecutive loses, most notably to Takanori Gomi. Mr. Aurelio also makes his way via the submission game.
This is almost too close to call, so let's go to nicknames. Aurelio's nickname is "Gladiator" which sounds cool, but is pretty obvious given his name. Guida's is "The Carpenter" which may not sound that tough but think about carpenters, their resourceful, their precise, and lets not forget the number one carpenter, Jesus. Winner- Clay Guida, Sub 3rd round (what sub move? most likely something to do with measuring twice and cutting once)
Bren Oliver: This fight is the first of two potential show-stealers, the other being another 155 lbs. battle between Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino. Guida may be 0-2 in his last two UFC appearances but he's undefeated in terms of putting on entertaining fights. In fact, at UFC 72, "The Carpenter" beat Tyson Griffin on living room scorecards around the world even if the judges' handed him the business end of a decision. I'm not so sure he was a good opponent for Marcus Aurelio to debut against because Guida will be ready to bang from start to finish. Aurelio seems to be a lot of MMA fans' golden boy simply because he beat Takanori Gomi at a PRIDE show in 2006, the last person to do so (without the "assistance" of the sticky-icky that is). However, I do believe Aurelio has an advantage in that his American Top Team co-hort, Din Thomas, beat Guida in January of this year. Training together should give the tough Brazilian an inside track to victory in terms of a gameplan. Still, it wasn't as if Thomas destroyed Guida throughout, and Aurelio will still have to contend with any jitters that come from having your first UFC fight at a PPV event. Winner: Guida, Judges' Decision
Frank Mir v. Antoni Hardonk
Lotfi Sariahmed: I explained this in Planet Tapout this week and I don't feel good about it. But Hardonk is a bigger version of Cheick Kongo. He has a nice stand-up game but is inept on the ground. Neither fighter's cardio is that good. It's such a toss-up fight to me because even Hardonk's stand-up game isn't that amazing. This will be an ugly fight and you should only go back and watch this at your own risk. And I'll end up regretting doing this later. But I'm picking Mir. If nothing else I'm hoping he MIGHT show me something. Winner: Frank Mir by decision
Matt McEwen: I don't think anyone has lived off past success in the Octagon as much as Mir has. When he won the heavyweight title, he was on a roll and was an exciting, ground based fighter who seemed destined to wear the belt for a while. One motorcycle accident and several brutal ass kickings later and we are left wondering when he will give up the ghost and retire. He has a chance here if he can take Hardonk down, who showed against Justin McCully that he is awful on the ground. IF McCully had a clue about submissions, that fight could have been over 10 different times. Hardunk will have to finish it early with a KO to have a chance here, but I think Mir might have enough left to remember to duck. Winner: Frank Mir, Submission, Round 1
Morgan Marx: I'm afraid the Frank Mir of old will never fight in the octagon again. However, even as a shadow of his former self, Mir should be able to dispatch Hardonk. Hardonk showed no ability to either escape or threaten his opponent from the bottom in his fight against Justin McCully. Mir is saying all the right things leading up to the fight, so I'm hoping for the best. And if not, at least I can enjoy Mir's commentary during WEC events. Winner: Frank Mir (Submission, Rd 1)
Ken Kobel: It is depressing watching Frank Mir fight these days. He is a shell of his former self. He should be able to win this one though. Against Justin McCully, Antoni Hardonk could not stop a takedown to save his life and looked completely lost on the ground. Mir is a ground technician who will obviously try to employ the same tactics that McCully did. If Mir can't get this fight to the ground he will be in trouble because Hardonk has very solid stand-up. I sincerely hope that Frank has a good showing and can finish this fight decisively because at one time he showed so much promise. I am not holding my breath though. Winner: Frank Mir – (lackluster) Decision
Larry Csonka: I just have a feeling that Frank Mir will show up and, well, be Frank Mir. Maybe it will only be for one night, but I have a feeling. Winner: Frank Mir, Submission, Rd 2
Andrew Mellick: In 2004 Frank Mir was a heavyweight champ who just snapped the arm of the giant Tim Sylvia. Fast forward two years and the only win he has is against some guy who is more squishy than he is. So what happened? Well despite Mir's ability to fight he is just as unable to keep a motorcycle upright. So the Fonzie of the UFC has turned into the Henry Winkler of the UFC. He is slow out of shape and looks just plain bad since his return. Antoni Hardonk sits barely above 500 in his career of fighting nobodies. He too is slow and lazy...er...methodical. I'd look for this fight to go to one of the most boring decisions of the year. Unless somebody throws a bag of Doritos in the ring these guys won't move much. Winner- Frank Mir, Decision via sit on Hardonk and not move.
Bren Oliver: I have very little interest in this fight. Neither man is more than Heavyweight filler. It's a shame really, because Mir seemed to have a very bright future and was peaking when tragedy struck in the form of a horrific motorcycle accident. I think Friday's weigh-in will give fans a much better idea of how good a chance Mir has. At least he has his job broadcasting WEC events just in case MMA has passed him by. Hardonk is best known for being the guy who stunk up the Octagon against stand-in fighter Justin McCully. Unless he has upped his ground game tenfold he's likely to have a repeat of that putrid performance, except for one thing - Mir ain't no Justin McCully when it comes to jiujitsu. Winner: Frank Mir, Submission - Round Two
Babalu Sobral v. David Heath
Lotfi Sariahmed: Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Please let Babalu win. Winner: Babalu Sobral by Sub in the 2nd
Matt McEwen: Two fighters at a cross roads in this one, as Heath needs a win to stay in the UFC and Sobral needs a win to stay relevant. Sobral has some outside the sport turmoil going on, and has been KO'd in his last two appearences. Just how fragile is he after being destroyed by Liddell and beaten by Lambert? He will need to look impressive here to have any shot at getting his career back on track. As for Heath, he has some skill, but suffered a loss in a fight so boring it was cut from the UFC 70 broadcast. Sobral is the more skilled fighter, but also the more fragile. This fight depends on his mental state coming in. Winner: David Heath, KO, Round 2
Morgan Marx: While it seems as though Babalu's career is in free fall, and Heath's is on the rise, the truth is they are both 31 years old. I think we can emphatically say that Sobral matches up poorly against Chuck Liddell. The loss to Jason Lambert is a little more difficult to explain. Hopefully, Sobral has learned from his mistakes, and looks to take Heath down early to end things with a submission. If Sobral ends up chasing Heath and trading strikes, this fight could easily go Heath's way. Winner: Renato Sobral (Submission, Rd 2)
Ken Kobel: Here is another fight that is main card quality. Babalu's career has seen better days after he has been knocked out in his last two fights. David Heath's undefeated record was snapped in a terrible performance against Lyoto Machida in his last fight. It is clear that Sobral is the class of this fight with his ground game being vastly superior to Heath's. David will have a chance to catch Babalu with his heavy hands but he will need to do so before this gets to the mat. I look for Babalu to be a lot smarter in his stand-up defense here than he was against Jason Lambert. He will eventually take Heath down and submit him. Winner: Renato Sobral – Submission, Round 1
Larry Csonka: BABALU is looking to get a string of wins down so that he can get back into the title picture. He'll make a statement against Heath here, but will need more to get into the title picture. Winner: Babalu Sobral, Submission, RD 1
Andrew Mellick: Babalu Sobral is coming off misdemeanor battery charges. I'm assuming he did this just to get off his losing streak. Babalu was a contender until he dropped two straight losses, he is no joke in the ring and will be looking to get back in the title picture with this one. David Heath has also been on a tear through the MMA world, amassing a perfect record until his last fight where he lost to Ryoto Machida. He is also a force in the octagon and don't expect him to come into this fight lying down…as that is illegal. It'll be close but I'm going with Heath. Watching Babalu's last loss he just looked like maybe he has lost a step. Winner- Heath TKO 3rd round David "Heathcare" Heath…it's a work in progress.
Bren Oliver: This is an extremely important fight for Sobral. If he loses it I'd wager it's the last we'll see of him in the UFC until he strings together some wins in a smaller promotion. He's coming off an upset loss to Jason Lambert and a recent arrest. I hope he's gotten his personal, and professional, life together because Babalu has always been one of my favorites in the UFC. David Heath is no slouch. His only professional loss comes at the hands of Ryoto Machida, a man who can plod through any match and do just enough to win it via decision. Heath can only hope to put on a better performance than that, as his loss to Machida has become infamous for being so bad that it was yanked from UFC 72 even though the bout had been advertised to make the broadcast. I think the fight bodes well for Sobral due to his supreme ability on the ground. Winner: Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Judges' Decision
Ryan Jensen v. Thales Leites
Lotfi Sariahmed: So much for Travis Lutter stepping in and starting his long road back to regain his name in the middleweight division. What name that was to begin with is debatable but you have to feel for Lutter who just can't get out of his own way right now. In his place steps in Leites who is quietly putting together a notable resume. He's 11-1 with his only loss to middleweight contender Martin Kampmann. Leites won't be challenged by Jensen and in a very shallow middleweight division talent wise, he should get a chance to be in a big fight soon. Winner: Thales Leites by Strikes in the 1st
Matt McEwen: Jensen has been fighting for more than 10 years (albeit with a few long breaks) and seems skilled with submissions. Other than that, I really don't know too much about him. Leites, on the other hand, could potentially have the skill to contend in the middleweight division, and has been putting on some good fights in his UFC career. Despite fighting as a replacement for Travis Lutter, Leites has had time to prepare and should continue his march up the middleweight division here. Winner: Thales Leites, Submission, Round 2
Morgan Marx: Jensen has stated he's more excited to be fighting Leites than the man Thales replaced, Travis Lutter. I'm not sure Jensen will have it any easier against Leites, who is almost as talented as Lutter on the ground, and probably more well rounded standing. If Leites is the next contender at middleweight, he should dispatch Jensen with ease. Winner: Thales Leites (Submission, Rd 1)
Ken Kobel: Thales Leites is a late replacement for Travis Lutter. No big deal for Ryan Jensen since Leites and Lutter have similar styles – in fact, Jensen may have an easier fight now since Lutter's BJJ is probably ahead of Thales's. Still, I like Leites here. He looked good in his fight against Floyd Sword and dominated Pete Sell in his outing before that one. Look for Leites to outwork the UFC newcomer and score a submission. Winner: Thales Leites – Submission, Round 2
Larry Csonka: Leites is coming off of two wins over Sword and Sell. He only has the one loss and has been looking very strong as of late. I think he dominates Jensen and continues to work towards a Middleweight Title shot. Winner: Thales Leites, Submission, RD 1
Andrew Mellick: Ryan Jensen is an impressive up and comer with a solid 11 and 1 record. He will be getting his UFC cherry popped against Thales Leites. Now if any man needs a nickname it is him, I mean come on, I bet even he has trouble spelling it! Despite that, Leites has seen his fair share of the UFC octagon and holds wins over big names like Pete Sell. Look for first fight jitters and Leites takedown to end this quick. Winner- Leites Sub 1st Round Thales "Elite" Leites, rolls of the tongue.
Bren Oliver: I don't know much about Jensen other than what his record tells me; he's good on the ground, he's 11-1, and he likes to end fights in the first round (10 of 11). Thales Leites on the other hand is a guy I've seen fight a few times. He's also primarily a ground fighter. I think Leites experience will carry him to victory, but I won't be surprised at all if we hear about Jensen again down the road after he's pulled off a few wins against lesser opponents. Winner: Thales Leites, Submission - Round One
Kendall Grove v. Patrick Cote
Lotfi Sariahmed: I'm rooting for Cote. He seems like one of those good guys who just can't get over that proverbial hump. He won't do that here though either. His bread and butter comes from the striking game and he does have a lot of power. But he won't be able to get to Grove. "Da Spyder" is listed as 6'6" on the UFC's website while Cote is 5'11". I've said it before and I'll say it again. When Grove gets his title shot, he'll be very dangerous no matter who he faces if for nothing else because of his size. Oh, and he's pretty talented too. Winner: Kendall Grove by strikes in the 2nd
Matt McEwen: Cote has the ability to win this one. As a matter of fact, he has the ability to destroy Grove. For some reason though, Cote has never been able to put it all together in the Octagon. Even though he got the monkey off his back by grinding out a boring win over Scott Smith last time out, Cote will be hard pressed to beat the always improving Grove unless he lets his hands go early. Grove will have a big reach advantage, as usual, and always seems very calm in the cage. This one could be the sleeper for fight of the night, or it could just be a sleeper. Winner: Kendall Grove, Decision
Morgan Marx: I like the slow pace the UFC is taking with Kendall Grove. Instead of pushing him into a fight he's not yet prepared for (hello, Nate Quarry), Grove is being pitted against decent competitors he's expected to defeat. While Cote is probably better than his dismal record suggests, he doesn't have the all around game to trouble someone like Grove. Winner: Kendall Grove (Submission, Rd 1)
Ken Kobel: Kendall Grove impresses me more with each fight I see him in. In particular, his pummeling of Alan Belcher was a thing of beauty. Cote finally picked up a UFC win in his fight against Scott Smith but still did not look very good in doing so. I still do not know what Cote's style is supposed to be. His ground game is non-existent and his stand-up looks mediocre at best. A lot of people are giving Cote a solid chance to win this fight, although I do not know why. I think Grove will continue to roll here. He seems to be learning to use his reach to his advantage and when he gets Cote down he will be able to use his long limbs to work in a submission. Winner: Kendall Grove – Submission, Round 2
Larry Csonka: Another bout with Middleweight Title implications is this one. Cote has been solid as of late, but Grove has looked like a machine. Another submission here I think. Winner: Kendall Grove, Submission, Rd 2
Andrew Mellick: Patrick Cote is a UFC veteran with a solid backlog of fights. He's a well rounded fighter who knows his way around a submission, but can knock you out too. He is facing off against Kendall Grove, an Ultimate Fighter alum, coming out of Tito Ortiz' camp. He is tall with a long reach and a strong submission game. Fun side note: Grove's nickname "Da Spyder" was actually taken from the, now canceled "Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur goes straight to the ghetto". Well, nothing is tougher than a gansta spider. I've got Grove winning this battle. Winner- Da "Spizzle" Spyder Sub 3rd Round
Bren Oliver: This is perhaps the easiest pick on the card for me. Cote seems like a great guy and he absolutely has talent. He's beaten Jason MacDonald and took Tito Ortiz to decision. That being said, Grove is ever-improving and his 6'6 frame makes for a difficult match-up against every single Middleweight out there. I see Kendall imposing his will on Cote and controlling the fight throughout.
Winner: Kendall Grove, TKO - Round Two
Kurt Pellegrino v. Joe Stevenson
Lotfi Sariahmed: Stevenson is too good on the ground for Pellegrino. It's a nice fight because Pellegrino is in a place where he should get this sort of a test. But Stevenson is just too much. "Daddy" last fought in April where he submitted Melvin Guillard 27 seconds into the fight. Here's another question going into this fight. How will Pellegrino be affected by all the hoopla surrounding his fallen Armory teammate in Hermes Franca? Winner: Joe Stevenson by strikes in the 3rd
Matt McEwen: Think of this one as a title eliminator. Whenever the lightweight title picture settles out, the winner of this one will be first in line for a shot at whoever the title is. For that matter, the loser may not be that far off either. This one is going to be a treat for anyone who enjoys ground fighting, as both are very skilled off their feet. Short of Sean Sherk though, I don't think anyone can match Stevenson's strength at 155, and that should be a deciding factor. Winner: Joe Stevenson, Submission, Round 3
Morgan Marx: I have to agree with Luke Thomas over at BloodyElbow.com and state my confusion as to why Pellegrino is being pegged as a heavy underdog in this fight. I think it comes from the perceived talent of both fighters, as opposed to their actual abilities. Pellegrino's wrestling background and submission defense will allow him to escape much of the danger Stevenson will look to apply. Unless Pellegrino can't handle Stevenson's strength (and he took the much larger Drew Fickett into the 3rd round) I think he can grind out the defensive decision victory, much like Josh Neer. Winner: Kurt Pellegrino (Unanimous Decision)
Ken Kobel: Joe Stevenson has been on a tear since dropping to 155. He has won four in a row and with a win here will likely get himself a shot at the Lightweight Championship. Kurt Pellegrino stands in his way. Pellegrino is a BJJ Black Belt who has won two in a row in UFC competition. Despite being three years younger than his opponent, Stevenson has over twice the amount of fights than Pellegrino. Kurt has also never faced anyone of Joe Daddy's caliber. I think Stevenson will dominate this fight. He is a better wrestler and I do not see Pellegrino being able to submit him from the bottom. Joe will take this to the ground, get mount, and pound out a victory. Winner: Joe Stevenson – TKO, Round 2
Larry Csonka: Kurt Pellegrino has looked very good in his last two victories, while Joe Stevenson has been down right scary. Kurt Pellegrino will work hard and take it to the second round, but I feel Stevenson is on a roll and will take him out. This is an important bout, because of Sherk is stripped they will be looking to crown a new champion. Even if he passes, they will need a contender. Winner: Joe Stevenson, RD 2, TKO
Andrew Mellick: Pellegrino is a sub machine with a solid record and a last name that sounds like Palomino which should be his nickname. He is facing "Big Daddy" Stevenson who has been fighting for almost a decade. He is a tough fighter who has only been KO'd once and subbed twice in his 34 fights.
This should be a tough battle but I got to give the edge to Big Daddy, he's strong, confident and an animal in the cage. Look for "The Palomino" to get worn down and make a mistake. Winner- Joe Stevenson Sub Round 2
Bren Oliver: As mentioned before this is one of two fights I see as potentially stealing the show. It's a shame the odds are stacked against the fans seeing both on the televised portion of the broadcast. Pellegrino is an underrated Lightweight who seems to be a submission machine. Joe Stevenson is possibly the best young 155 lbs. fighter in the UFC and it seems as though the sky is the limit for the TUF Champion. I think Pellegrino's specialty being submissions will work to Stevenson's advantage. He's a tremendous wrestler and is no stranger to jiujtisu. I think his striking is better than Pellegrino's and that will ultimately make the difference in the match's outcome. Also, if "Daddy" wins this fight, I see no reason he shouldn't be penciled in against BJ Penn for the vacant Lightweight Championship (pending the outcome of Sean Sherk's appeal). Winner: Joe Stevenson, Submission - Round Three
Georges St. Pierre v. Josh Koscheck
Lotfi Sariahmed: What a fight. I discussed some of the mental aspects of this fight on Planet Tapout and Farrow did it as well in his Farrow on MMA column. So lets look at the fight itself. If Georges St. Pierre can stop Koscheck's takedowns, he's going to win the fight. Koscheck's striking isn't good enough to compete with St. Pierre on the feet. But Koscheck's takedowns and wrestling are quite possibly the best in the UFC. We'll find out for sure this Saturday because Matt Hughes couldn't take St. Pierre down. I don't think Koscheck will be able to either. Winner: Georges St. Pierre by strikes in the 3rd
Matt McEwen<: What a difference a fight makes. Just a few short months ago we were all talking about GSP as the prototype for the MMA fighter of the future. Unfortunately, that prototype seems to have a glaring weakness in the mental game. If his new sports psychologist has helped him with that, an on top of his game GSP should be able to handle Koscheck. His takedown defense and ground game should be good enough to neutralize Koscheck's wrestling, and if he is aggressive on his feet he should finish it by the second round. The only problem with that is I don't think GSP will be able to do that. Koscheck showed great patientce in finishing off Diego Sanchez's undefeated record, and if he shows the same here and picks his spot, he should score a big if unexciting win. Winner: Josh Koscheck, Decision
Morgan Marx: I doubt this fight will go the distance. Either Josh Koscheck is correct and he will exploit St-Pierre's alleged mental weakness, or St-Pierre will tear through Koscheck and remind everyone why he's the future of the weight class. Koscheck will probably get his takedown, maybe even early in the fight, but I don't see how he'll follow up on it. If Diego Sanchez can escape from the bottom against Kos, I imagine St-Pierre will as well. Koscheck won't be able to jab his way to victory against GSP, and if he gets desperate and shoots from the outside, I bet a knee or kick will catch him. Winner: Georges St-Pierre (TKO, Rd 2)
Ken Kobel: In past columns I have made no bones about the fact that Georges St. Pierre is my favorite MMA fighter. With that said, this fight has been giving me nightmares. I think St. Pierre has advantages in stand-up, BJJ, experience, cardio and pretty much everything else – except wrestling. The problem for GSP, and anyone else that steps in the octagon to face Josh Koscheck, is that we are not talking about High School State Champion level of wrestling. We are talking 42-0, 4-time NCAA Division 1 All-American. St. Pierre has stuffed takedowns from the likes of Penn, Sherk and Hughes, but the takedowns of Kos are on a different level. Still, I have faith in GSP and even if he is taken down I think he can sweep and get on top. Let's remember that Kos has shown vulnerability to getting reversed on the ground. Winner: Georges St. Pierre – TKO, Round 2
Larry Csonka: I see this being long, boring and tedious. I like GSP, but Koscheck will either bring the stand and bland or the lay and pray, and if he does that and GSP doesn't press the action, he'll fall into the trap and lose and that is exactly what I think will happen here. Winner: Josh Koscheck, Decision
Andrew Mellick: Josh Koscheck is hated by many a fan in the UFC, it could be his cocky attitude or it could be his brillo pad like hair. In any event he is still a strong fighter with a background in wrestling and kicking ass. Surprisingly Koscheck has no nickname that I am aware of. Georges St. Pierre, also known as "Rush" because of his fascination with Mount Rushmore, is a stone cold killer who was the shockee in has last loss to Matt Serra. GSP is looking for another shot at the title, while Koscheck is looking for his first shot. I think GSP's power and KO ability is going to win the day in this one Winner- GSP TKO Round 1
Bren Oliver: I'm nervous about this fight because there's not much about Koscheck I like and very little about GSP I dislike. Koscheck's arrogance is unfounded except perhaps in his own mind. Yes, he's an incredible wrestler. Yes, he beat Diego Sanchez (staph infection not withstanding). However, three of his last four fights have gone to decision, and the victory over Sanchez wasn't nearly as spectacular as Koscheck's post-match antics would have had fans believe. St. Pierre is almost the anti-Kos in a way. He wins in convincing fashion and is typically quite humble. I worry that he's an "overthinker" much in the same way Alex Rodriguez is in baseball. Both men are extremely talented at their chosen profession yet each man tends to stumble when the spotlight is on them. I don't believe Koscheck has ever fought anyone close to GSP's level and I will not be surprised if the fight isn't as competitive as some may think it will be. The former Welterweight Champion has handled wrestlers with Koscheck's ability in the form of Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, and Matt Hughes with relative ease. I see no reason the same can't happen here.
On a side note I think the win is much more important for St. Pierre. I'm not sure how a loss would affect his mental state. There are plenty of documented cases in sports where a very skilled individual seemingly loses his/her ability overnight due to a singular misfortune. To stick with the earlier A-Rod analogy and baseball, look into the careers of Rich Ankiel (as a pitcher) and Chuck Knoblauch. Koscheck losing would do very little other than stick him back into the talented pool of UFC Welterweights. I think most fans wouldn't mind seeing St. Pierre getting another shot at the title and Koscheck fighting Jon Fitch, Karo Parisyan, or even Diego Sanchez again. Winner: Georges St. Pierre, TKO - Round Two
Roger Huerta v. Alberto Crane
Lotfi Sariahmed: Huerta looked bad in the 1st round of his last fight against Douglas Evans. Then he went out and finished Evans in the 2nd. Huerta won't let it go that far against Crane. Winner: Roger Huerta by strikes in the 1st
Morgan Marx: There's nothing to suggest that this fight will end any differently from Huerta's other ventures into the cage. Crane has an immaculate record, but he's fought no one of note. He might give Huerta some trouble early, but Huerta's size and strength advantage should allow him to handle a submission expert like Crane. Winner: Roger Huerta (TKO, Rd 1)
Ken Kobel: Roger Huerta will make yet another appearance against a person with zero UFC fights. This now makes five times that this has happened. Still, Alberto Crane is probably the toughest test he has had yet in the UFC. Crane is a BJJ master with an 8-0 MMA record and seven of those wins coming by submission. I can see Huerta getting on top here pretty easily but avoiding submissions will be the issue. Let's go with Crane here just because I am sick of the UFC spoon-feeding Huerta competition and would love to see it bite them in the ass. Winner: Alberto Crane – Submission, Round 2
Larry Csonka: Are you seeing a trend here? I really feel that this will be a night of submissions and boringly long submission battles. Roger Huerta will win by a decisive unanimous decision here, but it will end in a decision. Winner: Roger Huerta, Decision
Andrew Mellick: Roger Huerta has been destroying the UFC, his only loss came back in '04 and since then he has been running through the UFC. Some will remember his match of the year against Leonard Garcia. Alberto Crane is his can…er…I mean his competition. Sure this guy is undefeated but he has never fought in the UFC before and to be honest he seems like fodder the UFC is trying to build Huerta on. Barring a dumb mistake I expect this to end in highlight reel fashion. Winner- El Matador TKO Round 1
Bren Oliver: Annnnnnnd the UFC build of Roger Huerta continues. This will be Huerta's fifth nobody in a row. Granted, his scrap with Leonard Garcia turned out to be a classic, and his last fast, against Douglas Evans, was hotly contested up until the end. That still doesn't mean either man wasn't set up as a tomato can. Huerta's career thus far is clearly White's marketing mind at work. Dana has expressed his interest in capturing the Latino demographic and Huerta definitely has some Oscar DeLaHoya "pretty-boy" in him. Crane is undefeated at 8-0 and seems to prefer submitting opponents. I definitely won't count him out, because MMA is partially built on the thrill of upsets, but it seems pretty elementary that Huerta should come out on top. Plus, he's from Austin, Texas (as am I) so how can I root against him? Winner: Roger Huerta, TKO - Round One
Randy Couture v. Gabriel Gonzaga
Lotfi Sariahmed: Couture would have preferred "Cro Cop". He doesn't possess the same ground game Gonzaga does. Couture didn't have to deal with any ground game against Sylvia but now he's facing a heavier ground technician in "Napao". This was supposed to be a battle of ground games in this heavyweight title fight and then Gonzaga went and knocked "Cro Cop's" head out of the M.E.N. arena in England. So Couture will be in an interesting bout. But after the Sylvia fight I'm not going to underestimate Couture again. If Couture is the aggressor in this fight he should retain his belt. Winner: Randy Couture by strikes in the 4th
Matt McEwen: My heart says to go with Couture to retain. If he has proven anything over the years it is that you should NEVER bet against Couture when he steps into the Octagon. No one trains harder and I can't think of a smarter fighter in MMA. You know he will come in with as complete a gameplan as possible here. My brain, however, tells me to go with Gonzaga, and not because of his striking as a lot of casual fans would assume. The reason Couture dropped down to 205 a few years ago was because of the bigger bodied heavyweights with ground skills that were able to overpower him. Gonzaga fits that description to a tee. He is a much bigger man who will be coming in confident after such a high profile win. Lost in his KO of Cro Cop is that Gonzaga has one of the top jiu jitsu games in the heavyweight division so he should be able to at least neutralize Couture on the ground. But I hope not..... Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga, Decision.
Morgan Marx: Not to take anything away from Randy Couture's surprising Indian summer, but I think it's safe to say he took advantage of a Tim Sylvia lacking an A game. Gabriel Gonzaga will be hungry, aggressive, and confident. Couture can't rely on overwhelming a doubt-riddled opponent. Gonzaga has more ways to end the fight, but Couture has experience on his side (at this point, Couture always has experience on his side). If the fight goes into the later round, Couture might be able to take advantage of Gonzaga's cardio. But I don't think it will last that long. Couture has so much going for him outside of the octagon, and has admitted that he fights for challenges, not the belt. I think a fight versus Mirko Filipovic would have interested Couture much more than a fight versus a physically imposing BJJ fighter. Couture is set to star in a major motion picture this October, while Gonzaga is literally fighting to put food on his table. I think Gonzaga has an edge in desire
that will lead to victory. Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga (TKO, Rd 2)
Ken Kobel: Since Gonzaga decapitated CroCop I have flip-flopped on who I think is winning this fight roughly 5,138 times. Even as I write this I still am mulling over my decision. In the end I am going to go with… still thinking… Gonzaga. I think Gabe poses too many problems for Couture. He is huge which means Couture will not be able to easily score a takedown. Even if he does get him down, Randy will have to worry about submissions from the bottom and being swept. Standing I would give a technical edge to Randy, but he has not shown the knockout power that Gonzaga has. The longer the fight goes the more it favors Couture. He showed no signs of gassing against Tim Sylvia and Gabe has never been passed the third round. Gabe will need to finish early, which I think he can do. Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga – Submission, Round 2
Larry Csonka: This is a hard one to pick for me. I mean, is Gabriel Gonzaga a one hit wonder or is he the real deal? I would like to think that he is the read deal, but we see so many flashes in the pan it is hard to tell. I have a ton of faith in Randy, but he is training, opening up gyms, about to star in a movie and that could have him out of the game. Add into it that he isn't getting any younger and it could be a recipe for disaster. But I will stay loyal and I think he'll take the youngster to the limit. Winner: Randy Couture, Decision
Andrew Mellick: Randy Couture shocked the MMA world with a win over Tim "Back Pedal" Sylvia. He looked sharp and his game plan worked perfect. Gonzaga is a monster who took Crocop's head home as a present back at UFC 70. He is big strong and hungry.
It's a tough call but I'm going with Gonzaga here. He is so damn tough and he is well versed in BJJ as well. I think he'll overpower Couture and end it quick. The longer this one goes the better chance Randy has, so I expect a first round TKO. Gonzaga will grab the belt, throw over the cage, grab six girls on his way out and make sweet love to them in his cave on top of a mountain. His nickname is Napao, but I don't know what that means so I'm changing it. Winner- Gabriel "El Berzerko" Gonzaga TKO Round 1
Bren Oliver: UFC 74 was supposed to be the UFC Heavyweight Division's shining moment - Randy Couture vs. Mirko Cro Cop! Funny how a shinbone can change things, isn't it? Gonzaga put the "POW!!!" in "Napao", using the Croatian's signature high kick against him and shocking the world in the process. What Gonzaga lacks in starpower, something Cro Cop certainly has, he makes up for in a complete skillset. He strikes well, he's good in the guard, and he's well versed in submissions. I don't even feel dirty saying he's a more complete fighter than Randy Couture. However, I will never count out "The Natural". I am absolutely sipping the same Kool Aid as Joe Rogan and countless other fans of MMA. Couture will have done his homework without a doubt. I'm guessing he will try to isolate Gonzaga on the ground. Randy seems to struggle against strikers and his chin is definitely not one of the best in the business. If Couture can figure out a way to keep Gonzaga on his back and rain down punches/elbows I think he has a fair chance of pulling out a win. It may not be exciting in nature, but I personally think seeing Couture fight is entertainment in itself no matter what happens. Winner: Randy Couture (because the MMA fan in me reigns supreme), Judges' Decision