With UFC 102 on the horizon, I figured this would be a good time for my inaugural event prediction. While I’m certainly not a professional (at least, not yet), I like to consider myself pretty knowledgeable on fighters, camps, and mixed martial arts in general. I’m only going to go ahead and do the main card, because I’m not particularly familiar with a lot of the undercard fighters. Maybe when I know more of these guys I’ll do the undercard along with the main card. These picks are based on my own opinions, and you’re free to debate them with me in the comments.
Chris Leben vs. Jake Rosholt
Rosholt, Rd. 3 by Unanimous Dec
I’m not terribly fond of Leben as a fighter, I don’t think he’s ever really impressed me too much technically. He’s got a good wrestling base and can certainly bang it out, but I don’t think his wrestling is good enough against Rosholt’s, who is a three-time NCAA champ, and has been training with Xtreme Couture for a couple years now. On the other hand, Leben’s got tons more experience than Rosholt, and this will probably help him survive most of the fight. I see Rosholt dominating in the clinch, probably getting a lot of takedowns and some ground-and-pound, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to finish Leben off.
Brandon Vera vs. Krzysztof Socynski
Vera, Rd.3 by Unanimous Decision
Socynski is a very dangerous challenge for Vera, who’s just getting out of a huge slump in his career. Socynski hits hard, has a great top game, and even if he doesn’t have the best jiu-jitsu, he’s probably got the Kimura as good as any black belt. Vera, however, is no stranger to hard-hitters, going the distance against Tim Sylvia, who’s one of the biggest fighters the UFC has ever seen. I think Vera’s kickboxing is better than Socynski’s, and I don’t know if Socynski will be able to power through for a takedown. I think the fight will stay standing, and we’ll see Vera pull off a dominant victory.
Nate Marquart vs. Demian Maia
Maia, Rd.1 by Submission
If you asked me a week ago about this fight, I would have told you that Marquart would keep the fight standing and maybe even score a TKO or decision victory. But after watching UFC’s 102 Countdown, I think Nate’s got a bit chip on his shoulder about people disrespecting his ground game. It’s not that his jiu-jitsu is bad; it’s just that Maia’s is so much better. I think he’s going to try and prove something by tangling with Maia on the ground in the first round (probably after a Maia sweep or takedown), and then getting caught by a submission. If Marquart keeps his cool, I do think he can pose a big threat to Maia with his big power and clinch fighting.
Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva
Silva, Rd.2 by KO
Jardine’s a great fighter, and is very difficult to train for, but I really do see Silva just walking right through him. Silva went on a 13-fight winning streak (with 10 knockouts and 2 submissions, one to ground-and-pound) before finally losing to Lyoto Machida, who happens to be the current champion and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
A lot of people talk about how Jardine’s beaten some of the best in the world, with wins over Griffin, Liddel, and Vera, but he’s also lost to top fighters like Jackson, Wanderlei, and Houston Alexander. All of the fighters he lost to were very similar to Silva, packing big power in the hands and constantly pushing the action. Silva may not have faced the very best in the division, but judging by his record, I’d say he belongs up there with them.
Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
Couture, Rd.3 by T/KO
Tough fight to call, for sure. Two living legends, the very best of the sport. On one hand, Couture has incredible power in his hands and is one of the best wrestling-style fighters in the world. Incredible endurance and conditioning, coupled the ability to use the Greco-Roman clinch to wear down his opponents, makes him the winner of just about any war of attrition. No one doubts the fighting ability of this 46 year old, and anyone who does should try spending even just one round wrestling with him.
However, even after all that’s said and done, Nogueira is probably the only person able to take everything Couture can dish out, and then still throw some crazy armbar or leglock for a tide-turning victory. If you’ve seen his fights in Pride, Nogueira has taken punches from people like Dan Henderson, Fedor, and Tim Sylvia, and even a full-on head kick from Mirko Cro-Cop, and still can keep on fighting. The first time that Nogueria was ever knocked out was by Frank Mir last year, after ten years and 37 fights. Granted, we haven’t seen Nogueira at the top of his game lately, and it’s possible that all the punishment he’s taken is catching up with him. But if we do see a strong and well-conditioned Nogueira tomorrow night, I can guarantee that Couture will have his hands full trying to stop this man. I think Couture has the tools and conditioning to beat Nogueira eventually, but I feel like it’s going to go all the way down to the wire before he can finish him, if he can at all.