28 January 2009

UFC 94 Predictions (click here for a link to the official card)

Allow me to get this on the record before the 31st. Otherwise people will look askance when I brag about calling the fights. Also, this should give folk a chance to laugh at me if I blow it. UFC 94 promises to be vastly more exciting than 93, and this of course is a very good thing. This is the long anticipated rematch between George St. Pierre and BJ Penn, but in addition to this is an entire undercard of serious fighters. Enough preliminaries, let me get on with my predictions so you can place your bets. Where to start?

St. Pierre vs Penn
Penn by knockout. (If Pierre wins it will be by decision)
Penn has dismantled his last few opponents, and shows no signs of slowing down, or taking his training less seriously. Also in Penn's favor is his history of taking losses more seriously personally. To some fighters losses make them perpetually gunshy as they face the person who bested them (think Franklin against Silva in their rematch). Penn doesn't seem to have this problem. He trains harder, watches tape, and takes more risks. Penn has a strong history of avenging losses. Couple this with the new seriousness he has taken his entire fighting career and I think this spells trouble for the talented St. Peirre.

Penn essentially needs to duplicate much of his performance against Sean Sherk. He built that success on his jab. He has a crisp jab (probably the best in MMA) and it forces wrestlers back one or two steps. Thus the shoot for the take down begins from farther out. Penn has the most amazing takedown defense anyway, when you add a foot or two to the entry, you simply aren't getting Penn down and eating punches while not getting him down. St. Pierre has great take downs and Penn needs to neutralize that. If he does, than that keeps Pierre standing up, open not only to Penn's superior hands, but Penn's own take downs. Should that happen, should Penn land on top, that would likely be the end of the fight. I say that even though Pierre is an excellent Jiu-jitsu player. I think Penn is just better on the ground, and certainly better on top.

St. Pierre has few more striking tools, a versatile kicker and puncher,but I don't think he will brings shocking power in eithe place. His knockouts come from his precision, and variety. He also brings a fantastic ground and pound. However Penn has heavy hands and Pierre has a suspect chin. Matt Serra managed to send Pierre to the canvas with an awkward overhand right.

Penn, in round three or four by knockout is my prediction especially if he throws that stiff jab. He doesn't seem to bear any animus toward Pierre, so if he ends up on top, expect a rear naked choke, if he can take it. Don't look for arm bars, omoplatas, or triangles late in the fight, though he might give them a try late in any round as the risk of losing dominant position isn't a worry.

Lyoto Machida vs Thiago Silva
Machida by decision. Alot of people dislike Machida, but he is a smart fighter, versitile striker, and accomplished in brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is trains with current UFC champ, Anderson Silva, former Pride and UFC champs Vitor Belfort, and Minotauro Nogueria. If you don't know it already that is an amazing camp in which to train. Take my word for it. Machida has great footwork and an unorthodox delivery. He has made everyone he has fought in the UFC look damn silly. Look for more of the same here. Both fighters are 13-0 so a great deal is riding on the fight for both men. I don't expect a lot of coasting. Silva will no doubt look to press the action. Machida will fight conservatively, and protect, and lengthen any lead he creates. This will be, at least on the part of Machida, a very tigth conservative fight.

Stephan Bonner vs Jon Jones (not the Martian Manhunter)

Jones by knock out second or third (unless I am wrong about him being the Martian Manhunter in which case this fight is over the minute the ref says go. Bonner then becomes a fine red mist after the first punch...yuck). Bonner, game and hard working has not impressed me in any outing in his UFC time, except his first. He isn't a heavy hitter, and tends to take a lot of punishment. He has good BJJ though, and that is his only real place to shine in this fight. However, the longer the fight the sweatier the principles and lower the odds for success for many submissions. Another bad night for Bonner.

Karo Parisyan vs Dong Hyun Kim
Kim tko strikes top position or straight knockout in the first, second, or third.
(I'm basing that assessment largely on Kim's highlight reel which can be seen here..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boNsCCpWYI4 )
At first I thought the records here would probably be the tale of the fight. Karo 26-5-0, Kim 10-0-1. If the skills are equal then experience hedges inexperience. I don't honestly know a great deal about Kim, and quite alot about Parisyan. Parisyan is great in the clinch, and is dynamic with his Judo. However he is always gassed at in the third and his hands at this level are simply not up to the standard. He carries them low, late in every round (and even early sometimes) and consequently ends up eating stiff accurate shots when he really should not. Betting on your conditioning to carry you through getting dropped (something Parisyan has done too often) is not good enough and will probably not carry him through this fight.

Kim has sharper hands by far, good versatile kicks (often a surprise for UFC fighters, who are used to Muy Thai and Boxing deliveries). Worse for Karo, is the fact that not only does Kim defend the clinch well, he launches a potent offense from the clinch. Knees, Judo, elbows, the Kim-clinch brings more weapons than Parisyan. On top of this, at 6'1" Kim has a significant reach advantage. Alot of people will be picking Parisyan, but I think this fight for Kim to win or lose.

Nate Diaz vs Clay Guida
Diaz, by knockout or submission. Any round.
I like Nate Diaz for this fight. He as fast, loose hands, and a relaxed up right delivery. Nothing disguises punches more than that relaxed delivery. Diaz has some of the slickest Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in the UFC. On the feet, or on the ground this is a potentially rough fight for Guida. Guida is a smart guy, good wrestler, with okay hands.

John Fitch vs Akihiro Gono
Fitch by decision.
Another potential toss up. Both are complete fighters. Gono is intense and can bring a massive amount of pressure. If Fitch can handle that. Then its probably his fight.

Manny Gamburyan vs Thiago Tavares
Based soley on the records, Thiago Tavares.