Friday, February 24, 2012

UFC 144 Preview!

The UFC returns to Japan this weekend for the first time in 12 years, with a card so stacked, that they are going to have seven fights on the PPV portion of the card, and the PPV is scheduled for four hours instead of the traditional three!  That’s awesome, though for those on the east coast, it means the show won’t end until 2am.  Anyways, I thought I’d take a look at the seven bouts that are scheduled for the PPV portion of the show!  Here we go! 

Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis
Lauzon comes into this fight on a two fight winning streak, with wins over Curt Warburton and Melvin Guillard, both coming by Submission in less than 2 minutes each.  Pettis meanwhile is trying to get himself back in title contention, as he won his last fight, a split decision over Jeremy Stephens back in October, after a crushing loss to Clay Guida that caused him to miss out on a title shot last year.  Both are fight finishers, and this should be a hell of a battle between two guys who are good on the ground.  Pettis may have better hands than Lauzon, but Lauzon has won 5 of his 21 career wins by KO/TKO as well, so you can’t sleep on his hands either.  In the end, I think the experience factor is going to win out here and Lauzon will wear down Pettis and submit him, probably in the 2nd round I’d guess. 

Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski
Hioki comes in with a five fight win streak, and also has won 10 of his last 11.  Palaszweski is coming off a win himself, and has won 5 of his last 6.  This is one of those fights where if it stays on the feet, Palaszweski has the edge, but if it goes to the ground, I see Hioki having the edge there.  Hioki obviously has the home court advantage as well, but, since “every fight starts on the feet”, Palaszweski is likely to catch him at some point and put him down.  Palaszweski by KO/TKO is most likely the way I see this ending. 

Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
Boetsch is a beast at 185, a big, big man who is 2-0 since dropping down in weight.  He’s got a super tough opponent in Okami, who is coming off his TKO loss in a Middleweight Title fight with Anderson Silva.  Okami is tough though as mentioned.  In his last 22 fights, he is 18-4, with those four coming to Jake Shields, Rich Franklin, Chael Sonnen, and Anderson Silva, all top, top level fighters.  Is Boetsch anywhere near that level?  Well, this fight may help us figure that out.  Okami certainly has an experience advantage, but as seen with Silva, he can be KO’d.  Boetsch doesn’t have a KO since moving to 185, but certainly has the power to do so.  All that said, I just think the experience will be too much, and Okami will get a submission or decision win here.  He is at a different level than Boetsch at this point. 

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
I mean no disrespect to Akiyama, and I know he’s on the card because he’s a “big deal” in Japan and what not, but he’s 1-3 in the UFC, and frankly, I thought he lost the fight to Belcher as well and should be 0-4.  When you get tapped out by Chris Leben, I don’t like your chances in the least against a guy like Shields who is worlds better than Leben on the ground.  To me, this is likely the easiest pick I’ll make on the card, Shields by Submission.  If Akiyama is lucky, he might lose a decision, but he ain’t winning this fight. 

Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt
If you are looking for a clinic in submissions and quick switches on the ground and all that, you probably will want to look somewhere else.  This is going to be two huge heavyweights standing in front of each other and pounding the hell out of each other.  Hunt has only been KO’d once in his career, and has two straight wins in the division.  I have never been a big fan of Kongo, every time I start to like him, he has a performance that just makes me shake my head and wonder what the heck he’s doing.  Hunt is a big underdog on the betting lines for this fight, and frankly, I think he’d be a strong play, as he’s got every chance in the world to KO Kongo.  I’m going with the upset, Mark Hunt by KO/TKO!

Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
This is a fight I really want to see, because it says a lot about the future of the Light Heavyweight division.  Bader is a fast rising star, who clearly needs to learn not to get caught in guillotine chokes.  Rampage is a star at the tail end of his career, but is still really dangerous, especially in the punching game.  Is Rampage really into this fight though?  I know he wanted a “bigger name” to fight in Japan, so is he perhaps taking Bader lightly?  Bader is a great wrestler, and I think he has a real chance to frustrate Jackson on the ground.  Given that I’m not sure Rampage fully knows what a guillotine choke is, I don’t think Bader will have to be too concerned about that on a shot in, so I think he will shoot as often as he can and try to ground and pound and ride his way to a decision victory over one of the top names in the game.  Bader by decision.

UFC Lightweight Title
Frankie Edgar (C) vs. Ben Henderson
This is the fight between the two fighters who (all due respect to Gilbert Melendez), I believe are the absolute best two fighters in the world today at 155.  It’s a great style matchup, with Edgar’s quickness against Henderson’s relentlessness and non-stop motor that just goes on for days.  I could go either way on this fight, and likely have changed my mind more on this fight than any I’ve ever tried to pick.  Edgar is so tough to pick against, because every time you do, he wins, again.  He’s 14-1-1, with both the loss and draw coming againt Gray Maynard who he defeated by TKO the last time out.  Yet, Henderson is 15-2, with his last loss being the final fight in the WEC against Anthony Pettis (that was the fight Pettis hit that crazy running kick off the fence).  He’s rebounded nicely with three straight decision victories against tough opponents in Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida.  As I’m writing this, I’m going with my original prediction, it’s going to be a fight of the year candidate, and after all is said and done, your winner by a 48-47 score will be Ben Henderson, the new UFC Lightweight Champion!

Are you excited for the card?  Looking forward to any fights in particular?  Chime in here or interact with us on Facebook as well!

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