UFC on Versus 6 Preview: Johnson vs. Cruz

nullThe main event of UFC on Versus 6 is for the UFC Bantamweight Championship with Dominick Cruz defending his UFC title for the second time against Demetrious Johnson.

The fight is a rare championship bout on free television, as the card airs on Versus this Saturday at 9PM ET.

Here is a look at both fighters heading into this title bout.

Dominick Cruz (18-1): The bantamweight champion is coming off his toughest fight to date, a unanimous decision win over Urijah Faber at UFC 132 back in July. The fight was exciting and very competitive, but allowed the champ to avenge his lone loss in his career. Cruz’ style is very difficult to prepare for as he uses very elusive footwork to work in a combination of punches and kicks and then get out of danger. He also has a very explosive wrestling background, which he tends to use late in rounds to secure 10 points with the judges. Cruz has shown the ability to take a punch when hit, and stuff opponents takedowns with great ease.

Demetrious Johnson (9-1) – Johnson has quickly surged up the bantamweight rankings, winning his last four fights in the Zuffa Organization since losing his debut with the brand to Brad Pickett back in April of 2010. His win streak has included the likes of Damacio Page, Kid Yamamoto, and Miguel Torres. Johnson has a strong wrestling base that has worked to his advantage, as he has been able to keep opponents on their back. While he has some good striking, he has a very short reach and probably will struggle to land clean strikes on the mobile champion. Johnson’s best bet to win will be to get Cruz against the cage and use his strength to force him to the ground. The more this fight is fought with distance, the worse his chances are.

Who will win? – I think Johnson has some promise, but this is not a good matchup for him and I am not quite sure he is ready for a title shot. He has not beaten any of the top four bantamweights in Cruz, Faber, Joseph Benavidez, or Brian Bowles. This is a big step up in competition and the fight is on a big stage. I see Cruz controlling the fight with his style and winning by decision once again.

Matt Hughes: A gateway to today’s MMA

nullWhen I think of Matt Hughes, I am reminded of quote from the classic movie Old School.

“I hate your guts, but damn do I respect you.”

I have never been a fan of the UFC Hall of Famer and former welterweight champion.

He has always been overly critical of other fighters while failing to evolve with the sport himself, in my opinion.

However, as he took to the octagon for perhaps the final time at UFC 135, I have to admit, I felt a little conflicted.

Though Hughes is not even a top 10 welterweight in my eyes, but his accomplishments are undeniable.

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UFC 135 Recap – Jones backs up the hype

nullJon Jones has been as impressive as anyone in his short UFC career, but on Saturday, he continued to impress.

The UFC Light Heavyweight Champion ran through another opponent at UFC 135, beating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson by submission in the fourth round to retain his title.

The first three rounds saw Jones dictate the fight with his long reach, especially with his kicks. Jackson was never able to get inside that long reach, but did show some good takedown defense in the fight.

Once the fourth round came, Jones caught Jackson with a big straight punch that seemed to stun Jackson. The fight then soon went to the ground and Jones quickly secured a rear-naked choke and forced a tap of Jackson. It was just the second submission loss of Jackson’s career and his first since 2001.

Jones seemed to only hurt himself in the fight as opposed to take damage from Jackson. He appeared to injure his feet from throwing a number of kicks at Jackson. Hopefully he doesn’t have a broken foot so he and Rashad Evans can face off sooner rather than later.

In the co-main event, Josh Koscheck knocked out Matt Hughes at 4:59 of the first round to get his first win in over a year. Hughes put on an impressive striking display in the early portion of the round but eventually got cracked, and that led to the finish.

Hughes hinted that Saturday’s loss could be his last fight, but didn’t say the actual word “retire”. I will touch more on that tomorrow.

For full UFC 135 results, check out the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

UFC 135 Picks and Predictions

nullUFC 135 kicks off an amazing two-month span for the premiere MMA organization.

The card features a light heavyweight championship bout and a number of exciting fights.

Here are my picks for the main card bouts.

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship – Jon Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-8) – Jones faces his biggest challenge to date in his young MMA career while Rampage is looking to stay in the spotlight of the UFC. There are some big questions here as Jones has yet to face any adversity in the octagon or really have his chin tested. Jackson has big power in both his hand, and if he can get inside the reach of Jones, he can knock him out. However, Rampage is somewhat one dimensional, using just boxing to win fights. I have no doubt that Jones has the ability to get Jackson to the ground if he so chooses. I think he will use his kicks and jabs to keep Jackson uncomfortable in the beginning and then eventually get the fight to the ground where I see him finishing Jackson with ground-and-pound strikes. Look for Jones to win this one in the third round.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Matt Hughes (46-8) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-5) – Hughes was originally scheduled to face Diego Sanchez, but an injury forced Koscheck into the mix. Hughes had a better chance of beating Sanchez in my opinion as I don’t see him being able to wrestle Koscheck to the ground. Koscheck seems to be the better wrestler and the better striker in this fight. Koscheck’s only issue is that he is a wild striker, so he could leave himself open to a counter by Hughes. Hughes doesn’t have great power, but Koscheck doesn’t have a great chin. Still, I see Koscheck doing enough to earn a decision win over the UFC Hall of Famer.

UFC Heavyweight Bout – Travis Browne (11-0-1) vs. Rob Broughton (15-5-1) – Browne appears to be a rising star in the heavyweight division. He has some great striking as he uses his powerful fists and mixes in nice leg kicks. Broughton is tough, but I think he is the sacrificial lamb in this fight to push Travis Browne into the MMA spotlight. Look for Browne to win by TKO in the first round.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7) – Gomi fought Nick Diaz years ago in an amazing fight and I see this bought being just as exciting. The big issue with Gomi is that he tires easily and that will allow Diaz to get him to the ground and secure a choke. I like Nate Diaz to win by rear-naked choke in the third round of this one.

UFC Heavyweight Bout – Ben Rothwell (31-7) vs. Mark Hunt (6-7) – Hunt was promising back in the day, but he just doesn’t have the skills to compete with most in the UFC. I see Rothwell overwhelming him early in the fight and getting a TKO finish with a flurry of punches in the first round.

UFC 135 Weigh-In Results – All Fighters Make Weight

nullThe fight card for UFC 135 is official as all 20 fighters came in on weight on Friday for Saturday’s card.

The main event of Jon Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had a little intensity added to the anticipation of the fight as the two had an intense stare down after each weighing in at 204 pounds for their UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout.

Jones, who typically looks off to the side during a stare down, looked right in the eyes of Jackson, which led Rampage to look back and tell him “I’m going to end your hype.” Jones kept yelling “Let’s Go” back, but nothing physical took place. Both men looked in good shape and ready for a war on Saturday night.

Matt Hughes weighed in at 170 pounds for his welterweight showdown with Josh Koscheck, who came in at 170.5 pounds. There wasn’t much added by their stare down, as they stayed pretty distant from each other. Koscheck had a very intense and focused mindset, as he looked like he was ready to get into the cage as soon as possible.

For the full weigh-in results for Saturday’s UFC 135 card, check out the jump.

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Belfort injured, Wanderlei Silva to face Cung Le at UFC 139

nullJust a few weeks after Vitor Belfort announced he would be taking on Cung Le at UFC 139, he has now had to announce he will not be fighting after all.

According to MMAFighting.com, Belfort suffered an injury that will force him out of the fight. But, the UFC was quick to find a replacement, as Wanderlei Silva will step in to take on Le at UFC 139.

Wanderlei Silva will make his return to the Octagon on November 19 in San Jose, when he takes on former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le at UFC 139.

UFC President Dana White announced today that Vitor Belfort had to pull out of his fight with Le because of an injury, and as a result Silva will step in and take it.

Belfort vs. Le had the makings of a great fight because of the speed and quickness both have in their striking.

However, Le vs. Silva should be just as good, if not better, because Silva is relentless and is willing to be knocked out in order to put on a show. Belfort is more hesitant in his striking. With Silva now in, expect fireworks and an explosive knockout when he and Cung Le face off.

UFC 135 Betting Odds: Jones Favored

nullUFC 135 takes place this Saturday night and the card has a number of big matchups, including the long-awaited first title defense of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon “Bones” Jones.

Betting odds have been released for this weekend’s bouts and Jones is the overwhelming favorite to defeat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Saturday. Jones has been given a money line of -485 while Jackson has odds of +385. Jones (13-1) has ran through his last four opponents, winning each fight by TKO or submission. Jackson (32-8) has won his last two bouts, both coming by decision. Jackson has had six of his last seven fights end with a decision, as his last KO win was in 2008.

In the co-main event, Josh Koscheck is the clear favorite to defeat Matt Hughes in a welterweight contest. Koscheck has odds of -455 to defeat Hughes, while the former welterweight champion has odds of +355 to win. Koscheck (15-5) is taking this fight on short notice and he hasn’t competed since last December when he lost to Georges St. Pierre. Hughes (45-8) hasn’t competed since last November, when he lost in 21 second to B.J. Penn. Hughes doesn’t have much left to fight for, but still is a dangerous wrestler with some good submission skills.

For complete odds for UFC 135, check out the jump.

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Henderson vs. Shogun planned for UFC 139

nullDan Henderson disposed of one former PRIDE legend, can he do it again in his return to the octagon.

MMAWeekly.com is reporting that the current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion has agreed to return to the UFC to take on former PRIDE champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua have verbally agreed to face off at UFC 139 on Nov. 19, MMAWeekly.com has learned.

Independent sources confirmed the fight, which will stand as Henderson’s return to the organization after defeating Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce.

The bout will likely be the new main event for the card that saw its prior main event between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and no. 1 contender Junior dos Santos get moved to the main event of the Nov. 12 UFC on Fox fight card.

This is an exciting addition to UFC 139 and likely could be a No. 1 contender’s match in the division after Rashad Evans takes on the winner of Jon Jones vs. “Rampage” Jackson.

It’s surprising that these two never met in PRIDE, as both were legends and champions in the organization.

Both men have one-punch KO power and formidable skills on the ground, with Henderson being a wrestling specialist, and Rua being a submission specialist.

UFC Fight Night 25 Recap: Jake Ellenberger has arrived

nullIf anyone had doubts about Jake Ellenberger being a top contender in the UFC welterweight division, they were put to rest on Saturday night.

The rising star knocked out Jake Shields in under a minute in the main event of UFC Fight Night 25, giving him the biggest win of his career over the recent No. 1 contender in the division.

It was an explosive victory, as Ellenberger used a big knee to set up a flurry of punches from the ground to finish the fight. But, in that short time, Ellenberger showed the tools he needs to be a star.

Early in the fight he threw an uppercut that would have ended the fight if it landed. Clearly he found a hole in Shields game in terms of his ability to defend inside punches.

Also, Shields had a few weak takedown attempts that Shields easily defended. In this division, takedown defense is going to be a big thing for Ellenberger.

His striking is on par with anyone in the division and his aggression is up there with anyone, which makes him a dangerous opponent. He is a fighter that is willing to fall on his sword in hopes of winning a fight, but he has all the skills to avoid that fate.

It will be interesting to see what is next for Ellenberger as he awaits the UFC welterweight Final Four that is coming up at UFC 137 in late October.

I will also be interested to see what is next for Shields. His drop to welterweight in the UFC has been anything but stellar, as he is now 1-2 and his one win was razor thin. Perhaps a move back to 185 pounds will be in order.

UFC Fight Night 25 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC Fight Night 25 takes place on Saturday night from New Orleans with a solid card of four free fights.

Here is a look at which fighters I like on Saturday, and why.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Jake Shields (26-5-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (25-5) – Shields is coming off the loss of his father, which may affect his performance, but I think this is his fight to lose. Ellenberger is a rising star and clearly the better striker, but he is taking a big step up in competition. I see Shields being able to work in his takedowns and grappling control to earn a tough decision victory.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Court McGee (12-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-1) – This is a classic striker vs. grappler match up, and I like the grappler to prevail. Yang has big punching power, but I see McGee getting this fight up against the cage where Yang will be neutralized. From there, look for McGee to grind out a few takedowns and eventually secure a choke in the later rounds.

UFC Featherweight Bout – Jonathan Brookins (13-3) vs. Erik Koch (12-1) – Koch is considered the favorite according to the oddsmakers, but my pick goes with Brookins. He needs a lot of work in his striking, but his grappling takes a back seat to nobody in the division. I see Brookins taking a few punches early, but eventually getting inside Koch and using a judo throw or roll to get the fight to the ground. From there, I expect Brookins to work in a choke to get the win.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Alan Belcher (15-5) vs. Jason MacDonald (26-14) – Belcher makes his return after more than a year off and he has a lot to fight for. He was a rising star in the division prior to his eye injury and he should have the skills to get past MacDonald, who is somewhat one dimensional, with a great submission skill set. Look for Belcher to pick apart MacDonald on his feet and avoid the ground game as he gets a decision win.