- FIGHT-BY-FIGHT: UFC 76 IN ANAHEIM

September 22, 2007
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by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
CHUCK LIDDELL VS. KEITH JARDINE

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell takes on Ultimate Fighter 2 alumni Keith Jardine. Chuck Liddell has a 20-4 record in MMA and trains out of The Pit with John Hackleman. Keith Jardine has a 12-3-1 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Rashad Evans. Liddell comes off a knockout loss to current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson at UFC 71. Jardine comes off a shocking knockout loss to Houston Alexander at UFC 71.

Liddell had originally hoped to face Wanderlei Silva but contract negotiations put a nix to that. He know instead faces Jardine, who also comes off a knockout loss on the same card. A loss here could be very devastating for either fighter, as it would put them out of the title hunt for the foreseeable future. It seemed that Jardine took Alexander too lightly and he paid for dearly for it, now he looks to rebound against an even tougher opponent in Liddell. In order for Jardine to win the fight, he has to come in with a smart game plan like against Forrest Griffin and stayed disciplined during punching exchanges. Liddell needs to lure Jardine into in an exchange, where he can use his crisp counters in order to finish off Jardine. Look for these two to fight a tactical battle as they feel each other out but once they begin to trade wildly, expect Liddell to land a fight ending combination.

Prediction: Chuck Liddell by KO in the second round.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
FORREST GRIFFIN VS. MAURICIO “SHOGUN” RUA

Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forrest Griffin takes on Pride Middleweight GP 2005 Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Forrest Griffin has a 14-4 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Randy Couture. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has a 16-2 record in MMA and trains out of the Cute Boxe Academy with Murilo “Ninja” Rua. Griffin comes off a decision victory over Hector Ramirez at UFC 72. Rua comes off a stoppage victory over Alistair Overeem at Pride 33.

This is probably the most anticipated debut in recent UFC history, as Rua is considered to be the best light heavyweight in the world. Griffin came to fame on the Ultimate Fighter and is still the most popular fighter to come from the show because of his likable personality. Griffin has hit a bit of a rough patch, haven lost a controversial decision to Tito Ortiz, getting knocked out by Keith Jardine and then winning a dull decision over Ramirez. Rua ran through the competition in Pride with his only hiccup being a freak injury loss to Mark Coleman. A win against Rua would instantly put Griffin into title contention, while a win for Rua earns him a shot at the title and against a man he already beat. Look for both guys to trade on their feet but Rua’s instinct will kick in and he’ll take Griffin to the ground, submitting him midway through the fight.

Prediction: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by submission in the second round.

WELTERWEIGHT BOUT:
JON FITCH VS. DIEGO SANCHEZ

American Kickboxing Academy fighter Jon Fitch takes on Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Diego Sanchez. Jon Fitch has a 14-2 record in MMA and trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy with Josh Koscheck. Diego Sanchez has a 17-1 record in MMA and trains out of California with Alex Garcia. Fitch comes off an impressive submission victory over Roan Carneiro at UFC Fight Night 10. Sanchez comes off a decision loss to Josh Koscheck at UFC 69.

This is one of the more highly anticipated fights on the card, as both fighters are top ten welterweights in the world. Fitch is undefeated in the UFC and has been running through all of his opponents, finishing the majority of them. Sanchez comes off the first loss of his career and an ugly break up from longtime trainer Greg Jackson. Its hard to tell what kind of mindset Sanchez will be in on Saturday night and if he has had the proper training to get ready for the toughest fight of his career. Fitch has been an absolute beast in the UFC and his run will continue on Saturday night, putting him in title contention. Look for Fitch to control the fight on the feet and to fight a fast torrid pace, finishing Sanchez with strikes on the ground.

Prediction: Jon Fitch by TKO in the third round.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
LYOTO MACHIDA VS. KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA

Former Inoki protégé Lyoto Machida takes on Pride veteran Kazuhiro Nakamura. Lyoto Machida has a 10-0 record in MMA and trains out of Brazil. Kazuhiro Nakamura has an 11-6 record in MMA and trains out Yoshida Dojo with Hidehiko Yoshida. Machida comes off a decision victory over David Heath at UFC 70. Nakamura comes off a decision loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at Pride Shockwave 2006.

Machida has beaten two former UFC champions in Rich Franklin and BJ Penn but hasn’t caught the attention of fans because of his passive fighting style. Nakamura has fought some of the bets fighters in his weight class and has held his own with all of them. He never got a chance to get his feet wet in MMA as his debut fight was against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Machida has beaten some good fighters but he has never faced the same kind of competition that Nakamura has and it will show. This fight could ever be very exciting or it could put the crowd to sleep, depending on how the fighters come out and fight. Expect Nakamura to try and impress in his UFC debut and go right after Machida, who will return fire but Nakamura will be smart enough to get it on the ground and grind out a decision.

Prediction: Kazuhiro Nakamura by decision.

LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT:
TYSON GRIFFIN VS. THIAGO TAVARES

Xtreme Couture lightweight Tyson Griffin takes on Brazilian dynamo Thiago Tavares. Tyson Griffin has a 9-1 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Gray Maynard. Thiago Tavares has a 13-0 record in MMA and trains out of American Top Team with Marcus Aurelio.
Griffin comes off a close decision victory over Clay Guida at UFC 72. Tavares comes off an impressive submission victory over Jason Black at UFC Fight Night 10.

This has the potential to be the fight of the night as both fighters have put on some impressive performances in the octagon. Griffin has been impressive in his last two bouts but his opponents have also been impressive, losing a decision to Frank Edgar and barely squeaking by Clay Guida. Tavares absolutely dominated Jason Black in his last fight as he out hustled him in every single aspect of the fight, ending it on an impressive note. Tavares is a very powerful grappler that can finish fights with his impressive submission skills, while Griffin has incredible power in his hands and is dangerous both on the feet and the ground. Look for this to be a very close fight but Tavares should use his excellent ground game to squeak out a decision.

Prediction: Thiago Tavares by decision.

LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT:
MATT WIMAN VS. MICHIHIRO OMIGAWA

Ultimate Fighter alumnus Matt Wiman takes on DEEP veteran Michihiro Omigawa. Matt Wiman has a 7-3 record in MMA and trains out of The Amory with Kurt Pellegrino. Michihiro Omigawa has a 4-3 record in MMA and trains out of Yoshida Dojo with Makoto Takimoto. Wiman comes off a stoppage victory over Brian Geraghty at the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale. Omigawa comes off a stoppage victory over Naoki Matsushita at DEEP 29.

Both guys are exciting ground fighters, so expect this to hit the ground early. Wiman impressed in his UFC debut against Spencer Fisher, giving the top lightweight all he could handle until getting knocked out. Omigawa has been improving and gaining experience in DEEP as he was thrown in with the wolves to start out his MMA career, now he wants to prove his worth in his UFC debut. Wiman has a solid training camp at The Amory and that’s going to give him an advantage in terms of preparation. Omigawa is a tough and solid fighter that should really test Wiman on the ground to see how good he really is. Although Omigawa is an improved fighter, Wiman should be able to use his size and power to out work Omigawa on the ground.

Prediction: Matt Wiman by decision.

LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT:
JEREMY STEPHENS VS. DIEGO SARAIVA

Young lightweight prospect Jeremy Stephens takes on Georgia based fighter Diego Saraiva. Jeremy Stephens has a 9-2 record in MMA and trains out of Iowa. Diego Saraiva has a 9-5 record in MMA and trains out of Velocity Kickboxing in Georgia. Stephens comes off a stoppage victory over Nick Walker at MCC 9: Heatwave. Saraiva comes off a decision loss to Jorge Gurgel at UFC 73.

Stephens is still a very young fighter and has tons of time to get better as a complete MMA fighter. Saraiva is 0-2 in the UFC and he’s hoping that the third time will be a charm for him when it comes to a win. Stephens had an impressive UFC debut as he stood and traded with Din Thomas until falling to a submission. Saraiva fought a very entertaining fight with Gurgel, rocking him on several occasions. Stephens is an awesome striker but his ground game is lacking. Look for both these guys to trade on the feet with Saraiva looking to get it on the ground but Stephens should be able to keep it on the feet and tag Saraiva en route to a decision.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens by decision.

WELTERWEIGHT BOUT:
RICH CLEMENTI VS. ANTHONY JOHNSON

Longtime UFC veteran Rich Clementi takes on striking specialist Anthony Johnson. Rich Clementi has a 25-12-1 record in MMA and trains out of Team Voodoo. Anthony Johnson has a 4-0 record in MMA and trains out of California. Clementi comes off a submission victory over Kyle Gibbons at IFO: Wiuff vs. Salmon. Johnson comes off an impressive knockout victory over Chad Reiner at UFC Fight Night 10.

This fight was added at last minute as an injury forced the Lambert/Gouveia fight off the card and the inclusion of this fight brought it back to nine fights on the card. Clementi has struggled at welterweight in the UFC, as he is a natural lightweight that is fighting out of his weight class. Johnson looked good in his UFC debut but he is coming off an injury and that could affect the way he fights. Clementi has the advantage on the ground, while Johnson has wicked power in his hands. Look for Clementi to work over Johnson in the early stages of the fight but once Johnson gets a chance to get to his feet, he should turn Clementi’s lights off.

Prediction: Anthony Johnson by KO in the second round.

HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
CHRISTIAN WELLISCH VS. SCOTT JUNK

American Kickboxing Academy heavyweight Christian Wellisch takes on Hawaiian heavyweight Scott Junk. Christian Wellisch has a 7-3 record in MMA and trains out of American Kickboxing Academy with Cain Velasquez. Scott Junk has a 6-1 record in MMA and trains out of Pro Camp in Hawaii. Wellisch comes off a decision victory over Anthony Perosh at UFC 66. Junk comes off a stoppage victory over Jimmy Ambriz at MFC 12: High Stakes.

Wellisch finally makes his return to the UFC after a hiatus from MMA in order to finish law school. Junk is a last minute replacement for Justin McCully, who was forced off the card due to injury. Wellisch has an excellent camp behind him and is sure to be prepared to fight. Wellisch has the advantage on the ground, while Junk is big strong striker. Wellisch should be able to take this fight based on the fact that he can get the fight on the ground if needs to and Junk might have a short gas tank due to the lack of time to prepare for the fight. Look for Wellisch to trade with Junk early but he should eventually get the fight to the ground and pound out a stoppage over Junk.

Prediction: Christian Wellisch by TKO in the first round.

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