by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Saturday night’s Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the Mandalay Bay Event Center promises to be the promotion’s mega-event of the year.
Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes battle it out for the interim welterweight title, former champions Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva finally get the opportunity to get it on, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou makes his UFC debut against top contender Lyoto Machida, and several undercard fights promise impending fireworks.
UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
GEORGES ST-PIERRE VS. MATT HUGHES
Former champions collide for the third time as Georges St-Pierre battles Matt Hughes for the interim UFC welterweight championship. St-Pierre has a 14-2 record and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with David Loiseau. Hughes has a 41-5 record and trains out of Team Hughes with Robbie Lawler.
St-Pierre comes off a decision victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC 74, while Hughes hasn’t fought since UFC 68, winning a decision over Chris Lytle.
Hughes was originally set to challenge Matt Serra, but a back injury forced the champ to withdraw from the bout. Now Hughes faces St-Pierre fro the interim title. St-Pierre has only had about a month’s notice to train for the fight, but he reportedly was already in fighting shape.
There isn’t much that has changed since the last time these two met and I don’t foresee the fight going much differently then it did last time. St-Pierre is the better striker of the two and his takedown defense is some of the best in MMA today as evidenced in his fight with Koscheck.
Hughes will no doubt go straight for the takedown, but St-Pierre will be ready for his onslaught. Another factor in the fight is this will be Hughes’ first fight since leaving Team Miletich, so the change in training camps could have a possible effect on his performance.
Hughes will do better than he did the last time these two met, but expect the same outcome with St-Pierre finishing the fight within the distance with strikes.
Prediction: Georges St-Pierre by TKO in the third round.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
CHUCK LIDDELL VS. WANDERLEI SILVA
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell faces off with former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. Liddell has a 20-5 record and trains at The Pit with John Hackleman. Silva has a 31-7-1 record and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Randy Couture.
Liddell comes off a split decision loss to Keith Jardine at UFC 76, while Silva comes off a knockout loss at the hands of Dan Henderson at Pride 33.
This fight has been years in the making and has finally become a reality, but is has lost some of its luster. Both fighters are coming off two consecutive losses and have lost their belts, which makes the fight that much less appealing.
Although it’s lost some luster, its still a dream fight to many MMA fans and should be treated as such. Liddell didn’t look his normal self in his fight with Jardine, as he wasn’t able to land that knockout punch and it looked like he didn’t have that killer instinct. If there is a fight to light a fire under Liddell, it’s this one.
Silva has made a significant change in his MMA career, leaving Chute Boxe in Brazil and moving to Las Vegas to join Xtreme Couture where he gets a new training environment. He has a lot to prove coming off two straight knockout losses and this being his return to the UFC.
If the fight is a tactical fight like most Liddell fights then it’s his advantage because Silva’s weakness is a technical striker that can pick him apart on the feet. If the fight turns into a brawl, then Silva has the advantage with his aggressive “go for broke” striking.
Once they start striking on their feet, Liddell will begin to take over, which will force Silva to take the fight to the ground and use his much underrated ground game. Expect a brawl in segments of the fight, but Silva will play it smart and ground the fight en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Wanderlei Silva by decision.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
LYOTO MACHIDA VS. RAMEAU THIERRY SOKOUDJOU
Undefeated Brazilian fighter Lyoto Machida takes on Team Quest prodigy Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Machida has an 11-0 record and trains out of Black House with Shinzo Machida. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou has a 4-1 record and trains out of Team Quest with Dan Henderson.
Machida comes off a decision victory over Pride standout Kazuhiro Nakamura at UFC 76, while Sokoudjou returns off a knockout victory over Ricardo Arona at Pride 34.
This is one of the more interesting fights on the card as it matches up two of the top light heavyweight prospects in MMA. Machida has been dominant in the UFC, going 3-0 since making his debut in February. Sokoudjou burst onto the scene this year with back-to-back knockouts of two top ten fighters.
Machida has a very technical style of fighting that is effective in winning, but not so much in entertaining the fans. Sokoudjou has a go for broke style that has put him on the map with two impressive knockouts that propelled him into the top ten in the light heavyweight division.
Machida needs to slow the pace of the fight and use his technique to frustrate Sokoudjou into making a costly mistake. Sokoudjou in contrast needs to keep constant pressure on Machida and keep him out of his game. His aggressiveness will be the key to the fight and could very well win him the fight.
Expect Sokoudjou to come out guns blazing, keeping Machida on the defensive and out of the fight. He should continue this assault en route to a decision victory and a successful UFC debut.
Prediction: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou by decision.
MELVIN GUILLARD VS. RICH CLEMENTI
In a personal grudge match, Ultimate Fighter veteran Melvin Guillard takes on Team Voodoo fighter Rich Clementi. Guillard has a 20-6-2 record and trains out of Team Punishment with Rob McCullough. Rich Clementi has a 28-12-1 record and trains out of Team Voodoo in Mississippi.
Guillard comes off a submission loss to Joe Stevenson at UFC Fight Night 9, while Clementi submitted Anthony Johnson at UFC 76.
Neither fighter cares too much about the other, as this has gotten very personal. Guillard is coming off a drug suspension and has something to prove. Clementi needs a solid victory to remain in the good graces of the UFC brass.
Guillard needs to keep this fight on the feet and not let it go to the ground, where Clementi will have his best chance to win the fight. Guillard is the quicker of the two fighters and that will play a huge factor in the fight because Clementi needs to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible.
This fight will play out very much like Clementi’s fight with Din Thomas, as he will get outworked on the feet and that will be his undoing. Look for Guillard to pick Clementi apart on the feet, ending it with strikes early in the fight.
Prediction: Melvin Guillard by TKO in the first round.
EDDIE SANCHEZ VS. SOA PALELEI
Californian brawler Eddie Sanchez takes on Pride veteran Soa Palelei. Sanchez has a 7-1 record and trains out of North County Fight Club with Jason Lambert. Palelei has an 8-1 record and trains out of Australia.
Sanchez comes off a stoppage victory over Colin Robinson at UFC 72, while Palelei quickly knocked out Shaun Vanof at a King of the Cage event in Australia.
With this being the only heavyweight bout on the card, expect these two to slug it out in classic heavyweight fashion. Sanchez is a brawler that uses his wrestling to keep the fight on the feet, where he likes to finish his opponents.
Palelei just returned to competition after a three-year hiatus after suffering his only career loss. He might have been brought in a bit prematurely, as he probably needs a couple of more fights to get all the rust of him.
Expect a brawl, but Sanchez will come out on top with power and technique, stopping Palelei with strikes in the first.
Prediction: Eddie Sanchez by TKO in the first round.
DEAN LISTER VS. JORDAN RADEV
Former Abu Dhabi Combat Champion Dean Lister takes on Bulgarian wrestler Jordan Radev. Lister has a 9-5 record and trains out of California. Jordan Radev has an 11-2 record and trains out of Bulgaria.
Lister comes off a lopsided decision loss to Nate Marquardt at UFC Fight Night 8. Radev was unsuccessful in his UFC debut, getting quickly knocked out by Drew McFedries at UFC Fight Night 10.
Lister needs an impressive performance after such a devastating loss to stay in the fray of the middleweight division. Radev needs a win to stay in the UFC; another loss could mean a farewell from the Octagon.
Lister is the better ground fighter of the two, but Radev has the advantage on the feet with powerful strikes. Radev will tee off on Lister while the fight remains standing, but Lister will be able to get the fight on the ground and into his world.
Expect Lister will use his superior grappling skills to control Radev en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Dean Lister by decision.
MARK BOCEK VS. DOUG EVANS
Grappling wizard Mark Bocek takes on Alaskan fighter Doug Evans. Bocek has a 4-1 record and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Greg Jackson. Evans has a 5-1 record and trains out of AK Wolfpack in Alaska.
Bocek comes off a stoppage loss to Frank Edgar at UFC 73, while Evans comes off a loss to Roger Huerta at the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale.
Both fighters suffered their first career MMA loss in their respective UFC debuts and one of them will get their first UFC win here. Bocek is one of the better grapplers in MMA right now, while Evans is a tough wrestler who likes to brawl.
This fight will be played out on the ground and that will play to Bocek’s advantage, as he will eventually lock on a submission and give Evans his second straight loss.
Prediction: Mark Bocek by submission in the first round.
ROAN CARNEIRO VS. TONY DESOUZA
In a clash of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts, Brazilian Top Team’s Roan Carneiro meets Nova Uniao’s Tony DeSouza. Carneiro has an 11-6 record and trains out of Brazilian Top Team with Murilo Bustamante. DeSouza has a 10-3 record and trains out of Nova Uniao with Thales Leites.
Carneiro comes off a submission loss to Jon Fitch at UFC Fight Night 10, while DeSouza comes off a knockout loss to Thiago Alves at UFC 66.
Both fighters need a win to keep up with the always-changing UFC welterweight division. Carneiro looked good before being stopped by Jon Fitch. DeSouza had trouble keeping up with Thiago Alves before getting knocked out.
Carneiro will be the bigger and stronger fighter of the two and that could very well be the difference in the fight. Look for Carneiro to use his size advantage to control DeSouza on the ground en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Roan Carneiro by decision.
NATE MOHR VS. MANVEL GAMBURYAN
Team Curran lightweight Nate Mohr takes on Ultimate Fighter 5 runner-up Manvel Gamburyan. Mohr has an 8-4 record and trains out of Team Curran with Jeff Curran. Gamburyan has a 5-2 record and trains out of California with his cousin, Karo Parysian.
Mohr comes off a decision victory over Luke Caudillo at UFC Fight Night 10, while Gamburyan was forced to submit due to a shoulder injury against Nate Diaz at the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale.
Gamburyan was winning the fight against Diaz up until the injury with relentless takedowns and strikes on the ground. Mohr is a striking specialist and will want to keep the fight on the feet.
Gamburyan will no doubt take this fight to the ground and get Mohr out of his comfort zone. Look for Gamburyan to take Mohr down at will and finish him with ground and pound late in the fight.
Prediction: Manvel Gamburyan by TKO in the third round.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT:
JAMES IRVIN VS. LUIS CANE
Heavy-handed brawler James Irvin takes on the debuting Brazilian striker Luis Cane. Irvin has a 12-4 record and trains out Capital City Fighting Alliance with Scott Smith. Cane has a 7-0 record and trains out Gibi Thai in Brazil.
Irvin comes off an injury loss to Thiago Silva at UFC 71, while Cane knocked out James Damien Stelly at Art of War 3.
This fight was added only a couple of weeks ago, but it should be one of the more exciting fights of the night, as they should come out throwing bombs.
Irvin is heavy-handed, but doesn’t have much technique behind his strikes and that could be a problem with the much more technical Cane. Cane has finished the majority of his opponents either by knockout or with strikes and it should happen again here.
One big question mark with Irvin is how good of a chin does he have and it isn’t that great. Look for Cane to use his powerful technical strikes and put Irvin’s lights out early in the fight to make an impressive UFC debut.
Prediction: Luis Cane by KO in the first round.