by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
“Cro Cop” Filipovic (22-4-2) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (7-1-0)
no surprise who the heavy favorite is in this match, you guessed it –
this bout appears to be a mere formality for Cro Cop before he faces the
venerable Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Cro Cop has
single-handedly injected the flat-lined division with a new lease on life and
the potential match-ups for the Croatian killer are huge, but this isn’t one of
Cop isn’t just a fighter, and in this respect his most dangerous asset is
revealed, he is a soldier, pure and simple. He isn’t going in to compete; he
goes in for the kill, presses the action, always moving forward, never afraid
to engage. No other fighter in the division shares this mentality.
fully expect Cro Cop to nullify any takedowns with the most impressive sprawl
in MMA and to land sharp, precise blows on his Brazilian opposition. From a
standing point of view, Gonzaga won’t be able to trouble him. Although a
credible fighter in the division, he isn’t at the Croatian’s level. Will we see
his trademark high-kick? Most likely, but expect his hands to fly early with
that vicious straight left and uppercuts.
First Round KO – Cro Cop
Heath (9-0-0) vs. Ryoto “Lyoto” Machida (9-0-0)
someone is coming away with their first loss… and my pick is that this is upset
time for Machida – call me mad, call me stupid, but I really feel that
this is going to be David Heath’s chance of making a name for himself as a
top-contender in the 205 division.
is everything they say he is, brutal strikes, excellent submissions and
wrestling with cardio for days. He is riding the same 9-fight undefeated
win-streak as Heath, but arguably against tougher opposition in Franklin, Penn,
Bonner and Tiger White. He will surely be a contender to the throne in future,
but at the moment I feel an upset coming by way of Heath’s heavy hands in the
second. I feel Heath can stay out of danger on the ground and has the chin and
heart to be able to absorb any punishment en-route to a TKO victory via
Second Round TKO – Heath
Bisping (13-0-0) vs. Elvis Sinosic (8-9-2)
really hope Bisping hasn’t been glossing over the challenge that Sinosic
presents. Sure his record isn’t the best and he has dropped fights when faced
with ranked opposition, but all it takes is a simple mistake and he can sub you
easily. I know a lot of forums and MMA insiders aren’t giving him a chance and
feel he’s there to bolster Bisping’s record, a hometown win if you will, but I
think he is a dangerous opponent to overlook.
said, I expect Bisping to eek out the win, but I don’t think it will be as easy
as anyone expects. Sinosic’s standup was horribly robotic in his last bout
against former Bisping nemesis Mark Epstein, but when push came to sub the
armbar was slapped on slick and fast. I expect this will be the toughest
challenge yet for Bisping, mainly because Sinosic doesn’t know when to go down,
but I feel that he will be able to pound out victory if he plays it smart
against the Australian.
biggest variable in this fight will be how Bisping deals with the huge
expectation of fighting in front of the biggest crowd he has ever seen there to
support him. Hometown pressure is a heavy burden… one he welcomes, but one that
still can cause distractions.
Decision – Bisping
Arlovski (12-5-0) vs. Fabricio Werdum (9-2-1)
fight sets up a huge grudge match for Arlovski and Cro Cop as Werdum is Cro Cop’s
BJJ instructor and training partner; assuming of course he gets past the former
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion.
fight, Arlovski is surely the money shot in waiting for the UFC when he faces
Cro Cop in the future, both are excellent strikers and both like to engage from
the bell. Werdum has all the tools to put a big spanner in the works with his
methodical BJJ game. We saw holes in Arlovski’s repertoire during his match
with Pe De Pano, who appeared to be very close to pulling the Belarusian’s leg
off (save for some strategic cage grabbing and a cheeky kick to the head). I
think the difference here is that Werdum is a better striker, or better
prepared to deal with the strikes and setup the mat-based fight he needs.
wants a shot at the belt again, but I feel he needs to work through some
opposition first, gain some wins and get back into his stride. I think the
planning of this match would play to Arlovski’s strengths, but I really feel
this will be Werdum’s night.
Second Round Sub – Werdum
Silva (32-4-0) vs. Cheick Kongo (19-3-1)
fight will be the one where the UFC fans will fully appreciate the tools Silva
brings to the cage. He hasn’t really shown his true worth in the UFC picking up
2 of his losses there against Sylvia and Vera, unfortunately back to back and
thus, to those he is new to, he doesn’t appear to be that much of a threat.
is an exciting striker with devastating knees in the clinch. He has good
conditioning for a heavyweight. He is an exciting fighter in the heavyweight
division and this is a really tough fight for him to bounce back from a loss
to. With solid kickboxing skills in both fighters’ arsenals and a clear edge in
experience and submission to Silva, I think we will see a hard fought battle of
wills with the Brazilian chalking the win.
Second Round TKO – Silva
Grice (9-0-0) vs. Terry Etim (9-0-0)
similar style to Heath vs. Machida, both Grice and Etim are riding 9 fight win
streaks and are undefeated. I know what Etim brings to the table in this bout,
but I have to admit to not knowing too much about Grice other than having a
solid background in wrestling and that is one area where the British flags
behind the US. We don’t have access to college wrestling and as such we usually
tend to play catch-up to higher level Greco/Freestyle competitors.
styles make fights and I have to go with Grice to play on his wrestling
background and nullify Etim’s submission offense.
Decision – Grice
Assuncao (5-2-0) vs. David Lee (5-2-0)
Lee had a difficult debut against the very highly regarded Tyson Griffin and
found himself on the wrong end of a submission finish. As testament to his
potential, the UFC have invited him back to prove himself again, this time at
home against Brazilian submission fighter Assuncao.
training incorporates highly regarded champions in Danny Batten, Ze Marcello
and Alexandre Izidro – all at Brazilian Top Team – and a formidable
camp at that. A camp that should have him well prepared for the task ahead as
Assuncao will more than likely be looking to ground the fight as well. I think
we will see a technical battle on the ground from both as they are coming off
Octagon losses, have good cardio and very similar games.
Decision – Lee
Valimaki (8-3-0) vs. Alessio Sakara (14-4-0)
am a big fan of Sakara, and I would love to see him drop the weight and try his
hands at 185 – a division loaded chock-full of strikers and one where his
strengths will come to the fore. His boxing ability is without question and his
ground-game is improving continually via the Cesar Gracie Camp. I think it will
take another loss before he bows to pressure and cuts to middleweight, as he is
a small light heavy anyway.
is also a good boxer and although competent on the ground, I don’t think that
is where this fight will go. I think this match has all the hallmarks of being
another fight in the style of Lawler vs. Riley, a classic full-on tear up with
every form of offense being thrown into the mix. Both fighters are game and I
think this will be the fight of the night. I hope so at least!
Decision – Valimaki
Siver (10-3-0) vs. Jess Llaudin (10-8-0)
knocks for both fighters and you can expect a war between the two. Llaudin’s
record belies his potential and skill. He has fought some exceedingly tough
fights over the years and more importantly in weight classes outside of his
natural category. For 2007, he is finally in a place where his head, business
and training are all in the right place – a welcome UFC addition indeed,
as is Siver. A Cage Warriors veteran, Siver is a solid submission guy in his
own right. They bolster a division that is already stacked with talent; at
least now the UFC really becomes a worldwide fight network encompassing France
on to the fight… I think Llaudin will employ a strategy similar to his Mason
fight, to make the German think he will be looking to trade, stay on the
outside and stick and move. I think he will frustrate him into shooting and
from there, the game opens up. Llaudin has chiseled Muay Thai having trained in
Thailand, but his core is in submissions and wrestling. Siver is a very close
match in skill set, but I think experience and smarts will pay off in this
Third Round Sub – Llaudin
Crocota (10-0-1) vs. Paul Taylor (7-1-1)
is a warrior with loads of heart. His fight with Pride export Zelg Galesic was
testament to that as he fought through to the win with a broken arm. His
overturning of the Che Mills verdict from Contenders proved to be a
masterstroke as the verdict belies the fact that he was losing that fight. I
know the reasons for the overturn, I was there, but I feel as though his
performance wasn’t quite gelling and I hope he comes into this fight sharper.
is the kind of fighter that you know will be dangerous from the off. He has
been training on his boxing with the Nogueira brothers and his ground skills
are comparable with the typical Brazilian competing at this level in MMA. I
have my doubts on Taylor being able to pull a win out of this match and expect
it be a slow-burn debut for both fighters.
Decision – Crocota