- UFC 92 PREVIEW: OUTSIDE THE BIG THREE

December 27, 2008
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by MMAWeekly.com
CHEICK KONGO VS. MOSTAPHA AL TURK

This is a classic MMA battle between striker and grappler.

Cheick Kongo’s strength is his experience as a kickboxer and gives him the definitive edge in the striking over Al Turk. As a Cage Rage champion and ADCC European submission champion, Al Turk’s strong suit is in his grappling and submission abilities that he couples in MMA with a heavy handed ground and pound assault.

Kongo has been rounding out his game training with Quinton Jackson and Michael Bisping at Wolf’s Lair, but he likely hasn’t caught up to Al Turk’s ground based strengths. Conversely, Al Turk has also consistently improved his striking, training with London Shootfighters, but Kongo’s striking is still more developed and he is learning how to apply it better in MMA.

Another strength for Kongo is his experience. He has a longer resume than Al Turk and most of it has been fighting tougher competition in the UFC.

That inexperience in the Octagon could be the X-Factor in this fight. Many fighters have succumbed to the UFC debut jitters, fighting on such a prominent stage for the first time in their careers. Being 35 years of age and competing at such a high level in Europe should help for Al Turk, but it is still unknown how he will react under the bright lights of the UFC.

Kongo’s best advantage is to keep it striking. Al Turk, of course, will want to take it to the ground and use his superior position to set up a strong ground and pound attack and possibly set up a submission.

This fight takes place on the UFC 92 pay-per-view, so it is likely that we could see one of these two fighters taking a big step forward towards heavyweight title contention.

C.B. DOLLAWAY VS. MIKE MASSENZIO

In Ultimate Fighter Season 7 runner up C.B. Dollaway and UFC veteran Mike Massenzio, the UFC is giving the winner a chance to display his wares on pay-per-view and take a giant leap forward in the middleweight division.

The two are very similar in styles with wrestling as a primary strength. Dollaway has the advantage though, defeating Massenzio in a wrestling match in high school and moving on to become a Division I All-American in college, where Massenzio did not continue on after high school.

Both are competent strikers, but Dollaway has the edge with a more aggressive approach and a strong ground and pound attack. When it hits the mat, his training with Edson Carvalho in jiu-jitsu, Massenzio is more likely to look for a submission than to pound it out.

Dollaway’s team, Arizona Combat Sports, is a definite strength for him coming into any fight. It is also the home for fighters such as Ultimate Fighter Season 8 winner Ryan Bader, WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner, the Steinbeiss brothers, and recently added WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit.

Massenzio’s submission game is a strength for him and would likely be his best approach to winning this match with Dollaway, if he can find a way to control the ground action.

The more well-rounded fighter of the two, Dollaway could outdo Massenzio on the feet with his striking. He should still have the clear advantage in wrestling and positioning on the ground, which would provide him ample opportunity for a submission attempt or ground and pound attack.

YUSHIN OKAMI VS. DEAN LISTER

The premier fight in the UFC 92 undercard, the winner of Yushin Okami and Dean Lister is likely to be a top contender to the UFC middleweight title held by Anderson Silva. Lister is on a two-fight streak after a loss to Nate Marquardt put him at 4-1 in the UFC. Okami is 6-1 in the UFC and was already headed for a title shot with Silva, but was sidelined with an injury, leaving him to get back in line.

Lister is one of the top submission fighters in MMA, and that will be his advantage in the fight with Okami. His striking has vastly improved in his most recent fights, but Okami is a strong middleweight with decent striking of his own and deceptive strength.

Lister’s best opportunity to win is to get Okami on the ground where his grappling skills can negate some of Okami’s strength and take away his striking, giving Lister opportunities for submissions. Okami will likely want to stay on the feet where his strength is more of an advantage and he can utilize his striking to take Lister out of his game.

A decisive factor in this fight could be the MMA experience of Okami. He has nearly twice the MMA experience as Lister does, although some of that is negated by Lister’s experience in high-level grappling competitions. They have both faced difficult opposition, but Okami has positioned himself as one of the top middleweights in the world with his ability to diffuse his opponents’ attacks, defending well on the ground – he has never been submitted – and using a strong ground and pound attack to score a TKO or decision.

ANTONI HARDONK VS. MIKE WESSEL

This is a battle between to heavyweights that are known for their striking abilities more than anything else. Hardonk, however, is the more diverse striker, with thundering leg kicks to go along with decent hands and a developing ground game. Wessel’s striking abilities lie more in his hands, meaning he’ll have to close the range more than Hardonk to be effective.

Russell is 6-0 in MMA, but Hardonk has the longer resume, against stiffer competition, and has already has ample time – five bouts – to acclimate to the bright lights of the UFC. This being his first time in the Octagon puts a question mark on how Russell will handle it and if it will be a distraction for him.

MATT HAMILL VS. REESE ANDY

The simple take here is this is a bout between two fighters that are both accomplished wrestlers with strong ground and pound abilities. The separating factor will be how they perform in their striking on the feet, as neither is known for a devastating submission game.

Though they are similar in their stand-up games, Hamill has shown more improvement recently in the use of his punches, and has a little power behind his punches.

Still, both fighters are most comfortable being on top on the ground and throwing down blows. The deciding factor in this bout will most likely be who is able to maintain a top position and either burn out a TKO finish or take a decision.

RYO CHONAN VS. BRAD BLACKBURN

This bout is simply two guys that are fighting for their position in the UFC. They are both fighters that have been battling to find their niche in the sport for years and have emerged primarily as journeymen.

Chonan is a fighter with a lot of heart, and a well-rounded skill set. Blackburn is similar, but has more of a propensity for striking.

Despite his stunning submission of Anderson Silva several years ago in Pride, Chonan will want to try and get Blackburn down and control the fight to a decision. Blackburn will be more content to keep the fight on the feet and try to accumulate damage with his punching ability.

DAN EVENSEN VS. PATRICK BARRY

These are two heavyweights trying to find a spot in the UFC. Again, both guys are known more for their striking than their ground games.

Evensen holds a distinct advantage in experience, having held the Gladiator Challenge heavyweight title, and amassing a 10-3 record. Barry has only three fights in MMA, but has a background in kickboxing.

Barry striking is more technical than Evensen’s, but an important factor here could be Evensen’s developing ground game. A purple belt under John Lewis, he might be able to take advantage of Barry’s lack of experience on the ground.

Again, the UFC jitters could be a factor in this fight as well. Although he lost to Cheick Kongo, Evensen has been in the Octagon once before; Barry has not.

The decider in this fight will likely be if Barry can take control with his striking, or whether Evensen’s ground game is developed enough to take Barry out of his element.

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