by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com


Dan Hardy vs. Rory


British fighter Dan Hardy makes his UFC return as he faces
off with IFL veteran Rory Markham. This is one of the more anticipated bouts of
the night because both fighters fight at a quick and exciting pace. Expect the
crowd to be at its loudest during this fight as they cheer their fellow
countryman and jeer his opponent without mercy.


Both are brawlers on the feet, so the difference in the
fight will be which fighter is better equipped to handle his opponent on the
ground. Markham was getting lit up on the feet in his last fight before landing
a devastating high kick, so he has to be smart and not get into a brawl with
Hardy. He needs to stay on the outside and keep Hardy at bay with low kicks.
Hardy will look to pressure Markham on the feet then take him to the ground and
pound on him.


This fight is going to be an absolute brawl, as these two
will be going toe to toe for fifteen minutes or until one them ends up
unconscious. A loss for either fighter won’t set them back too much, while the
winner of the fight will start to gain attention in a crowded UFC welterweight


Nate Marquardt vs.
Wilson Gouveia


Former UFC middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt
continues his path to another title shot at UFC 95, as he takes on emerging
middleweight contender Wilson Gouveia. This fight has serious implications. The
winner will probably be in line for a shot at the UFC middleweight title. These
two are fairly evenly matched, so expect a very competitive fight.


If the fight stays on the feet then a slight advantage would
have to go to Marquardt, who is the more technical and powerful striker of the
two. On the ground, Marquardt will have a definite advantage when it comes to
wrestling, while Gouveia is the better submission fighter. Both are well
conditioned, so these two are more than ready to go the distance.


The factor in the fight will be which fighter can control
the pace. If the pace of the fight is quick, that benefits
Marquardt. If the pace is slower, it will benefit Gouveia. Marquardt seems to
have an advantage in every aspect in the fight, giving Gouveia fewer options to
win. Gouveia’s best chance will be to catch Marquardt
in a submission, while Marquardt can grind out a decision or finish the fight
with strikes.  


Demian Maia vs. Chael


Highly touted middleweight contender Demian Maia faces off
with the uncrowned WEC middleweight champion Chael Sonnen. This is an
interesting fight because the winner will more than likely not be far away from
getting a title shot and possibly cracking the Top 10 in the middleweight
division. Although it’s a cliché in the sport, this is a classic wrestler versus
grappler match-up.


It’s fairly obvious that Maia has a huge advantage on the
ground, being one of the best ground fighters in all of mixed martial arts
today.  Although Sonnen is a
standout wrestler, it would be a mistake for him to take the fight to the
ground because the risk is bigger than the reward. It’s a different story on
the feet as Sonnen has the clear advantage with Maia still being relatively
untested on the feet.


Sonnen had an excellent strategy in his last fight, using
his wrestling to keep the fight on the feet where he was able to pick apart Paulo
Filho with his better striking. He’ll need to use the same exact strategy
against Maia. That will be his best chance to win. If the fight goes to the
ground, then Maia will finish the fight with a submission.


Josh Koscheck vs.
Paulo Thiago


Ultimate Fighter standout Josh Koscheck continues his path
to a title shot as he faces UFC newcomer Paulo Thiago. Koscheck is coming off a
devastating knockout of Yoshiyuki Yoshida, showing all the progress he’s made
since coming off the original Ultimate Fighter. Thiago is a bright, undefeated
prospect out of Brazil, but he is being thrown to the wolves in his UFC debut.


Koscheck has the clear edge on the feet with his crisp
striking and on the ground with his superior wrestling. Thiago has shown that
he is more than competent in submissions, but he might have a tough time
against Koscheck, who has shown excellent submission defense. The key in the
fight will be whether Thiago will get an opportunity to utilize his submission


Expect Koscheck to keep the fight on the feet because it’s a
less risky option for him. If the fight hits the ground, Koscheck will need to
stay on top where he can smoother the Brazilian. Thiago’s
best opportunity to win the fight will be to somehow end up on top, where he
can work for a submission. A win for Koscheck keeps him on a path to a title
shot, while for Thiago a win would make him an instant contender in the UFC
welterweight division.


Terry Etim vs. Brian


Standout British lightweight Terry Etim will look to get his
UFC record over five hundred as he takes on late replacement Brian Cobb.  Etim was originally scheduled to face
Justin Buchholz, but Buchholz was forced out due to injury. Cobb takes the
fight on about a week’s notice. Etim has the clear advantage on the feet with
better striking and a long reach advantage. Cobb has the advantage on the
ground with both better wrestling and submissions. If Etim can keep the fight
on the feet then expect him to win, but if Cobb can get the fight to the ground
then he’ll be in a strong position to win.


Junior Dos Santos vs.
Stefan Struve


After making an impressive UFC debut, Junior Dos Santos
returns to action to take on UFC newcomer Stefan Struve. Dos Santos is now
being touted as a bright prospect in the heavyweight division, but this fight
will prove whether or not he is a true contender or just a prospect. The fight
is evenly matched, but Dos Santos has a slight edge both on the feet and ground
because of his better training partners. The only thing that is certain in this
one is that the fight will not go the distance.


Mike Ciesnolevicz vs.
Neil Grove


In an interesting clash of UFC newcomers, late replacement
Mike Ciesnolevicz faces off with the huge British slugger Neil Grove.
Ciesnolevicz takes the fight on short notice and will be moving up in weight to
heavyweight. Grove will have the advantage on the feet with powerful strikes
and a huge size advantage, outweighing Ciesnolevicz by 30 pounds. Ciesnolevicz
has the edge on the ground with his wrestling, but the huge size advantage
might negate that. If Grove can keep the fight on the feet and use his size, he’ll
win. But if Ciesnolevicz can get the fight to the ground, all bets are off.


Per Eklund vs. Evan


Swedish ground fighter Per Eklund takes on the undefeated
late replacement Evan Dunham. Both guys are ground fighters, so whoever can
push the pace on the feet will have the advantage. This will be Dunham’s UFC
debut and that could play a factor, as he doesn’t have the experience that
Eklund does. Whoever can end up on top on the ground will have the advantage
because neither fighter has been tested off his back. A loss for either fighter
could mean a return to the UFC might be a ways away in this day and age.  


Paul Kelly vs. Troy


Wolfslair Gym welterweight Paul Kelly faces off with
Ultimate Fighter 6 participant Troy Mandaloniz. Kelly tasted defeat for the
first time in his last fight, while Mandaloniz hasn’t fought in more than a
year.  Kelly has the advantage on
the feet and on the ground, as he has a better training camp. The time off for
Mandaloniz will also be a factor in the fight, as Kelly will surely be in his
face right off the bat. If Mandaloniz can slow the pace of the fight, he’ll
have a better chance to win, but Kelly is going to make that rather difficult
in his return to action.  






UFC 95 VIDEO: Nate
Marquardt UFC 95 Pre-Fight Interview


UFC 95 VIDEO: Neil
Grove UFC 95 Pre-Fight Interview