I forgot to put up my predictions for this last week's UFC. Well, not so much forgot as had my head buried in Spanish lessons. So, in a rather unorthodox entry, I’ll be telling you what I thought, and what really happened and why. There were only three fights that I was interested in on this card.
Jon Fitch vs. Diego Sanchez
Prediction – Sanchez is one of the most exciting, determined and aggressive fighters in the UFC today. Coming off the first loss (17-1) of his MMA career he’ll be looking to solidify his position as a man destined to hold the title. His first loss came while he was sick with a staph infection and shortly after the fight they removed a mass the size of a coffee cup from his thigh.
In the Jon Fitch fights I’ve seen (all one of them) he hasn’t impressed me. I didn’t see anything in his fight with Jeff Joslin that would indicate that he could hang with someone of Diego’s caliber.
I’m predicting Sanchez runs through Fitch like an 18 wheeler through an outhouse. It is not going to be pretty.
What happened – Fitch controlled the fight and won a decision. Sanchez got him into a few deep submissions but couldn’t get Fitch to tap out.
Why – Fitch was captain of the Purdue wrestling team. Purdue is world class. His nickname in training is “Mister Unsubmittable" and he certainly proved it, escaping from two very deep submissions that many fighters would have tapped or gone unconscious too. Diego pressed the action throwing a lot of submission attempts, but Fitch’s wrestling and submission defense was just too great. I think Diego came in with a bad plan, and never revised it. After the first round, Diego should have spent at least one round testing Fitch’s stand up, but he never did. Sanchez just continued to try and take him down, ground and pound, and when that failed, to try and submit from the bottom. He looked good trying, but Fitch couldn’t be caught, and held top position throughout the fight.
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Prediction – I’m going to go against the grain and say that Forrest takes this one. Forrest is coming off a loss and has always been hungry. He trains very hard with Randy Couture and Randy always has a brilliant plan for the ring. Randy has also predicted some startling upsets this year and been right every time. He is predicting Forrest will win this fight. Further compounding the matter is top Pride fighters coming to the UFC and under performing. It’s been happening all year. Cro Cop is scarier than Shogun and he’s 0-2 since moving to the UFC. Add on the fact that Shogun has had problems with boxers in the past, and you have a good match up for Forrest’s style.
What happened – Shogun gassed in the first round and was dominated and eventually choked out in the third round by an ecstatic Forrest Griffin.
Why – Many reasons. The first could be, um, steroids? Possibly. Pride didn’t test for steroids and so far their fighters are exhibiting all the signs that they relied on them for their aggression and endurance. Pride’s first round used to be ten minutes long. UFC’s first round is five minutes. It doesn’t make any sense that Shogun was exhausted after one five minute round.
The second reason could be arrogance. Shogun has been touted as the number one light heavyweight in the world for months and possibly thought he was going to walk through Forrest and didn’t train properly. He may have mentally taken Forrest too lightly and was just shocked that Forrest brought it, escaped submissions and nearly knocked his head off a couple times.
The third could be style match up. Styles make fights. Forrest had the perfect game plan, style, and conditioning to beat Shogun. Forrest pressed the action and while getting tired in the second round, was no where near as gassed as Shogun and pressed the action well in the third round.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell vs. Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine
Prediction – In MMA fights are usually recorded or predicted using the following language – “Diego by arm bar round two.” Or “Hughes by ground and pound round four” or “Forrest by ref stoppage in round three.” As with most people, I’m going to predict “Chuck by murder in round one.”
Chuck Liddell is usually ranked near or at the top of the light heavyweight division and has been for years. He lost to a lucky punch from “Rampage” Jackson in May but I still consider him to be a force of nature. Before that, his last loss was in 2003 and every win was a knockout.
Jardine has shown some promise but his losses are suspect and he isn’t known for his knockout power. He’s primarily a striker and you really don’t want to stand with Chuck Liddell. He’ll tag you once and its lights out. In a battle of two strikers, the guy with A-bombs at the end of his arms usually wins.
What happened – “The Dean of Mean” had a great game plan, stuck to it, and won a split decision.
Why – Jardine is a striker who didn’t get sloppy. He was always moving, always working angles, always throwing brutal leg kicks to the body and legs of Liddell who seemed frustrated and off his game. It looked like Chuck was expecting to land one big punch and end the fight (which happens regularly in his fights) and that just never happened. Jardine went in with a great plan, stayed focus, unconventional, and held to the plan the entire fight.
Chuck may have been over confident in this fight. Everyone expected him to destroy Jardine and he probably expected it too. When it didn’t happen, I don’t think he knew what to do. I don’t think he expected such a good fight and was lost when he couldn’t land an A-Bomb.
Another thing to look at is Liddell’s last opponents. Since 2003 he’s primarily fought wrestlers. Chuck has insane takedown defense. Even if he is taken down, he has this super-natural ability to get out and stand back up and resume striking. If you’re a wrestler, looking to take Chuck down and ground and pound him, you’ve picked the wrong guy. That just doesn’t work with Chuck Liddell. Since Jardine never bothered to try and take it to the mat, and is a striker himself, he may have exposed a weakness of Chuck Liddell’s - other strikers.
An interesting night. I was depressed about Diego and Chuck losing, but happy for Keith Jardine and Forrest.
I’ll make a prediction right now for UFC 77.
Rich Franklin vs. Anderson Silva.
Franklin by complete destruction round three.
Ace will get his belt back.