Chris Howie, Justin Bullock and Darrin Antler reporting…
Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio VS Clay “The Carpenter” Guida
Chris Howie: Man, I really wish this fight was on the main card or at least hope that it finds its' way to PPV. It has the makings to steal the show and be fight of the night with the talent that will be in the cage in this one. People may not recognize Aurelio's name as this is his UFC debut, but he is the man that submitted Pride Lightweight champion Takanori Gomi handily in a non-title fight last year. Guida, who has proven he has the heart of a lion and came oh-so-close to getting the win against Tyson Griffin in his last fight may have his hands full against the very talented BJJ practioner Aurelio. Coming into this fight I do not believe the UFC fans will be ready to see the BJJ skill that Aurelio possesses. Although Guida has been in wars previous to this fight I think he will find himself in a lot of trouble if this fight is to hit the mat.
Prediction: Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio VIA Rd. 1 submission
Justin Bullock: It's a shame that a fight most of us consider the most interesting match on the card might not even be shown on the televised portion of the PPV. In what almost seems destined to be the fight of the night, Marcus Aurelio, the last man who holds a win over Gomi, makes his debut to the UFC against Clay Guida. While not many American fans would recognize either if they were walking down the street, Guida is still the more noticeable fighter due to his exposure in the UFC, most recently his controversial split decision loss to Tyson Griffin at UFC 72 in what many believe to be the fight of the year. It is going to be interesting to see how Aurelio looks the first time in the cage, especially against Guida who has to be feeling very comfortable in the octagon after already having three fights in the UFC. Having been in the ring with the best in the world I have no doubt that Aurelio will come prepared, so this is a tough fight to call. Guida is an amazing grappler but the edge on the ground has to go to Aurelio. It is a hard fight to call. I could see Aurelio getting the sub, but I have a feeling that Guida is going to out-work him and win a decision. Aurelio has shown that he can be a little too passive, and I think Guida is going to use that to his advantage and push the pace the whole fight. It could go either way, but I see Guida pulling out the unanimous decision. It would be even better if this fight ended in the first or second round because then it would probably stand more of a chance of making the televised portion of the PPV, but whatever.
Prediction: Clay Guida VIA Unanimous Decision
Darrin Antler: And in the fight of the night, we have Clay Guida facing Marcus Aurelio — the former Pride stand out who is making his UFC debut. Before the prognostication begins, a point must be made: it is a sin that this fight is not on the main card. Guida has earned his time on TV with his high – octane, never quit performances that are his trademark. Aurelio is a world-class Lightweight with a win over number one ranked Takanori Gomi on his resume'. Back to business: who is going to win? This is the toughest fight to call on the card. While the ATT-trained Aurelio has the higher pedigree and seemingly better skill set, Guida is a machine and the wrestler advantage that the Octagon seems to allow, in addition to his heart and determination will finally see Guida on the right side of the judges' cards, spoiling the debut of Aurelio.
Prediction: Clay Guida VIA Split Decision
Renato “Babalu” Sobral VS David Heath
Chris Howie: Babalu had it all going so well, then he ran into Chuck Liddell. I personally think his decision to rush at Chuck and try to bang with him was one of the worst mistakes in a MMA fight. Liddell would KO Babalu, ending a 10 fight win streak and sending the touted Babalu down the Light Heavyweight rankings. In his next fight Babalu would get into trouble against Jason Lambert in the first round and then find himself on the mat in the second getting pounded out via TKO. This time last year people were talking about how Babalu would take the title from then champion Liddell. Fast forward a year and Babalu is on the undercard with something to prove against an up-and-comer David Heath who lost his last fight against “Lyoto” Machida but does sport a 2-1 UFC record and an impressive 9-1 record overall. Babalu will be looking to get back on the win streak and back to the main card while Heath will be looking to get noticed with a win over a notable fighter like Babalu. It should be a good fight going back and forth. Heath has good stand up to back up his wrestling and ground game and Babalu has very impressive BJJ and submission skills. I don't think it will go to decision and I see it ending with a submission. Either way, one fighter will be moving up the rankings in the UFC with a win in his one.
Prediction: Renato “Babalu” Sobral VIA Rd. 2 Submission
Justin Bullock: As a fan, seeing Babalu get knocked out by Chuck Liddell at UFC 62, while not that surprising, was kind of depressing. Seeing Babalu get knocked out by Jason Lambert at UFC 68, however, was even worse. It looked liked Lambert was going to be an easy win at first, and I'll admit I scoffed at the idea of Renato losing to Lambert. So when Babalu took his back in the first round I was sure it was only a matter of time until he won by sub; but it was not meant to be. After weathering the storm Lambert was able to get the fight back to the feet and at the end of the first round he dropped Renato when Babalu threw a lazy knee. He didn't finish the fight there, but in the beginning of the second round he caught Babalu again throwing the exact same lazy knee with his hands down. It's going to be interesting to see how Babalu comes prepared after getting KTFO two fights in a row. His mental preparedness is even more in question considering he was arrested not too long ago for a scuffle at a nightclub, so who knows where his head is at. If his opponent, David Heath, knows what's good for him he will come out hard and push the pace on Babalu. Heath has some heavy hands, and was undefeated before he lost a unanimous decision to “Lyoto” Machida at UFC 70. Heath was scheduled to face Jardine at UFC 71, but he took the fight with Machida on short notice after Forrest Griffin was forced to pull out due to a lovely bit of staph infection. It's interesting to think what would have happened had Jardine fought Heath instead of fighting Alexander Houston (I wonder if Houston sent Heath a gift-basket or something for his generosity). This is going to be Heath's biggest fight to date, so nerves might play a factor. If Babalu puts him on his back and he does not keep his composure, he will most likely be subbed. However, if he can withstand Babalu's takedowns and submission attempts until Babalu gasses, he could end this fight by KO or TKO. It's another very hard fight to call, and even though I don't want to count Babalu out I think his mental state going into this fight is questionable and that could mean a short night for David Heath.
Prediction: David Heath VIA Rd. 2 TKO
Darrin Antler: Renato Sobral has fallen on hard times. A year removed from a title shot against former champ Chuck Liddell, “Babalu” suffered a devastating knockout loss to Jason Lambert at UFC 68. Now the Brazilian makes his return against a near Lambert clone, in the form of David Heath. Heath is a short, stocky and powerful fighter who is good, but not great, in any situation you can throw at him. As a result of Sobral’s last two outings, it is likely that he has come to the conclusion that he cannot stand and bang with fighters who have more power than him. Heeding this conclusion, Babalu will go back to his bread and butter submission grappling game and return to his winning ways against the overmatched Heath.
Prediction: Babalu VIA Rd. 2 Sub
Antoni Hardonk VS Frank Mir
Chris Howie: Once upon a time Frank Mir was the UFC world Heavyweight champion when he defeated Tim Sylvia by breaking his arm with an armbar in their championship title fight. Anyone who has followed Mir's career knows the rest from here. Mir was in a motorcycle accident that put a hault to his championship reign and he is what some would say, a shadow of his former shelf. Hardonk is coming off a loss against Team Punishment's Justin McCully and could find himself in trouble against Mir, who will likely try and bring this fight to the mat. In his last fight Hardonk was controlled on the mat and had little to offer in takedown defense against McCully. Hardonk does have excellent Muay Thai and if Mir has problems getting in on Hardonk that will most likely come in handy and he could possibly KO Mir. Mir had problems against Brandon Vera's Thai skills and could not stop him. If Mir does get Hardonk down he has all the tools to submit him. It should definitely be an interesting fight between these two Heavyweights.
Prediction: Frank Mir VIA Unanimous Decision
Justin Bullock: Man, it would be so nice if the “Old” Frank Mir showed up. Hardonk is the perfect opponent for him. As we saw in his last fight against Justin McCully, his take down defense is so-so and while he showed some skill on the ground I think that if Mir can get the fight there he will be able to get the submission. Hardonk is dangerous on the feet, but I'm not so sure he's so dangerous that he will be able to KO Mir without being put on his back first. Then again, maybe I just want Mir to win so bad that my judgement is clouded. Mir could get KTFO in the first round if he is not careful, but if he comes in with the right game plan he should be able to take Hardonk down and get the dominant position on the ground. Once there, he should be able to submit Hardonk with ease, but who knows? Mir has nothing to lose, so hopefully he fights like it. I see Mir reminding all of us why we thought he was one of the best Heavyweight submission specialists in the world, and submitting Hardonk in a fashion reminiscent of his glory days.
Prediction: Frank Mir VIA Rd. 1 Submission
Darrin Antler: There is really not much to analyze in this fight. Hardonk is a dangerous striker with virtually no ground game, while Mir is — well, nobody knows at this point. In this one, it all boils down to whether or not Mir can regain even a fraction of his form, circa 2004, when he was cleaning out the Heavyweight division. If a more inspired and in-shape Mir than the one we have seen since the motorcycle accident is in the octagon that night, he will be victorious: if not, it will be a painful night for the former champ as he contemplates his retirement from fighting. I still hold hope that Mir can and will get it together for this fight.
Prediction: Frank Mir VIA Rd.1 Submission
Ryan Jensen VS Thales Leites
Chris Howie: It’s the battle of the 11-1 records and someone will be going home 12-1. Unless of course it’s a draw then it would be 11-1-1. Either way I think this fight should be interesting as both fighters bring intense games into this one. Leites impressed me in his last outing against Floyd Sword and from what I’ve seen from him – has the potential to go places in the UFC. Jenson, who has only lost to Brock Larson, is making his UFC debut in this one and will be looking to get noticed. Something impressive will have to happen to get this one on the PPV and considering this one will most likely end up on the mat, I’m not sure what to expect. I’m not too sure who to take in this one but since I have to pick someone I’m going with…
Prediction: Thales Leites VIA Rd. 1 Submission
Justin Bullock: Is it wrong that I like this fight more now than when it was Travis Lutter vs. Jensen? I don't think so. Leites looked shakey in his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann at the TUF 4 Finale, but he rebounded nicely with a decision win over Pete Sell at UFC 69 and an impressive submission victory over Floyd Sword and is now 11-1. Jensen, making his UFC debut, has also accumulated a respectable 11-1 record, all of wins coming before the third round by either TKO or submission. It could be a very intense ground battle, or it could turn out to be a total bore of a fight. Always the optimistic one, I am going to hope it is the former. This fight will most likely not be shown due to the fact that it is probably the worst fight on the card; don't get me wrong, it's a good fight, but the rest of the card has much more appealing matches. This will be Thales' fourth fight in the UFC and I think his experience in the octagon will play a key factor in the outcome of the fight.
Prediction: Thales Leites VIA Unanimous Decision
Darrin Antler: Thales Leites left his mark on many UFC fans in the form of a slick arm triangle in his last fight against Floyd Sword. Pegged as one of the up and comers at 185, Leites will step into the Octagon against first time UFC fighter, Ryan Jensen. Jensen has a sparkling 11-1 record, with his sole loss coming against WEC veteran Brock “don’t call me Lesnar” Larson. Jensen possesses a solid ground game, but is a striker at heart. Leites is a BJJ ace with world-class skills on the ground. Leites should be able to get this fight to the ground early on, where he will work submission after submission until something locks in.
Prediction: Thales Leites VIA Rd. 2 Submission
Same thing coming up for the main PPV card in a few, stay tuned…