Thursday, November 18, 2010

UFC 123 Preview: Flip a Coin

Last weekend, as a combat sports fan, was one of those weekends where you considered yourself lucky to have a high profile fight in boxing along with a UFC event taking place all in the same night. Unfortunately when that happens, you are forced to choose between watching one live and the other on tape delay.

Last weekend boxing one out as the Pacquiao-Margarito fight was just too good to pass up live. Besides, UFC 122 was being shown on tape delay here in the states as a free broadcast since it took place in Germany.

Such is not the case this weekend though as UFC 123 will be on Pay-Per-View and while the rematch in boxing between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez should be great, this UFC card is to good to pass up live. Sure there are no championship fights headlining this card and three of the four fighters in the co-main events are coming off losses, but the fights themselves are so evenly matched, including the undercard, that when it comes to picking winners at UFC 123, you can literally flip a coin.

The main event features an intriguing clash of styles between two former light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champions in Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (30-8, 14 KO's 7 subs) and Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (16-1, 5 KO's 2 subs). Rampage, an in your face, swing for the fences type of fighter with KO power in either hand, is facing his complete opposite in Machida, whose Karate based style is much more defensive, counter-punching and technique oriented.

Both coming off losses, Jackson to Rashad Evans and Machida to Shogun Rua, this is a pivotal fight for both men in their careers. Rampage is looking to rebound from that loss where many felt he showed a lot of ring rust after taking a year off to become a movie star in the remake of 'The A-Team'. Meanwhile, 'The Dragon' is looking to regain the form he seemed to have lost in his two previous fights, both against Rua, one a controversial decision win and the latter a KO loss.

An extremely difficult fight to pick, especially because one punch from Jackson can end the fight, I am going with Machida via decision. Why? As strong as Rampage is, I am just a firm believer that more often than not, technique will supersede raw power on a rampage; (pun most certainly intended). Question is, can the same be said for the co-main event?

In that fight, we have the rubber match between two former welterweight (170 lbs.) champions, Matt Hughes (45-7, 17 KO's, 18 subs) and B.J. 'The Prodigy' Penn (15-7-1, 6 KO's 6 subs). The 37-year-old Hughes has seen a resurgence in his career just when most thought it may possibly be over.

He's riding a three-fight win streak, although I wouldn't be ready to line him up for a title shot just yet. His wins include a controversial split-decision over Matt Serra, a fight I felt Serra won, and a third round TKO against an over the hill Renzo Gracie, Gracie's first fight in three years. His last fight was a first round choke out of Renzo Gracie black belt Ricardo Almeida, something I never expected and have got to give him credit for.

Penn meanwhile is coming off two decision losses in a row to his kryptonite Frankie Edgar after looking dominant in his run as lightweight (155 lbs.) champion against Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian. Some feel Penn may have seen his better days, but that's what makes this fight so interesting.

Both fighters appear to have reached the point in their careers where the game has passed them by, thus as they were in their two previous fights, they are evenly matched. That said, I am picking Penn to come back with something to prove to not only his fans, but also himself and win this fight. I am looking at a submission victory over Hughes and one more run for Penn at a title shot, most likely back at lightweight.

A couple of quick picks on the other two big fights on the main card. First, the lightweight contender tilt between George Sotiropoulos (13-2, 1 KO 7 subs) and Joe Lauzon (19-5, 4 KO's 15 subs). Wow, what a great fight and another pick' em match-up. Both fighters are extremely well rounded and super skilled on the ground. However, Sotiropoulos is riding a seven-fight win streak and one more should most certainly garner him a title shot. Therefore, I am picking the Australian in a tough decision.

Finally, in the middleweight (185 lbs.) division, it is Gerald 'Hurricane' Harris (17-2, 8 KO's 6 subs) vs. UFC newcomer Maiquel 'Big Rig' Falcao (25-3, 21 KO's 3 subs). While Falcao is obviously a big puncher, it is his first foray into the octagon, where many a fighter's first time jitters have shown to be a problem.

Meanwhile, Harris is riding a ten-fight win streak, his last three in the UFC by KO. He was also my pick as the UFC's next generation superstar in the middleweight division in a column I wrote a couple of months ago. Therefore, I am picking Harris and predicting another KO of the night bonus for this rising young star. However, when looking back on all these fights, one thing's for sure, when it comes to UFC 123, I can flip a coin and probably do okay.

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