Wednesday, October 5, 2011

UFC 136: Will the third time be the charm?


Is the third time really the charm? This appears to be the question as we head into this weekend’s UFC 136 card. It’s the third time that UFC Lightweight (155 lbs.) Champion Frankie Edgar will face challenger Gray Maynard in a fight inside the octagon. It’s also the third time former lightweight, now featherweight (145 lbs.) Kenny Florian will challenge for a UFC world title after two failed attempts at 155 lbs; all that and more as we look ahead to UFC 136.

It’s been nine months since Frankie Edgar (13-1-1, 2 KO’s 3 subs) and Gray Maynard (10-0-1, 8 KO’s) kicked off the year right with a five round clash on New Year’s Day that ended in a draw. That was their first title fight against one another, but not their first fight. That actually took place over three years ago with Maynard handing Edgar the only loss of his career via decision. Eight rounds so far and we still haven’t been able to determine, who’s truly better than the other.

These two are so evenly matched that we may actually go another five rounds and still not know. However, notice I said “may,” as I believe this one will end with a clear cut winner. What I’m not sure of is who will be the victor? While I feel Edgar is the better all-around fighter, Maynard is clearly the bigger and stronger of the two. Therefore, one punch from Maynard can end the fight, while an accumulation of punches from Edgar can do the same.

On the ground, both are excellent wrestlers with strong collegiate backgrounds, but Maynard probably has the slight edge in this department based on his Big 10 experience. However, I feel Edgar has a slightly stronger jiu-jitsu and submission game. I’m having a difficult time picking a winner, but push, come to shove I’m taking Maynard solely because of two reasons.

First, he is naturally a bigger lightweight than Edgar as I believe the champ would be better suited fighting at 145 lbs. The other reason is that he owns one win over Edgar already and many argue that he may have won the second fight as well. My heart and east coast bias is telling me to go with Edgar, but logic and common sense is saying Maynard by decision. What other ending would it be?

In the co-main event, it’s another heart versus logic battle as Kenny Florian (14-5, 3 KO’s 9 subs) challenges for the featherweight title. However, in champion Jose Aldo (19-1, 12 KO’s 2 subs), he faces a consensus top five best pound for pound fighter in the world. This fight is intriguing on a few levels because for one it’s experience vs. youth. It’s also size vs. speed, but most importantly, it’s probably Florian’s last attempt at winning UFC gold.

At 35, Florian is ten years Aldo’s senior; and while both have had virtually the same amount of fights, Ken-Flo’s resume cannot be overlooked. Florian has fought all but three of his fights in the UFC against the lightweight division’s absolute best. That said, just look at who his only losses inside the octagon have been to.

Maynard, is currently challenging for the world title. He’s also lost to former champion and MMA legend B.J. Penn in a failed title bid. In another failed title attempt he lost to another former champion Sean Sherk and finally, he lost to Diego Sanchez in the finale of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season One when he had to compete 40 pounds above his current fighting class at middleweight.

Meanwhile Aldo, while competing against the WEC’s best before becoming UFC champion, has really fought no one neat that plateau other than former champions Urijah Faber and Mike Brown. However, whoever he has fought he’s annihilated with his quickness and ferocity. Although his frame dictates he’s a large featherweight, Florian is a natural lightweight who’s fought even heavier at both 170 and 185. Yet, the biggest question is will the third attempt at a world championship be the charm for Florian?

Another tough one for me as I truly believe Kenny’s size, experience and mastery of both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai can help him compete with anything Aldo throws his way; all except speed that is. Unfortunately, I think Aldo will be just too fast for Kenny no matter where the fight goes and that will be the telling difference in a TKO loss. My heart says Florian, but once again logic has superseded my emotions.

In two other fights of note, I’m anticipating knockouts of the highest variety. First, although Chael Sonnen’s wrestling can nullify just about anyone, just ask Anderson Silva, I think his time off due to suspension will leave just enough rust for Brian Stann to knock off for him. Stann (10-3, 7 KO’s 1 sub), a former WEC champion is finally rounding out as a fighter and that should help defend against Sonnen (25-11-1, 7 KO’s 3 subs), who’s best chance is to get Stann to the ground and keep him there.

I’m expecting more of the same from lightweight Melvin Guillard (29-8-2, 19 KO’s 2 subs) when he faces Joe Lauzon (20-6, 4 KO’s 16 subs). As tough and talented as Lauzon is, he’s no match for Guillard’s combination of speed, strength and power. If Lauzon was overpowered by George Sotiropoulos, he’s going to be overwhelmed by Guillard, who also appears to have finally rounded out as a fighter and is ready to challenge for the title. Short night for Lauzon as he gets KO’ed quick.

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