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UFC 100 Preview and Picks: Part 2

By on July 11, 2009

We’re just hours away from UFC 100, and with yesterday’s part of the preview out of the way, we’ve only got the three main bouts to discuss.  Who will take the fight between Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping?  What about the UFC Welterweight Championship fight between champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Thiago Alves?  And finally, can Frank Mir submit Brock Lesnar again to become the legitimate UFC Heavyweight Champion?

First, let’s recap yesterday’s picks for the preliminary fights and the first half of the main card:

CB Dollaway vs. Tom Lawlor: Dollaway by TKO, Round 2
Shannon Gugerty vs. Matt Grice: Gugerty by submission, Round 3
Dong Hyun Kim vs. TJ Grant: Grant by decision
Mac Danzig vs. Jim Miller: Miller by decision
Jon Jones vs. Jake O’Brien: Jones by TKO, Round 2
Mark Coleman vs. Stephan Bonnar: Bonnar by submission, Round 3
Alan Belcher vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama: Akiyama by submission, Round 2
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago: Fitch by TKO, Round 1

By the way, my record on fight picks here at Fightmania is a mediocre 19-13.  Let’s hope UFC 100 pushes that mark a little further in the “W” column.  Here are my picks for the three main attractions of UFC 100:

Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping

Henderson is surprisingly only 2-2 in his return to the UFC, where he didn’t compete between UFC 17 and UFC 75.  Looking at that, you would wonder if age was starting to catch up with him, until you look at who the losses were against: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Anderson Silva, both at that time champions of the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions in the UFC.  He comes into this fight with a two fight winning streak, both by decision.  The first was a unanimous, but competitive decision against the scrappy Rousimar Palhares (and his Lego-hair helmet of doom).  The most recent, of course, was the split decision win over Rich Franklin.

Meanwhile, Bisping’s only loss in 18 fights remains his split decision loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 78.  Since then, he has had opponents that are a step or two back from Evans’ talent level, as he has beaten Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben.  All game opponents, but not anywhere near the level of Dan Henderson.  In fact, Bisping has never fought anyone near Henderson’s level before, other than Evans.  His next toughest opponent would probably be Leben, McCarthy or maybe Eric Schafer, with apologies to Matt Hamill.

Therein lies the problem.  It’s not Bisping’s fault necessarily that a lot of his wins are over less-than-stellar opposition, but it is troubling that he has repeatedly fought “down” to the level of his opponent.  Consider the controversial decision win over Matt Hamill, which in effect was a sloppy boxing match where Hamill landed way more shots than he should have, given Bisping’s technical boxing skills and Hamill’s complete lack of them.  Afterwards, Bisping had the audacity to claim he had put on a “boxing clinic”, but our eyes told us much differently.  Against another sloppy striker (though much better than Hamill) in Chris Leben, Bisping again let his opponent hang around for far too long in what was purely a stand-up battle.  Why isn’t Bisping taking advantage of opponents who do not have the technical striking skills that he claims to have?

The reason that this is all relevant is that Bisping claims that Henderson will not be able to get the best of him in the striking game.  I beg to differ.  Bisping can talk all he wants about Hendo only having a “big right hand” and nothing else, but such limitations did not stop Leben or even Hamill from making the standup portion of their fights with Bisping very competitive.  While I’m not necessarily predicting a KO from a Henderson right hand, I’m definitely not ruling it out, either.

The rest of the fight doesn’t really need to be debated.  Hendo’s grappling is worlds ahead of Bisping, at least in the wrestling aspect.  Bisping may have better submissions and submission defense than Hendo, but that won’t really come into play.  Bisping plans to just be able to stand up when taken down by Henderson, but that can only take you so far.  He will still be on the short end of the judges’ scorecards if he is repeatedly taken down, and he will still be expending a lot of energy.  Henderson takes this one.

Prediction: Henderson by decision

Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves

I suspect that if we hadn’t seen St. Pierre lose in surprisingly devastating fashion to huge underdog Matt Serra at UFC 69, there would be a lot less upset predictions going around for this fight.

No disrespect to Thiago Alves, but before GSP lost that fight, he had an air of invincibility around him that no other fighter in MMA seemed to have at the time, save for Fedor Emelianenko.  Since then, he has gotten right back into his old form, dispatching opponents left and right, including the likes of Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch and BJ Penn.  I really think that a lot of the people who are picking Alves in this fight are picking him just as much because of GSP’s loss to Serra as because of Alves’ own merits.

I mean, if Serra could catch GSP and put him away, what could a monster like Thiago Alves do, right?  And in a way, they’re right.  But Serra’s win over GSP was more of an example of how anyone can lose to a fellow top MMA fighter than any kind of real indictment of a whole in GSP’s game.  Alves does bring some very, very powerful strikes to the table, as well as underrated takedown defense.  However, so many people seem to have forgotten what GSP brings to the table.

Let’s see, how about: versatile striking that includes very good boxing fundamentals and techniques from traditional martial arts like karate, jiu-jitsu skills that have allowed him to roll on the mat with the likes of BJ Penn, Jason Miller and Matt Serra without having to tap, and wrestling that has allowed him to out-grapple those with far better wrestling “credentials” than him, such as former NCAA Division I Champion Josh Koscheck, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg and Hughes himself.
GSP has fought and beaten just about every type of fighter…strong one-dimensional wrestlers, all-around fighters, jiu-jitsu specialists, you name it. 

The only thing he hasn’t truly faced until tonight is a scary striker the likes of Alves.  Alves definitely has a chance to win this fight.  GSP, like anyone else in the world, can be knocked out, and an accumulation of powerful leg kicks will take their toll on him just as they would on any fighter.  However, Alves will be defending takedowns all night long and expending plenty of energy himself.  In a fight between two elite-level fighters, you have to look at areas where there are distinct advantages, and GSP has two: the ability to decide where the fight goes and what will definitely be an outstanding gameplan.

Prediction: St. Pierre by TKO, Round 4

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir

This is probably the hardest fight on the card to predict.  Their first fight was so quick, with such a huge momentum swing, that it’s really hard to incorporate into any kind of analysis for this fight.  On one hand, Mir submitted Brock in about a minute and a half, which usually means it was a dominant victory.  On the other hand, Lesnar manhandled Mir right up until that point, and the mistake that he made leading to the loss was a result of a very particular situation that we definitely don’t see in every fight.  Throw in some head-scratching referee work by Steve Mazzagatti, and you might as well toss their first bout out the window.

Plus, as Mir himself has observed, Lesnar learns so much between fights that he’s hard to really prepare for.  The Brock Lesnar that fought Frank Mir the first time wouldn’t have had much of a chance against Randy Couture, who is savvy enough to easily dismantle such an overly eager, wild opponent.  Against Heath Herring, though, Lesnar was almost ridiculously patient, methodically beating his much more experienced opponent down through three full rounds.  We never saw the kind of “spaz attack” that Lesnar spent the whole first Mir fight utilizing.  The Couture fight showed us the best Lesnar yet: he was methodical and took advantage of his strengths, but when the right moment came, he unleashed on Couture with the pedal to the proverbial metal to get a stoppage.

What will Lesnar bring this time?  Well, if you want me to say that there’s no way he’ll get submitted by Mir again, or make another dumb mistake, I’m not about to say that.  Lesnar will probably be at risk to be submitted against top grapplers for his entire MMA career.  Having said that, he will have improved vastly on the ground since their first encounter.  The best defense that Lesnar has against submissions is his ground and pound, which will make it difficult for even the most composed ground fighters to capitalize on mistakes.  His strength will also help him to power out of a good number of submission attempts.

Mir can definitely win this fight by submission, and he just may.  In their first fight, he attempted several submissions in about 90 seconds, and while they can’t all be winners, mathematics tells us that if Mir is going for several submissions per round, he’s bound to eventually get something that will make Brock tap.  The x-factor with Mir is his gas tank.  Sure, he looked better against Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, but Nog didn’t exactly push the pace, and there’s a big difference between a few rounds of striking and a few rounds of grappling with a guy that’s as strong as a gorilla.

Count me out of the mass of people who think that Mir’s perceived striking advantage will be the deciding factor.  Mir’s striking is amazingly overrated, especially by himself.  He has a ton of confidence after his win over Nogueira, but should he?  Sure, Nog had never been finished that way before, but this was not the same Nogueira we saw out-boxing people in Pride.  Nog had no head movement whatsoever and was basically walking into Mir’s punches as Mir threw pretty much the same combination again and again.  Mir will have a technical advantage over Lesnar in the standup, but Lesnar’s freakish reach and strength will equalize things.  Also, Lesnar may not have high-level skills, but he’s been doing nothing but fundamentals.  He hasn’t expanded his striking game, but what he does have should be relatively fundamentally sound.

The key here is that Lesnar will dictate everything that happens in the fight.  Mir can get a submission, but I think it has to take place early in the fight, when Lesnar may get a bit over-excited and make a mistake (as well as when Mir has a full tank of gas).  I think Lesnar will be smart and fight a cautious fight in the early rounds, wearing down Mir and taking some time to stand with him, before finally putting him away via ground strikes in the middle to late rounds of the fight.

Prediction: Lesnar by TKO, Round 3

by Jon Hartley for Fightmania.com

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