As usual, the staff of 5 Oz. will be giving you their picks and reasons why each fighter will win their fight at UFC 82: Pride of a Champion. Let’s waste no time and get right to it.
Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson (185 lbs. title fight)
Adam Morgan: I like Dan Henderson in this fight and I’ll tell you why. Anderson Silva has fought opponents that have complimented his devastating style and he’s never fought a wrestler on Henderson’s level. Silva has a weakness and it’s his wrestling game. Travis Lutter took him down and mounted him. Rich Franklin took him down but was unable to keep him there. Henderson is a better wrestler than both of those guys combined. To think that an Olympic caliber wrestler like Dan won’t be able to take Silva down and also keep him there is silly. Add in the fact that Henderson has proven that he has the cardio to go five rounds with a world class fighter and Silva hasn’t even been a full three rounds in the UFC and I give this one to Dan Henderson via TKO, round three.
Sam Cupitt: You have to love this fight. So many unknowns and intriguing little contests gives this fight the potential to be one of the best technical fights of all time. This fight, to me, will be won or lost depending on how confident Henderson is in his ability to stand with Silva. “Hollywood” Henderson has a habit of getting himself into ill-advised slugfests, mainly because he has so much power in his right hand and so much faith in what to this point has been a slab of granite for a chin. Standing with “the Spider” is the wrong way to go. Henderson needs to be relentless with takedown after takedown and not get lured into Silva’s game. Unfortunately for Henderson, that will be something he just can’t do. I foresee Silva getting taken down a few times but while on the feet he will constantly pepper Henderson with body shots and leg attacks until late in the third round where he will setup a fight ending flurry on the back of something crazy, like a flying knee. Anderson Silva via TKO, Round 3.
Ben Fowlkes: Silva has looked almost superhuman in his last few fights, but Henderson presents a different kind of challenge. At middleweight, few people can rival Hendo’s strength, not to mention his raw tenacity. He might be perfectly suited to take advantage of Silva’s poor takedown defense, though takedowns alone rarely win a fight.
Henderson will need to fight smart and wear Silva down, and I think he’ll do it. Henderson by decision or late TKO.
Ram Maramba: It’s difficult to separate my Hendo fanboy thoughts from any sober predictions. This one is as difficult to pick as the Sylvia/Nogueira bout for the same reasons: we know what each guy can do, but we don’t know how they’ll react stylistically when they meet in the cage. Henderson’s wrestling and power will be to his advantage, but in short stretches Silva has the strength in his deceptive frame to keep from getting tossed around. Henderson’s chin is legendary, but Silva is one of the few men on Earth who can tag him and tag him good. There’s a lot of talk about controlling range with the Thai clinch or Greco-Roman clinch, which I think is a moot point. Regardless of the space, Silva has an answer in his arsenal of strikes. Silva is slippery on the ground, as he proved when he swept Lutter out of the mount. Still, Henderson’s well-rounded game will keep Silva guessing and will render him either reacting or playing defense, especially in the later rounds. Silva has varied advantages wherever the fight goes, but he’ll have a hard time finding his all-important rhythm against Henderson’s ability to stay comfortable as the fight moves around. This is Henderson’s fight to lose; as long as he fights his game and maintains his tenacity and keeps Silva guessing, Hendo will pull out the decision win.
Mike MacLeod: It goes without saying that Dan Henderson is an exceptional fighter. One doesn’t win simultaneous titles in two weight classes without being something extremely special. And one would think that he would be more dominant in the leighter class of his two championships. But this will just demonstrate how elite Anderson Silva is. As we have seen time and time again, Silva will pick apart his opponent and then land devastating strikes. This will be no different. Silva by KO in the 2nd round.
Cheick Kongo vs. Heath Herring
Adam Morgan: Yet another tough fight to call. We’ve seen Cheick Kongo get better and better each time he fights but does he have what it takes to put away a seasoned veteran like Herring is the question. I think he does. A lot of people chalk Kongo’s win against Cro Cop up to Cro Cop not being “himself.” Whatever. Whether he was himself or not, Kongo dominated that fight from start to finish, knees to the balls or not. Kongo will control the fight, make it hard for Herring to get leverage to take him down, and keep the fight at a distance to work his excellent standup. Cheick Kongo via unanimous decision.
Sam Cupitt: Herring’s three opponents in the UFC so far have all wanted to put Herring on his back. Herring hates being on his back mainly because he pretty much has nothing offensive from there. Kongo will not want to take Herring down which will make “The Texan Crazy Horse” much more comfortable in this fight. Kongo looked good against Cro Cop in the last two rounds of their fight but he still got taken down by the Croatian kickboxer. He was also taken down by Antonio Silva who really has no business taking anyone to the ground. I have this fight being a very frustrating experience for Kongo who will realise he still has a lot to work on. Herring will score takedown after takedown and because he can’t use his favourite tactic of kneeing people in the head on the ground this fight will go to a rather uninspiring decision. Heath Herring via Unanimous Decision.
Ben Fowlkes: Herring has looked less than inspired since coming to the UFC, almost as if he’s another one of the Pride imports content to walk through his contract and be done with it. Kongo’s improvement has been steady in each fight, though his ground game is still a question. He has enough tools to beat Herring, provided he doesn’t get reckless and start looking for a highlight reel KO. Kongo by decision.
Ram Maramba: I can’t see Herring winning this fight. Kongo’s striking ability is well-documented, and there’s nothing Herring can throw at him he hasn’t seen before. He’s technically sound offensively and defensively, showed he’s not a complete tourist on the ground and has the strength to dictate the pace of the fight. I like Herring’s kickass nickname, but this is another step for Kongo up the HW ladder. Jesus. I can’t believe these guys are fighting for top five. Somewhere, Gan McGee is kicking himself for not being five years younger. Kongo by points in an excruciating decision.
Mike MacLeod: If Herring had a beer gut and Kongo brought a Bahamian towel to the cage, this could be Slice vs. Abbott II, but with a cazillion (that’s one thousand time a gazillion) times more skill. Unfortunately for Herring, this is still going to end up with the white guy flat on is face. Herring has not shown anything impressive in the UFC except for his complaining that his opponents won’t throw away 80% of their arsenal and play Ro Sham Bo with him. Kongo is going to play, but Herring is going to be outmatched. Kongo via KO in the 2nd round.
Chris Leben vs. Alessio Sakara
Adam Morgan: I’ll take Chris Leben in this fight for three reasons. His chin, his heavy hands, and his underrated grappling game. Sakara has been dropped by Drew McFedries and Houston Alexander in the past and I see the same thing happening here. Sakara has done nothing to prove that he can beat a fighter of Leben’s caliber. Don’t let all the tattoos and the overplayed “Italian boxer” thing fool you, Leben’s superior all around game will shine through here. Chris Leben via TKO, round one.
Sam Cupitt: If you told me this fight was going to happen before I saw Leben vs. Terry Martin I would have taken Sakara in a heartbeat. We saw a much improved Leben in his last outing. He no longer ‘windmilled’ his arms and he didn’t look like he was punching underwater (until the last round). If Leben tries to windmill his way to victory against Sakara he will get picked apart for three rounds but if he does what he did against Martin and work his way in and land good combinations and leg kicks then I see Sakara’s chin eventually crumpling. Chris Leben via KO, round one.
Ben Fowlkes: The move down to middleweight is the best possible choice for Sakara, but Leben is still a tough draw. He’s scrappy, he can take a shot as well as he can give one, and his submissions game is underrated. Leben might not be as technically sound a stand-up fight fighter as Sakara, but he can make you pay if you don’t put him away early. Leben by TKO.
Ram Maramba: Leben’s and Sakara’s UFC careers are the MMA equivalent of baseball players with high on-base percentages and low batting averages: they don’t produce much but get lots of free passes. Of the two, I like Leben’s game a lot better. I actually enjoyed his last outing against Terry Martin where he showed a more methodical approach but still kicked up the brawler inside when he needed it. Sakara’s boxing credentials and brown belt in BJJ have been mentioned several times, but he usually gets put on the mat before he gets a chance to show his chops. This one won’t be any different. Leben shows his softer side again and wins by submission late in the 1st.
Mike MacLeod: I guess I’m the lone man picking Sakara. From a skill perspective, I think this is going to be a draw. But Leben just got a little comfort in a new UFC contract while Sakara is probably fighting to stay in the organization. That little edge will get him over on Leban. Sakara via TKO in the 2nd round.
Yushin Okami vs. Evan Tanner
Adam Morgan: Yushin Okami has been steadily grinding his way to decision victories over the best middleweights that the UFC can muster up in their sorry division. The real question coming into this fight is what kind of Evan Tanner we’ll see. I think he has the tools to beat Okami but is he all there mentally? He has the better standup and he can work well off his back if Okami puts him there. But can he deal with the strength of Okami? Okami is perhaps the strongest middleweight in the entire division and though he may not have the most technical striking, he hits very hard. There’s too many question marks surrounding Tanner coming into this fight for me to pick him. I wish him well in his comeback, but I’m giving this one to Yushin Okami via split decision.
Sam Cupitt: Evan Tanner is one of my favourite fighters, so granted I could possibly be a little biased in my assessment of this fight. Now that we’ve got that out of the way I PREDICT EVAN TANNER BY MURDER! Kidding, kidding… but in all serious unless Okami manhandles Tanner to the ground and then grinds out a decision with methodical ground and pound for three rounds, I don’t see how he wins. Tanner’s stand up is much better than Okami’s, their wrestling is about equal and Tanner’s ground and pound is much, much better. If you also add the fact that Okami is notorious for being a slow starter then I see a 29-28 decision win for the former UFC middleweight champion. Evan Tanner via unanimous decision.
Ben Fowlkes: I get the sense that the UFC is waiting to see whether Evan Tanner’s feel good story of recovery and redemption is worth running with, and that’s why they’ve matched him with their own middleweight truth serum, Yushin Okami. If Tanner isn’t sharp, Okami will find out. He’s a grinder and he doesn’t let up. Okami by decision, but Tanner will show he’s got plenty of heart even in defeat.
Ram Maramba: My upset pick of the night. Boring or not, Okami is a hell of a fighter with elite wrestling and crazy power. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Tanner, but if he can dust off the tenacity he showed on the way to the welterweight belt, he’ll give Okami all he can handle. One of my favorite things about Tanner is that creepy “I’m still gonna beat your ass” smile he’d flash after being tagged by a big hit or near-miss. Most guys try it, Tanner actually pulls it off. He doesn’t care, and he has the crazy hairstyles to prove it. Okami’s probably the better fighter these days, but I predict Tanner by submission in the 3rd because I want to.
Mike MacLeod: I’d apologize to everyone for ruining their Disney story about Evan Tanner, but I’m not the one that wrote it. Okami is going to destroy him. Tanner doesn’t have the mental or physical skills at this point in his life to fight at this level any more. All the Evan Tanner lovers should set their DVRs carefully, because after Saturday the only time you’ll see him on TV is on Unleashed. Okami via submission in the 1st round.
Jon Fitch vs. Chris Wilson
Adam Morgan: Everyone is dogging on Wilson but he’s a very game opponent and a great replacement on short notice for the injured Akihiro Gono. He beat Rory Markham pretty handily and also gave Nick Thompson a hell of a fight in 2006. His standup is better than Fitch’s and he comes out of a camp that is full of great wrestlers so he has plenty of experience there. None of this will matter because Fitch is probably better at everything except striking, especially when it comes to the ground. Fitch will most likely catch one of Wilson’s leg kicks and drive him to the mat, pass guard, and generally do what he wants with Wilson on the ground. He’s a better wrestler and better at BJJ, plain and simple. Jon Fitch via submission, round two.
Sam Cupitt: These two will stand until Fitch realises he’s getting beaten up, then this fight will go the ground, where Fitch will be at home. I don’t know about anyone else but in my mind I just picture Wilson so much smaller than Fitch even though Wilson is a rather tall and lanky welterweight. It’s probably just that I’ve seen Fitch dominate and overpower everyone he has fought in the UFC. This fight won’t go much differently than all of Fitch’s other UFC fights. Unless Wilson can get a sneaky punch or submission in, this fight will end with Fitch getting into a dominant position on the ground which, will be followed by Wilson giving up his back and Fitch sinking in the choke. Jon Fitch via Submission in Round 2.
Ben Fowlkes: Wilson is one of the best fighters who most UFC fans have never heard of. He’s a technician on his feet and is adept on the ground, though he doesn’t want to get into a wrestling match here. Fitch is a powerhouse on the mat. Wilson has to stay up and look to pick him apart, which won’t be easy. I like the chances for an upset here, so I’ll take Wilson by TKO.
Ram Maramba: I understand Wilson has the credentials reserved for skilled unknowns, but Jon Fitch is Jon Fitch. His wrestling prowess is undeniable, has a combo or two in his back pocket and he is not getting submitted, least of all by the IFL alum. Wilson has a very nice standup game indeed and has won by submission several times before, but he’s never seen the likes of Fitch. Slow and steady, Fitch will work his way to the ground and beat out a GnP victory in the 2nd round.
Mike MacLeod: I wasn’t so hot on Fitch before his opponent changed, but now I’m going to go drop a grand on Wilson. Ben is correct. He’s an excellent fighter. And when was the last time a late replacement lost in the UFC? Wilson by KO in the 2nd round.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake O’Brien
Adam Morgan: We all know what O’Brien’s strategy will be. Take Arlovski down, place his head on Arlovski’s chest, adjust himself in a proper laying position, and finally…pray. If Arlovski can stuff a couple of takedowns and fend O’Brien off in the early portion of the fight, he can pick apart O’Brien on the feet. O’Brien has one way to win and that’s grind out a boring decision. Arlovski can submit you, knock you out, or grind out a decision himself. He’s capable of all three and his cardio is usually never an issue. I think Arlovski returns back to form here. Andrei Arlovski via TKO, round two.
Sam Cupitt: Andre Arlovski will make a statement in this fight that only the people in attendance will hear. Jake O’Brien is a very good wrestler but the guys he has fought in the UFC have trouble staying up in a stiff breeze. He has been able to shoot from the other side of the Octagon without engaging with success because of this. He won’t be able to do that against Arlovski. To get ‘the Pitbull’ down he will have to stand in front of him which will result in a lot of punishment being dished out. This fight will end with O’Brien face down on the ground with Arlovski running around the Octagon screaming with drool running down his chest. Now let us all gather and pray that Arlovski resigns and faces Nogueira later this year. Andre Arlovski via KO, Round 1.
Ben Fowlkes: O’Brien isn’t kidding himself. He knows his best chance against Arlovski is to put him on his back and hold him there for three rounds, so that’s what he’s going to try and do. Arlovski will have to defend some takedowns and maintain a good striking range. He may have trouble early, but eventually he’ll force O’Brien to stand in front of him. Arlovski by TKO.
Ram Maramba: The days of the exciting Andrei Arlovski seem long gone, but to attribute his style change to diminishing skills is a huge mistake. Arlovski’s almost jarring transformation into a ballroom-dancer-with-gloves is almost entirely self-imposed and I get the feeling he’s about ready to implode on O’Brien. O’Brien is no joke and looked as impressive as a human blanket can look, but Arlovski is a stud and has the ability to keep this fight standing long enough to score a big right hand. “The Peeeetbull” by TKO.
Mike MacLeod: Poor Jake O’Brien. Not only does AA no longer have a title shot to save himself for, but now he’s being slapped in the face by fighting on the undercard. Arlovski will strike down upon Jake with great vengeance and furious anger. Arlovski by KO in the 1st.
Luigi Fioravanti vs. Luke Cummo
Adam Morgan: Cummo has show a well rounded game in his last fights with solid boxing and standup and also very good jiu jitsu, working out of Matt Serra’s camp. Fioravanti will want to keep this standing because if it goes to the ground he is at a disadvantage. Cummo has too many tools in his toolbox not to win this fight, whether it be standing or on the ground. Fioravanti is a gamer, but Cummo is on a roll and has faced the better competition. Luke Cummo via submission, round two.
Sam Cupitt: This will be an entertaining stand up fight. Fioravanti has had a tough time of it at 170 in the UFC after getting choked by Fitch and decisioned by Petz but I think he will have gotten the hang of cutting the weight now. However I think Cummo is in the process on going on a bit of a run and will have too much variety in his strikes for Luigi. Luke Cummo via Unanimous Decision.
Ben Fowlkes: I have to think that Cummo has the edge on the ground here, and while Fioravanti hasn’t exactly been fighting tomato cans, he hasn’t been in some of the wars that Cummo has. This is a good opportunity for Cummo to show his rapid improvement over the last couple of years, and I think he’ll do just that. Cummo via submission.
Ram Maramba: I have this pegged as the underrated bout of the night. Fioravanti is a tough bastard and Cummo’s evolving game should be on display. Probably nothing highlight-worthy, just three rounds of exciting MMA standing up and on the ground. By the power of urine, Cummo via unanimous decision.
Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett
Adam Morgan: This is a tough fight for Koscheck but I think he’s just too powerful for Dustin Hazelett. Hazelett likes to work off his back and use his lanky frame to his advantage but I think Koscheck’s strength and top control will stifle his submission game. On the feet, I give Koscheck the advantage as well. Hazelett is a good up and comer and the odds on this fight are grossly out of whack, but Koscheck comes out on top in this one. Josh Koscheck via unanimous decision.
Sam Cupitt: Hazelett is getting no love from the bookies with Koscheck being listed as a mighty favourite. However I think this will result in Hazelett’s family making some nice dosh after they take advantage of these crazy odds. There is speculation that Koscheck may be on the undercard because this is the last fight on his contract. Whether or not this is the case, the fact this is his last fight will give him an extra incentive to win… and win impressively. If this means Koscheck will be more aggressive than usual he opens himself to being caught. After reading a number of interviews featuring Hazelett, it appears he is a realist. He acknowledges that he won’t be able to take Koscheck down so he’s just focused on what he will need to win. That is utilising his length in the stand up and his superior jiu jitsu. I see Hazelett frustrating Koscheck with his jab on his feet which will neutralise Koscheck’s looping punches and then when the fight hits the ground I see Hazelett wrapping up Koscheck in a fight ending triangle choke. Hazelett via submission in Round 1.
Ben Fowlkes: Rumor is that the UFC is iffy on Koscheck and would like to quietly ride out his contract before giving him any more hype. That’s why he’s stepping down in competition to face Hazelett in a bout that may not make the broadcast. Hazelett looks good on paper, but he’s not ready for an athlete of Koscheck’s caliber. Koscheck takes this by TKO or decision.
Ram Maramba: I’m not as down on Koscheck as most of the MMAverse seems to be. He’ll always have an exceptional wrestling base and his standup wasn’t anything close to terrible in the Sanchez fight. Neither one of them will ever be confused as practitioners of the sweeter science, but he showed a nice ability to move his feet and deal some damage from range. I like Hazelett a lot when he’s on the ground, I just don’t see it ending up there unless Koscheck is on top. If he stays active on top, he’ll be able to power through anything Hazelett throws at him. I hope this match makes it to the broadcast. I get the feeling Koscheck is feeling a bit of that Arlovski mojo and will throw caution to the wind. Koscheck will LnP his way to yet another decision victory.
Mike MacLeod: I’ve never been a fan of Koscheck, but where’s the love from the UFC? He takes the current interim champ the distance (yes, he was dominated) and his next fight is on the undercard? Does the UFC know something I don’t? I don’t think so. Koscheck will domiante and will actually finish a fight. Kos by submission in the second round.
David Bielkheden vs. Diego Sanchez
Adam Morgan: Think Diego wants to lose three in a row? Hell no. Think the UFC wants Diego to lose three in a row? Hell no. Cue David Bielkheden. He’s said in the past couple of weeks that he hasn’t even seen any tape on Diego and doesn’t know much about him. That’s a huge red flag. That combined with his skills being very ordinary make it a long night for Bielkheden. Diego will bum rush Bielkheden and have him pounded out or submitted in the first round. Diego Sanchez via TKO, round one.
Sam Cupitt: Diego angry. Diego smash. I have a feeling this will look like one of Diego’s early Ultimate Fighter victories. I expect takedown, half guard, side control, mount, punches, back control, punches, stoppage. Fun fact: This is the first time an Ultimate Fighter winner has been on an undercard. Diego Sanchez via TKO in Round 1.
Ben Fowlkes: Coming off two straight losses, Sanchez needs a win to stay relevant and justify the hype the UFC built around him following his reality show win. That explains Bielkheden’s presence. He’s a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack fighter who’s likely being brought in to make Sanchez again look like the beast he was once rumored to be. Sanchez will oblige by finishing Bielkheden early with a TKO win.
Ram Maramba: This smells like a tailor-made comeback trail, if Sanchez even needs it. Two straight losses to top-10 welterweights is a bump in the road for a fighter of his caliber in a stacked division. I’ve never been a fan of Dirty Sanchez and his idiotic melodramatics, but the guy is a solid fighter, if not a stud. I don’t know much about Bielkheden, other than the fact it took me about 43 seconds to type out his name. Unless death-by-vowels is a submission, this is an easy back ride for ol’ Dirty to victory. Sanchez by TKO in the 2nd.
Mike MacLeod: How can any fighter say that they don’t know anything about Sanchez? He’s the guy sitting cross legged in the middle of the cage taking deep breaths of his own farts. Is Bielkheden Amish? Doesn’t he own a TV? This honestly puts a shiver down my spine. Diego is going to end this early. Sanchez via KO in the first.
John Halverson vs. Jorge Gurgel
Adam Morgan: I think Jorge is better suited as a great jiu jitsu coach than a mediocre fighter. He pours his heart into his fights but he just isn’t that great all around. That being said, Halverson has fought a who’s who of nobodies and took a complete pounding from Roger Huerta. This should be an evenly matched battle but I think Halverson comes out on top. John Halverson via TKO, round three.
Sam Cupitt: A typical Jorge Gurgel fight, where two skilled grapplers decide to go toe to toe in hilarious striking exchanges. I think Jorge takes this one. Jorge Gurgel via Unanimous Decision.
Ben Fowlkes: Halverson is tough, but he hasn’t faced enough top competition for us to really know what he can do. Gurgel looked bad in his decision loss to Alvin Robinson. By the end he seemed like a man who was looking for quitting time and payday, and that’s worrisome. If Gurgel still has the fire in him, he should win this. The fact that it’s even a question should tell you something. I’ll take Halverson via late TKO or decision.
Ram Maramba: Wow, really? I guess there’s a dearth of local candidates, because Gurgel is looking like Ohio’s one-eyed king in the land of the blind. Until head-butting is re-legalized in MMA, Gurgel and his giant noggin don’t have any real advantages in the game. He got beat at his own specialty against Alvin Robinson and Halverson is no stranger to the submission game. I’d call it an upset, but Gurgel hasn’t shown much so far and Halverson has a decent resume through the smaller shows. Halverson by TKO.
Mike MacLeod: I really like Jorge. And that makes it so much more painful to see him continue to lose despite his impressive Jiu Jitsu credentials. This one won’t be any different. I’m glad this won’t be on TV because I’ll find the outcome more heartbreaking than when Tanner gets beat. Halverson via decision.