The moment of truth is almost here. Affliction’s first-ever MMA event is less than 24 hours away and the staff of 5 Oz. is here to offer their predictions. Enjoy.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia
Adam Morgan: This is a fight that hardcores around the world have been talking about for quite some time. For awhile there were some mutterings that Fedor was ducking Tim Sylvia. Now we can finally put those rumors to rest. Sylvia is the best opponent that Fedor has faced in a long time and he’s a fighter that poses problems for any heavyweight in the world simply due to his size. If he can keep the fight standing and use his reach to his advantage then he has a chance to frustrate Fedor and win the fight. I don’t see that happening, however. Fedor has fought tall opponents before with better striking (see: Semmy Schilt), and has had no trouble getting the fight to the ground and unloading his vicious ground and pound or a submission. I expect the same to happen here. Sylvia will certainly be a game opponent but will eventually make a mistake that leads to a submission. The submission game is Sylvia’s biggest weakness and I expect Fedor to expose it early. Fedor via submission, round two.
Michael Huckaby: May I go on record as saying I still don’t understand how Sylvia can more than hold his own on the ground with Jeff Monson for twenty-five minutes but the second he hits the ground against Minotauro he taps? I’m not saying Minotauro isn’t leaps and bounds over Monson, I just don’t get it in the big picture. I’m still really worried about a cut stoppage here but as Morgan said Fedor has taken punishment from tall strikers before but eventually he gets inside and gets the fight to the mat where a quick armbar from nowhere ends it. Fedor is the master of the ring and Sylvia is …. good in the cage. I don’t care what guys say, surfaces matter. I do think Tim will hold him off with the jab and keep distance for five minutes but if it were a ten minute first round I believe it would end there. The only sure thing in this fight is that Tim Sylvia will at some point hold the ropes to avoid going down. Winner: Fedor, sub, Rd2
Gary Herman: Fedor is the best fighter in the world. Period. Tim Sylvia is a good fighter that can cause match-up problems. Fedor doesn’t have match-up problems. No fighter in the world is better prepared than Emeliananeko. Can Sylvia hurt Fedor? No. Sylvia’s only chance is with a lucky cut. Fedor knows this. Emelianenko by second round submission.
Paul Balsom: Much like everyone else I’m assuming, this one is pretty simple for me to break down. I think Big Tim thinks he is going to be able to get in that ring and pepper Fedor to death, but I he will underestimate Fedor’s explosiveness and be on the ground before he knows it. Shortly after that, one of Sylvia’s long arms will be getting pretzeled up in some horrible way and he will have no choice but to tap. I don’t think this will be much of a fight, as much as I would like for it to be. All of this, of course, is assuming that 2008 Fedor is the same Fedor we’ve seen only sparsely in the last two years. Fedor Emelianenko via submission in round 1.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell
Adam Morgan: This is by far the most evenly matched fight on the entire card as the former IFL heavyweight champion and highly underrated Ben Rothwell takes on former UFC champion Arlovski. Rothwell has really good power in his hands and Arlovski has some of the fastest hands in all of MMA and a killer instinct. I have to give the size and wrestling advantage to Rothwell, as well as the ability to take a shot. Arlovski’s chin is suspect and Rothwell has the power to knock him out if he catches him clean. I love this fight and I hope it’s a banger but I see Rothwell coming out on top when the dust clears. Ben Rothwell via TKO, round three.
Michael Huckaby: I can’t wait for this fight. My problem is outside of the questionable chin of Arlovski I don’t see a way Ben Rothwell pulls this one out. I also don’t see how someone can insult Mike Whitehead’s level of opposition and not at least question Rothwell’s. I’m all for Roy Nelson but we’re hardly talking dominating performances here. Arlovski is proven and better until shown otherwise. Maybe his moment has already passed him by but this is a new opportunity and, much like Sylvia, a chance to redefine himself. I really expect Arlovski to get a TKO here but I’m going to play it safe. Winner: Arlovski, decision
Gary Herman: I’m surprised so many people are hopping on the Rothwellwagon. It’s about to lose a couple of tires. If Rothwell thinks he can stand with the former UFC champion, he’s mistaken. Arlovski is going to turn it up again in his first fight out of the UFC. Arlovski by second round TKO.
Paul Balsom: As some of you may know, I’m from Chicago, so this is a fight that’s close to home for both fighters. Surprisingly, most people I talk to think Big Ben’s going to whoop up on Arlovski. My immediate thought is to disagree. I know Arlovski has fought plenty of heavyweights that are bigger than he (i.e. Sylvia, Verdum, I may be overlooking someone), but I don’t think Rothwell has faced anyone who has that more lean and explosive frame that Arlovski has. I think Arlovksi can weather some outside attacks by Rothwell long enough to get inside and do damage from there, or take the fight to the ground. If Rothwell comes out throwing hard first, I think it’s an advantage for Arlovksi to throw some nice counter shots and to get him to the ground for some potentially fight-ending strikes. Arlovksi via TKO (ref’s stoppage) in round 3.
Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo
Adam Morgan: These two fighters face off in a rematch of a previous UFC fight where Rizzo KO’d Barnett in the second round. I find it highly unlikely that we’ll see that same thing happen here. That was over six years ago, when Rizzo was at his prime in MMA and Barnett was still developing into the fighter that he is today. Rizzo has shown his age and his wear and tear during the past few years and Barnett will have the clear advantage when it comes to the overall MMA game. Rizzo’s striking is better, but Barnett’s wrestling, ground and pound, and submission game are much better than Rizzo’s. I expect a game fight out of Rizzo but Barnett will eventually overwhelm him. Josh Barnett via TKO, round two.
Michael Huckaby: It wasn’t that long ago in a Duel-like setting far, far away I asked if Rizzo had one more big run left in him after victories over Eilers and Monson and everyone agreed yes. He’s only 34, but that’s an OLD 34. I really think Rizzo is going to bring everything he has into this fight and as I always say styles make the matchups. Even though their previous matchup was roughly 40 years ago I still think the result means something. Unfortunately for Rizzo, Barnett is an absolute warrior with a rock hard chin. At the same time I’m not really seeing a way Barnett finishes this one either outside of a gassed Rizzo giving him something. Winner: Barnett, decision
Gary Herman: Barnett knows what lies ahead with a win – a fight with Fedor Emelianenko (assuming Fedor wins as well). That will be tremendous motivation for him. Plus, he’s not likely to look past Rizzo because Rizzo floored him a few years back. I like Barnett to dominate the positioning in the fight – unloading a lot of ground and pouns and trying submissions. Rizzo will most likely be overwhelmed. Barnett by 30-27 decision – 3x.
Paul Balsom: Don’t freak out when I say that I think this is a good bit of matchmaking. This has the “once defeated fighter looking for redemption” bit to it, but also Rizzo is not anywhere in Barnett’s league now. I think Barnett shows off some powerful wrestling early on and is able to ground-and-pound Rizzo until the ref steps in early. Barnett via TKO in round 1.
Matt Lindland vs. Fabio Negao
Adam Morgan: Matt Lindland has been given somewhat of a gimme fight in this matchup. Negao is no joke but Lindland should be able to handle him rather easily with his Olympic caliber wrestling and ground and pound. No MMA fighter in the world today, even Dan Henderson and Randy Couture, has adapted their wrestling to MMA better than Lindland. We should see some vintage Lindland here and he should take this one rather easily. Matt Lindland via TKO, round two.
Michael Huckaby: Gimme fight is right and it’s a bad idea. Lindland needs to define himself in the division before complete attention is turned away if it hasn’t already. It was only a year ago he was the greatest middleweight on Earth and now he’s relegated to fighting Negao in an eye roller. To play devil’s advocate, I don’t really know that Lindland is taking this any more seriously than the rest of us are. We’ve seen what can happen to Lindland when he’s not paying attention. Winner: Lindland, sub, Rd2
Gary Herman: Lindland’s really drifted from the MMA spotlight. He hasn’t had a really high profile fight in a while – save the heavyweight (mis)match with Fedor. This is a set-up fight for Lindland to look good. Negao is decent, but he isn’t ready for Lindland. I expect Negao to show up and put up a fight though. Lindland by decision.
Paul Balsom: I think the safe pick is Lindland here, so I will make it. Though Negao is a solid jiu jitsu player, aggressive guys like Lindland are often able to come in and do their damage quick enough to completely negate any potential danger. Lindland via TKO in round 1.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Mike Whitehead
Adam Morgan: This is a huge step up in competition for Whitehead, as he has never faced a grappler the caliber of Sobral before. He may be on a twelve fight win streak and he may never have been submitted in his MMA career, but there’s a first time for everything. Whitehead has been steadily improving since his time on TUF but he’s no match for a submission artist like Babalu. Babalu has been in some wars with some of the best fighters in the light heavyweight division and Whitehead is just another name on the list. Whitehead will be game and put up a tough fight, but I expect Babalu to find a way to submit him and stop him dead in his tracks. Babalu via submission, round two.
Michael Huckaby: This fight is much more of an enigma to me than it is to Morgan. Babalu is absolutely better but can you say he’s more rounded than Whitehead? If this went to a decision would Sobral’s ground control be good enough to take it? Whitehead is a bear and Babalu’s striking at times looks like a man flailing in a straight jacket. I don’t think Babalu is going to have an easy time at all controlling Whitehead and dominating this fight. Poor competition or not, you don’t get through 30 fights in a career without being submitted through sheer luck. This fight might actually be more of a tossup to me than the Arlovski/Rothwell battle. I love both of these fights. I keep picturing Whitehead dominating on top and getting a little wild trying to end it before getting snagged in a triangle. I have to go with the fight in my head. Winner: Babalu, sub, Rd2
Gary Herman: This fight is golden opportunity for Whitehead. Whitehead will try to make this an ugly fight. Meanwhile, Babalu is a very unpredictable fighter. Will Babalu be at his best or will we see the guy who fought James Irvin? Fortunately for Babalu, the guy that fought Irvin is enough to beat Whitehead. Babalu by decision.
Paul Balsom: I threw this idea out in The DUEL, and I haven’t come up with another scenario in my mind that I think is realistic (aside from Whitehead scoring a flash KO or the like). I like Whitehead to negate Babalu’s submission attacks, and the two to more or less score a draw on the feet. I think Sobral’s offensive ground attacks will score him over Whitehead for a rather slow decision win. Babalu via unanimous decision (29-28).
Paul Buentello vs. Aleksander Emelianenko
Adam Morgan: Buentello is a guy who has good power and decent hands but doesn’t have much in the way of athleticism. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in work ethic. The guy is always game, always willing to fight whoever you put in front of him, and always willing to put on a great show. That being said, there’s nothing about this matchup that I like for Buentello. Emelianenko is a monster in the ring and now that it seems he’s focused on his fighting career and back on track, Buentello should be no match for him. Like I said, expect Buentello to go in the ring and give it his all, but it won’t be enough to match the far superior younger brother of the baddest man on the planet. Aleksander Emelianenko via TKO, round one.
Michael Huckaby: I really like Buentello and I don’t like watching him get beat up. Can we take this time to talk about that Sherdog interview with Aleks? Did he join the Arona/Parisyan Bullcrap Hall of Fame? What a load that was, yet another guy who can never admit when he lost to a better fighter. Alright, back on topic, Emelianenko’s boxing is going to slaughter Buentello fairly early. My dream matchup from the UFC vs PRIDE days was seeing Arlovski vs Aleks and now with Affliction that fight might one day be a possibility in boxing heaven. Winner: A. Emelianenko, KO, Rd2
Gary Herman: Buentello and Emelianenko will stand and bang for as long as the fight lasts. Buentello has a lot of power and Aleks has a lot more skill. Will Buentello catch Aleks? Maybe. Will it be enough? I don’t think so. Emelianenko by first round TKO.
Paul Balsom: This fight seems to totally depend on which of the two fighters we see on Saturday night. If Aleksander comes out looking like he did in his last fight, really aggressive and crisp, this could be a tough night for Buentello. And hopefully Buentello doesn’t look anything like he did in his fight against Overeem in Strikeforce, because Emelianenko may kill him. I see Aleksander coming out looking good on the feet and the fight somehow getting to the ground. At which point, Emelianenko will slap on a wicked arm lock to finish the fight. Emelianenko’s submission win will come in round 2.
Vitor Belfort vs. Terry Martin
Adam Morgan: This is one of the more interesting matchups on the card for hardcore fans, as it’s always a question as to which Vitor Belfort will show up, especially now that he’s making his debut at 185 lbs. His opponent, Terry Martin, has a rock for a head and extremely powerful hands so he’ll be a task for Vitor to handle. I find it hard to put any kind of faith into Belfort given his past few appearances and fights. He no longer looks like the fighter we once knew when he was in the UFC but it’s also hard to put any stock into Martin. I have my doubts about the outcome of this fight, but I’m going to have to go with the more known commodity in recent months, Terry Martin. Terry Martin via TKO, round three.
Michael Huckaby: I’m under the impression the Belfort that kills halfway decent fighters with strikes died along with Julia Child. At the same time, Martin is in that MMA career arc where you’re in a funk after being a hot young prospect before popping back out onto the main stage. This is a battle of my MMA rules. The old, fading guy who looks downright awful sometimes against the guy who might or might not be ready to hit his stride and prime. This card is getting harder to pick than I thought it would be. You know what, Belfort isn’t easy to finish and I’ve seen Martin gas his way out of fights and get punched late too often. Belfort pulls it out in the third, be it via decision or a late shocking KO. Winner: Belfort, decision
Gary Herman: The “Phenom” Belfort is back. This is the perfect fight for Belfort to look great in. Martin will try to trade with Belfort, and that is not a good idea. Belfort was phenominally fast at 205. If he is mentally prepared, Belfort will be merely a blur at 185. Could we see Belfort vs. Lindland next? I hope so. Belfort by first round KO.
Paul Balsom: If Martin’s junk has recover from his fight at Adrenaline, than I don’t see this going any other way than him out-boxing Belfort into oblivion. As much as I would like to pick Belfort for old times sake, I cannot. Martin via TKO in round 2.
Edwin Dewees vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Adam Morgan: I almost feel bad for Edwin Dewees. He’s so young, has so many fights, has a great amount of potential, but is being fed to the wolves by facing the man we all know as Lil’ Nog. Lil’ Nog has great boxing and spectacular jiu jitsu, just like his brother Minotauro and I don’t expect Dewees to have much for him in the way of resistance. Dewees is a game young fighter and he won’t go quietly into the night but Lil’ Nog is way too much for the youngster. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via submission, round two.
Michael Huckaby: Wait, wait, Little Nog is fighting twice in a year? Is it a leap year? Let’s see, knock him out or submit him, knock him out or submit him? We’ll say punch into submission so I can satisfy both. Winner: Lil’ Nog, sub, Rd2
Gary Herman: This really isn’t a fair fight. Dewees is nowhere near the same class as Lil’ Nog. Dewees was easily submitted by Frank Trigg. I don’t see anyway this fight goes differently. Nogueira by first round submission.
Paul Balsom: There’s really no match in my mind, here. Nogueira goes for a couple quick jabs and dives in for a takedown and slams Dewees to the ground. Shortly thereafter (that’s right, I said “thereafter” in an MMA break down), Nogueira will end it with a submission. Nogueira via submission in round 1.
Ray Lazama vs. Justin Levens
Adam Morgan: Out of all the fights on this card, this has to be the least interesting. Lazama is a mere 5-5 in his professional career and Levens has been nothing more than a gatekeeper, if that. I’ll take Levens in this one just due to experience. Justin Levens via unanimous decision.
Michael Huckaby: I must admit, I was really psyched when Scott Smith vs Justin Levens was about to go down in the WEC and I was talking about how these guys would be hot stuff for years to come. Smith gets booted from the UFC and Levens is an outstanding, let’s see here, 2-8 since coming into that fight. Oh yes, my prospect eyes are glowing. Watch out Joe Silva. I really like Levens but I can’t pick him here against someone with Lazama’s power. 5-5 record be damned, Levens likes to swing and I think he might just not like to get hit in this one. Winner: Lazama, TKO, Rd1
Gary Herman: Levens has been all over the map over the past few years, and I don’t think many states were very good to him. Both guys will try to make the fight as exciting as possible (which may not be much). I hope the fight ends quickly. Lazama by first round TKO.
J.J. Ambrose vs. Mike Pyle
Adam Morgan: J.J. Ambrose has compiled a nice 8-1 record fighting on smaller shows, mainly TFA but he’s never face someone like Mike Pyle before. Sure, Mike Pyle may be one of MMA’s most hated personalities but he is a pretty damn good fighter. Ambrose should be no match for him in Pyle’s first fight under the Affliction banner. Mike Pyle via submission, round two.
Michael Huckaby: Pyle likes to get cute and leave himself open and occasionally it costs him. I can honestly say I’m not really familiar with Ambrose so I’ll take the devil I know and assume Pyle wants to finish this quickly to make his new employers happy. Of course he could be fighting on CBS right now but that’s an entirely different story. Winner: Mike Pyle, sub, Rd1
Gary Herman: Pyle comes from the best camp possible – Xtreme Couture. Ambrose doesn’t. There’s no substitute for being perfectly prepared for a fight. Pyle by second round submission.
Mark Hominick vs. Savant Young
Adam Morgan: Savant Young is coming off an unlikely upset over “Lion” Takeshi in Japan and has to be riding high having beat one of the best 145 lbs. fighters in the world. His wrestling is pretty tight but the rest of his game needs work. Hominick is the opposite. His striking is great but his wrestling is not very good and his subion defense is suspect. I like Hominick here just due to his ability to finish the fight with a combination, but it’s very close. Mark Hominick via TKO, round two.
Michael Huckaby: That Grispi fight still has my head shaking. The Yahya fight, while unacceptable, was atleast understandable. Mark Hominick seems to have no interest in learning how to avoid submissions and I’m going to ride the wave of Savant Young having a Dong Sik Yoon-like ability to improve each and every time out. I think Young really needs to finish this on the ground though because going to a decision means Hominick beat him apart for fifteen minutes. Winner: Young, sub, Rd1
Gary Herman: Savant Young is another up and down fighter. He’s going to try to out-wrestle Hominick, and that’s about all. If Hominick can keep the fight standing, he’ll get the win. I think he will. Hominick by decision.
Paul Balsom: I am a huge fan of this fight, and I’m upset that this fight won’t be airing for me until after the pay-per-view, due to some baseball issues. I like Savant Young in this fight, after a few furious seconds of striking from both parties involved. Savant Young via KO in round 1.