We have two wonderful guests this week in the form of the host of the Jordan Breen Show, Mr. Jordan Breen and Mr. BloodyElbow Luke Thomas. These two superstars in MMA will do battle for your amusement. How easy will they be on one another? Only one way to find out, LET’S DUEL:
1. Georges St. Pierre will finish Jon Fitch.
Breen: FALSE. St. Pierre won’t bother standing for any length of time with Fitch, ruling out a standing KO. It would be possible if St. Pierre was dedicated to a destructive ground-and-pound game, that would eventually enable him to finish Fitch late in the fight after 15 or 20 minutes of sustained assbeating. However, that isn’t how St. Pierre really operates, especially against elite-level guys. I do expect to see some solid ground and pound, but in spurts to allow him to work a power top game, pass guard, and threaten with submissions. I expect some tense moments, but balance of probabilities is that Fitch will be defensively and cardiovascularly stout enough to go 25 without getting tapped in what will bear some resemblance to the Koscheck fight.
Thomas: TRUE. Fitch’s toughness is certainly underrated and I need to be clear up front that I do not think GSP finishing him is some sort of given or inevitability. I think the chances of GSP stopping Fitch are a little better than 50/50, but that’s enough for me to answer this question in the affirmative. I don’t necessarily see GSP submitting Fitch, although I do expect him to rough Fitch up with vicious ground and pound from half guard. What I see as more likely, and I recognize not many folks agree, is that GSP will spend a large portion of the fight standing. GSP is a very underrated strategist and loves to take fighters out of their comfort zones. The biggest talent differential between GSP and Fitch is on the feet. While Fitch is certainly competent standing, he isn’t a tremendous KO threat. Chris Wilson also proved that if you can win some exchanges, you can pressure him into the takedown. I think GSP changes things up here and pulls a similar finish to his win over Jay Hieron.
My Five Cents: I feel the correct answer is true, I love Fitch to death but GSP is just a machine right now.
2. Roger Huerta is in over his head against Kenny Florian.
Breen: TRUE-ish. Huerta is going to lose, and lose soundly to a guy who is far better than him from a technical perspective. Huerta may be more forte-fisted, but he’s a wild arm puncher. He throws jumping, lunging kicks like a third-rate ninja, and lead knees with his hands down. Florian isn’t going to fight blow-for-blow with him and will be the better striker at range. Despite a wrestling background, Huerta’s takedowns, and takedown defense aren’t great, and his real skills are in the scramble and transitions. Florian can actually take him down from the clinch, and is good enough to take advantage of Huerta’s aggression on the ground and get dominant position. I don’t think we’re looking at a Silva-Leben embarrassment, and Huerta’s toughness and survival skills should carry him to the final bell, but Florian will win the fight soundly.
Thomas: TRUE. I don’t know exactly if “in over his head” implies “blowout”, but I don’t think it does. If it instead means that Huerta’s sloppy aggression will not pay dividends against a tough, technical and patient fighter, then I’m all for it. No matter where this fight goes Florian’s technicality will carry the day: on the feet, Florian is significantly more defensive and waits to pick open spots; Florian’s jiu-jitsu is far and away better particularly from a positional control aspect. Florian’s wrestling is no longer terrible and Huerta’s wrestling is more than penetrable. And ultimately, under pressure I expect Huerta to resort to old habits, e.g. giving his back. That may work against the one-dimensional BJJ guy in Alberto Crane or no BJJ guy in Leonard Garcia, but it won’t against Florian.
My Five Cents: I love Thomas here, Huerta is way over his head in this fight in my opinion. Huerta goes down to his opponents while Florian appears to go up to his competitors. I like Florian here by a half mile.
3. Demian Maia will be able to stop Jason MacDonald in the first round.
Breen: TRUE, semantically speaking. Maia is certainly ABLE to finish him inside the first round. If Maia got a takedown early in the frame, it would be less-than-shocking to see him work his textbook game on MacDonald en route to a first-round submission. However, MacDonald’s real problems come out as the fight wears on, while Maia is a patient grappler, so if I’m betting, I’d expect a submission to come in the latter second round.
Thomas: TRUE. I suppose Maia is capable of doing so although I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t. I’ve spoken to professional grapplers and many have argued Maia is the best pure grappler in the entire UFC. Worse, MacDonald’s wrestling and takedown defense are exactly spectacular (his single leg attacks are downright below par). MacDonald’s always been the type of fighter who tries to lord his decent guard over unsuspecting, over eager opponents. But that won’t work on Maia. Maia will be able to penetrate past MacDonald’s reach and press him against the cage to drag him to the floor. From there it’s a matter of time before Maia passes guard and does what so many elite grapplers do: throw on a submission that their opponents never saw coming for which they had no preparation.
My Five Cents: Luke has “spoken to professional grapplers.” I have not. No one lets me talk to them.
—-LET US SWITCH IT UP—-
4. Brock Lesnar will go 0-2 in the UFC against Heath Herring.
Thomas: TRUE. Look, it’s not as if I can point to anything definitively in Herring’s defensive arsenal that will clearly pose trouble for Lesnar. Herring’s takedown defense has always been negligible against any fighter with a decent trip or penetration step. Lesnar will clearly dictate where this scrap will take place and it doesn’t take a predictive genius to realize this is going to be a top-control game for Lesnar. That being said, I am not sold on Lesnar. Should he beat Herring in this match or even stop him, then I will absolutely take a second look. The fact is we still really don’t know about his conditioning in live competition, his composure under fire (Herring’s power is greatly underrated) and his ability to stick to the gameplan over the course of three rounds (among a host of other concerns). For better or worse, Herring is a known commodity. I believe Herring’s new conditioning and ever-present durability will allow him to weather an early storm from Lesnar and ultimately be patient enough to pick his opportunity to score. If you don’t believe that gameplan can work, ask Mark Kerr and Tom Erickson. Remember, there was a chorus of Lesnar supporters who thought Mir’s lack of toughness and poor cardio made him a suitable opponent for Lesnar as well. Forgive me my doubts, but I do not believe the UFC is the promotion where skills should be honed. Herring has a winnable fight here.
Breen: TRUE, however, let me pull the Skip Bayless card and be an over-the-top contrarian. Herring’s takedown defense is awful, and always has been. Herring was soundly beaten by Jake O’Brien, with nothing apart from a solid double leg and rudimentary guard passing skills. While O’Brien had more MMA fights to his ledger than Lesnar, beating up Herc Hayes and Kristof Midoux is nothing Lesnar couldn’t accomplish, so despite only having stepped into action twice, Lesnar’s ability to replicate that O’Brien was able to do in the not-so-distant past shouldn’t be overlooked. All that said, I can’t bring myself to pick the pork-sworded pro wrassler, either.
My Five Cents: I love Breen for both playing the Skip Bayless card and playing the “pork-sworded pro wrassler” card. What wonderful cards to play and I’m nearly in awe they were used in the same argument.
5. Josh Barnett will beat Andrei Arlovski in their proposed Affliction bout.
Thomas: FALSE. Now, I don’t believe that Arlovski is some sort of shoe-in for this bout. Barnett is a sturdy test for any of the world’s top heavyweights in virtually every dimension of the game. The problem is that the notion of Barnett being some sort of K-1 level striker is being floated by his admirers and it’s an exaggeration of his abilities. To be sure, Barnett is a good MMA boxer. But the truth is he is ultimately a grappler at heart with 14 of his 23 victories coming by way of submission. To be fair, I wouldn’t look at the CroCop fights as evidence that a superior striker sprawling and brawling can ultimately stop Barnett in every instance. CroCop is much more of a kick boxer in MMA than Arlovski; Arlovski tends to prefer to box. That will open up Arlovski to getting into the inside space, thus making him susceptible to the takedown. But Arlovski’s striking is diverse enough, his hips heavy enough, his power strong enough and submission defense technical enough to open the opportunity for Arlovski to inflict damage. I don’t know that he’ll stop Barnett as he did Rothwell, but he should be able to hurt Barnett as long as they’re on the feet (or in top position) and force him into attempting takedowns. Provided Arlovski can stop them or work back to his feet with sufficient frequency, this is his fight to lose.
Breen: TRUE. Barnett is smart and savvy enough on the feet to be able to minimize the damage he takes while working towards a fight-specific goal. I am eternally amazed people talk about the Aleksander Emelianenko bout as a detriment to Barnett, characterizing it as a fight in which Barnett was pounded until Emelianenko spontaneously self-destructed. In reality, Barnett worked diligently with a body attack over the first round before getting the fight to the ground. This bout, among others, shows Barnett’s ability to use his stand-up in a strategic fashion, which is what would be apt. Moreover, while Barnett’s takedowns are not outstanding, Arlovski can be taken down from the clinch once he’s tied up, and Barnett tends to be highly successful at getting a hold of his opponents. Arlovski’s game off his back isn’t that good, and he would’ve lost the opening round to Jake O’Brien if O’Brien wasn’t seemingly terrified by Arlovski elbowing him in the head. Barnett’s dynamic submission game, predicated on leglocks, may not net him a submission against a fellow leglock enthusiast like Arlovski, but in a three round, fifteen minute fight, I think the likeliest scenario is that he picks up a well-earned decision.
My Five Cents: I have to go with Breen here as I like Barnett. It won’t be anything easy as Arlovski is one of the toughest top 10 matchups for Barnett’s style but I’ll just assume he can pull it off.
6. Pat Miletich is correct that Fisher vs. Guillard would be a stupid bout for Spencer Fisher.
Thomas: TRUE. I’m going to say “true” here, but I’m not really sure what Miletich means by “stupid”. The more obvious implication is that Fisher gains little by not only fighting someone lower on the lightweight totem pole than he, but also fighting someone with dangerous power who is capable of quickly ending the fight. But in truth, who knows? Personally, I don’t see this as that terrible a match-up. From a promoter’s stand point, this is “fantasy” fight: the intricacies of their style clash could be interesting to watch. Additionally, perhaps Joe Silva is trying to balance a UFC 90 card that features a ton of grapplers. As for the fight itself, Guillard claims to have recommitted himself to the finer points of training, which means his suspect but allegedly improving ground game will be tested by Fisher’s underrated grappling and submissions. And on the feet, will Fisher’s significantly more technical and diverse striking arsensal defeat or give way to Guillard’s tremendous power and speed? Hardcore fans want to dismiss Guillard for his brash comments and poor ground game, but this bout does offer some intrigue even if it’s not the smartest career move for Fisher.
Breen: FALSE. “Stupid” would be Fisher facing an anonymous, powerful wrestler with a mind-numbingly garbage top game who would win an agonizing 30-27 decision. In truth, Fisher probably deserves a guy who hasn’t become a posterboy for blown potential, and has actually put together some wins in the Octagon. However, in this case, he gets a dynamic and exciting foil who may collaborate with him to earn a Fight of the Night bonus, and whose shoddy ground work could likely earn him a Submission of the Night bonus. I can’t say that an assuredly exciting and potentially lucrative fight in which he’s a clear favorite is a “stupid” fight for Fisher, especially since a win would likely see him paired further up the ladder in the lightweight division.
My Five Cents: This story stuck out at me this week simply because if you can’t beat Melvin Guillard I don’t know who you’re hoping to beat. Is it ever a bad idea for someone to fight Melvin? Well, yeah, I probably shouldn’t fight him. But Spencer Fisher? It actually isn’t a great style matchup for Fisher but he should still come out on top with his arsenal.
That does it for a fantastic DUEL. I’d like to thank Jordan Breen and Luke Thomas for being a part and putting up with me. Join us next week when two more MMA writers Duel for your amusement.