The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back Saturday with UFC 89, returning after a month long break in action. In September the MMA world was stunned when Rashad Evans proved he was more than a “custom made opponent” for Chuck Liddell by knocking Liddell out with one of the fiercest KOs in UFC history. This time, the Octagon is set up in Birmingham, England and will be broadcast (via tape delay) free on Spike TV. Who could ask for a better deal than that? On the menu is Michael Bisping taking on Chris Leben in a bout that is sure to propel the winner into the mix for a shot at Anderson Silva and his middleweight title. Also on tap are two solid light-heavyweight bouts with “The African Assassin” Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou facing Luiz Cane and Keith Jardine versus Brandon Vera. And if there is any justice in this world, we’ll be treated to Akihiro Gono‘s entrance from the undercard. Check it out below to see what the staff of 5 Oz. has to say about these and the rest of this weekend’s fights!
Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben
Caleb Newby: While this is not a slam bang main event for a traditional pay per view, I can’t deny my interest in this fight. While Bisping has been a good fighter, he looks to have found his sweet spot at middleweight. Leben had been written off as a gatekeeper of the division after back to back losses to Jason MacDonald and Kalib Starnes until we saw a new and improved Leben take on and defeat Terry Martin and Alessio Sakara. Leben seems to have evolved his game from a simple march forward and throw punches while relying on his cast iron chin to save the day. Here’s the real kicker in this match up though — neither Bisping or Leben has defeated anyone substantial at middleweight recently that makes you go “this guy is a contender!” That being said, you can bet whoever wins this one will by thrown into the fire at middleweight. You may be asking by now where is the analysis of who is going to win this fight and why. Good question. I’m stalling because I find this a tough one to pick. Backed into a corner I’ll go with Bisping’s fluid striking and timing to earn him the decision victory in a hard fought battle. Just don’t bet on it. Winner: Michael Bisping – Decision
Adam Morgan: For a card without a title fight on it on free television this is a pretty damn good main event. Bisping has looked very good in two outings at middleweight and a win over Leben could possibly catapult him into the title picture at 185 lbs. There aren’t too many contenders left for Silva’s belt and a Bisping vs. Silva main event could draw big PPV numbers. However, I think Leben is being overlooked here and is a highly dangerous opponent to derail Bisping’s fast track to the 185 lbs. title picture. Leben has an iron chin, very heavy hands and a very underrated ground game. I don’t see a way that Bisping will be able to finish the fight and the more you let Leben hang around the more dangerous he becomes. Not only that but he looks to be taking this fight very seriously and is in the best shape of his career. Chris Leben via unanimous decision.
David Andrest: As a main event on free television via tape delay I like this fight. I’ll be honest with you. There has been a new curse placed on MMA, it’s no longer the huge upset. Outcomes that are terrible for promoters have taken over. Kimbo lost, Chuck lost and the list goes on. Leben will eat a few shots on his way to knocking Bisping out in this fight. Thus making Bisping a coach on TUF9 England vs. America a more difficult decision. Leben via KO round 2
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Luiz Cane
Caleb Newby: I know some people have hopped off the Sokoudjou bandwagon already after his loss to Machida. I am not one of those people. Everyone loses to Machida. I am hard pressed to take the unheralded Cane who is definitely facing his most dangerous opponent in his career in Sokoudjou. Both guys like to stand and trade so here’s hoping for an exciting fight. Unlike the main event though, I am anticipating a knock out here. Give me the man who wants to wrestle a tiger on a UFC event in Africa please. Oh yeah, he also knocked out Arona and Lil’ Nog. That too. As for my pick, GO BIG OR GO HOME! Winner: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou – TKO, Rd1
Adam Morgan: Sokoudjou has looked less than impressive in his two Octagon appearances so far. He doesn’t seem to be the same animal that we saw at PRIDE 33 and 34, KOing two of the best light heavyweights in the world. That being said, he’s still a freakish athlete with heavy hands and great judo. However, I have been on the Luiz Cane bandwagon since his first appearance against James Irvin in which he got DQ’d and I don’t plan on getting off the wagon now. Cane will continue his rise in the UFC and this will be a marquee win for him. Luiz Cane via TKO, round two.
David Andrest: Sokoudjou is a beast! However I proudly sit beside my friend Adam Morgan on the Cane bandwagon. Luiz Cane is one of the most overlooked fighters at 205, after Saturday night that will no longer be the case. Pure aggression will win this fight, Luiz Cane via TKO, round two
Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera
Caleb Newby: The man with the most memorable nickname and deepest blue eyes you’ll see in mixed martial arts versus the reluctant light-heavyweight. Vera seems like a smart guy and you’d think a smart guy would bum rush Jardine and work the Wanderlei Silva/Houston Alexander strategy. Unfortunately fighters rarely do what you’d think they should do in these situations. Not to mention that the last time was saw Vera in action he had one of his worst performances ever in his debut at 205 lbs. Jardine is up and down but still dangerous and has been navigating the waters at light-heavyweight for a long time against some of the best in the world. Winner: Keith Jardine – Decision
Adam Morgan: Keith Jardine is looking to rebound after his devastating and embarassing knockout loss to Wanderlei Silva but I don’t think that he will be able to do so in this fight. Jardine is good but his chin is suspect and so is his ground game. When it comes to striking, Vera is the real deal. When it comes to jiu jitsu he’s far superior than Jardine. Add that to the fact that 205 lbs. looks to be the best weight for him and you have a recipe for success. Vera will finally impress us again after being fairly unimpressive in his last three fights. Brandon Vera via submission, round two.
David Andrest: ” When it comes to striking, Vera is the real deal” Are you kidding me? Real deal based on what? Seriously, who has Brandon Vera beat and what has he done to be held in such high regard? ( a win over a flabby out of shape broken Frank Mir doesn’t count ) I’m really getting tired of hype based on potential. Brandon Vera has beaten no one of consequence, the two more important fights he has taken part in ( Sylvia, Werdum) were disasters. Brandon Vera has proven nothing, he is an unproven fighter who has never shown up for the big fight. Keith Jardine was just brutalized last time out by Wanderlei Silva in :39 seconds. Is his chin suspect? I don’t know. He once got cought with a savage uppercut in a scramble with Houston Alexander, and took a shot on the button from Wanderlei. I’m not ready to nickname him “Ken Shamrock” just yet. Jardine has been in the big fight, he has won the big fight. Victories over the current lightweight champion and Chuck Liddell are proof positive that Jardine can compete on the big stage. Jardine will either beat Vera so bad Brandon will be stuck on UFN cards for the rest of his contract, or he will chase Vera for 3 rounds in a boring decision Jardine KO round 1
Marcus Davis vs. Paul Kelly
Caleb Newby: Marcus Davis has a sweet thing going here with these overseas events. I like Davis to rebound strong here after a frustrating decision loss to Swick earlier this year. Paul Kelly has yet to face anyone of note beyond Paul Taylor, and you can make an argument about that. Davis is explosive and is in danger against guys that have the experience and skills of someone like Swick. I don’t see Kelly being that guy. Winner: Marcus Davis – TKO, Rd2
Adam Morgan: This one is going to be who can withstand the most punishment. With Davis it’s either knock someone out or get knocked out. He had a tough fight with Mike Swick and it appears that this fight with Kelly might be a rebound fight for him. It should be very exciting as the UK crowd will love both of these guys and they both love to stand and trade. In the end, though, I think Davis has too much firepower and just enough jiu jitsu to end Kelly’s night. Marcus Davis via TKO, round three.
David Andrest: Davis will show up in his kilt, knock out Paul Kelly and then suck up to his “Home away from Home”. I’m starting to wonder if the UFC thinks the kilt won’t play well to the live crowd in Vegas. Davis via TKO round two.
Paul Taylor vs. Chris Lytle
Caleb Newby: Chris Lytle is tough as nails and nearly impossible to stop in a fight. As much as I like Paul Taylor this can’t be a good fight for him. Unless Taylor can cut Lytle and get the blood flowing this seems a ready made rebound fight and victory for Lytle. My only question is submission or decision. I’ll go wild and take the stoppage. Those fight bonuses are motivators I tell ya. Winner: Chris Lytle – Submission, Rd2
Adam Morgan: Lytle’s fights are never, ever boring and he is the definition of gatekeeper. He should be able to fend off Taylor in this fight and send him back to the bottom of the ladder at 170 lbs. After getting beat on by Josh Koscheck this is a good fight for Lytle to rebound, be exciting, and get a W under his belt. Chris Lytle via submission, round one.
David Andrest: Lytle is a very entertaining fighter. Taylor has one shot to win, and that would be to bait Lytle into a kickboxing match. This is not going to happen, Lytle is better on the ground and on the feet. Lytle via sub round two.
Akihiro Gono vs. Dan Hardy
Caleb Newby: I’m sorry, but there is no way I am picking against Gono here. He needs to win and make a main card so we can see his entrance in all of its glory. Some how, some way, Gono will win this. Hardy is a tough opponent that should prove to be a problem on the feet. Still, Gono’s takedowns and ground game can win him this battle against the experienced Hardy. But to be fair, I’d be picking Gono against about anyone just to get him on TV. Winner: Akihiro Gono – Submission, Rd2
Adam Morgan: Hardy’s introduction into the UFC will be a rough one as Gono is absolutely no pushover. Neither is Hardy and this fight has all the makings for Fight of the Night. Hardy is a hard nosed, tough kid from England with some very strong ground and pound. Gono, on the other hand, brings a ton of experience and an extremely well rounded game to the cage. Gono will have some ring rust to shake off, however, having not fought in just under a year. I still think he takes the fight due to his experience, well roundedness, and killer dancin’ skeelz. Akihiro Gono via unanimous decision.
David Baron vs. Jim Miller
Caleb Newby: Winner:Jim Miller – Decision
Adam Morgan: Baron shocked the world recently by beating Hayato Sakuria via guillotine choke in May. Baron is good, there’s no doubt about it but he’s not as good as Jim Miller, especially if the fight hits the ground. Baron will be brought back down to earth here and Miller will make a successful UFC debut. Jim Miller via submission, round one.
David Andrest: I think I’ll use the same argument as Caleb on Baron’s behalf. David Baron via KO round one.
Shane Carwin vs. Neil Wain
Caleb Newby: Both men are undefeated. Both have never been out of the first round, stopping all of their opponents. Both have powerful striking. But that’s where it ends. Carwin has the wrestling background and ground game to make this an easy pick’em. Winner: Shane Carwin – Sub, Rd1
Adam Morgan: Hmmm. I don’t have much to say here other than Neil Wain is being thrown to the wolves. Carwin is a manbeast and Wain doesn’t stand a chance. Carwin is being built up as one of the UFC’s next big things and deservedly so. Wain poses no threat to Carwin whatsoever. Shane Carwin via TKO, round one.
David Andrest: Shane Carwin is a fighter with a path headed straight to the belt. Shane Carwin is not going to be truly tested until his first title fight. Carwin TKO round one.
Jess Liaudin vs. David Bielkheden
Caleb Newby: I like Liaudin… but not here. Bielkheden’s ground game should be more than a match for Liaudin and I’d be surprised with anything other than a solid and decisive performance by the Swede. Winner: David Bielkheden – Submission, Rd2
Adam Morgan: Liaudin is the more experienced fighter here but his chin is suspect. If Bielkheden hits him with a solid punch it could be lights out for Liaudin but I think Liaudin gets back on track here. Jess Liaudin via TKO, round two.
David Andrest: Liaudin is the better fighter in this match up. Bielkheden could cause some problems should the fight go to the ground, however Liaudin is due for a win, and this is where he will get it. Liaudin vid Decision.
Sammy Schiavo vs. Per Eklund
Caleb Newby: Adam Morgan to me via IM: “What do you even say about Per Eklund vs. Sammy Schiavo?” I echo his sentiments. You can’t buy this kind of insight, but here’s my angle. Shiavo has been more susceptible to being caught by subs in his career, and Eklund is a man who will throw attempts his way. That’s enough for me as I contemplate the lack of depth on overseas UFC PPVs versus Ultimate Fight Night undercards. Winner: Per Eklund – Submission, Rd2
Adam Morgan: Loser leaves town match? Perhaps. Schiavo and Eklund were add-ons to work themselves into the European crowd. Eklund put up the better fight in either of the men’s UFC debuts where as Schiavo just got manhandled. I’ll take Eklund here. Per Eklund via unanimous decision.
David Andrest: There are just countless inappropriate jokes that could have been made here. Eklund via Sub round 3
Sam Stout vs. Terry Etim
Caleb Newby: Whoever loses this fight will no doubt be shown the exit from the UFC while the winner earns a temporary reprieve. Stout desperately wants this to be a slugfest and Etim may give him that very thing. I’m taking Stout but if you see Etim taking this to the ground just think of me shaking my head at making the wrong pick.Winner: Sam Stout – TKO, Rd1
Adam Morgan: Stout has great striking but lacks any real jiu jitsu game. Etim is tall, lanky, and will be hard for Stout to get inside on and work his hands. Etim has a deadly guillotine choke standing or on the floor. Stout has all the experience and a very strong camp, however, which are the two big intangibles. Sam Stout via unanimous decision.
David Andrest: I agree with Caleb, loser leaves town. If Stout can manage to stay out of a standing guillotine while pressing Etim into the cage he will be victorious. Stout via TKO round two.