UFC 96 is set to go down this Saturday at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. And what would a major UFC PPV extravaganza be without a Pain Poll courtesy of the staff of 5 Oz.?
Here’s our preview with our picks…
Main Card Bouts (televised on pay-per-view) –
Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Lee Gerowitz: Yes, Jardine can beat Jackson. Matter of fact, any mixed martial artist can beat their opponent in any given fight. This is not breaking news. The bottom line is this: if a focused “Rampage” shows up to fight and doesn’t allow Jardine to leg kick him into frustration, he wins in a decisive manner. Jackson by TKO, round one.
Dustin James: A lot of people are bad mouthing this main event, but I happen to like it. Jardine is a big underdog here, yet he always seems to do better in that role. Jackson is coming off a huge KO win over Wanderlei Silva, who just defeated Jardine in thirty six seconds at UFC 84. Will Jardine use the same kicks he used to defeat Chuck Liddell and wear down Jackson much like Forrest Griffin did in the same fashion last summer? Perhaps, but I personally can’t see it. Winner: Jackson via KO in Round 1.
Cory Brady: I know, I know, Jardine wins fights he’s not supposed to. Well this fight will definitely be the exception to that rule. Jardine doesn’t do well against compact, explosive fighters and Jackson is just that. Winner: Jackson by knockout.
Brendhan Conlan: The first thing I want to say is that Quinton Jackson deserves an immense amount of respect for stepping up to fight Jardine instead of sitting on his hands while Rashad Evans recovered from his championship win. Jackson is risking his shot at the gold against a man with wins over a number of top-level light heavyweights, so again, make Aretha Franklin proud and show the man some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think Jardine’s best hope at winning, or at least avoiding the taste of canvas for as long as possible, will be to attack Quinton’s legs with the powerful kicks he’s known for delivering. Beyond that, “Rampage” seems to have rededicated himself to Mixed Martial Arts since his loss to Forrest Griffin, and based on previous performances, he has a far better chance of knocking Jardine out than the reverse being true. Then again, has there been any better camp than Greg Jackson’s as of late when it comes to preparing fighters for success? No matter how the actual bout unfolds, I think it’s safe to say the UFC 96 main event is going to be extremely entertaining from start to finish, and fans are in a win-win situation because Rashad Evans’ first title-defense is going to come against a “Top 3″ 205-pound fighters regardless of who wins between Jardine and Jackson. Winner: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, TKO, round 2.
Caleb Newby: Leg kicks of doom? I think we may be overrating that. If that’s all we’re talking about for Jardine to win, we have to think Rampage’s camp is aware as well. One thing we can’t underrate is Jardine’s KO-ability against a heavy striker like Rampage. Plus, I love the earmuff boxing defense. Winner: Quinton Jackson – TKO, Rd1
David Andrest: Who said “Leg kicks of doom”?? That is hysterical…Leg kicks of doom…it’s not like Pat Berry is fighting or heaven forbid Tong Po. I want to pick Jardine but Jackson is not Liddell. Jackson is not a one trick pony. I’m sure Greg Jackson will have a plan but what can it be? Outlast Rampage and out work him? That is really the only way I see Jardine having a shot. That is not likely. Winner: Jackson KO
Bryan Levick: I see this as a way for the Greg Jackson camp to get a firsthand look at Rampage. While Jardine is clearly no pushover I truly believe he is being thrown to the wolves here. Rampage will stop at nothing until he gets his title back and Jardine will play the role of sacrificial lamb here. Jackson via 2nd round TKO.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane Carwin
Lee Gerowitz: Based on the quality of the fight, at least on paper, this is the “real” main event. Gonzaga should be awfully tough to beat. Go to the ground and he can submit you. Stay standing and he can decapitate you with a kick. Then there’s Carwin: 10 fights, 10 wins, five by submission, five by KO. But the difference-maker in this fight will be experience. Staying with the “focused” theme; if Gonzaga enters the octagon focused, he should be able to take advantage of potential openings by the less-experienced Carwin and win via submission. If he enters the Octagon lacking focus, he’ll leave the octagon without any recollection of how he got his ass handed to him, because he’ll get knocked the !%#&! out. I’ll go with the veteran. Gonzaga by submission, round one.
Dustin James: Carwin is really stepping up his level of competition here. We will finally get to see if this guy is for real. While I’m a huge fan of Gonzaga’s, it seems the guy always lets me down in his big fights. I keep playing this fight in my head and the outcome keeps ending up with Carwin ground and pounding his way to a victory. Winner: Carwin via KO in Round 2.
Cory Brady: This is my personal fight of the night. I can’t wait to see this match up. All the questions will be answered about Carwin in this one. I hope it goes to the second round at least and it’s a war. I can’t explain how much I’m looking forward to this fight! Oh yeah, a pick. Tough call. Winner: Carwin by TKO in a WAR!
Brendhan Conlan: Let’s hope the UFC reinforces the mat when Carwin and Gonzaga get called to action as it needs to be ready to accommodate 500-pounds of furious muscle, bone, and bac khair. Both behemoths are skilled grapplers, hit hard, and won’t be afraid to let the leather fly once the cage door closes. I expect the winner of this bout to challenge either Brock Lesnar or Frank Mir depending on who holds the UFC Heavyweight Championship after UFC 98. I’m going to give a slight edge to Carwin simply because he has yet to be put in a difficult position, let alone beaten, while “Napao” has been TKO’d three times in his career. Granted, those losses were to Fabricio Werdum and Randy Couture, but it still shows he can be left crumpled on the canvas. He has also shown a susceptibility to being taken down and Carwin is a very solid wrestler. Carwin may not have faced the level of competition Gonzaga has, but a win over the tough Brazilian would put him at 11-0 with at least ten of those wins coming in the first round. Being that the UFC hands out title-shots like they’re candy at Halloween, I’d certainly have no problem with Carwin testing his might against Lesnar or Mir. Winner: Shane Carwin, TKO, round 1.
Caleb Newby: I was leaning taking Carwin in an effort to ride the current hot trend and to give a personal “take that” to Gonzaga for KOing my dear Cro Cop. Well, that was awhile ago and I should let it go and Gonzaga is the vastly more experienced and rounded fighter here. It would be great to see Carwin win and really become a star, but Gonzaga is a big leap. Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga – Sub, Rd2
David Andrest: Simple pick. If Gonzaga comes in under 250 he wins. If not Carwin will smash is face in a violent way. Winner: The Scale.
Bryan Levick: I believe Gonzaga is one of the more talented fighters in the world today. He has good striking and world class jiu-jitsu, but it is his heart and conditioning that scare me. Carwin while he is 10-0 has not fought anyone near the top 25 and this is a huge step up in competition for him. I think Gonzaga knows what is at stake for him and he will show up ready, willing and able to make an example out of Carwin. Gonzaga via second round submission.
Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz
Lee Gerowitz: Will this become a wrestle-fest or will these two scrap their wrestling abilities and slug it out? If Munoz is smart, he should avoid the ground and suck Hamill into a boxing match – which would be a mistake for Hamill. Not that Hamill couldn’t win a stand up war with Munoz, but because he needs to utilize his main weapon: wrestling. Hamill ignored his wrestling game against Rich Franklin and got schooled. Munoz is no Franklin, Hamill needs to fight a smart fight. I think he will. Hamill by TKO via ground and pound, round two.
Dustin James: This should be a great battle between two terrific wrestlers. Munoz has looked solid thus far in his career and is really stepping up his level of competition here. I’d look for Hamill to try and keep the fight standing in hopes of scoring a knockout. I can honestly see the fight going either way, but I gotta go with the experience of Hamill here. Winner: Hamill via decision.
Cory Brady: A battle between two wrestlers. I’ll be honest and say I’m not too excited about this one. Hopefully Hamill keeps it standing and makes it exciting. Either way he’s going to win. Winner: Hamill by TKO.
Brendhan Conlan: This is an evenly matched pairing with one important exception. Munoz and Hamill are both championship-level wrestlers and deserve respect in that regard without doubt. However, “The Philippine Wrecking Machine” is a good, multi-faceted striker while Hamill relies on power without giving much thought to defense or technique. He is sloppy and has shown little improvement since debuting in the UFC three years ago. Winner: Mark Munoz, TKO, round 2.
Caleb Newby: Wrestler vs. wrestler… ugh. Can we pick someone to win based only on their being a good guy and likable? I mean, that’s not why I pick Franklin but it could be. Anyway, Hamill has the experience and I honestly have no idea who will out wrestle the other. With that being a question mark, I’ll go with the fella that has been here before and knows the routine. Winner: Matt Hamill – Decision
David Andrest: Let me clue you in Newby. Hamill is the better wrestler and it’s not close. I like Munoz and see him as a good prospect. I really don’t understand the matchmaking here Matt Hamill vs. a younger Matt Hamill. Winner: Matt Hamill.
Bryan Levick: A battle of two skilled collegiate wrestlers is what we have here, but is either guy that much better than the other when it comes to striking? I think many fans will assume that Hamil will have the advantage when it comes to wrestling but Munoz actually was a Division 1 national champion while Hamil competed at a Division III school. Don’t be too surprised here when Munoz ekes out a close unanimous decision here. I don’t think we will see as much wrestling as people would assume. When two top notch wrestlers go up against one another they tend to try and bang it out on their feet.
Gray Maynard vs. Jim Miller
Lee Gerowitz: This is a fight that could leave UFC and MMA novices going, “Huh? Why are they rolling around on the ground like that daddy? Huh?” However, if this fight plays out like it should on the ground, Joe Rogan might wet himself with his analysis. If he does, look for that to be the focus of the upcoming “Post Card From The Couch: UFC 96.” This is also the fight that will make Sigfried & Roy fans of mixed martial arts. Oh, I forgot to analyze! Maynard will be just a tad stronger than Miller in each and every round. Maynard by decision.
Dustin James: This is a great fight and an extremely difficult one to pick. Maynard should be able to pick up a split decision victory here. Winner: Maynard via decision.
Cory Brady: Best matched fight on the card by far. Miller is an animal but Maynard is the real deal, he will show it in this one. Winner: Maynard by unanimous decision.
Brendhan Conlan: I’m as excited about this particular fight as any other contest taking place on the card. Maynard and Miller and both excellent young lightweights who have the potential to challenge for UFC gold by 2010 if they continue progressing as expected. Maynard lives up to his nickname – “The Bully” – with his strength and ability to smother opponents on the mat. Miller has a more-exciting approach to Mixed Martial Arts but doesn’t sacrifice technique for aggression. I think his wrestling is good enough to counter Gray’s takedown attempts and his jiujitsu skills will allow the East Coaster to defend from his back if necessary. I also think XTreme Couture’s Maynard will be prepared in that regard and I won’t be surprised if he attempts to turn the bout into a boxing match instead of risking a triangle or armbar from the bottom. It’s a difficult fight to pick, and while I personally would enjoy seeing Miller win, I think the former Big 10 wrestler will find a way to out-muscle him and maintain the zero in his loss column. Winner: Gray Maynard, Judges’ Decision.
Caleb Newby: Maynard, until proven otherwise or until facing top flight lightweight competition, is going to be my new Machida. What’s that mean? Whenever he’s fighting, I pick him to win by decision. Winner: Gray Maynard – Decision
David Andrest: Maynard is getting very close to being “That guy”. The one that will have a hard time finding top level fights. At 155 if you are going to lose you need to at least do it with style. A loss by UD to Maynard is something that most top level lightweights cringe at the thought of. The only person who fears it more is Joe Silva. Rumor has it that watching Maynard’s fights are going to part of a radical new treatment for sleep apnea. Winner: Maynard-Decision
Bryan Levick: I was all aboard the Maynard bandwagon until he fought Rich Clementi and did absolutely nothing but lay on top of him. That showed me that he has not evolved much since he came into the UFC and training at Xtreme Couture has not expanded his game. Miller on the other hand was very impressive in his victory over Matt Wiman in December. This was his 8th victory in a row and he took the fight on extremely short notice after Frankie Edgar was injured, he practically got off the plane from his honeymoon and stepped into the cage and thoroughly dominated Wiman. I Like Miller in this one via unanimous decision as he makes a bigger name for himself in the UFC.
Matt Brown vs. Pete Sell
Lee Gerowitz: Matt Brown should not get down…to the ground, that is. If I’m Brown – and I’m not, unless he enters the octagon looking as if he just went on a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts binge – I put the full-court press on Sell, make it a brawl and test his chin immediately. Brown by TKO, round three
Dustin James: The UFC really has high hopes that these two will put on a spectacle here. Matt Brown has looked impressive in his UFC run thus far and will need to be in tip top shape in order to defeat the more experienced Sell. Winner: Sell via decision
Cory Brady: I hate having to call this fight because both of these guys are realy cool in person. I could literally flip a coin on this one. It may end up being fight of the night, just wait and see. Winner: Sell by knockout.
Brendhan Conlan: I was originally a bit hum-ho about this match-up and questioned why a bout between two fighters entering the Octagon with a combined record of 16-11 were being slotted for airtime on a PPV. After all, neither man is close to welterweight contendership and neither is expected to do much in the future given that particular division’s talent pool. Then I gave it a little more thought. Both Matt Brown and Pete Sell love to scrap. They punch with reckless abandon and aren’t afraid to keep moving forward regardless of the damage they’ve taken. On top of that, Brown hails from Ohio so he’ll be looking to impress the fans in Columbus and Sell is coming off a UFC 90 win over Josh Burkman. Contrary to my initial take on this bout, I’m actually somewhat excited about what Brown and Sell will deliver on Saturday and I think it definitely has “Knockout of the Night” potential. Winner: Matt Brown, TKO, round 3.
Caleb Newby: Call me spoiled, but it bothers me that I have to discuss this fight on the main card. I’m hard pressed to overly care, really. Hey, at least I admitted it. Winner: Pete Sell – Drago Punch, Rd2
David Andrest: Newby..You’re spoiled. But I see your point. Why in the world would the UFC put two guys who will swing for the fences together on PPV. Who wants to see two fighters who will throw caution to the wind and just swing on eachother open up a night of PPV fights. How in the world did this make main card with all the other exciting options available………… Winner: Drago via TKO.
Bryan Levick: This one has slugfest written all over it and for good reason these guys like to stand and bang. If Matt Brown has shown anything in his 3 fights with the UFC it is that he is as tough as nails. Sell made his debut at welterweight a successful one defeating Josh Burkman at UFC 90. Sell’s ground game is so underrated because he has a crowd pleasing style but don’t let that fool you he trains under one of the best practitioners of jiu-jitsu in Matt Serra. I see Sell pulling off a submission in the third round after two rounds of non-stop action. Score one for Long Island, New York.
Non-televised Preliminary Bouts -
Brandon Vera vs. Mike Patt
Lee Gerowitz: Again, anything can happen, but this is Dana White and the UFC saying, “Brandon Vera, we want you to remain in the UFC, here you go.” And this is me saying, “Brandon Vera, you will remain in the UFC – Mike Patt, you won’t – so here you go.” Vera by KO, round one.
Dustin James: There’s a lot of pressure riding on Brandon Vera in this fight. He’s lost three out of his last four and the fight he actually won, he didn’t look too good. Michael Patt made his UFC debut at UFC 88 in a losing effort to Tim Boetsch, however Patt took that fight on extremely short notice so who knows how the guy will look with a full training camp under his belt. Vera should be extremely motivated for this one as his UFC career could be on the line. Winner: Vera via KO in Round 1
Cory Brady: I know there are a lot of people that want Vera to lose this one but he won’t. Unless he slips on a banana peel, Vera wins this fight easily. Winner: Vera by knockout.
Brendhan Conlan: I can’t help but wonder where Vera would be at this moment in time if he’d avoided the nearly yearlong layoff he experienced after dismantling Frank Mir in 69 seconds at UFC 65. He’s lost three of his last four fights and looked piss-poor against Reese Andy in his 205-pound debut. However, I think Mike Patt will be the cure for whatever is ailing the affable Californian, as Patt is a submission specialist with below-average standup abilities. Simply put, I fully believe that Patt won’t be able to handle “The Truth”. If Vera turns in anything other than a dominating performance against a guy who Tim Boetsch took out in two minutes last September, I have a sinking feeling the Filipino superstar will find himself at risk of being on the UFC’s chopping block based on the amount of money he’s getting paid. Winner: Brandon Vera, TKO, round 1.
Caleb Newby: Vera sure has fallen, hasn’t he? If Andrest is doing this Pain Poll, I know what he’ll say here so I won’t take his thunder. Oh wait, yes I will. He’ll say how Vera has never proved he deserved the hype and is way overrated. He’ll also probably take Vera to lose here. Not this guy. I’ll take another tenetive fight out of Vera to win. Winner: Brandon Vera – Decision
David Andrest: To say Vera has fallen would imply he was once elevated above prospect status. So NO, he hasn’t fallen. Since annoucing to the world that he had plans to hold the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles at the same time, Vera has done well to hold onto his roster spot. That’s the TRUTH. Will he beat Mike Patt?? Holding true to a promise I made right here in a previous pain poll, I will never pick Vera to win. Winner: Mike Patt via arm triangle.
Bryan Levick: Oh how the mighty have fallen. It wasn’t all that long ago while competing as a heavyweight Vera was calling out light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell in his quest to hold titles in two different weight classes. Now he is on the undercard of a UFC ppv that frankly isn’t all that star studded. Vera has looked awful in his two fights at 205 going 1-1. He defeated Reese Andy via lackluster unanimous decision and lost a split decision to Keith Jardine. He recently signed an extension but needs to step it up a notch or three to remain relevant. Patt lost his debut in the UFC to Tom Boetsch and was unimpressive, Vera should be able to land a nice head kick or utilize his Muay Thai for a 1st round TKO.
Kendall Grove vs. Jason Day
Lee Gerowitz: Many folks believe that both of these fighters are fighting for their UFC survival. Which hopefully equates to both fighters bringing their A-games to the octagon. A 6-foot-6 Grove should be too much for Day too handle. Grove by decision.
Dustin James: Jason Day is a talented fighter with some nice wins under his belt. He tried to stop the train known as Michael Bisping at UFC 85 but was knocked out in the first round. Now he steps into the Octagon with another “TUF” winner, who just so happens to be in desperate need of a win in order to avoid being cut from the UFC. Groves is notorious for his weak chin and I can see that coming into play here. Winner: Day via KO in Round 1
Cory Brady: This is a pretty good match up. Hopefully they both realize that it’s a sink or swim fight and swing for the fences. Winner: Grove by decision.
Brendhan Conlan: Without a doubt in my mind this is the most important fight of Kendall Grove’s career. I understand he won TUF 3 but losing to Ed Herman would not have had the impact on his career that falling to Jason Day potentially could (i.e. the unsavory possibility he becomes the first non-comeback TUF champ cut from the promotion). A loss to the talented Canadian would make Grove 1-3 in his last four Octagon appearances with the lone victory coming in a split decision over the late Evan Tanner. Since earning that dubya, the Hawaiin has been out of action for nearly nine months. Jason Day is in a similar boat in terms of a hiatus from the eight-sided cage, though prior to falling to Michael Bisping at UFC 85 he had won five fights in a row over opponents including Alan Belcher, David Loiseau, and Jonathan Goulet. I think he’ll start a new streak this Saturday night, as Grove is overly reliant on his grappling and has only TKO’d one opponent in fourteen pro fights. He’s also shown he has if not a glass jaw, one forged from ceramic pottery. “Dooms” Day, on the other hand, has only been knocked out once in the past five years and has a jiujitsu game to counter any web “Da Spyder” attempts to weave. Winner: Jason Day, TKO, round 2.
Caleb Newby: Is Kendall Grove or Joe Stevenson in more danger of getting cut? I know Grove won last, but I think maybe him. Grove looked good against Tanner and seemed to have a fire lit under him. First instict was to go with a submission, but let’s change that up on account of lankyness. Winner: Kendall Grove – TKO, Rd2
David Andrest: I just don’t know. I want to care. Winner: Kendall Grove.
Bryan Levick: It is put up or shut up for Grove as he was put on notice by Dana White this past week. He seems to have rededicated himself to the sport after the birth of his daughter and will look to utilize his height and reach advantage over the Canadian Day. I see Grove winning via 2nd round TKO utilizing some strong knees against the game but over-matched Day.
Tim Boetsch vs. Jason Brilz
Lee Gerowitz: If Boetsch is successful at keeping Brilz at a distance with his usual barrage of kicks, he will win this fight. Boetsch by KO, round two.
Dustin James: This is a difficult fight to pick. Brilz still considers himself to be a “part-time fighter”, so it always scares me to pick him. Boetsch is a tough dude who can take a beating but I’m not sure if he will be able to withstand Brilz’s submission attack. Winner: Brilz via submission in Round 2
Cory Brady: Boetsch is just too powerful with his hands and that will be the difference in this bout. Winner: Boetsch by TKO.
Brendhan Conlan: To be honest, I’d never heard of Jason Brilz prior to this PPV which initially made me want to label him as target practice for Boetsch. That being said, it turns out Brilz is 16-1-1 and has shown the ability throughout his career to both submit his opponents and render them unconscious. “The Barbarian” is a tough draw for Brilz in his PPV debut but beating him is not an insurmountable task for someone with Brilz’ apparent abilities. After giving it a little more consideration than I originally thought was necessary, I think this fight is actually a very even match-up and ultimately either man’s to win. Winner: Tim Boetsch, Judges’ Decision.
Caleb Newby: We know how this is SUPPOSED to go at least. Winner: Tim Boetsch – KO, Rd1
David Andrest: Are you kidding me. Winner: Tim Boetsch- KO
Bryan Levick: Boetsch looked great in his debut against David Heath basically throwing him around like a rag doll but was brought back down to earth against Matt Hamil at UFC 88. He came back to win his last fight against Mike Patt and will look to string together victories for the first time in his UFC career. Brilz has an impressive 16-1 record against inferior opponents including a TKO stoppage against Patt back in 2003. He looks to have solid submissions and will have to get Boetsch down first before he can attempt to submit him which I don’t see happening. Boetsch via unanimous decision.
Tamdan McCrory vs. Ryan Madigan
Lee Gerowitz: Madigan may be unbeaten, but he will receive a rude introduction to the big leagues in his hello-goodbye appearance at UFC 96. McCrory by submission, round one.
Dustin James: Madigan is a pretty big underdog going into this fight and I can’t see McCrory struggling too badly with him. Winner: McCrory via submission in Round 1
Cory Brady: McCrory is finally going to have his chance to shine against Madigan. it’s about time because McCrory is a banger and he’s going to show it in this one. Winner: McCrory by knockout.
Brendhan Conlan: While Madigan appears to be a good prospect given the 5-0 record he’s racked up in smaller companies, I think he has no better than a puncher’s chance at best of taking home the win in his UFC debut. McCrory is a 22-year old fighting machine in the body of a bookworm. He is slippery on the ground, has an arsenal of submissions and escapes to pull from, and brings a relatively dangerous set of stand-up skills into each and every fight. His clinch is good. His Muay Thai in general is for that matter. Couple those abilities and the fact Madigan will almost certainly be feeling a few butterflies before competing in front of the traditionally huge Columbus crowd that will have assembled for the event, and I think there can be little doubt “The Barn Cat” will claw his way to victory once again. Winner: Tamdan McCrory, TKO, round 1
Caleb Newby: Who am I going to take? As if you had to ask. MEOW! … it’s late and I’ve had a long day. Cut me some slack. Winner: Tamdan “THE BARNCAT” McCrory – TKO, Rround 2.
David Andrest: This fight reminds me of a Beatles tune “Hello Goodbye.” Winner: McCrory via armbar.
Bryan Levick: McCrory is coming off a submission loss to Dustin Hazelett which is nothing to be ashamed off. Madigan is making his UFC debut and is 5-0 in his career. I like McCrory’s versatility and his height advantage which is at least 4”. He has shown good striking skills and can pull off a sub when he needs too. At this point I don’t know much about Madigan so I will go with what I know and choose McCrory via unanimous decision.
Aaron Riley vs. Shane Nelson
Lee Gerowitz: Shane Nelson disappointed in the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter. And while he may have bounced back by earning a “W” on that season’s live finale against George Roop, Riley, a crafty veteran, is not Roop. Fact is, Nelson has been more hype than anything else thus far, and this fight will only support that theory. Riley by decision.
Dustin James: Aaron Riley definitely has the advantage in the experience department, which is why I have to give him the nod in a fight that I’m sure ends up going to the judges. Winner: Riley via decision
Cory Brady: This should be a fun fight. Anything can happen in this one. Winner: Riley by TKO.
Brendhan Conlan: The ringside officials will definitely be earning their money during UFC 96’s curtain-jerker. Nelson has gone to decision in 10 of his 14 professional appearances while Riley has been subject to the judges’ scorecards in his last four fights. With both men having solid submission skills backed up with mediocre striking, it’s safe to say a large portion of this match-up will take place on the ground and result in essentially a fifteen-minute stalemate. I think Riley’s experience and slightly-superior strength will ultimately be the difference-maker in things and allow him to keep Nelson on his back more often than not. I fully expect him to send yet another long face back to B.J. Penn’s training center in Hawaii when things are said and done. Winner: Aaron Riley, Judges’ Decision.
Caleb Newby: ARGH. Winner: Aaron Riley – Decision.
David Andrest: Riley’s nickname is the Pirate?? I guess you learn something new everyday. Unlike some writers I’ll leave the booty jokes at home this week. Winner: Aaron Riley- decision.
Bryan Levick: Nelson was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter this past year and trains with B.J. Penn. He earned a split decision victory over housemate George Roop at The Ultimate Fighter 8 finale. Riley is coming off a fight of the night victory over the since exiled Jorge Gurgel. He has the edge in experience and has faced some stiff competition in his career including Robbie Lawler, Eddie Alvarez, Chris Lytle and Yves Edwards (two times). With that being said I will go with Riley via unanimous decision as these two have a penchant for going the distance.