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Pain Poll: UFC 97

The friendly staff at are back for another edition of The Pain Poll. Journey with us we dissect every single fight scheduled for this Saturday evening’s UFC 97 card that features a middleweight championship match-up between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites, a light-heavyweight slugfest between Chuck Liddell and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and much more.

Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites

Bryan Levick: While I see this being a lot more competitive than most others do there is no way in hell I am choosing Leites to beat Anderson Silva. Both men will be looking to prove themselves here. Silva will be looking to prove that he is taking his fights seriously after being criticized for his effort in the Cote fight and Leites will be looking to prove that he belongs here and deserves a title shot. Leites strong suit is his jiu-jitsu but people tend to overlook that Silva is no slouch when it comes to that area of MMA. I just don’t see Leites catching Silva in an armbar or triangle choke here but I can certainly see Silva catching Leites in the Thai plumb and kneeing Leites back to Brazil. Silva via 2nd round TKO.

Dustin James: There’s only a few sure things in MMA and Anderson Silva is one of them. I have nothing against the UFC for putting Leites in this fight with Silva as I believe he is as good a contender in the UFC’s middleweight division as anyone else. I’m not saying Leites doesn’t have a chance…I just don’t like his chances that much. Winner: Anderson Silva, KO, Round 2

Brendhan Conlan: No disrepect to Thales Leites, but I’m fairly certain this particular match-up was created by the Zuffa brain trust to help cement Anderson Silva’s legend in the modern day UFC. Nate Marquardt, who “The Spider” destroyed, is the only “Top 20” middleweight Leites has ever beaten in his career and it was a win he “earned” due to numerous point deductions. He hasn’t knocked an opponent out in more than four years. Beating Anderson Silva at UFC 97 would be equivalent to Buster Douglas knocking Mike Tyson out. It’s possible, but it’s so far from likely that it would shake the foundations of MMA were it to occur. And rest assured that just because *I* am underestimating the young Brazilian’s chances does not mean Anderson Silva will approach the bout in the same manner. I am 100% positive he is as focused on Leites as he would be on any opponent, plus I’m confident he’s especially motivated after the criticism he received based on his performance against Patrick Cote. The combo should result in a quick, painful championship defense with a few highlight reel moments to boot. Winner – Anderson Silva, TKO, RD 1

Caleb Newby: What needs to be said here. Leites is being given about no chance and it’s hard to argue with that. Yes, yes, anyone can win or lose, look at Matt Serra. Well, much like the GSP/Serra fight, picking Leites to win here and being right doesn’t make you an expert or a genius, just lucky. Silva is the only rational choice. Normally I’d take round two, but Silva might be on a mission with something to prove here. Winner: Anderson Silva – KO, Rd1

Cory Brady: Everyone seems so fast to write off Leites but what you have to remember is, styles make fights. Sure Silva faced another jiu-jitsu black belt in Travis Lutter not too long ago but Leites is an entirely different animal on the ground. Leites also showed that he has a chin of concrete in his fight with Marquardt. All I’m saying is, don’t sleep on Leites, no man is in invincible. With that being said…Winner: Anderson Silva by TKO

Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Bryan Levick: If any two fighters on this card have anything more to prove than these two then please point them out to me. Liddell is looking to show that getting knocked out happens to the best of them and that is was more of a case of getting caught rather than his skills declining. Shogun will be looking to show the fans on this side of the Pacific that the fighter everyone drooled over while he was in Pride really does exist. Rua has looked awful in his two bouts inside the octagon and while I give Forrest Griffin a lot of credit for putting the pressure on in their fight and implementing a great game plan what excuse does Rua have for his performance against a 44 year old Mark Coleman? He was as a gassed as Coleman was before the fight hit the 2nd round. I believe Rua is perfect for Liddell as he will look to pressure Chuck and that will give the “Iceman” an opportunity to use his effective counter striking. I see Liddell mixing it up a bit like he did against Wanderlei Silva, throwing in a few takedowns along with some effective leg strikes. I don’t think it will take too long before Liddell shows the world that going to ATT has helped him and that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to remain a strong fighter. Liddell by 1st round TKO.

Dustin James: While I’ve been a huge fan of Shogun’s for sometime now, I have been less than impressed with his run in the UFC thus far. He just doesn’t’ look like the Shogun of old. I truly feel that Liddell is coming into this fight motivated and looking to make one last meaningful run. He’s coming off a highlight KO loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 88 and has lost three out of his last four fights. That’s not good for the man who was once the face of the UFC. If Rua comes into this fight looking like he did when he fought Mark Coleman, it could be a long night for him. Winner: Chuck Liddell, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: Ah, 2005…those were the days. Gwen Stefani was teaching illiterate people how to spell “b-a-n-a-n-a-s”, Tom Cruise’s wackiness was just being introduced to the public, and both Chuck Liddell and “Shogun” Rua were both considered the cream of the crop at light heavyweight. Fast forward a few years and a bout that would have once made MMA fans pitch proverbial tents is co-headlining an event with a bout featuring Thales Leites. And, while Liddell and Rua defined what it meant to be elite at 205-pounds in 2005, both men are currently struggling to establish themselves as legitimate contenders. The individual who emerges victorious on Saturday night will take one step closer to gold while the loser will be left questioning his future in the sport. I think this particular bout is more “must win” for Rua, as Liddell will always have a place in good friend Dana White’s organization until he hangs up his mohawk while “Shogun” is being paid six-figures per fight for a slowed down, sloppier, stompless version of his former PRIDE self. I can see him being asked to take a pay cut if he loses to Liddell and walking away from the UFC as a result. In terms of the actual fight, I have a hard time picking a clear favorite based on Liddell’s wrestling abilities versus the mix of Rua’s multi-tiered striking and “The Iceman” having been rendered into a puddle of water at the hands of Rashad Evans and “Quinton” Jackson in recent bouts. Ultimately, I think the fight will resemble Liddell’s showdown with Wanderlei Silva and earn him a shot at the winner of Forrest Griffin and Thiago Silva’s UFC 101 throwdown. Winner – Chuck Liddell, Judges’ Decision

Caleb Newby: Now this is a more interesting fight. I’ve been thinking it over and while Shogun certainly *can* win, a lot of things have to go right for him. His cardio has to be much better. Recovery from knee surgery. Strong striking defense against Chuck’s potent offense. Ability to either take Chuck down or work an effective clinch. That’s too many ifs for my liking. Here’s hoping that Shogun has solved his cardio problem and is back to form, but until he has a better performance I can’t reasonably take him in a fight like this. Winner: Chuck Liddell – KO, Rd2

Cory Brady: My boy Shogun is going to be in better shape this time around. Anyone else see the countdown? Rua’s looking fit and I’m thinking that him being the more well ronded fighter will give him the edge. While I don’t expect for this one to go to the ground necessarily, if it did, Shogun would hold a HUGE advantage down there…I’m just saying. Winner: Shogun by TKO

Brian Stann vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Bryan Levick: I like Soszynski’s versatility here having won 8 fights by submission and 5 fights by TKO, he is also more experienced and has faced tougher competition. Stann has 6 wins all by TKO in the first round and the only time he has ventured into round 2 he was knocked out by Steve Cantwell and that was back in August of 2008. That is a long layoff for someone who hasn’t fought that much to begin with. I saw him get extremely tired against Cantwell and he can ill afford to gas against someone with Soszynski’s experience. I see Krzysztof winning by 2nd round submission as Stann has not shown any semblance of a ground game what so ever.

Dustin James: This one should be a stand-up war with Stann coming out like a rocket and testing Soszynski’s chin. Winner: Brian Stann, KO, Round 1

Brendhan Conlan: BREAKING NEWS – Brian Stann is a Marine! Sarcasm aside, Stann’s journey to the Octagon is actually quite inspirational and is truly the definition of “All-American”. However, his Mixed Martial Arts’ technique is not as impressive as his backstory, and unfortunately for him that’s all that matters once the Octagon door closes. Soszynski has three times Stann’s in-ring experience and I expect him to use it, as well as his more-rounded set of skills, to beat Stann in dominating fashion. The only way I see the former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion coming away with a “W” is by way of the old “puncher’s chance”. Krzysztof Soszynski, TKO, RD 2 

Caleb Newby: Brian Stann… Brian Stann… isn’t he that guy who is in the Coast Guard or something? I can’t remember. Anyway, Soszynski has KO power, but more importantly knows how to work submissions. Should Stann end up on his back I have a hard time believing he’d be in a comfortable spot, and standing it can go either way. But Soszynski has more options and should get the win. Winner: Krzysztof Soszynski – Sub, Rd2

Cory Brady: I’m seeing Soszinski coming in as a favorite in most of the sports books right now. I don’t like those odds. It’s not like Soszinski hasn’t ran into trouble when he’s stepped up in competetion in the past. Stann’s the bigger banger of the two, that will be the difference when the going gets tough. Winner: Stann by knockout

Cheick Kongo vs. Antoni Hardonk

Bryan Levick: Talk about fireworks going off, this fight will exciting and offer nobody an opportunity to go to the bathroom or even blink for that matter! Hardonk has won his last three fights and has come a long way since debuting in the UFC back in November of 2006. While I still wouldn’t consider either one of these goliaths to have a good ground game they both has worked on doing what is necessary to get the fight back to a standing position and utilize their kickboxing skills. Kongo is the stronger of the two and I feel he has more potential. I see both men inflicting their fair share of punishment until Kongo ends it in the 2nd round with a knockout.

Dustin James: One thing you can bet on in this fight is….it won’t be going to the ground. Hardonk throws some of the hardest kicks in MMA and that’s good because his opponent can hit just as hard. This fight is being billed as a potential “#1 contender fight” and I totally expect it to be a war. Winner: Cheick Kongo, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: Someone better get K-1’s Mike Schiavello on the phone because, lady and gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a kickboxing match at a UFC event! Hardonk and Kongo have similar technique, though I’d argue the enormous Frenchman is the better wrestler and physically stronger individual. He’ll use both attributes to his advantage come UFC 97, neutralizing Hardonk’s stand-up with his own while scoring takedowns and smothering the Dutch heavyweight en route to either a ground-and-pound win or unanimous decision in his favor. Winner – Cheick Kongo, Judges’ Decision

Caleb Newby: I’m sorry, but Hardonk lost to Justin McCully. Winner: Cheick Kongo – TKO, Rd1

Cory Brady: The only way that Kongo wins this fight, in my eyes at least, is by grinding out a hard fought decision with himself in top control for most of the fight. If he decides to trade with Hardonk for some reason, he’s going to sleep, that’s it. He won’t. Kongo will win this by utilizing his superior wrestling in a fight that I don’t feel will be as exciting as a lot of people are anticipating. Winner: Kongo by decision

Luis Arthur Cane vs. Steve Cantwell

Bryan Levick: I really like Cane, he is aggressive, strong and knows how to handle himself inside the octagon. I like the patience he showed when he defeated Sokoudjou back at UFC 89 in October. He waited for Soko to punch himself out and then he pounced on him and finished the job. He has 8 knockouts in 9 career victories. His only loss was because he was disqualified when he landed a knee to the head of James Irvin while he was still on the ground. Cantwell will be looking for his fifth straight win and has good submission skills to go with good standup. He broke his last opponents arm and was not the least bit upset about it! He has yet to turn 23 years old and has loads of potential but I see him coming up short in this one, but not by much. Cane by unanimous decision.

Dustin James: Cane is widely considered a top 10 light heavyweight and will indeed get a good test here from WEC veteran Cantwell. It’s pretty difficult to bet against “Banha” here. Winner: Luis Cane, KO, Round 1

Brendhan Conlan: Joe Silva deserves a bonus for the UFC 97 lineup. Like so many of the card’s earlier bouts, Cane vs. Cantwell is evenly matched and difficult to pick. They both have similar experience in the ring with 9-1/7-1 records respectively and are looking to further establish themselves as contenders in the 205-pound division. Cane has shown little weakness in any of his UFC performances and Cantwell has been steadily improving since losing to Brian Stann via TKO in 2007. I expect the fight to unfold with each individual feeling the other out for a few minutes, then turning into a brawl with Cantwell occasionally going for the takedown. “Banha” has never made an opponent tap out from a choke or limb-manipulation, having only one submission to his name that came after a series of soccer-style kicks, so bringing things to the mat is Cantwell’s best bet for victory. Unfortunately, I think Cane isn’t going to allow that happen without unleashing a good amount of damage on the 22-year old American. Winner – Luis Cane, TKO, RD 3

Caleb Newby: This Should be good. I’m back and forth on who I like here, but am leaning Cane to take it late in the 2nd round. Winner: Luis Arthur Cane – TKO, Rd2

Cory Brady: I’ll tell you what, if Chuck Liddell vs. Shogun fails to deliver, this fight is a shoe in for Fight of the Night honors. Both of these guys bring it and someone will undoubtedly wind up snoring at the end of this one. Ya gotta love it. Winner: Cane by knockout?

Denis Kang vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam

Bryan Levick: Kang will be fighting in front of his Canadian fans and he will be looking to forget about the blown fight he had against Alan Belcher in January at UFC 93. Kang was dominating that fight until he stuck his neck out for Belcher to take and he got choked out. Kang has the edge in experience and has fought much tougher opponents but he will need to fight a complete fight in order to win. Foupa-Pokam is riding a 7 fight win streak and will be looking to make an incredible first impression on the UFC fans and officials. He has 20 wins with 11 coming by knockout and 7 by submission but he lost his only fight against a fighter who could be considered a top opponent when he was choked out by Ninja Rua back in 2007. I think the bright lights will get to him eventually and he will make a mistake. Kang by third round submission.

Dustin James: The UFC brought in Xavier Foupa-Pokam because the man is on a seven-fight win streak since May of 2008. So, the UFC decided to sign the guy and give him a test in the form of former top 10 middleweight Denis Kang. Foupa-Pokam is on an amazing run right now, but Kang is a huge step up in competition. Kang is no doubt fighting for his UFC career here and he doesn’t want to go out on an 0-2 run with the biggest company in MMA. I totally expect to get the Denis Kang of old….but I will probably be wrong, so bet on Foupa-Pokam. Winner: Denis Kang, KO, Round 3

Brendhan Conlan: Kang is like a beautiful girl with horrible body odor. From a distance he always looks like a sure bet – 12 TKOs, 15 Submissions, going 20+ bouts without losing, and essentially 3:1 win/loss ratio. He draws you in with his accomplishments. As you get closer and closer still he continues to look good, often starting out strong and keeping his opponents on the ropes. But then, when you’re finally face to face, you catch a whiff of the proverbial stank and watch him stumble into a submission hold or well-placed strike. He’s the kind of Mixed Martial Artist who breaks as many hearts as he does arms and ankles. Facing an opponent who isn’t well-known and is debuting in the UFC, as Kang is at as aptly named a PPV as the UFC has had in quite some time (“Redemption”), would almost seem to be a forgone conclusion where success is concerned. However, Foupa-Pokam, is no joke with eighteen finishes in twenty wins and a fairly even split between submissions/knockouts. Interestingly enough, he also has three disqualification losses, so it sounds like Kang would be wise to protect his hockey pucks if you know what I’m sayin’. In the end, I’m a sucker for pretty girls, and the fan in me wants to see Denis redeem himself in the UFC while being cheered on by his Canadian countrymen. Hopefully this pick won’t spurn me like so many hotties have in the past…okay, fine…average looking broads….FINE…street urchins. Winner – Denis Kang, TKO, RD 1

Caleb Newby: I remember when Kang was top 10. I remember his huge winning streak. And I believe. Sorta. I’ll at least take him to win, I just don’t believe enough to pick a finish. Yes, I realize odds are the newcomer scores an “upset” victory. I BELIEVE! Winner: Denis Kang – Decision

Cory Brady: Kang should be able to rebound with an impressive victory over the outmatched octagon newcomer in this one. Winner: Kang by knockout

Jason MacDonald vs. Nate Quarry

Bryan Levick: MacDonald always shows up to fight and he entertains whether he wins or loses. He has given Demian Maia his best fight out of any other opponent he has faced in the UFC and that includes Nate Quarry who Maia choked out early in the 1st round of their fight at UFC 91. Quarry is a tough guy but doesn’t possess anyone skill that scares his opponents. MacDonald on the other hand has an excellent ground game and can submit his opponents from anywhere. Out of 21 career victories 17 have come by submission. The UFC likes him as they just signed him to an extension and the hometown fans will certainly give him a boost. I see Macdonald taking a unanimous decision here.

Dustin James: This fight will probably end up earning “Fight of the Night” honors. I’m a huge fan of both fighters, and each man has their problems. MacDonald’s problem is that he’s basically a gatekeeper in the UFC’s middleweight division. It seems his thing is to win a fight, then lose a fight, then win a fight, then lose a fight, then….well, you get the idea. Quarry’s problem is that he keeps running into fighters who are in totally different leagues than him (Maia, Franklin). The question is, is MacDonald in a different league than Quarry? We shall see. Winner: Nate Quarry, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: The fans in Montreal are in for another treat when Quarry and MacDonald step into the infamous eight-sided cage. Both fighters are coming off a losing performances and, with Quarry having just turned 37 and MacDonald’s 34th birthday around the corner, neither man can afford to start a downward streak at this point in his career. Because of this reason, and their styles in general, I think you’ll see Canada’s own MacDonald and the Ultimate Fighter alumnus throw caution to the wind and go all out in hopes of avoiding the possibility of the bout’s result being left in the ringside officials’ hands. Look for “The Athlete” to engage Quarry on his feet early in the fight and then quickly resort to his athleticism and superior grappling once he gets a taste of the Team Quester’s power. Nate’s wrestling is good enough to make takedowns difficult but his jiujitsu is not on the same level as MacDonald’s and positioning will ultimately determine the outcome of this match-up. Something in my gut tells me “The Rock” is going to clip MacDonald and pound out a win because of it, though I won’t bat an eyelash if Jason is able to submit Quarry or even eek out a split-decision win.

Caleb Newby: I am really looking forward to this fight and hope we get to see it on the broadcast. Both MacDonald and Quarry have long been favorites of mine. While Nate has the power, I’m looking at Jason MacDonald to win this on the ground. Winner: Jason MacDonald – Sub, Rd2

Cory Brady: Do you do with the heavy handed striker or the slick submission artist? My gut instinct tells me that MacDonald has the ground arsenal to handle Quarry but I’m going to go against my better judgement to make things interesting, plus Quarry’s hands are way underestimated. Winner: Quarry by knockout

Ed Herman vs. David Loiseau

Bryan Levick: The crow returns to the octagon he is another fighter fighting at home. Ed Herman knows this may be a make or break situation for him as he has lost two in a row and is 3-4 in the UFC. Another loss will probably send Short Fuse packing his bags. Loisea hasn’t fought in the UFC since September of 2006 and will be looking to make an example of Herman. Loiseau has some of the nastiest elbows in all of mixed martial arts and with his fans cheering him on and the thrill of being back in the octagon I think he will make short work of his opponent. Loiseau by 1st round TKO.

Dustin James: Ed Herman is a buddy of mine, so I must pass on giving my opinion as to why I think Loiseau will defeat him on Saturday. Unfortunately it could be Herman’s swan song in the UFC if he isn’t able to pull out a win. Winner: David Loiseau, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: I won’t be surprised if Loiseau vs. Herman shows up on the televised broadcast at some point because the bout certainly has show-stealing potential. Each man has the ability to finish opponents by way of knockout or submission, possesses an exciting fighting style, and is in desperate need of a win in the UFC. Expect both of them to come out firing in hopes of entertaining the crowd and receiving an invitation back to the Octagon. I like Loiseau’s striking better than Herman’s, as I feel it’s a bit more diverse in terms of incorporating kicks/knees, but I think “Short Fuse” has an advantage where grappling is concerned. However, I think Herman has a tendency to allow emotion to overcome him in the ring and could be baited into a stand-up battle against “The Crow”. If he takes that route I see Loiseau winning. If Herman maintains his cool and tries to keep the action on the mat then I see the carrot-topped TUF 3 finalist winning. This fight’s outcome is truly a toss up in my eyes. Winner – Ed Herman, Judges’ Decision

Caleb Newby: Because I know what Dustin is saying if he’s making picks, I need to counter his personal bias. Leave your mancrush feelings for Herman at home, sir. Winner: David Loiseau – TKO, Rd2

Cory Brady: This one has potential to be exciting but it has even more potential to be a real dissapointment. Hopefully both guys show up hungry for blood. Winner: Loiseau by knockout

Eliot Marshall vs. Vinny Magalhaes

Bryan Levick: I have absolutely no interest in this fight as neither fighter will be in the UFC this time next year. Magalhaes has great jiu-jitsu but nothing else and Marshall has no personality to go along with his good but not great all around skills. I see this being a bathroom break fight and I will choose Marshall by unanimous decision.

Dustin James: This is a fight I really wanted to see when the two were on “The Ultimate Fighter” and I’m finally going to get my chance! I totally expect this fight to last a total of about ten seconds standing. Both fighters will be looking to end the fight with a submission, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Magalhaes the one with the armbar locked on. Winner: Vinny Magalhaes, Submission, Round 2
Brendhan Conlan: I’ll be impressed if this bout ends in any other fashion than a submission or judges’ decision. Magalhaes and Marshall are both world-class jiujitsu specialists but neither is particularly known for owning anything other than mediocre striking abilities. That being said, Eliot exhibited some decent kickboxing while on the Ultimate Fighter, and I assume his game has continued to improve in coordinance with the amount of time he’s spent in Greg Jackson’s facility. Based on Magalhaes’ reliance on BJJ, I don’t think he’ll be able to pull anything out of his proverbial toolbox that will catch Marshall off-guard. If this bout doesn’t go a full fifteen minutes it will be because Eliot uses his striking to set up a submission. Otherwise, like so many other balanced fights on the UFC 97 card, it is a scrap destined to see the judges’ scorecards. Winner – Eliot Marshall, Submission, RD 2

Cory Brady: Eliot reminds me a lot of Ryan Bader, with a slightly better ground game. I just think Vinny may be a little too one dimensional for the UFC’s 205 pound division but I’m REALY hoping he proves me wrong. Winner: Marshall by TKO

Mark Bocek vs. David Bielkheden

Bryan Levick: Bocek is 2-2 in his UFC career with a loss being followed by a win and so on. He has some solid submission skills but that’s about all I know about him. Bielkheden was destroyed by Diego Sanchez in his UFC debut at UFC 82 in March of 2008 but rebounded nicely as he defeated Jess Liaudin at UFC 89 in October. I believe that Bielkheden has is a bit bigger so I will go with him by 2nd round TKO.

Dustin James: I’m trying really hard to care about this one, but for some reason it’s not working out to well for me. Winner: David Bielkheden, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: Bielkheden has better stand-up than Bocek but I don’t think it will matter in the long run, as the redheaded Canadian is an excellent grappler and should be able to neutralize Bielkheden’s primary weapons with a steady dose of wrestling/jiujitsu and control the bulk of the fight. However, putting the Stockholm native away won’t be an easy task, as he’s never been tapped out via choke/limb-manipulation nor has he ever been knocked out. In nineteen professional fights, Bielkheden has only lost once within the confines of a fight’s allotted time limit (submitting to Diego Sanchez’s strikes at UFC 82). Winner – Mark Bocek, Judges’ Decision 

Caleb Newby: My coin says Bielkheden. (I didn’t really use a coin.) Winner: David Bielkheden – Decision

Cory Brady: Bocek is way underestimated in my opinion. While not a title contender by any means, he belongs in the UFC and he has what it takes to beat Bielkheden this Saturday. Winner: Bocek by submission

T.J. Grant vs. Ryo Chonan

Bryan Levick: Grant is another Canadian fighter on this card as he makes his UFC debut against the Japanese veteran Chonan. Grant is 13-2 in his career with a remarkable 12 submission victories. He does have a lack of quality opponents as the only fighter I recognize that he has faced is Forrest Petz. Chonan is looking to even his UFC record at 2-2 and another loss here will probably send him back to Japan. He has only been submitted once in 24 career fights so Grant will have to think of another way to defeat him but I do see Grant pulling off the minor upset here and winning a unanimous decision

Dustin James: It’s the UFC debut of submission expert T.J. Grant! He’s definitely got a tough test here against Ryo Chonan. Chonan needs this win bad. If he loses this fight then his overall UFC record would be 1-3 and you can bet he would be on his way out of the company. Here’s to hoping Chonan is motivated. Winner: Ryo Chonan, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: Am I the only one who finds it interesting that Chonan, the last man to legitimately finish Anderson Silva (more than four years ago by the way), is likely fighting for his job on a card being headlined by the aforementioned 185-pound force of nature? “Piranha” is 1-2 in the Octagon and has seen the judges’ scorecards in all three bouts. While he’s endeared himself to more knowledgeable MMA fans with his colorful personality – and equally vibrant hair – Chonan hasn’t wowed many Zuffa Zombies during his 18-month stint in the UFC. I think there’s an above-average chance the judges’ scorecards will come into play, as the each man involved seems to negate the other’s talents. Chonan is a better striker than he is a jiujitsu practitioner, but his Canadian foe hasn’t been knocked out in any of his fifteen professional fights. On the other hand, T.J. Grant relies heavily on his grappling (twelve of his thirteen wins are the result of tapping his opponent out), yet Chonan has only been submitted once in an eight-year career. I’m giving the former DEEP/PRIDE star the edge based on experience, but don’t expect to see him plod his way to victory on the televised portion of the broadcast unless something freakish occurs. Winner – Ryo Chonan, Judges’ Decision

Caleb Newby: I’d like to take Ryo but he’s hardly been inspiring lately. Usually I avoid the UFC rookie, but I’ll risk it here. Sorry Damian. Winner: T.J. Grant – Decision

Cory Brady: Ryo Chonan’s experience and striking advantage will be the difference. Winner: Chonan by decision

Sam Stout vs. Matt Wiman

Bryan Levick: Stout is probably fighting for his UFC life here as he has lost two in a row and is 2-4 in the UFC. He hits hard and can certainly take a punch as evidenced in his two wars with Spencer Fisher. Wiman hasn’t fought since getting dominated by Jim Miller in December at the UFC Fight For The Troops special. That snapped a four fight win streak in which he was also coming off an impressive knockout win over Thiago Tavares at UFC 85. I see an all-out war in this one and the fans will walk away happy especially being that their hometown boy Stout wins by unanimous decision.

Dustin James: A wise man once told me…never bet against Matt Wiman. Unfortunately this could be Stout’s last fight with the UFC as a loss would be his third straight. Winner: Matt Wiman, Decision

Brendhan Conlan: This pairing should start out the night’s card on a positive note given each man’s willingness to stand and bang coupled with the energetic pace both usually bring to the cage. Stout will no doubt be the fan-favorite based on his Canadian roots, though I also expect Wiman to merit a warm reception by night’s end based on his performance in the Octagon. I think Stout and Wiman have comparable skills where stand-up is concerned, though the young Canadian seems to possess more power while I think “Handsome” Matt has the advantage when it comes to grappling. Stout is coming off a two-fight losing streak so it’s likely he is in a “must win” situation if he hopes to keep drawing a Zuffa paycheck. Unfortunately, I think Wiman’s wrestling will allow him to dictate most of the fight’s positioning, as I don’t see Stout being able to clip him with enough of a shot to end things early on. Winner – Matt Wiman, Judges’ Decision

Caleb Newby: I think I’ve been overrating “Hands of Stone” for awhile, but why end that now? Winner: Sam Stout – KO, Rd1

Cory Brady: If they stay on the feet for a good portion of this bout, which I’m hoping they do, Stout will have a definitive advantage. Wiman is no slouch on his feet but Stout’s boxing is top notch. Winner: Sam Stout by knockout

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