There is a big combat sports event this weekend featuring one of the biggest draws in combat sports history and arguably the best fighter in the world right now against his toughest opponent to date and a man on the road to redemption. There’s also UFC 122: Marquardt vs. Okami from Germany airing on tape delay on SpikeTV. I’m not usually one to hate on free MMA events because, afterall, it is free, but this card is not UFC’s best effort. My theory is that UFC saw they were running head to head against Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito and decided to put together the weakest card possible just to see what their basement rating and interest level is. And despite the lack of interest and the fact that it’s very likely that this will be the lowest rated UFC event in SpikeTV history, it won’t stop me from vomiting words of wisdom to get you ready for all the action.
Middleweight Fight: Yushin Okami vs. Nate Marquardt
Yushin Okami has always been the “forgotten middleweight.” He’s been on the verge of a title shot a couple of times but untimely losses and injuries have set him back. Now he’s got another chance to get a crack at the belt. All he’s got to do is defeat former title challenger and the man who has been calling out Anderson Silva since UFC 95, Nate Marquardt.
While Okami’s name has been overlooked for a couple of years, his skills have not. He’s a good striker whose hands seem to improve with every fight. His main weapon is his lead right hand. He has a stiff jab, a nice short right hook, and a crisp short uppercut. He uses all those punches to set up his straight left hand. He’s also an outstanding wrestler. Mark Munoz, a much better credentialed wrestler, had a very tough time taking Okami down. Even since his loss to Chael Sonnen, Okami has worked extremely hard on his takedown defense and he’s done that by training with Sonnen at Team Quest. Okami has always been known as a bully in the clinch. He muscles his opponents against the fence the wears them out with his size and strength. Okami will likely keep things on the feet and use his size to his advantage. He doesn’t have a distinct striking advantage but he’s certainly good enough to hang with Marquardt standing and land his fair share of strikes. Marquardt is strong for the weight class and won’t be easy to bully but that certainly won’t stop Okami from trying. If Marquardt goes for takedowns, Okami should be able to stuff them but if he does end up on his back, expect him to look for the kimura as a sweep. Marquardt’s takedown defense is the weak part of his game and Okami will look to exploit that by going to multiple takedowns.
Marquardt might be coming off the most unimpressive victory in MMA history when he knocked out a fighter that figured it would be a better idea to complain than to protect himself. While you can’t blame Marquardt for that, it’s very easy to throw out just how much he showed in that fight. That said, Marquardt is a very well-rounded fighter. He’s a diverse striker with a lightning quick straight right, he’s a solid wrestler although his takedown defense is the weakest part of his game, and he’s very good on the ground, especially on top. Marquardt has a lot of faith in his stand up so it’s safe to say that he’ll want to keep things on the feet. He has a slight reach advantage so look for him to use the jab to not only set up the straight right but also keep Okami at bay. Also look for him to throw a lot of kicks to the legs and body of Okami. If the rounds are close then Marquardt may try some takedowns but he’s going to have a tough time getting Okami on his back and a failed takedown may end up costing him the round. The one thing Marquardt needs to do above everything is use his speed and stay out of the clinch. He’s the quicker of the two fighters so he needs to stick and move and not let Okami get a hold of him.
This is a very close fight. In a lot of circles Okami is actually underrated while Marquardt is overrated. One thing they both have in common is that they struggle in big fights. Well now one of them will get a chance to shine, unless of course this fight ends in a draw. I’m going with Okami in this fight. He’s a better striker than given credit for, his strength is going to be too much for Marquardt, and I truly believe that Marquardt might be a little mentally weak. Okami will press him all fight and his aggressiveness will be enough to win him the decision.
Prediction: Yushin Okami to defeat Nate Marquardt by Decision
Middleweight Fight: Alessio Sakara vs. Jorge Rivera
When you think of fighters who can be in the co-main event slot, I think the only two people who think Alessio Sakara and Jorge Rivera are Sakara and Rivera. They’re both coming off impressive TKO victories with Sakara knocking zombie James Irvin out of the UFC and Rivera knocking Nate Quarry into possible retirement but they’ve been mid-level fighters for their entire careers. While this should be an exciting fight that ends in a knockout, on almost any other card, this is a “crowd pleasing opener” at best.
Rivera’s career might be winding down but he’s still chugging along thanks to “old man strength.” All fighters say that power is the last thing to go so for the time being, Rivera still has something left in the tank. He’s not a very technical striker but he throws some very heavy hands. That’s exactly what he needs to do in this fight: throw bombs. Sakara has a very questionable chin hidden behind his epic beard and has been known to wilt when pressed. The perfect example of this was against Chris Leben. While Rivera doesn’t have the chin that Leben has (and really, who does?) his heart is unquestionable and whatever happens to him in the cage is nothing compared to what he’s gone through in his personal life. Given both fighters willingness to bang it out, I highly doubt we see this fight go to the ground unless it’s from a knockdown. Of the two though, Rivera is more likely to try a takedown.
Sakara is one of the better technical strikers in the middleweight division. He throws crisp punches, mixes in plenty of kicks, and has power in all limbs. Unfortunately a weak chin and a lack of heart (not to mention a suspect ground game) has kept Sakara from truly advancing up the ladder. Rivera isn’t known for having a great chin and Sakara certainly has enough power to crack him but he’s going to have to do that while moving backwards. There is no doubt in my mind that Rivera is going to press the action so it’s up to Sakara to keep his composure and land big counter strikes. As with Rivera, I doubt Sakara has any plan to take things to the ground unless it’s from a knockdown.
Even though this fight doesn’t feel like a co-main event, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be exciting. Both fighters like to slug it out and put on a show and their desire to do so should increase given their spot on the card. I’d be very shocked if this fight goes to a decision. I like Rivera in this fight because I don’t trust Sakara’s chin or his heart when pressed. Rivera will likely turn things into an ugly brawl rather than a technical kickboxing contest and when that happens, Sakara won’t be able to withstand the heat so Rivera is going to get him out of the kitchen.
Prediction: Jorge Rivera to defeat Alessio Sakara by TKO in Round One
Lightweight Fight: Andre Winner vs. Dennis Siver
After showing off his elite British wrestling skills en route to a fight so boring that it nearly caused Joe Lauzon to commit murder against Gabe Ruediger, Andre Winner is back in action. This time he probably doesn’t have to worry about his lack of wrestling as he faces fellow striker Dennis Siver, fresh off his victory over Spencer Fisher.
Winner does one thing but he does it pretty well and that’s throw his hands. He’s a very good technical boxer with plenty of power, especially in his right hand. He has a tendency to wing his right hand but his speed allows him to get away with it. The one area Winner will no doubt want to avoid is the clinch. While he has some decent Muay Thai skills, he’s been bullied in the clinch in both of his UFC losses. He’ll also need to do a better job of keeping his hands up than he’s done in previous fights. Maybe he’s just kept his hands low over his last few fights because he’s had no respect for the striking of his recent opponents but he’ll need to break that habit against Siver, who is by far the best striker he’s faced since Ross Pearson. Winner will want to use his speed, reach, and fast hands in this fight to pick up the victory. He also needs to keep the pressure on and not allow Siver to settle in.
Siver is being promoted as the “most dangerous kickboxer in the lightweight division” despite losing a straight kickboxing fight against Winner’s teammate Pearson. False promotion aside, Siver is a very good kickboxer. He has a good counter left hook, throws a solid one-two combo, and of course is always dangerous with his spinning back kick. It’s guaranteed that he’ll throw the spinning back kick at least twice a round and it works for him because he disguises it and times it very well. Of the two, Siver is more likely to try and take things to the ground. He’s deceptively strong and has a decent ground game, certainly better than anything Winner can offer on the ground. Siver will keep things standing early but if Winner is getting the better of things, he’ll likely look to get it to the ground. Even if he can’t put Winner on his back, look for him to bully Winner against the cage, drop a level to avoid the plum clinch, and grind out a decision.
This fight will be as exciting as Siver wants it to be and given that he’s fighting in his home country, he’ll probably want it to be exciting. He’ll also want to win and to win, he should use his wrestling and jiu-jitsu to defeat Winner. The striking battle will probably be even and if it is, expect Siver to look for takedowns or to control things in the clinch. It probably won’t be as exciting as it’s advertised to be but it has potential to deliver fireworks.
Prediction: Dennis Siver to defeat Andre Winner by Decision
Welterweight Fight: Peter Sobotta vs. Amir Sadollah
After winning The Ultimate Fighter 7, Amir Sadollah has been hit and miss in his UFC career. He’s coming off a tough loss to the undefeated Dong Hyun Kim after finding his groove with two straight victories. If you’ve never heard of Peter Sobotta, you’re probably not alone. He’s never been on a UFC main card and he’s 0-2 in the UFC. But he’s German so as long as the company is running in Germany, he’ll be around.
Sobotta is a mid-level fighter. He’s a decent striker and a decent grappler but he’s not great or even very good at anything and his cardio is rather suspect as well. If there’s one positive about Sobotta, it’s that he’s a finisher. In his eight victories, he’s finished all eight fights and he’s done so in different fashions. He’s not going to outstrike Amir but maybe he can use his striking to set up some takedowns. Amir’s takedown defense is very suspect and while Sobotta isn’t known for his wrestling or takedowns, it’s not impossible to think that he could put Amir on his back a couple of times. Of course then he’ll have to defend the submissions of Amir, which won’t be an easy task for someone of Sobotta’s skill level.
Amir is underrated by a lot of people who just see him as the goofy guy with beginners luck from TUF 7. He’s a very good technical striker who mixes things up well. He has a lack of power that’s going to hurt him in the long run but in a technical striking contest he’s good enough to hang with the best in the division. He has a decent ground game and he especially loves going for the armbar off his back. His biggest weakness though is his wrestling. This was completely exposed in his last fight against Kim where he was taken down and controlled at will for the better part of 15 minutes. I assume Amir has worked very hard on his takedown defense since that fight and even if he hasn’t Sobotta doesn’t present the takedown threat that Kim did. Amir will want to work his superior striking, avoid the takedown, and if he does end up on his back then roll for the armbar or quickly get up.
This is a rebound fight for Amir. He was given Sobotta because UFC sees something in Amir that they can get behind but it’s tough to get behind a fighter that doesn’t win. So this is clearly a designed win for Amir. He’s going to put his superior striking on display, he probably won’t finish Sobotta because of his lack of power, but he should win a very comfortable decision.
Prediction: Amir Sadollah to defeat Peter Sobotta by Decision
Light Heavyweight Fight: Goran Reljic vs. Krzysztof Soszynski
After going 0-2 in the middleweight division, Goran Reljic is back at Light Heavyweight for the first time since 2008. He’s welcomed back by Krzysztof Soszynski, who failed in his rematch against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 116.
While Reljic is on a two fight losing streak, I don’t think that’s really indicative of where is skill level is. He was out of action for a year and a half and tried cutting down to 185 when he lost to C.B. Dollaway and he put up a good fight against Kendall Grove but it just seemed like 185 wasn’t the weight class for him. Back at 205 I expect him to be a lot faster, which will be a big advantage over Soszynski. Reljic is a good striker who throws everything with a lot of power. He’s a bit predictable with his striking as he throws almost everything from his power side but he’s so strong that even if you block his strikes, it still hurts. His wrestling is his weakness but he’s not a terrible wrestler and he does have an active guard. Reljic will likely look to keep things standing though. He’s a quicker striker than Soszynski and he’ll need to use that quickness to avoid the power and wrestling of his opponent.
Soszynski is coming off a disappointing loss against Bonnar where he didn’t look terrible but also showed just how limited he is. He’s a power puncher but he’s not particularly quick with his strikes and he’s a good wrestler but possibly overrated in that category. He struggled getting Bonnar on his back and not only do I think that Reljic has better takedown defense than Bonnar but he’s also better off his back. Soszynski’s biggest weakness is that he doesn’t like to get hit in the body. Against Brandon Vera, the first body kick that Vera threw stopped Soszynski in his tracks and looked very hesitant for the rest of the fight. Bonnar also attacked the body of Soszynski and a body shot is what led to Bonnar finishing him and picking up the victory. For Soszynski to win he’s going to need to make Reljic pay every time he throws a kick either with a counter punch or a takedown. His best chance is to get the fight to the ground or land a big punch because he’s not going to beat Reljic in a technical striking battle. If Soszynski gets things to the ground then he’ll look to set up the kimura while landing some ground and pound but he’ll have to be careful of the submissions and sweeps of his opponent.
I really like Reljic. As mentioned above, I think he’s underrated by a lot of people and if he’s going to prove me right then he’s got to beat Soszynski. Look for Reljic to throw a ton of kicks, attack the body of Soszynski, and stuff the takedowns. Soszynski’s cardio and chin are a bit questionable so as long as Reljic’s cardio is up to snuff, he should be able to put him away late.
Prediction: Goran Reljic to defeat Krzysztof Soszynski by TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Fight Predictions:
*Kyle Noke to defeat Rob Kimmons by Submission in Round Two
*Alexandre Ferreira to defeat Vladimir Matyushenko by Submission in Round One
*Mark Scanlon to defeat Pascal Krauss by TKO in Round Three
*Nick Osipczak to defeat Duane Ludwig by TKO in Round One
*Seth Petruzelli to defeat Karlos Vemola by Decision
*Carlos Rocha to defeat Kris McCray by Submission in Round Two
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC