We’re mere hours away from the opening bell of UFC 102, and our men on the scene are bringing back a load of exclusive video from the event. Let’s run down the card and give our predictions for the Thumpdown in Stumptown. Dana White, I just made that up. Call me.
Light Heavyweight: Brandon Vera vs. Krzysztof Soszynski.
Robert wrote a profile of Soszynski a week back, and the “Polish Experiment” is on my list as well, because the guy loves to fight. He’s been on four UFC cards in less than a year – that’s an intense schedule, especially for a relative rookie. The real question here is which Brandon Vera are we going to see? The Muay Thai master has been sloppy in recent fights, and he has to know that losing to Soszynski here will be the death knell for his career. Recent interviews are saying that he’s showing up with his game face on, so I gotta call this for Brandon Vera, but in my heart I’m pulling for an upset. Round 3, TKO.
Light Heavyweight: Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva
This one should be fun. Silva, despite his promising 13-1 record, is still somewhat untested in the big leagues, and Jardine is a solid hand with a bit more experience and a more diverse portfolio. What’s going to be great here is both these dudes hit incredibly hard, so in my book it’s going to be a matter of who gets that killer blow in. And my pick is Thiago Silva. Robert wrote a great analysis here where he picked Jardine, so we’re going to battle for office dominance on this one. Thiago Silva, Round 1 KO.
Middleweight: Chris Leben vs. Jake Rosholt
Leben is a massive hitter who can take punishment with the best of them, and if the UFC didn’t have a ground game he’d be a top talent. Unfortunately, it does, and Jake Rosholt, a former NCAA wrestler, is going to use it big in this match. Rosholt’s been winning clean in his last few matches, and if he can stay clear of Leben’s fists and get him down, this fight is his to lose. My pick is Jake Rosholt. Round 2 submission.
Middleweight: Nate Marquardt vs. Demian Maia
Demian Maia is 5-0 in his last five fights. All by submission. This dude can make you tap, no question. But he’s still untested in a number of important areas – especially in taking pain. This is going to be a brawn vs. brain match, as Marquardt has the raw power to unhinge a Maia sub if he keeps his wits about him. Of all the matches on the card, this is the one I’m the least sure of – if Marquardt stays on his feet, he can take it, but I gotta go with Demian Maia getting past his defenses and taking this one home. Round 2 submission.
Heavyweight: Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Both men are legends. Both men are also coming off losses. Two guys with something to prove to themselves and the world is a recipe for a good fight, and we’re psyched for this UFC main event. This “Battle of the Legends” would have probably been a better fight a few years ago, before they were legends, but it’s still one of those matches that any MMA fan wants to see go down. Neither dude wants to see their legacies tarnished by a second straight win, but I’m picking Randy Couture to take it. Noguiera was a master, but his body isn’t what it used to be. I’d call Couture to control the fight and take it with a decision. Round 3 decision.