Heavy.com is reporting live from UFC 106 in Las Vegas all weekend – we’ve already sat down for interviews with some of the top stars, and we’re going to keep bringing back more news and features over the weekend. Here’s our picks for the main card fights.
Tito Ortiz v. Forrest Griffin
Jeremy Botter: I believe in Tito Ortiz. Perhaps my emotions are simply the result of another masterful hype job by one of the best in the business, but I’ve completely bought into Tito’s theory that he’s a new man after his back surgery. I’ve seen the training footage from Big Bear, and he’s in fantastic shape.
It’s true that Forrest Griffin has improved greatly since the first time he faced Ortiz in the cage. He’s been competitive with the best in the world and he’s been the world champion. There’s no question that Griffin is one of the top five light heavyweights in the world. But I believe that he’ll be no match for the new and improved Tito takedown attempts, and if the fight goes to the ground it’s going to get very ugly for Griffin. Keith Jardine isn’t known for having the best ground and pound in the world, and he used it to put Griffin away. How can Griffin possibly handle the brutal ground striking game of Ortiz?
I don’t think he can. If Ortiz gets Griffin on the ground, he’s going to brutalize the popular former champion. I don’t think we’ll see a finish here, but I do see Ortiz winning a unanimous decision.
PREDICTION: Tito Ortiz by unanimous decision
Brett C. Jones: The last time these two fought each other, it was billed as the “return of the Huntington Beach Bad Boy.” Many felt Griffin won the fight, despite the judges’ scores coming up for Ortiz. Will this be a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same?” Yes, and maybe with the judges’ scoring the fight wrong. Tito can explain how broken down he was when they first fought, but the truth is that he is three years older and Griffin has improved by leaps and bounds since their first fight. Tito’s got a very slim chance of victory here.
PREDICTION: Forrest Griffin via Unanimous Decision
WHAT THE FIGHTERS THINK
Marcus Davis: “I would like to see Forrest do his thing. But I heard Tito is all healed up. I want to pick Forrest but he’s been on such a bad streak. My heart says Forrest. But if I had to put money on it, I would pick Tito.”
Tim Credeur: “I see it going for Forrest. He’s just advanced so much as a fighter in the past few months since the Anderson Silva thing. There was a lot of pressure on Forrest to perform. He really didn’t like the pressure, and it was really frustrating him. There were a lot of things involved with his mindset. After that fight, it really gave him the ability to release a lot of stuff and just take a load off. And since then, his game has just really, really gone through the roof. All of his training partners express the same feeling. He’s learned to love the game again. I think he’s going to finish Tito.”
Pat Miletich: “I gotta pick Griffin based on heart”
Josh Koscheck: “You know, Forrest is one of my good friends. We have the same management and I like Forrest. I think Forrest can get him. He’s got to fight a smart fight, but I think Forrest can definitely get him.”
Josh Koscheck v. Anthony Johnson
Jeremy Botter: The key to this fight is which version of Josh Koscheck shows up. If it’s Koscheck the world-class wrestler, Anthony Johnson could be in for a long night of getting smothered on the mat. I don’t think we’ll see Koscheck doing much wrestling, however. He’s in the process of a career rejuvenation built on a foundation of exciting fights, and he’s looking to continue that with a highlight-reel knockout here. There may indeed be a highlight-reel knockout, but it’s going to end with Koscheck out cold on the mat. Johnson is far too much for Kos to handle on the feet. This should be a crowd pleaser, however long it lasts.
PREDICTION: Anthony Johnson by TKO, round one
Brett C. Jones: I can’t help but wonder, like many folks, whether or not Koscheck is going to try to stand and trade with Johnson. Even if he doesn’t, even if Koscheck tries to use his superb wrestling to take Johnson down, I feel like Johnson is a skilled enough wrestler with such a tremendous size advantage that Koscheck will not find great success. This fight reminds me a lot of Koscheck’s fight with Thiago Alves, except in this case, I think Johnson will stop Koscheck.
PREDICTION: Anthony Johnson via KO, Round 2
Paulo Thiago v. Jacob Volkmann
Jeremy Botter: This fight was moved to the main card when Karo Parisyan pulled out of his bout with Dustin Hazelett. What you’re likely to see here is a grappling battle between two fantastic submission artists. This is Volkmann’s debut on the big stage and I think he’s in over his head.
PREDICTION: Paulo Thiago by submission, round two
Brett C. Jones: Thiago has superb jiu jitsu and sneaky striking. They have just one loss between the two of them, that being Thiago’s to Jon Fitch at UFC 100. Volkmann is an All-American wrestler out of Minnesota who won the World Grappling Championship in 2008. Barring a Koscheck-esque lapse in judgment, I feel like Volkmann should win this one.
PREDICTION: Jacob Volkmann via Unanimous Decision
Luiz Cane v. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Jeremy Botter: This is the fight that I’m most looking forward to. “Little Nog” makes his long-awaited UFC debut, and he’s not getting an easy opponent on his first outing. Luiz Cane is a legitimate threat in the light heavyweight division and is a deadly striker, but the younger of the Nogueira brothers is a more well-rounded fighter. I don’t think it’ll be an easy road, but I foresee Nogueira taking the win in this one.
PREDICTION: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by unanimous decision
Brett C. Jones: Lil Nog finally makes his UFC debut! To celebrate, I will (likely) offend the PRIDE faithful and pick Cane to win the stand up battle. Part of me can’t get over Nogueira getting trucked by Sokoudjou, and more logical part of me understands that Cane hasn’t actually been defeated in the UFC. I know that he lost to James Irvin via DQ, but no one’s pretending that Cane was losing that fight. Oh, and Cane actually beat Sokoudjou for whatever that’s worth here in 2009.
PREDICTION: Luiz Cane via TKO, Round 2
Amir Sadollah v. Phil Baroni
Jeremy Botter: This is Phil Baroni’s last shot at the big time and his last chance to prove that he’s more than just dancing and sequined vests. In fact, Baroni told me on Wednesday that he’s abandoning the showmanship and concentrating on the fight. He was 195 pounds on Wednesday and the weight cut was already affecting him, and I just can’t see him overcoming both a drastic weight cut and the talented Amir Sadollah.
PREDICTION: Amir Sadollah by submission, round one
Brett C. Jones: The first time I ever saw Phil Baroni fight was on a Toughman Contest on FX. I hated him, and he did nothing but win, which made me hate him more. Then, when he wound up in the UFC and PRIDE, I started to kind of like him, particularly leading up to and after the loss to Pete Sell. I thought I’d share that since there’s not a whole lot that needs to be said about this fight. Sadollah is taking home an arm.
PREDICTION: Sadollah via Submission, Round 1