10 for ’10: Puncher’s Chance Predictions

2010 Puncher's Chance Predictions For MMAContinuing in the 10 for ’10 series and following-up on the organizational / industry-based predictions made earlier in the week, it’s time for some predictions featuring the fighters themselves.

While some of these may fail to amaze you, others might leave you wondering whether I’ve been spending a great deal of time with Nick Diaz doing that thing he likes to do more than fighting.

Anyone can make a bunch of safe predictions, but even the pitcher with the fastball no one can hit likes to throw a curveball from time-to-time.

I’m bringing the heat, but there are quite a few curveballs too.

10. Fedor Emelianenko Will Not Lose

I know – way to go out on a limb to kick things off.

Though starting out my predictions by calling for a Fedor loss in 2010 would certainly draw far more comments and critiques, there is no way I could do such a thing with a clear conscience.

“The Last Emperor” has vanquished all foes over the last nine years, and 2010 will be no different, regardless of who is placed before him. Expect Fabricio Werdum to be dealt with on the April CBS card before Scott Coker puts the squeeze on Alistair Overeem to come back to North America and defend his title sometime in the late summer or early fall.

While Overeem looked impressive (and ginormous) in defeating Kazuyuki Fujita, he hasn’t defeated a top-tier heavyweight to date. That won’t change if he ever meets Fedor.

9. Takanori Gomi Signing Proves Uneventful

Signing Takanori Gomi is an excellent move from a marketing standpoint for the UFC, as the company has a vast collection of highlights from his Pride days at their disposal.

Without question, the debut of “The Fireball Kid” will receive a big push, but when it comes time to deliver in the cage, I don’t think Gomi will be able to deliver.

Since his fight with Nick Diaz, Gomi has looked average at best, putting together a 4- 2 record. While there is no debating Gomi’s tremendous run in the glory days of Pride, how well does he stack up against the top challengers in the UFC lightweight division?

Maybe all Gomi needs is a change of address to refocus his game and return to the form that made him one of the best lightweights in the world. Consider me sceptical.

8. Shinya Aoki Debuts in Strikeforce… and Loses to Gilbert Melendez

Shinya Aoki is a phenomenal grappler, and not just because of his magic grappling pants. The dude is more flexible than a Stretch Armstrong doll and has countless submission holds at his disposal.

His arrival on U.S. soil was teased during the Strikeforce: Evolution broadcast and post-event coverage, while his highly-discussed victory over Mizuto Hirota at Dynamite!! 2009 only increases his profile in North America. His name recognition on this side of the world has probably never been greater.

However, Aoki is all grappler, all the time, and a fighter with Melendez’ combination of wrestling ability and knockout power could prove poisonous to “The Tobikan Judan.”

Though Melendez will be in constant danger of being submitted, and Aoki showed last week that he isn’t afraid to break bones if necessarily, my money is on “El Nino” if these two do indeed meet for the Strikeforce Lightweight title later in the year.

7. Liddell 3, Ortiz 0

A Hollywood blockbuster isn’t going to interfere with the coaches from Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter meeting in the Octagon like it did this past season, as Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz will meet for a third time at the show’s conclusion.

Just like the first two times, Chuck Liddell will have his hand raised at the end of the night.

Although Liddell has looked like a fighter on the downside of an impressive career in losing his last two fights in brutal fashion, “The Iceman” still has knockout power, while Tito Ortiz does not.

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” will rant and rave about “finally being healthy” and do a great job selling this fight, but at the end of the day, Tito Ortiz is the same fighter today as he was in both April 2004 and December 2006.

On Ortiz’ record, both those dates read the same: LOSS – Chuck Liddell – T/KO (Punches). The third time won’t be the charm.

6. Some on The Ultimate Fighter Will Out “Junie Browning” Junie Browning

Junie Browning (verb): to act like a completely reckless, booze-fueled idiot on a reality television show.

More and more, TUF is becoming less and less about showcasing a vast number of potential UFC fighters, instead highlighting the ridiculous antics and douche-like behaviour of some of the house guest.

Sure, Chris Leben was as drunken idiot on Season 1, but that show also produced a number of UFC competitors, something subsequent seasons are not able to boast.

As we head into Season 11, more fighters are gaining notoriety from what they do inside the house than what they do in the cage, and that will only continue to encourage others to follow the path of dumb-ass antics that have made Junie Browning a household name amongst MMA fans.

5. Frank Mir Defeats Shane Carwin Before Getting Thumped (Again) By Brock Lesnar

While we won’t find out the fate of Brock Lesnar until sometime later in the week, we do know that former champion Mir and #1 contender Shane Carwin are officially set to square off at UFC 111 in New Jersey for the Interim Heavyweight title.

Though Carwin has the one-punch power to end Mir’s night, the former champion with the newly crafted physique and outstanding ground game is my pick.

Regardless of what happens with Lesnar later in the week, expect Mir to continue to talk about the champ each and every time a microphone is put in front of him, either lamenting the fact that Lesnar has retired or further positioning himself for a trilogy fight.

A retirement announcement is a very real possibility for Brock Lesnar, and while that would seemingly make the bold print of this prediction impossible, we live in the “Era of Returning Retirees.” I would think that listening to his arch enemy continually yapping could certainly lure Lesnar back for one more round.

And if he doesn’t retire, a trilogy fight is a pay-per-view goldmine for the UFC and an absolute lock to happen at some point.

4. Jake Shields to the UFC, Brandon Vera to Strikeforce

Let me start with Vera, as it’s an easier explanation.

“The Truth” is set to face Jon Jones at the end of March. Regardless of your thoughts on the outcome of his UFC 105 bout with Randy Couture, a loss would be two-in-a-row for Vera and serve as another indication of his inability to defeat a top-tier challenger.

With a big contract and lacklustre results, Vera would get the axe from the UFC. From there, signing with Strikeforce is a no-brainer, which brings us to Jake Shields.

The current Strikeforce Middleweight champ is one of the marquee names in the company, and is rumored to be defending his title against Dan Henderson on the next CBS card in April.

While I don’t know how many fights the Cesar Gracie black belt has left on his contract, I do know that Shields is one of the fighters who became a member of Strikeforce through the company’s acquisition of the remains of EliteXC.

Whenever that contract expires, expect the UFC to make a major push for Shields, one of few welterweight competitors that hasn’t already been dismantled by Georges St-Pierre.

3. Jose Aldo Graduates to the UFC Lightweight Division

The current WEC Featherweight champion may have just won the title a couple months ago, but people are already talking about “What’s Next?” for the Brazilian sensation. Here is how I see 2010 going for the newly-crowned champion:

Three fights, three wins, three more stunning performances, defeating Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Josh Grispi in that order.

In just over two years since joining the company, Aldo will have cleaned out the WEC Featherweight division. His search for new challenges will lead him to the biggest stage possible and a place in the spotlight with the UFC.

Aldo is just too dynamic of a fighter and too easy to successfully market for him to remain in the WEC. As the UFC is constantly searching for new stars, they will certainly look in-house and find a bona fide superstar under the Zuffa banner.

2. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: Light Heavyweight Champion

I wish I had this piece completed before UFC 108, so that people didn’t think the Rashad Evans – Thiago Silva bout led me to these conclusions.

“Rampage” was a great fighter before he “retired” to portray B.A. Baracus in The A-Team. We’ve seen him knockout some great fighters over the years, and UFC 108 showed once again that Rashad Evans doesn’t have the best chin.

The two TUF coaches are going to fight and Jackson will score a knockout victory.

From there, the former champ who some believe never really lost the belt in the first place will get a shot at the winner of the rematch between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

While Jackson has already lost to Rua in the past, and defeating Machida is easier said than done, if “Rampage” is really as motivated to quiet the critics and haters, including UFC President Dana White, I’m picking Jackson against anybody at 205 and not thinking twice.

1. Anderson Silva Will Lose the Middleweight Title

How’s that for a final prediction? Started with a softy, but ended with a shocker…

Nothing Silva has done in the cage gives credence to this bold proclamation; he’s 10-0 in the UFC, has dominated at two different weight classes, and looks more invincible than anyone else in the organization.

But I have a feeling that that will change in 2010.

I don’t know why and I don’t know when, but I just think the dominant run of Anderson Silva atop the UFC Middleweight division is going to come to an end.

Maybe Vitor Belfort, maybe Nate Marquardt (provided he gets passed Chael Sonnen next month), or maybe Silva decides to give up the belt on his own, either to move to light heavyweight permanently or to retire, something he’s talked about before.

One way or another, 2011 will begin with a new Middleweight champion.

Remember who said it first.