UFC 105 is coming to us from Manchester, England this weekend, and while we can’t attend (due to outstanding warrants on our heads from Scotland Yard) we’re still going to run down the card for you and give our predictions on the upper-card matches. Check in on Monday for a full recap of the show and the news coming out of it.
Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera
Randy Couture’s return to the light heavyweight division isn’t under the most ideal of circumstances. After suffering a unanimous decision loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August, Couture saw his chances of a rematch with heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar swirling down the drain. Faced with few other opportunities (and zero big fights) in the heavyweight division, Couture made the decision to return to the light heavyweight division. He’s a former two-time light heavyweight champion, but those accolades may not mean much in a 2009 division stacked with talent from top to bottom.
Is Randy Couture past his prime? He’s obviously past the prime of your normal athletes, but Couture has proven time and time again that he’s not a normal athlete. He says he feels better right now, at age 46, than at any point in his career. It’s impossible to tell if that’s typical fighter hyperbole or if Couture is telling the truth, but his bout with Brandon Vera should shed some light on his current standing in the UFC.
In Vera, Couture is facing a fighter with plenty of potential who somehow manages to underachieve nearly every time he steps in the cage. He always seems content to simply win his fights, no matter how displeasing to the eye they may be. In a conversation I had with Vera in Los Angeles last month, he indicated that he’s seen the error of his ways and will be looking for a dramatic finish of the Hall of Famer. But it remains to be seen if he’s able to execute that gameplan.
Couture will be cutting from 217 pounds for this fight, a move that will give him a size advantage over a lot of light heavyweight fighters. He probably won’t outweigh Vera in the cage on fight night, but he won’t be significantly undersized like he was in the heavyweight division. That size, combined with his wrestling pedigree, should allow him to control Vera during the bout. Vera has been working on his wrestling like a man possessed, but it won’t be enough. His avenue to victory leads through keeping the fight on the feet and using his lethal leg kicks to slow Couture down.
At the end of the day, this is a close fight. But I believe Couture’s wrestling and strength will make all the difference in the world during this bout, allowing him to work his way to a unanimous decision victory.
PREDICTION: Randy Couture by decision
Mike Swick vs. Dan Hardy
A title shot is something that has eluded Mike “Quick” Swick throughout his career in the UFC. A veteran of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Swick has amassed a 14-2 record in mostly dramatic style, using his trademark fast punch combos to finish most opponents. He was scheduled to face Martin Kampmann at UFC 103 in September, but an injury suffered while training with Josh Koscheck derailed those plans.
He’ll step in the cage with Dan Hardy, a British fighter with a 3-0 record in the UFC. His last outing in the Octagon came during a controversial split decision victory over hated rival Marcus Davis at UFC 99. He has a very good striking game, but it remains to be seen if he’ll want to stay on the feet with Swick.
Whether or not a victory over Swick should logically earn Hardy a title shot is an argument for another day. And really, it will be a moot point in the end, because Dan Hardy simply isn’t ready for a challenge of Mike Swick’s calibre. If he’s smart, he’ll try to stay off his feet and away from Swick’s speedy strikes. If he’s not and tries to engage in a boxing match, he’ll get knocked out quickly. Either way, I don’t see Hardy surviving very long.
PREDICTION: Mike Swick by TKO (Round two)
Michael Bisping vs. Denis Kang
You know the story: the last time Michael Bisping entered the Octagon, he got sent back to England in one of the most dramatic knockouts in the history of the UFC. It was a highlight-reel moment, to be sure. This time, however, Bisping is fighting in his home town, in front of a crowd that will surely give him the biggest ovation of the evening.
The former Ultimate Fighter winner will face Denis Kang, who is one of the most experienced fighters in the sport. Despite going 4-4 in his last eight bouts, Kang has enough skills and resolve to keep him competitive with just about anyone in the division.
Michael Bisping will represent a stern test for the PRIDE import, but Kang has enough tools to get the victory here.
Prediction: Denis Kang by decision
Matt Brown vs. James Wilks
Wilks was far and away the best fighter on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter. Matt Brown will go into this fight with an edge in the stand up game, but Wilks should outclass him everywhere else. It’s the first fight for Wilks since his reality show victory, and he’ll be looking to make a statement here.
Prediction: James Wilks by submission (round two)
Ross Pearson vs. Aaron Riley
Pearson was another victor on season nine of the Ultimate Fighter, but his victory was a bit of a surprise. He’s got a ton of heart and seems like the kind of guy who values putting on exciting fighters more than actual victories in the cage. And while that may or may not be true, Pearson is almost certain to put on a good show every time he steps in the cage.
I believe that Riley’s training camps, held under the watchful eye of Greg Jackson, will be the difference in this fight. He’ll look to neutralize Pearson’s wild bombs and grind out a decision.
Prediction: Aaron Riley by decision