UFC 121 Punch Drunk Preview

UFC 121 Preview and Predictions

Honestly, I’m feeling a little spoiled right now.

UFC 120 was just seven days ago, and yet here I am, breaking down another jam-packed card for another UFC event already. While last weekend’s event was short on star power, UFC 121 has got it in spades, with the biggest name in the business stepping into the Octagon in the main event.

Even crazier than events on back-to-back weekends is the fact that UFC 121 is just the second show in an incredible nine-card collection that will unfold between now and New Year’s Eve. I better go apologize to the wife now because I don’t think she’ll be seeing much of me between now and then.

Jon Madsen (6-0-0) vs. Gilbert Yvel (36-15-1)

Am I the only one who finds it really weird that Ultimate Fighter alumni Madsen and Matt Mitrione have combined to go 6-0 since filming wrapped?

The former Hit Squad member turned Brock Lesnar training partner looks to move his record to 4-0 following his time in the TUF house by pushing veteran Gilbert Yvel to 0-3 in the Octagon. Before anyone goes thinking that Madsen might be the real deal, it’s grain of salt time: he’s earned three-straight decision wins over Justin Wren, Mostapha Al-Turk and Karlos Vemola, a trio that doesn’t exactly scream title contention.

That said, Madsen has done much better than Yvel, who has been on the receiving end of a first round knockout courtesy of Junior dos Santos, and a three round slugfest loss to Ben Rothwell. Once a perfect example of what it means to be bat-shit crazy, Yvel looks a lot like a lion in the zoo these days; the ferociousness that made him dangerous is gone, surfacing only for brief moments here and there.

If Yvel can stay standing, he has the power to knock Madsen into next week, but that is a big if when you look at both men’s resumes.

Dong Yi Yang (9-0-0) vs. Chris Camozzi (13-3-0)

Take a guess which fighter the UFC is trying to showcase here?

Is it the TUF 11 alumnus who didn’t actually stay in the house because he suffered a broken jaw in his qualifying bout or the unbeaten South Korean newcomer who makes his debut as the UFC increases their push into the Asia market?

Sorry Chris Camozzi, but you’re expected to be a stepping stone here.

Sam Stout (15-6-1) vs. Paul Taylor (10-5-1)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this one gets Fight of the Night, considering Stout has won five such awards, and three-straight, while Taylor has a trio of bonus checks in his back account as well.

Stout was thought to be rounding into form following his upset win over Joe Lauzon back in January, but the power of Jeremy Stephens proved to be too much for the Shawn Tompkins student to handle in May. Now 7-5 through 12 UFC appearances, if Stout ever hopes to be more than a preliminary card participant who earns routinely earns bonus checks, he needs to start putting together a solid string of victories.

This will be Taylor’s debut in the 155-pound division, and it comes six months later than originally planned. The Brit was scheduled to face John Gunderson back at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, but after a bad weight cut, Taylor wasn’t cleared to compete. Now he crosses the Atlantic for the first time to face his Canadian doppelganger.

Expect an epic slugfest.

Daniel Roberts (10-1-0) vs. Mike Guymon (12-3-1)

Fun fact: a number of months ago, I was asked to join a Facebook group called 100,000 people want to see Mike “Joker” Guymon fights aired live on UFC. There are just over 3,300 members of said group heading into this bout, and that is pretty much all you need to know.

Patrick Cote (13-6-0) vs. Tom Lawlor (6-3-0)

For better or worse, there is a decent chance that whoever loses this fight gets handed their walking papers, as both Cote and Lawlor enter on two-fight losing streaks.

Cote has the better chance of keeping his job; one of those losses came in his often bemoaned title bout with Anderson Silva where his knee gave out. After two different knee surgeries and 18-months away from the cage, Cote got dropped on his head by Alan Belcher and handed a second consecutive loss.

D’you think he’s hungry for a win or what?

Lawlor could stick around simply on the basis of his outstanding entrances, whether at the weigh-ins or coming to the Octagon. His Dan Severn impersonation last time out was perfect, though his performance in the cage was not. After a strong start, “The Filthy Mauler” gassed and got tapped, the second consecutive outing where his lack of cardio caused him issues.

This could either be an extremely entertaining kickoff to the Prelims LIVE event or a battle of the lactic acid arms depending on how long it goes.

Court McGee (10-1-0) vs. Ryan Jensen (15-6-0)

Here is how I know that The Ultimate Fighter is in serious need of a reboot: Season 11 champ McGee is kicking off his post-TUF career with a bout against a guy who was staring unemployment in the face before earning a victory in his last appearance. Can we please get back to searching for the best up-and-coming talent and stop pushing the edited drama?

My personal disappointment with TUF aside, McGee is a truly a solid prospect, having earned a win over DaMarques Johnson before winning the reality TV tournament, while his lone loss came against Jeremy Horn, a veteran of more than 110 professional bouts.

Jensen is a journeyman who earned his first legit UFC win by submitting Jesse Forbes at UFC 114 in May. Before that, he scored a scandalous win over Steve Steinbeiss when the referee misinterpreted “The Hooligan” giving him the thumbs up to mean that he wanted to submit.

Maybe moving to Jackson’s in Albuquerque will prove to be a turning point in Jensen’s career, but for now, he still looks like he’s being set up to get beat down by the latest TUF winner.

Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5-0) vs. Brendan Schaub (6-1-0)

Welcome to your litmus test, Mr. Schaub.

After dominating Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer in successive outings, the TUF 10 finalist takes a mammoth step up in competition to face a former title contender in Gonzaga. While there is no denying the impressive power Schaub has displayed since joining the UFC, duplicating that feat against an experienced veteran like “Napao” is an entirely different task.

Though not an elite level heavyweight, Gonzaga is the most dangerous opponent Schaub has faced to date, bringing both knockout power and a dangerous ground game into the cage in this one. Remember, in addition to knocking out Mirko Cro Cop with a dose of his own medicine a few years back, Gonzaga buckled Shane Carwin with a straight right before getting dropped shortly thereafter.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that the winner here has a 2011 date with Cheick Kongo.

Matt Hamill (9-2-0) vs. Tito Ortiz (15-7-1)

Here we go again.

Tito Ortiz is once again telling anyone foolish enough to listen that he’s feeling perfectly healthy and ready to make another run at the light heavyweight title. This is the same song we heard prior to his return engagement with Forrest Griffin, a bout that Ortiz lost before explaining he had a broken skull and shouldn’t have been fighting.

Hamill may have been dominated by Jon Jones before the light heavyweight prospect was disqualified, but outside of that contest, Ortiz’s former protégé has beaten far better opponents than his old coach as of late, including sending Keith Jardine to Shark Fights in his last appearance.

Hamill is probably too nice of a guy to beat the bejesus out of Ortiz in an attempt to convince him to hang up the four-ounce gloves for good, but let me tell you how much I would love to see that happen here.

Paulo Thiago (13-2-0) vs. Diego Sanchez (21-4-0)

A funny thing happened on the way to Thiago becoming a full-blown contender at UFC 115 – the Brazilian was dominated by Martin Kampmann and sent back down the welterweight ladder, landing in a matchup with fellow former title hopeful Sanchez.

His wins over Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick still show that Thiago has the talent to compete with good-to-great welterweights, but the loss to Kampmann showed holes in his game, primarily in his wrestling and stand-up defence.

Sanchez returned to the 170-pound division earlier this year and was welcomed back with a beating from John Hathaway. Since then, the other winner of Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter has returned to Albuquerque and the guidance of Greg Jackson. Welterweight is a much better fit for Sanchez, but his loss to Hathaway has made this a must-win situation in terms of contention.

UFC welterweight
Jake Shields (25-4-1) vs. Martin Kampmann (17-3-0)

The wait is finally over and now we’ll get to see if Shields is really one of the top welterweights in the sport or whether he was simply the best of the non-UFC competitors during his dominant run outside the biggest brand in the business.

His dominance in the Strikeforce middleweight division makes the former seem most likely; you don’t take eight-of-ten rounds from Jason Miller and Dan Henderson if you’re just an average competitor. That being said, Kampmann is a great opening test for the debuting Shields, as he has a complete skill set to test the newest addition to the welterweight ranks.

Kampmann is in a great position here. All of the pressure rests squarely on the shoulders of Shields, the shiny new acquisition expected to challenge Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight crown at some point. The Dane can earn a title shot of his own with a win, and looked tremendous as the underdog at UFC 115 against Paulo Thiago.

Brock Lesnar (5-1-0) vs. Cain Velasquez (8-0-0)

There isn’t really much that I can say about this fight that hasn’t already been covered by UFC Primetime.

Sit back, buckle your seat belt and enjoy because this one is going to be an instant classic.

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