Coming into UFC 87, my prediction record stands at a gaudy 18-4. I'm not even going to mess around with an introduction. But don't forget. I will be doing a Live Blog Saturday night with Live Results from UFC 87. We have had great turnout for the live blogs in the past and it has been a lot of fun. If you have never experienced a Rear Naked Live Blog, it is nothing like what the other sites offer. The results come faster and it's not only boring play-by-play with generic comments. Trust me, it's highly entertaining. Here are some of the Live Blogs we have done. All right, enough pimping.
Jason MacDonald vs Demian Maia
Demian Maia is coming off two straight UFC wins in which he earned "Submission of the Night" honors. Most jiu-jitsu specialists will limit their strikes on the ground in order to secure position. Maia uses his strikes in order to get position. This makes him extremely complex to deal with on the ground. Jason MacDonald will need to be disciplined enough not to cover up or move his body too much from guard. I do not see him being able to handle Maia at all on the ground. If it goes there, he is in big trouble. MacDonald will need to use his size advantage to control the fight on his feet. Push Maia into the cage and strike from the clinch. Maia's striking still is not a strength for him. In the end, I do not think MacDonald will be able to hold off Maia's takedowns. By the second round he will tire and this fight will go to the ground where Maia will finish it with a triangle choke.
Rob Emerson vs Manny Gamburyan
I posted about this match-up in the early days of this site. I did not understand it then and I do not understand it now. Manny Gamburyan is a rising star. He is recognizable, fun to watch, and legitimentally talented inside the Octagon. Basically the complete opposite of Rob Emerson. Give Manny a quality opponent. MMA fans want to see what he can do, now that the injury is two years behind him. All this match does is waste his and our time (I'm gonna look stupid if Manny gets jumped by The Lords of South County on the way to the ring). For anyone who is lost, Emerson used to be in a "gang" called The Lords of South County. The "Lords" are a bunch of rich kids who like to jump outnumbered teenagers then go home to their gated communities and whine about their year old BMWs. Hopefully this is the last time we have to sit through an Emerson fight ever again. Gamburyan's judo and wrestling will take this to the ground then he will bend Emerson's arm the wrong way to the take fight.
Roger Huerta vs Kenny Florian
Did you hear this could be the Fight of the Year? It seems like every MMA fan I talk to feels a need to tell me this like they discovered a cure for Dana White's baldness. I have a feeling it will not live up to those lofty expectations, but will be one of the better fights this year. Florian is the clear favorite in most eyes because he has more experience and has faced tougher opponents. I think people might be surprised at how well Huerta matches up with Florian. He has seriously stepped up his training with Greg Jackson and GSP. We already know what a well trained Kenny Florian looks like. We have seen his maximum. Huerta is still working towards getting to the pinnacle of his abilities. Maybe this is the fight where he puts it all together and proves he is more than a cover boy. Strategically this fight could go just about any where. Florian and Huerta adapt well to things and are comfortable standing or on the mat. Florian has a distinct advantage in jiu-jitsu, but Huerta is the stronger fighter and I believe will be able to power out of any submission attempts. On the feet, Huerta needs to keep some distance from Florian and avoid the clinch. Florian batters people when he grabs ahold of them. All it takes is one elbow or knee. (How much will go by in official fight time before Joe Rogan mentions Florian's elbows? I say 54 seconds.) I think Huerta will keep the fight standing long enough to do some damage and score with some flashy moments. Florian's best attempts at submission will fail and begin to work against him as Huerta surprises the judges by escaping. In the end it goes to decision and Huerta takes 2 out of 3 cards. After the match he calls out BJ Penn.
Heath Herring vs Brock Lesnar
The first time Brock got a little excited and opened himself for a submission. He's still inexperienced and you expect that sort of thing, especially against Frank Mir who lives and dies by grabbing the legs of men. Heath Herring will present a different type of challenge. He is not a submission expert at all. Herring's main strength is his toughness and better than average striking. As Nogieura found out, if you get lazy, Herring can hurt you. Lesnar will need to limit the amount of space when going for takedowns. He cannot rush in and go for the highlight reel tackle. He needs to smother Herring and make this an inside fight. Once inside there is no way Herring is stopping a takedown. Mir looked like a parakeet when Lesnar pushed him around. I guess that makes Herring a fly. Expect Lesnar to work Herring to the ground early and throw heavy shots from the top. Fight will go to second round, where Lesnar will do more of the same. Lesnar takes it via second round TKO from strikes.
Jon Fitch vs Georges St-Pierre (Welterweight Champion)
I watched the UFC 87 Countdown last night and after the Fitch segment I was almost convinced he could pull off the upset. First, he has a hot Asian girlfriend and guys with hot Asian girlfriends are almost always winners. Second, he walked on to Purdue's wrestling team. Do you realize how difficult that is? Just the balls you gotta have to walk into a Big Ten wrestling practice and try to make the team impresses me. The last reason I thought about jumping on the Fitch bandwagon is because I have never been a big fan of Georges St-Pierre. I respect him and think he is great, just not as great as everyone else claims he is. In my mind St-Pierre is not invincible or in the conversation for Pound4Pound Top Fighter. Not yet, at least. He is still young and could continue to get better. This fight will test GSP with a fighter who can match him better on the ground than Serra or Hughes did. I expect St-Pierre to take Fitch down the same way he takes all his opponents down...with ease. The fans will roar and think it will be another easy win for GSP until some thing no one expects happens...Fitch gets back up.
This is where the fight gets interesting. How will St-Pierre respond to Fitch's relentless ability to survive? In past bouts Fitch has worn his opponents down and frustrated them by dragging out the fight. Neither fighter has seen the 4th round before, but Fitch has fought more three round decisions, especially lately. I have to give him the edge if it goes beyond three rounds. In his pre-fight interviews, Fitch has talked openly about his desire to push the fight into the later rounds and wait for St-Pierre to make a mistake. The question is whether he can back up the talk and make it that long.
GSP works at a quicker pace than most. He keeps pressure on opponents when he gets them in trouble. I think early on the fight will stay standing and Fitch might even be the first to try to take it to the ground. His stand-up is not as good as GSP's. For him to survive into the later rounds he needs the fight to go to the mat. I do not think Fitch will have success taking St-Pierre down, but in a clever way he will "trick" GSP into going for a takedown himself. He will use GSP's natural wrestling instincts against him, by getting in close with the champion where St-Pierre is more likely to go for a takedown. This will allow Fitch to survive the early rounds.
The fourth and fifth rounds will see another surprise when GSP is the fresher fighter. Despite all of Fitch's tricks, I think this fight is decided by St-Pierre's cardio. Even though he has not been in any grueling fights lately, I believe GSP will be ready for a 5 round war and in some ways will want it. St-Pierre needs to prove himself in this fight. He needs to defend his title and show the world he is a true champion. The fourth and fifth rounds are when champions step up and win the fight. GSP will do just that. I see it going to decision and Georges St-Pierre taking it unanimously.