Heading into UFC 88 Breakthrough, my predictions have gone 21-6. Lets see if I can keep the momentum going. Live Results for UFC 88 Breakthrough begin at 8pm ET.
Tim Boetsch vs Michael Patt
-This is the only fight on the card that appears easy to pick. Patt is a virtual unknown to mainstream MMA fans. He has some nice submission skills, but his strength is lacking. Against a powerful fighter like Boetsch, I can't see him winning. Boetsch Wins By Second Round TKO.
Roan Carneiro vs Ryo Chonan
-I am giddy about this fight. They first fought in 2005, with Chonan taking it following a stoppage by the ref because of a cut on Carneiro. The stoppage was controversial and it was clear a rematch would happen in the future. It is finally happening at UFC 88, after an aborted attempt at UFC 85 when Chonan pulled out with a rib injury. Chonan is best known for his victory over Anderson Silva. In my opinion, it is the best end to a fight in MMA history. Carneiro has the edge on the ground, but Chonan is the better stand-up fighter. It should be a battle from the opening bell. The fact this match is listed last on the fight card is mind boggling to me. It could very easily be the Fight of the Night or at least contain the Submission of the Night. I think Chonan Wins By Unanimous Decision.
Jason Lambert vs Jason MacDonald
-Jason MacDonald is a busy man. He fought less than a month ago against Demian Maia at UFC 87. In that fight he looked good, but in the end got caught with a rear naked choke. No shame to losing to Maia by submission. Lambert seemed destined for big things in the UFC after starting out 3-0 in the Octagon. Since then he has gone 1-3 and lost his last two fights by KO and TKO. I do not see him getting things back on track against MacDonald. MacDonald Wins By Second Round Submission.
Thiago Tavares vs Kurt Pellegrino
-Thiago Tavares was the golden boy of the UFC and was being molded into a future champion before two losses in three fights stopped his momentum. At 23, he still has many years ahead of him and should continue to improve. Losses are not the worst thing for a young fighter. All the top guys (other than Fedor) have dealt with defeat and come back with renewed determination. It is time to see if Tavares has the championship gene or not. It will not be easy for Tavares, as he faces UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino. Pellegrino is not exceptional in any one area, but he is an extremely tough fighter. He does not have the natural athleticism of Tavares, so he will need to impose his will from the start on the younger fighter. When people have pressed Tavares in the past, he has had trouble. I think we are in for a good fight that will feature several momentum shifts. Tavares Wins By Split Decision.
Dong Hyun Kim vs Matt Brown
-The UFC must think highly of Matt Brown because they shifted this fight to the televised card. Brown was a fan favorite on The Ultimate Fighter 7 due to his toughness and straight ahead attacking style. This is his chance to make a name for himself and prove he is more than an engaging TV character. His opponent is a former DEEP fighter, who sports an impressive record of 10-0-1. It is hard to pick against Kim. I believe Brown will put up a fight and maybe even hurt Kim at times, but it will not be enough. When he tires, Kim will take over. Kim Wins By Second Round TKO.
Martin Kampmann vs Nate Marquardt
-I have always felt Marquardt was overrated. The UFC built him up as the guy who was going to knock off Anderson Silva and it never materialized. For whatever reasons, fans continue to see him as a top Middleweight, when really he is not. I'm not saying he stinks, but to me he is not one of the top Middleweights in the UFC. Kampmann comes in riding a win streak that goes back to 2005. The only way I see Marquardt taking this one is if he hits Kampmann with a strike and has him hurt and on the ground. I do not think Marquardt's wrestling alone will give Kampmann problems on the ground. His jiu-jitsu is solid and should be able to negate any thing that is thrown at him. Kampmann Wins By Third Round Submission.
Rousimar Palhares vs Dan Henderson
-Dan Henderson was very honest in pre-fight interviews and claimed he had no idea who Palhares was when he took the fight. I'm sure he is not overlooking him now, though. Palhares sports some of the best jiu-jitsu in MMA and ends his fights quickly. Many believe it will come down to Henderson's wrestling against Palhares BJJ, but I disagree. I think the fight will be won or lost by Henderson on his feet. He has the better striking and would be nuts to go to the ground with Palhares. He said after the Silva fight that he made a mistake in the first round and did not attack enough. He got Silva down and was happy to win the round, rather than inflict punishment. He will come out swinging tonight and look to hurt Palhares. This one will end in spectacular fashion. Henderson Wins By First Round KO.
Matt Hamill vs Rich Franklin
-This card is exhausting. Every fight seems like a must-win for the fighters. Franklin has given up on dethroning Anderson Silva and moved up in weight to see how he fares in the toughest division in MMA. It is easy to forget how great Franklin was because of his two losses to Silva. Other than that his only other loss came to Lyoto Machida way back in 2003. He has been in the Octagon with just about every type of fighter you can think of and won. Hamill's style should not give Franklin trouble. I refuse to drink the Matt Hamill Kool-Aid. Yes, he has talent and world-class wrestling ability. However, he seems to be missing some thing. The killer instinct the top fighters have is not inside of him. He needs to become more offensive when he gets guys down. With a striker as dangerous as Franklin, you cannot give him second chances. Once he is down, you must inflict the most damage you can, because from the feet I do not see Hamill hurting him at all. Franklin Wins By Unanimous Decision.
Rashad Evans vs Chuck Liddell
-I think this will be a tougher fight for Liddell than most believe. Evans is not inexperienced any more. He has fought on Pay-Per-View cards against Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping and performed well. His critics cite his lack of stand-up ability and reliance on wrestling, as evidence he is not a true title contender. I don't see as many weaknesses as others. His striking is not superb by any means, but he defends well and improves every time out. Take a look around MMA. There are very few fighters without a weakness. Randy Couture has never had great stand-up and he has done pretty well for himself over the years.
The ket for Evans is to pressure Liddell. He needs to negate his striking by getting inside and using his wrestling. Taking Liddell down is never easy. His movement and sprawl deter almost all of his opponents. Evans cannot get discouraged. He must repeatedly go for takedowns. It will keep Liddell off-balanced and possibly tire him out. Conditioning played a role in his last loss to Keith Jardine, and Evans would be crazy not to use it to his advantage.
For Liddell there is no mystery to his gameplan. He will patiently stalk Evans and load up for heavy combinations of punches. There were questions about his commitment before his fight with Wanderlei Silva. Liddell answered them in a classic bout that left fans thirsting for more. Evans is the younger fighter and has gone deep into fights. The longer the fight goes, the better his odds of pulling the upset.
The winner of this fight almost certainly will face Forrest Griffin for the Light Heavyweight Title. This should guarantee Liddell comes into it prepared and mentally focused. When he is at his best, he is still one of the top fighters in the sport. I think he will hurt Evans early and force him to be cautious. The more he moves backwards, the worse his chances of winning the fight. Eventually Liddell will catch him with a clean shot and end the fight. Liddell Wins By Second Round TKO.