(Rear Naked News will have Live Results tonight for UFC 89.)
Kind of a low key event for the UFC. There are no titles on the line and none of the fighters are expected to get a title shot with a win. Luckily, there are some proven guys who are not afraid to throw and get hit. That's the saving grace of UFC 89. Coming into this event, Rear Naked News has a 33-12 record. That's 73% for any one who sucks at math.
Marcus Davis vs Paul Kelly
If you asked ten random MMA fans their opinion of Marcus Davis, you'd hear the phrase "gatekeeper" an awful lot. Some where along the line it got into our heads that Davis is not a top fighter. The strangest part is how untrue it is. Davis is 6-2 in the UFC, and prior to his loss to Mike Swick, he had not lost since 2005. For whatever reasons, the UFC has always kept him lower on the cards and it has influenced fans into underrating his skills. Kelly is a good up and coming fighter. In some ways it worries me that Kelly will have the crowd behind him. He's already going to be psyched for the fight and then the crowd will kick in. He needs to temper his excitement and be smart inside the Octagon. Davis would love to make this a war and I think he will get his wish. I expect Kelly to go down after running out of steam in the 2nd Round. Davis gets another win and five months from now will probably be fighting midcard once again.
Chris Lytle vs Paul Taylor
I'll probably fall asleep during this fight because I could care less who wins. Hopefully Taylor believes he is a 4-1 underdog and comes out throwing. Sitting through another 3 rounds of Chris Lytle is about the last thing I'd like to do on a Saturday night. Has any one ever lost as many decisions? He has 14 decision losses and 5 draws. Listen to the notable names who have beat him by decision: Nick Diaz, Robbie Lawler, Karo Parisyan, Matt Serra, Matt Hughes, and Josh Koscheck. That's 85% of the Welterweights on Earth. For my sanity, I'm picking Paul Taylor to pull the upset with a 2nd Round TKO. Lytle will control the first round on the ground then get caught with something ugly in the 2nd. Fans go wild and forget all about Paul Kelly getting beat.
Luis Cane vs Rameau Sokoudjou
I'm more excited about this fight than any of the others. Sokoudjou continues to get no favors from the UFC. Cane is an animal and could easily win this match. Some one should be unconscious by the end of the 1st Round. This is the big moment for Sokoudjou. He came into the UFC with huge expectations and thus far has not lived up. He's fighting on a huge stage (large TV audience), against a legit opponent. Now is the time for him to shine or crap his pants. A highlight reel knockout could propel him into the title picture. The same could be said for Cane, though. He has his shot to prove to the UFC that he is ready to contend.
Sokoudjou needs to get through the early moments and make Cane fear his power. So far Cane has steamrolled his opponents and not really worried too much about getting hit. A decent strike from Sokoudjou can change that. Randy Couture recently said he wants to see how Brock Lesnar reacts when he gets hit in the mouth. I want to see how Cane reacts to getting hit in the mouth. Will he keep coming forward with that crazed look in his eye? Or will he back up and respect Sokoudjou's stand-up? After the first minute, we should have our answer. I can't give up on Sokoudjou yet. I see him winning with a 1st Round TKO.
Keith Jardine vs Brandon Vera
The UFC definitely outdid themselves with this match-up. Honestly, how can any one say with any degree of certainty which version of each fighter will show up in the cage? The only reason Vera is not the most inconsistent fighter on the planet is because Jardine exists. I used to think Vera's problem was motivation. He seemed to have unlimited potential. Randomly one day I watched a few of his earlier fights and some thing clicked in my mind. He was not as good as I remembered him. He fought a series of decent, but not great fighters (Mir Post-Moto, Assuerio Silva, Justin Eilers). The UFC's marketing did a hell of a job with Vera, because I fell completely for it. Now I see him for what he is - a good fighter who has never beaten a top opponent.
Jardine, on the other hand, is just a complete mystery. According to his trainers, he does not lack focus. It's gotta be a case of some guys matching up better with him than others. The theme in his losses is he gets caught early before he has a chance to get into his game plan. The only fighter to beat him without knocking him out was Stephan Bonnar in 2006. Every one else either knocks him out or loses. To me, this gives him a solid chance to defeat Brandon "The Ultimate Fighting Turtle" Vera. We all saw how quickly he went into his shell against Reese Andy. I'll say that again, "REESE ANDY!" If Jardine can survive the opening minutes, he should be able to outpoint Vera. It won't make for an exciting fight, but it will get Jardine back on track. I'm going with Jardine by unanimous decision. Afterwards, Vera will complain about some thing.
Chris Leben vs Michael Bisping
Leben deserves credit for at least trying to get people interested in this fraud of a main event. He has played the villain and drummed up some interest. I'd be a little upset if I was an English fan. Every time the UFC comes across the Atlantic they give you subpar fight cards because it must be a rule that if an event is held in England, it must feature thirty-five English fighters. I realize it is fun to see local fighters in action, but it's also fun to see top UFC talent. I'm not even gonna get started on Marcus Davis being included on every UK card, either. That's just plain stupid. I hope this is the last time the English fans have to be spoon fed an event. Give them the top fighters they deserve.
Back to Leben...His villain act has gotten under Bisping's skin. This works right into Leben's fight plan. If Bisping fights smart, he wins. If he gets into a brawl, he might lose. Leben has pushed Bisping's ego into the cage and now we might end up seeing him fight like an idiot. When the fight begins it would not surprise me to see Bisping get involved in some brutal exchanges with Leben, where knockout punches miss by inches. It might even take Bisping getting hit for him to realize he is the better all-around fighter. When it clicks in, the fight will turn. In close I think Bisping has the better stuff and it will make a big difference. He has been in the Octagon with some strong fighters and never looked overmatched. Leben should not give him any issues in that department. 1st Round Leben. 2nd Round Bisping. 3rd Round Bisping. He takes it by split decision.