Saturday, February 25, 2012

UFC 144: A lot of Action, Even More Sexy

The UFC makes its return to pay-per-view this weekend with seven, yes, SEVEN main card fights.  This card has a combination of past Japanese greats as well as past and future stars, highlighted by a main event title fight.  All this leads to great action that hopefully won't cause seizures like other Japanese programing.

This is the first time in almost 12 years the UFC has made the trip to Japan.  The event takes place at Saitama Super Arena, a legendary home to great Pride battles of the past.  THe past few years has seen Japanese MMA take a step back as Pride disbanded and Dram cards have become more infrequent.  Hopefully, this trip to what some call the "Mecca of MMA" is a step in revitalizing the spott in Japan.

Prediction Time:
Last week: 5-1
Year: 12-6

Coming off a great UFC on Fuel where my predictions were made on the Facebook page of my MMA radio show, Split Decision, I look to continue my winning ways with a 7-0 night for UFC 144.

Anthony "Showtime" Pettis vs. Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon
The fact that this is the first fight on the main card is very surprising to me.  Lauzon is coming off a huge first round upset of Melvin Guillard and Pettis is one of the sport's rising stars.  This fight could end up being a #1 contender's fight depending on how the main event shakes out.

J-Lau has the experience edge but I don't think he has the dominating wrestling necessary to ground the unorthodox Pettis. The longer the fight goes, the more likely I see a Showtime victory.

Pettis Submission Round Three

Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart "Bartimus" PalaszewskiBoth of these fighters are coming off victorious UFC debuts. Hioki returns to Japan after a split decision win over the very technical George Roop, while Palaszewski comes into enemy teritory riding high after a first round knock out of Tyson Griffin.

A win over Bartimus most likely gives Hioki the next crack against champion Jose Aldo. Hioki took some shots against Roop and that is something he cannot afford to do against the much more powerful Palaszweski. With over 80 professional bouts between the two this is a fight that should entertain the fans.

Palazewski KO round 2

Yushin "Thunder" Okami vs. Tim "the Barbarian" Boetsch
When I first saw this fight I was surprised at how far down the ladder Okami had fallen after losing to Anderson Silva.  Obviously, they wanted him on the Japan card but in the MMA world few fighters are more disrespected than Okami. He constantly finds ways to win, and his only recent losses are to the top guys in the division Sonnen and Silva.

Boetch is 2-0 since dropping down to middleweight, but faces a huge a step up in competition here. Unfortunately, whenever he gets a chance to make a statement he ends up on the losing end.  Anything can happen in a MMA fight but I have a hard time seeing Boetsch winning this one.

Okami Decision 30-27

Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama vs Jake Shields

Can you handle all the Sexiness?
This is a hard one for me to gauge.  How do I pick between one of the greatest nicknames in the sport and the Cesar Gracie fighter? Sexyama is making his welterweight debut in front of a Japanese crowd where he'll be treated like a star. His Octagon career has not been nearly as impressive as his sexiness, going 1-3 in his four fights, with that one win in his debut even being questionable.

He faces a man on a rare losing as well. Jake Shields hadn't lost since 2004 before falling to GSP and then to Jake Ellenberger.  The former Elite XC and Strikeforce champ is determined to get back on his winning ways and his experience fighting in Japan will help him here.

Shields Submission Round 2

Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo

Hunt returns to country where his journey started years ago looking to impress after his most recent fight bout gas fest against Ben Rothwell where even though he came out victorious it did not do much to boost his career.

Kongo is on a roll in his career. He is unbeaten in his last four fights, with notable wins over Pat Barry and Matt Mitrione.  A win here will likely get him in the top 10 of many MMA rankings.

Kongo Unanimous Decision 30-27
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Ryan "Darth" Bader

Rampage returns to the land where his jumbo chain and trademark howl made him a star.  Unfortunately he has questions about how seriously he took the fight and how healthy he is ater he showed up overweight.  A couple days ago, I was thinking we were going to see vintage Rampage, now I'm not so sure.

Bader is a fighter who I think overachieved early on in his UFC career.  He was a straight wrestler for much of his career and he was able to ride that to a fight with the much more versatile Jon Jones. I think his loss to Jones and Tito Ortiz may have helped Bader in the long run and he looked great in his first round KO of Jason Brilz. I expect Bader to use his trademark wrestling in this one to grind out his legendary opponent.

Bader Unanimous Decision 29-28
Frankie "The Answer" Edgar vs. Benson "Smooth" Henderson
The main event is one that I did not expect to see when the WEC was absorbed by the UFC. Henderson lost his title to Pettis in the finale, Donald Cerrone ready to make an instant impact and a number of UFC lightweights stood in front of Henderson.  But after three wins in the Octagon there is little doubt Smooth deserves this shot.

Henderson, like many lightweights, will have the height and reach advantage over the champion.  But unlike Edgar's previous opponents I think Henderson also has the speed and cardio to keep up with Edgar.

Earlier I talked about how Okami was disrespected by many, but thats nothing compared to the way people treat Edgar. Hes beaten two legends, Sherk and Penn (twice) and KOd the only man to only defeat him.  No matter how successful he is, people constantly say he belongs in the featherweight division.  His fights tend to be marathons, three of his last four fights have gone the full 25 minutes and he never gives up, getting comparisons to Rocky Balboa.

I should learn my lesson by now but I'm taking Henderson in this one.  He has shown he can go 25 minutes before (twice in WEC title fights) and seems unstoppable right now.

Henderson Unanimous Decision 49-46 48-47 48-47

Which will lead into Henderson-Pettis II...

Who Complains if we see one of these again?

If you liked this article please leave a comment below and vote on the poll to the right.  Also, as stated above, I started a weekly podcast called Split Decision on with my friend Ryan Penney. The show airs 3 PM daily Monday-Friday.

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