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UFC 82: Preview and Predictions...By Jay Graziani
UFC 82: Pride of a Champion
Saturday, March 1st, 10 PM ET
Nationwide Arena, Columbus OH
Weigh-in: Friday, February 29th, 4 PM ET, live online
UFC 81 proved to be a lucky day for the underdogs, as they went a respectable 4-5 to pick up about 2 betting units. The hype surrounding Brock Lesnar proved to be too much, as he was dispatched fairly quickly by octagon veteran Frank Mir. UFC 82 finds Anderson Silva, widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, returning to Ohio to once again defend his middleweight championship in a unification of PRIDE and UFC Middleweight titles. MMA Legend Mark Coleman is also in Columbus, to take his place as the 5th fighter inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Here's a preview of Saturday night's fights, with current odds from Bookmaker.com.
John "The Hurricane" Halverson (16-5-0) vs. Jorge Gurgel (11-3-0)
Current Odds: Gurgel -205; Halverson +165
Halverson has a single UFC notch in his belt, a 20 second TKO loss to Roger Huerta at UFC 67 just over a year ago. He has won 3 straight minor promotion fights since then to earn another shot in the Octagon. His opponent is a BJJ expert who has a 2-2 record in UFC. He is coming off a decision loss to Alvin Robinson in UFC 67 this past October, but is much more experienced and is a well-deserved favorite. Prediction: Gurgel, 2nd round submission.
David Bielkheden (12-5-0) vs. Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (17-2-0)
Current Odds: Bielkheden +400; Sanchez -550
Diego Sanchez was undefeated and on the fast track to the top of the UFC before running into Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Now reeling from two straight losses, he needs a strong showing here to keep his name in the mix of the welterweight division. Bielkheden has a sparse record, with all his fights coming in small events with the exception of a single loss in PRIDE. Sanchez should win, but not much value in betting him, with shaken confidence, against a relative unknown wielding a decent skill set. I'll pass on this fight but lean to the dog. Prediction: Sanchez, 1st round submission.
Dustin Hazelett (10-3-0) vs. Josh "Kos" Koscheck (9-2-0)
Current Odds: Hazelett +340; Koscheck -440
This fight may not be broadcast, but has a good chance of ending up as the best fight of the night. Hazelett is only 21 years old, but he has won 3 straight since dropping his UFC debut in October of 2006. He has a strong jiu-jitsu game due to training under Jorge Gurgel. Koscheck is among the top prospects in the welterweight division, but is coming off a decision loss to the always-impressive Georges St. Pierre. He is a well-rounded top contender with a tremendous wrestling background. Koscheck should win but Hazelett is worth backing as a longshot. Prediction: Koscheck by decision.
Luigi Fioravanti (11-3-0) vs. Luke "The Silent Assassin" Cummo (6-4-0)
Current Odds: Fioravanti +135; Cummo -165
Fioravanti is primarily a striker with 7 of his wins coming by TKO. He has not been lucky in the UFC, accruing a record of 2-3 thus far. He lost his last two UFC fights, but is coming off a 1st round TKO win in a Pacific X-treme Combat event this past July. Cummo has had an up-and-down career but is coming off two straight wins. He is also a striker, so this bout should see plenty of stand-up action. Nether of these fighters have really stepped up against tough competition, so this fight is too close to call. I'll lean to the underdog. Prediction: Fioravanti, 2nd round KO.
"Irish" Jake O'Brien (10-0-0) vs. Andrei "Pit Bull" Arlovski (11-5-0)
Current Odds: O'Brien +285; Arlovski -355
O'Brien has quietly been making his way up the UFC ladder, with 3 wins in the octagon, his most recent a decision over Heath Herring at Fight Night 8. However, he has not stepped in the Octagon since that fight over a year ago. He is a strong wrestler with good ground-and-pound, with 8 of his wins coming by KO or TKO, and the other 2 going to decision. He faces a tough opponent in Arlovski, whose only losses since 2002 have come at the hands of Tim Sylvia. Arlovski has also been inactive, with his last fight a decision win over a very tough Fabricio Werdum at UFC 70 last April. Despite his inactivity, Arlovski is still among the top heavyweights in MMA today, and should pose a very difficult hurdle for the relatively inexperienced O'Brien. Prediction: Arlovski, 3rd round KO.
Chris "The Professor" Wilson (13-3-0) vs. Jon Fitch (15-2-0)
Current Odds: Wilson +500; Fitch -700
Wilson is making his UFC debut here as a replacement for an injured Akihiro Gono. This is a classic matchup of a striker versus a grappler, and the wrestler usually wins out. Never mind that in this case the wrestler is among the top MMA prospects in the game today. Fitch has won 14 straight and is shooting to the top of the welterweight division. Wilson is moving up from some small events and is facing a nearly impossible fight here, but the chalk on Fitch is too much to even consider betting. Prediction: Fitch, 1st round submission.
Yushin "Thunder" Okami (20-4-0) vs. Evan Tanner (32-6-0)
Current Odds: Okami -245; Tanner +195
Okami bounced back from his decision loss to Rich Franklin by defeating Jason MacDonald by decision at UFC 77 in October. He is a great ground-and-pounder and a top title contender. Evan Tanner brings an impressive resume into the Octagon, with nearly 40 fights and a former UFC title to his name, though he has been inactive for nearly two years. Okami is 11 years Tanner's junior and also holds a size advantage. Okami should be heavily favored here and is worth a play, particularly considering Tanner's long layoff. Prediction: Okami, 2nd round TKO.
Alessio "Legionarius" Sakara (12-6-0) vs. Chris "The Crippler" Leben(17-4-0)
Current Odds: Sakara +115; Leben -145
Sakara is on just 5 weeks rest since beating James Lee by 1st round TKO at UFC 80. He is only 3-3 with 1 no contest since making his UFC debut in October of 2005, though the move down to middleweight from light heavyweight may help his striking-based style. Leben comes from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and is 7-3 since making his debut in the Octagon. He is also a striker, but a little more versatile in the ring than Sakara. Sakara's last 5 fights have all ended in the first round, and given the fighting styles in this bout, this result may not be much different. Leben is the better all-around fighter and is worth a shot at short odds. Prediction: Leben, 1st round submission.
Heath "The Texas Crazy Horse" Herring (27-13-0) vs. Cheick Kongo (11-3-1)
Current Odds: Herring +135; Kongo -165
Herring has lost 2 of his 3 fights since migrating to the UFC, most recently losing to Minotauro Nogueira last July. All 3 of his fights in the Octagon have gone the distance. Kongo is 4-1 in the UFC, with the past three also all ending by decision. Kongo is now considered among the top of the heavyweight division, though he has yet to be truly tested. He should have the advantage in striking, but the scales will tip in Herring's favor on the ground. Slight edge to Kongo, but this fight is close and best to pass on. Prediction: Kongo by decision.
Anderson "The Spider" Silva (20-4-0) vs. Dan "Hendo" Henderson (22-6-0)
Current Odds: Silva -140; Henderson +110
Silva is widely considered to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the middleweight division and at the top of pound-for-pound fighter rankings. He is undefeated in 5 fights since first entering the Octagon and can fill a highlight reel with his brutal knees and elbows. Henderson is not only the PRIDE Middleweight champion, but Welterweight title-holder as well, a well-rounded fighter with great wrestling and knockout power. His UFC debut was spoiled by current Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a decision. Silva is usually tough to back as an overpriced public favorite, but the quality of his opponent here has kept the line low enough to be bettable in what should prove to be an excellent fight. Prediction: Silva, 2nd round TKO.
Picks: (2008: 5-3 +2.40 units; Best Bets: 3-0, +3.00 units)
Dustin Hazelett +340
Yushin Okami -245 (Best Bet)
Chris Leben -145
Anderson Silva -140
Opinions: (2008: 6-4 +3.25 units)
Jorge Gurgel -205
David Bielkheden +400
Luigi Fioravanti +135
Andrei Arlovski -355
Jon Fitch -700
Cheick Kongo -165
-Jorge Gurgel vs. John Halverson
R1: Gurgel starts the round landing good leg kicks. The fighters continue to trade punches as Gurgel works for more leg kicks. The fighters exchange again and then move to clinch against the cage. Halverson drops for a guillotine choke but Gurgel escapes. Gurgel works a ground and pound attack to close out a fairly uneventful round
MMAWeekly scores R1 10-9 for Jorge Gurgel
R2: Gurgel attempts another leg kick to start the round but it lands low and Halverson is given a time out for the accidental shot to the groin. Halverson again attempts a guillotine choke but Gurgel slips out on the way to the mat. Gurgel begins a ground and pound attack as Halverson struggles to defend. Gurgel escapes to side control and works for a kimura and then to an armbar but Halverson escapes and then lands in Gurgel's guard.
MMAWeekly scores R2 10-9 for Jorge Gurgel
R3: Halverson gets aggressive to begin the round going after Gurgel with punches. Eventually the fighters clinch against the cage. The fighters then exchange heavy punches as Gurgel eventually takes the fight back to the ground and works out of Halverson's guard. Gurgel swings wildly from the top while Halverson simply defends. The fight is stood up and again Halverson tries to mount an offense but they end up in a clinch against the cage as the fight comes to a close
MMAWeekly scores R3 10-9 for Jorge Gurgel
Jorge Gurgel def. John Halverson by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
-Diego Sanchez vs. David Bielkheden
R1: Diego engages immediately and shoots for the takedown. On the ground Bielkheden defends well as Sanchez works to pass guard. Diego passes to side control and begins to work short elbows. Sanchez transitions to a kimura and then moves to mount and reigns down punches. Diego continues to punish Bielkheden from the top and forces a submission from punches. Diego looks very impressive in his return after 2 losses.
Diego Sanchez def. David Bielkheden by submission (punches from the mount) 4:43, R1
-Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett
R1: The fighters start the round slugging it out with Hazelett landing a good kick and then both fighters exchanging punches. Koscheck pushes for a takedown and Hazelett grabs on attempting a guillotine choke but Koscheck escapes. Koscheck gets a double leg takedown and lands right into a tringle choke attempt from Hazelett as the round ends.
MMAWeekly scores R1 10-9 for Dustin Hazelett
R2: The fighters stand again exchanging shots. As Koscheck pushes the the pace, he unloads a thunderous left high kick that puts Hazelett down and Koscheck follows up with punches as referee Herb Dean steps in to stop the fight.
Josh Koscheck def. Dustin Hazelett by TKO (referee's stoppage due to strikes) 1:24, R2
Luke Cummo vs. Luigi Fioravanti
R1: Cummo opens with a nice standing attack, but Luigi defends well. The fighters clinch and Fioravanti gets a takedown and Cummo is able to get to full guard. Luigi backs up and the fighters stand, but Luigi engages again and lands another nice takedown on Cummo. Cummo tries to backdoor escape but Fioravanti catches him with a suplex to put him back down. Luigi ends the round with another takedown from the clinch.
MMAWeekly scores R1 10-9 for Luigi Fioravanti
R2: Fioravanti starts the round with another takedown and works in Cummo's guard. The fight goes back to the feet and despite Cummo landing a good whizzer to keep Luigi off balance, Fioravanti regains control and takes Cummo down again. Luigi ends the ground with one more takdown.
MMAWeekly scores R2 10-9 for Luigi Fioravanti
R3: Luigi starts the round with couple of solid takedowns and starts to grind out his ground and pound arsenal on Cummo. The fight is stood back up but Fioravanti again works and lands a good single leg on Cummo. Luigi is unrelenting throughout the round as Cummo struggles to stop his takedown. Takedown clinic from Fioravanti.
MMAWeekly scores R3 10-9 for Luigi Fioravanti.
Luigi Fioravanti def. Luke Cummo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
-Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake O'Brien
R1: O'Brien shoots a couple of times early on for the takedown but Arlovski defends well. The fighters stand for a moment before O'Brien shoots again and after an exchange, Arlovski concedes the takedown. O'Brien works from the top and Arlovski works to tie up from the bottom and lands an elbow that opens up a cut on O'Brien as the round closes.
MMAWeekly scores R1 10-9 for Jake O'Brien
R2: O'Brien again tries to open the round with takedown after takedown but Arlovski's sprawl is up to the task of defending. O'Brien works again for a single leg takedown and is able to finish with an ankle pick to get the fight back down on the ground. Arlovski ties up O'Brien's arms and Jake tries to push him towards the cage. O'Brien clinches and ends up with Arlovski mounted on him. Arlovski opens up his attack and the referee is forced to stop the fight.
Andrei Arlovski def. Jake O'Brien by TKO (referee's stoppage due to strikes) 4:17, R2
Jon Fitch (Pictures) vs. Chris Wilson
Fitch kicked the inside of Wilson's left leg and kneed from the clinch. Fitch shot in and landed a right knee to the chin after Wilson defended the takedown. Two right hand leads landed for Fitch and then Wilson tuned it on with some hard punches and an uppercut to follow. A jumping knee landed for Wilson but Fitch was able to score a takedown in the process. After a questionable referee standup, the pace slowed with both fighters striking in the center of the Octagon. Wilson kicked the body and got a single-leg, but was swept quickly by Fitch. Wilson went for an omaplata but was not successful as Fitch got back to Wilson's guard.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 for Wilson
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Wilson
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Wilson
Fitch found himself on top after a scramble for positioning during a Wilson low kick attempt. Fitch worked to pass to half-guard and Wilson defended well at first, but gave up side-control after several minutes. Fitch elbowed the head and punched with a single underhook. Fitch advanced to the mount but Wilson immediately got back to half-guard. Fitch advanced and got to north-south as the round ended.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Fitch
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Fitch
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Fitch
Wilson started strong in the third with a kick to the body and a left hook. After stopping a failed throw from Fitch, Wilson ate a hard left and right. Fitch went back to the legs with a low kick. A right hand landed for Fitch and Wilson tried to counter with a spinning back kick. Two more low kicks connected for Fitch. Wilson pawed out a lazy jab and was taken down with a single-leg. Fitch landed two elbows from Wilson's guard. Wilson went for a kneebar and then a triangle, which was semi-deep. Fitch may have been saved by the bell, but it may have not been enough to steal the round.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Fitch (29-28 Fitch)
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Fitch (29-28 Fitch)
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Fitch (29-28 Fitch)
The official scores are 30-27 (twice) and 29-28, all for Jon Fitch.
Yushin Okami (Pictures) vs. Evan Tanner (Pictures)
Tanner laded a straight right while Okami jabbed away. Okami dropped Tanner with a straight left, but the former champion recovered quickly and worked for a single-leg against the cage. Okami fought off the takedown and pressed Tanner against the fencing. Okami went to the Thai plum and landed two knees to the body.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Okami
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Okami
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Okami
Tanner attacked the outside of Okami's right leg and a knee to the body. Right jab, left uppercut landed for the southpaw Japanese fighter. Right jab, left hook found their target for Okami. Tanner clinched with Okami and kneed the right thigh. Taner dropped down with right hooks to the body, which opened up Okami to land a left knee to the chin. Tanner folded to the canvas as Mark Matheny stepped in to call the fight at 3:00 of the second stage.
Chris Leben (Pictures) vs. Alessio Sakara (Pictures)
The fighters exchanged kicks and punches in the first minute but nothing connected flush. Leben and Sakara both landed heavy right hands. Sakara looks to be the more refined striker, but Leben is more powerful at the midway point of round one. Leben turned up the pressure with a knee and a left hook counter shot that dropped Sakara to the canvas. Leben pounced on the hurt fighter, which prompted Herb Dean to show mercy at the 3:16 mark.
Cheick Kongo (Pictures) vs. Heath Herring (Pictures)
A right hand from Herring Dropped Kongo down to a knee in the first seconds of round one. Kongo recovered and scored a single-leg takedown into half-guard. Herring used a Kimura to get to his feet, but was taken right back down after Herring caught a low kick. Herring swept and took the top position. Kongo stood up and was caught in a front headlock briefly before taking Herring down again. Kongo went to the mount but could not stay in the position because Herring's back was against the fence. Herring got to his feet and got a takedown of his own. Kongo reversed the position, where he controlled Herring's neck with both fighters in the four point position.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Kongo
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Kongo
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Kongo
Kongo took the top position during a scramble. An upkick from Herring forced Kongo backwards, where the fighters stayed until the referee stood Herring up. Kongo bent over and took Herring down with a powerful double-leg. Herring got to his knees, and tasted some punches while the Frenchman was on his back with no hooks. Herring rolled Kongo over and went to north-south. From side-control, Herring landed heavy knees to the body for the rest of the period.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Herring
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Herring
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Herring
Herring and Congo clashed low kicks, which knocked both fighters to the ground. Kongo got up first and took the top position on the ground. Herring stood up and rushed in for a single, but Kongo pushed the head to the ground and briefly took Herring's back. Herring spun and went to side-control and north-south, where he punched the body with his right hand. Back in side-control, Herring went to work on the body with his left hand. Knees to the body followed, as Kongo looked clueless with Herring in the dominant position. Herring moved to mount, where the fight finished.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Herring (29-28 Herring)
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Herring (29-28 Herring)
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Herring (29-28 Herring)
The official judges see the bout 29-28 (twice for Herring) and 29-28 for Kongo. Herring took the split decision.
Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson (Pictures)
Dan Henderson entered the cage first to the sounds of Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe." The champion followed to DMX's "No Sunshine."
Silva shook hands with Henderson during Herb Dean's instructions but refused to touch gloves once the bell rung. The fighters felt each other out for the first minute, until Dan broke the stalemate with a right hand. Silva answered with a low kick to Henderson's left leg. Henderson clinched with Henderson and took the top position on the ground in half-guard. The challenger punched the head with his right hand while Silva held him tight. Henderson covered Silva's mouth and nose with his glove and wound up on a big elbow that grazed. Henderson moved to side-control briefly until Silva got back to full guard.
Josh Gross scored the round 10-9 Henderson
TJ De Santis scored the round 10-9 Henderson
Mike Fridley scored the round 10-9 Henderson
Dan used his footwork to stay away from the champion, but Silva landed a kick to the legs and found himself o top after Henderson slipped. Henderson got back to his feet, where he clinched with Silva against the fence. Henderson landed a right hand but was overwhelmed by Anderson's speed as he was hit with a punch and a knee. Henderson dropped to his knees in search of a takedown, which Silva stuffed and took the top in half-guard. With a minute left in the round, Henderson gave up his back, where Silva punched away with a body-triangle. Silva sunk in a rear-naked choke which forced Henderson to tap. Silva retains the middleweight crown at 4:52 of the second.
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