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UFC 41 PREVIEW 2/28 FRIDAY NIGHT!
UFC 41 PREVIEW - FROM ATLANIC CITY
Tank Abbott vs Frank Mir -200
Phil Baroni vs Matt Lindland -130
Café Dantas vs Gan McGee -800
- 500 Ricco Rodriguez vs Tim Sylvia
Caol Uno vs BJ Penn -350
- 130Matt Serra vs Din Thomas
-425 Yves Edwards vs Rich Clementi
Pedro Rizzo vs Vladimir Matyushenko-160
6’1 – 250 POUNDS
The most interesting thing about UFC 41 could be the post fight interviews. With Tank Abbott, Phil Baroni and Ricco Rodriguez on the SAME card, this could be very interesting. Tank Abbott was the original “bad boy” of the UFC and he actually could be more affective at this late stage of his career then just five years ago.
The Good – Abbott has incredible strength in either hand. The good thing about a Tank Abbott fight is knowing that Tank will either KO any guy he fights, or be knocked out. Let’s just say we can’t think of too many boring fights ever with Tank Abbott in them. From all accounts Abbott is taking this fight more serious than any fight in his career. He has hired a Muay Thai coach and spent hours training Muay Thai daily. The most interesting stat about this fight could be the actual weigh in. MMAWeekly has heard that Tank will be around 250 for this fight, which would be one of his lightest weights in his career. He has also worked on his ground games, especially against submission attempts
Here’s the scary part about Abbott and the UFC Heavyweight Picture. Tank has put himself in as an actual contender. Remember this….current UFC Heavyweight Champion, Ricco Rodriguez, has one glaring weakness. His standup game. Is there anyone that can hit harder than Tank Abbott in the Heavyweight Division? Pedro Rizzo is probably the only name that comes to mind. If Abbott doesn’t have to face Rizzo in the immediate future, Tank can knock out the younger guys like Sylvia, McGee, maybe Arlovski and his next opponent Frank Mir. The bottom line with the return of Tank is this. Tank Abbott can knockout any of the young heavyweights that are currently in the UFC. He also has a legit chance of KO’ing the current UFC Champion if the fight stays on it’s feet for any period of time.
The Bad – Yes his record is 8-7, however if you look at WHO he has lost to, you understand that very few men have beaten those guys in there prime. Tank’s ground game has never been anything to write home about. In his opponent Frank Mir, we know Mir has a variety to tools and weapons, especially on the ground. As bad as Mir looked against Freeman, remember a few things. He did have Freeman in some trouble with knee bars and ankle locks. Freeman had trouble walking after the fight. The one thing about Tank is that most people think he can power out of any trouble, but the longer the fight goes, the more in favors the younger Mir and the more susceptible Tank will be to a submission because he will get tired if this goes three rounds.
The interesting think about Tank’s last fight against Pedro Rizzo was this. Everyone remember’s Rizzo finishing off Tank in about 10 minutes. The one thing people forget about is early in that fight, Tank hit Rizzo so hard that, Pedro said quote “I couldn’t see anything for a couple of minutes and had to just hold on to get through those two minutes.” Abbott has some of the heaviest hands in the game, but can he ever get himself in condition to win a long drawn out fight? Here’s something to consider. Abbott has never fought in the new UFC, meaning THREE five minute rounds. This could definitely benefit the big man. He might be able to get a much needed break between rounds. Until Abbott gets in shape though, we will not know what he can truly do against the UFC Heavyweights.
Outcome - The 3 X 5 minute rounds are tailor made for Tank. Basically he can pace himself to throw bombs in the first minute of the round and the last minute of the round. He can still knockout anyone in the game and we very much believe he is more dangerous now, against the depleted UFC Heavyweight Picture, than he was years ago against Mark Coleman, Don Frye, Maurice Smith, Pedro Rizzo and others. He won’t have to fight the best to get to the title. He will just have to go through some of the young pups on his way to fighting Ricco Rodriguez. It looks like right now if he wins this fight at UFC 41 he will then fight for the title at UFC 42 or 43 against Ricco Rodriguez. This should be an epic battle against Frank Mir and the loser of this fight see’s their UFC career basically go down the tubes.
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ALEXANDRE “CAFÉ” DANTAS
6’1 - 230 Pounds
4-1 MMA Record
The Brazilian World knows him as “Café” Dantas, but he does have a first name, which is Alexandre. He started out his career fighting between 185-190, but as he has matured as a fighter, he feels much more comfortable as a heavyweight. The guys aren’t as fast and he can better use his tools in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The Good – While he is a relative unknown in the States, he does have some very impressive credentials. He is a 1998 Pan American Champion. Café is a 1999 Brazilian World Champion and needless to say, he is a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His only loss in MMA was early in his career against Yuki Kondo. Now he has matured as a fighter and looks to showcase his skills in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The Bad – Some people feel Dantas may be a bit undersized to fight in the division. That could be true, but the worst thing going against him is having to face a man who is 6’10, 270. It’s hard to imagine what kinds of submissions he can land on the big man, Gan McGee. This will no doubt be the most talented fighter he has faced and also the largest. Will Dantas be able to absorb some vicious ground n pound in this fight? Hard to say, but at least once or twice in this fight he will have to survive some tough positions from his back. He may be able to outlast McGee, as Gan has had trouble going late into fights, but the big question is will Café be able to force this fight to the late rounds.
Outcome – This is a very tall task at hand (no pun intended, actually yes there was) facing a young up and comer in the Heavyweight Division. McGee has improved his standup game as we saw against Rizzo and the former college wrestler loves to use ground n pound in his game. This is a very tough task and opening match for Dantas in his UFC career, however, he is in a perfect position in the fight. No one expects him to win, no one really knows much about him, and maybe he can lull McGee into being overconfident going from a big name of Rizzo, to a “no-name” in Dantas.
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5’10 – 185 POUNDS
5-1 MMA RECORD
Love him or hate him, you won’t forget him. Phil Baroni has created his own niche in the sport of mixed martial arts. He may be the only fighter where EVERY fan inexplicably, cares if he wins or loses. How many fighters can you say that about.
The Good – The one thing you can be sure about Phil Baroni is the fact that the guy trains like a maniac! No one and we mean no one will out train Baroni. This guy is one of the few guys who loves to train for fights. The stories are true about Ricardo Pires who had to literally kick Baroni out of the gym at night, because he wanted to train. The stories are also true that he has put in 12 hour days in the gym before. From the ground game, to his stand up, to the weight room. Baroni is a machine in work outs. Expect nothing less in his upcoming fight against Matt Lindland.
The other thing that Baroni has gained over the past two fights, (and brace yourself for this statement) is confidence. Now you say; “How can Phil Baroni lack confidence”? Simple, the guy ran his mouth to get confidence, but by actually KO’ing Amar Suloev and Dave Menne in back to back fights, Baroni actually now feels he can knockout anybody in MMA and he just might. Before the fight with Suloev, Phil wasn’t crazy about taking the fight. He knew Amar just went the distance with Chuck Liddell and at that time, trainer Tito Ortiz called the UFC and asked why “they are doing this to Phil?” Baroni took the fight anyway and know the rest is history.
The Bad – The only bad in Baroni’s game is being too amped to fight Matt Lindland. Baroni in their first encounter, expended so much energy in Round’s One and Two that it took him a while for his body to recover in Round Three. Baroni is also worried about being held down for three rounds, which happened in his first fight. Phil will have to figure out how to get off his back in this fight. Remember this one thing. Before Baroni finished with his barrage at the end of round three against Lindland in there last meeting, he was being dominated on the ground by former Olympic Silver Medalist. It was an accidental knee by Lindland that allowed Baroni the opportunity to stand and finish the fight strong. Can Baroni deal with the ground game against Lindland? He wasn’t able to do it in the first encounter, let’s see if he can figure it out the second time around.
Outcome – This will be a very interesting fight to say the least. Both fighters have had a fun time trash talking one another, but the ultimate talking will be done in the Octagon. Lindland has to be concerned about the Menne fight. Baroni was able to knock out one of the better fighters in the world in just :20 seconds. We look for Lindland to go for the takedown immediately, a lot like Carlos Newton did against Pete Spratt at UFC 40. If he gets the takedown, how will Baroni deal with the consistent pressure of being on the ground for three rounds. Can Baroni land power shots in this fight? Both guys want a rematch against Murilo Bustamante, IF he resigns with the UFC. If not could Frank Shamrock enter the picture to fight the winner? Don’t be surprised as Frank seems to be watching this fight a lot closer than most. We think Lindland repeats his performance in their first fight… and let’s see if Baroni has worked on a game plan to get off his back for UFC 41.
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5’9 – 155 POUNDS
10-4 MMA RECORD
Clementi has one of the most impressive finishing ratio’s in MMA. He is a guy who doesn’t want to just show up, but win and win impressively. He will get his chance in his first UFC appearance against Yves Edwards.
The Good – His winning streak is very impressive. Not only has Clementi won six fights in a row, but all six have not gone to a decision. He seems very well rounded as four of the wins came by decision while the other two came by TKO. Any fighter that has won six in a row, the way Clementi has won, has to get your attention.
The Bad – This is his first UFC expierence. I don’t care who you are as a fighter. The UFC affects different fighters in different ways. Some fighters cannot overcome the moment and get caught up in the hype. Other fighters thrive off the nervous energy and win impressively. It’s hard to say what will happen to Rich. He is going against a very legit tough guy in Edwards. Basically Clementi hasn’t been in with the caliber fighters as Edwards. Clementi’s toughest opponent was Steve Berger, which was a fight he lost. You still have to love the win streak he is on though.
The Outcome – I have a good feeling this fight will make it to pay per view. These two guys come into this fight with a ton of momentum and both guys love to throwdown. You still have to wonder if the moment will be too big for Clementi. If he can overcome that emotion of fighting in his first UFC, he will be fine and has a legitimate shot at the upset. If not, Edwards will eat him alive and this could be a short night for Rich.
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5’9 – 155 POUNDS
13-6 MMA RECORD
Yves Edwards has knockout capabilities in any fight he steps into. He wasn’t orginially scheduled for this card, but now he is ready to make another statement that he does belong full time in the UFC.
The Good - One of the most impressive things about Edwards is the stiff competition he has faced in his career. Yves has gone against Rumina Sato, Caol Uno, Matt Serra, and Aaron Riley. Unforuntatly for Edwards, Riley was the only win of the three, with Uno and Serra winning close decisions. The one thing though he has gained is a ton of confidence. He is coming off three STRAIGHT knockouts and is a very hot fighter. So hot that once Genki Sudo found out he would have to fight Yves, he said no thank you and went to K-1.
The Bad – The one thing that has plagued Edwards in his losses has been aggressiveness. Before his three straight knockouts, Yves had similar problems to Pedro Rizzo. He would stop throwing punches and kicks and wanted to be more of a counter puncher. Lately though, Edwards hasn’t had that problem and has found a more aggressive style that has helped him out in fights. He will have to be ready for an aggressive style against Rich Clementi.
The Outcome – This is a very interesting fight on many counts. This is the first time in Edwards career that he is not only a heavy favorite, but a dominant favorite. The current odds makers have Yves at -500. This will be his first UFC that he is favored by that much money. When your that much of a favorite, it can add a ton of pressure to you. In his other UFC fights against Uno and Serra, he was always the underdog. Now he will be the hunted against a very young and talented fighter in Clementi. This fight can put Yves over the top as a solid UFC competitor. With a loss however, he would have a tough time making it back to the big show, because this would be his third loss in the UFC. Edwards will look to overcome the pressure and get his 4th straight KO in mixed martial arts competition.
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6’0 – 185 POUNDS
9-1 MMA RECORD
The new and improved Matt Lindland has fired titanic verbal shots at Phil Baroni. If you were blindfolded you would have thought it was Phil Baroni talking, but the new and improved Matt Lindland has held his own in the war of words. Lindland told MMAWeekly “Lindland said "I don't know ....this is going to be a tough fight....I've never fought a 'body shaver' before. He looks like a member of the East German Women's Swimming Team I used to try to avoid in the Olympic Village in '2000...so he's gonna be slick. Also, we're in Atlantic City, so he's got an arsenal of body oils, tanning gels, and scented moisturizers an hour up the turnpike in New York's West Village.... speaking of which, has anyone noticed that he looks like what would happen if Elvis & The Village People's DNA got mixed together in a horrifying lab accident? "
The Good – Lindland already has a win over Phil Baroni so he has the blueprint on how to beat him. Matt Lindland still could be one of the most overlooked fighters in the world. He absolutely dominated Ivan Salaverry which was a big surprise to many. His only loss in the UFC to this day was to Murilo Bustamante. Lindland has dominated every other opponent he has faced including Baroni. He will be hoping to duplicate that same success in their much anticipated rematch.
The Bad – Lindland is facing a much better fighter this go around in Baroni then the first fight. Baroni has improved his game by leaps and bounds in the past 12 months. Dave Menne summed it up best when he said “I knew I had to survive the first two minutes of the fight. It’s embarrassing to lose a fight like this after all of the training I put into the fight.” Lindland will have to get a few takedowns early or else he could end up like Menne. Baroni has the better standup and Lindland will have to neutralize his quick hands by putting him back early and often in this fight. Phil Baroni is a MUCH different fighter this go around than last.
OUTCOME – Matt Lindland is not happy the way the UFC has not showcased his skills. Basically he feels they could rally around the USA type persona and the clean cut image… basically we agree. What’s not to like about a Silver Medalist who gives the sport credibility. He is a good family man and it would be simple to market him as such. Instead they are into the bad boy persona like Baroni, which don’t get us wrong is very marketable in itself, but why not promote the bad guys AND the good guys.
With that said, Lindland is in a perfect position to “screw everything up” by beating Baroni. That would kill the UFC’s plans of a Baroni vs Bustamante matchup and then you have some bigger questions. Would Zuffa give Lindland another title shot against Busta after losing to Murilo just two fights ago? Also what if Bustamante doesn’t resign with the UFC? Does Lindland become the paper champion? There is a lot of questions that remain unanswered but this is what we do know. Lindland has everything to lose if he doesn’t win this upcoming fight. A lot on the line for Matt Lindland.
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6’10 – 265 POUNDS
10-1 MMA RECORD
Gan McGee is ready to take his next step in his fight career. Many believe if he wins in impressive fashion that he will be next in line for a UFC Title shot. He is 10-1 in mixed martial arts and has defeated everyone he has faced except Josh Barnett.
The Good – There is an old saying that you can’t teach size. McGee is blessed with plenty of size. He is 6’10 and 270. He really hasn’t been challenged in mixed martial arts. Basically his only loss game at the hands of former UFC Champion Josh Barnett and it was a match he felt he had in control until he gassed.
Anytime you have trainer John Hackelman doing your game plans and training, not to mention one of the best fighters in the world Chuck Liddell and leg lock specialist Scott Adams in your corner, you know you will be prepared for just about anyone.
The Bad - The one thing about Gan is getting him motivated day in and day out to train. This guy has been blessed with physical ability and as a result he hasn’t worried about training for most of his career. When he spends the time actually training for a fight like he did against Pedro Rizzo, he is tough to beat. Gan is also a guy that needs to train to get to 265. Basically if he doesn’t stay active he can gain weight. He usually walks around at 290, so he has to stay active to get to 265.
The other scary part about this fight, is the fact that Gan is coming off the biggest win of his career against the legendary Pedro Rizzo. He will have to guard himself against over confidence. Going from Pedro Rizzo to the unknown fighter Café Dantas doesn’t get you hyped up for a fight. If Gan isn’t careful he could go from the biggest win of his career, to the most devastating loss ever.
Outcome – We think Gan is starting to understand how close he is to a possible heavyweight title shot. He has done well against Rizzo, Barnett and other big time heavy’s. If he comes in shape, he should be able to get a ground n pound win over the smaller Dantas. If he isn’t in shape though, look out for just as a big upset as McGee did against Rizzo, this time in the loss column against Café Dantas.
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6’4 – 240 Pounds
4-1 MMA Record
It was the most devastating defeat in his career at UFC 38. Frank Mir was on course for a heavyweight title shot, when he went on the road and had his head handed to him literally by Ian “The Machine” Freeman. Now Mir is in a must win situation. If he loses his second fight, there is a good chance he could be dropped from the UFC. With a win, he revitalizes his career and becomes a contender in the depleted UFC Heavyweight Division.
The Good – Frank Mir has all the tools. He has a ton of submissions, his standup game his solid with the ability to kickbox and has decent power in both hands. He also has natural athletic ability which is hard to find from any heavyweight. Mir can finish any fight, very quick. Just ask Pete Williams or Roberto Traven. His training, by all accounts, has been solid. He has worked a lot harder and throwing punches for power, not technique, which will come in handy fighting a brawler like Tank Abbott.
The Bad – For a guy that has all the tools in the world to become a Heavyweight Champion, it’s amazing how many issues he has with family and friends. The most bizarre thing we have seen, is Mir allowing his girlfriend to take him to a psychic to explore the possibility of retiring from his fight career. The young heavyweight’s biggest obstacle is himself and if conquers the demon’s in himself, he not only can defeat the big puncher in Abbott, but he could be on track to a UFC Heavyweight Title showdown against Ricco Rodriguez. All the pressure right now though is squarely on the shoulders of Mir. He has everything to lose, and not much to gain by defeating Tank. If he wins, he was supposed to win because he is the younger fighter in his prime. He would have defeated the “old man” who he was supposed to defeat. If Mir loses then he most likely will not return to the UFC and will be known as a “has been” and “never will be” as most people will believe he had a ton ”potential” but potential is an evil word in the fight game, especially if it’s wasted.
Mir has assured everyone that his loss to Freeman was a fluke. He is training properly for his upcoming fight, and for Tank Abbott to say “this kid is really good and I have my hands full” is the ultimate statement for this fight.
Outcome – The thing about this fight is no one really knows how it will come out. Most people believe if Ian Freeman can land so many big bombs and basically KO Mir, that Tank should have no problem against Frank. Others though believe the loss to Freeman was the best thing that could happen to Mir and know he will get his career on track and submit Tank early in this matchup. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have Tank as a very slight favorite at -145 to Mir’s +105. We see it as a very close match up as well.
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6’3 – 250 POUNDS
11-1 MMA RECORD
Ricco Rodriguez could be the most underappreciated heavyweight in the world today. He has gone 11-1 in his career, with his only loss to Bobby Hoffman and folks that was just his second fight of his professional career. That seems like an eternity ago, and it has been for this heavyweight, who has polished his game and now if the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
The Good – His game has evolved so much over the years. His accomplishments have been down right impressive. Abu Dhabi Champion, undefeated in King of the Cage, undefeated in Pride and undefeated in the UFC. Name any other fighter that has done that. He has a submission win over Minotauro Nogueira (that was a fight with no striking) and he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He showed a lot of heart in his UFC win over Randy Couture, a fight he lost the first couple of rounds, before finishing strong….like a champ.
The Bad – Rodriguez hasn’t received the props that he is do for maybe one simple reason. When you think of heavyweights, you think of guys with sledgehammer power in either hand. That isn’t Rodriguez’s game. For lack of a better word, he is somewhat of a “finesse” fighter if you can call anyone that in the Ultimate Fighting Championships. “Finesse” is somewhat of an oxy moron in the fight game. He has tremendous skill, but isn’t one of the more feared strikers in our sport today. Many insiders don’t think he could defeat guys like Pedro Rizzo or Tank Abbott who can KO anyone with either hand. He might not have too, because either guy hasn’t put together wins like Ricco has. He is a submission specialist. He has six straight wins, but here’s the interesting part, only two of his six wins have come by submission. The other four have come from TKO. If Rodriguez can improve his standup game even more, he will get even more respect as a heavyweight. His opponent Tim Sylvia, will try to stand up and bang with the champ.
The Outcome – Ricco doesn’t need to get caught up in the hype that he can’t stand and bang with big Tim Sylvia. If he wants to make a point and stand with the big guy he could get into some trouble. Expierence though appears to be the key here and this title shot for Sylvia seems about 12 months too early this stage in his career. Look for Ricco to use his expierence to take the big man down and we like Rodriguez by submission in the upcoming bout.
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PEDRO “THE ROCK” RIZZO
6’2 – 245 POUNDS
He is one of the most feared strikers in the sport, but it is now gut check time for Pedro Rizzo. If he wants to be taken as a serious heavyweight, he is in a must win situation in his upcoming fight vs Vladimir Matyushenko.
The Good – No one can ever question the striking ability of Pedro Rizzo. He has knockout power in either hand, his kicks are just as strong, if not better than his hands. He is EXTREMELY tough to take down. The big question for Rizzo now is this. Does he want to be one of the best in the world, or is he just showing up for a paycheck?
The Bad – We mentioned earlier that it is gut check time for Pedro. That’s wasn’t a figure of speech. Rizzo’s gut in his last fight against Gan McGee, told you all you need to know about his training. He didn’t train properly for the fight. Rizzo has all the physical tools in the world, to not only be one of the best strikers in the world, but he has the tools to be the best heavyweight PERIOD. (Including Minotauro Nogueira) The big problem is Rizzo’s mental game, or lack of it. If Pedro was mentally tough like Nogueira he would have won a championship belt by now. Rizzo is a counter puncher and needs his opponent to engage in a fight.
With Vladdy as his next opponent, there is a common theme and problem Rizzo will have to face. Going against another world class type wrestler. If you look at Rizzo’s career he has never faired well against wrestlers. He has two losses to Randy Couture and a loss to Kevin Randleman, not to mention Gan McGee, who was a Division I wrestler. It’s hard to figure out why this is the case, as traditionally his sprawl is world class, but he continues to struggle against the grapplers. Vladdy is excellent on the ground and this is exactly where he wants the fight to go.
The Outcome - This is the traditional striker vs grappler matchup. From all accounts, Rizzo’s jiu-jitsu is very good and we have really never seen Pedro utilize ever in any of his fights. Some insiders believe we will finally see it as many believe he will be on his back at some point in the fight. He will have to utilize it because Matyushenko has made it clear that he wants this to be a ground n pound fight and wants to cut Pedro early, as Rizzo does bleed easily and often. Matyushenko thinks he can get the stoppage in this fight because of the ability to cut Rizzo early and often in the fight. Rizzo knows this could be it for him and wants to desperately impress and get his name back in the heavyweight mix.
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6’0 – 225 POUNDS
10-1 MMA RECORD
The Janitor has swept through competition recently and looks very good in the heavyweight division. Vladdy is coming off a very impressive win over Travis Wiuff at UFC 39. Matyushenko could be one of the best heavyweights in the division and would further that statement with a win over Pedro Rizzo.
The Good – By now you know how good of a wrestler Vladdy has become. He competed on the Russian National Team and has a very accomplished amateur and world background in grappling. As impressive as he is on the mat, teammate Frank Trigg called Vladdy “the smartest fighter I have ever seen.” Vladdy is always thinking on his feet and has been known to adjust his style during a fight. He is red hot now and is coming off wins over Travis Wiuff, “Little” Minatuaro Noguiera, and Yuki Kondo. His only losses came to Tito Ortiz and a controversial decision to Vernon Tiger White earlier in his career.
The Bad - The only bad we see from Vladdy is his opponent. This is a very dangerous opponent in Pedro Rizzo. Vladdy’s standup has improved a great deal, but there are some interesting things to this fight. He will no doubt go for a takedown. Rizzo has a tremendous sprawl and the one thing that Vladdy couldn’t do was take Tito Ortiz down. Ortiz of course is a very strong Light Heavyweight, but Pedro Rizzo is around 245 pounds, so the question remains, even at Heavyweight now, can Vladdy take the bigger fighter down? The other concern you have for Vladdy is the clinch. Vladdy should be strong in the clinch, but it’s the separation out of the clinch that he has to be aware of. Pedro Rizzo can knock you out with either hand and Rizzo will look to do some damage out of the clinch with a quick left or right hook. Matyushenko will have to get Rizzo down to the ground and hold him there to get a win.
The Outcome – There aren’t too many fights when I really don’t have a feel of what will happen. There are so many questions to this fight. Can Vladdy take down a 245 pound fighter when he couldn’t take Tito Ortiz down? If taken down can Rizzo do ANYTHING on the ground against Matyushenko? Can Rizzo keep this fight on his feet with his sprawl? This is a very intriguing fight and it’s one of those fights that we all will be watching to see what happens. All of these questions will be answered on February 28th.
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5’9 – 155 POUNDS
5-1 MMA RECORD
The Prodigy burst on the scene with impressive credentials as a blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He then knocked out his first three opponents in succession in the Octagon. After a tough loss to Jens Pulver at UFC 35, some of the glitter has been knocked off Penn’s accomplishments, but he looks to silence everyone with a chance at the lightweight title against Caol Uno.
The Good – There are very few fighters in the world who have the all around game that BJ Penn has. He can beat you standing up and he can submit you on the ground as well. Penn has won his first five of six fights and wants to win the UFC title so he can call out Jens Pulver and try to avenge his only loss of his career. BJ says in this next fight he will go back to his roots. He plans on using some “superior” grappling skills as he calls it and will look to finish Uno on the ground the second time around. One would think that Penn would have the mental advantage against Uno, as he defeated him in just :11 seconds the last time the two fought.
The Bad – One of the toughest things for Penn to overcome has been the public perception of himself. The public was enamored with the Prodigy when he knocked out the first three opponents he faced. Since his loss to Pulver he has finished just one of his fights. That was against Paul Creighton at UFC 37. With two decisions recently people wondered “what happened” to Penn. Some people have actually turned on him saying he doesn’t have the killer instinct since his loss. Even in his win against Paul Creighton, he still didn’t have the fire that we saw before. This is a dangerous fight for Penn. Uno didn’t have a chance to settle down and show his game in the first fight. Uno continues to get better and better and we can guarantee you won’t see another :11 second fight this go around. If Penn loses this fight, he would be 0-2 in title fights and then the public perception would grow that Penn can’t win the big one.
The Outcome - This is a very interesting fight that we will feel favors Caol Uno. Uno has nothing to lose in this fight because everyone remembers the KO at UFC 34. Uno has had some big wins in his career, but no doubt this would be the biggest. There isn’t any pressure on Uno, all the pressure is on Penn’s shoulders, and Uno has looked impressive in his last two wins against Din Thomas and Yves Edwards. Look for Uno to pull off the upset at UFC 41.
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5’6 – 155 POUNDS
3-2 MMA RECORD
Matt Serra is one of the greatest grapplers in the sport today. He finds himself in a strange position though. With his last loss to BJ Penn, he is 2-2 in the UFC. If he can’t beat tough guy Din Thomas he will have a losing record in the Octagon.
The Good – You can’t help but like this guy’s game. He is a Pan American Champion, he has truly learned the ground game of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Renzo Gracie and he has improved his stand up game over the years. He is becoming the complete fighter that everyone had hoped for. If Serra would have finish strong to close out the third round against BJ Penn we would be talking about Matt Serra against Caol Uno for the Lightweight Championship of the World. The toughest part about Serra’s career is the fact that he is this close from being 5-0 in mixed martial arts competitions. We just mentioned the close loss to Penn, he also dominated Shonie Carter, but got caught by a spinning back fist with seconds remaining before the end of the fight.
The Bad – While Serra is dominant on the ground, the big knock on Matt has been the fact that he hasn’t finished fights. In his four UFC appearances he has just one submission victory. That was over Kelly Dullanty at UFC 36 when he applied a triangle choke. His other win was a decision over Yves Edwards. Serra and his opponent, Din Thomas are both in tough positions, because one of the fighters will have two straight losses and the loser could be out of the UFC, especially with the quick trigger Zuffa has with contracts. There is a ton of pressure on both fighters in this match up.
The Outcome – This is really an unfortunate match up for both fighters. Both guys are very talented and both guys deserve to stay in the UFC. Unfortunately for one fighter he will see his UFC dreams end in Atlantic City. For the other, he will be another fight or two away from taking on the winner of Caol Uno vs BJ Penn for the title. Serra or Thomas will have to win this fight and one other before a title shot, but first things first. This will be a very strategic tactical battle. Can Serra deal with the long frame of Din Thomas. Serra is much smaller than Uno and even Uno had problems with Din in the early going. Does Thomas have the stamina to get a win in the late rounds? Something Din did NOT have against Caol Uno. This fight could go either way, but just with the size and length of Thomas, it will very tough for Serra to pull this off.
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TIM SYLVIA - 6'8 - 265 POUNDS - 16-0
Miletich Fighting System specialist Tim Sylvia (16-0) is literally days away from the biggest fight of his career, a UFC heavyweight title shot at current champion, Ricco Rodriguez (11-1). While controversy surrounding Sylvia's status as a legitimate contender for the title have trumpeted from fan forums all over the Internet, Tim was kind enough to address the issue for us, as well as many others, when MMAWeekly.com's Mike "Bash" Burgin caught up with The Maine-iac recently at Extreme Challenge 49 in Davenport, Iowa.
MMA Weekly: There are many fans who view you as a big underdog in your upcoming fight with Ricco Rodriguez, many even think that you haven't earned a title shot yet. What is your reaction to those comments?
Tim Sylvia: I can see the fact that I'm being the underdog; I've only been in the UFC once. I like being the underdog, it makes me work really hard, it makes it interesting because when I go out there and knock him out, IÕm no more the underdog. Do I earn a shot? Well, if you look at my record, I do. I'm 16-0 coming into this fight, I've fought a lot of tough guys, I've fought in a lot of tough tournaments, Superbrawl, Extreme Challenge, I've proved myself there. If you look at the rest of heavyweights in the UFC, there really aren't too many other guys who have the record that I have. Where I train speaks for itself. They (Zuffa) know that it's going to be a good showing and that's why they put me in there against him.
MMA Weekly: What is your game plan for the upcoming fight?
Tim Sylvia: I think I know, as well as everybody else knows, my game plan is to stand up and knock him out. His game plan is take me down, ground and pound me and submit me.
MMA Weekly: Do you feel confident fighting on the ground with Ricco?
Tim Sylvia: I don't have any problems being down on the ground with Ricco; I don't think he's going to hold me down. My groundwork has improved tremendously. Shit, I actually even earned some cauliflower ear the last 2 months. We're really well rounded out here, I got guys like Jeremy Horn and Matt Hughes working with me all the time getting me ready, getting my hips moving real well. Don't be surprised if you see a submission.
MMA Weekly: What do you feel is Ricco's biggest weakness and how do you plan on exploiting that weakness?
Tim Sylvia: Ricco's biggest weakness is that he's not a big fan of getting hit. I've seen him numerous times in the UFC and other fights, once he gets hit, he shies away, turns his face, puts his hands up. He doesn't just put his fists up, he puts his hands up to try to shy away and dive for some shoelaces. I'm going to hurt him; I'm going to punch his ears off. He's not going to be looking where I am, he's going to be shooting, and I'm not even going to be there. I'm going to be at another angle, throwing a big right, knocking his ass out.
MMA Weekly: What are your thoughts on the UFC's current Heavyweight division? Anyone you'd like to fight? Are you interested in fighting Tank?
Tim Sylvia: It's definitely one fight at a time. I need to fight the Ricco fight first before I even think about looking on. Are there any guys out there I'd like to fight? Yea, I'm not happy with Tank Abbott coming back, I think he's a big mouth, and I don't think he deserves it. There's a lot of tough guys out there at B- level shows, C-level shows that are better fighters than he is, and deserve to be there (UFC), but are not because they don't have the name. Tank was decent back then because no one had the skills that people have now. He was a big hitter, and that was it. He gassed out real quick. If he didn't get you early, he was done, and everyone knows that. I'd like to fight him, absolutely. I think it be good for me, good for my career, and make me look good.
MMA Weekly: Who has been your toughest opponent thus far in your MMA career? Why?
Tim Sylvia: I've probably got a couple. I took a fight a while back against a kid named Ben Rothwell. We went the distance; it was a really good fight. I put a real good beating on him, and he hit me with some pretty good shots. Then late in my career, it's definitely going to be Cabbage. Tough, tough guy, who didn't want to go down. If he wasn't smart enough to quit, his corner knew that it was time for him to get done. So definitely Cabbage.
MMA Weekly: You seem to have some decent Muay Thai skills, what kind of training have you had?
Tim Sylvia: My background in Muay Thai is with Miletich. I really enjoy standing up fighting and I do it at least 3 times a week, sparring and stuff. I just love it. I like to punch, I like to kick. When I get to use my knees, look out. I donÕt get to use my knees too often in practice because I've got really devastating knees. It's hard to practice your knees. My elbows as well, it's really easy to slice up your opponents. Pat is just a great coach and the guys that we work with are just really good. Look at Matt Hughes, he was known as a wrestler, and he had one thing and that was wrestling. Now look at him, he's the world champ and it looks like he's not gonna be beaten until he decides to leave
MMA Weekly: Take me through a typical day of training for a UFC title fight.
Tim Sylvia: A typical day of training, getting up at 9:00, get a protein shake, take my vitamins, all that good stuff. I go out and walk my dog, make sure she does her duty. Get to the gym, we usually lift, myself, Horn, Matt, Pat and Tony. We're all pretty much there as a team, lifting together. About an hour and a half after lifting, we're going downstairs and doing our fight training. Anywhere from working mitts to grappling to endurance workouts, so on and so forth. A couple days a week after that, I'll do some training on my own. Plyometrics, do some running and then I'll come in for evening classes such as sparring or wrestling takedowns, to Jiu Jitsu, to Muay Thai pads. So a couple days a week I'll train twice a day, and a couple days a week I'll train 3 times a day, and a couple days a week I've been going over to Illinois wrestling with the Augustina wrestling team. We've got some guys, Steve Rusk, who used to do some fighting. He's the Assistant Coach over there, and he trains with us now, and he's been inviting me over. I've been going over there, working out with the wrestlers and getting my wrestling game in par.
MMA Weekly: Any special diet you abide by?
Tim Sylvia: Definitely, I eat a lot of chicken, a lot of protein. Rice, Tuna and I eat whatever I want on Sundays. From pizza to Whitey's Ice Cream, Chinese food. I stay away from soda; I'm not a big soda drinker. A lot of water, a lot of Crystal Light. A couple gallons of water and Crystal Light a day.
MMA Weekly: What are your thoughts on the use of steroids in MMA competition?
Tim Sylvia: It just goes back some 20-30 years ago, that's just a big question that everybody's wondering, Does it help? I'm sure it does help. Steroid use has been in the UFC, a lot of people don't realize it, but just lately they started testing it. I'm sure anybody who looks back at some of the big Heavyweights, you know they were on. Football players use it, wrestlers use it, basketball players use it, baseball players use it. It's just something that goes on. Sometimes people can't get healed up, so they have to take something to get themselves healed up if they have a big fight coming up, or if they just want the extra edge. Some people don't have it, where other people do, and they just need that edge. I'm not against it, if people want to do it that's fine with me.
MMA Weekly: What's been the biggest obstacle to overcome in your fighting career?
Tim Sylvia: I think it's a constant battle, trying to stay in shape and train hard. I got my first UFC fight and thatÕs what my goal was. I was like, Who am I going to fight next in the UFC? They came up to me and said, Hey, how about Ricco? Wow, absolutely! A lot of people don't think I deserve a shot, but there isn't anybody out there that I know of, that thinks they're ready for a title fight and will say No to it if the opportunity comes to them. It's what anybody in the UFC wants. They all want to be the champion at one point in time. If it doesn't happen this time, it will happen down the road. My biggest obstacle is just trying to stay focused and keep training hard. Just the other day, I broke down and started crying. Your body gets run down, you get beat up, you get tired and things just aren't clicking some days. Yesterday I wasn't clicking, all of a sudden, Monday's going to roll around and BANG, I'm back on top again. I'm throwing my combinations right, I'm stepping and moving right, I'm sprawling right and everything's all together again. It's just a constant battle, really.
MMA Weekly: Are you the biggest guy in the Miletich camp? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage and why?
Tim Sylvia: I'm the tallest guy, but I'm definitely not the biggest guy. (Laughs) We got guys that just come in and train with us that people just don't know about. Everyone knows who Andre Roberts is. He's 380 lbs; he's been coming in a lot this last few months helping me, sparring with me, rolling with me. You get that big son-of-a-bitch on top of ya, you got something on top of ya! We got guys like Mark Hanson, Nate Schroeder, guys like Steve Rusk, 3 time all American wrestlers, and people don't realize how many guys are coming down here. Travis Wiuff is coming down to help me out. I'm definitely not the heaviest, by far. As a matter of fact, I'm in such great shape right now that I'm down to about 247 lbs. So there are quite a few guys, that are heavier then me, in the gym right now.
MMA Weekly: In your opinion, who is the best pound for pound fighter in the Miletich camp?
Tim Sylvia: We don't have one, we have many. No doubt about it! Matt Hughes, obviously the World Champion. Jens Pulver, obviously The Shit when it comes to 155. Robbie Lawler, when Matt Hughes steps aside, Robbie Lawler is going to be right there. Pat Miletich is one of the greats, not just for his stand out in the ring, but outside the ring. He's just a great, great guy. He's just someone you look up to at all times, a father figure. A lot of people talk about Jeremy Horn, you're going to be surprised when Jeremy Horn gets his shot back in the UFC because there isn't anyone who's gonna stop him. That kid is incredible, he moves like a 155 pounder. His standup is phenomenal; he just doesn't use it because his ground is so good. But if somebody wants to bang with him, he'll bang. I don't know what's going to happen with the Tito and the Chuck fight, but if Tito pulls out I got a good idea that Horn will be in there, and we all know what happened the first time Chuck fought Horn. Many of us, we don't have just one, we have all the greats. Let's not forget about Tony Fryklund. He just suffered a shitty loss up in Canada, but he was sick. I don't want to take anything away from the Crow, the Crow's a good kid, but Tony's an animal. I don't like sparring the kid, he's 185 lbs., and he hits hard. He's hit me harder than anyone's ever hit me. Anyone who stands in the ring with him, I feel sorry for them.
MMA Weekly: What would you be doing if you weren't involved in MMA?
Tim Sylvia: I'd probably still be in Maine, hanging sheet rock and painting houses. I was doing that back home for a few years. I subcontracted off a bunch of different contractors. It's good money, hard work, but it was something I was decent at. I've always wanted to get into law enforcement. I've always liked law enforcement. I'd probably like to work towards that. Once you get in a grove, you're kind of stuck there a while so I'm really glad that martial arts came about because I wasn't happy doing what I was doing. I'm really happy doing what I'm doing now. Getting up every morning, excited about going to the gym, having fun.
MMA Weekly: One of the regulars on our Sound Off Forum wanted me to ask you this, Ginger or Mary Ann?
Tim Sylvia: (Laughs) You know, if I could remember which one was the model, I'd tell you that one.
MMA Weekly: Ginger
Tim Sylvia: Okay, definitely Ginger then!
MMA Weekly: Any final comments for Ricco?
Tim Sylvia: Good luck, I hope he doesn't get hurt, and I'll meet him in the middle.
MMA Weekly: Thanks for your time, Tim.
Tim Sylvia: Thanks.
5’10 – 155 POUNDS
13-2 MMA RECORD
Din Thomas is one of the most talented fighters in the world today at 155. Many people believed he would win the UFC Lightweight Tournament, but unfortunately for Din, he couldn’t get pass Caol Uno to advance to the title match. He will put that aside and set his sites on Matt Serra at UFC 41.
The Good – Thomas could be one of the most underrated fighters in the world today. When you look at the competition he has been against it’s downright impressive. He of course had close losses of Caol Uno and BJ Penn, but has defeated Jens Pulver, Fabiano Iha, Dokonjonsouke Mishima, and others. He has been in against the top fighters in the world and with a 13-2 record he has the skills to back it up.
The Bad – The knock on Thomas is the fact that he always starts out quick, but has a tough time finishing strong. In his two losses of his career he started out very well against Caol Uno and BJ Penn before losing some stamina and concentration and eventually losing both fights. You can guarantee Matt Serra will want to extend this match and try to win it in the later rounds.
The Outcome - This is really an unfortunate match up for both fighters. Both guys are very talented and both guys deserve to stay in the UFC. Unfortunately for one fighter he will see his UFC dreams end in Atlantic City. For the other, he will be another fight or two away from taking on the winner of Caol Uno vs BJ Penn for the title. Serra or Thomas will have to win this fight and one other before a title shot, but first things first. This will be a very strategic tactical battle. Can Serra deal with the long frame of Din Thomas. Serra is much smaller than Uno and even Uno had problems with Din in the early going. Does Thomas have the stamina to get a win in the late rounds? Something Din did NOT have against Caol Uno. This fight could go either way, but just with the size and length of Thomas, it will very tough for Serra to pull this off.
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5’7 – 155 POUNDS
15-5 MMA RECORD
There are some fighters on this UFC card that have expierence and Caol Uno is one of the most expierenced fighters in the game today. Uno has fought all the big dogs, Hayato Sakurai, two wins over Rumina Sato, two wins over Din Thomas, wins over Dennis Hallman, Fabiano Iha, and Yves Edwards with his only UFC losses coming by decision to Jens Pulver in a very close fight and of course BJ Penn.
The Good - Uno has a complete game. Good standup, a good ground game, and he has been in against the very best in the world and he has a solid shot at becoming champion. Going against BJ Penn is the best situation for Uno as he has been training like a mad man for this fight. He was very embarrased in their last encounter and many people believe he has a good shot at winning. Former champion Jens Pulver said "BJ and I got Uno at the right time when we fought. He has improved 100% and I don't envy anyone trying to beat him now." Uno's performance vs Din Thomas was extremely impressive and looks to ride the momentum in this fight.
The Bad - The only knock on Uno has been trying to finish guys in the UFC. His last three opponents in the UFC. Thomas, Edwards and Pulver have all gone to decision and some feel he had a shot to finish two of the three guys, but didn't. He has the complete game but needs to be a bit more aggressive and go for broke in this fight.
The outcome - This is one of the better fights on the card and we like the chances of Caol Uno. Being knocked out by BJ Penn was shocking and some say it could have been a bit of a fluke. Not sure anything BJ Penn does could be considered a fluke, but Uno has been training hard for this fight, and we like the revenge factor with this fight as well. Look for Uno to make a statement and get gold against BJ Penn in the upset.
I am routing for SO FAR:
(Not all by choice and could change)
* Sides I like so far. All at early GOOD plus money except YVES. Clementi has alotta fans support, but I think YVES is too much too soon for him.
Oddessa wicked analysis of the different fighters. I watched the last ufc and every favourite won, so I expect the same here also. I think Mir should be able to kick the crap out of the old fart Tank, like how Tito beat the shit out of Shamrock. I was going to lay another 2 units on Mir, but can't believe the line has gone up to -240, I got it at -160. I going with Matyushenko and like your pick on Lindland. Already won on Edwards. I can't believe that Slyvia is 16-0 and he's is such a big underdog, maybe a lean on him. I just don't know why even books put out lines like the ufc, the favourites almost always come through.