As always, I'll be at BW3's in Worthington (Crosswoods area) for the Ultimate Fighting Championships presentation of UFC 90. Granted, due to the Ohio State Buckeyes taking on Penn State that night, UFC is relegated to the small screens, and sound will be on the game ... but my connections tell me when the OSU game is over, the big screens will go to UFC as will the sound.
So with that in mind ... here are my picks and predictions for UFC 90:
Anderson Silva (22-4-0) vs. Patrick Cote (14-4-0)
Almost all MMA practitioners have one preferred style they've mastered. The great ones are masters of multiple styles. Anderson Silva may be the greatest of them all. He has so many ways to beat you: Lightning quick hands full of knockout power (ask James Irvin or Chris Leban); knees of death (ask Rich Franklin, twice, and then look at his rearranged nose); quick and sick submissions (ask Dan Henderson, if his larynx wasn't too crushed by that choke). Silva's at the top of every pound-for-pound best fighter ever, and will hold both the 185-pound and 205-pound titles in 2009. Cote is a tough fighter who once took all Tito Ortiz could give (back when Tito was a force, before his back injury) at UFC 50, knocking Ortiz down, but coming up short on the scorecards. Cote has a chance, stranger things have happened, but nobody's on Anderson Silva's level right now.My Pick: Silva, knockout. Round One.
Josh Koscheck (13-2-0) vs. Thiago Alves (21-4-0)
I don't like Josh Koscheck. I don't know why. He's always entertaining, always brings everything he has and always fights a hell of a fight. Thiago Alves is better in everything but wrestling. I don't like Josh Koscheck. Nobody comes better prepared. Ask Diego Sanchez. But Alves is a strong striker and has excellent ground skills. This is more of a tossup fight, but sometimes you just gotta go with your heart. I don't like Josh Koscheck. But I respect him. And I'm picking him here. There's no quit in that cat.My Pick: Koscheck, decision.
Rich Clementi (40-12-1) vs. Gray Maynard (6-0-1)
Gray Maynard will win this if it stays standing, or if he can stay on top of Clementi on the ground. Maynard's not good off his back, Clementi is. But Maynard has given Frankie Edgar his only loss; and was a huge underdog in doing so.My Pick: Maynard, decision.
Fabricio Werdum (11-3-1) vs. Junior Dos Santos (6-1-0)
Werdum is the fifth man in the four-man heavyweight tournament and will face, eventually, the heavyweight title holder in 2009. (Lesner v Couture 11/15; Nog v Mir 12/27, winners to meet in March 2009, maybe in Columbus!). Both Werdum and dos Santos are blackbelts at BJJ, but Werdum is a better wrestler, "Cigano" dos Santos is a knockout artist, and Brazil's current kickboxing heavyweight champ. Werdum's never been knocked out ... all three of Werdum's losses were by decision, including going the distance with Andrei Arlovski, Big Nog, and hard hitting Sergei Kharitonov, one of my favorite PRIDE fighters.My Pick: Werdum, decision.
Sean Sherk (36-3-1) vs. Tyson Griffin (12-1-0)
Perhaps the hardest fight on the card to pick, because Sherk is a cardio freak; Griffin is a powerhouse. Griffin is used to going the distance and against tough guys (Clay Guida, Frankie Edgar, Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau, Marcus Aurelio), winning a ll but the Edgar fight. Sherk is back after a drug suspension he denies, followed by a beat-down by BJ Penn.My Pick: Griffin, Knockout. Round 2.
* Thales Leites (13-1-0) vs. Drew McFedries (7-4-0)
Leites is a submission artist who has a decent standup game, but prefers the triangle choke and armbar. McFedries is one of those guys who has sick power and skill but sometimes leaves it in the locker room. He looked outclassed on the ground by Mike Massenzio and Martin Kampmann in submission losses, yet holds great knockouts of Jordan Radev (33 seconds) and Marvin Eastman (64 seconds). If Leites can avoid the big punch and take this to the ground, it's his fight to lose.My Pick: Leites, submission. Round 1.
* Spencer Fisher (22-4-0) vs. Shannon Gugerty (11-2-0)
Spencer Fisher will not quit. Ever. Melvin "Cocaine" Guillard won't quit ... drugs. I was looking forward to seeing Fisher stand and trade with Guillard, but Guillard's probation violation prevented that. Instead we get Gugerty, who will get beaten like he stole Melvin's stash. Expect a lot of dirty boxing from Fisher and attempted submissions from Gugerty, if he can keep Fisher down.My Pick: Fisher, knockout. Round 1.
* Dan Miller (9-1-1) vs. Matt Horwich (24-9-1)
Miller has better technical jui-jitsu and is a better striker. Horwich is very unpredictable and does some weird stuff on the ground. This one will be on the ground and probably draw some boo-birds out, but will be entertaining on the ground.My Pick: Miller, Submission. Round 2.
* Hermes Franca (19-7-0) vs. Marcus Aurelio (16-6-0)
I hope to hell this fight gets on the broadcast. This is a classic student versus teacher matchup with Franca needing a win and his former instructor Aurelio in the path. Franca's a crazy striker with a legit BJJ Blackbelt, so he's dangerous standing or on the ground. Aurelio made Takanori Gomi look like he'd never fought before as he dominated and choked him out at PRIDE - Bushido 10 in under five minutes. Sadly, that may have been his finest hour. He has lost four of his last six, with wins of Ryan Roberts and Luke Caudillo. Roberts hasn't fought since, Caudillo lost the three he's had, so the quality of competition isn't there. Franca has lost his last two, but to Sean Sherk and Frankie Edgar, and has wins over Spencer Fisher (TKO) and Nate Diaz (armbar).My Pick: Franca, knockout. Round 2.
* Josh Burkman (20-6-0) vs. Pete Sell (7-4-0)
After starting out 5-0; "Drago" Sell has lost four of his last five. Then again, Burkman has lost three of four. I expect this to be the worst fight of the night, and unlike Franca/Aurelio, I hope this doesn't make it to the broadcast, unless it's some insane Burkman knockout (like the Sam Morgan slam on TUF2 Finale) that puts Pete back on Long Island.My Pick: Burkman, knockout. Round 3.
* May Not Be Broadcast