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UFC 85 Preview and Predictions
What was once a highly anticipated event has quickly become a less than stellar card. The main event was slated to be an MMA fans dream match, but both headliners, Chuck Liddell and Shogun Rua, had to opt out because of injury. Scrambling to reorganize, the UFC crafted a fight card consisting of quality fighters, but lacking of star power.
Mike Swick versus Marcus Davis
This welterweight fight will have major ramifications for the division. A win for Swick would propel him into title contention. Based on his previous merits as a middleweight (5-1 in UFC, 6-1 total) and what would be two significant wins in a row, he would have to be put in the title picture. A victory for Davis would surely give him a title shot or put him in line for a number one contender spot (currently 6-0 in the UFC).
Swick’s last victory over Josh Burkman was a truly lackluster performance. In his first welterweight fight, Swick looked tentative and nervous. When the bell sounds, it will be essential for Swick to establish his pace right away. That means he needs to fight using his reach, by establishing a jab and moving away from Davis’s powerful left hand and left body kick. Despite being good in the clinch, Swick must be aware of Davis’s overwhelming strength and the danger he poses in close quarters. Swick should also use his fast jab and quick combinations to set up a takedown. Davis is rarely put on his back and clearly feels more comfortable standing. Lastly, Swick should be aware of openings for high kicks, which Davis has been nailed with previously.
Since his time on the Ultimate Fighter, Davis has continually improved in order to become more dynamic. While primarily a boxer (and a very good one at that), Davis has worked on his jiu-jitsu, strength/conditioning (said he has bulked up to 193 pounds with only 7% body fat), and his wrestling. He likes to keep his fights standing and set up his straight left hand with hard kicks to the body. Once his opponents drop their hands to shield themselves from his kicks, he fires off his straight left. Davis is going to go after Swick and keep the pressure on. As he said in a prefight interview, “I want to go in there and I want to place a bet that my chin will withstand what he has to dish out and his chin will not stand what I have to dish out.”
Ultimately, it will be Swick’s controlled aggression that wins him the fight. He has more ways to win and the crafty veteran wants to rebound from his previous performance.
Prediction: Mike Swick via Decision
Michael Bisping versus Jason Day
If there were any critics regarding Bisping’s transition to middleweight, they were emphatically silenced after he beat Charles McCarthy into retirement. What a difference twenty pounds can make! Physically, Bisping looked sculpted and well conditioned in his last fight. During that fight, Bisping showed that he retained his strength and quickness at his new weight.
Bisping is primarily a striker but has adequate skills in all departments. He has a good chin, solid footwork, and uses a nice combination of strikes. Jason Day likes to strike as well, but is better known for his ground game. He is trying to use Bisping as a stepping stone, after his recent victory against Alan Belcher, in his UFC debut.
Don’t expect that to happen though. Bisping is trying to make an immediate impact in the thin middleweight division. Through matches with Rashad Evans and Matt Hammil, it became clear he can scramble, wrestle, and press forward, while relying on his tremendous heart. He is going try and make a statement in this fight and should be able to put on a solid showing.
Prediction: Michael Bisping via TKO round two
Fabricio Werdum versus Brandon Vera
This may be the most intriguing bout of the evening. Both fighters are atop the division and both fighters are on the cusp of a title shot. Vera is the more explosive striker (Werdum is very competent though) and Werdum is stronger on the ground (Vera has stated he looks forward to exhibited his prowess from his back). The outcome will be closely related to the decisions Werdum makes. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard who has submitted some top notch competitors (like Alexander Emelianenko). If Werdum is able to take Vera down, it will be difficult for Vera to survive.
Most likely, Vera will attempt to keep the fight standing and score one of his highlight reel knockouts. It would be in his best interest to throw continuous kicks at Werdum’s legs because he was very susceptible to them in his last fight. Once his legs are weakened, expect Vera to try and deliver hard knees from the clinch.
But, as Werdum proved against Gabriel Gonzaga, he is willing to bang. Vera has yet to beat a top tier opponent and was smothered by Tim Sylvia. A victory for Vera would propel him to elite status and prove he is among one of the best in the world.
Once the bell rings, Werdum will have the option to keep the fight standing if he feels comfortable and if not, he can shoot for the takedown and work his jiu-jitsu. Because of his diverse skill set, Werdum has facets to his fight game and many ways to finish a fight. Although Vera is a capable fighter, the difference in talent will be too much to overcome.
Prediction: Fabricio Werdum via submission round three
Thales Leites versus Nate Marquardt
These two have been set to meet on several occasions, but due to travel issues, were unable to do so. They will finally get their chance this Saturday. Nate Marquardt is hands down, one of the best middleweights in the world. Despite his loss to Anderson Silva, he remains one of the most well rounded and dangerous fighters in the UFC. His upcoming fight against Leites is a must win, in order for him to continue his road back to a title shot.
Leites has found success in the UFC with only one blemish on his record (Martin Kampmann). He excels at Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has quickly risen through the ranks. Unfortunately, he may have hit a brick wall in the shape of “Nate the Great.” Unless Leites manages to slap on a submission, he will be in for a long night. Where ever the fight goes, Marquardt should be able to impose his will.
The fight will be an active one. Both fighters may choose to exhibit their skills on the ground, so it could be a tactical chess match, one that Marquardt should get the better of.
Prediction: Nate Marquardt via TKO round two
Matt Hughes versus Thiago Alves
Credit both Hughes and Alves for taking this fight on short notice, essentially saving the event. This is a classic striker versus wrestler match up. The strategies for both fighters seem clear. Hughes wants no part of Thiago’s dynamic striking and Alves will try and avoid the vicious ground and pound that has made Hughes famous. Whoever is able to implement their game plan, should claim the victory.
Alves is coming off the biggest win of his career (against perennial title contender Karo Parysian). He has made a name for himself by winning four in a row and doing so in exciting fashion. It is very unique to see a fighter incorporate so many different striking techniques into is offensive repertoire, but Alves has done so.
Against Hughes, Alves needs to take a page out of BJ Penn’s book in his most recent win over Sean Sherk (who is like a poor man’s Hughes). In his fight, Penn used a healthy dose of jabs to weaken Sherk and keep him at bay. Like Sherk, Hughes uses very little head movement and waits for his opponent to over commit, so he can secure a takedown. Alves needs to be patient and not fight at his usual frantic pace.
Hughes has had an illustrious career but is getting older (34). This fight will be a good indicator as to how much he has left in the tank. Jon Fitch was able to take Alves down frequently and overwhelm him. If Hughes can regain some of his old form he should be able to do the same. Alves will simply be unable to ward off the relentless take down attempts.
Prediction: Matt Hughes via decision