Saturday, September 24, 2011

UFC 135 Predictions

by Staff Writer Corey Smith

Is Jon Jones the future of MMA? We will find out Saturday night from the Pepsi Center in Denver. There are still rumblings among the MMA faithful that Jon Jones might not be the otherworldly talented 23 year old everyone seems to make him out to be. Defeating the former light-heavyweight king, Quinton Jackson, will silence any critics that might still be out there. One can bet that Rampage will be looking to knock the Jon Jones hype train off the tracks, and he certainly possesses the pedigree to do so.

On the PPV portion of the card Josh Koscheck takes on Matt Hughes in a welterweight scrap, and Nate Diaz looks to rebound against Takanori Gomi in a lightweight tilt. A couple of heavyweight battles are also on tap with Travis Browne taking on Rob Broughton. And lastly, in a battle of for who has the most normal sounding name and little else, Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt look to entertain the masses.

Here is one man’s attempt to use a crystal ball.

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Jon Jones (13-1, 7-1 UFC) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-8, 7-2 UFC)

The classic one punch can change everything match up, is the first test for the youngest champion in UFC history, Jones. Jackson can end the bout swiftly and savagely if he can get inside of the enormous reach advantage of Jones. Very little is known about the chin of Jones, since he has never been tested in that department. His talent has never allowed him to be in a bad position, and Jackson will want to test him early and often.

If Rampage wants to win this fight, he needs to take it to the ground anyway possible. Though he has abandoned it of late, Jackson is an extremely skilled wrestler and will want to employ those skills here against Jones. Jackson will not win a battle standing, unless Jones commits a huge tactical error. Rampage should try to take Jones down and wear him out on the ground, as cardio seems to have been the only chink in the armor of Jones. Jones appeared to begin gassing against Mauricio Rua in March, but at that point of the fight had already battered Shogun enough to finish him off. Rampage needs to play the wily veteran here, and let the younger Jones wear himself out. If Rampage can fight a smart and calculated fight, he has a chance to pull off a major upset.

Coupled with his raw athletic ability, Jones’ length creates nightmares for any opponent. There is quite simply no one with a reach advantage over him on the UFC roster, and Jones uses this to his advantage in every bout. Battering anyone who attempts to close the distance, Jones can quite literally sit back and damage his opponents with little fear of damage himself. Picture the older brother holding the head of his younger brother, as the younger swings away at the air in a vain attempt to hit something. That is a Jon Jones fight.

Pick: Rampage allows his inner dog out, and tries to pound Jones into submission rather than fight slow and methodical. It does not work. Jones by TKO midway through Round 2.

Welterweights
Matt Hughes (45-8, 18-6 UFC) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-5, 13-5 UFC)

Originally slated to face the injured Diego Sanchez, Hughes is now in line for an even tougher match against Koscheck. Koscheck is himself coming off scary eye injury via five rounds with Georges St. Pierre’s jab.

Koscheck is a very tough match up for Hughes, especially with Hughes on the tail end of his career. Hughes is coming off of a swift knockout loss to BJ Penn that most likely ended any hope of another title run for him. That loss withstanding, Hughes has shown improved standup in his past few matches. His bread and butter still remains his ground game, and specifically his ground and pound. Taking down Koscheck will be a tall order, but Hughes will not be trying to force the action to the ground. If it goes there, Hughes will surely be game, but Matt’s trainers have certainly shown him the tape of Kos’ fight with St. Pierre. Hughes will look to keep the fight standing, and look for a quick knockout of his own.

Koscheck does have excellent standup, but it pales in comparison to his ground game. Koscheck is a top level welterweight because of his wrestling, and Josh will try to take the fight to the mat and wear out the much older and battle worn Hughes. Coming off an injury such as his, Koscheck will probably be trying to avoid taking any punches, and will play a safe fight.

Pick: With perhaps a tad bit of sentimental fandom clouding my judgment, it’s Hughes with the major upset here. After a back and forth mat battle in round 1, Hughes will catch Koscheck with a punch, and finish him off quickly on the ground. Hughes by TKO Round 2.

Heavyweights
Travis Browne (11-0-1, 2-0-1 UFC) vs. Rob Broughton (15-5-1, 1-0 UFC)

An unbeaten prospect will likely remain so, as Travis Browne takes on journeyman Rob Broughton in the evening’s first of two heavyweight battles.

Browne is slowly blossoming into a legit heavyweight fighter. His epic, crowd pleasing knockout of Stefan Struve showcased his knockout power but also his tactical prowess. Taking note of a Struve tendency to push forward after jabs, Browne timed a superman punch perfectly to exploit it. Calling Broughton a journeyman, might have been insulting to journeymen. This fight will end quickly in round 1, with little Broughton can do to stop it.

Pick: Browne remains unbeaten, and does so quicker than it takes him to walk to the cage. Browne by first round TKO.

Lightweights
Nate Diaz (13-7, 8-5 UFC) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7, 1 NC, 1-2 UFC)

A fairly intriguing match up at lightweight pits Nate Diaz against Takanori Gomi. Diaz trying to rebound from back to back defeats and Gomi is looking to remain relevant in a deep division.

Diaz has a similar style to his older brother, and could be fighting with a little extra motivation to defend the family name in light of his elder brother’s demotion from his title shot against St. Pierre. Diaz has the length to frustrate opponents by staying out of their reach, pepper them with shots. Training with the “Skrap Pack,” his jiu jitsu is also near the top tier in his division.

Gomi, like Hughes is on the downward side, but still remains aggressive. Generally opening with violent flurries, Gomi tries to take fights were he wants to go. Diaz does not generally yield to others, so Gomi’s strengths will be nullified.

Pick: Diaz is a stronger, bigger, and more well rounded fighter and it shows here. Diaz by Unanimous Decision.

Heavyweights
Ben Rothwell (31-7, 1-1 UFC) vs. Mark Hunt (6-7, 1-1 UFC)

A slugfest is most certainly on tap for fight fans, when Ben Rothwell takes on Mark Hunt.

Two men with virtually non existent ground games, will surely entertain the fans, and someone will be flat on the canvas when the dust settles. Neither man has a reputation for playing it safe or smart, and both will wade right into the action. This is the fight you do not take your bathroom break during.

Pick: Pretty much a tossup, but the more experienced Rothwell has the advantage here. Look for a knockout midway through Round 1. Rothwell by TKO.

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