Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Thursday, September 26, 2002
Mixed Martial Arts--- The next Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view is coming up tomorrow (September 27), and I can't remember another recent MMA event that I have looked forward to more than this one.

The main event of UFC 39 has the 39-year-old legend who can still kick ass, Randy Couture, facing 25-year-old Ricco Rodriguez for the vacant Heavyweight Title. The title is vacant because previous champion Josh Barnett was found guilty of steroid use by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, stripped of his title, and banned from mixed martial arts for six months. Ricco has looked moderately unimpressive (and not-so-moderately arrogant) in his UFC fights thus far, and those were against non-top-tier opponents. Put him in there with someone on Couture's level, and I think the hype finally catches up to Ricco and ends in a victory for Couture.

Couture beat Vitor Belfort when Belfort looked unstoppable, he beat Maurice Smith when Smith was just coming off a huge win over Mark Coleman, he beat Kevin Randleman, and he beat Pedro Rizzo twice. His only loss in the US was against Josh Barnett, who had enough steroids in his system at the time to kill a moderately large horse (whether Barnett ever admits it or not). Ricco is a talented fighter and is favored to win the fight on the Internet, but I'm picking Randy Couture to become the first-ever three-time champion.

UFC 39 also features the first round of the four-man lightweight tournament, with the winners of the two fights to meet for the vacant Lightweight Title at a later event. BJ Penn faces Matt Serra in what could be the fight of the night. As much as I'm rooting for Serra and his "crazy monkey Jiu-Jitsu" (as Joe Rogan put it), I'm going to have to take Penn due to his superior stand-up skills. Serra won't have too much of an edge over Penn in the submission game, whereas Penn can and probably will knock Serra out or pummel him into a referee stoppage.

The other two fighters in the lightweight tournament are Caol Uno and Din Thomas. Uno beat Thomas in Japan years ago when Uno looked unstoppable and Thomas was inexperienced. Now that Thomas has some more fights under his belt, including a victory over Jens Pulver a while back, I'm picking him to win this fight and advance to the Lightweight Tournament finals. Uno has looked pretty bad recently, not only in the obvious ways (getting knocked out by BJ Penn in ten seconds) but also in less obvious ways (looking unimpressive during the entire fight in his decision victory over Yves Edwards). You can never count Caol Uno out, but I'm picking Din Thomas to win this fight.

Dave Menne faces Phil Baroni, with the winner unofficially becoming the #1 contender for Murilo Bustamante's Middleweight Championship. Menne is coming off a tough TKO loss to Bustamante, while Baroni is coming off a very close decision loss to Matt Lindland and a very impressive, gut-checking knock-out of Amar Suloev. This should be an evenly-contested bout, and Menne certainly has the edge in experience. Another potential problem could be Baroni letting his recent success go to his head and coming into the fight overconfident, which is not a possibility for Menne. Nonetheless, I'm picking Baroni to pull off the upset and earn the Middleweight Title shot.

I'll be back tomorrow with my preview of the rest of the event.

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