Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Friday, February 28, 2003
Mixed Martial Arts--- Well, another UFC pay-per-view is upon us, so I guess that means it's time for the ole' bi-monthly web site update. Coming off the record-breaking success of UFC 40 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the UFC returns to Atlantic City, New Jersey with UFC 41. This card is stacked from top to bottom with good matchmaking all around. Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight's show.
It's strange when the Heavyweight Championship is overlooked on a fight card, but that is exactly the case with UFC 41. The return of Tank Abbott has drawn attention away from Ricco Rodriguez putting his newly-won title on the line against undefeated rookie sensation Tim Sylvia. I think Sylvia has more of a chance than most people are giving him, given the fact that Sylvia has incredibly good kickboxing skills and Ricco has shown a weakness in that area of his game over the years. Still, I believe that Ricco will ultimately be able to weather the storm of Sylvia's strikes, score a takedown on Sylvia, and win the fight with his choice of a submission or a slow and steady ground-and-pound attack. If Sylvia wins this fight, it will be one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.
In a fight that has been overlooked even more than the Heavyweight Title match, BJ Penn and Caol Uno square off for the Lightweight Title, which has been vacant ever since Jens Pulver left the UFC last year. The last time Penn and Uno fought, Penn knocked Uno out in 12 seconds, but I don't think the result is going to be the same this time. I'm picking Penn to win the fight, but it's not going to be an early knockout. Since knockout out Uno, BJ Penn's stand-up skills haven't looked very good in fights against Jens Pulver, Paul Creighton, and Matt Serra. Meanwhile, Uno has beaten Yves Edwards and Din Thomas, but he looked fairly unimpressive even in victory. I'm going with Penn by TKO or decision.
The fight that has been getting the vast majority of the hype and promotion is the return of UFC quasi-legend Tank Abbott, as he goes up against heavyweight contender Frank Mir. The return of Tank is great as far as drawing interest to the sport, but I think people are getting a little carried away by overwhelmingly picking Tank to win the fight against Frank Mir. The argument for a Tank victory is simple: "Frank Mir couldn't handle getting hit by Ian Freeman in his last fight, and Tank sure as hell punches a lot harder than Ian Freeman." While that's true, you have to remember that Freeman was only able to win that fight because he kept the hard hits coming over more than one round. Regardless of what Tank says about how hard he's been training, I have yet to see a single Tank Abbott fight where he does not get noticeably winded about 90 seconds into the fight. If he has magically turned into a fighter that can go two minutes without becoming exhausted, I'll believe it when I see it. The downside for Mir is that in recent interviews he has been talking about standing up and trading strikes with Abbott. That kind of attitude could very well get Frank Mir knocked out, but I'm picking Mir to take the fight to the ground and score a submission or TKO victory against an exhausted Tank Abbott.
The fight that many hardcore fans of the UFC, including myself, are looking forward to the most is Matt Lindland vs. Phil Baroni in a rematch of their classic back-and-forth match from late 2001. Lindland won that fight by decision, and since then, both Baroni and Lindland have improved their fighting skills tremendously. Sure, Baroni hasn't lost since that fight and Lindland has, but Lindland's only lost was to Murilo Bustamante, who is one of the best fighters in the world in any weight class. I think the strategy and ground skills of Matt Lindland will prevail and give him the victory, but then again, I thought the same thing when Phil Baroni fought Dave Menne, only to watch in shock as Baroni won the fight via knockout in ten seconds. Baroni is going to be looking for the early knockout against Lindland, and he could very well get it if Lindland isn't careful, but I'm predicting Lindland to be able to weather that storm and take the fight to the ground. Once that happens, Baroni will have expended a lot of energy going for the early KO, and Lindland will be able to go to work with his brutally efficient ground-and-pound game. I'm picking Lindland by TKO or decision.
In a fight that I'm probably looking forward to more than most fans, Vladimir Matyushenko faces off with Pedro Rizzo. Vladdy is near the top of the heavyweight picture in the UFC, looking up at a potential title shot if he wins this fight. Meanwhile, Rizzo is near the bottom, looking at what could be the end of his UFC career if he loses this fight. I'm surprised that so many people are picking Rizzo to win this fight. I've always thought that Vladdy is a very underrated fighter and that Rizzo is a somewhat overrated fighter. Sure, Rizzo is a better striker, but so what? Vladdy is bigger, stronger, in better shape (if history is any indication), and should be able to ground-and-pound Rizzo at will, just like Randy Couture did in his second fight with Rizzo. There's a reason that Rizzo has lost three of his last four UFC fights, and there's a reason that Vladdy is on a roll, with victories over the likes of Rogerio Nogueira (Minotauro's brother). All of the momentum is working against Rizzo, so I'm picking Matyushenko to win by TKO or decision.
With both fighters' UFC careers potentially on the line, Din Thomas and Matt Serra will square off in what should be a very exciting lightweight showdown. While the loser of this fight certainly won't be banished from the UFC forever, there is a very high chance that they will be released from their current UFC contracts and forced to re-establish themselves on smaller shows, or in Japan. This is an interesting match-up because both fighters are fairly good at stand-up fighting, and both fighters are very good at submissions. In their most recent fights, Matt Serra lost an extremely close decision to BJ Penn, and showed better stand-up skills than anyone has ever seen from Serra. On the same show, Din Thomas looked out of shape, unpolished, and sloppy against Caol Uno. This fight is going to be closer than their recent track records would indicate, but I'm still predicting Serra to win. I'm not sure that he'll catch Thomas in a submission, but if he doesn't, then I pick Serra to win a close decision victory.
The biggest buzz coming out of yesterday's weigh-ins was that Gan McGee looked out of shape, and his opponent, Alexandre "Cafe" Dantas, looked to be in amazingly good shape. There are also rumors swirling that McGee took this fight lightly and didn't train very much for it, which is believable given that he is just coming off a knockout victory over Pedro Rizzo and is now fighting a relative unknown on the undercard. This tempted me to pick Dantas in an upset, but I'm still going to have to go with McGee. You have to consider the fact that McGee ALWAYS looks out of shape at weigh-ins whether he's actually in good shape or not, and that he has an 11-1 mixed martial arts record (with the one loss coming to Josh Barnett). On the other hand, no matter how good Dantas looks and no matter how good he supposedly is at submissions, the fact remains that he only has a couple of MMA fights to his credit, and he was last seen in the UFC getting TKO'ed by Yuki Kondo. Dantas could very well score a surprise submission over McGee, if McGee is truly entering this fight unprepared, but I'm picking McGee to win by TKO or decision. I would have picked McGee by knockout, but if nothing else Dantas' Jiu-Jitsu skills should give him a good defensive game and could allow him to keep the fight on the ground.
Finally, Yves Edwards faces off with Rich Clementi in the opener. Edwards has looked very unimpressive in his last two UFC fights (losses to Matt Serra and Caol Uno), with his only discernible skill being the ability to take the fight the full distance and not get knocked out or submitted. He has racked up a couple of knockout victories since then, but they haven't been against any big-name opponents. Meanwhile, Clementi is making his UFC debut having never defeated a single fighter with any significant MMA accomplishments (and only having a record of 12-6 against the fighters that he has fought). A lot of people are picking Clementi to pull off the upset in this fight, but I just don't see it happening unless Edwards comes into the fight horribly out of shape (which didn't appear to be the case at the weight-ins). The overwhelming feeling of being on the big stage of the UFC for the first time will probably pose a bigger threat to Rich Clementi than his actual opponent, but nonetheless I'm picking Edwards to win by KO or TKO.