The Mandalay Bay Events Center welcomes the UFC back to its home in Las Vegas with UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz this Saturday. Joe Silva should be given a matchmaking award for the roster of fights he’s put together including the debut of Sengoku Raiden and Shooto champion Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2) versus featherweight stalwart George Roop (12-7-1) in what will surely be an early contender for “Fight of the Night” awards. “Big Country” Roy Nelson (15-6) looks to rebound from a lackluster loss against the aging fan favorite “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-9-2). Cheick Kongo (16-6-2) will look to stave off the fast rise of “Meathead” Matt Mitrione in the night’s most intriguing heavyweight match. And while the title fight between UFC Welterweight Champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) and underrated contender “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5) has been scrapped, there is no question that its replacement fight between former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight Champion “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-2) and former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (25-7) has “one for the ages” written all over it. Regardless of the dubious reasons behind this fight’s origin, one thing is for sure: both men will be looking to throw down. Penn has always been a fighter first and foremost and Diaz loves opponents who come at him full-throttle. With two multi-talented, born-to-brawl athletes like Penn and Diaz, this fight is guaranteed to entertain.
Saturday, February 12. The night was chilly as usual but even another freezing night could not damper my mood as I drove towards East Rutherford, New Jersey and the start of the unprecedented (in the US at least) Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament being put together by Strikeforce. With so much emphasis put on the UFC, fans really had to be surprised to see the wealth of heavyweight talent amassed for this tournament. That I was witnessing the launch of such an historic MMA event left me quite gleeful. Of course events that unfolded would show that for Strikeforce no good deed goes unpunished. But we’ll get to that.
As I drove toward Lot 26 which is designated for the press and employees I stopped to ask every parking attendant where the lot was located and was instructed to just keep driving. When I finally circled the entire IZOD Center and came to my designated lot I made an ill advised, on-the-fly decision to not stop by the parking person manning this lot and a few seconds later felt like Billy Hayes in Midnight Express as my car was surrounded by several guys who looked as if they were competing in the evening’s Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament or at least a local tough man contest. After the some venting of steam by guys whose mood was not enhanced by the freezing temps, I was finally able to spit out my name and ultimately allowed to proceed and park. So began my first sojourn as a credentialed press dignitary. I almost ended up buried with Jimmy Hoffa and other luminaries in the nearby meadowland swamps courtesy of Mo and the guys.
Well, that was quick. Less than three weeks after “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) announced somewhat ambiguously via his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts that he was hanging up his 4oz. gloves for good, MMAFighting.com reported that the UFC Hall of Famer is tentatively slated to face former Light Heavyweight Champion “The Dragon” Lyoto Machida (16-2) at UFC 129 in April. When asked yesterday if the fight with Machida was in the works, Couture said that he had not yet signed a contract, but had verbally agreed to meet with Machida in 2011.
Whether he is referred to as the “Muay Thai Wrecking Machine” or “The Pitbull”, both monikers accurately describe the performance that Thiago Alves (17-7) put on at UFC 124 this Saturday night. With past difficulties of making weight, two consecutive losses to UFC Welterweight Champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (21-2) and former top contender Jon Fitch (22-3), and the threat of having to move up to the middleweight division or possibly being cut from the UFC, Thiago Alves’ most recent match-up against “Doomsday” John Howard (14-6) was do-or-die in terms of his professional fighting career. He had to silence critics and please UFC President Dana White all in one stroke. “The Pitbull” did just that.
So, UFC 124. Man, you twitterers were brutal. You had a big bucket of salt ready for my wounds. It’s like that, huh? Well, let me state for the record that I’m not Tomas Rios. I don’t sit here and smugly tell you exactly how I think the fight is going to down like it’s law and then turn out to be wrong. I’m asked by MMA Gospel to make my picks with the rest of the staff and I do so. Sometimes I’m confident in my picks, sometimes not. For UFC 124, I thought the picks were exceptionally hard. Especially since… look, anyone can pick all the favorites and the odds will likely play out in their favor. That doesn’t make you a genius. I decided to pick all underdogs but with valid reason. Like I said, if I was betting my life savings I wouldn’t have made the same picks but where’s the fun in that?
So let me break down UFC 124 but with my reasoning for making the picks I made included.
Pat Audinwood vs. John Makdessi: Makdessi via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
TJ Grant vs. Ricardo Almeida: Almeida via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Matt Riddle vs. Sean Pierson: Pierson via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Rafael Natal: Draw, Round 3, 5:00
—LIVE ON UFC.COM—
Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett: Bocek via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1, 2:33
Joe Doerksen vs. Dan Miller: Miller via Split Decision, Round 3, 5:00
—MAIN CARD on PPV—
Thiago Alves vs. John Howard: Alves via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig: Danzig via KO, Round 1, 1:54
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira: Miller via Submission (Kneebar), Round 1, 1:59
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle: Struve via TKO, Round 1, 3:55
Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck: St. Pierre via Unanimous Decision, Round 5, 5:00
Knockout of the Night: Mac Danzig wins $100,000
Submissions of the Night: Mark Bocek (vs. Dustin Hazelett) and Jim Miller (vs. Charles Oliveira) each win $50,000
Fight of the Night (decided by fans): Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck each win $100,000
Pat Audinwood: 156lbs.
John Makdessi: 155lbs.
TJ Grant: 170lbs.
Ricardo Almeida: 170.5lbs.
Matt Riddle: 170.5lbs.
Sean Pierson: 170.5lbs.
Jesse Bongfeldt: 185.5lbs.
Rafael Natal: 185lbs.
—LIVE ON UFC.COM—
Mark Bocek: 155.5lbs.
Dustin Hazelett: 155lbs.
Joe Doerksen: 185.5lbs.
Dan Miller: 184.5lbs.
—MAIN CARD on PPV—
Jim Miller: 155lbs.
Charles Oliveira: 153.5lbs.
Thiago Alves: 171lbs.
John Howard: 171lbs.
Joe Stevenson: 155.5lbs.
Mac Danzig: 156lbs.
Stefan Struve: 253lbs.
Sean McCorkle: 264lbs.
Georges St. Pierre: 170lbs.
Josh Koscheck: 169lbs.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada’s Bell Centre will play host to the UFC for UFC 124 where Canada’s favorite son, “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2) will face the ultimate heel in “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4) in a rematch for the UFC world welterweight title. Also making appearances on the card are heavyweights “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4) and “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0) in an internet hype fueled newcomer super fight, welterweight wrecking machines “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) and “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5), and lightweight submission experts “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (18-2) and Charles Oliveira (14-0). In a thrilling lightweight match-up, The Ultimate Fighter alums will see action against one another as “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10) squares off against TUF Season 6 winner Mac Danzig (19-8-1). Like so many fights in the UFC following the announcement of the UFC/WEC merger, this bout is a critical one for both Stevenson and Danzig.
The UFC makes its second trip to Montreal, Quebec’s Bell Centre on Saturday to deliver the Canadian fans a night of top notch fights from the UFC’s middle ranks. The card features talented UFC journeymen such as “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4), “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0), Mac Danzig (19-8-1) and “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5) as well as former title contenders “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) and “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10) and is headlined by the long awaited rematch between welterweight kingpin “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2) and “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4). A stellar lightweight match-up on the slate for Saturday evening is a battle between submission experts Charles Oliveira (14-0) and “Mongoose” Jim Miller (18-2). Both of these fighters have had their names mentioned as possible contenders for the UFC lightweight championship and a win here would validate their place in those discussions.
UFC 124 sees the world’s premier MMA organization return to Montreal, Quebec, Canada’s Bell Centre with a solid fight card that has been completely overshadowed by the main event between welterweight king and Canadian MMA deity figure “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2) and the man who told Canadians they sucked at everything, including hockey, the last time he visited our neighbors to the north – “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4). The sheer magnitude of the hype Josh Koscheck has built around this fight has caused fans to all but forget that the card also features excellent match-ups between old TUF favorites like “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10) and Mac Danzig (19-8-1) as well as UFC young bloods like “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4), “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0), Jim Miller (18-2), and Charles Oliveira (14-0). There is also a match with potentially dire consequences for the men involved that opens the night for the Pay-Per-View card – “Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) faces an almost certain termination from the UFC roster should he fail to defeat “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5) in their welterweight showdown. Howard is in a must-win situation of a different stripe. With a UFC record of 4-1, he faces little chance of being cut. However a loss at this juncture would almost certainly delay his entry into the upper levels of the welterweight division for a long time.
The time is finally here. Just last week, the UFC presented to its growing fan base The Ultimate Fighter live finale, which showcased some of the top organization’s freshest talent from Season 12 of the show as well as determined the newest “Ultimate Fighter”. And while it was a spectacular presentation, there was one thing missing – the long awaited grudge rematch between the always conflicting TUF 12 coaches, UFC Welterweight Champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2) and “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4).
This Saturday, MMA fans will finally see whether or not GSP was truly impenetrable against his opponent’s taunting and will make him pay for his attempts, or if Koscheck really can back up his smack-talking and take the welterweight belt from one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Here are MMA Gospel’s main card predictions:
This Saturday at UFC 124 the welterweight championship belt will be up for grabs again when “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2) faces off against Josh Koscheck (15-4). This match-up will be an attempt to extend a seven fight winning streak for 170lb. division king GSP which includes and would lengthen his current count of consecutive title defenses from four to five. Much of the The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 was marked by Koscheck attempting to get under GSP’s skin and GSP ignoring him completely. All of St. Pierre’s animosity for Koscheck has been channeled into his training, creating one of the most dangerous weapons on the planet – a motivated Georges St. Pierre.
Josh Koscheck (15-4) is not in the habit of making friends. Much of his career has been built on getting under the skin of his opponents outside of the Octagon. As coach on The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 he had no qualms about antagonizing anyone and everyone in his path. This Saturday at UFC 124 Josh Koscheck will get the opportunity to face his most frequent target of ire in the TUF house in UFC Welterweight Champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2). Their first meeting was marked by Koscheck getting beaten at his own game and being out-wrestled by the stronger St. Pierre. A cast member on the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter, “Kos” became known to the UFC fans as the resident smack-talking tough guy – who at the time focused most of his efforts on continuously heckling fellow castmate “The Crippler” Chris Leben (21-7) – and for being what many considered a one-dimensional fighter whose main focus was wrestling. The Pennsylvania native went to college on an athletic scholarship where he became an NCAA Div. I Champion as well as a four-time All-American collegiate wrestler. “Kos” also is a three-time recipient of the PSAC Wrestler of the Year Award and was honored with the Eastern Wrestling League Achievement Award twice. Since becoming a prominent member of the UFC’s 170lb. division Koscheck has worked diligently on expanding his skills beyond wrestling. Koscheck has gone 6-2 since his first match-up with GSP in August 2007, taking out premiere talent including Dustin Hazelett (15-6), “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (30-17-5), “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (8-3), and “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2), and has shown a vast improvement in his stand-up game. Koscheck has repeatedly mentioned that this will be his edge on Saturday night and his key to unseating the champ.
Hello, Icemigos. I hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant. I apologize for not enriching your life with a column last week but due to the holiday and the fact that nothing really happened in MMA, I decided to take a well-earned break. I trust that with the love and support of your family and friends and the knowledge that a new column would be coming your way via the magic of the interwebs, you were able to soldier on and get through that trying time. Well, rejoice, dear friends, because I’m back.