Fresh on the heels of acquiring rival promotion Strikeforce, the UFC surges onward toward the mission of becoming the end-all, be-all for professional mixed martial arts. The card for UFC 128 shouldn’t slow momentum one bit.
Here’s GASB’s analysis and picks for the main card, available on Pay Per View.
• Heavyweight bout (206-265 lbs): Mirko Cro Cop v. Brendan Schaub
Zuffa likes to start PPV events with extremely interesting match-ups and potentially explosive fights. Cro Cop v. Schaub fits that formula to a tee.
Cro Cop is a perennial favorite amongst veteran fight fans. His stunning KO’s and TKO’s in Pride won the hearts of hardcore MMA junkies the world over. We’re speaking of a man who knocked out Wanderlei Silva with a headkick of legend in both combatant’s prime.
Unfortunately, and as with many Pride stars that tried to integrate into UFC since, the results since Pride’s demise have been mixed at best.
One of the most shocking moments in MMA history occurred when Gabriel Gonzaga landed a flush headkick knockout (Cro Crop’s own signature move) in the first round of Cro Cop’s second UFC fight. That was followed by a loss to Cheick Congo, a handful of TKO’s over the division’s lower-tiered talent, and two losses at the hands of the heavyweight elite (Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir).
Brendan Schaub is very much from the newer school of MMA, in picking up the sport well after its mainstream breakthrough and acceptance. He came into the sport after a failed run at the NFL (peaking at a practice squad spot on the Buffalo Bills) and came into the UFC via a reality show.
The fact of the matter is that while he’s only been in the sport for just over three years, his overall athleticism has allowed him to excel and experience some early success.
The ceiling is still high, and his next run of fights will determine how far he will go.
GASB favors: Brendan Schaub, likely by unanimous decision. Obviously Cro Cop has one-kick, one-punch knockout potential and the fight could go the other way in the blink of an eye, but expect Schaub to employ a similar gameplan to his last fight (coincidentally a decision victory over Gonzaga).
• Middleweight bout (185 lbs): Nate Marquardt v. Dan Miller
Here we have yet another fight wherein the fighters are essentially a mixed bag of inconsistent wins and losses against the broad talent spectrum that is the UFC’s middleweight division.
Accordingly, it should produce an almost equally unpredictable result.
Nate Marquardt comes in with extremely impressive striking-based stoppages versus Martin Kampmann and then a Brazilian hat trick comprised of Wilson Gouveia, Demian Maia, and Rousimar Palhares. But he’s also gotten snagged in decision losses to Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami, effectively thwarting his second run at Anderson Silva’s title belt.
Dan Miller was absolutely on fire until he hit a three-tiered brick wall of some of the middleweight division’s best in Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, and Michael Bisping.
In literally a year and six days, he went from being one of the hottest prospects in the division to, at best, the jury still being out. Since that string of losses, he sunk a nice guillotine in on Joe Salter at UFC 118 and fought well enough to split the vote in his favor over Joe Doerksen at 124. It’s difficult to know what kind of fighter we can expect to see when Miller enters the cage this weekend.
GASB favors: Nate Marquardt, like by a strike stoppage. It’s been a frustrating couple of years for both men and Marquardt will be blowing off steam at Miller’s expense.
• Lightweight bout (155 lbs): Jim Miller v. Kamal Shalorus
GASB absolutely loves this matchup and is arguably more excited about this fight than the main event — which is to say quite a lot.
Jim Miller (yes, the younger brother of Dan) has a had a fantastic MMA career and comes in with what GASB would consider a far more sound background amongst the “modern” crop of fighters 29 and under. Whereas a fighter like Brandan Schaub burst onto the scene after a very short period of training and acclimation, Miller has a much farther reaching background in the neo-classical sense of “must-haves” necessary to consistently excel in the modern game (namely wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu).
Miller wrestled Division I at Virginia Tech and is a black belt in BJJ under Jamie Cruz. Accordingly, aside from an early career loss versus current UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and losing a decision to Gray Maynard at ‘The Bully’s’ prime, Miller has handled business against very serious competition.
In GASB’s opinion, there has not been a more formidable opponent in all of Miller’s career than Kamal Shalorus. The casual fight fan might make the mistake of looking at this matchup as a successful UFC vet facing a promising challenger making his UFC debut.
Please, don’t be “that guy.”
Kamal Shalorus is an absolute assassin. With Kamal, you’re looking at world-class wrestling abilities and results from tournaments all across the globe from a man that currently grapples with Randy Couture stateside. You’re getting a fighter who trains his BJJ under Reslon Gracie, Daniel Morales, and Phil Cardella. If the preceding information has opponents thinking “defend the takedown,” Kamal is well aware and will often capitalize with lightning-fast boxing that can render a TKO in mere seconds.
GASB favors: Kamal Shalorus, likely by rear naked choke. WEC fans know what they’re getting in Kamal Shalorus. This Saturday, under the biggest spotlight of his career, he will show the rest of the world what’s in store for the lightweight division in the coming years.
• Bantamweight bout (135 lbs): Urijah Faber v. Eddie Wineland
This fight should serve its purpose of effectively introducing and integrating the lighter weight classes of WEC into the UFC.
While Urijah’s body might be giving him diminishing returns at this point, he still possesses a high level of athleticism, talent, and excitement across his game. The lighter weight class seemed to suit him well in his last fight versus Takeya Mizugaki and reports out of Team Alpha Male’s camp have him looking better than ever.
GASB has confidence that the former icon that essentially defined WEC for many years will rise to the occasion and truly show that the bantamweight division can and will be a tremendous addition to the promotion at large.
Eddie Wineland is the perfect guy to go toe-to-toe with Urijah at this point. His last two WEC fights were absolutely explosive (check out his slam on Ken Stone and TKO v. Will Campuzano to get a sense of the momentum he’s coming in on). Urijah is known for his trademark high-energy, relentless overall attack. Wineland is an excellent counter-striker and should be able to read and anticipate a lot of what Urijah hurls at him.
It will be a wonderful dynamic to keep your eye on throughout the fight.
GASB favors: Urijah Faber, likely by rear naked choke. Unless Wineland simply catches Urijah in the middle of a Faber-flurry, Urijah should be able to force the one mistake that will get Wineland to give up his back.
• MAIN EVENT: Light Heavyweight Championship bout (205 lbs): Maurício “Shogun” Rua v. Jon “Bones” Jones
Praise be to Allah (or whatever pygmy deity you worship out there – props to Chael Sonnen) for putting Rashad “Suga” Evans down and praise be to Joe Silva for giving us Jon Jones in his place.
Fight fans everywhere have been high on Jon Jones from the onset. His unorthodox, lightning fast striking has humbled everyone in its path. It’s like watching the nature channel when a pride of lions need to feast.
Jones was handed his title shot within seconds upon defeating his toughest challenge to date in Ryan Bader. In what was supposed to be the unstoppable force versus the immovable object, the unstoppable force barely broke a sweat. Jones absolutely dominated Bader for the duration of round one before sinking in a guillotine for the win and “Submission of the Night” honors.
Unquestionably, nobody’s star, nobody’s potential right now can eclipse the hype train that is Jon Jones.
Standing across the cage will be a true MMA champion and warrior in the form of Maurício “Shogun” Rua. The man is a legend and he walks to the ring holding the scalps of some of the greatest fighters MMA has ever produced. Consider for a moment how completely insane it is that one man was able to convincingly dismantle Alistair Overeem (twice!), Rampage Jackson, Big Nog, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, and Lyoto Machida.
Rua did in all of them (and several others) before the age of 30.
Essentially, the hype train that’s backing Jones and the fighter himself need to heed the history and the top level well-roundedness of Rua’s game. At the same time, the old guard of Pride freaks and team Rua all need to understand that he’s going up against a fighter that possesses a unique and freakishly unorthodox skill-set the likes nobody has ever seen.
GASB favors: Jon Jones, likely by knockout. The meteoric rise of this young fighter is approaching (prime) Tyson-esque excitement and critical mass. After the sheer dominance over Bader, the sky is absolutely the limit on where Jonny Bones goes from here forward.
– Brent Eyestone