Breaking Down the UFC Welterweight Division

The Champion: Georges St. Pierre

The Top Contender:  B.J. Penn & Thiago Alves

The Next Tier:

·         Jon Fitch

·         Josh Koscheck

·         Diego Sanchez

·         Karo Parisyan

·         Martin Kampmann

·         Mike Swick

·         Matt Hughes

·         Matt Serra

 

On the Rise: 

·         Yoshiyuki Yoshida

·         Dong Hyun Kim

·         Dan Hardy

·         Dustin Hazelett

 

Other Notables:

·         Marcus Davis

·         Chris Lytle

·         Yoshiyuki Yoshida

·         Chris Wilson

·         Dustin Hazelett

·         Ryo Chonan

·         Dong Hyun Kim

·         Akihiro Gono

·         Luigi Fiorvanti

·         Dan Hardy

·         Jonathan Goulet

·         Tamdan McCrory

·         Kevin Burns

·         Anthony Johnson

·         Rory Markham

·         Paul Taylor

·         Roan Carneiro

·         Brad Blackburn

·         Pete Sell

 

Scheduled Fights:

·         Josh Koscheck vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Mike Swick vs. Jonathan Goulet at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Luigi Fiorvanti vs. Brodie Farber at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Ben Saunders vs. Brandon Wolff at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Steven Bruno vs. Johnny Rees at UFC Fight Night 16 on December 10

·         Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns at TUF 8 Finale on December 13

·         Brad Blackburn vs. Ryo Chonan at UFC 92 on December 27

·         Marcus Davis vs. Chris Lytle at UFC 93 on January 17

·         B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 on January 31 (For Title)

·         Jon Fitch vs. Akihiro Gono at UFC 94 on January 31

·         Karo Parisyan vs. Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 94 on January 31

·         Matt Arroyo vs. Dan Cramer at UFC 94 on January 31

·         Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra April 2009

 

Match Ups I’d Like to See:

·         Dustin Hazelett vs. Chris Wilson

·         Martin Kampmann vs. Pete Sell

·         Thiago Alves vs. Georges St. Pierre/B.J. Penn

 

Other Thoughts:

·         When people talk about staked divisions they think of the UFC welterweight division.  The best welterweights are here.  There may be a handful of decent welterweights outside the UFC including Jake Shields, WEC’s Carlos Condit, Hayato Sakurai, Jay Hieron and Nick Thompson.

·         Jake Shields will likely land in the UFC.  That is what he wants and where he wants to be.  There are a lot of potential match ups here for him.

·         Thiago Alves will get a title shot in 2009 against the winner of Penn vs. St. Pierre.

·         Martin Kampmann signed a new contract and should fight at 170

·         B.J. Penn very well could become a fixture at 170 as he could vacate his lightweight title win or lose against St. Pierre.

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Poll Questions In Wake of UFC 89

Cast your vote on several questions that arose from UFC 89…

My UFC 89 Predictions

Some of these are very tough picks.  This is a solid card, which is by far better than UFC 90.  I will probably stink up my picks because there are some tough fights here.  From top to bottom this is a good card.  Maybe not the big names that pay per view cards often carry, but to the serious MMA fan even fights on this undercard are appealing.

Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben

I think Bisping is a serious contender at 185 lbs.  He has looked impressive, but he has not fought anyone of Chris Leben’s calibur yet at 185.  He handily beat Jason Day and Charles McCarthy, but Leben is better than those guys.  Leben can strike and he has an iron chin.  I think when it comes down to it we will see that the difference is Bisping’s conditioning and his ability to take Leben down and work some ground and pound.  If Bisping tries to exchange with Leben it could be goodnight “Count”.  However, Bisping is hailed the best UK fighter, and is likely the TUF 8 coach.  I look for Bisping to win by ref stoppage in round 3. 

Brandon Vera vs. Keith Jardine

This is a very tough fight to pick and here is why.  Brandon Vera made the drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight, which I think is a good move.  He debuted at 205 and looked less than impressive ina  win over Reese Andy.  I do not know if Vera is struggling as a fighter right now or if the weight cut got to him that fight.  I would expect a much better Vera Saturday.  Jardine is a tough guy to figure.  He has at times looked like a top contender.  He has beaten Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin.  However, he got beat handily and quickly by Wanderlei Silva and Houston Alexander.  So is Jardine a top 5 fighter?  Or is he a “gatekeeper”?  My pick for this fight is not concrete, and I would not be shocked for it to go either way, however, I pick Brandon “The Truth” Vera by unanimous decision.  It would be great for Vera’s career if he finished quickly and in exciting fashion like the Vera of old. 

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Luiz Arthur Cane

Argghhh.  Another hard fight.  For the same reasons as above.  How good is Sokoudjou?  He has impressive KO wins over Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, which put him on the MMA map.  He then lost in his UFC debut to Lyoto Machida.  There is no shame in that, Machida is a top guy.  Then he came and dismantled Nakamura, who was unable to answer the bell after round 1.  This fight will show how good Sokoudjou is.  Many people may look over this fight, but this may be the best match up on the card.  A lot of people do not know who Luiz Cane is, but he is a phenomenal striker.  He devestated Jason Lambert.  Anyways, I will go with Sokoudjou by 2nd round KO. 

Marcus Davis vs. Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly is tough. He has an iron chin, great wrestling and good ground and pound skills.  He isn’t afraid to trade blows either as he showed against Paul Taylor.  I think when it comes down to it Marcus Davis is way more experienced.  That will be the difference.  I pick Davis by late first round submission.

Shane Carwin vs. Neil Wain

Quite honestly, I know very little about Neil Wain.  However, I do know that Shane Carwin is one of the top heavyweight prospects.  I do know he has knockout power.  I do know that he reportedly has some of the best ground and pound skills.  I think we will see it on display.  I pick Carwin by ref stoppage in round 1.

Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono

Dan Hardy is the British newcomer who is highly touted by many.  He will make his debut against a tough Akihiro Gono.  I have no idea how to predict this fight.  Hardy is touted, but looking at his record, I don’t know what there is to tout.  Gono has tons of experience, but he too has struggled at times.  I believe that home octagon advantage could play a factor and help Hardy who will be a sure crowd favorite.  The winner of this fight will be thrust right into the top ten of the stacked welterweight divison.  I think that Gono wins a tough decision victory.

David Baron vs. Jim Miller

I don’t like this match up.  These are two good signings being placed opposite one another in their debuts.  I wouldn’t mind the fight, but I’d like to see both guys have a chance to win one first.  Only one will win.  David Baron gained fame with his win over Hayato “Mach” Sakurai.  He also boasts wins over Dan Hardy and another UFC recent signee in Abdul Mohammed.  Jim Miller is a former IFL fighter, whose lone career loss came to Frank Edgar.  This should be a tough match between two well rounded fighters.  In the end I think David Baron will win by decision.

Chris Lytle vs. Paul Taylor

Both these guys are tough as nails.  Paul Taylor may be under the radar.  He has a 2-2 record in the UFC, but that is deceiving.  His losses came to Paul Kelly and Marcus Davis.  He was very competitive in both fights, in fact Davis’ submission was seen as a come from behind victory.  Chris Lytle is a very tough dude.  I honestly do not know if he will be able to handle Paul Taylor’s pace.  Both guys like to stand and strike.  Chris Lytle’s nickname is “lights out”.  Lytle has fought some top names in the game such as Koscheck, Alves, Hughes, Serra, Parisyan, Lawler, Nick Diaz, Shonie Carter, and Joe Riggs.  The problem is he has lost to all those dudes.  The point is this, Lytle is a good fighter, but he is not a great fighter.  Don’t get mad at me, that is what his record says.  He has not beaten a top notch fighter except an early win in his career over Kazuo Misaki.  He has some solid wins over guys like Matt Brown, Savant Young, Pat Healy, Tiki Ghosn and Pete Spratt, but those guys are not top guys.  The question as I pick this fight is which group Paul Taylor fits into.  I think Taylor is good and could win this, but Chris Lytle is the prototypical UFC gatekeeper, the top guys beat him and the second tier guys don’t.  I think Taylor has a future in the UFC still, but I think this fight ends with a Lytle KO is round 2.

Jess Liaudin vs. David Bielkheden

Poor David Bielkheden.  He made his UFC debut against a Diego Sanchez with something to prove and he could beat up at UFC 82. Now he drops to lightweight against another welterweight who has dropped to lightweight.  I think it could be an exciting match as the loser may be out of the UFC.  I think that Liaudin will pull out a win here in a unaimous decision. 

Terry Etim vs. Sam Stout

Terry Etim was very hyped coming into the UFC.  He hasn’t lived up to it at all.  He won his debut, but scored losses to Gleison Tibau and Rich Clementi following.  Sam Stout is tough as his fights with Spencer Fisher indicate.  I would not be surprised if he wins this fight that we see the rubber match of those fights.  Terry Etim has great submissions.  If he losses he is out of the UFC.  I suspect Etim will win by submission, even though it does not seem that Stout is very suseptable to submissions.  Etim by submission, round 1.  If it stands though Stout wins. 

Per Eklund vs. Samy Schiavo

This could be a good fight.  Schiavo may be underrated.  He lost to Clay Guida badly, but Schiavo has excellent strikes and solid submissions.  I think Schiavo will be too much for Eklund and will finish the fight by TKO in round 2.

UFC News: Marcus Davis vs. Paul Kelly at UFC 89

A welterweight match between Marcus Davis and Paul Kelly is in the works.  UFC 89 will take place in England and Davis is a popular guy to bring in on UK cards.  He calls himself the “Irish Hand Grenade” even though he is not Irish.  Usually you can count on Davis to appear on UFC UK cards.  Marcus had a very impressive 2007, but is now coming off of a loss to Mike Swick at UFC 85.  Davis is looking to climb back into contention against Kelly.  MMAJunkie reported that Davis was hurt in his fight against Swick, but refused to back out last second…

Three weeks before the Swick fight, I had torn the connective tissue between my triceps and my rear [deltoid],” Davis said. “I had Cortisone shots for that. Two days before the Swick fight, I couldn’t move my arm. So, the UFC was cool enough to send me to an orthopedic doctor in the U.K., and they did an ultrasound on my arm. I had an impingement in the front bursa sac that was like 100 times the size it was supposed to be, and then still that tear in the rear connective tissue. [The doctor] did a guided needle with the ultrasound into the bursa, and drained the bursa. And that lasted for about three-and-a-half hours, and then I couldn’t move my arm again.

“The day of the weigh-ins, [the UFC] excused me early. After I weighed in, they let me leave and brought me back [to the doctor] and checked me out. It had swollen right back up again because the needle had aggravated it.”

Davis said the UFC asked if he wanted to withdraw from the bout with Swick.

“When we were [at the doctor], there’s me, the doctor, (UFC president) Dana White and (UFC owner) Lorenzo Fertitta,” Davis said. “And the doctor says, ‘I’m worried. I don’t think you should fight because you’re not going to be able to protect yourself.’

“Dana White looked at me and he said, ‘What do you want to do? What are you going to do?’

“I said, ‘I just flew 3,000 freaking miles to get in a fight. I’m fighting tomorrow night, regardless.'” Davis said he suffered the injury during overly intensive weightlifting sessions. The 34-year-old also said it was a mistake he will not make again. “I got it into my head that I needed to be this big, strong, powerful guy,” Davis said. “I went a little too heavy with that weightlifting. I went a little crazy with it. That was my mistake, and that’s how I got that injury. I was throwing up ridiculous amounts of weight and ended up just hurting myself. I’m not going to make that mistake that time with this fight.

 Kelly is also an impressive up and coming welterweight and this should be an interesting fight.  You would assume Kelly would be an underdog in this fight, but it will be a war.

UFC Cutting Fighters

What is taking place?  Who has been cut?  Why have they been cut?  Who should be cut?  Wh shouldn’t be cut? What fighters are on the chopping block? 

The UFC had over 200 fighters under contract.  Just recently the UFC has decided to start cutting fighters to allow the better fighters to fight more often.  In the recent weeks the UFC has cut Jake O’Brien, David Heath, Din Thomas, Kalib Starnes, Travis Lutter, John Halverson, Soa Palelei, Tommy Speer, and Kuniyoshi Hironaka.  They allowed Cro Cop and Tim Sylvia out of their contracts and have not yet re-signed Arlovski.  They are about to loose Tito Ortiz.  The goal of the UFC brass is to get down to the 150-160 range of contracted fighters.  This means there are more cuts to come.  Many fights on upcoming cards are do or die fights.  Let me sound my opinion…

  • I understand what the UFC is trying to do, and I too want to see the best fight more often
  • The options are either to have more events with more fights on the fight cards or release some fighters
  • If the UFC has 200 fighters under contracts and hold 18 fight events annually with 10 fights per card that means there will be 180 fights, with 360 fighters in action annually.  That means some fighters will only fight once per year.  That doesn’t cut it.  They need 3-4 fights a year to susatain their career.

With that in mind…

  • I don’t agree with all the cuts that have been made.  For example, Jake O’Brien was undefeated in the UFC, then he looses to Arlovski and he is cut.  He was a top 10-15 UFC heavyweight.  The heavyweight divison is hurting bad now.  That is the worst move of all.  Hironaka just won fight of the night in a loss to Goulet and he was cut.  Din Thomas was a top 15 lightweight and he was cut.  I think Tommy Speer deserved one more chance to prove himself. 
  • I understand cutting Starnes and kind of understand cutting Lutter and Doerksen. 
  • I don’t understand why Dana White will let Sylvia and Cro Cop out of their contacts, but won’t let Couture
  • There are some fighters would could be cut and the UFC will not miss them

Who is in danger?

The bottom line is the next few UFC events for many guys will be do or die.  This will make for some exciting fights as no one wants to be fired, but it cannot be a constant issue as we do not want fighters to look over their shoulders because they are bound to lose eventually. So who is in danger?

UFC 84

  • Christian Wellisch
  • Jason Tan
  • Dong Hyun Kim
  • Jon Koppenhaver
  • Yoshiyuki Yoshida
  • Rousimar Palhares
  • Ivan Salaverry
  • Kazuhiro Nakamura
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Antonio Mendes

UFC 85

  • Jess Liaudin
  • Paul Taylor
  • Paul Kelly
  • Roan Carneiro
  • Jason Lambert

TUF 7 Finale

  • Jeremy Horn
  • Drew McFedries
  • Dustin Hazelett
  • Evan Tanner
  • Kendall Grove

Nearly half those guys will be cut

What standard should be used to decide to gets cut.  The problem is some guys are going to lose, should they be cut for one loss?  Here would be my standard…

  • Exciting fighter.  This earned Koppenhaver and Rollins a chance and may give them one more fight.  You can lose well.  The UFC wants exciting fighters.  The lack of excitment got Starnes cut.  Dana has always said he would reward exciting fights.  This could keep a guy like Terry Etim or Paul Taylor around even if they loose.  I would can boring fighters who refuse to engage.
  • Popular fighter.  I would not cut a more popular fighter because they could be a draw.  They need to look at the fan base before cutting.  That could save a guy like Kendall Grove or Jeremy Horn.
  • Ranked fighter.  I would not cut a top 20 fighter in the world.  That should save Sokodjou and Nakamura. 
  • Experienced figher.  You give the MMA vets an extra shot.  That again would spare Jeremy Horn even with a loss
  • Classy Figher.  MMA needs good ambassadors.  I would keep around classy guys and emphasize character if I was looking to sign people.  That has worked in other sports.  Many teams won’t trade for, sign or draft a troubled athelete even if they are talented because they are a liability.  MMA needs to target young people and if they want credibility they need to have class act guys in a controversial sport.  Punk fighters should be booted before classy guys. 
  • Potential fighter.  Shane Carwin is highly touted it he loses he needs to stay.  Brock Lesnar was in the same boat as was Velasquez.  If they are highly touted you give them a chance and let them prove themselves. 
  • Not All Losses Are Equal.  You cannot fault a guy for fighting good competition.  Imagine if Sokoudjou losses to Nakamura, there is chatter that he would be cut.  He would have lost to two quality guys in Machida and Nakamura.  I don’t expect him to lose, but he is universally ranked in the top ten in the world.  Dan Henderson has lost 2 in a row in the UFC.  Some say Wanderlai could even be in trouble, but you cannot can him for losses to Liddell and Jardine.  My opinion you keep some guys no matter what.  If Henderson fights Rich Franklin next he could easily lose that making him 0-3 in the UFC.  My tohughts would be give him a second tier guy to prove he is worth it.  If he loses then cut him, the same with Wanderlai and Sokodjou.  They did that with Cro Cop. 
  • Adequate opportunity.  I think if the UFC signs someone and gives them a fight you give them a chance to win.  Guys like Carwin, Wain, Palhares, Carneiro may lose their first fight.  Give them one more chance.  You want to develop talent and not ruin it.
  • Winability.  Like my new word?  It means do they have the skills to win?  I think UFC fighters need to be able to have a winning record.  There is no need for guys that will just get beat

The bottom line is cuts need to be made, but only cut those who have no heart and cannot compete at that level.  That is why using the Zuffa owned WEC as a farm system is a great idea.  Send the guys that need to improve down to WEC and bring the best of the WEC into the big leagues.

 

MY UFC 80 Predictions

Colin Robinson vs. Antoni Hardonk

Hardonk lost to a uninspired Frank Mir and Justin McCully.  Robinson has been fighting very well of late.  These two are virtually the same size, but I look for Robinson to pull out a win, possibly by decision.

Jorge Rivera vs. Kendall Grove

The question is was Grove’s loss to Cote a fluke or is Cote a better fighter? Grove has beaten some good fighters in the UFC and I think he is better than he showed against Cote.  Rivera has been around for a while.  I suppose the size will be a factor, especailly if it stays standing.  I pick Kendall grove by TKO or Ref stoppage in round 1.

Marcus Davis vs. Jess Liaudin

Perhaps Davis is the fighter who has been fighting the best in the UFC.  Liaudin is not a push over, but his record is unimpressive.  I look for Davis to continue to climb up the welterweight rankings and right into that top tier of fighters.  A win here is a must in order to do that.  I pick Marcus Davis by sumission.

Paul Kelly vs. Paul Taylor

I will pick Paul Taylor simpyl because of how well he fought Marcus Davis.  I predict him to win by submission. 

James Lee vs. Alessio Sakara

I just think Alessio Sakara was beaten too bad by Houston Alexander to win.  He has lost numerous fights.  I just expect the unknown James Lee to pull out a win, unless they are just handing him to Sakara to make him feel better.

Jason Lambert vs. Wilson Gouveia

Experience goes to Lambert and size goes to Gouveia.  Lambert has a lot of quality wins (Terry Martin, Rob MacDonald, Babalu, and Marvin Eastman.  He lost to Rashad Evans, which is a tough opponent.  I think in the end Wilson Gouveia will win by ref stoppage in round 3. 

Sam Stout vs. Per Eklund

I know nothing of Per Eklund.  I looked up his fights and I know nothing of anyone he has fought.  He appears to have a submissions game, which could be bad for Stout, but Sam Stout has more heart than most people.  I am basing this on the Spencer Fisher fight basically.  This could be one I am dead wrong on.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Fabricio Werdum

Gonzaga got beat down by Randy Couture, but he is still a top notch heavyweight.  That kick to Cro Cop still hurts to watch.  He had some devestating kicks to Randy.  He has a ground game, he is big, he is strong.  Werdum coudl catch him, but I look for Gonzaga to win by TKO in round 2.

Joe Stevenson vs. B.J. Penn

What to expect in MMA in ’08

  • I expect to see new title holders in every division but one and that is the middleweight.  All though Anderson could be challenged by Dan Henderson.  My picks for the title holders: Nogueira, Not sure about lightheavyweight, Anderson Silva, St. Pierre, and B.J. Penn.
  • I expect to see a few more fighters signed to UFC contracts.  Highlighting the list: Matt Lindland, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and some other big name surprise
  • I expect TUF to be a disappointment with Rampage Jackson getting a lot of camera time saying his crazy off the wall things
  • I expect the middleweight division to get tougher
  • I expect a few UFC stars to retire (Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin)
  • I expect Sean Sherk to get another title shot, but B.J. Penn to beat him badly
  • I expect the light heavyweight division to get crazier with guys like Machdia, Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, and Shogun in the title mix.
  • I expect Chuck Liddell to avenge his loss to Keith Jardine by summer
  • I expect that Shogun is still only one fight away from a title shot, I think that my top ten in the lightheavyweight at the top ten at light heavyweight, perhaps not in that order.
  • I expect Dan Henderson to try Anderson Silva like he hasn’t been tried in a while
  • I expect Jon Fitch, Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, Roger Huerta, Matt Lindland, and either Arlovski or Cro Cop to get a title shot. 
  • I expect the former PRIDE guys to turn it around in the octagon
  • I expect another solid fight from Wanderlai Silva, can you say rematch?
  • I expect the Fedor vs. Randy fight to happen
  • I expect other organizations to become more of a competition to the UFC
  • I expect Dana White to say many more expletives on national television
  • I expect TUF alums to suceed this year even more
  • I expect Diego Sanchez to drop to lightweight
  • I expect Brock Lesnar to be a middle of the road fighter
  • I expect Brandon Vera to drop to lightheavyweight
  • I expect Bisping to cry when he gets beat in middleweight
  • I expect Tito to loose in the Apprentice