UFC 98: PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS
The weather’s warmer, that General Public song "Tenderness" has been stuck in my head all day, and douchebags are running around in t-shirts sporting the same tragically shitty designs they eventually end up getting permanently inked onto their bodies. It can only mean one thing…it’s a FIGHT WEEKEND!
UFC 98 – EVANS v. MACHIDA
Rashad Evans (205) vs. Lyoto Machida (204) – UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
* This is quite possibly the most evenly matched Title fight of any weight class in the past year or so. Both are young, on the rise, and go into the fight undefeated. Machida has been impressive in his UFC performances thus far with unbelievable technical prowess and evasive maneuvering, but Evans is on a completely different level than any other opponent Machida has faced as a Light Heavyweight and he’s far too smart of a fighter to blindly jump into Machida’s traps. And while some people would label Machida’s obsession with "not being hit" a sound strategy, I see it more as a worrisome proposition for somebody who, you know, fights for a living.
PREDICTION: Rashad Evans (TKO, 3rd Round)
Matt Hughes (170) vs. Matt Serra (171)
* Long story short for those who are wondering why two guys who got destroyed by Georges St. Pierre are being billed as the co-main event of the evening: in Season 3 of "The Ultimate Fighter," Matt Hughes was one of the coaches and acted like a 12-year-old d-bag. The next season, Matt Serra competed on the same show (the theme was "The Comeback") and Matt Hughes came on as a guest coach. After practice, Hughes heckled fellow coach (and rival) Georges St. Pierre from across the room at a dinner outing and accused him of being afraid to roll with him, adding "I can show you how to do an armbar," a reference to GSP’s loss to Hughes over two years prior. Matt Serra took offense to Hughes’ behavior, calling him a "stuck-up dumb farmboy jock" along with various other accurate observations of Hughes’ d-baggery. A short time later, Matt Hughes fought GSP and was soundly defeated. Then Serra beat GSP in a shocking upset and was named a head coach on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter"…opposite Matt Hughes. The animosity built further and was to culminate in a fight upon the season’s conclusion, but a herniated disc forced Serra to pull out. GSP happily stepped in as a replacement and made it clear to everyone that Hughes owed him money, or at least that’s what it looked like based on the ass-whooping he administered. GSP would also go on to win the Welterweight Title from Serra in a re-unification match. A year passed, Serra’s back improved, and the fight against Hughes (and the accompanying war of words) was back on.
…well, okay, that wasn’t so much a "long story short" as a "long story now not QUITE as long." I guess the real Short Story is that Hughes is a cornball bully from Iowa, Serra is an outspoken loudmouth from Long Island, and both are already established to no longer be in the league of the current Welterweight Champion. In other words, this isn’t about rankings, it’s about bile.
For that reason, this is the one fight I’ve been anticipating more than any other the UFC has put on of late. The Spock in me says that Hughes is going to smother Serra en route to a Decision win, but my Kirk says Serra is going to take out Hughes with an overhand right and literally do a cartwheel in the middle of the Octagon. To decide the most likely outcome, my friend Ryan and I re-enacted this fight in the "UFC: Undisputed" video game with him playing as Hughes and me playing as Serra. Therefore….
PREDICTION: Matt Serra (KO from Random Elbow; 1st Round)
Dan Miller (185) vs. Chael Sonnen (186)
* Sonnen was one of several fighters moved up from the WEC after they folded their heavier weight classes and re-named themselves "Jim Henson’s UFC Babies." Okay, that last part isn’t true, they’re still going by "WEC" and they’re still putting on amazing live cards for free on Versus featuring Featherweights and Bantamweights like Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres. But while other WEC fighters have struggled in the UFC, you can hardly blame Sonnen for not faring well in his UFC debut. After all, he went from fighting lower-level and overrated fighters suffering through bouts of depression to having to face the seemingly unstoppable Demian Maia. His job doesn’t get any easier on Saturday as he takes on former IFL Middleweight champion Dan Miller, who holds an impressive 11-1 record and is thus far undefeated in his four UFC fights. Poor Chael.
PREDICTION: Dan Miller (Guillotine, 2nd Round)
Sean Sherk (156) vs. Frankie Edgar (155)
* This is a potentially interesting – and undeniably pivotal – fight for both men. Sherk is still trying to shake off the after-effects of a steroid scandal that resulted in his being stripped of the UFC Lightweight Title and a subsequent embarrassing loss to then-interim champion BJ Penn. The only thing worse than Sean Sherk’s career path over the past 18 months is his nickname (what the fuck is a Muscle Shark?).
The once unstoppable Sherk is coming off a hard-fought victory in October over Top 10 (in the UFC anyway) Lightweight Tyson Griffin and looks to further his resurgence against Frankie Edgar. Edgar, who before his upset loss to Gray Maynard I had pegged as the future of the division, wants to prove that the early hype behind him wasn’t unwarranted and that, indeed, his nickname of "The Answer" is better than "Muscle Shark" because it at least makes some f#$@ing sense.
MUSCLE SHARK?! SERIOUSLY?!
Based on pure reputation, the smart money’s on Sherk. But I’m not convinced that the sport, and especially the UFC Lightweight division, hasn’t passed him by.
PREDICTION: Frankie Edgar (Unanimous Decision)
Drew McFedries (185) vs. Xavier Foupa-Pokam (186)
* LOSER LEAVES TOWN! See, the UFC has this unwritten rule that states, in no uncertain terms, that if you lose three fights you get shown the door. McFedries is coming off consecutive losses. Which really shouldn’t surprise anyone: you can’t be successful in a sport like MMA with a name like "Drew."
PREDICTION: Xavier Foupa-Pokam (
Pink Slip Submission, 3rd Round)
Brock Larson (171) vs. Mike Pyle (171)
* Brock Larson is one of those guys that people have been talking up for years, and yet for some reason he always has the reputation of "being on the rebound" despite never really having gone anywhere and only losing two fights in his seven-year career (to Carlos Condit in 2007 and Jon Fitch in 2005). I’m not saying Pyle is a total chump who doesn’t deserve to be on the televised card, but…okay, the dude’s kind of a chump and I’m a bit confused as to why he’s on the PPV proper. The bigger gripe, though, is that this isn’t a fight that does anything for Larson either way or move him up the ladder in the Welterweight division any quicker. I understand that he’s new to the UFC and matchmaker Joe Silva wants to showcase his propensity for quick and decisive early victories, but Larson’s thirty-two years old. H’es certainly not elderly, but he’s not exactly a spring chicken either.
PREDICTION: Brock Larson (TKO, 1st Round).
UNDERCARD FIGHTS FEATURING SCHLUBS THAT WILL ONLY BE SHOWN ON PAY-PER-VIEW
IF THEY END IN A KNOCKOUT AND THE TELEVISED FIGHTS END EARLY
Tim Hague (263) vs. Patrick Barry (237)
Phillipe Nover (156) vs. Kyle Bradley (156)
Should be an exciting night, kids!