UFC 102 is slated for this Saturday evening, August 29, from the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, and will air live on pay-per-view.
While promoters went with the “Couture vs. Nogueira” theme as the event title, it very well could have been named “U.S. vs. Brazil” as three of the main card bouts pit dangerous Brazilians against some of America’s finest, with two additional bouts on the undercard also fitting the bill.
Outside of the previously noted main event, UFC 102 will feature intriguing showdowns between the likes of Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia, Keith Jardine and Thiago Silva, and many more.
Come along as I throw my two cents in on some of the factors to keep an eye on heading into this card, and give my predictions on the bout outcomes.
RANDY COUTURE VS. ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA
I feel like this fight would have been better served a few years ago, but things don’t play out the way they should in this fight game. With that being said, the main event between Couture and Nogueira is absolutely deserving of its headline status due to the fact that neither man are known for being anything less than crowd-pleasing throughout their many years in the sport.
Nogueira has one obvious key to victory in this fight, the submission. While the submission may be the key to victory for Nogueira, don’t think for a second that the canvas is his turf. Couture has just a good of a chance stopping the fight on the mat as Nogueira does, if not better. Couture could very well mash Big Nog up with elbows from the top position and force an early stoppage. Just one possible avenue to victory for the multi-weight class UFC champion. If Nogueira’s been studying the tapes of Randy getting tapped in bouts with Valentijn Overeem and Enson Inoue, he had better check the date on those tapes because Couture hasn’t been submitted in close to a decade. Of course there are those that would contend that Captain America has never been up against a submission artist as dangerous as Nogueira… and they’re right. I just think the sport has evolved past the point when Nogueira was slapping triangles on everyone in PRIDE. His riddle has been solved.
If the fight goes to the ground, expect for Couture to take the Fedor Emelianenko approach to ground and pounding the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Leaving him no room to breathe and overwhelming him with shots designed to cause serious damage. While knocking Nogueira out on the canvas is not the most likely outcome, the allowance of elbows makes a cut stoppage very likely in this bout.
Ideally Couture would prefer to have this fight standing. Nogueira was dropped with punches in the Mir fight he would have laughed at in the past, and something must be said abut that. It’s in my personal opinion that the many wars Antonio has waged throughout his historic career have finally caught up with him. Not that he’s done being competitive, but in my opinion, he’s done being competitive in the upper levels of the UFC. We’ll see Saturday night.
Winner: Couture via TKO (possibly on cuts)
KEITH JARDINE VS. THIAGO SILVA
I don’t think it would come as too much of a shock to people if Silva tries to jump on Jardine really early in this one. He’s shown an ability to get caught cold in the past, and Thiago would be foolish not to test the waters with Jardine almost immediately. Once you let a guy like Jardine get in a groove, he can be extremely difficult to beat. Just ask Chuck Lidell, Brandon Vera and Quinton Jackson. Sure, Rampage was awarded with the unanimous decision, but Jardine made it anything but an easy road for the former UFC champ, demonstrating he has the tools to make any fighters night a long one under the right circumstances.
Regardless, this fight will be fun while it lasts. Silva’s tenacious style will not allow Jardine to get comfortable, and it should end up making this fight. Depending on how Marquardt vs. Maia pans out, we could very well have a fight of the night on our hands in this one.
If it ends in the first, Silva wins by TKO, if it goes to the second, it’s all Jardine.
Winner: Jardine via TKO
CHRIS LEBEN VS. JAKE ROSHOLT
Both of these fighters have huge question marks over their heads going into this fight. For Leben, outside of whether or not his urinalysis will come back clean this time around, he has to prove that he truly belongs in the UFC. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve long been a fan of Leben and his never say die attitude in the cage, but recent losses to Kalib Starnes and Michael Bisping have left the Hawaii resident with something to prove in the Octagon. Namely, that he belongs, and if he can’t get past Rosholt, there’s no reason to think that he does.
Rosholt’s in the same boat as Leben, just under far different circumstances. While not nearly as established in the Octagon, Rosholt desperately needs to prove he’s where he belongs following a first round submission defeat to Dan Miller in the former star wrestler’s UFC debut in February of 2009. I’m sure Rosholt has focused on his shortcomings in the many months he’s been away from the cage, and I fully expect for him to be the best we’ve ever seen him. Rosholt’s no dummy, he knows what’s at stake in this one.
While I don’t think for a second that Leben can’t catch Rosholt with a submission, I feel like his most likely key to victory is going to be the old fashioned “punch to the face”. I didn’t like how easily Rosholt was rocked in his last fight with the WEC against Nissen Osterneck, and while you can train defense, you can’t train a chin. If Leben puts a good one on Rosholt’s kisser we could have a quick finish to this one.
However, Rosholt is the caliber of wrestler rarely seen in the UFC, or all of MMA for that matter, and you can never discredit that extremely relevant factor. If Rosholt wins this fight, it’s not going to be pretty, but it’s still a fight he can win. He just better not forget where he came from. Not for one moment.
Winner: Leben via Knockout
NATE MARQUARDT VS. DEMIAN MAIA
This has been a personal dream fight of mine for close to a year now, so needless to say, this will be the one fight I will be looking forward to the most this Saturday evening. In my opinion both of these guys are the clear cut number one and number two challengers in the middleweight division. Both with a very legitimate chance of upsetting Anderson Silva in the future due to a variety of different circumstances regarding both men. Silva has shown he can be subbed, Maia is a phenom on the ground. With Marquardt, he has grown tremendously in a variety of ways since his previous encounter with “The Spider”, most notably with his top game, striking and knockout power.
While Marquardt is well schooled in the art of submissions, nobody wants to get caught rolling around on the mat with someone like Maia. I think Marquardt’s submission defense is well above average, but much like Anderson, Nate has shown a vulnerability to submission attacks in the past as well. Maia could submit anyone walking the planet earth given the proper amount of time on the ground, and Marquardt knows this.
Look for Marquardt to come out intelligently dropping bombs with bad intentions. He’s going to keep the distance and make it count when he can. Due to his tremendous size and strength for the weight class, Marquardt’s takedown defense will serve him well against Maia where it hasn’t others in the past. On the feet it’s not even close. Marquardt will show how “really good at a lot of things” trumps “awesome at one thing” every time.
Winner: Marquardt via TKO
BRANDON VERA VS. KRZYSZTOF SOSZYNSKI
A few years ago I would have laughed if a fight between these two had been proposed. While both had been competing in the heavyweight division at the time, the contrast in the fighter’s career’s was like night and day. Where Vera was an undefeated wrecking machine that seemed hopeful to make good on a promise to obtain the UFC heavyweight belt before dropping down to 205 and doing the same, and Soszynki was at the time suffering a series of losses, time has gone a long way in restructuring the career of these two.
Now it’s Soszynski with the momentum, coming off of three impressive stoppages in the Octagon, while Vera is eager to reassert himself as a force since dropping down to light-heavyweight after suffering his own series of defeats. To make matters worse, Vera has recently rekindled the “champion at two weight classes” jibberish.
I think it’s extremely unlikely that we see Vera as a champion of two weight classes outside of a regional show anytime in the near future. In fact, I believe Soszynksi will do enough in this bout to substantially dampen Vera’s current 205 pound championship illusion. It should be an entertaining bout with both men landing their fair share of exchanges, but I feel like Krzysztof’s momentum and wrestling will be the deciding factors in the bout.
Winner: Soszynski via Decision
For Prelim Preview and Predictions Click Here