Fight Picks and Predictions for UFC 109: Grumpy Old Men

By Nicholas Bailey

Just ignore the main event. It’s nice to see Randy Couture in action, but against Coleman is Super Hulk Grand Prix level ridiculousness that has turned many fans off this event. That’s too bad, since it is absolutely chock-full of relevant and exciting fights in the UFC’s middle division. Furthermore there are two interesting UFC debuts, in Rolles Gracie and Ronys Torres. Despite the lackluster main event, this is the kind of high-quality relevant card that can lead fight fans out of the darkness that culminated in the UFC 108 card.

Mark Coleman (+350) vs. Randy Couture (-400)


It’s unbelievable that Couture is in the main event of a major UFC card. He’s looked like garbage in his last two fights against two fighters that turned in awful performances and is so far removed from relevance that this is ludicrous. Couture has aged, but that’s only really reflected in his chin at this point, and Coleman has never shown much power and of course has wild gorilla punches.

Barring some kind of fluke knockout from Coleman, Couture is going to stop all of Coleman’s takedowns, tag him up with his hands, and wear him down until the 2000 Pride Grand Prix champion (and where is everyone else that competed in that event?) gets stopped from sustained punishment on the ground. Then the amazing thing will be how old Coleman looks while Couture has barely slowed down. One can only hope Dan Miragliotta is refereeing so that we can compare his purpleness to Coleman’s hue as the fight goes on. Randy Couture TKO round 2.

Nate Marquardt (-400) vs. Chael Sonnen (+325)


Marquardt is a phenomenal fighter, perhaps one of the most well-rounded in the game. If Anderson Silva weren’t around, he’d be the dominant champ of this division. Sonnen is a one-trick pony, but when that trick is wrestling, it makes you a threat to beat anyone in this game. Marquardt has a clear standup advantage, especially with the brutal power he has in his strikes recently, and he has solid grappling, although he will struggle to find a submission off his back, since that’s just not his kind of jiu-jitsu game.

Marquardt is also a strong wrestler, but Sonnen’s takedowns are really on another level. He absolutely dominated two good wrestlers in Yushin Okami and Dan Miller, and Marquardt is going to have to spend at least some time on his back, but he should be able to defend enough that Sonnen can’t rack up too many points there. The crucial thing for Marquardt is going to be dominating the standup to make Sonnen’s shots more desperate and to impress the judges. If he gets thrown around and lets Sonnen take his back like Yushin Okami did, without doing much on the feet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sonnen get a decision on nothing but takedowns and top control.

Sonnen is a tough guy, but Marquardt is such a big hitter and has such a pronounced advantage on the feet that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get KO’d. Marquardt has all kinds of advantages, but Sonnen is such a tough competitor I wouldn’t be that shocked if he found a way to control Nate and eke out a win on the cards. Marquardt by TKO, round 2.

Mike Swick (-200) vs. Paulo Thiago (+190)


Well, at least Paulo Thiago is getting a softer touch in this fight than he did when matched up against AKA standouts Fitch or Koscheck, but this is still a pretty stiff test. Swick has long been overrated, with a mediocre ground game and average and predictable standup skills masked by his handspeed and pop. He has knocked out a lot of inferior strikers, but he’s going to have trouble dealing with Thiago’s grappling ability. If Paulo gets on top of him, Swick could very well end up getting submitted, and Thiago has enough standup to hang with Swick.

This is a chance for either fighter to really solidify a position among the top of the division. It’s going to come down to who wants it more and who is better prepared, a very winnable fight for either man. I think that Swick’s wrestling will come up short and Thiago will be able to pick up two rounds through superior grappling. Paulo Thiago by decision.

Thiago is a great bet at +190.

Demian Maia (-400) vs. Dan Miller (+325)


Both of these fighters are coming off one-sides losses, making it unfortunate that one of them is going to have another loss, since they both have a lot of potential and the time to re-establish themselves in the top of the division. The big question is how Maia copes with his first career loss, especially since it was such a big knockout. If he’s gunshy and afraid to commit, Miller could take control of a fight that should be Maia’s.

Miller’s best game is to work takedowns and use his grappling acumen to dominate from on top. Against Maia, any kind of ground work is a terrible idea, since the Brazillian has such an incredible jiu-jitsu game. Miller’s best bet is to use his wrestling in reverse and try to subject fans to a horrible exchange of strikes between two grapplers, since Maia probably doesn’t want to get hit and still has a striking game in its infancy, while Miller has made a bit more progress and can exchange competently.

Fortunately for Maia, while he’s not a power-double type wrestler, he’s excellent at finishing takedowns or pulling guard directly into sweeps. If he can get on Miller’s legs, he can probably bring the fight into his world, where he will absolutely dominate Miller. Expect another submission of the night from Maia. Demian Maia by submission round 1.

Matt Serra (-140) vs. Frank Trigg (+125)


Two fighters in the twilight of their careers meet up for a fight that doesn’t seem necessary. Serra’s career seems destined to be a blip in the UFC title picture and Georges St. Pierre’s career (admittedly one GSP and his fans will not soon forget). Trigg seems destined to be remembered as a quality competitor, but one that never achieved the greatness of a champion.

Serra has never really translated his jiu-jitsu into a big threat in MMA, and his greatest finishing threat (aside from the headbutt that nearly took out Hughes) remains that wild overhand hammer he throws. Trigg has solid boxing, but can’t engage with big hitters like Koscheck or Lawler without getting hammered.

On the feet, Serra’s midget status and wild punches should give Trigg an advantage, but Serra is so tough that he will hang in for all three rounds, and keep throwing that dangerous punch that took out GSP and nearly Karo. If Trigg gets hit by that, his night is over, but Serra’s never been known for his gas past the first round (although Trigg slows as well) so if Trigg can survive the early going, it will be easier.

What many seem to overlook in this fight is Trigg’s ability to lay-and-pray. Serra’s guard has never been particularly effective or threatening, doing little more than defending and slowing down ground and pound attacks. Trigg, whenever he really just wants a win, resorts to takedowns and dry-humping, which Serra will have no defense against, as he showed against Hughes. I think Trigg has this fight sealed up between his striking advantage and ability to lay on Serra to pick up rounds. Frank Trigg by decision.

I don’t understand why Trigg is an underdog. Maybe people misinterpret the success Serra had against Hughes, or think Trigg is totally done because he was beat up by superior strikers, but this is a very favorable style matchup for him. Excellent play.

Justin Buchholz (+300) vs. Mac Danzig (-345)


Well this answers the question of whether Danzig will be bounced from the UFC. After a string of one-sided losses, he’s being given a favorable style matchup. Buchholz’s best weapons are his hands, but he probably won’t be able to stop Danzig’s takedowns, and Danzig is tough enough to deal with some fire on the feet. As long as Danzig can get takedowns, he should be able to make this fight academic, doing work on the ground for dominant rounds or a submission. Mac Danzig by submission round 3.

Melvin Guillard (-130) vs. Ronys Torres (+102)


Ronys Torres has been on the shelf for a long time. He was actually signed to the UFC in 2008, but a series of injuries has delayed his promotional debut until now. He’s a big, physical, aggressive fighter out of the Nova Uniao camp, which has produced an amazing crop of fighters with the world-class grappling you expect out of the team, but surprising striking chops as well.

Any attempt by Torres to strike with Guillard would be ill-advised, however. While the Louisiana native doesn’t have elite technique, he posses a great deal of power in his fists and can lay out an opponent with either hand. He’s also one of the flakiest fighters in the sport and not known for his attention to rigorous training or following a gameplan.

Torres’ long layoff, the stress of a debut in the big show, and Guillard’s power could result in disaster for Torres, but his ground skills, his level of talent, and Guillard’s habit of giving up submissions should make the return to fighting a happy one. Torres by submission round 1.

I like Torres for a play at +102, although he was available at more favorable odds initially.

Rob Emerson (-115)vs. Phillipe Nover (EVEN)


What is going on with Phillipe Nover? He had all the hype in the world going into the TUF finals, but starting with the loss to Efrain Escudero, his luck seemed to run out. A series of bizzare injuries, fainting spells, and referee robberies has seen him go without a victory since.

Emerson is a solid fighter, better than his .500 record indicates, since it was front-loaded with four losses to veteran fighters to start his career. Emerson has okay hands and okay takedown defense, and since Nover isn’t known for his wrestling, that means that Phillipe better get the better of the striking to win this. Rafael dos Anjos tore Emerson apart with leg kicks from a distance, but Nover doesn’t have that kind of kicks.

This will be a very close fight, hinging on who can get an advantage in exchanges of hands and best exploit it. Emerson should have a little bit of a reach advantage, and he’s very tough, so he could pick up an equal round by dropping Nover and remaining standing in an equal exchange of blows. Emerson by decision.

Phil Davis (-245) vs. Brian Stann (+205)


Phil “Mr Wonderful” Davis is a standout wrestling convert, gifted athlete, entertaining guy, and very inexperienced fighter. You know a guy is extremely green when he makes Brian Stann look like a grizzled veteran of the sport. That said, I have little doubt that Davis will one day far exceed Stann in MMA. That day is not quite yet, and this is a pretty close matchup, despite Davis’ stylistic advantage.

Stann is someone that many (including this writer) gave up on following his stomping at the hands of Steve Cantwell and pathetic submission loss to vowel-hating Krzystof Soszynski. However, just when he looked on the verge of being bounced out of the UFC, he rebounded with the most consummate performance to date in his rubber match with Cantwell. Formerly a robotic brawler, he moved much more fluidly and was far more judicious and versatile in his strikes. Changes like that indicate a real breakthrough in training, so don’t be surprised if Stann looks even better in this fight.

Unfortunately for Stann, his greatest weakness has always been his abysmal ground game, and Davis assuredly has the skills to put him flat on his back, where he will struggle to pop back up the way he did against Rodney Wallace. Stann better be ready to defend on the floor if he wants any hope of winning this fight.

While Davis must be favored because of his wrestling credentials and Stann’s weak grappling, it must be acknowledged that Stann is a quantum leap above Davis’ previous competition, and represents a very big threat on the feet, as well as someone that isn’t simply going to get run over by an elite athlete. Davis will have to work a legitimately technical game to maintain position and accumulate damage to get Stann out of the fight, or else he has to deal with 15 minutes of Stann being one big punch away from putting him out. With all of Davis’ recent fights ending in the first round, it remains to be seen if he can out-last an opponent that makes him work and is tough enough to endure some punishment. The bright lights of the UFC often “zap” inexperienced fighters in their debut, and being less than 100% when your opponent has a huge technical and power advantage over you on the feet is a risky combination. Things may become touch-and-go for Davis, but Stann really doesn’t have much wrestling, so Phil should be able to put him down if he gets hit. Phil Davis by decision.

While I favor Davis, I think +205 is giving him too much credit. He has mostly potential, whereas Stann has several real ways to ruin his day, namely hitting him harder and more often than anyone else ever has.

Tim Hague (+160) vs. Chris Tuchscherer (-190)


Tim Hague is not a very good fighter. He should have lost to Pat Barry and Tod Duffee showed what happens when Hague runs up against a legitimate heavyweight that can hit him back. Tuchscherer isn’t about to set the world on fire, but he is tough as nails and has the power to bust Hague up, as well as the wrestling to dump him onto the mat, where he’ll be helpless. Tuchscherer by KO round 1.

For some reason the lines opened at relative parity here, and Tuchscherer was a great play at -132. He’s okay at -190

Joey Beltran (+375) vs. Rolles Gracie (-455)


Joey Beltran apparently made it into the UFC on the back of his win over Houston Alexander a few weeks ago. Gracie is here because of his last name. Either way this is going to be wretched. Gracie has almost no legitimate MMA experience, his last win being over Peter Graham, a kickboxer who does not cross-train. Gracie has never been seriously hit or shown any inclinations of developing a striking game, and he is not a dominant enough wrestler to just shut opponents down.

Beltran enters this fight as a very late replacement for Mustapha al-Turk, who is suffering some visa issues. He’s basically your typical local heavyweight: a big toughguy type that simply comes forward slinging bombs. However, he’s actually tough and does have power and aggression. That could cause Gracie some serious problems, since he wants nothing to do with a striking game and Beltran will be trying to throw bolos all over him from the opening bell. However, if Gracie can get a hold of Beltran, he should eventually get a takedown, and will of course school him on the ground. Rolles Gracie by submission, round 2.

While he is very limited and unprepared, meaning he probably only has a few minutes of gas with which to throw bombs, Beltran does have a style and power that could overwhelm Gracie, so I’m willing to take a chance at the long odds.

My plays

1u on Brian Stann at (+205) to win 2.05u
1.32u on Chris Tuchscherer at (-132) to win 1u
1u on Ronys Torres at (EVEN) to win 1u
.5u on Joey Beltran at (+375) to win 1.87u
2u on Frank Trigg at (+125)
1u on Paulo Thiago at (+190)


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