UFC 111 is almost guaranteed to be a good pay-per-view. First of all, we get to see the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport fight to defend his title yet again, which is always worth talking about, especially since every GSP fight has drama for every moment after the loss to Serra, regardless of how unlikely a repeat of that mess is. Secondly, with the card scheduled to have two 5-round title fights but each of those fights being very likely to end early, the guys in the booth will almost certainly have the opportunity to choose the best and most exciting preliminary fights to slip onto the pay-per-view. The Mir/Carwin interim title fight may not be on the same level as GSP/Hardy, but it’s a more competitive fight, and is guaranteed fireworks, not bad for a second banana fight.
Of course, the biggest loss to this card is the unfortuante failure of Thiago Alves to pass his medicals. Something suspicious on his MRI led to him not getting cleared to fight, ruining a very exciting rematch with John Fitch, as well as a great betting opportunity in the Saunders/Ellenberger fight, as Saunders moved to replace Alves against Fitch. This is doubly unfortunate in that Alves likely would have been cleared by a second opinion, so by delaying his medicals until the last minute he may have robbed himself of the opportunity. Career-wise this will be no serious impediment, even if it is a serious injury, as the UFC has ways of making athletic boards cooperate and professional athletes can always find doctors that will tell them what they want to hear. Fans should just hope that Alves doesn’t end up hurt.
Champ Georges St-Pierre (-625) vs. Dan Hardy (+550) (for welterweight title)
As far as this fight is concerned, UFC 111 might as well be UFC 1. Hardy is a far better ground fighter than Art Jimmerson ever was, but he’s still essentially relying on the “punch em to death before he takes me down” gameplan. GSP is no Royce Gracie. As the premiere takedown artist in the game, and one of the most well-rounded, he isn’t even at a substantial disadvantage against Hardy standing. Hardy is very durable and has an excellent counter hook and some good kicks, but GSP has a quality arsenal of his own. The smartest fight for GSP will, as usual, be to set up his takedowns with his dynamic striking game and then crush Hardy on the floor, rather than fishing for a knockout and risking damage from some of the better hands in the division or simply forcing takedowns with no set-ups.
Hardy is a good fighter but he’s simply not well-rounded enough to be competing with GSP right now. He has a legitimate way to win, if he cracks Georges with a perfect punch, but he struggled mightily on the ground with Marcus Davis, who isn’t quite on GSP’s level of ground dominance. No, if Hardy gets put on his back, people will remember how GSP finished so many fighters before he ran into guys as tough as Alves and Fitch. If Hardy gets taken down in the first minute, he doesn’t make it out of the first round. GSP is more than just a wrestler. He can hustle on the ground and get through guys guards, then punish them very badly with knees to the body. Once he gets to work on Hardy, the momentum will just keep building. Hardy is a very tough guy, so don’t expect to see him tapping from elbows to the thigh, but once he starts getting beat up badly, Georges will probably find a submission opens up quickly. GSP is a very heavy favorite here, and rightfully so, but it’s always good entertainment to see a master ply their trade or a champion further their legacy when there is some actual danger of them losing. GSP by submission, round 1.
Shane Carwin (+125) vs. Frank Mir (-152) (for interim heavyweight title)
Whole lot of manflesh in the ring for this one, and most likely it will take far longer to herd these behemoths into the ring than it will take for the fight to be decided. It would be completely shocking if this fight even made it out of the first round. Mir has bulked up to a stupendous degree, and Carwin is half man half livestock anyway, so the punches thrown here will be enough to put anyone down.
Carwin hates it, but there are still a ton of questions about him. He’s smashed everyone that has stood in front of him in a few minutes, but hasn’t faced a star-studded list of opponents, to say the least. We don’t know anything about his sub defense, his gas, or his ability to endure adversity. All we know about his chin is that it’s good enough to take a big shot from Gonzaga without being put to sleep, but not so tough that he can’t be hurt. If Mir hits Carwin with the same kind of punch that put down Cheick Kongo, Carwin will be in big trouble.
Mir has bulked up, but size and strength were never his weak points. He’s always gassed out later in fights, he’s never recovered from damage well, and he’s always been vulnerable to ground and pound, despite having a fluid guard for a heavyweight.
If Carwin chooses to wrestle, Mir’s weaknesses will definitely come into play. Wrestling is the most energy expending aspect of the sport, especially when you’re the one at a wrestling disadvantage, so the takedown game will be a good test of each man’s cardio. Carwin, being the superior wrestler and a heavy hitter, is in prime position to try and pound on Mir and follow in the footsteps of Lesnar, Freeman, Pe de Pano, and Vera. If Carwin gets takedowns, unless he’s really horrible on the ground, he’ll hit Mir a few times, and Mir will go fetal again, get hit more, until he gets stopped.
The most interesting interplay will be on the feet. Mir is supposedly a lights-out striker now, but his success has consisted of beating up a slow-motion punching bag in Nogueira and landing one trick punch on Cheick Kongo. Carwin’s standup prowess consists primarily in the fact that he can punch through concrete walls, even if he has no defense and doesn’t throw in combinations. Carwin is very hittable, but he can remain upright and still throw with power in a slugfest, whereas Mir can’t.
Working in Mir’s favor, as always, is his ridiculous self-confidence. Mir believes his own hype and fearlessly throws gaudy combinations thinking he’s an elite striker, which could work well against a stationary target like Carwin, just as it did vs. Nogueira. On the other hand, if Mir doesn’t simply blitz Carwin, he’s playing with fire in a very big way by exchanging with this man, and if Mir gets overexcited throwing 8-strike combos, Carwin can plow through him for a takedown just like Lesnar did, which would have terrible results for Mir.
This fight comes down to Carwin’s unknown weaknesses vs. Mir’s known weaknesses, with a liberal seasoning of the dumb luck that comes into play when one punch can and will end the fight. If Carwin can get on top, he can take it. If he can land sooner and better than Mir, he can take it. If he can wear Mir out, he can take it. If Mir can knock Carwin down or out, he can finish him with a sub or more punches. If Carwin sucks on the ground, Mir can probably snatch a submission before he gets pounded out. The most likely outcomes, however, are Carwin landing a short punch as Mir charges in that puts Mir out, or Carwin pounding away at Mir from half guard, with Mir becoming less of a man and more of a red paste. The only guarantee, win or lose, is that the Mir haters will be making a lot of noise. Shane Carwin by KO, round 1.
This is the only solid bet on the card at this point. Carwin should not be the underdog here. He has a clear path to losing, but Mir is just too vulnerable to Carwin’s strengths.
Jon Fitch (-350) vs. Ben Saunders (+300)
Despite the change of opponent, Saunders is at the same stylistic disadvantage. Saunders is still very much a work in progress, not being a standout striker at range, not having great takedown defense, and not offering much off his back, with his best weapon being his clinch. Unfortunately for Saunders, Jon Fitch also excels in the clinch, so when the distance is closed, it doesn’t mean aimless flailing like he got from Marcus Davis, it means crushing strength and takedowns, and Saunders will suffer greatly underneath Fitch.
The biggest danger for Fitch is his traditional slow start. If Fitch is sleepwalking through the first round, Saunders could hit him very hard and let him nap it off. That said, once Fitch gets warmed up, he can probably out-strike Saunders at range, and certainly get takedowns and punishment whenever he wants. With the ground work Saunders showed against Swick, it’s entirely likely that Fitch can submit him once he gets tired. Jon Fitch by submission round 2.
Mark Bocek (+325) vs. Jim Miller (-400)
Bocek is a talented grappler, but suffers against opponents with good submission defense that can outwrestle him. Jim Miller is exactly that kind of opponent. More or less an open or shut style mis-match. Miller will grind up on Bocek and Bocek will gas out and become completely inert by the third round. Miller probably won’t be able to turn the heat up enough for a finish, though, since he’ll struggle to tap even a fading Bocek. Jim Miller by decision.
Fabricio Camoes (+190) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (-215)
It’s time yet again for Pellegrino to live up to his potential. The guy has flashed real talent and on paper is very well-rounded, but he has flaked out against the better opponents he’s faced. Camoes is a submission threat, but Pellegrino should be able to stay on his feet and work his not-inconsiderable standup skills for a solid victory. However, there’s a good chance that Pellegrino throws himself into some submission he should not get caught in and taps out way too early, because that’s just how he is. Kurt Pellegrino by decision.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
Nate Diaz (-285)vs. Rory Markham (+240)
Rory Markham is in big trouble in this fight. He’s a kill or be killed fighter, almost always getting a stoppage or getting stopped in the first round, and he’s going to have a lot of trouble finishing someone as durable as Diaz. Diaz is a pretty decent boxer himself, and Markham is both fragile and wide open defensively, so don’t think Diaz’s only path to victory is a submission. That said, Markham likes to charge forward, putting him right into Diaz’s clinch and trip takedowns, so he’ll be very open to the submission as well. This is just a poor style matchup for Markham and he’s going to get handled unless he can land some kind of perfect punch and put Diaz out. Nate Diaz by TKO round 2.
Ricardo Almeida (-155) vs. Matt Brown (+135)
Almeida left MMA as an elite fighter, but he’s returned as just another in a sea of faces. Brown has not really shown much after the initial surprise of him being a legitimate fighter wore off. He’s solid, durable, and has some power, but he also gasses out and isn’t great in any area. Almeida’s wrestling will be a big challenge for Brown, and if Brown gasses out (as he tends to do) while Almeida still has something in the tank, he is in big danger of being tapped. Ricardo Almeida by submission, round 2.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Un-aired)
Jared Hamman (+112) vs. Rodney Wallace (-130)
Hamman is a big bruiser coming off a loss where he was out-brawled and Wallace is a short fireplug that just lost a competitive fight to Briann Stann, who is basically a better version of Hamman. This is a toss up, with the loser almost certainly leaving the UFC, but it does provide a chance for one of these men to show that he can improve and does belong in this division. If Hamman can stop the takedown, he’ll bust Wallace up, but he’ll have a hard time doing that. Rodney Wallace by decision.
Tomasz Drwal (+200) vs. Rousimar Palhares (-225)
Two of the bulkiest men in the division face off in this undercard match. In fact, these two have a lot in common: wider than they are tall, a style predicated primarily on physical power, badass nicknames, and only enough gas for the first round. This fight comes down to Palhares takedowns. If he can throw Drwal to the floor or just dive into a leglock, he should be able to take it, but if the first round is spent on the feet, Palhares will be worn out and Drwal can take over with his striking. Palhares is very tough and won’t get KO’d by a single punch, but if he ends up underneath Drwal taking punishment, the ref is going to stop it regardless of Palhares’ ability to absorb punishment.
Fortunately for Palhares, he has a very destructive grappling game and will likely be able to run through Drwal if he can get any kind of grip on a leg for a very nasty power leglock. Palhares by submission, round 1.
Matthew Riddle (-225) vs. Greg Soto (+190)
Riddle is a very big, subliterate simpleton with very little experience. Greg Soto can’t wrestle as well as Riddle and doesn’t do great work off his back. This is Riddle’s fight to win with his power and takedowns, provided he doesn’t fall directly into a submission. This is a chance for either one of these guys to show they really belong in the UFC, but it’s more reasonable to expect Riddle to just edge this one out due to a style advantage, but still look amateurish. Unless you’re Cain Velasquez or Brock Lesnar (and notice how both of those men with limited experience have found success in a terribly thin division), 3-1 is not enough to prepare you for the top level of fighting. Matthew Riddle by decision.
1u on Carwin at +125
Georges St. Pierre beats Dan Hardy by submission, round 2
Frank Mir beats Shane Carwin by submission, round 1
Jon Fitch beats Ben Saunders by submission, round 2
Jim Miller beats Mark Bocek by TKO, round 2
Kurt Pellegrino beats Fabricio Camoes by unanimous decision
Nate Diaz beats Rory Markham by TKO, round 2
Matt Brown beats Ricardo Almeida by unanimous decision
Rodney Wallace beats Jared Hamman by unanimous decision
Rousimar Palhares beats Tomasz Drwal by submission, round 1
Matt Riddle beats Greg Soto by unanimous decision
Once again you've shown to be one of the best in the business. Solid predictions. Love the fact that you're a fellow gambler aswell.