Thursday, December 10, 2009
For all the mediocre cards we've suffered through over the last couple of months, UFC 107 takes to the Octagon this weekend in an effort to make up for things.
While some may not share my excitement for this card, we've got a main event that actually involves a title (which will be covered in-depth... tomorrow), a solid heavyweight tilt, a high-energy lightweight battle and a chance to answer some questions about two guys starting to make a little noise.
Though I certainly would have loved to see Rampage and Rashad tee it up in Jackson's hometown, this card more than makes up for the now unretired A-Team member's sudden 73-day hiatus from the sport.
"The Headhunter" Paul Buentello (24-10-0) vs. Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve (18-3-0)
For a guy who has been around for a while and has as much name recognition as he does, Buentello sure has an incredible lack of quality wins.
Though he's lost two championship fights - one to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 55, the other to Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce title he never defends - Buentello's wins have come over faded pseudo-stars (Gary Goodridge, Tank Abbott), over-hyped young Russians ("Baby Fedor" Kiril Sidelnikov) or human punching bags (Bo Cantrell, Ruben Villareal).
Plus, he got suspended from his long-time gym earlier in the month for going outside of the AKA Family for representation.
Struve is an emerging young talent who, despite a kickboxing pedigree, has shown a strong submission game. Both of his UFC conquests have come via tapout, though he's yet to face someone with the experience of Buentello.
What bodes well for the Dutchmen is that he will sport a nine inch height advantage and the subsequent reach edge that goes along with it, giving him the ability to keep Buentello from getting inside and living up to his "Headhunter" moniker.
Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (11-4-0) vs. Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (25-10-0)
Mark my words: this is going to be awesome!
Both have switched camps since their last appearances; Florian left Team Sityodtong and brother Keith for Firas Zahabi's Tri-Star Gym in Montreal, while Guida has joined forces with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.
Watching close friends and colleagues Zahabi and Jackson gameplan against each other alone will be interesting. Then you add Guida's high energy approach and Florian's tremendous all-around game to the equation and you have what should be a terrific fight.
Guida is a monster fan favorite and understandably so; he never stops, has crazy caveman hair and is an affable and charismatic guy. He's also a classic overachiever and someone whose standing in the division is elevated because of his popularity.
When you strip away the hair and the energy and the funny, Guida has never beaten a fighter on Florian's level. Please, I beg you, don't try to rationalize the win over Nate Diaz as being overly meaningful.
He puts on a great show and is a pain in the posterior for everyone who walks into the cage with him, but Kenny Florian's last two losses in the UFC came nearly three years apart and both were for the UFC Lightweight title.
Jon Fitch (20-3-0. 1 NC) vs. Mike Pierce (9-1-0)
The fact that neither man has a nickname speaks to the style they share inside the cage; both are gritty, collegiate wrestlers who grind down their opponents with takedown after takedown after takedown.
Pierce surprised many, myself included, by dominating Brock Larson in his UFC debut in September, and he did so by following the formula mentioned above. Doing the same to Jon Fitch will be a very difficult task.
The former captain of the Purdue Boilermakers wrestling team, Fitch is one of the best welterweights in the world not named Georges.
While he shares styles with his UFC 107 opponent, Fitch has faced far superior competition. Additionally, he lost once in the last six years, and that came courtesy of the best welterweight in the world.
Frank Mir (12-4-0) vs. Cheick Kongo (14-5-1)
In all honesty, this fight probably won't make it out of the first round, as Mir will drag the ground-deficient Kongo to the canvas and find a submission. From there, he'll continue to ramble on about how much he wants to fight Brock Lesnar again.
If there is any justice in the world, before the above scenario plays out, Kongo will get a number of solid blows in on the loudmouth Mir. For all the crap Brock Lesnar took for his ridiculous comments and antics post-UFC 100, Frank Mir is non-stop smack talk and disrespect leading up to his fights and no one really bats an eye.
We know Kongo has some serious power; if you're not convinced, ask Cain Velasquez how it felt to get drilled by those giant French frying pans. Unfortunately, we also know that a dazed and dizzy Velasquez was still able to bring Kongo to the ground with little resistance.
As much as I'm growing tired of the UFC Countdown shows, I have to admit I loved Cheick Kongo looking into the camera and calling Frank Mir, "Big mouth."
Tomorrow, full blown B.J. Penn versus Diego Sanchez coverage.