This card looks stacked top to bottom. I’m kinda disappointed that we’re not going to see the 3 fights that are on the prelim card. Alright, Steelers covered the hyperbole so let’s skip that and get right to the fights.
Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz
This is an interesting match-up of the shootfighter vs. the wrestler. Normally, I would lean towards the wrestler, with Lentz having wrestled for Minnesota with Brock Lesnar. However, the guys that Winner trains with at Team Rough House (Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, Ross Pearson) have a reputation for being well-rounded fighters. So I went looking for any common opponents to get an idea of where they each stand, and found Rafello Olivera. Both guys beat Olivera by unanimous decision. So, I give it to Andre Winner because you have to with a last name like that.
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger
Ruediger makes his return to the Octagon after being dismissed from the house on The Ultimate Fighter season 5. He had a long run as the WEC Lightweight champion in the middle of a 9-fight win streak. However, he’s not exactly been facing top competition as of late. However, J-Lau has been facing some of the best at 155, including KenFlo and the always tough Sam Stout. Based on that alone, and knowing about Ruediger’s past, I’ve got to go with Lauzon.
Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis
This could steal fight of the night. Both guys are tough as hell. Davis has the heavier hands and will take 1 to give you 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Diaz looks like the better all around fighter. However, being in dead last helps me in that I can make the off the wall upset picks and I think I’m gonna play that card here. Diaz is fighting for just the 2nd time at 170 and ended his first fairly quickly, stopping Rory Markham at 2:47 of the 1st round back in March. However, Davis will likely last past the first and test his cardio at a heavier class. The tipping point for me: Strikeforce:Nashville. Diaz was one of the guys who started the brawl and jumped Mayhem. Therefore, the heavy hands of the Irish Hand Grenade with the upset for me.
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard
Dana announced two days ago that the winner of this match will be next in line for the lightweight title. Here’s how I see this one. Even though the Bully is undefeated, I can’t say I’ve even been impressed with any of his fights. His Fight Night main event with Nate Diaz in January bored the hell out of me and I haven’t been convinced that he can defend well against some one like KenFlo whose so aggressive on the ground. Meanwhile, Kenny seems to improve with every fight and is better than the Kenny that lost to BJ last July. There will be blood if Kenny’s elbows have anything to say about it (and they probably will).
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda
We all saw how Maia got handled in his title fight and I think he’s determined to bounce back from that. This is a battle of BJJ black belts, as Maia is one of the best practitioners in the world. Miranda is 12-1, but really hasn’t faced anyone until he got to the UFC and he lost his debut against Gerald Harris. I can see Miranda surprising Maia with a quick choke, but much of this fight could end up on the feet and I think Maia’s Octagon experience, faster hands, and stronger all-around ground game should carry the day.
Randy Couture vs. James Toney
I have very little to say here. Randy’s been tagged in his career, so he knows how to come back from Toney’s power. Here’s what happens: they dance, Toney over-extends himself, Randy drives him into the fence, works the dirty boxing and eventually gets the takedown. Toney gets TKO’d by the 2nd.
Lightweight Championship: BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar
Very interesting rematch here. All of BJ’s strengths should be visible, Edgar’s speed and striking will show up. Although I’m still not convinced that The Answer can do it again, and that the belt will likely return to Hawaii on Sunday.