UFC 102 Picks and Predictions

UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira takes place tonight from the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore. The fight card is filled with interesting matchups, headlined by the main event of heavyweight legends Randy Couture and Antonio Minotauro Nogeuira. Here are my thoughts on the fights.

Heavyweights (265 lbs. max) – Randy Couture (16-9) vs. Antonio Nogueira (31-5-1): This fight is crucial for both fighters to win to keep their career meaningful and to stay in the heavyweight title picture. Both are coming off second round TKO losses, and both look to be on the downsides of their career. Couture is in his mid-40’s and though he is in great shape, his body has to be wearing down. Nogueira is only 33, but looks like he is in his 50’s because of all the wars he has been in through his life. Essentially I see Couture having the edge in this fight because his striking seems to be more advanced than Nogueira. Nogueira can only win by submission, and Couture is very good at avoiding submissions. I see Couture out-striking Nogueira on the feet and in the clinch and scoring some occasional takedowns to earn the decision victory.

Light Heavyweights (205 lbs. max) – Keith Jardine (14-6-1) vs. Thiago Silva (13-1): This co-headline fight is also a crucial fight for both athletes. Each is coming off a loss and both are trying to stay relevant in the light heavyweight contender picture. I think Jardine has the edge in this fight because of his experience against other top fighters. Silva has just one marquee fight, and that was a first round KO loss to Lyoto Machida. That was Silva’s first loss and many times you see fighters come out more tentative after getting knocked out for the first time. Silva can’t do that in this fight or else he will certainly lose. Jardine does have a suspect chin that Silva could connect on, but ultimately I see Jardine using his kicks and unorthodox striking to pick up the decision win.

Middleweights (185 lbs. max) – Nate Marquardt (31-8-2) vs. Demian Maia (11-0): This fight to me is the most intriguing fight on the card. Both fighters are fighting their best right now and each one is considered one of the top contenders for the middleweight title. Maia has rolled in the UFC, racking up a 5-0 UFC record with all his wins coming by submission. He has breathed new life into submission fighting with his ability to get his opponents into bad situations. The one weakness Maia seems to have is inferior striking, which he needs to have in this fight to get Marquardt to the ground. Marquardt is very rounded and very strong for a middleweight fighter. Marquardt will look to keep the fight on the feet where he can out-strike Maia. Maia hasn’t been pushed by someone like he will tonight and I don’t see him catching a submission without being able to land a big strike on Marquardt. For that reason, I see Marquardt getting a decision win or a third round TKO.

Middleweights (185 lbs. max) – Chris Leben (18-5) vs. Jake Rosholt (5-1): This fight features an up-and-coming fighter in Rosholt against a veteran that hasn’t quite found his way to the top in Leben. Leben is a powerful striker that has glaring weaknesses that have cost him fights in the past. Early in his career, Leben struggled to avoid takedowns and lost by decisions and submissions. Now, his opponents are out-boxing him by using quick strikes and avoiding his telegraphed haymakers. Rosholt is a talented wrestler that was a three-time NCAA Champion at Oklahoma State and is now trying to make that into a MMA career. Rosholt can get this win if he times out Leben’s strikes and scores takedowns where he can then control the fight. But, as Leben has grown as a fighter, his ground game has improved and I think this fight will keep on its feet where Leben will get the KO in round three.

Light Heavyweights (205 lbs. max) – Brandon Vera (10-3) vs. Krzysztof Soszynski (19-9-1): This fight comes down to some basic UFC principles. First, this is the biggest fight in Soszynski’s career and the nerves for him will be at an all-time high. Second, Vera’s three losses have all come to top heavyweight or light heavyweight fighters. He isn’t a slouch. Third, Soszynski has most of his wins come by submission and Vera has never been submitted and likely won’t be in this fight. Soszynski is a big, strong guy that could land a lucky punch, but I see Vera using his kicks and quickness to out-strike Soszynski. I think Vera will ware down Soszynski and eventually get the TKO in round three.

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