UFC 124 Picks & Predictions

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 27: UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre (R) battles Dan Hardy (L) during their Welterweight title bout at UFC 111 at the Prudential Center on March 27, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. St-Pierre won by Unanimous Decision at 5:00 of the 5th round. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

UFC 124 takes place tonight from Montreal and the main event features a contest for the UFC Welterweight contest. Here are my picks for this UFC PPV.

UFC Welterweight Championship Bout – Georges St. Pierre (20-2) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-4): This is a rematch from a bout in 2007 that St. Pierre won by unanimous decision. Koscheck has the skills to beat St. Pierre but lacks the big-fight experience and overall composure that St. Pierre brings to the octagon. Look for GSP to come out wanting to strike and Koscheck looking for takedowns, as each wants to come out showing strength in what is their perceived weakness. Ultimately I think St. Pierre has more skills and will out-class Koscheck an score a fourth round submission by choke.

UFC Heavyweight Bout – Stefan Struve (23-4) vs. Sean McCorkle (10-0): McCorkle has been making waves for his trash talk, but he still is young to the UFC while Struve has experience in the octagon and has good skills to compare to a grappler like McCorkle. I think Struve will handle a fast start from McCorkle and then find a way to finish him via choke in the third round.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Jim Miller (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-0): Oliveira has had a great start to his UFC career, but I think he runs into a bad matchup with Miller, who is a superior wrestler that will be able to get him to the ground and control him while avoiding Oliveira’s slick submissions. I like Miller to dominate the fight on the ground and score a decision win.

UFC Lightweight Bout – Joe Stevenson (36-11) vs. Mac Danzig (20-8-1): Stevenson has been showing improvement over his last few fights but he needs a win, as he has lost three of his last five bouts. Danzig has lost four of his last five bouts and needs a win to stay in the UFC. His desperation should bring out his best efforts while Stevenson should also be on top of his game. Ultimately, Stevenson is the better wrestler while the two are comparable in striking, so that should be enough to earn him the decision win.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Thiago Alves (22-6) vs. John Howard (14-5): This fight should be a slugfest as both men are at their strongest working their muay thai striking. Alves has better form while Howard has better power but the key to this fight is that Howard is coming off a fight where he dominated by a lesser opponent than Alves while Alves hasn’t struggled with strikers in his career. Alves should be able to work leg kicks and tire Howard before finishing him with a barrage in the third round.

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White embarrassed by UFC 97

Despite chants of “boring” and boos that echoed inside the Bell Centre, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champ Anderson Silva entered the record books with a unanimous decision over Thale Leites at UFC 97:Redemption in Montreal on Saturday evening.

Silva posted his ninth-straight victory in the octagon that broke a tie he held with MMA legend Royce Gracie and Jon Finch. This was overshadowed by the lack of action generated in a less-than-stellar main event, as the two fighters avoided contact for the first minute of the fight and they often went for long stretches without exchanging blows.

This didn’t sit well with UFC President Dana White, and he didn’t mince words in the post-fight press conference.

“I can honestly tell you that I’ve never put on an event that I was embarrassed to be at until tonight,” White said. “I want to publicly apologize to all the fans.

“Watching that was hard. That was tough to take. It was embarrassing, honestly. It was really and truly embarrassing.”

The fans booed throughout the match and started a “boring” chant at the beginning of the final round. They also cheered for UFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre, who was sitting at ringside. The Canadian star is rumored to be the next opponent for Silva.

NHL players elect not to re-open collective bargaining agreement

The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) announced during the All-Star Game weekend celebration in Montreal that the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players and owners would be extended for another two years. This will ensure content with the current labor system in the sport through the start of the 2011-12 season.

NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly stated that the players’ unanimously wanted to stay focused on continuing to help grow the game’s popularity in North America. Throw in the current economic climate, and no one in the NHLPA felt it was the appropriate time for the players to enter a complex labor negotiation with management.

Under the current labor agreement, the players have reaped the benefit of being able to become an unrestricted free agent at an earlier age. The average salary per player has risen from $1.8 million in the first post-lockout season to a projected average of over $2 million for this season, and the salary cap has also risen in the same span going from $39 million to almost $57 million this season. The NHL is projecting a marginal revenue growth for the upcoming 2009-10 season.

All the teams in the league breathe a sigh of relief with this announcement, as it will allow them to move forward in their development process by knowing the current labor agreement will be in place for at least two more seasons.

And finally, the biggest winners of all were the fans. They don’t need to worry about the possibility of the league closing its doors again for yet another work stoppage at the end of this season.

Couch Potato Alert: 1/23

Many football fans will be going through withdrawal this weekend; there are no scheduled games for the first time since the end of July. But there is enough sports on to help you make it through the weekend scot-free. Network coverage of the NBA will kick into full gear on ABC, as an attractive doubleheader (Mavericks/Celtics followed by Spurs/Lakers) will be broadcast starting at 1 PM this Sunday. Second week coverage of the Australian Open will continue on ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel, and do not forget the Golf Channel’s exclusive coverage of the Bob Hope Classic all weekend long.

All times ET…

Friday, 7 PM: Dallas Mavericks @ Detroit Pistons (ESPN)
Saturday, 7:30 PM: Orlando Magic @ Miami Heat (NBA TV)
Sunday, 1 PM: Dallas Mavericks @ Boston Celtics (ABC)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers (ABC)
Sunday, 6:30 PM: Houston Rockets @ Detroit Pistons (ESPN)

Sunday, 6 PM: The NHL All Star Game in Montreal (Versus)

College Basketball
Saturday, 12 PM: Maryland @ #2 Duke (ESPN)
Saturday, 3:30 PM: #24 Memphis @ Tennessee (CBS)
Saturday, 4 PM: #23 Baylor @ Oklahoma (ESPNU)
Saturday, 7 PM: #3 Connecticut @ #19 Notre Dame (ESPN)
Sunday, 12 PM: #12 Louisville @ #8 Syracuse (ESPN Full Court)
Sunday, 3:45 PM: #7 Michigan State @ Ohio State (CBS)

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