MMA Ratings Podcast

July 8, 2009

Picks and Predictions for UFC 100: Revenge of Lesnar

By Nicholas Bailey (

UFC 100 is supposed to be the circus to end all circuses, and with a ton of talent on the card (and nearly a ton of fighter in the main event) it seems to be ready to be a mega-event.

Certainly the face of MMA may be changed in any title fight, but it doesn't seem likely that this card will produce the kind of legendary action that has fans reminiscing about it for years. This is because the two main events, while certain to produce action, are also matched up in such a fashion that they will both likely be quick and decisive, rather than back and forth. Styles make fights, and those fighters are built to finish each other quickly and without drama.

Moving down the card, the matches are either one-sided (Fitch vs. Thiago) or meaningless (Dolloway vs. Lawlor) or both (Bonnar vs. Coleman). Nevertheless, with this much talent on the card, it's extremely unlikely that everything play out as expected, which is why we have them fight (and watch).

Brock Lesnar (-205) vs. Frank Mir (+190) (heavyweight title unification)

This clash of big men promises to be nasty, brutish, and short. Lesnar represents, as always, raw power, with limited technique on the feet and a marked disadvantage in the grappling department. Mir throws gaudy K-1 combos these days, and has the strength to crank a submission way too hard for the human body, but he takes punishment very poorly and was nearly stopped in under a minute in their last fight. All told, that suggests that this fight won’t make it out of the first round.

In his watershed bout with Nogueira, Mir threw (and landed) fancy four and five punch combinations like he was Ernesto Hoost, which was as shocking as Nogueira’s putrid performance at the time, and caused many to think that Mir’s striking had turned a corner and was now a serious threat to anyone. Upon further review, this first blush is quite misleading.

Against Mir, Nogueira was completely useless. For whatever reason you choose to believe (staph, injuries, and general physical deterioration have all been variously blamed), Nogueira was sluggish as an old man and seemingly incapable of offering any offense. Mir simply walked forward and threw combinations like he was hitting a heavy bag, which is really all Nog was at that time. When Nog chose to try to counter, his responses were so predictable, slow, and weak that Mir was able to slip the bulk of them and laugh off those that did land. Mir stayed very loose and relaxed, as if he were engaging in a sparring session where he was in no real danger.

Against Lesnar, Mir will be forced to work an entirely different game. Lesnar is much faster than Nogueira was in that fight, and far more dangerous than Nog has been on the feet at any point in his career. Mir isn’t the most durable heavyweight, being utterly embarrassed by Pe De Pano, Ian Freeman, and Brandon Vera, as well as knocked over by a jab in his first scrap with Lesnar. While Lesnar’s striking acumen may be in doubt, his power is not, so a loose Mir looking to trade combinations will quickly get battered to the floor.

One X-factor in the striking is Lesnar’s underestimated reach. While he’s “only” 6’3”, Lesnar is also about 8’ wide, so when he turns that massive torso into a punch, it puts about an extra foot of reach on it. The Man’s wingspan is about the same as Tim Sylvia’s. Couture underestimated this, much to his deteriment, and it’s entirely possible Mir comes in expecting to trade as equals since they’re about the same height, only to find himself having to dodge enormous fists before he can even get within his own range.

On the floor, this will also be a much more interesting fight than one would think. Lesnar is not a BJJ expert, and Mir has a very slick submission game for a man of his size and power. However, when they last met, Lesnar’s frenetic pounding had Mir in the fetal position and completely unable to control the big man’s posture, with Lesnar spinning to side control and pinning Mir down well. In fact, Lesnar only ran into trouble when he posted his arms directly on Mir’s chest and tried to just stand up out of guard, leading to him falling into the slowest kneebar in the history of the universe. While Brock can work on his submission defense just as much as Mir works on his takedown defense, neither are going to reduce their deficit when compared to the other in a significant way, but it’s still not going to be possible for Mir to just pull guard and put on a clinic on Lesnar, with the likely result of such attempts being a severe bashing.

The other interesting possibility in this fight is that Mir could land some of those big combinations on Lesnar early. Couture, despite being greatly outgunned, did land solid shots on Lesnar (albeit primarily with dirty boxing, which Mir will not attempt) and cut him open, so Mir could do the same thing. It would be interesting to see how Lesnar reacts to getting busted up a little, as we have not seen him take any appreciable shots in a fight. In all likelihood he has a solid chin and an iron will, like 99% of wrestling converts, and he’ll be able to punch through such adversity to put Mir on the back foot. Still, it would be very interesting to see how Lesnar handles getting beat up.

Realistically, this fight probably won’t go past the first round, as both men will be finished quickly if the other can work their game, but if by some fluke it goes long, it could turn into a complete gong show, as Mir has never had gas and Lesnar is too big to be a cardio machine.

In all likelihood, Lesnar will beat Mir up in every position until the accumulated damage puts him into the fetal position and the ref jumps in. Brock Lesnar by TKO round 1.

While the days of Lesnar at -155 are long gone, it looks like lines are trending back towards -200 and possibly under, where I’d recommend a play on Lesnar.

Georges St. Pierre (-300) vs. Thiago Alves (+260) (for welterweight title)

A real clash of the titans, this one. GSP is one of the most dominant champions the sport has had, and Alves has absolutely crushed a string of top-ten fighters on his path to the top. This fight could easily hinge on a single mistake from either fighter.

Alves is a killer, a natural fighter, the kind of guy, that if head butts were legal, would destroy people with them, because it's just natural in him to bash dudes. However, he's not the kind of crisp invincible striker that an Anderson Silva is. Thiago throws well, with incredible power and a good variety of strikes in tight combinations, but he's a killer, not a technician, and that leads to brawls. While he beat them both up badly, Lytle and Koscheck both returned fire well. Georges has improved his striking greatly, as he showed in his complete mauling of Fitch, so he could hurt Alves standing if it turns into a slugfest, but Alves has ridiculous power in everything he throws, so GSP would be well advised to use that only as a fallback plan.

GSP is well aware of his own mortality after being crushed by Serra, and has employed a strategy of striking just enough to set up his takedowns, and attacking with enough takedowns to make his opponents off-balance when he strikes. This works beautifully with what a fluid athlete Georges is, and could let him badly beat up someone that should have the edge in striking with him.

This fight will hinge on Georges’ ability to take down Alves and how he attempts to go about it. Alves is huge and strong, and has developed a very good clinch wrestling game for when his upper body gets tied up, but he will likely still go down if GSP can drive into his hips with that beautiful double leg he does so well. However, Georges may be hesitant to simply duck and drive, after what Alves did to Hughes (which is probably what made Koscheck keep trying to tie up and trip Alves instead of change levels). It’s even hard to catch Alves’ leg kicks, as he so often throws them quickly and in combination with punches, and mixes in headkicks, so, even if one is fast enough to grab the leg, the liklihood of catching a foot or fist to one’s unprotected face makes trying to reach down and catch a kick for a takedown a very dicey proposition. It will be very interesting to see what gameplan Greg Jackson comes up with after the spectacular failure of his preposterous “move backwards = win” plan for Rashad to employ against Machida, which hasn’t hurt Jackson’s reputation as a robot genius with a computer brain as much as it should have.

If Georges gets Thiago down, it will be a very hard night for the Brazilian. Thiago has worked on his jiu-jitsu, but GSP’s most underappreciated skill is his guard passing game. If he gets on top of Thiago, I full expect him to move to side mount and bust Alves up. This is the most likely outcome of the fight: Georges getting a few takedowns and doing enough damage to result in yet another one-sided TKO finish in the second round. Coupled with the fact that he’s dangerous standing as well, and Georges is rightly the favorite in this fight.

However, Alves only ever needs one shot, and he’s made a career out of landing those shots early and often. His punches have bad intentions, his leg kicks are crippling, and he can flash a knee up with no hesitation. GSP knows this, and may come in tentative. Even if GSP comes ready, Alves is so dangerouos that he has a very good chance of winning this fight at any moment when it’s on the feet, so do not be shocked at all if he simply floors Georges. Thus my prediction for this fight is a heavily qualified second round TKO stoppage by Georges St. Pierre.

As should be clear from my breakdown, I think Alves at +260 is a good bet. This fight has very high variance, as do most with someone with such extreme KO power, and that is in your favor when betting on a good-sized underdog like Alves. I think there’s a good chance he can fight off takedowns long enough to really hurt Georges and finish him. The Serra punch was unlikely, but it wasn’t a fluke. Serra nearly killed Karo Parisyan with the exact same punch, and Georges has only himself to blame for not doing his homework on that. A similar lapse will result in a similar result, and Alves has a lot more weapons than Serra.

Jon Fitch (-410) vs. Paulo Thiago (+350)

Fitch is going to be the number two fighter in this division for a long time, as he’s not likely to ever be able to beat GSP, but will grind up almost anyone else at 170, possibly splitting fights with the much-improved Thiago Alves. He’s most known for his wrestling, but he has improved his striking, and has an underrated jiu-jitsu game.

Paulo Thiago is where he is today because of one punch and some poor refereeing. Koscheck was taking him to school on the feet, as expected, and the fight was stopped far too early. In this fight he’s most likely doomed, being pushed too far too soon against someone that can take him down, deal with his jiu-jitsu, and grind him up. Paulo is a pretty good fighter, but he’s been pushed too far too soon. Fitch is a quantum leap in competition and will likely handle him just as he handled Gono in his last fight. Jon Fitch by decision.

I think Fitch wins this fight 90% of the time. It’s a lot of chalk to lay down, but if you want to roll this fight into a parlay, there’s money to be made.

Michael Bisping (+190) vs. Dan Henderson (-210)

This is a very difficult fight to handicap because you never know what Henderson you’re going to get. If it’s the guy that gasses out, doesn’t bother with takedowns, and windmills aimlessly, Bisping will pick him apart and walk off with an easy decision. However, Henderson fought very disciplined fights in his last two outings (although he should not have gotten the decision against Franklin) and used his skills in the most intelligent way.

Bisping has good technical striking, although he lacks serious power, and he has good enough grappling to keep taking him down from being a no-brainer. If Henderson gets takedowns (which will be there when he wants them) I expect the fight to slow down to a crawl, as Bisping won’t be able to threaten Hendo, but will keep him from getting much offense going. On the feet, while Bisping is much cleaner, he had extreme trouble with another big hitter with a solid chin in Matt Hamill, who just bullied Bisping around the ring and walked through his punches. Of course, Bisping easily handled Chris Leben, but Leben telegraphs his punches even more than Henderson on a bad day. Dan Henderson by decision.

If Henderson comes into the octagon in good shape and executes a smart and well-disciplined game, then the proper line should be -350. However, with his unreliable dedication to the sport, -210 is just about right. If you have faith that the last two fights were indications of a new maturity in his style and Henderson is going to continue to fight smart and take the game seriously, then -210 is an excellent line to play Henderson on.

Yoshihiro Akiyama (-270) vs. Alan Belcher (+220)

Belcher is being seen as the underdog special on this card, with the theory going that Akiyama is an overhyped Japanese fighter that will wilt in the cage. Although there definitely seems to be some kind of voodoo going on with most fighters performing below their true ability in their first UFC appearance (perhaps the bright lights zap them), this story doesn’t completely add up.

Belcher was controlled for almost two complete rounds by Denis Kang before Kang had the predictable mental collapse and did something stupid enough to throw away the fight, and prior to that he squeaked by Ed Herman in a close fight. Akiyama is coming off of two unimpressive victories over garbage opponents, but those were fights he obviously didn’t want to take, and went into with very short notice and little or no training.

While it’d be amusing to see Akiyama land another Ezekiel choke, this fight will probably be little more than a kickboxing match. A well-trained Akiyama has the firepower to shut off Belcher, who doesn’t have the kind of beard Misaki does. Although Belcher is dangerous, it’s unlikely that Akiyama is going to throw himself into a guillotine choke or gas out and get kicked in the face. This should be a real firefight to welcome Akiyama to the cage, but the Japanese/Korean import is a Toyota, not a Hyundai, and he’ll put the stamp down. Yoshihiro Akiyama by KO round 2.

Stephan Bonnar (-350) vs. Mark Coleman (+300)

Mark Coleman hasn’t had more than three or four minutes of gas in years. The best you can expect from him is that he’ll be able to muscle and control his way to winning the first round, but by the second there’s no way he’ll have the fuel to keep Bonnar down. Bonnar is a very big, very mediocre 205, with solid boxing and jiu-jitsu and nothing spectacular. Unless he comes in in the kind of shape Shogun did against Coleman, he will find a submission or a slow, painful knockout against a shockingly purple Mark Coleman. Stephan Bonnar by TKO round 2.

Put this in a parlay, bet your house, whatever. Coleman can’t win.

Mac Danzig (+160) vs. Jim Miller (-190)

Danzig is an okay all-rounder that loses to guys that are better wrestlers than he is. Miller is a better wrestler and a better grappler. This fight could be full of exciting scrambles, but Miller will come out on top. He’s more dangerous and should control the fight unless Danzig has greatly improved his striking and wrestling. Jim Miller by decision.

Jon Jones (-450) vs. Jake O'Brien (+350)

This one has gotten a lot of attention from bettors, as having someone as raw and as limited as Jones against solid opposition like Jake O’Brien is silly. Jones has tons of holes in his game: he fights in bursts because he explodes and gasses himself out, having very little left in the third round. He strikes like he’s in a kung-fu movie, throwing tons of crazy spinning attacks, but having lots of difficulty actually stringing them together in coherent combinations or maintaining proper form and defense. He’s phenomenally talented, but he simply has a lot of training to do before he merits being -450.

O’Brien, on the other hand, is very one-dimensional. He’s a solid wrestler with some power, but really doesn’t have much else going for him. Jones will likely be able to flabbergast him with his spinning attacks, as he has the other mid-level opponents he’s faced, but Jones also has huge holes in his defense, relying on his opponents being too worried about spinning back ninja flips to put combinations on him. O’Brien isn’t much of a boxer, but he is a powerful guy, so if he just gets in a slugfest, he has a decent shot at tapping Jones’ chin and scoring the upset. The wrestling is similar. Jones is a very good wrestler, with a background in freestyle and Greco, so he should be able to take care of O’Brien, but if Jake can put him down, Jones has only trained grappling for a short period of time, and will likely be in very big trouble underneath a solid, heavy hitting guy like O’Brien.

O’Brien is much more experienced fighter, but a good deal less talented, so this is a good test for Jones. He should pass, but he’ll have to show improvement and bring his A-game.
Jon Jones by decision.

It’s hard to see O’Brien winning, with how flashy and talented Jones is, but when you have as many holes in your fundamentals as Jones does, a loss to solid opposition could always be in the cards. A flier here is good value.

C.B. Dollaway (-225) vs. Tom Lawlor (+220)

C.B. is a better wrestler and a better grappler. Lawlor isn’t talented enough or experienced enough to overcome that. C.B. Dollaway by submission, round 1.

Matt Grice (-125) vs. Shannon Gugerty (-105)

Grice was absolutely robbed against Veach. The reffing in that fight was so bad it looked like someone had been paid off, but it was probably more official incompetence than anything else. If there is justice in the world, he’ll win. Gugerty is a good grappler and has fought better opposition, but Grice has good power and enough wrestling to control the fight. Very close fight that could go either way, depending on who trained harder, who wants it more, and who is luckier. Matt Grice makes up for being robbed, by winning the decision.

T.J. Grant (+260) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (-340)

Kim is an interesting fighter, with aggressive judo-based grappling, long limbs, and good pop in his hands. However in his fight with Matt Brown he showed that he can be worn down by a tough guy that simply won’t quit. T.J. Grant is that kind of fighter, and is much more skilled than Brown. He is good enough on the feet to hang with Kim, and he can threaten him with submissions too. This is a very close fight, but I think Grant will show his true colors here and score an impressive upset. T.J. Grant by decision.

Grant opened at +260 at bodog, which is lunacy and an old-school error. Just remember: the main event might matter more, but money made on some unaired prelim spends just as good as money made on Lesnar.

My Plays:
2.1u on Lesnar at -210 to win 1u
1u on Alves at +260 to win 2.6u
7u on Bonnar at -350u to win 2u
.5u on O’Brien at +350 to win 1.75u
2u on Grant at +260 to win 5.2u

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