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Friday, May 25, 2007

UFC 71 Preview and Predictions: By Keith Shillan

It is about time. It feels like ages since we had a UFC main event that I got this excited for. It was probable UFC 65 when Matt Hughes fought Georges St. Pierre for the second time, that made me this excited. On Saturday night, the UFC's posterboy Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell tries to avenge his only lost in his career that hasn't been avenged. The man standing in his way is the charismatic body slamming machine called Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Lets take a closer look at the UFC's PPV card.

Chris "the Crippler" Leben vs Kalib Starnes

Both these fighters became popular by their stints on the Ultimate Fighter reality show. Leben on the debut season and Starnes on the third seaon. Both fighters are coming of disappointing loses. Leben known for his confidence (almost cocky) personality became a household name and his hands also made him a fan favorite. Leben was a disappointing on the show. Losing a decision to the then inexperienced Josh Koscheck and then losing on a cut to Kenny Florian (a fight that Leben was easily winning). Since the show Leben has had his ups and downs. He first beat Jason Thacker by first round TKO and then won a split decision slugfest against Patrick Cote. His wins would get even more impressive with first round submission (armbar) victory over Edwin Dewees, first round TKO victory over Jorge Rivera, and a unamious decision over Luigi Fiorvanti. Yet as of late times have been different. First, Leben was given a Muay Thai Kickboxing 101 lesson from current middleweight champion Anderson Silva, which made Leben look like an amateur. Leben would recover with a second round KO over Jorge Santiago, but was submitted by Jason MacDonald in their matchup.

As for Starnes, he also was disappointing on his stint on the reality show. He was the early favorite on the show. He made short work of boxer Mike Stine but lost to the show champion Kendell Grove when the fight was stopped due to Starnes receiving a rib injury. Starnes would make his actually debut in the UFC by making short work of Danny Abbadi by first round submission. He would then lose a uninspring third round TKO lost to Yushin Okami.

The key to Starnes victory is to take Leben down, where he holds an advantage in the submission game. I just don't see this happening. I believe Leben has a good enough take down defense (due to having trained in the past with top wrestlers like Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, and Dan Henderson). Leben clearly has the advantage in the hands. Every throw he makes has knockout written all over it. Leben has a head made off cement (Yes, Anderson Silva breaks cememt) and can take a beaten. This fight is probable due or die for both fighters, with their future with the UFC in jeopardy. I expect Kalib to try to take it to the ground but being unsuccessful, and see Leben landing a huge shot late in the first round. Leben by KO.

"The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine vs Houston Alexander

The TUF alumni continues when season 2 member Jardine faces off against UFC newcomer Alexander. Jardine is currently a top contender in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division. Jardine could arguable be undefeated in the UFC. He lost to fellow Greg Jackson submission academy teamate Rashad Evans on the show but has been on a tear since. Beating fellow castmates Kerry Schall and Mike Whitehead in his first two UFC matches but then lost a very controversial decision to Stephan Bonnar (I gave it to Jardine). He would redeem himself with a come from behind decision win against Wilson Gouveia. His success would continue, when he notched the biggest win of his career when he demolished fan favorite Forrest Griffin. Jardine looks to make a bid for the next title shot by using Alexander as his victim.

I can't really comment on Alexander, because I have not actually seen him fight before. He is really attempting to tackle a huge obstacle when he takes on top contender Jardine. Jardine has KO power in his hands, crisp leg kicks, and a good gas tank (which comes from training with team Jackson). I expect Jardine's experience alone to carry him to an easy victory. Expect to see Jardine showcase his hands with a first round TKO win.

Ivan Salaverry vs Terry Martin

It has been a long time since Ivan Salaverry has graced the UFC. He was last seen in the UFC losing a lackluster fight to Nate Marquardt back in August 2005. Salaverry first bursted onto the UFC seen by dismantling AndreiSemenov back in 2002. He would then lose a decision to top Middleweight contender Matt Lindland. He would get back on the winning path with back to back submission wins. He first beat Tony Fryklund by body triangle (possible the only one I have seen end a match), and then by triangle choke (led by an awesome kick from the bottom position) over the always tough Joe Riggs. Salaverry was then matched up on the very first main event of the UFC Fight Night card against Nate Marquardt. To the UFC disaproval Salaverry and Marquardt danced around the octagon with little action. Marquardt won the fight, and Salaverry was booted from the UFC. Only to have fought once since.

Martin has also had his share of ups and downs during his time in the UFC. Martin first came to the UFC as a Light Heavyweight. In his debut, he fought the heavy handed James Irvin. Martin known for his wrestling, toke Irvin down and controlled him for the first round. It was the opening of the second round that will always be in the UFC highlight reel history. Irvin threw one of the best flying knees in MMA history, KOing Martin in a flash. Martin would be invited back to the UFC matching him against Jason Lambert. The fight was pretty competitive until Martin's gas tank ran empty and Lambert would eventually win a TKO victory in the second round. Martin would then move down to the middleweight and have a highlight reel win off his own with a 14 seconds KO over Jorge Rivera.

This matchup matches Martin's size and wrestling ability against Salaverry's submission game. I expect Martin to come out with the early lead. Taking Salaverry down and controlling him on the ground. Expect to see Salaverry transition from submission attempt to submission attempt. I expect Martin to neutralize his attempts early but to eventually gas out late in the fight. I see Salaverry catching Martin in a submission in the early third round.

Karo "The Heat" Parisyan vs "The People's Warrior" Josh Burkman

This fight has fight of the night written all over it. Karo Parisyan has been a top UFC welterweight contender for a while. He has exciting victories of Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, and Drew Fickett to name a few. Losing close decisions to former welterweight champ Geoges St. Pierre and also to top contender Diego Sanchez. Karo has unbelievable Judo throws and is awesome at the submission game. His Kimura against Dave Strasser is amazing. Karo has been know for having been in wars. He also a smart vet with a victory over current UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra.

Burkman is another former TUF 2 cast mate. He won a decision win over Melvin Guillard on the show. He would suffer an injury during that fight which would cause him to not be able to continue on the show. Burkman would make his first two UFC fights electrifying ones. Making short work of both Sam Morgan and Drew Fickett. He would lose by rear naked choke to welterweight contender Jon Fitch but would rebound with back to back decision victories over the always tough Josh Neer and the UFC debuting Chad Reiner.

This fight is going to be exciting. Both fighters bring fire works to the table. Burkman is very well rounded. He has great wrestling slams like his KO slam of Sam Morgan and a very underated submission game (Ask Drew Fickett). Burkman probable has the edge in the hands. I truly belive that Burkman could win a boring decision by staying away and pop shotting Karo to a three round victory ala Koscheck vs Sanchez. Yet, I don't think Burkman is that style of fighter. He loves to be aggresive and always come forward. Karo on the other hand, has world class Judo skills. His throws are highlight reel material. He also has the advantage on the ground. When on his back, he is always attempting submission attempts. I expect to see everything in this fight. Both guys throwing haymakers, Burkman slamminh Karo, Karo throwing Burkman, Burkman ground and pounding, Karo making submission attempt after attempt. This will be a closer fight then some expect. I see Karo using is experience in big fights to propel him into winning a split decision.

Chuck "the Iceman Liddell vs Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

To many casual fans, this is a no-brainer. Chuck will win. Chuck always wins. To the hardcore fans, they know it is not always true. Jackson is the last fighter to beat Chuck. He is the only fighter to hold a win over Chuck that he has not avenged. These two fighers last fought almost 4 years ago. Quinton, as he would say himself, "whooped Chuck's ass". He won the standup, and toke Chuck down with one of his slams. He then stamped Chuck with a tremendous ground and pound display. Yet, since then both fighters have taken different paths.

Rampage has gone 7-3 since. He was brutally Kod twice by Wanderlei Silva. He also did not have one second of offense when he lost by 1rd TKO to Maurice "Shogun" Rua. He also won two controversial decisions over Murilo Ninja and Matt Lindland (I gave him the win over Ninja, and I am in the minority but the lost to Lindland). He did have a spectacular KO over Ricardo Arona (Best slam in the history of MMA) and his TKO win over Marvin Eastman.

Chuck on the other hand has been amazing. He has been on a 7 KO/TKO win streak. He avenged loses to UFC Heavyweight champ and Hall of Famer Randy Couture (twice) and Jeremy Horn, while beaten rivals Tito Ortiz (twice), Vernon White, and Renato Sobral (twice, once before he fought Quinton and once after).

This is a fight that Chuck and fans have been asking for a long time. These two match up great in so many ways. On the feet, Chuck is a counter puncher that throws pin point accurate bombs that have put the best of the best to sleep. While Rampage has an aggresive straight ahead, crisp punching style,has an awesome double leg takedown that is finished with a huge slam. Chuck on the other hand has one of the best takedown defense in the game. Wrestlers like Randy Couture (not their first fight) and Tito Ortiz have had awful times trying to take him down. If it hits the ground, Rampage has breath taking ground and pound (and we haven't even seen him throw elbows yet) yet Chuck is know for simply just getting back to his feet as quickly as he has been taking down. In their first fight, Quinton held Chuck down but was helped by knees to the ground which is illegal in the US.

This fight is great. I have changed my mind tons of times already. Yet, if I have to go on the record. I am taking Chuck by 4th round TKO. Though Rampage and his camp has sounded so confident, Rampage has had a bad history in title fights. If Chuck does win this fight, his legacy might make him the greatest UFC fighter in history and leave him second on the list to Fedor Emelianenko as greatest on the MMA list.


Prelims predictions:

Din Thomas vs Jeremy Stephens - Din by UD
Sean Salmon vs Alan Belcher - Salmon by dec
James Irvin vs Thiago Silva - Silva by 1rd TKO
Wilson Gouveia vs Carmelo Marrero - Gouveia by 3rd sub

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