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Packers and Steelers set for Superbowl showdown

24 Jan

By Paul Leigh

Two of the NFL’s most storied franchises are set to meet in Superbowl XLV in Arlington, Texas on February 6 after both the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers won the NFC and AFC championships last night.

The Packers are going to the most watched sports event in the world for the first team since 1998 after defeating the Chicago Bears 21-14 in the NFC decider at Soldier field. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers opened the game on fire passing for 74 yards on four plays and running in a touchdown on the opening drive.

Rookie running back James Starks made it 14-0 at the break for the Packers. The Bears had to turn to third string quarterback Caleb Hanie as Jay Cutler was forced off with a knee injury. Chester Taylor reduced the arrears to 14-7 but big BJ Raji picked off a Hanie pass to make it 21-7. Hanie found Earl Bennett to move closer once again but forced one pass too many as Sam Shields came up with a crucial interception to end the game.

The Steelers raced into a 24-0 lead against the New York Jets thanks to Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger rushing touchdowns before Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez allowed William Gay to score on a fumble recovery.

However, the Jets fought back with Sanchez chucking two touchdowns to Santonio Holmes and Jericho Cotchery before Roethlisberger fumbled in the end zone to concede a safety to leave the game firmly poised at 24-19. But the Steelers managed to hold on to reach their 3rd Superbowl in six seasons.

It shall be an interesting match up with most sides nicknaming their cities “Titletown” due to their massive success over the years.

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Lewis cashes in the Jackpot

4 Jan

By Paul Leigh

Adrian Lewis hit a 9 darter on his way to claiming his first World Darts Championship in a thrilling encounter with Gary Anderson at the Alexandra Palace last night.

“Jackpot” as Lewis is known saw Anderson take out 104 to win the first leg before levelling in the next. The third leg saw both men open with 180s before Lewis hit another then treble 20, treble 19 and double 12 to create a piece of history. Lewis went on to win the opening set with an amazing 123 average.

The 25 year old who was mentored in his early career by the legendary Phil Taylor raced into a 3-1 lead but the Scot pegged it back to 3-3. However, Anderson was not playing at the same level as all week and missed doubles came back to haunt him as has most of his career and Lewis made it 6-3 and was on the brink of victory.

The next two sets went Anderson’s way and many were beginning to wonder had Lewis fallen asleep on the big stage yet again but he came out firing again and finished on double 11 to claim his first major title and probably the biggest he will ever win.

Lewis admitted afterwards that he now has to push on from this and continue to win more after picking up the £200,000 winners cheque.

“It hasn’t quite sunken in yet, it takes a lot of bottle to keep your courage after hitting a nine-darter.”

“I’m over the moon to win this but I’ve got to push on now. I think I deserve it, I went up there yesterday and felt a lot of pressure. I turned up today and felt cool and got the job done.”

“I knew I had to come out strong against him. When I hit the two 180s, I thought this is going in. I’ve missed them all week on double 12 but I knew I wouldn’t miss that one.”

Lewis will now go to number two in the World behind Taylor and both will face off in the Premier League on the opening night in London on February 10th.

Ireland Announce Extended Squad for World Cup

21 Dec

The Preliminary Irish Cricket squad for the 2011 World Cup has been named by Cricket Ireland.

22 players have been included in the squad for the tournament which will take place in Bangladesh from the 19th of February to the 2nd of April.

Coach Phil Simmons was able to name a strong side with seven of his players currently attached to English County teams as well as eight players who were part of the squad from the last world cup. Ed Joyce has been selected after he was allowed to participate for Ireland following a special ruling from the ICC.

Speaking on the unveiling of the squad Simmons had this to Say; “There are no surprises in the 22, as we’ve had a fairly settled squad this past year. Our training camp in India last month went well and it was fantastic preparation for the conditions which we’ll be facing when the tournament starts.

Ireland travel to Dubai next month for another training camp and will face New Zealand and Zimbabwe in Nagpur before they make their bow in Dhaka on 25 February. England, Netherlands, South Africa and the West Indies face Ireland in their group.

The preliminary squad in full is as follows:

William Porterfield (Warwickshire) (capt)
Andre Botha (North County)
Alex Cusack (Clontarf)
George Dockrell (Leinster)
Phil Eaglestone (Strabane)
Allan Eastwood (Pembroke)
James Hall (Waringstown)
Trent Johnston (Railway Union)
Nigel Jones (Civil Service North)
Ed Joyce (Sussex)
Rory McCann (Instonians)
John Mooney (North County)
Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union)
Niall O’Brien (Northants)
Andrew Poynter (Clontarf)
Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire)
Paul Stirling (Middlesex)
Albert van der Merwe (The Hills)
Regan West (Civil Service North)
Gary Wilson (Surrey)
Andrew White (Instonians)
Craig Young (Sussex)

Strikeforce

9 Dec

By Keith ‘Bravo’ Norton

Strikeforce: St. Louis or Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II, December 4th 2010 at the Scottrade Centre in St Louis, Missouri. This is a ballsy move paid off for Scott Coker’s upstart promotion. Going head to head with the UFC’s TUF showcase, the Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck finale, this event had KO’s galore and fast exciting fights in contrasts to the TUF finale.

Main Card

Light Heavyweight bout:  ‘’Dangerous’’ Dan ‘’Hollywood’’ ‘’Hendo’’ Henderson (25-8) vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral (36-8)

Hendo put himself back in the title contention frame with a devastating KO of Brazilian hard nut Babalu. Coming into this fight a lot of experts were questioning Henderson’s ability to compete after turning 40 and asking if he still had what it took to compete after getting scholled by former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields. However a healthier and fresher Hendo returned to his favoured Light Heavyweight division and sent out a warning call to everyone after Sobral Sobral went for a takedown he fell victim as have many others to the ‘H Bomb’. Henderson’s right hand was just unloaded and Sobral lay there without protecting his head and was sent to the land of nod.

 Henderson defeated Sobral via KO (Punches) at 1:53 of round one.

Next for Sobral: A rematch with King Mo or Gegard Mousasi is a possibly or he could be used to raise the profile of an up and coming Light Heavyweight fighter.

Next for Henderson: Strikeforce doesn’t have a very deep light-heavyweight division but it does have a few big names such as, King Mo and Gegard Mousasi. These men will mostly likely match up against each other again or against Sobral to find a number one contender to the champion Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante. Henderson will not be sacrificed as he is a too big draw to deal with anything less than the champion right now.

Middleweight bout:  ‘’Ruthless’’ Robbie Lawler (19-6-1) vs. Matt ‘’The Law’’ Lindland (22-7)

Robbie Lawler showed a less than ruthless streak when he KO’ed fellow veteran Lindland and popped up when he saw his foe was gone rather than carrying on with the beating. Lindland was on the back foot from the beginning, his striking has never been pretty but his work rate has always covered up this hole in his game until recently. As Lindland tried to avoid strikes he fell victim to a vicous uppercut and overhand right before Lawler followed him to the ground and popped him one last shot before jumping up and leaving the fallen fighter in the care of the ref.

Lawler defeated Lindland via KO (punches) at 0:50 of round one.

Next for Lindland: KO’s are becoming part of Lindland’s CV of late, unfortunately he’s on the receiving end of them. It might be time for Lindland to concentrate on fighting full time or go into politics full time.

Next for Lawler: This is Ruthless’s second consecutive KO and he will soon be knocking on Middleweight champion Jacare’s door with these type of performances. A win over part time fighter and Californian favourite Cung le would help on route to a title shot.

Welterweight bout:  Paul ’’Semtex’’ Daley (25-9-2) vs.  Scott Smith (17-7-1)

This was a great match up Hands Of Steel versus Semtex was a smart match up as both men prefer the stand up and that will always entertain. Former UFC bad boy Daley and All American Smith went right at it from the bell. The exchanges were fast and sharp with Daley winning using his movement. As Smith came forward [he knows no other direction it appears] he walked right in to a left hook that cleaned his clock and face planted him into the canvas a la Andrei Arlovski vs. Fedor.

Daley defeated Smith via KO (punch) at 2:09 of round one.

Next for Smith: Smith was making his welterweight debut against a very powerful striker I expect to see him in a return bout quickly with a contender in the division. Smith is reliable and always brings a game stand up bout. Might be time to start adding more to his game.

Next for Daley: Daley has called out KJ Noons. This is as close to a certified win for the feisty Brit as you could get. Noons is not a natural Welterweight, his cardio is just lazy. He’s not a KO machine and he’s not a top quality boxer. I see Daley taking him out before battling Nick Diaz for a title shot.

I hope to see a UFC return one day but I also have been saying the same for Nick Diaz for some time now.

Heavyweight bout:  Antonio Silva vs.  Mike Kyle

Semi human looking monster Big Foot Silva took on late replacement Mike Kyle and almost lost in round one after being dropped by some heavy shots. Things changed in round two when Silva gained the mount and started to land clubbing shots from mount to secure a stoppage.

 Silva defeated Kyle via TKO (punches) at 2:49 of round two.

Next for Kyle: Kyle moved up a weight division and helped the promotion when the could not find an opponent to replace the injured Overeem at short notice. Kyle will no doubt drop back to his natural division and face off against a top contender as a reward for this fight.

Next for Silva: Silva doesn’t look like a champion but he continues to find ways to win, he could be used to welcome Josh Barnett to the promotion [providing Barnett gets his licensing issues sorted] or as a warm up fight in the Fedor vs. Werdum rematch.

Light Heavyweight bout:  Benji Radach vs.  Ovince St. Preux

Former IFL champ Radach was on the receiving end of a three round beating against former footballer St. Preux. The first round should have been stopped as Radach took a hell of a lot of shots with improving position or adequately defending himself in my opinion. The next two round were not as painful for Radach but he did receive a schooling on the feet from the far better St. Preux.

St. Preux defeated Radach via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-25).

Next for Radach: I expect Radach to drop back to his own weight division and continue to fight against mid level fighters and up and comers until he can put a convincing run of victories together.

Next for St. Preux: Ovince looks a solid addition to this rather weak division for Strikeforce. Two or three more solid wins like this and he could be put up against top fighters like King Mo, Babalu or Geagrd Mousasi.

Preliminary Card

Welterweight bout:  Fernando Bettega (6-4) vs. Wayne Phillips (4-3)

Phillips defeated Bettega via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).

Light Heavyweight bout: Terrell Brown (2-0) vs. Patrick Cummins (0-0)

Cummins defeated Brown via TKO (strikes) at 2:44 of round one.

Lightweight bout:  Justin Lawrence (0-0) vs. Max ‘’Payne’’ Martyniouk (0-0)

Lawrence defeated Martyniouk via technical unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). The fight was stopped in round 3 due to an accidental soccer kick by Lawrence.

Light Heavyweight bout: Lee ‘’Manimal’’ Brousseau (4-2) vs. Mike Glenn (4-6)

Glenn defeated Brousseau via TKO (strikes) at 2:00 of round one.

Catchweight (130 lbs) bout: Josh Epps vs.  J.W. Wright

Josh Epps replaced Ben Brown.

Wright defeated Epps via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:29 of round one.

Middleweight bout: Booker DeRousse vs. Coltin Cole

DeRousse defeated Cole via TKO (strikes) at 3:04 of round two.

Lightweight bout:  Tom Aaron vs.  Matt Ricehouse

Ricehouse defeated Aaron via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)

Middleweight bout:  Lucas Lopes vs.  Cortez Coleman

Coleman defeated Lopes via submission (guillotine choke) at 2:04 of round one.

The Ultimate Fighter 12

9 Dec

By Keith ‘Bravo’ Norton

The Ultimate Fighter Season 12: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck Finale, at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on Saturday December 4th 2010. This card was not as exciting as its rival for the time slot Strikeforce St. Louis but it did showcase some up and comers and introduced the UFC’s new weight classes to the promotion. It also used a smaller Octagon…why I do not know.

 Main card

Light Heavyweight bout:  Stephan ‘The American Psycho Bonnar (12-7) vs.  Igor Pokrajac (22-7)

Stephan Bonnar fought and lost the first ever TUF finale and it was appropriate that one of the men from the final was there to welcome the new 145lbs and new fighters to the UFC.

The American Psycho won this bout with his ground skills. Despite having to walk through some heavy punches from his Croatian foe he repeatedly took Pokrajac to the canvas and work hard with submission attempts and G’n’P.

 Bonnar defeated Pokrajac via unanimous decision (29-26, 29-26, 29-26). Pokrajac was deducted one point at the end of round 2 for multiple knee strikes on a downed opponent. Bonnar was deducted one point at the end of round 3 for illegal strikes to the back of the head.

Next for Pokrajac: P45 time. He was 1-2 inside the Octagon in his last three bouts and this was not a great performance for the Cro Cop team mate.

Next for Bonnar:  Bonnar is now enjoying a win streak and has achieved gatekeeper status I believe that if he changes up camps and moves to a solid team he can make a push towards the top ten at least once before his career ends. Until then he will be the welcoming mat for returning veterans and new prospects.

Lightweight bout:  Jonathan Brookins (11-3) vs.  Michael Johnson (8-4)

In a better than average fight Johnson won a solid first round, against the prevailing wisdom of many experts. The solid wrestler took Brookins down and landed some hard shots in the first round. Brookins showed a solid chin and healthy resolve to turn the tide and dominate rounds two and three with solid grappling but was unable to find the finish against his tough opponent.

Brookins defeated Johnson via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) to become the Season 12 Lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter.

Next for Johnson: A need to improve his technical stand up, some cardio tweaks and his submission game. With so many new faces in the lower weight divisions it’s almost impossible to guess opponents at this time.

Next for Brookins: A definitive improvement in the stand up is needed for the ground whiz. I think Brookins belongs at 145lbs as that’s where he has done his best work, this makes sense when you consider the depth of talent now in the lower weight divisions in the UFC. Only time will see if the new TUF winner feels the same.

Middleweight bout:  Demian Maia (12-2) vs.  Kendall ‘Da Spyda’ Grove (12-7)

“Yeah, I said ‘I’ll take Demian, I want to test myself.’ What better way to fight top ten fighters? That’s where I want to be and in order to get there you have to fight a top ten fighter. He was the best choice I had at the time. I had a choice of three opponents and I chose him as he was the toughest one available.”  Kendall Grove to Fighter’s Only magazine.

These were the thoughts of TUF season three winner Grove before the bout. Well be careful what you ask for. A much more muscular and dogged Demian Maia entered the Octagon and took the fight to the lanky Hawaiian. Da Spyda was on the back foot or should I say on the mat for most of the match. Maia just kept closing distance, securing the takedown and working his ground game. Grove is hardly a slouch on the ground as I discussed in my event preview he has some serious submissions wins. Tonight it was all about his grappling defensive skills.

This was a good showing for Grove who will win some respect for his ability to avoid the submissions of Maia and confirms Maia as a top contender in the middleweight divisions.

Maia defeated Grove via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Next for Grove: As a former TUF winner you would expect Grove’s job to be safe but with previous winner’s Travis Lutter and Efrain Escudero having both being released no one is safe in Zuffa’s regime. Grove has not been great inside the Octagon but manages to pull out ‘save my job’ victories at just the right time.  If he loses another fight I see the game Hawaiian leaving the promotion.   

Next for Maia: Maia is working his way back to title contention he needs a few impressive wins. I see four potential bouts to raise his profile again and give him time to improve his stand up as much as he has improved conditioning. The three match ups are are Chris Leben [a win here would be hard earned], Yoshiro Akiyama [a high profile fighter with a solid grappling game and improved striking] the winner of Bisping and Rivera [both are good strikers, one is a wrecking machine and the other a solid technician] and finally a rematch against Nate Marquardt.

Welterweight bout:  Johny Hendricks (9-0) vs.  Rick ‘The Horror’ Story (11-3)

Hendricks was a prospect on the rise until he ran into the serious stand up game of The Horror. Rounds one and two saw Hendricks continually secure takedown after takedown but Story was able to pop up at will almost and engage in the stand up once more.

Round three was a poor affair the likes of which saw Gerald Harris released, which saw Hendricks hang on trying to secure a takedown.

Story defeated Hendricks via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Next for Hendricks: A new approach to MMA for the wrestling convert. He needs to really work submissions if he wants to stay true to his wrestling base. Other than that he needs to sharpen up his striking regardless. He has missed the chance to move up the ladder but should resound nicely.

Next for Story:  A solid grappler with good striking and on the back of four straight wins. This all points to Story moving up the ranks and facing a top ten fighter in the new year.

Featherweight bout:  Leonard ‘Bad Boy’ Garcia (14-6-1) vs. Nam Phan (16-7)

This bout should have been remembered for the simple reason it was the first 145lbs fight in the UFC sadly it will be remembered as one of worst judge’s decision in the UFC.

Garcia as always came out swinging hard and often from the first bell and he was looking good in the first round. Phan took control near the end and thoroughly dominated the fight in rounds two and three. He landed snappy body shots and won the takedowns and looked far fresher and stronger at 145lbs than at the 155lbs he sported for TUF 12.

 Gracia said he felt sorry for Pahn but that was little consolation to a fighter who was robbed.

Garcia defeated Phan via split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28).

Next for Phan: Despite the loss Phan sent out notice that he is a talented prospect at 145lbs and expect to see him fight on the next Ultimate Fight Night early in 2011 with an opponent yet to be named.

Next for Garcia: This wasn’t the return to the UFC that Garcia or his camp would have hoped for. Despite he has won several bouts for Zuffa now and must be making a push up the 145lbs rankings.

Preliminary card

Lightweight bout:  Cody McKenzie (11-0) vs.  Aaron Wilkinson (6-3)

This wasn’t a great fight but it was exciting to see The Alaskan native win again via his at this point obligatory guillotine choke. Wilkinson kept putting his head into vulnerable positions and with a fighter who specialises in neck chokes that is just plain stupid. The Wolfslair Academy fighter should have stuck to his striking and takedown defense and used superior conditioning to grind McKenzie down as we saw that happen in the house against Nam Phan.

McKenzie defeated Wilkinson via submission (guillotine choke) at 2:03 of round 1. This bout aired on the Spike broadcast following the Hendricks vs. Story fight.

 

Next for Wilkinson: The UFC’s lightweight division is stacked and I expect to see Wilkinson dropped to a spot on the next UK or European outing.

Next for McKenzie: A spot on the next Ultimate Fight Night was immediately offered to the Guilltoine Machine! I still think he would be better moving down to 145lbs to support his naturally slender frame as he will be outmatched in the grappling and strength departments.

Middleweight bout:  Rich Attonito (9-3) vs.  Dave Branch (8-1)

This was a dull affair with Branch using his superior ground game to grind out the decision.

Branch defeated Attonito via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Next for Attonito: Release?

Next for Branch: A positive fight?

Bantamweight bout:  Will Campuzano (9-2) vs.  Nick Pace (5-1)

Both fighters had the privilege of being the first 135 lbs bout inside the UFC’s Octagon.This was a fairly evenly matched fight but Pace was edging it in the two first rounds before winning in decisive fashion after sinking in a modified triangle choke, now called the Pace Choke.

Pace defeated Campuzano via submission (pace choke) at 4:32 of round three.

Next for Campuzano: With a wage bill to cut and increasing talent heavy divisions the UFC will most likely release Campuzano.

Next for Pace: A steady move up the ladder seems to be the call for this rising prospect.

Featherweight bout:  Fredson Paixão (10-3-1 NC) vs. Pablo Garza (10-1)

I saw this fight ending with Paixão securing a submission but I should have expect the gigantic reach advantage that Garza enjoyed to come into the equation. I didn’t and neither did Paixão. This fight will be remembered for one of the best KO’s of 2010 and also as the first 145 lbs bout in the UFC.

Garza defeated Paixão via KO (flying knee) at 0:51 of round one.

Next for Paixão: Despite suffering the ‘Knock out of the Night’ expect Paixão to come back strong and tighten up his defense and use his stellar BJJ to move up the ladder.

Next for Garza: Saved his career with this KO. Expect him to move on to a high profile fight soon.

Lightweight bout: Sako Chivitchian (5-0) vs.  Kyle Watson (12-6-1)

Sako was supposed to be a Manny Gamburyan/Karo Parisyan type fighter, he was, a loud mouth who fell apart when the heat was turned up. After being dominated on the ground by Brookins during his time in the house I expected to see Chivitchian tighten up his striking, work his stand up and spend a lot of time on the mats. He obviously did some training but came up short against the talented HIT grappling coach and fighter. Memo to Sako: If Matt Hughes makes your opponent the BJJ coach at his gym you should know that he has a solid if not stellar ground game. Watson won this by outworking his opponent in every round much like a vintage Matt Hughes.

Watson defeated Chivitchian via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

Next for Chivitchian: I expect to see Sako released after a poor showing in the TUF house and in this fight but he could make his way onto a Strikeforce event with his new post TUF profile.

Next for Watson: I expect to see the Hughes trained, Watson on future preliminary cards as he works his way up the ladder.

Featherweight bout:  Tyler Toner (10-2-1 NC) vs.  Ian Loveland (13-7-1)

The Barn Owl defeated Toner in a very one sided fight using better conditioning and a solid game that combined everything well.

Loveland defeated Toner via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 29-28).

Next for Toner: Release.

Next for Loveland: A slow move in the 145lbs division.

UFC 124 Preview

9 Dec

By Keith ‘Bravo’ Norton

UFC 124: St-Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 December 11th 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

MAIN CARD

Champion Georges St. Pierre (20-2, 15-2 UFC) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-4, 12-4 UFC)
 
UFC Welterweight Championship Bout

Can anyone out work, out muscle, out strategise, out wrestle or out strike the UFC’S favourite poster boy and long time fan favourite George ‘Rush’ or ‘GSP’ St. Pierre? Not yet it would appear as GSP goes around the welterweight division for the second time.

In all fairness to Koscheck, he has improved in every area since these two last met in August 2007.

 He’s developed a solid BJJ game and his striking is so crisper and he even sports four wins from punches and one head kick.

As we all know he possesses one of if not these best shot in MMA and the former NCAA has some of the strongest wrestling skills in 170Lbs division.

Let’s compare both men.

GSP:

Kyokushin Karate Black belt. BjJ Black belt. Studies BJJ with Renzo Gracie and John Danaher.

Wrestles with Canadian Olympic wrestling team and was reportedly asked to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympics.

Boxes with professional boxers at Freddie Roache’s gym.

Train Muay Thai with Kru Phil Nurse and former with Kru Mark DellaGrotte.

Cardio machine.

Works under MMA master strategist, Greg Jackson.

Trains at altitude in New Mexico.

Trains with the likes of Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Diego Sanchez, Clay Guida, Nate Marquardt and a host of other UFC standouts.

 

Koscheck:

NCAA wrestling champion.

BJJ Brown belt under Dave Camarillo.

Trains his kickboxing and boxing at American KickBoxing Academy under ‘Crazy’ Bob Cook and Javier Mendez.

Excellent cardio.

Trains with Mike Swick, Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch, Cung Le and his old TUF friend Bobby Southworth amongst a host of other top fighters.

There’s a lot more to consider, like St. Pierre’s recent inability to finish a fight, is he mentally weak? And what about his chin, Matt Serra KO’ed him and he avoided the stand up of Thiago Alves.

Koscheck’s mouth has been running away with him and he’s been hyping his profile with recent comments about ‘French’ this, that and the other. Sadly, saving a massive upset win inspire by some tragedy of errors on GSP’s behalf I feel the American’s mouth cannot save him from what I expect to be another loss to the champ.

GSP is a truly dominant champion and despite what some say his victories even by desicion are blueprints for total MMA. He has failed to finish opponents lately, Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy who should have tapped to a severe kimura but people forget his beat Matt Serra and Matt Hughes with strikes and submission respectively. The last two finishes were against outmatched opponents but GSP can finish fights.

 Failing a win via TKO or submission in round three, I still see GSP taking this even by decision.

 

Stefan Struve (20-4, 4-2 UFC) vs. Sean McCorkle (10-0, 1-0 UFC) Heavyweight bout

Big Sexy walks in to this fight almost able to stare Stefan Struve in the face as he stands an impressive 6 foot 7inches. Despite having never lost a fight this is only his second UFC outing and he has to stand toe to toe with the Skyscraper, who, has faced a better calibre of opponent during his UFC tenure. Struve has only lost to Roy Nelson and Junior Dos Santos and I think this experience might give him the edge as McCorkle despite a few submission victories dir primarily a striker who likes to KO opponents. Expect a hard hitting fight that shouldn’t go three rounds if these men decide to go toe to toe.

McCorkle had been stoking the flames with his recent Twitter posts and I think this will only fire up Struve.

Struve by KO.

 Jim Miller (18-2, 7-1 UFC) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-0, 2-0 UFC) Lightweight bout

Oliveira recently beat TUF season eight winner, Efrain Escudero and stamped his P45 so hard it was beautiful. A BJJ specialist with steadily increasing Muay Thai skills, the Brazilian is a possible Jose Aldo in the making but let’s not get carried away, just yet, at least. This marks his third UFC fight since August this year winning the first two with the submission of the night.

He takes on one half of the very tough Miller brothers. Jim Miller is a BJJ black belt and former NCAA collegiate wrestler. Those two accomplishments would mark him as someone to watch but add this in to the mix. He’s riding a five fight win streak into fight having only lost to Gray Maynard, he’s beat the likes of Mark Bocek, Gleison Tibau, Duane Ludwig and Mac Danzig. Outside of the main event I see this being the fight of the night.

If I had to pick a winner I could only say, the fans.

Mac Danzig (19-8-1, 3-4 UFC) vs. Joe Stevenson (31-11, 8-5 UFC) Lightweight bout

Both men are former TUF champions and while Stevenson is a crowd favourite both men could be fighting for the jobs here as the recent merger with WEC has definitely given the UFC Lightweight division some real quality and depth.

Stevenson seems to always be just teetering on the edge of a championship shot. He has failed once before in a one sided loss to BJ Penn.

Danzig is fighting for relevance in my opinion.  He sports a (3-4) record in the UFC. He is a quality fighter with a great deal of experience but life in the Octagon hasn’t been very kind to the world’s toughest vegan.

Both men are ground specialists with Danzing having the edge in striking and a larger reach. Cardio is not an issue for either man and this should be an exciting fight.

Stevenson won’t need to kiai his way through this fight as I see him picking up the decision win here.

 

 

Thiago Alves (17-7, 9-4 UFC) vs. John Howard (14-5, 4-1 UFC) Welterweight bout

If you like Snickers or Mr. T or better yet, both, then you know that this fight has only one outcome. PAIN!!!

Howard hits = agony. Howards takes a mixed bag of tricks into the fight. Four wins by decision, the same amount by KO and six wins via submissions. He lost his last fight due to a referee stoppage but won the previous two via KO. He trains at Wai Kru MMA in Boston and his stand up is really nasty.

 Alves hits = rehabilitation, just ask Matt Hughes. The Brazilian sports an impressive record of 17 wins with 11 by KO. His punches are like being hit by an angry ape, his kicks especially his low kicks are like an axe being swung by Death himself. If he improves his wrestling and learns to control his weight in the off season he could still be the future of the division.

It would be hard to choose a winner but Alves trains with a better calibre of team mate and has fought mostly top tier opponents so I see The Pit Bull winning by KO.

PRELIMINARY CARD

Dustin Hazelett (12-6, 5-4 UFC) vs. Mark Bocek (8-3, 4-3 UFC) Lightweight bout

Despite two submission wins and one fight of the night awards Team Jorge Gurgel standout Dustin Hazelett has found life at welterweight harder than expected and moved into the equally stacked lightweight pool. His excellent ground game is suited to any division and hopefully his lightweight debut will be a return to form after dropping his last two bouts in the UFC, his overall record in the UFC stands at 5-4.

Bocek has only lost three times to top opponents during his eight fight stint in the UFC and has displayed a penchant for the RNC. He’s an ATT member and a native Canadian and I expect these two facts to be helpful to the fighter.

Both men are tough fighters with fantastic ground games and matching BJJ black belts but I expect Bocek to win via submission in the second round. 

Jesse Bongfeldt (21-7, 0-0 UFC) vs. Rafael Natal (12-3, 0-1 UFC) Middleweight bout

Brazilian Natal enjoys most of his wins by submission and is coming into this UFC after losing to Rich Attonito by decision. Despite this loss he holds a KO victory of former middleweight title challenger Travis Lutter and that’s always a good sign.

 Canada’s Jesse ‘Water’ Bongfeldt holds a respectable mixture of wins with 12 sub’s and nine [T]KO’s. Both men have fought mostly in their own countries and this will be a tough test for both men.

I am leaning towards Jesse Bongfeldt in this fight.

Matt Riddle (5-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Sean Pierson (10-4, 0-0 UFC) Welterweight bout

Canadian Pierson makes his UFC debut with all ten of his victories coming by [T]KO or KO. But all his fights have been on the smaller Canadian circuit and he is facing a former TUF cast member with only one loss in the UFC and that means one loss period as Riddle has ever only fought inside the Octagon.

Expect to see Riddle win despite having less MMA experience and the home town advantage if he can avoid the heavy hitting Pierson.

Joe Doerksen (46-13, 2-6 UFC) vs. Dan Miller (12-4, 4-3 UFC) Middleweight bout

Doerksen holds a 2-6 UFC record and is most likely on this card as he’s Canadian and always delivers a good performance.  Miller won his first three bouts inside the UFC and then loss three before winning his last fight against John Salter.  His three losses come from top tier fighters, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia and Michael Bisping. 

Doerksen has the better record, the experience and the home town advantage but I see Miller winning this and moving to just outside top ten in the Middleweight division.

Ricardo Almeida (12-4, 5-4 UFC) vs. T.J Grant (16-4, 3-2 UFC) Welterweight bout

Grant is a solid fighter but he’s nowhere near the class of the Big Dog on the ground. He does have the better stand up though and with Almeida recently stunned at his own game when he was submitted by Matt Hughes at UFC 117 by side headlock/head and arm triangle variant anything is possible. Both men are looking to re-establish themselves amongst the elite of the welterweight division.

Winner: My mind says Grant by KO but my heart says Almeida by submission in round two.

Pat Audinwood (9-1-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. John Makdessi (7-0, 0-0 UFC) Lightweight bout

Canadian Kick boxer John ‘The Bull’ Makdessi risks his undefeated record making his debut at UFC 124 against Pat Audinwood. Owner of six KO’s and some nice kicks I see Audinwood taking him to the ground and working a submission in the first or early in the second.

Audinwood by submission.

Strikeforce Preview

29 Nov

By Keith ‘Bravo’ Norton

Strikeforce: St. Louis or Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II, will air on December 4th 2010 at the Scottrade Centre in St Louis, Missouri. This is a ballsy move for the upstart promotion which is flying right in the face of the UFC’s TUF showcase, the Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck finale.

Main Card Light Heavyweight bout: ‘’Dangerous’’ Dan ‘’Hollywood’’ ‘’Hendo’’ Henderson (25-8) vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral (36-8)

Babalu was working his way up to the UFC Light Heavyweight title but after being KO’ed by Chuck Lidell and failing to release a choke hold on David Heath at UFC 74 he was released but has since rebounded strongly in smaller promotions, such as Affliction, Strikeforce and Ring of Fire, winning the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title belt along the way. He now faces old foe and seemingly re-invigorated wrestler turned KO artist Dan Henderson.

Hendo didn’t have the best of runs in the UFC and when contract time came he jumped ship to Strikeforce. Since the move he has fought once being dominated from bell to bell at Middleweight by Jake Shields who has since left for pastures new in the UFC Welterweight division.

Hendo has real strength. He could KO almost anyone with his right hand [just ask Michael Bisping and Renzo Gracie amongst others] and he’s a former Olympic wrestler. That is a dangerous combination. Babalu is a solid striker without being spectacular, aggressive, great at submissions and a decent wrestler himself.

I think age and inactivity will make the difference here and Babalu will win via decision or late submission.

Middleweight bout: ‘’Ruthless’’ Robbie Lawler (19-6-1) vs. Matt ‘’The Law’’ Lindland (22-7)

Lawler is younger, faster and a much more accomplished striker than Lindland but when you fight The Law you need more than all that. Just ask Fedor who relied on the ropes to save him from the former Olympic silver medallist. If this stays on the feet expect a win for Lawler unless Matt has been working his thai boxing low kicks, which have long been the kryptonite of the Ruthless one. If it goes to the ground Lawler has serious scrambling ability and a decent ground game. I love Lindland but I see Lawler stealing this win.

Welterweight bout: Paul ’’Symtex’’ Daley (25-9-2) vs. Scott Smith (17-7-1)

Scott Smith is a likeable, friendly guy who you would never think was a great striker and MMA’ist. He isn’t. Plain and simple he is a good striker but Daley will beat the snot out of him with any combination he can land. Smith lacks a decent ground game and takedowns despite training in American with some of the best wrestlers out there. Daley’s weakness is the ground but he’s a KO machine on the feet and that’s Smith’s chosen arena. Don’t blink as you will miss the KO.

Preliminary Card

I can’t claim to know much about the fighters on the prelim card but from their records I am going with the following judgement calls.

Bettega, Cummins, Martyniouk and Philips are recent graduates of the EA Sports fighter exchange program, where novice/starting out MMA fighters are mentored by veterans.

Welterweight bout: Fernando Bettega (6-4) vs. Wayne Phillips (4-3)

 Bettega [who looks like Vitor Belfort], was recently Jacare Souza’s protégé on the EA Sports fighter training collaboration. The Brazilian has four submission wins, one decision and one [T]KO. His four losses come via one submission, one [T]KO and two decisions.

Wayne Phillips was also a student on the EA Sports fighter training collaboration. He sports all three losses via decision and his wins are three submissions and one [T]KO.

This doesn’t make for exciting reading so let’s hope these two prospects really push the boat out.

Light Heavyweight bout: Terrell Brown (2-0) vs. Patrick Cummins (0-0)

Patrick Durkin Cummins as he is listed on sherdog.com is making his professional MMA debut and was under the tutelage of Jason ‘’Mayhem’’ Miller on the recent the EA Sports fighter training programme. He is a former two time NCAA wrestling champion at Pennsylvania State University. That makes for a great base when entering MMA.

Terrell Brown has two professional fights with one win by KO and one decision. I expect him to get taken down early and get ground and pound after watching his fights.

Lightweight bout: Justin Lawrence (0-0) vs. Max ‘’Payne’’ Martyniouk (0-0)

Martyniouk is making his professional MMA debut and recently spent time training with Gegard Mousasi, that only be a huge benefit to any novice fighter. Neither man has any fights and on that bais I will side with the Mousasi trained fighter based purely on name recognition, often a foolish mistake but sod it.

Light Heavyweight bout: Lee ‘’Manimal’’ Brousseau (4-2) vs. Mike Glenn (4-6)

Glenn has four submission losses on his record and the Manimal has two submission losses. Gleen has three submission wins and Brousseau has two wins via submission. It’s appears to be a fairly even contest. So enjoy it.

Catchweight (130 lbs) bout: Ben Brown (1-0) vs. J.W. Wright (0-0)

Brown has one pro fight which he won via submission. Wright apparently comes from a grappling background. Expect a win via submission either way.

This card has been hit by two major blows, firstly, an elbow injury forced Valentijn Overeem (28-25) out of his Strikeforce debut against fellow heavyweight Antonio Silva (14-2). Then Herschel Walker was also forced to call time on his bout with Scott Carson due to an injury. A cut deliver from the knee of a training partner. The former NFL legend had this to say, ‘’ I feel terrible about this…I know things like this happen in all sports, but I had trained very hard and was excited to be returning to the cage again”

This is not a stacked card but it offers a night were fans can watch established favourites and see some up and comers. It’s offering the exact same product that the season finale of TUF 12 is giving viewers on the same night. Fair play to Scott Coker, he’s not taking Dana White’s jibes laying down.