I’m home for the holidays so I decided that it was only fitting that I bring in my good friend Tyson Rupprecht to help out with the UFC 66 Basement Breakdown.
UFC 66: Liddell vs Ortiz offers the most complete and competitive fight card the UFC has assembled in along time. The results of UFC 66 will play a major role in the match ups that will take place in 2007. The fight card features the light heavyweight championship title fight as Chuck Liddell defends against long time windbag Tito Ortiz. In other action Forrest Griffin battles Keith Jardine, Michael Bisping makes his pay-per-view debut, Andrei Arlovski returns to the octagon, and Jason MacDonald takes on Chris Leben in a fight that will set the tone for the middleweight division in 2007.
UFC Light Heavyweight (205 lb. limit) Championship:
Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell (Champion) vs. Tito Ortiz (Challenger)
Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell comes into this fight with a mixed martial arts resume of 19-3. Liddell is on a six fight win streak, winning five of the six fights by knockout. "The Iceman’s" fight resume includes knock out wins over Renato Sobral (twice), Randy Couture (twice), Veron White, Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem, Guy Mezger, and Kevin Randleman. Since defeating Rand Couture at UFC 52, Liddell has successfully defended his light heavyweight championship three times and has looked unstoppable. Liddell’s striking continues to improve and many people question if there is anyone in the UFC light heavyweight division that even poses a real challenge.
Tito Ortiz is 15-4 in mixed martial arts, with recent wins over Ken Shamrock (three times by strikes), Forrest Griffin (spilt decision), Vitor Belfort (spilt decision), and Patrick Cote (decision). Ortiz has not looked dominate in any of his recent efforts and many argue that he actually lost the Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort fights. Ortiz had dominate victories over Evan Tanner (ko by slam), Elvis Sinosic (cut), Wanderlei Silva (decision), and Yuki Kondo (neck crank). However, all these fights took place between 1999-2001, and Oriz has not looked the same since.
My take on this fight is simple, Liddell knocks Tito Ortiz out in the first round. Ortiz has not improved at all since their first fight and it can be argued that he has gotten worse. In order for Ortiz to win he has to beat Liddell to the punch and get close enough to take Liddell down and keep him down. All three of these acts seem almost impossible of a task. Liddell’s striking is just too crisp and his timing continues to improve.
Tyson: Tito Ortiz wants the celebrity that goes with being a UFC champion. The porn star girlfriend and Howard Stern appearances can increase his visibility and popularity, but I don’t think he has what it takes to be a champion in the cage anymore. The difference in the takedown defense between the Iceman and Forrest Griffin will become painfully obvious to Tito when he gets stuffed by Chuck’s sprawl, and Ortiz has absolutely no game if he can’t take his opponent to the ground. We haven’t seen Liddell go into late rounds for some time now, but I think we’ll see another TKO in the middle rounds. The Iceman retains his belt.
Forrest Griffin vs. Keith Jardine
Forrest Griffin has a mixed martial arts record 13-3 and was also the winner of the Ultimate Fighter season one. Griffin is 4-1 in the UFC with wins over Stephan Bonnar (twice decision), Elvis Sinosic (strikes), and Bill Mahood (rear-naked choke). His lone loss in the UFC came via a spilt decision to Tito Ortiz, a fight that many think should have gone Griffin’s way.
"The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine will enter the octagon Saturday night with a record of 11-2-1. Jardine is 3-1 in the UFC with wins over Wilson Gouveia (decision), Mike Whitehead (decision) and Kerry Schall (tko leg kicks). His only UFC loss was a controversial decision loss to Stephan Bonnar at UFC Fight Night 4. Jardine trains out of New Mexico with Greg Jackson’s camp.
This fight has the makings to be a war. Both fighters are tough guys who will not go down easily. Forrest Griffin has not been stopped since a Jeremy Horn head kick way back in 2003 and Jardine has not been stopped since Travis Wiuff’s one punch knockout in 2002. Greg Jackson’s camp is one of the best at game planning, so expect Jardine to have a game plan that consists of heavy leg kicks and stiff jabs. However, it still may not be enough to overcome the willpower of Griffin. On the ground, Griffin will be superior, but whether or not he will take the fight there is the question.
My take on the fight is that Forrest Griffin stops Keith Jardine with strikes in the second round. I like Jardine but I think Griffin is just too big, too strong, and too tough to be taken out. The experience gained by the Ortiz fight will give Griffin the edge on this stage. Griffin will knock Jardine down and follow up for a ground and pound win in round two.
Tyson: This is going to be the best fight of the night. These guys are two of the toughest fighters the UFC has to offer. Expect a lot of blood from each fighter. Forrest’s size advantage in the light heavyweight division has been huge bonus for him in the UFC, but Jardine is a big light heavyweight who has shown that he can hang in with bigger fighters like Mike Whitehead. For some reason, Forrest has shown that he doesn’t really get into a fight until he’s been bloodied up a little bit. We’re going to see a crazy first round with a lot of haymakers that connect, but I think Griffin will be able to push through and get the decision after three rounds of mayhem.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Marcio "Pe De Pano" Cruz
Arlovski returns to the UFC after taking sometime off to recover after back to back heavyweight championship match loses to Tim Sylvia. Prior to the Sylvia loses, Arlovski had been on a tear and looked unstoppable with wins over Paul Buentello (ko), Justin Eilers (strikes), Tim Sylvia (submission), Wesley Correira (tko), Vladimir Matyushenko (ko), and Ian Freeman (tko).
Marcio Cruz is a jiu-jitsu specialist who is 2-1 in mixed martial arts competition. Cruz has wins over Frank Mir (strikes), Keigo Kunihara (rear-naked choke), and a loss to Jeff Monson (spilt decision).
Merry Christmas Andrei Arlovski! After being unable to defeat Tim Sylvia and ruining the UFC’s plans for having a marketable heavyweight champion, the UFC has regrouped and come out with a new game plan. Arlovski is going to knock out Cruz in round one. Cruz does not like to be hit and will not be able to take Arlovski down. Expect heavy leg kicks much like the Justin Eilers fight. This is the UFC’s attempt to reestablish Arlovski and give he a highlight reel knock out to put him back into the spot light. Clearly the signing of Cro Cop to the UFC now sets the stage for Cro Cop taking the belt from Sylvia and allowing Arlovski to work his way back to the top, giving the match up that the UFC has always wanted, Cro Cop verses Arlovski.
Tyson: This guy Cruz’s claim to fame is beating Frank "The Cheeseburger" Mir, who has lost all interest in being a professional fighter. This is clearly a classic UFC cupcake fight, giving Arlovski a punching bag to get him back in the cage. Submission by strikes, Andrei. Round one. First half of round one.
Michael "The Count" Bisping vs. Eric "The Red" Schafer
Michael Bisping is undefeated in mixed martial arts with a record of 11-0, with seven wins by knockout. Bisping was the season three winner of the Ultimate Fighter when he brutality defeated Josh Haynes with strikes. Bisping who has fought the majority of his fights in his native country of England, has never gone the distant in any of his fights. The fight against Schafer was supposed to have taken place in November, but visa issues kept Bisping overseas.
Eric "The Red" Schafer is 7-1-2 is mixed martial arts, with five wins by submission. Schafer won his UFC debut by arm-triangle choke over Rob MacDonald.
Bisping is very dangerous and his name has been floating around for sometime for match ups with Forrest Griffin, Renato Sobral, Stephen Bonnar, and Tito Ortiz. However, he needs to get past Eric Schafer if he wants to begin what looks to be a very promising career in the UFC. Schafer is going to want to take this fight to the floor and gain a dominate position, but getting there is going to be an issue. Bisping has the advantage on the feet and the longer the fight is there the less chance Schafer has to win.
My pick is Bisping, Schafer is tough but the striking of Bisping will be too much. Bisping will knock Schafer out with a head kick in round two.
Tyson: It’s been six months since Bisping demolished the turds of TUF 3, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how he’s improved. Schafer is by far the toughest opponent the Count has ever faced, but I don’t think the "The Red" will bring enough to the table to counter the technical Bisping. Bisping by unanimous decision.
Chris "The Crippler" Leben vs. Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald
Chris Leben is, a Ultimate Fighter season one veteran with a record of 6-1 in the UFC (16-2 overall), with his one UFC loss coming at the "knees" of current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Leben is known for his stand up skills and has knock out victories over Jorge Santiago, Justin Davis, Mike Swick, and Jorge Rivera already on his fight resume.
MacDonald has a mixed martial arts record of 17-7, with an impressive fifteen wins by submission. Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald won his UFC debut with a sleek submission win over Team Quest member Ed Herman.
Both Leben and MacDonald need wins in order to continue to move up the ladder in the UFC middleweight division. Fans have already clamored for a fight between Leben and former middleweight champ Rich Franklin. However, this fight is going to be competitive and the rumor is that the winner will get a shot at Rich Franklin in Ohio on March 3rd.
My pick is MacDonald by decision. Leben will come out early and swinging and will push the pace on the feet, but MacDonald will be ready. MacDonald will hang with Leben on the feet, before taking the fight to the floor and controlling the ground work. Leben will not be submitted, but will not be able to gain any offense and will lose a decision.
Tyson: UPSET SPECIAL!!! Watch out Chris Leben. I really like "The Athlete" in this fight, even though Leben looks ripped and ready to go. MacDonald is going to have the reach, and I think he’s too quick to get caught by one of Chris’s bombs. If it goes to the ground, MacDonald will have a huge advantage and definitely dominate. MacDonald in the upset decision.
Tony DeSouza vs. Thiago Alves
DeSouza is 9-2 in mixed martial arts and Alves comes in at 15-4. DeSouza has the advantage on the ground, but I think Thiago wins the early battle on the feet and finished DeSouza off with strikes at the end of round one.
Tyson: No no no Collin. Thiago can’t handle the height! DeSouza frustrates Alves and wins a decision.
Carmelo "The Fury" Marrero (5-0) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (6-1)
Marrero is coming into this fight after defeating Cheick Kongo by split decision. Gonzaga has taken sometime off, but returns to the octagon looking to move up in the lackluster heavyweight division. My pick in this fight is Gonzaga by rear-naked choke in round three.
Tyson: I think "The Fury" will show how tough his stand up is and pick up a split decision in a close match.
Yushin Okami (18-3) looks to move up the ladder in the middleweight division as he battles Rory Singer (10-5).
Okami seems to be the real deal in the middleweight division and could be a major player with the likes of MacDonald, Leben, Franklin and of course Anderson Silva. Singer has only been training full time for one year, but continues to improve. The longer this fight is on the feet the better the chances are for Singer pulling off the upset. I’m taking Singer by decision as he keeps Okami on the feet and wins and exciting decision.
Tyson: How can you pick against a guy who beat Anderson Silva? Oh wait, he won by getting kicked in the head while on the ground. I still don’t think Rory can handle him, and we’ll see unanimous decision Okami.
Anthony Perosh (5-2) vs. Christian Wellisch (7-2)
Wellisch is the better fighter in this fight and brings the stand up tools to take out Perosh. Perosh on the other hand has a tendency to bang with anyone, but I give the edge to Wellisch. Wellisch by tko strikes in round two.
Tyson: Just like Collin to pick the guy who’s last name sounds like his. Perosh is too atheltic for Wellisch, and I see a knock out in the first round by Tony.