Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra
Sports history has certainly seen its share of astonishing upsets over the years. Hockey has the 1980 Miracle on Ice, baseball has the Miracle Mets of 1969, and boxing fans will never forget Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan. Last April, Matt Serras shocking first-round knockout of Georges St. Pierre became the greatest upset in UFC history. At the time, the 26-year-old Canadian was being touted as the future of the sport and his first title defense was expected to be nothing more than a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately, St. Pierres walk to the octagon almost lasted longer than the fight.
At 5-foot-6, Serra [9-4-0] seems a natural for fighting at 155 pounds a division he previously occupied until the UFC put the lightweights on ice in 2004. Thus, with no potential fights at his prior weight, Serra made the move up to the welterweight division and parlayed a successful run on season four of The Ultimate Fighter into a championship victory over St. Pierre.
Although the Long Island fighter is primarily known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills the first American awarded a black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie it was the 33-year-olds striking game that ultimately stopped GSP. Serra has worked tirelessly under trainer Ray Longo over the last couple of years to improve his stand-up, and while he wont be mistaken for Anderson Silva on his feet anytime soon, he does possess knockout power.
Since the loss, St. Pierre [15-2-0] has been on the road to redemption. A convincing win over wrestling stand-out Josh Koscheck in August was followed up with a dominating performance over Matt Hughes to close out 2007. The product of St. Isidore, Quebec was able to defeat two seasoned wrestlers at their own game, as he took them both down repeatedly and imposed his game plan.
Just prior to their last fight, sources close to St. Pierre said he was breaking down mentally in the dressing room, as he believed his training hadnt prepared him for the match with Serra. Subsequently, St. Pierre looked tentative right from the onset and once Serra initially rocked him he never recovered. However, with a penguin-like wingspan, Serra should have never been able to touch St. Pierre from the outside.
Even though Serra earned top marks for his striking display against GSP, its his jiu-jitsu skills that are his deadliest weapon. Nonetheless, St. Pierre should be able to keep his distance on the feet and pick Serra apart standing, which will inevitably setup a takedown. Afterwards, expect GSP to keep pressure on Serra from the top position, constantly dropping short elbows that will negate any Serra submission attempts and setup a second or third round stoppage.
Prediction: St. Pierre
Rich Franklin vs. Travis Lutter
Both fighters are looking to get back into the win column after losses against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in their last outing.
Franklin [22-3-0] is an extremely well rounded fighter, but whats perceived as his biggest strength striking was completely nullified in two fights against Silva. Franklin is fortunate that there are not too many fighters that possess the Brazilians deadly array of strikes. In addition, Franklin has also owned an advantage over most middleweights in the clinch department, unless hes tied up with Silva. That said, now that hes no longer facing his kryptonite, expect to see Franklin go back to his old ways and let his hands go as he hunts down his opponent. Furthermore, while hes certainly not a submission specialist, Franklin is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Jorge Gurgel.
Lutter [9-4-0], the season four middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter, is a highly regarded BJJ black belt. The Texas native makes no secret about his intentions during a fight, hes looking to take his opponent down and beat them up until an opening presents itself to secure a submission. Also, its worth noting that Lutter has the distinction of being the most difficult opponent Silva has faced in the UFC, as he had the champion fully mounted before getting careless and losing top position. However, while Lutter can make life miserable for many middleweights on the ground, his striking skills leave a lot to be desired.
Expect to see the Rich Franklin that dominated Evan Tanner, David Loiseau, and Nate Quarry show up on Saturday night. The only question that will surface after Franklin wins is whats next for him? With Silva sitting comfortably at the top of the division, Franklin might be enticed to consider a move back to light heavyweight.
Mac Danzig vs. Mark Bocek
After winning the welterweight competition on season six of The Ultimate Fighter, Mac Danzig is dropping down to lightweight for his official UFC debut against Woodbridge, Ontario native Mark Bocek.
Although Danzig [17-4-1] steamrolled through the opponents he faced on the show, his level of competition was hardly top-notch. Joe Scarola thought he was on a six-week vacation in Las Vegas rather than a participant in an elite competition, and John Kolosci showed he was grossly overmatched in successive fights that propelled Danzig to the finals. During the shows finale, Danzig faced country boy Tommy Speer who might have had a sporting chance if he donned Hillbilly Jims blue overalls in the octagon. Instead, after a quick takedown, Danzig was able to gain full mount and secured a first round submission victory.
Bocek [5-1-0] is one of Canadas first Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, as he began training under the guidance of Rickson and Renzo Gracie. Boceks grappling skills are considered world-class, and he also possesses very good takedowns that hes continued to refine since teaming up with Dan Henderson and Team Quest in Temecula, California. However, while a black belt in kempo karate, Boceks striking hasnt looked very sharp in either of his two UFC appearances.
While Danzig is very well rounded, the advantage he holds over Bocek standing is far outweighed by the Canadians savvy ground game.