Wednesday, March 24, 2010

UFC 111 Implications

UFC 111 is the most stacked fight card since UFC 100. Two title fights and several matchups that are very meaningful to their divisions. Breakdowns are a dime a dozen so I want to focus more on the implications for the future that some of these fights present.

GSP vs Dan Hardy
I'll start by stating that I am assuming GSP wins this fight. I'm assuming he takes Hardy down, passes to side and takes a kimura in the 1st round and proves Hardy doesn't belong in the same cage (I think Hardy vs Paulo Thiago would have been a more reasonable matchup considering division standings although I suppose St. Pierre had to fight somebody). A victory here will leave GSP as the most dominant welterweight of all time, standing atop a completely cleared out division with the only potential contenders looking for rematches in a fight they've already lost. Fitch or Alves make a strong case for the next title shot with Josh Koschek and Paulo Thiago not far behind. While Thiago is the only one of those to not already have a loss to St. Pierre, it's hard to get too excited about the potential match up after Fitch was able to control Thiago on the ground for 3 rounds. Only just now approaching his 30's, there is no end in sight for one of the sports most dominant athletes reign over the welterweight division, and he has (wisely) stated, there is no reason for him to go to middleweight to fight a much larger Anderson Silva.

Mir vs Carwin
Obviously when a title is on the line, the implications are clear. The winner fights Brock Lesnar and no matter who wins, that fight will be huge with either Cawin vs Lesnar being a clash of the two biggest Heavyweights the UFC has ever had (in modern times) or Mir vs Lesnar completing the trilogy that Frank Mir has been able to keep fresh in everyones mind no matter who he is actually scheduled to fight. Either way, the resulting title fight with Brock will headline what is likely to be a huge pay per view card for the UFC and a tough fight for Brock coming off such a long layoff. I will say that as big of a Carwin fan that I am, I have a hard time seeing him beating Mir after a year plus between fights. Both fighters though have dynamic finishing power and like to finish things quickly so don't blink when the bell rings.

John Fitch vs Thiago Alves
This fight may not produce a clear cut #1 contender but the winner makes a case at defining himself as the #2 welterweight in the UFC and possibly the world (depending on where you put Jake Shields). If John Fitch wins here he likely gets a title shot. If he stops Thiago Alves, then he should definitely get a title shot. Alves on the other hand will need another win or two to get back to the title if he bests Fitch on Saturday. For Alves, a rematch with Koschek or the previsouly scrapped match with Paulo Thiago make for good #1 contenders fights. I am leaning toward Fitch winning in this one as while Thiago lost to GSP at UFC 100, Fitch beat Paulo Thiago and then a tough Mike Pierce while Alves has been on the shelf for 8 months due to injuries.
(visit the MMAJunkie forums for a really great look at ring rust with good hard data)

Nate Diaz vs Rory Markham
I never thought Diaz was a big lightweight so this career move will be interesting. I will attempt a breakdown here and say that, despite Markham not fighting in a year, I struggle to find a way Diaz wins this outside of Markham making a grievous tactical error. I do not see Markham taking Diaz down which eliminates Diaz's triangle and guillotines (both of which are excellent) and I also don't see Nates wrestling allowing him to get the fight to the ground. On the feet, Diaz's boxing doesn't seem to impress judges and lacks finishing power. I expect Markham to keep it on the feet, and while not being able to crack Diaz's strong chin, win a decision by landing the harder strikes throughout the rounds. Should Diaz show either improved wrestling or punching power however, he makes a case that his move up a division was justified. This match up at welterweight is a good first test for Diaz in the division but should he lose, that would put him at 1-4 in his last 5 fights and make it hard for the UFC to justify keeping him on the roster.

I'm also interested to see Ricardo Almeida at welterweight against the always tough and aggressive Matt Brown as well as Saunders vs Ellenberger, both of which should be exciting and high paced fights. I'm glad I got my tickets before they sold out.

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