Off the Hook - By Joe Reilly

UFC 47: It’s On! Predictions

An in-depth look at the upcoming UFC 47: Its On! event taking place on April 2nd from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Who is going to leave the Octagon a winner; Liddell or Ortiz?

Preliminary Bouts

Johnathan Wiezorek vs. Wade Shipp (Heavyweight Division)

Even though this fight hasn’t perhaps generated as much interest from the fans as the rest of the fights on the card, it’s still one of the hardest fights to call because of that. Personally, I have yet to seen either fighter fight, but I will make my pre-fight assumptions based on what I have heard about both fighters.

Johnathan Wiezorek is 5 – 0 – 0 in MMA, which includes a submission victory over Dan Severn. Also, many have accused the Heavyweight division as a whole of being one of the less deep divisions. Considering both of these aspects, the UFC have decided to bring in Wiezorek. Wiezorek is a relative newcomer to the sport, but has established a respectable enough record all the same. Obviously the UFC are looking to introduce new blood to the division, but they also need guys, who can legitimately fight. All things considered, Wiezorek will be debuting in the UFC for all the right reasons as far as Zuffa (UFC owners) are concerned.

On the other side of the coin, Wiezorek’s opponent, Wade Shipp is also making his UFC debut. Shipp brings a 4 – 1 – 0 MMA record to the Octagon. Shipp’s only loss came at the hands of Kauai Kupihea. Now, we know that both these fighters are making their UFC debuts, they are relatively new to MMA as a whole. Both fighters appear to be well rounded, but another thing to consider is that Wiezorek is a more accomplished wrestler, while Shipp seems to be a more accomplished striker.

Even though this may seem to be an obvious case of the dependence of circumstances i.e. whether the fight stays on the feet or goes to the ground, you should consider that Wiezorek has the reputation of being very effective at taking people down and punishing them once the fight gets to the ground. Also, Shipp has the reputation of having weak takedown defence, which by most people’s accounts led to his one and only loss that he suffered to Kupihea. So, all things considered, my pick is Johnathan Wiezorek to win this fight by TKO.

Genki Sudo vs. Mike Brown (Lightweight Division)

As with any UFC event, you have your preliminary bouts, your undercard bouts and your main event. The main event and four undercard fights is normally what is shown live on PPV. Sometimes when there is enough time left on the PPV, the UFC will treat us to one or more of the prelim match ups that happened during the night of action. Of course with so many great match ups on your average UFC card, you’ll always have some fans that are left feeling hard done by as one of their favourite fighters has been left on the prelims, which are only guaranteed to the live audience at the venue of the show.

It so happens that this is one match up in particular that most fans don’t want to miss. The main reason why is because this bout has entertainment and unpredictability written all over it. On one hand you have up and comer Mike Brown making his UFC debut and on the other you have extremely flashy and unconventional Genki Sudo.

Coming into this fight Genki Sudo brings in an 8 – 3 – 1 overall MMA record and a 1 – 1 – 0 UFC record. Mike Brown brings in a 6 – 1 – 0 MMA record. Judging by both guys records, they definitely aren’t no slouches, while they both can be beaten. Even though Sudo has lost more than once in his MMA career, all his losses have come via Judges Decision, while Brown’s one and only loss was by submission against Hermes Franca in his first pro MMA fight, which he can’t be heavily criticised for since it was his first fight and his opponent was Hermes Franca, who is a lethal Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert that also happens to be fighting on this card also.

Both these fighters are well rounded, but highly technical on the ground more so. However, the main aspect that separates both these fighters is Genki Sudo’s unconventional style. Sure, he uses the same delivery system when he fights as any successful MMA fighter, but he often switches his stance while on the feet, glides around and dances in front of his opponent attempting to confuse them, which in most cases it does. Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig showed when he beat Genki Sudo by Judge’s Decision last year at UFC 42 that the key to get around Sudo’s unconventional style was to be patient and wait for Sudo to present an opening and capitalise once Sudo left that opening.

However, Ludwig brought world-class K-1 level kickboxing skills to that fight to compensate for his less explosive ground game. Mike Brown on the other hand isn’t known for incredible striking skills. He’s known for his grappling ability. To me this means that both men will like to battle on the ground, but Sudo may have the advantage on the feet, as he has gone toe to toe with Ludwig and he’s also competed in actual K-1 bouts. Also, I reckon Sudo’s ground skills may be that bit more potent than Brown’s. Considering all these factors, especially the unpredictability of Sudo, I foresee Brown finding it too hard to deal with Sudo’s unconventional style and my pick for this fight is Genki Sudo by Submission.

Chris Lytle vs. Tiki Ghosn (Welterweight Division)

Even though this fight is a preliminary bout, it happens to be a fight that many fans are looking forward to. Both fighters are considered well rounded. In my view Chris Lytle is a very balanced fighter, who showed his competence both on the feet and on the ground against Robbie Lawler back at UFC 45.

On the other hand Tiki Ghosn has a sound Muay Thai game on the feet, he also possesses good takedown defence with some decent grappling ability on the ground. Lytle has a 12 – 10 – 4 MMA record, while, Tiki brings a 7 – 3 – 0 MMA record to this fight. Although Lytle has clearly lost more fights than Tiki throughout his career, Lytle has been clearly the more active fighter of the two and therefore through his activity has gained much experience in the process.

Considering all these elements, I think Lytle has evolved into a more complete fighter than Tiki. If this fight stays on the feet, we could see a competitive stand up battle, but if it hits the ground Lytle will be most likely the more dominant. Either way I see Lytle winning this fight, either by decision or submission. Considering that three rounds is a long time for two well-rounded fighters to stay standing, I see Lytle bringing this fight to the ground at some stage and when he does, he will submit Tiki in my opinion. My pick is Chris Lytle by Submission.

Undercard Bouts

Wesley ‘Cabbage’ Correira vs. Mike Kyle (Heavyweight Division)

Just like I have heard many cries from fans over the Internet of “why is Sudo off the main card?” I have also heard “why is Cabbage on the main card?” Although it is unfortunate that Sudo’s fight will be left off the main card, I think Cabbage has more than earned his spot on the main card.

What many people have to understand is that Cabbage has amassed six straight MMA victories since losing to Tim Sylvia at UFC 39 over a year and a half ago. Also Cabbage has shown to be somewhat of a draw with his all out brawling style while still maintaining a well-rounded game that many great strikers seem to lack. He’s also a personality many including myself find entertaining. He also brings a 13 – 4 – 0 MMA record and a 2 – 1 – 0 UFC record to the Octagon this time round.

Since his loss to Tim Sylvia, Cabbage has been constantly rising back up the ranks of the Heavyweight Division and if he keeps winning a UFC title shot may not be too far away. Meanwhile, his next obstacle on his path is Mike Kyle, a relative new comer to the sport with a 6 – 2 – 0 MMA record, who is making his UFC debut in this fight. Both these fighters have demonstrated knock out power in previous fights and this could turn into a slugfest.

Cabbage hails from Hilo, Hawaii and is fighting out of Egan Inoue’s Grappling Unlimited, while Kyle is fighting out of the American Kickboxing Academy. Don’t let the names of either camp fool you. They are both well-rounded camps with great trainers on the feet and on the ground. Even though Cabbage has four losses on his record to Kyle’s two losses, Cabbage is much more experienced in the game. Also, in Cabbage’s defence, he lost his first three MMA bouts due to inexperience. After those three initial losses, he went on a seven fight-winning streak until he met the immovable roadblock that is former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Tim Sylvia.

If you know your MMA, you have to give the guy a break on that loss, he showed an iron chin and an unparallel heart, as Sylvia couldn’t knock him out despite being hit with barrages of heavy strikes forcing Cabbage’s corner to throw in the towel. On the other hand Mike Kyle’s only two losses were suffered against King of the Cage Heavyweight Champion Paul Buentello and PRIDE veteran Dan Bobish. Even though both Cabbage and Kyle appear to be coming into this fight to throw down and strike with one another I think the combination of Cabbage’s fast hands, iron chin and experience will prevail over Kyle, as Cabbage has at least fought against top tier fighters, while Kyle has not. Therefore my pick is Wesley ‘Cabbage’ Correira by KO.

Robbie Lawler vs. Nick Diaz (Welterweight Division)

This fight, for me, is as hard as any to predict. You have two fighters who are on form. You also have two fighters with similar experiences levels. Robbie Lawler comes into this fight with a Mixed Martial Arts record of 7 – 1 – 0 and a UFC record of 4 – 1 – 0. His opponent, Nick Diaz, comes into this fight with an MMA record of 8 – 2 – 0 and a UFC record of 1 – 0 – 0.

Robbie Lawler is coming off a Unanimous Decision victory over Chris Lytle back at UFC 45 in November 2003, while Nick Diaz is coming off a an Armbar Submission victory over Jeremy Jackson back at UFC 44 in September 2003. Robbie Lawler is an explosive fighter, who loves to slug it out on the feet, but when he’s on the ground he likes to let the hands fly and pound his opponents. Nick Diaz on the other hand is a more patient fighter, who tries to avoid striking exchanges and find openings to get the takedown to bring the fight to the ground. Diaz is also very patient on the ground, but when his opponent leaves something open he will pounce on the submission attempt.

For me, Robbie Lawler’s best strategy is to approach this fight like his previous fight with Chris Lytle. In that fight Robbie was more relaxed and unusually patient. Lawler either KO’s people on the counter when they come after him or by just charging them down with a flurry of punches. For me, Lawler should use the first option and that’s sit back and let Diaz come to him. If Lawler plays it like this, Diaz will have to chase him to get the takedown and that is when you are vulnerable against Robbie Lawler to getting knocked out.

If Robbie is over aggressive, Diaz will counter shoot and take Lawler down most likely. If Diaz can somehow get the fight to the ground he will have the edge in my opinion. In Lawler’s last fight he was nearly submitted on a couple of occasions by Lytle, but Lytle couldn’t synch his attempts. If Diaz gets into similar situations as Lytle did, I see him tapping out Lawler. If Diaz has studied Lawler’s fights, particularly his last one with Lytle, I think he should be able to find a way to get Lawler to the ground and when he does I think Lawler’s best move is to pound out of there and get back to his feet.

Overall, I’ll go out on a hunch that Diaz will win by Submission.

Yves Edwards vs. Hermes Franca (Lightweight Division)

This is another one of those fights that is tough to call. Yves Edwards approaches this fight with an MMA record of 17 – 8 – 1 and a UFC record of 4 – 2 – 0. Hermes Franca brings an overall MMA record of 8 – 1 – 0 and a UFC record of 2 – 1 – 0. Both fighters’ only losses in the UFC were losses by decision. Also, both these guys are well rounded, in fact both guys are very dangerous both on the feet and on the ground. However, Yves Edwards is clearly the better striker, while Hermes Franca is clearly the better grappler. I must clarify one other thing though and that is that Yves Edwards is still very good on the ground, while Franca is equally dangerous on the feet.

Where Edwards is dangerous is striking from range and inside the clinch. While, Franca is dangerous from any position on the ground. Edwards is an expert striker, while Franca is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It is clear that Edwards will be most comfortable on his feet, while Franca will be more comfortable on the ground. In my view the fight will hit the ground at some stage, it’s just a matter of how and when. However, Edwards cannot allow the fear of hitting the ground with Franca intimidate him in any way. In my view, Edwards’ best shot at winning this fight decisively is too go right at Franca with aggressive strikes at the beginning of the first round.

The reason why I think this is that Franca has shown in previous fights that it takes him at least a round to loosen up in the feet and really enter striking exchanges. If Edwards engages right off the bat, it is likely that Franca will be forced to defend attacks that he is not fully prepared for. Also, although Edwards is lethal in the clinch with strikes, he should only use his knee attacks in the clinch to break out of the clinch and then unleash with flurries of strikes from range, as Franca has a much better chance of successfully taking Edwards down when he’s in clinching range. Edwards has a significant reach advantage on Franca and he should use it and try and prevent Franca from getting inside his range.

If this fight makes it past the first round it works out better for Franca. If on the ground, Franca will explode with relentless submission attacks at any time, even during the first round, but it will be the second round were he implements his striking skills in a similar way. Franca has a big right hand and once he gets confident at striking with Edwards, he will throw down with ferocious force. I do believe that Edwards’ ground skills have definitely evolved in recent years, but he should use all his ground skills to get back to the feet.

Edwards is capable of knocking out Franca in my opinion and Franca is more than capable of submitting Edwards. Circumstances will be the biggest role in deciding a winner in this fight. Both men want to keep the fight in their world, but as the fight goes on longer, Franca has the advantage in my opinion. Damn, it’s hard to pick a winner with this one, I’m constantly changing my mind on how this will go, as both men are great fighters and I’m a fan of both. I will go with Hermes Franca by Judge’s Decision though.

Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski (Vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship)

Despite not being the actual main event, this is the fight with most at stake in reality, as the UFC Heavyweight Championship is on the line. I have read reports on the Internet that Tim Sylvia seems to be a bit disappointed at the lack of attention this fight is getting compared to the non-title main event. If that is the case I can understand where he’s coming from. Currently there is no champion over the UFC Heavyweight Division. There’s a similar situation in the UFC Middleweight and Lightweight Divisions, but it seems that the actual process for solving these other division’s problems isn’t being dealt with currently.

That’s exactly why this bout is so significant, as the goal of this one bout, as far as Zuffa are concerned is to re-gather the division so to speak. On to the actual fight itself. First, you have Tim Sylvia coming back to regain the UFC Heavyweight Championship that he relinquished after testing positive for steroids. He has finally served his suspension from MMA and is as hungry as ever it seems to recapture the championship. Coming into this fight, Tim Sylvia brings in an impressive MMA record of 15 – 0 – 0 with a UFC record of 3 – 0 – 0.

On the other hand, Andrei Arlovski brings in an MMA record of 5 – 3 – 0 and a UFC record of 3 – 2 – 0. Some may compare the records of both fighters and say that the result is a foregone conclusion. Arlovski is a Sambo master and has evolved his Kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu particularly to complement his Sambo. Both fighters have knock out power as they demonstrated on their last two respective opponents. You also have to consider that at least we know what Arlovski is capable of on the ground, as most of us don’t realistically know exactly how good Sylvia’s ground skills are. However, even considering these factors I don’t think Arlovski has the wrestling skills to take Sylvia down. The UFC are billing this fight as a slugfest in the making. Personally, I think a stand up battle or war might be unavoidable. It is clear that Sylvia intends to stand up and look for the knock out, while Arlovski says he intends to stand with Sylvia also.

For me, Sylvia is the better striker and one of two scenarios will unfold. Either both men will stand toe to toe until Sylvia gets the KO or both men will intitially stand with one another and Arlovski will eventually realise that he’s on the losing end of things and he will then try for the takedown repeatedly out of frustration, which will lead to Sylvia capitalising with a TKO. I’m gonna go on a hunch and go with the latter. My pick is Tim Sylvia by TKO.

Main Event

Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell (Light Heavyweight Division)

One of the most anticipated fights in UFC history. In fact, the only blemish on this bout is that it’s not for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but life goes on. Tito Ortiz returns to the octagon with an MMA record of 10 – 3 – 0 and a UFC record of 9 – 3 – 0. On the other hand Chuck Liddell steps up for the fight he’s wanted for ages with an MMA record of 12 – 3 – 0 and a UFC record of 8 – 2 – 0.

It’s not often you get two guys that were believed to be once good friends, but are clearly now worst enemies. Tito claims that they were close friends that once made a pact not to fight, while Chuck denies any knowledge of such a pact and says that they were merely acquaintances that trained with one another occasionally. Tito said he never wanted to fight Chuck, as he didn’t want to hurt his friend, while Chuck says he was the number one contender while Tito was the champion and that Tito was afraid to fight him.

Many on the Tito bandwagon claim that Tito was never afraid of Chuck because why would he be fighting him now? However, Chuck’s fans claim that because Tito lost his championship he is not in the position to pick and choose his opponents anymore. When you break down the fight after getting past all the politics, you’ll find that both Tito and Chuck are very well rounded. Both can kickbox, both can wrestle and both can grapple.

In my opinion, Liddell is the superior striker, Ortiz might have a slight edge in wrestling, while both have a similar experience level of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In my opinion Wrestling could play a big factor in this fight. We all know that Chuck intends to stand up and go for the KO. Lately Tito has been claiming that he has been working on his boxing and he also intends to stand up with Chuck.

Personally, I doubt Tito will do this, as he said the same thing before he fought Randy Couture and didn’t deliver. I say stick with your strength and Tito’s strength is clearly clinching up with guys and taking them down and pounding on them for the TKO. I’m just gonna assume that Tito is bluffing and in reality will just go in with his usual game plan and that is charge in and do whatever it takes to get the fight to the ground.

Either way, Tito has his work cut out for him, as he will try and outwrestle somebody who is one of the best defensive wrestlers I’ve seen in MMA. Liddell uses his wrestling ability effectively to defend the takedown and it’s even harder to keep him down, ask Randy Couture.

One thing I have noticed people saying is “Look what Couture did to Liddell, look what Quinton Jackson did”. Well, first off, Couture struggled for three rounds to keep Liddell on the ground when Liddell finally ran out of steam after standing back up out of Couture’s top position a few times. Also in Chuck’s fight with Jackson, Chuck got hurt on the feet after an intense striking exchange, which led to him gassing eventually.

Many may respond by saying “All Tito has to do is the same as Couture and Jackson”. I don’t see this happening for several reasons. First, Jackson is known for a hard chin and he is a very good striker, he not only was able to take Liddell’s shots, but also hit him back hard. I honestly don’t think Tito has the same level of striking as Jackson. Also, there are many questions on how durable Tito’s chin is. Also, Tito is not nearly as good of a Wrestler as Couture and either is Chuck for that matter, but no matter how intense Tito is, he’s not capable of owning Chuck like Randy did on the wrestling front, Liddell is just too good at scrambling for Tito to be able to hold him down in my opinion.

The only time Tito will be able to hold Chuck down in my opinion is if Chuck gasses. Due to this fight being a three round fight, I don’t see conditioning coming into play as much as it would if this was a five round fight. The thing that has made my mind up on this fight is that with Chuck’s striking ability and takedown defence combined he has the edge. Tito will have to use strikes to engage into a clinch to set up the takedown and that is where he risks getting caught by Liddell and I just don’t think Tito’s proven he can take a stiff strike to the jaw, which Liddell should be able to exploit at some point throughout the three rounds. My pick is Chuck Liddell by KO.

Well, there you have it, my complete rundown on UFC 47 on what I expect to unfold. I could be way off with my predictions, as it’s happened before and this sport is so damn unpredictable. Back at UFC 46, I got hardly any predictions right. I also lost €20 on the Hughes/Penn fight, which was the best €20 I’ve ever lost, as I was so happy for BJ Penn. Well, only thing left is the event itself, but in the mean time, I should have as many updates as I can during the week live from Las Vegas.

Until then, stay pumped for the event!

Joe Reilly