This weekends UFC 136 is a stacked card on paper co-headlined by two championship bouts and the return of one of mixed martial arts most polarizing fighters. First up we have a fight that all but guarantees fireworks as former WEC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis makes his second trip into the Octagon against hard hitter Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens. Pettis came into his UFC debut on a high note after winning the WEC 155 pound title in the companies final fight punctuating it with what has since been dubbed the ”Showtime kick” on Ben Henderson. However his entrance in the promotion was spoiled at the hands of UFC stalwart Clay Guida who used his wrestling to stifle Pettis’ offense en route to a win via unanimous decision. That shouldn’t be a problem for Pettis this time around as he squares off against Stephens who likes nothing more than to square up and go toe to toe which comes as no surprise being as he’s one of the most powerful punchers in the division.
916Chris’ pick – I favor Pettis whose striking game has more dimensions than Stephens. Lil’ Heathen has the power to put just about any 155 pound fighter away but I see Pettis striking from a distance and outlanding Stephens and winning a decision and hopefully showing once again why he earned the nickname “Showtime”.
Duc’s pick – Pettis is gonna beat the living crap out of Stephens. I predict Pettis off the cage 720 back fist for a KO. They will call the move, “Puerto Rican Swan”. It was perfect……
In a rematch Nam Phan takes on the wild swinging Leonard Garcia. These two first faced off last December in an entertaining slugfest that many felt Phan deserved the nod. Unfortunately for Nam 2 of the 3 official judges disagreed giving Garcia the win via split decision. Expect more of the same in this rematch hopefully without the controversial result.
916Chris’ pick – I had Phan winning the first fight and expect him to win this time out. Try as he might Garcia cannot seem to improve on his wide, winging punches thus as in their first bout I see Nam getting the better of the exchanges with his tighter technique.
Duc’s pick – Nam via beat down. This is gonna be a stand up fight and Phan will make a fan out of you. Get it? Phan and fan? Word NINJA!
Melvin Guillard looks to continue his winning ways against Joe Lauzon. Although both fighters have been inconsistent in their UFC tenure Guillard has seemingly turned the corner and reeled off 5 straight wins under the tutelage of coach Greg Jackson. With a win Guillard takes one step closer to a UFC lightweight title shot while Lauzon is looking to secure back to back wins for the first time in 2 years.
916Chris’ pick - Guillard has shown mental lapses in the past having been submitted by fighters similar to Lauzon but I think the maturity he’s shown outside the cage has translated to discipline inside. That means I break this fight down purely on a stylistic matchup and in that regard I have to favor Melvin. Lauzon will likely be game early but by the second round I see Guillard taking over and stopping Joe sometime shortly thereafter.
Duc’s pick - Guillard via KO. Guillard will show off his explosive side, and by explosive I am not implying Melvin is athletic because he is black. Okay you got me, that is exactly what I mean.
Chael Sonnen makes his highly anticipated return against Brian Stann in a compelling fight. In his last outing Sonnen pushed UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva to the brink before being submitted in the fifth and final round. Stann has looked reinvigorated since moving down to the 185 pound weight class and carries the kind of power that can end a fight at any moment, something he proved in taking out the sturdy Chris Leben. In a fight between the wrestler and striker the biggest question is how will the time off effect Sonnens performance, if at all.
916Chris’ pick - Normally I would have doubts about a fighter coming off a long layoff but being as Sonnen is a mat based fighter I don’t envision the time away hurting his performance. Stann has shown improved takedown defense but I’m not sure it will be enough to prevent Chael taking him down time and time again on way to a decision win.
Duc’s pick – Chael via UD. Chael will “Phil Davis” Brian to a decision. Of course, in a style that is not as explosive as Phil (see my Guillard prediction).
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo makes the second defense of his belt against two time title challenger Kenny Florian. Aldo looked slightly less than his stellar self in his last fight against Mark Hominick while Florian beat Aldos teammate Diego Nunes in his featherweight debut. Florian has come up short twice before in title bids at lightweight, will his move down to 145 pounds bring with it success?
916Chris’ pick - I’ll keep this one short, outside of a cut I don’t envision anyway Florian wins his fight. I think Aldo picks him apart on the feet and wins by late round stoppage or lopsided decision.
Duc’s pick - Leg kick, leg kick, leg kick and a knee. End of fight, KO for Aldo.
In their third and most anticipated meeting UFC Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar once again puts his title on the line against Gray Maynard. Maynard won their first fight by decision back in 2008 while their bout at the begining of this year ended in a draw. Maynard had Edgar all but out in the first round of their rematch but the champ showed tremendous heart and durability by not only surviving but winning the following round. It’s hard to give either a definitive edge after their last contest which makes this third meeting so intriguing.
916Chris’ pick - Initially I favored Edgar to use his stick and move strategy once again and win by decision but after watching the UFC countdown show I’ve changed my mind. Edgar appears to be basking in the glow of being champion while Maynard looked singularly focused on the task at hand and righting what he views a wrong. In a fight this close I’ll take the hungrier fighter almost everytime and in this instance that’s Gray. I just hope it can be at least half as exciting as their last bout.
Duc’s pick - Edgar will win this via decision, although I want to see Gray win so that Bendo can beat him to a living nightmare for talking crap about the WEC fighters. Edgar will stay cautious and point his way to a unanimous decision in what will be the most boring fight of the night. Whoever wins is only holding the belt temporarily until Bendo gets there, I predict Edger will be the ‘belt sitter until’ Bendo comes back into town.