The UFC is celebrating an anniversary of sorts tonight, and they are doing it with one heck of a card. UFC 100 has not one but two titles fights – one featuring one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and the other featuring the biggest name to make a transition to MMA from another sport – perhaps ever. As if that wasn’t enough, you also have a great fight between the latest coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, a match featuring an undefeated fighter and anopponent desperate for another title shot, and the UFC debut of a highly touted Japanese fighter that could be the closest thing to a challenger for Anderson Silva that is out there. That’s all the ingredients for a good night. Let’s take a look at those top five fights:
Brock Lesnar (-215) vs. Frank Mir (+175) – This is a rematch of Lesnar’s first UFC fight and only loss. Mir outclassed him that time, exposing Lesnar’s inexperience. Since then, though, Lesnar has earned a championship and shown that he is learning quickly. He’s so big, strong and quick that he can be terrifying. Mir is no slouch, either. He has also earned a title since the last time they met, so this is a unification match. Mir won’t be intimidated here, but neither will Lesnar. If it becomes a technical match then Mir again has an edge. If strength and speed are valued, though, then Lesnar has the advantage. This is a close match – probably closer than the odds indicate – but I just can’t look away from Lesnar. He’s too fast for Mir to keep up with, and he has shown in his short career that he doesn’t often repeat mistakes.
Georges St. Pierre (-315) vs. Thiago Alves (+245) – Let me preface this by saying that I in no way want to disrespect Alves. I think he is a very good fighter with a solid future. I just think that he s outmatched here. St. Pierre has just gotten better each time out recently, and he has ripped apart better fighters than he is facing here.GSP has an edge in most aspects of this match, and he is clearly my pick.
Dan Henderson (-215) vs. Michael Bisping (+175) – I love when pairings feature totally contrasting styles. Henderson is primarily a wrestler, though he can throw a mean punch when he needs to. Bisping is a kickboxer with passable jiu jitsu. Bisping needs to stay standing, while Henderson will be desperate to get t the ground. Clearly, whichever one can impose their will has a big edge in this match that seems likely to go the distance. In the end I have to go with the favorite – he’s faster and stronger, and his edge should grow the longer the match goes.
Jon Fitch (-550) vs. Paulo Thiago (+350) – Thiago has never lost in 11 fights, and he stunned Josh Koscheck last time out. He’s obviously dangerous, but I look for him to get his first blemish here. Fitch wants another title shot badly, and a win here would come close to getting him one. He’ll learn from the mistakes that Koscheck made, and will use his experience and creativity to his advantage. I wish I could justify taking the underdog at such a big price, but it doesn’t sit right in my mind.
Yoshihiro Akiyama (-270) vs. Alan Belcher (+210) – Akiyama is seen as a potential challenger for Anderson Silva. That obviously means he is good. I just can’t back him here, though. I don’t like betting on guys making theirUFC debut no matter how good they are – the ring, the crowds and the pressure are something you don’t know until you have experienced it. I also think thatBelcher is better than he is getting credit for. He beat Denis Kang at UFC 93 in virtually the same storyline, and he always puts forth a top effort. He knows that he is being offered as fodder here, and I expect his pride to step in and rebel against that. He’s worth a gamble here in my eyes.