MMA on Tap writers Scott White and John Chandler break down UFC 77: Hostile Territory fight-by-fight in the debut of the site’s newest column.
UFC 77 features a total of nine fights including the highly anticipated rematch between Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin for the UFC Middleweight Title as well as a battle between heavyweight contenders Tim Sylvia and Brandon Vera.
John: Alright so the first preliminary bout of the night looks to be Jason Black trying to rebound off a disappointing UFC debut against Matt Grice. Black was submitted by Thiago Tavares at UFC Fight Night 10. Not the type of performance we were expecting from Black. We last saw Grice at UFC 70 where was also submitted by Terry Etim. Where do you see this fight going?
Scott: I’m picking Jason Black. He had a lackluster showing in his UFC debut but that was due to the fact that he had a tough cut and fought an extremely talented fighter. Fans need to remember that Black trains with Miletich Fighting Systems and he sports a 21-3-1 record. I think Black will do enough to grind out a decision in an exciting fight with Matt Grice.
John: I’d have to agree. Black is obviously the more experienced fighter than Grice. You pointed out Black’s record and for good reason. He didn’t rack up those 21 wins by just fighting mediocre guys in the Midwest. Black owns wins over Steve Berger, Ivan Menjivar, John Alessio, Gideon Ray, and Keith Wisniewski to name a few.
Anyway, both came into the UFC with a decent amount of hype, especially Black, and both failed to deliver so this is a pretty big fight for them. Grice had been headlining local shows in Oklahoma before getting the call from the UFC but I don’t think he’s ready to be able to handle this type of competition just yet. I see Black catching Grice in a submission midway through the first round.
John: Josh Burkman has been relegated back to the dark bouts after losing a unanimous decision to Karo Parisyan at UFC 71. He’s going up against a guy that might have one of the best nicknames in MMA in Forrest Petz. “The Meat Cleaver” is coming off a decision win over Luigi Fioravanti at UFC Fight Night 10. Petz is probably the more well-rounded fighter but I don’t see him being able to prevent Burkman from controlling him on the ground. I see Burkman sinking in a rear naked choke at some point in the second round after forcing Petz to give up his back.
Scott: I agree. I’m picking The Ultimate Fighter 2 contestant Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman. Petz is a good fighter but I don’t feel he is on Burkman’s level. Though Burkman sports a UFC record of 4-2, his losses came to Karo Parisyan and Jon Fitch and there is definitely no shame in that. If Petz cannot score early I feel he’ll be in trouble as Burkman will impose his will and control him on the canvas eventually earning a submission victory in the first stanza.
John: I just noticed that Petz defeated Daniel Moraes last year when Moraes failed to stand up from a “butt scoot”.
Scott: Haha, idiot.
John: Yeah, whatever that means.
John: Next we have Demian Maia making his UFC debut against Ryan Jensen. Jensen is a replacement for Marvin Eastman who was forced to pull out of this fight after being required to undergo eye surgery. Jensen is coming off a loss to Thales Leites at UFC 74. Maia as we both know is a talented grappler. So who do you have? Maia or Jensen?
Scott: This is an interesting fight as Maia is a fairly unknown commodity. All I know about Maia is that he is an extremely talented grappler who carries an unblemished record of 5-0 and is the current ADCC under 87kg champion. I know absolutely nothing about his stand up skills. Kyle Jensen brings solid stand up into this fight which definitely plays to his advantage but if he is taken to the canvas it is very likely that this fight will turn out exactly like his UFC debut did when he was submitted by Thales Leites.
I see Jensen coming out and trying to utilize his leg kicks early with that eventually leading to a takedown for Maia. From there I feel Maia will be able to use his superior jiu-jitsu to secure a first round submission.
John: I’m thinking the same thing. I wasn’t impressed even a little bit by Jensen in the Leites fight. It looked like Leites could have submitted him whenever he wanted to. I’m not sure how good Maia’s takedown ability is but once it hits the canvas, Jensen is a dead man. I’m taking Maia by armbar in the first.
Scott: What’s next?
John: Well Rich Franklin isn’t the only fighter from Cincinnati on this card. His longtime training partner Jorge Gurgel is as well. Gurgel is going up against Alvin Robinson who was stopped by Kenny Florian at UFC 73 in his UFC debut. In between injuries, Gurgel has racked up two straight UFC victories against Danny Abaddi and Diego Saraiva. Both fighters like to push a good pace and both have very good ground skills.
Gurgel’s BJJ might be superior but I don’t think that’s going to matter in this fight. Gurgel also likes to bang and he’s going to want to put on a show for his hometown. I like Gurgel scoring enough points on the feet to earn a decision over Robinson.
Scott: I have to disagree. Jorge Gurgel has solid BJJ skills but every time he steps into the octagon he seems to forget that and he just brawls. I see that hurting him in this fight as he is going up against a guy who is a very large lightweight. Robinson is very aggressive and possesses excellent power. I see Gurgel succumbing to the pressure of fighting in his hometown and eventually in the end, Alvin Robinson will walk away with the decision victory.
John: I don’t know if Gurgel wanted to go to the ground with Saraiva in his last fight who has above average skills on the ground as well. Maybe his strategy in that fight was to keep it standing. This is a different Gurgel these days. He struggled in his first two fights because he was still fighting on a bum knee. He’s gotten that fixed and is 100%. Robinson looked bad against Florian. I don’t think he can keep up with Gurgel either.
Scott: First off, one key thing you have to take into consideration is the fact that Robinson made his UFC debut against Kenny Florian. Florian has been on a tear and elevated himself to the top of the division. Robinson battled with him for the majority of the first round and despite the negatives there were positives. Robinson showed he has some definite power and one other thing to take into consideration is the fact that Robinson is known for this BJJ so he won’t be afraid to go to the canvas with Gurgel.
All eight of his professional victories have come by submission. If you go back and watch Gurgel vs. Saraiva, you see two grapplers slug it out for three rounds. Gurgel eats some bombs from Saraiva who has mediocre striking at best. Substitute that with Robinson who has better striking and more power and I feel that poses problems for Gurgel.
John: Gurgel also hung with Danny Abaddi, who is a professional kickboxer in Chuck Norris’ WCL, on a bad knee. I realize that Robinson went up against Florian in his UFC debut but I still don’t think that he’ll be able to push the pace like Gurgel can. He looked pretty winded towards the end of that first round against Florian. If his cardio hasn’t improved he’s not going to last against Gurgel. We’ll see what happens Saturday night.
Scott: Cardio is the only issue I see Robinson having. Also lets not discuss Danny Abaddi, WCL or not, he never deserved to be in the UFC in the first place and Gurgel going the distance with him proves exactly what I was saying before. Gurgel is a BJJ fighter who forgets his strengths and comes in to brawl. Bad knee or not, Gurgel should have submitted Abaddi with ease at some point during their three round tilt.
John: We’ll then we can agree to disagree. I think Gurgel was hesitant to shoot in for the takedown in his previous fights because of his knee. Like I said earlier, the choice to stand up and bang against Saraiva may have been strategy. You make some valid points about Robinson’s striking and Gurgel’s willingness to throw his game plan out the window. I’ll agree with you in that if Gurgel decides to just go ahead and swing away, he’ll end up losing the fight. I just believe he’s going to stick to a strategy this time around.
John: Moving on, the final preliminary bout of the night is one that should be televised - Yushin Okami vs Jason MacDonald. I know you are partial to MacDonald since he’s from your native land and I don’t know if you are picking him or not but I like Okami in this fight. MacDonald looked completely overwhelmed once Franklin got on top of him. MacDonald is big for 185 lbs but Okami is even bigger and stronger. I was impressed with him against Franklin and I think he’ll be able to control MacDonald on the ground and pound his way to victory.
Scott: I don’t see any way that Jason MacDonald wins this fight. I feel Okami is just as good if not better on the feet, he is stronger, and of course the better wrestler. MacDonald has stated numerous times leading up to this fight that he plans on coming in and pushing the pace forcing Okami to fight. That’s all fine and dandy but MacDonald moving forward at a high tempo likely equals sloppiness which will hurt him with someone as technical as Okami. MacDonald’s strength lies on the canvas where Okami is a beast when he gets the top position.
I don’t see any way that MacDonald takes Okami to the canvas. We’ve seen it time and time again with MacDonald as he moves forward with a telegraphed shot which usually ends up being stuffed. I see Okami putting him on his back and grinding him down eventually earning a TKO part way through the second. This fight should look a lot like Franklin vs. MacDonald.
John: Now it’s time for the televised fights. First up we have Eric Schafer against Stephan Bonnar. Not really much to say about this fight. Schafer is good on the ground but Bonnar trained under one of the best for years. Schafer definitely doesn’t want to stand with Bonnar, that’s for sure. I kind of see Bonnar catching Schafer in a guillotine while Schafer goes in for a takedown. Either way it’s not going the distance. Bonnar all day.
Scott: I have to agree. Saturday we’ll see an even more impressive Stephan Bonnar now that he is training under the Xtreme Couture banner in Las Vegas, Nevada. Surrounding himself with the likes of Randy Couture, Shawn Tompkins, Forrest Griffin, and many others can do nothing but improve his game. If Michael Bisping could put the hurtin’ on Schafer I see no reason why Bonnar can’t. I’ll say Bonnar will earn a ref stoppage in the 2nd round.
John: Aw look Scott, another Canadian is fighting! Kalib Starnes and Alan Belcher in a middleweight scrap. This fight is going to depend on where it ends up. If it stays standing, I see Belcher dropping Starnes. Starnes was able to stand with Leben but was also able to avoid Leben’s shots for the most part. However if the fight goes to the ground, I don’t see Belcher lasting very long. Starnes has some nifty takedowns and I think he’ll catch Belcher in a slick submission in the first round, probably a triangle.
Scott: I agree with the fact that if it stays standing Belcher will have that definite advantage and if it hits the canvas Starnes will have the edge. I see Belcher trying to let his hands go early leaving himself open for a takedown. From there Starnes should be able to work his ground and pound and submissions hopefully well enough to finish the fight. Belcher can’t handle Starnes riddum and because of the judges will score the bout 29-28 in favor of Kalib Starnes.
John: Haha, you said riddum.
Scott: You can’t handle my riddum.
John: Tim Sylvia can’t handle Brandon Vera’s riddum. Saturday night is going to be Vera’s coming out party. Sylvia said in Countdown to UFC 77 that he took that first shot from Randy and didn’t fully recover until the fifth round. If Vera hits Sylvia, he’s going down for good. Sylvia’s never been knocked out in his career but there’s a first time for everything. I just don’t see a way for Sylvia to win this fight unless he’s able to smother Vera on the ground and grind out a decision, but Vera’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu is too solid for that to happen. Vera by TKO in the second round.
Scott: This is an interesting fight… Brandon Vera is no Randy Couture and Saturday night Vera will learn that he belongs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Tim Sylvia is a 6’8, 265 lbs monster who possesses devastating power and is hard to take down. I don’t see Vera getting close enough to Sylvia to put this fight on the canvas. I think we’ll see the old Tim Sylvia Saturday night. The Tim Sylvia that KO’d Andrei Arlovski, head kicked Tre Telligman, beat down Wesley Correira, and walked through Gan McGee.
Tim Sylvia knows what it’s like to have the belt and he’s hungry to get it back. Brandon Vera is just a bump on the journey back to the top. Sylvia always comes back better in defeat and he will prove it again Saturday night. The only thing I feel Sylvia needs to be aware of it Vera’s leg kicks from the outside. Tim is going to finish this fight at some point in the second putting him in line for a shot at the vacant UFC heavyweight title.
John: I can’t really go against his wins over Arlovski. Arlovski is the type of fighter that either shows up or doesn’t but that’s another conversation for another day. Telligman, Cabbage, and Gan McGee of all people don’t have half the skill set that Vera brings to the table and I’m pretty sure that you know that. It’s obvious that Sylvia has always been hungry.
The title probably means more to him than a lot of guys out there. But don’t think for a second that after missing almost an entire year because of his corrupt manager that Vera isn’t willing to go out and kick some ass as well. Vera has shown that he belongs in the heavyweight division in his four UFC fights. Vera is going to bring the kind of striking that Arlovski should have shown against Sylvia.
Scott: When Sylvia drops Vera with a right hook fans will have to duck as they get sprinkled with Vera’s ring rust. I know Telligman, Cabbage and McGee aren’t the best but Sylvia made examples of them. Vera has yet to be tested and Sylvia will definitely be a test.
Sure Vera has looked impressive during his time in the UFC but who has he beat? A post accident Frank Mir, Justin Eilers who is always provides fans with excellent knockouts unfortunately he’s usually on the receiving end, Assuerio Silva, and Fabiano Scherner. Being off a year won’t help and stepping in with a 6’8 giant will change Vera’s views on the heavyweight division.
John: Ring rust? Your boy Timmy hasn’t fought since March. On top of that he’s coming off of back surgery. You don’t have to believe the hype Scott, just believe what you see.
Anyway the last fight of the night is obviously the main event. Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin rematching for the UFC Middleweight Title. Franklin got destroyed the last time they fought and the majority of people feel that a repeat of last year’s events are bound to happen again.
I think Franklin will look much better compared to last time around but ultimately he will succumb to the skills of the world’s toughest comic book reader. Silva’s domination of Nate Marquardt convinced me that he’s probably not going to lose for a very long time.
Scott: I agree. I don’t have much to say in regards to this fight. I feel it’ll be a replica of their first meeting but Franklin may be able to make it into the second in this one. Either way I see Franklin eating some more punches, kicks and knees which will leave him in a heap on the canvas while Silva busts a move in front of the silent Cincinnati crowd.
John: What would you say his chances of doing The Worm are?
Scott: Not likely, I see him busting out the Moonwalk before the worm. Look back to his PRIDE days when he walked to the ring sporting his Thriller costume.