Roger Huerta. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Just two weekends after Anderson Silva destroyed James Irvin on cable television, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns with it’s latest offering: UFC 87: Seek and Destroy, which is headlined by Georges St. Pierre defending his UFC welterweight title against gritty top contender Jon Fitch, who will be challenging Royce Gracie’s age-old record for consecutive wins.
The UFC didn’t come alone on it’s first trip to the state of Minnesota - hometown products Roger Huerta and Brock Lesnar have come to participate in the biggest fights of their respective careers. Huerta will challenge Kenny Florian for the assumed right to take on UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn while Lesnar will look to bounce back from an embarrassing first defeat against experienced veteran Heath Herring.
Here’s a little breakdown of what you can expect and what you should watch for during tonight’s event. The televised main card will air on pay-per-view and Yahoo! Sports starting at 10 PM ET. MMA on Tap will have complete play-by-play coverage of the event starting at 8 PM ET, so be sure to check back here throughout the night.
The fight: St. Pierre will try to make his first successful title defense against Fitch, who has quietly racked up 8 straight wins in the UFC’s welterweight division and solidified himself undoubtedly as the top contender for St. Pierre’s belt. Both fighters are among the world’s most well-rounded athletes at 170 lbs. After seeing a sports psychologist following his devastating loss to Matt Serra last year, St. Pierre claims that he’s mentally ready for this one. However Fitch has been known to pester his opponents with an aggressive approach. He’ll certainly have help on his side as American Kickboxing Academy teammate Josh Koscheck as already fought St. Pierre in the past.
What to look for: Wrestling. Wrestling. Wrestling. Fitch is a former standout at Purdue University and has the better credentials. However St. Pierre made Koscheck and Matt Hughes look like fools last year. If Fitch can’t take St. Pierre down, he’ll likely have a tough time in this one. His last win over Chris Wilson exposed his striking skills as lacking while St. Pierre, although purposely hesitant lately, has shown he has finishing power in his fists.
My prediction: St. Pierre, TKO, R3
David’s prediction: St. Pierre, TKO R2
The fight: Herring has re-invented himself and it’s shown. After nearly knocking out current UFC heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Herring looked impressive in a dominating win over French striker Cheick Kongo. Despite struggling during his brief UFC career, he’s already cemented himself as one of the division’s possible future contenders. He’ll now meet Lesnar, who will look to dispel the “he can’t cut it” talk by notching his first big-time win against a much-more experienced opponent. Lesnar’s wrestling skills and work-ethic could mold into one of the sport’s biggest stars, but he’ll first have to get by Herring, who has been proven to be extremely tough to put away.
What to look for: Will Lesnar’s continual training at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy finally pay off? He looked like a monster against Frank Mir but was eventually forced to tap by way of a leg lock. Herring doesn’t have Mir’s submission skills but he does have the ability - 16 of his career wins have been by submission. He’s also reportedly been aggressively working on his wrestling leading up to the fight. If his takedown defense isn’t adequate enough, will Herring be able to survive Lesnar’s initial onslaught?
My prediction: Herring, TKO, R1
David’s prediction: Herring, RNC, R2
The fight: Roger Huerta will put his undefeated streak in the UFC on the line for a chance to get a shot at B.J. Penn against Kenny Florian, who is all about finishing fights these days. After rarely struggling during his first four fights under the Zuffa banner, Huerta found himself engaged in a war against Clay Guida last December and will now bring an eight-month layoff into this one courtesy of college commitments. Mark Dellagrotte claims that he’s never seen Florian more hungry for a fight. He called out Huerta immediately after his eye-popping win over Joe Lauzon earlier this year and the two will now battle it out this evening in what could turn out to be 2008’s fight of the year.
What to look for: An all-out war. Both Huerta and Florian bring many, many things to the table, including tremendous submission defense, dynamic offensive skills, a will to never quit, and a history of exciting fights behind them. The only concern I have for either fighter stems from their past struggles” Huerta looked to tire quickly against Guida while Florian just couldn’t stop the constant takedown attempts from Sean Sherk two years ago. Have they patched up the aforementioned holes?
My prediction: Huerta, Split Decision
David’s prediction: Huerta, TKO, R2
Jason MacDonald over Demian Maia (TKO, R2)
Manny Gamburyan over Rob Emerson (Decision)
Luke Cummo over Tamdan McCrory (Decision)
Cheick Kongo over Dan Evensen (KO, R1)
Andre Gusmao over Jon Jones (RNC, R2)
Chris Wilson over Steve Bruno (Decision)
Ben Saunders over Ryan Thomas (Kimura, R1)
Jason MacDonald over Demian Maia (TKO, R2)
Manny Gamburyan over Rob Emerson (TKO, R1)
Luke Cummo over Tamdan McCrory (TKO, R2)
Cheick Kongo over Dan Evensen (TKO, R1)
Andre Gusmao over Jon Jones (RNC, R1)
Chris Wilson over Steve Bruno (Armbar, R2)
Ben Saunders over Ryan Thomas (TKO, R1)
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