UFC 62: Liddell vs. Sobral Preview

Here is my preview of UFC 62: Bitter Rivals. I only wrote my thoughts for the main card but the full card looks like this…

Main Card Bouts:
Chuck Liddell vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral
Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
Josh Neer vs. Nick Diaz
Hermes Franca vs. Jamie Varner
Christian Wellisch vs. Cheick Kongo

Preliminary Bouts:
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
Rob MacDonald vs. Eric Schafer
Wes Combs vs. Wilson Gouveia
David Heath vs. Cory Walmsley

Chuck Liddell vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral

UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is on top of the world right now. Liddell is ranked as the world’s best 205 lb fighter along side his rival Wanderlei Silva. Liddell is currently living the life as mixed martial arts has grown tremendously making him one of the sports first millionaires. Liddell holds the UFC’s all time wins record and he has knocked out a who’s who list of opponents. Along with his deadly hands Chuck is versed in submissions, has a wrestling background and a legendary sprawl.

Liddell sports a mixed martial arts record of 18-3-0 and he is currently on five fight win streak. Liddell is one of the sports best knockout artists as he has KO’s over top notch opponents such as Randy Couture twice, Tito Ortiz, Kevin Randleman, Vernon White, Guy Metzger, Alistar Overeem and of course his opponent Saturday night Renato “Babalu” Sobral.

Liddell possesses arguably the best takedown defense in mixed martial arts and that is what will make or break Babalu. If Babalu can take this fight to the ground it’ll be interesting to see if he can hold Chuck down as he is well known for standing up moments after hitting the canvas. Liddell will have to be cautious when getting up because he is known for getting off the canvas and not caring if he gets hit or not on the way up but when he rises to his feet he leaves himself open and that may present an opportunity for Babalu to take his back or grab a limb.

On the feet Chuck Liddell has the advantage as he possesses excellent knockout power in both hands. Liddell is one of the most feared strikers in the light heavyweight division so it’ll be interesting to see how Babalu approaches him on the feet. Chuck usually plays the role of a counter puncher and I’m sure that will continue here.

The Rio de Janeiro native Renato “Babalu” Sobral enters this fight with a 27-5-0 record and he is on a spectacular ten fight winning streak. He holds victories over some of the worlds best such as Shogun, Horn, Sonnen, Van Arsdale, Prangley, Pele and many more. Throughout his mixed martial arts career Babalu has only suffered five losses which were to some of the biggest names in the sport. Babalu went to a decision with Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson and Kevin Randleman. The only two fighters that have been able to finish him are Valentijin Overeem and of course Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell.

Coming into this fight with Liddell, Babalu is on a ten-fight win streak and his confidence is at an all time high. Babalu is very well versed in submissions as he now trains with Gracie Barra which is home to the likes of Marcio Cruz and Gustavo Machado among others. Babalu has some kickboxing and muay thai experience so he is not a sitting duck on the feet against Liddell. Babalu obviously won’t come out with a game plan to stand and trade with Chuck as he has the skill set to take Liddell to the canvas. Along with his good submission game Babalu is a talented wrestler with a relentless attack.

This fight will definitely make its way out of the first round. Babalu needs to be very cautious during the first few rounds as Liddell is always very dangerous early when he is fresh. If Babalu can get Chuck to the canvas he’ll be able to wear him down and go for a submission.


Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar

Forrest Griffin is a native of Athens, Georgia. He sports of mixed martial arts record of 12-3-0 and a UFC record of 3-1. His three victories in the UFC have come against Stephan Bonnar, Elvis Sinosic, and Bill Mahood. In Griffin’s last UFC fight he lost a controversial split decision but he learned a ton from the fight. Early on Tito Ortiz mauled Griffin landing numerous elbows and opening up a few cuts but Griffin showed how much he has matured as a fighter as he came back in the second and third round and did enough to make it a tough split decision. Even though he didn’t win the fight he won over the fans.

Since making his appearance on the first season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Forrest Griffin has really upped his game. While Bonnar still seems a lot the same Forrest has really changed and matured as a fighter. Forrest still will likely come in to the fight with the mentality to make things exciting so this fight has plenty of potential to be another war.

Forrest Griffin brings wildness to the octagon and he loves to throw bombs. Griffin possesses good stand up skills and power. He is not afraid to get hit and he is the type of guy who will take chances wherever the fight goes. He has a very good chin and lots of heart, just watch Griffin vs. Ortiz and Bonnar to see that. Griffin is a tough, resilient fighter who is hard to finish. Along with his good stand-up game Griffin has a fairly good submission game which really rounds out his game.

As Bonnar said during the Ortiz-Griffin fight “Forrest is like a tiger that needs to be wounded.” I expect something exciting from this rematch because Griffin’s style much like Bonnar’s is to give the fans what they like and that’s a slugfest.

Stephan Bonnar will be making his pay per view debut Saturday night against his rival Forrest Griffin. Since leaving ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Bonnar has fought five times, all of them being on Ultimate Fight Night. The Hammond, Illinois native sports a mixed martial arts record of 9-3 and a UFC record of 3-2. Bonnar’s three victories in the UFC have come against Sam Hoger, James Irvin and Keith Jardine. Both Jardine and Hogar gave Bonnar everything he could handle in their fights. Bonnar’s two UFC losses have come against Rashad Evans and of course Forrest Griffin.

Stephan Bonnar is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu student who has some very good strikes. Bonnar much like Griffin can adapt wherever the fight goes. So far in the UFC Bonnar has really lacked the ability to finish as four of his fight fights have gone to decision.

I don’t see Bonnar beating Griffin in this fight as I feel Griffin has really improved his game and he is now a much better fighter then Bonnar. This fight will likely go to a decision again but I see Griffin having a much easier fight unlike the first one.


Nick Diaz vs. Josh Neer

Josh “The Dentist” Neer is a Miletich Fighting Systems trained fighter who possesses a fairly well rounded game. Neer sports a mixed martial arts record of 17-4-1 with victories over the likes of Joe Stevenson, Melvin Guillard, and Forrest Petz. In the UFC Neer is 2-2 with victories over Guillard and Stevenson and losses to Fickett and Burkman.

Along with his 22 professional fights Neer has taken part in over 100 underground fights in Iowa. Neer is a very aggressive fighter who likes to press the action. He possesses knockout power and of course he has a fairly well rounded game from training with Team Miletich. He is very tenacious and he will not go away easily. His huge heart has been on display in the octagon a few times now whether is was getting choked unconscious by Drew Fickett and not tapping, getting cut open by Guillard but continuing on and eventually earning the submission victory or getting caught in the leg lock by Stevenson which did some damage and would have forced most normal guys to tap.

Neer’s opponent, Nick Diaz took this fight as a last minute thing for the injured Thiago Alves. It’ll be interesting to see what type of shape he is in since he obviously hasn’t had the time to prepare like Neer. With Diaz you either have him or love him due to his antics inside/outside of the octagon. He talks a lot of trash and drama seems to follow him everywhere whether it is Diaz throwing his shoes at Diego Sanchez before their fight, Diaz fighting Riggs in the hospital after their three round war or him just talking trash in the cage as he goes toe to toe with his opponent. At this point I’d say the UFC did an excellent bringing Diaz back to replace Alves.

The Stockton, California native trains out of the Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academy and he is well known for both his strikes and submissions. Diaz sports a mixed martial arts record of 12-6 and he is coming off of a decision victory over Ryan Steinbeiss in his hometown of Stockton, California. Diaz hasn’t had the best luck in the UFC as of late as he has gone 0-3 in his last three fights suffering decision losses to Sean Sherk, Deigo Sanchez and Joe Riggs. Diaz has impressive TKO victories over Drew Fickett and Koji Oishi.

Diaz came into the UFC primarily known as a Gracie jiu-jitsu expert but we really began to call him a well rounded fighter when we saw him knock-out the very tough Robbie Lawler who was looked at to be the next great welterweight. Diaz has a pretty strong chin as he has taken bombs from both Joe Riggs and Robbie Lawler and seemed unphased. The tall southpaw has also taken part in some professional boxing bouts.


Hermes Franca vs. Jamie Varner

Hermes Franca will be making an appearance on his second straight pay per view against fellow lightweight Jamie Varner. Hermes Franca sports a mixed martial arts record of 15-5-0 and a UFC record of 3-2. Franca has UFC victories over Caol Uno, Richard Crunkilton and Joe Jordan. His losses have come against Yves Edwards and Josh Thomson. After going on a tough losing streak Franca has come back and he is now 5-0 in 2006.

Franca is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who also possesses some great power on his feet. Franca has a big right hand that his opponent must always be aware of. Franca’s fights tend to be quite exciting and he relishes the opportunity to be in the UFC.

Even though Franca has good power on his feet he isn’t the most technical striker. The ground game is Franca’s world and his explosiveness and takedowns allow him to get it there. Like a lot of the lightweights, Franca has good cardio and plenty of heart.

Franca’s opponent Jamie Varner sports a mixed martial arts record of 11-1-0. Of those 11 wins Varner doesn’t really have any notable names on his card.

I don’t know a whole lot about Varner and I expect Franca to either get the TKO or submission sometime in the first round.


Cheick Kongo vs. Christian Wellisch

Cheick Kongo will be making his return to the octagon against tough wrestler Christian Wellisch. Kongo sports a mixed martial arts record of 8-2-1 with six of his victories coming by knockout. Kongo made his UFC debut at UFC 61: Bitter Rivals where he beat Gilbert Aldana via doctors’ stoppage.

Kongo is mainly a muay thai fighter who has a background in many different forms of martial arts. Kongo has spent time training Greco Roman wrestling, kickboxing and Muay Thai. Kongo has a free fight record of 29-2 (28 KO) and a Muay Thai record of 18-1 (18 KO).

Christian Wellisch is a wrestler who trains with the American Kickboxing Academy. He sports a mixed martial arts record of 6-2.

I don’t know much about Wellisch but I’ve really come to like Kongo and I hope he can continue to win and get a knockout over Wellisch.

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