For some reason August is one of those months that always seems to bring great fights in mixed martial arts. Last year we had Anderson Silva rip Forrest Griffin’s manhood away, BJ Penn silence all the doubters by destroying top contender Kenny Florian, and Todd Duffee set a UFC record with a 7 second knockout. 2008 brought us the fantastic fight card of UFC 87, which included Florian vs. Huerta, St. Pierre vs. Fitch, and the emergence of Brock Lesnar as he beat up Heath Herring. Even the year before was a great August in the UFC, with an exciting title defense from Randy Couture and the first installment of St. Pierre vs. Koscheck.
So I guess it comes as no surprise that this August the MMA world is bringing us some awesome matchups once again. After sifting through all the matchups, below I compiled a list of the top 5 fights for the month that you must watch, or you will die.
Ok, you won’t ACTUALLY die if you don’t check these out, but I bet at least your soul will start to wither away. Keep in mind this list doesn’t even include great UFC bouts like Anderson Silva vs. Chael Soennen for the middleweight title, Thiago Alves’ rematch with Jon Fitch, or the next-in-line at lightweight bout between Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard. Nor does this list include the WEC bantamweight title fight between Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez, which should be an action packed war in its own right.
These fights are listed in order of occurrence:
1) Heavyweight: Roy Nelson vs. Junior Dos Santos- UFC 117, August 7
After years of mediocrity, the UFC’s heavyweight division is now arguably it’s most stacked, and it is great to see. At first glance Roy Nelson looks like a bar brawler past his prime, but looks sure can be deceiving. His rotund belly is a mere facade hiding a man with excellent jiu-jitsu and hands of steel.
Since winning the Ultimate Fighter, Nelson proved he was for real by KO-ing Stefan Struve in under a minute back in March. Now he gets a step up…a BIG step up. “Big Country” must have impressed Dana White and Joe Silva more than I thought, because he is now one win away from a title fight. Of course, that win will be anything but an easy task.
Nelson will square off against one of the hottest names in MMA, and one of my personal favorite fighters- Junior Dos Santos. “Cigano” burst onto the scene in 2008 at UFC 90 with his shocking upset of Fabricio Werdum (and we all know who Werdum just beat), and has not had any trouble since. He is now 5-0 in the UFC, including other notable wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Mirko Cro Cop, and Gilbert Yvel. Now he stands just one win short of a title shot, and he is favored in the matchup against Nelson.
If this fight stays on the feet, I have to think Dos Santos will out strike Big Country. The big fear for Junior has to be on the ground. Dos Santos’ is a BJJ brown belt, but his ground game has been virtually untested. On the flip side, Roy Nelson somehow has slick and quick submissions despite his enormous gut. If Junior wins this fight on the ground I will be shocked, but I still expect him to avoid trouble and win it on his feet, putting him next in line for the competitive UFC Heavyweight championship.
Rizzi’s Prediction: Dos Santos via 2nd Round TKO
2) Bantamweight: Scott Jorgensen vs. Brad Pickett- WEC 50, August 18
This may not be the main event at WEC 50, but don’t be surprised if Scott Jorgensen ends up as the headliner of a PPV down the line. In his last 7 WEC fights he has just one loss- a decision to Antonio Banuelos that he avenged in his last fight with a unanimous win in the April rematch.
In between the two Banuelos fights, Jorgensen had a first round TKO of Noah Thomas, a unanimous decision over Takeya Mizugaki that earned “Fight of the Night” honors at WEC 45, and a jaw-dropping, 31 second standing guillotine win over Chad George that nearly ripped his head off.
I love Brad Pickett because he enters the cage looking like Brad Pitt as “Mickey” from Snatch, and shares his nickname, “One Punch,” as well. But it isn’t his punching power that impresses me most- it’s his chin. In his impressive submission win over Kyle Dietz at WEC 45, Pickett absorbed vicious up kicks, knees, and punches on his way to sinking in a slick Peruvian necktie. He also showed very good wrestling in that fight, as well as a solid overall ground game. His only fight since then was a unanimous decision win against Demetrious Johnson in April at WEC 48, which put his win streak at 9 straight bouts.
I haven’t seen a ton of Pickett in action, but between his eccentric entrances outside the cage and his fast paced fighting inside it, he has entertained me whenever I have watched him. No question Jorgensen will be his toughest test to date, and as much as I want to pick the upset I just can’t do it. Scott Jorgensen is a beast, and with a title shot just a win away I see him being just too hungry to lose.
Still, both these guys are very light on their feet and exciting to watch. No matter what the result, expect to see fists fly on the feet and speedy scrambles on the canvas.
Rizzi’s Prediction: Jorgensen via 2nd round guillotine
3) Welterweight: Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis- UFC 118, August 28
Nate Diaz captivated me from the instant I saw him fight on TUF’s season five. Love them or hate them (and everyone picks a side), the Diaz brothers are always exciting to watch, and young Nate represents the family name well in the cage.
Uneducated fans may look at Nate’s resume and see that he is 2-3 in his last five fights, but if you look down the list of his opponents, the names are all big ones. In a span of less than two years, Diaz battled Kurt Pellegrino, Josh Neer, Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Melvin Guillard, and Gray Maynard at lightweight before moving up a weight class. I have to admit, I thought it was a terrible idea by Nate to go up in weight, since he already looked skinny at 155. But my doubts were erased at UFC 111 when I saw Diaz man-handle Rory Markham in his debut at 170 live and in person in Newark, NJ (which was later recorded as a middleweight fight because Markham didn’t make weight!)
Nate is mostly known for his jiu-jitsu under the tutelage of Cesar Gracie. He is very flexible, and extremely dangerous off his back. But just like his older brother, Diaz has slick, precise boxing and is tough as nails. He doesn’t have one punch knockout power, but he can pick lesser skilled opponents apart on his feet. And also just like brother Nick, Nate Diaz is one of the best trash talkers in the fight game, causing many to love him, and even more to hate him.
Whether or not Nate can hack it at welterweight in the long term will be further answered later this month, as he squares off against Marcus Davis- a seasoned UFC veteran with pro boxing experience, who is bigger and stronger than anyone Diaz has fought.
Once the owner of 11 straight MMA wins, Davis has been up and down the past two years with exciting wins over Chris Lytle and Jonathan Goulet, but disappointing losses to Dan Hardy and Ben Saunders. “The Irish Hand Grenade” is much more of a well rounded fighter now than he was when he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter, but there is no doubt in this fight he will want to stick to his bread and butter, aka his left and right fists.
Marcus Davis has knockout power in both hands, and will most likely look to display that against the more slender Diaz. Nate is not one to back down from a fight, so I expect this one to stay on the feet for a while. If Nate is in trouble he will try to bring it to the ground, and if Davis is smart he will not fall into that trap.
Both these fighters have respect for each other, but as with any Diaz fight that should go out the window once the ref starts the fight. My brain is telling me that Nate is going to get punched back down to lightweight, but my heart is saying he will take his licks on the feet, and find a way to submit his larger opponent.
Rizzi’s Prediction: Diaz via 2nd round triangle choke
4) Heavyweight: Randy Couture vs. James Toney- UFC 118, August 28
Truthfully, when it’s all said and done this fight may end up going down as the worst in UFC history. But no matter what it will go down as one of the most unique. And if you are a fan of mixed martial arts, boxing, or both, this is simply a must-watch fight. The bottom line is this matchup finally features what MMA fans have been clamoring over for years- a big name mixed martial artist against a big name boxer… inside the Octagon.
The down side of this is both of these guys are over the hill, and it didn’t take place five years ago. Couture is a shell of his former self talent-wise at 47 years old, despite the fact that he still somehow has a freakish figure (thanks to the Tower 200! “You got a door? You got a gym!”), and amazing cardio endurance. Toney is only 41, but he has 83 professional boxing matches under his belt, so his brain is probably like 134 in RealAge.
Not being a huge boxing fan, I haven’t seen much of “Lights Out” Toney, but you’d have to live under a rock not to know who he is. He has been named fighter of the year by a few different publications in several different years, won championship belts in multiple weight classes, defeated Evander Holyfield in 2003, and went the distance in a loss to Roy Jones Jr. in 1994. He has 44 knockouts under his belt, and all you need to do is watch this video to see that he has fantastic hands. Toney may not be the sculpted beast from his cruiserweight days in the ring, but if he catches “The Natural” he can put him to sleep in a heartbeat.
Couture is one of the most famous UFC fighters of all time, and although some of my friends hate him with a passion, it’s hard to argue he has some very impressive wins. But that was then, and this is now. The guy will still bring his A game, because he is such a great competitor. The problem is his A game just isn’t as good anymore. He beat Mark Coleman in his last fight, but what does that mean really? He got the decision win in his previous match against Brandon Vera, but he probably lost in reality. And before that he had lost back to back fights.
Look, Couture is not totally done. He would still demolish me in less than 5 seconds, and could beat up nearly every man on the planet. He just isn’t the amazing freak of nature he was in his prime. Since the fight is in his home and with his comfortable rules and surroundings, Captain America is deservedly the favorite, and will probably win a slow, boring fight between two old heavyweights. But if James Toney comes to fight in somewhat decent shape, avoids the clinch, and hits Randy Couture on the button, he will almost certainly knock him out. It’s a big IF, but it’s one that is absolutely worth watching.
Rizzi’s Prediction: Couture via 3rd round TKO
5) Lightweight: Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn- UFC 118, August 28
UFC 118 has such a great fight card, and it is capped off with the second enormous rematch of 2010. Frankie Edgar pulled off the biggest upset in UFC history back in April in Abu Dhabi, beating the long time champ and shockingly becoming the lightweight champion.
Edgar now gets a little bit of a raw deal and has to defend his title immediately against the legend he stole it from. Edgar will most likely need to win the same way he did the first time around- avoiding major punishment by utilizing his takedown defense, and inflicting damaging shots with his crisp boxing.
Penn obviously has a bevy of ways he can win and finish the fight, but as always the only real question with him is which “BJ Penn will show up?” When Baby J is focused, angry, and prepared he is virtually unbeatable at lightweight. But sometimes he just isn’t 100% there, and that’s when the chinks appear in his armor.
I will be pulling hard for the New Jersey native Frankie Edgar once again, but just like the first fight I don’t give him a great shot. If the fight goes the same way as last time I think he can absolutely implement a similarly successful game plan; I just think Penn will come out a lot more ferocious this time.
Look for both guys to bring it 100%. If BJ Penn wins he will be back in his rightful spot atop the lightweight division, and will probably lick some of Frankie’s blood off his gloves along the way. If Edgar wins he will all of a sudden be considered among the all time elites at lightweight himself. After all, no one has ever beaten BJ twice at lightweight, and the only person to do it period is a guy named St. Pierre a weight class above.
Rizzi’s Prediction: BJ Penn via 4th round rear naked choke
The great thing about MMA is almost more than any other sport predictions aren’t worth anything. One punch can turn a sure victory into a shocking upset. So enjoy this month of sick fights, and let me know who you think is going to win.