For the first time in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Octagon will get sent down Beale Street in Memphis, TN., to the FedEx Forum for an exciting night of fights on Saturday night. For all you UFC Fantasy players, here’s your last chance to secure a victory on a UFC Pay-Per-View for 2009, so read on for breakdowns of each fight on the main card of UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez.
JON FITCH VS. MIKE PIERCE
With an impressive 10-1 record inside of the Octagon, Jon Fitch is trying to get another chance at winning UFC gold. At the time of his opening winning streak in the UFC, Fitch tied a UFC record to become only the second fighter (Royce Gracie was the first) in UFC history to win eight consecutive fights inside of the Octagon (a record since broken by Anderson Silva). With notable wins over Brock Larson, Thiago Alves, and Diego Sanchez, Fitch was eventually given a title shot. He was unable to secure his ninth consecutive victory at the hands of current welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre, and although he ended up on the short side of the decision, Fitch was able to go all 25-minutes with St-Pierre. Since that loss, Fitch has started to put together another winning streak, and he is hoping that with a win on Saturday night, he will once again move towards another shot at Georges St-Pierre. With more fights under his belt and more hours put in at the gym, he’s hoping all this hard work will eventually pay off and he will be able to strap UFC gold around his waist for the first time in the near future.
Having won his first fight inside the Octagon in September against Brock Larson, Mike Pierce is hoping his thus far successful 2009 fighting campaign ends with another victory. Although Pierce has only won one time in the UFC, beating a formidable opponent like Jon Fitch will help boost him up the welterweight ladder. And even though a victory on Saturday won’t throw him into a title shot in the near future, it will make everyone watching this fight realize that Mike Pierce is for real.
With this being the biggest fight of Mike Pierce’s MMA career, it will be interesting to see how he handles the bright lights of a UFC Pay-Per-View – especially when fighting a fighter like Jon Fitch. Although on paper this may look like a simple fight for Fitch, in a fight, anything is possible. Pierce has solid wrestling with good ground and pound to complement it. If Pierce is able to execute his game plan properly, we may see Pierce with his hand raised at the end of the fight. But Fitch knows that this fight may put him in line for that rematch he’s seeking against St-Pierre so expect business as usual for Jon Fitch come Saturday night.
PAUL BUENTELLO VS. STEFAN STRUVE
With both Paul Buentello and Stefan Struve trying to take full advantage of fighting in front of millions of UFC fans watching on Pay-Per-View around the world, they both know how important an impressive victory would be for their UFC career.
Having not fought inside of the Octagon since 2006, Paul Buentello is looking to re-introduce himself to UFC fans and put himself back in the position he was before leaving the UFC – towards the top of the division. Fighting on the Pay-Per-View portion of the fight card will make it easy to get back into the minds of the fans – especially if he puts on an exciting performance. Getting back to the top of the heavyweight division will not happen as quickly. The quickest way to move up the ladder in any division is pretty simple – win fights. Since his departure from the UFC in 2006, the Texas native put together a 5-1 record. The landscape of the heavyweight division looked much different back in 2006 then it does today, but Buentello believes he will still bring an exciting, hard fight to anyone the UFC puts in front of him.
After losing his UFC debut to Junior Dos Santos at UFC 95, Stefan Struve went back to the gym still knowing that he had the fighting ability to be in the UFC. Since his debut, Struve has gone on to win two-consecutive fights via choke against Denis Stojnic at UFC 99 and Chase Gormley at UFC 104. Struve is a well-rounded fighter who is getting better with each fight inside of the Octagon. Much like his opponent, Struve will benefit from fighting on Pay-Per-View in order to introduce himself to people watching around the world on Saturday night.
Standing 6 foot 11, Struve will undoubtedly have the reach advantage and may make it difficult for Buentello to reach him. On the other hand, with the power Buentello possesses, it may only take one clean shot to send Struve folding to the canvas. But if ‘The Headhunter’ doesn’t finish Struve while he’s on the mat, the Netherlands native is dangerous with submissions off his back.
KENNY FLORIAN VS. CLAY GUIDA
With both fighters knowing what’s on the line for them come Saturday night, expect to see the winner of this fight looking for a seat inside the arena to watch the main event between BJ Penn and Diego Sanchez that will happen shortly after the conclusion of this fight. Depending on the outcome of that fight, the winner of Florian-Guida may be seeing the main event winner inside of the Octagon in the months to come.
Quite possibly the smallest middleweight to compete on season one of The Ultimate Fighter, Florian made it all the way to the finals, where he eventually was beaten by the current lightweight number one contender, Diego Sanchez. Since the finale, Florian has put together an impressive 9-2 record – with his only losses coming to Sean Sherk and BJ Penn. Florian has had no problem rising up the ranks in the division to eventually fight for the title. But in both attempts to win UFC gold, Florian looked like a completely different fighter then he had when fighting his way to getting those chances at becoming a champ. Both Sherk and, most recently, Penn were able to win in one-sided fashion. In an attempt to take his fighting style to a championship level, Florian is now training exclusively with Georges St-Pierre’s head trainer, Firas Zahabi. Florian has all the pieces to become a champion, but a loss on Saturday night will send him back into the middle of the pack with all the other lightweights
With an overall record of 5-4 inside the Octagon for Clay Guida, people may question how good of a fighter he actually is. The one person that has not asked himself that question is his opponent on Saturday night, Kenny Florian. If you have watched Guida’s fights, you know that he could have won all of them. In all nine of Guida’s fights inside of the Octagon – six of them have gone to the judges’ score cards – with Guida’s losing via split decision in two of his four losses. Regardless of how close his fights were, Guida is still sitting with four losses in nine UFC fights and square in the middle of a jam-packed division. By winning with an impressive performance against a caliber of fighter like Kenny Florian, he may not be many more wins away from getting that shot at the belt. The one thing people nearly unanimously agree on is – when Clay Guida is fighting, it has the potential to be fight of the night – win or lose.
With both fighters known for having great cardio, expect to see an action packed fifteen minutes of fighting. Like always, look for Guida to start the action quickly in round one. Both fighters would prefer to bring the action to the canvas so it will be interesting to see what fighter attempts a takedown first. For Florian, who is known for having some of the sharpest elbows in the game, expect to see him throw down shots that could eventually cut Guida. While Guida is on his back, look for him to try and do whatever it takes for him to bring the action back to the feet. On the other hand, although he undoubtedly will be looking to stay away from the relentless ground and pound of Guida, Florian will not panic if he ends up on his back. His jiu-jitsu ability puts him only one mistake from his opponent away from pulling off a submission.
FRANK MIR VS. CHEICK KONGO
With both Frank Mir and Cheick Kongo having lost in their last appearances inside the Octagon, they both know what is at stake when they square off against each other on Saturday night. Kongo hopes to one day become a champion in the UFC, while Mir, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to become a three-time UFC heavyweight champ.
After making his Octagon debut at the age of 22 in November of 2001, Frank Mir will be making his 15th appearance for the UFC. Along the way, Mir has experienced many high points and a few low points during his successful career. After starting his career 4-1, Mir was given a shot to become the titleholder in the heavyweight division. Although Mir successful defeated Tim Sylvia to become champion, his reign on top of the division didn’t last long and it had nothing to do with his fighting ability. Three months after successfully winning the heavyweight title, Mir was involved in a motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his fighting career and his life. It took nearly two years for Mir to recover from injuries relating to his crash. While Mir was recovering, the UFC was forced to crown a new champion. Having to nearly start his career over, Mir had to start climbing his way back to getting the belt back – the belt he technically never lost. When Mir did return to fighting, he didn’t look like the same fighter who had become champion. Having lost two of his first three fights after returning to action, people started to question whether or not he would ever become the same fighter again. Mir never became the same fighter he was prior to his crash – he eventually turned into a much newer and improved version of himself. After beating Antoni Hardonk, Mir was faced with the daunting task of facing UFC debutant Brock Lesnar. Although Mir got into trouble early, he was able to weather Lesnar’s storm and win by submission. Finally, after winning the heavyweight title in 2004, Mir finally got his chance to reclaim it. Feeling grateful for a second chance, Mir didn’t leave anything to chance – winning the title back by TKO against former PRIDE star Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. But in his next fight, Mir ended up not being able to weather Brock Lesnar’s storm for a second time and was defeated by TKO. On Saturday night, Mir will once again have to move his way back into title contention.
Compared to his opponent, Cheick Kongo is relatively unknown, but by beating someone with the popularity and credentials of Frank Mir, he plans to change all of that on Saturday night. With a UFC record of 7-3, the native of France wants to start building his way towards a shot at UFC gold. Coming off a loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 99, Kongo knows that losing two straight fights will virtually eliminate any chances of him fighting for the title anytime soon. After starting his UFC career with two straight TKO victories, Kongo started to gain the attention of every fighter in the UFC heavyweight division. Unfortunately for Kongo, he has been unable to sustain a long enough winning streak to get into title contention. Kongo knows that in order to become the champion, he will need to string together multiple victories in impressive fashion – he plans on starting that winning streak off with an upset victory over Frank Mir.
Known for his strong wrestling ability and great jiu-jitsu skills for a heavyweight, look for Mir to try and bring the action to the canvas quickly. If Mir is able to bring the action to the ground, look for Kongo to try and stall – forcing the referee to stand the fight up. In the past, Kongo has been criticized for his takedown defense. Knowing that he’s fighting someone who wants nothing more than to take the fight to the mat, look for him to have greatly improved in this area. As for Kongo’s gameplan, expect him to try to light Mir up on the feet from long-range before closing the gap and attempting to finish things off with knees from the clinch.
BJ PENN VS. DIEGO SANCHEZ
When Diego Sanchez and BJ Penn enter the Octagon on Saturday night and the gate is closed, expect to see a 25-minute, non-stop fight that could go down as one of the greatest fights of 2009.
Being a former winner of both the World Jiu-Jitsu championships and UFC welterweight championship, you can make a strong case that BJ Penn, who is the current UFC lightweight champion is one of the greatest fighters in the world – regardless of division. And while Penn has no reason to believe that Saturday night will mark the end of his reign atop the lightweight division, it’s easy to see why he has such confidence at 155-pounds – you have to go all the way back to January of 2002, when he fought Jens Pulver, to see the last time he lost in this weight class. Although an overall record of 14-5-1 may not jump out at you, it’s worth noting that his losses have come to Jens Pulver, Lyoto Machida, Georges St-Pierre (twice), and legendary welterweight champion Matt Hughes – that’s a pretty impressive record. Yet each time Penn enters the Octagon, people question how seriously he has taken his opponent in the weeks leading up to the fight. There have been times where Penn has entered a fight looking a bit out of shape. Although he has seemed to survive those fights with his rare physical gifts, some have raised questions regarding his conditioning. The last time we saw Penn fight was at UFC 101 – where he successfully defended his title against Kenny Florian. Prior to that fight, critics believed it would be the cardio of Florian that would take the title from Penn’s waist, but when a svelte BJ Penn entered the Octagon, he forced his critics into silence. It actually ended up being Penn who had the better cardio that night. After still looking fresh after nearly four rounds of fighting, Penn made it clear that he is taking fighting very seriously and doesn’t plan on losing the belt anytime soon.
Diego Sanchez has been thinking about the opportunity to become a champion in the UFC ever since he won season one of The Ultimate Fighter as a middleweight. Although Sanchez was fighting well outside his optimum weight class on The Ultimate Fighter, he didn’t care what it took to get into the UFC, and after winning a one-sided affair against Florian during the season finale, he had finally made it into the UFC. After his win against Florian, Sanchez made an immediate impact in the welterweight division by winning five straight fights, and with notable wins over Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Joe Riggs, Sanchez climbed nearly to the top of the 170-pound division. The nearly two years Sanchez put into climbing his way atop the welterweight division suddenly came to a stop at UFC 69. In a fight that was well hyped due to their personal feud on The Ultimate Fighter, Josh Koscheck sent Sanchez back down the welterweight ladder by putting the first blemish on his professional record. Going into that fight at 19-0, Sanchez figured to win the fight and eventually fight for the title, but Koscheck had different intentions, winning by unanimous decision. Although Sanchez had lost the fight, he was still considered to be one of the best welterweights in the world. Wanting to get right back into contention, Sanchez took on Jon Fitch. Much like his previous trip inside of the Octagon, Sanchez was once again on the short end of the judges’ score cards. He bounced back with two straight wins, and then decided to try his hand in the lightweight division, where he has scored wins over Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida this year. Following those victories, he has finally reached his ultimate goal – fighting for a UFC championship.
Known for his relentless fighting style, look for Sanchez to push the pace quickly when the Octagon gate closes. Regardless of how good Penn looked cardio wise in his last fight, people still believe Sanchez has the best chance of beating Penn by wearing him down. Look for Sanchez to be somewhat conservative on his ultimate game plan – putting Penn on his back. Penn has made a name for himself in the fighting world by being nearly impossible to put on his back – due to his excellent balance and nearly perfect takedown defense. If Sanchez is able to put Penn on his back, don’t expect him to be his relentless self. Being aware of the jiu-jitsu ability of Penn, Sanchez will look to be more methodical on top – calculating every risk before he takes it. Sanchez knows that it will only take one small mistake to let Penn get him into a submission. Because of each fighter’s risk of losing if the fight goes to the canvas, don’t be surprised if we see a 25-minute standup war.