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Fantasy Preview: UFC 84 Main Card

Stephen Quinn, UFC - The biggest mixed martial arts card of the spring takes place on Saturday, May 24th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Will this be the night you break into the lead of your league in the UFC Fantasy Game? Read on to get the edge on fight night…

By Stephen Quinn

The biggest mixed martial arts card of the spring takes place on Saturday, May 24th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Will this be the night you break into the lead of your league in the UFC Fantasy Game? Read on to get the edge on fight night…

Saturday night will mark Thiago Silva's fourth fight in the Octagon and the UFC debut of Antonio Mendes. Looking to continue his TKO streak, Silva is looking to give a rude welcome to Mendes.

Making a debut in the UFC can be the most nerve-wracking and important event of a fighter’s career, and Mendes will have to hit the ground running to beat Silva, who is a perfect 12-0 and looking to build on his impressive TKO victory over Houston Alexander at UFC 78. In that fight, Silva looked extremely sharp on his feet, so sharp it is hard to believe that he is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's also a quick finisher. Since being in the UFC, Silva has not let one of his fights go the distance, with only one of them going past the first found.

Mendes, a Muay Thai expert, also knows a thing or two about winning streaks, having run off 11 straight himself. Fighting in the Octagon for the first time can cause jitters, but with a record of 14-2, Mendes is confident that he’ll put on an entertaining show.

Silva is an extremely difficult to opponent to face, especially for a UFC rookie. This should be a back and forth fight and has the potential to be explosive for as long as it lasts. The real question will be whether Mendes can handle both Silva’s power and the atmosphere surrounding his first Octagon bout.

Likely to go the distance? No
Method of Finish? TKO

Fighting out of his native Croatia, Goran Reljic is not only making his debut in the UFC, but this will be his first fight in the United States. At 7-0, Reljic, a submission expert, will be facing no small task when facing a fighter the caliber of Wilson Gouveia.

Fighting out of Coconut Creek, Fla, Gouveia is looking to make it five straight victories inside of the Octagon since losing his UFC debut to Keith Jardine. Since then, he has gone on a tear, not letting any of his fights go to the scorecards. In his last outing, he showed that he possesses one-punch knockout power as well by dropping Jason Lambert. Despite this KO victory, Gouveia has won the majority of his fights by submission.

Reljic will likely try to bring this fight immediately to the canvas, trying to avoid the standup power of Gouveia. Standing on the other side of the Octagon, Gouveia will look to follow up this fight with another knockout victory. Even though he will try to keep it standing, Gouveia will be extremely comfortable on his back should the fight hit the mat.

Likely to go the distance? No
Method of Finish? TKO

Tito Ortiz has been an icon in the UFC, but the former light heavyweight champion seems to have regressed just a tad in recent fights. He hasn’t shown the high-intensity style that was his trademark early in his career and which helped him make a name for himself.

After a few lackluster performances, Ortiz aims to show everyone he is still a force at 205 pounds in what is his last fight under his current UFC contract, and he is facing quite possibly his toughest opponent since being knocked out by Chuck Liddell in Lyoto Machida (12-0), who has quietly jumped into the light heavyweight title mix.

The biggest question marks entering the fight surround Ortiz. People have started to say that he is simply past his prime. But Ortiz, who has only lost to Liddell (twice) and Randy Couture in the past six years, insists that he is still championship and superstar material. He is coming off a lackluster performance against Rashad Evans (draw), but with a win over the highly regarded Machida, Ortiz will prove to his critics that he still is an elite fighter.

In the world of MMA, it is rare to see a fighter undefeated, but that is exactly what Machida is in his fighting career. Machida mixes Karate with Brazilian jiu-jitsu to throw his opponents off balance. In his career, he has beaten the likes of Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, and current lightweight champion BJ Penn. A win on Saturday over Ortiz, and Machida could possibly land a shot at the title.

These two fighters have extremely different approaches to fighting, so it will be interesting to see which style prevails. Ortiz likes to get in his opponent’s face, pushing the action and taking it to the ground so he can impose his signature ground and pound. He will also seek to make this a battle of stamina, traditionally one of his strengths. Machida usually employs a more methodical approach, slowly dissecting his opponents with kicks and punches and, if they make the slightest mistake, pouncing and looking to finish the fight.

Likely to go the distance? Yes
Method of Finish? Split Decision

Both of these fighters have reached a point in their careers where this fight is critical. For Jardine, he looks to build off a shocking win over former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. A win over Silva will put him right into mix of getting a shot at the title. Silva, on the other hand, is simply looking to avoid losing his fourth straight fight.

That recent slide has people starting to question if Silva has anything left. With a win, he will prove to people that he still is an elite fighter. In desperate need of a win, Silva is looking to change the outcome of the last three times he has fought. Despite his losing streak, it is worth noting that Silva has fought only top-level competitors, succumbing to Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, and Mirko Cro Cop. Believing that he is still a top-tier fighter, Silva is looking to start his move back up the light heavyweight ladder.

The pinnacle of Jardine’s career came when fought Chuck Liddell. Jardine entered that fight as a huge underdog, but he showed that nothing is certain in the UFC. Jardine used his unorthodox style with a mixture of leg kicks to upset the former champ. Jardine also wants to show that his loss against Houston Alexander, who is another fast-paced fighter, was a fluke. He will get that opportunity Saturday night.

Silva has made a name for himself by fighting with a relentless, hold-nothing-back style. Houston Alexander used that approach during his successful fight against Jardine, so expect Silva to do the same. It will be interesting to see how Jardine adapts to that style of fighting, one that he clearly looked uncomfortable against. For Jardine to be successful, he must slow down the tempo of the fight – taking Silva out of his comfort zone. Expect Jardine to use the same style as when he fought Liddell. Jardine has also shown power in his hands. Silva must keep his hands up when trying to push the pace, because one simple mistake could lead to him hitting the canvas.

Likely to go the distance? No
Method of Finish? KO

When BJ Penn beat Joe Stevenson to win the lightweight title at UFC 80, he had a few choice words for Sean Sherk. Those words -- "Sean Sherk, YOU'RE DEAD!" -- have been playing inside the head of Sherk for some time now. On Saturday night, we will finally get to see this feud be settled inside the Octagon.

After losing to Matt Hughes in 2006, Penn has become a completely different fighter. Penn now has moved down into his natural weight class and is standing on top of the division. At UFC 80, Penn won the vacant lightweight title and is looking to keep the title around his waist. In his last fight, the sveltest BJ yet showed heart and cardio. Both of those qualities will be vital when fighting a cardio machine like Sherk.

Insisting that having not fought in nearly 11 months will not be a factor in Saturday’s fight, Sherk is determined to win back the title he doesn’t feel he ever lost. After testing positive for an illegal steroid in his fight against Hermes Franca, Sherk was stripped of his title. A win over Penn would represent a big measure of redemption.

For Penn to have success in this fight, he must come into this fight not just in good shape, but phenomenal shape. Sherk has always been known for his inhuman-like stamina, and without a doubt, he will look to play it safe early in the fight so he can test the heart and cardio of Penn as the fight goes into the later rounds. Sherk will want to put Penn’s back onto the canvas, trying to wear him down by increasingly pushing the pace. But with the flexibility of Penn, Sherk knows that one mistake could lead to him being submitted. Look for Penn to keep this fight standing. This is where many people feel he has the most distinct advantage. But don’t tell that to Sherk.

Likely to go the distance? No
Method of Finish? Submission