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Fantasy Preview - UFC 86

Stephen Quinn, UFC - Saturday’s UFC 86 card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas will keep the fireworks coming long after the Independence Day celebrations have ended. Will Forrest Griffin be able to upset Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson? Can Ricardo Almeida submit Patrick Cote? Read on to get your UFC fantasy game fix.

By Stephen Quinn

Saturday’s UFC 86 card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas will keep the fireworks coming long after the Independence Day celebrations have ended. Will Forrest Griffin be able to upset Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson? Can Ricardo Almeida submit Patrick Cote? Read on to get your UFC fantasy game fix.

With a strong wrestling background, Tyson Griffin has continued to march his way up the lightweight ladder, and his go-for-broke style and action-packed victories over Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares have made him an instant fan favorite. Each fight has also revealed Griffin’s improved standup game, and by becoming a well-rounded fighter, he has shown that he has the ability to compete with the best lightweights in the world.

Brazilian Marcus Aurelio is looking to build on his recent success inside of the Octagon. Since losing a decision to Clay Guida in his Octagon debut, Aurelio has beaten Luke Caudillo and Ryan Roberts. It’s also key to note that Aurelio is only the second man to submit Japanese sensation Takanori Gomi; the only other man who holds that distinction is current lightweight champion BJ Penn (A Nick Diaz submission of Gomi in 2007 was overturned to a no contest after Diaz failed a post-fight drug test).

With the submission ability that Aurelio possesses, expect Griffin to continue to show his improved standup ability. Griffin will be more comfortable standing than in Aurelio’s guard, and if the fight ends up on the canvas, the Las Vegan will hope his excellent conditioning will kick in as he tries to avoid multiple submission attempts from Aurelio.

Method of Finish - Submission

Former contestants on different seasons of The Ultimate Fighter will clash on Saturday night, and with a contrast of styles, it will be interesting to see if the wrestling ability of season one’s Josh Koscheck can tame the knockout power of season four’s Chris Lytle.

Fighting out of the American Kickboxing Academy, Koscheck has gradually molded himself into an elite fighter at 170-pounds. When he was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, he possessed one strength – wrestling. But since joining AKA, Koscheck has become a fighter that is comfortable wherever the fight goes. Since the finale of TUF, he has amassed an impressive 8-2 record, with one of those losses coming to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. With a win on Saturday, Koscheck may put himself in line for a rematch with GSP, assuming the champ can survive his scrap with Koscheck’s AKA teammate Jon Fitch in August.

Since losing a hard-fought decision to Matt Serra in The Ultimate Fighter 4 finale, Chris Lytle has compiled a 2-2 record. With losses to Matt Hughes and Thiago Alves, Lytle knows the importance of not losing come Saturday night. At UFC 81, Lytle showed fans the knockout ability that he possesses, stopping Kyle Bradley in just over thirty seconds.

Even though Koscheck has shown improvement in every aspect of the fight game, expect him to again rely heavily on his wrestling roots in this fight. With the boxing background of Lytle, Koscheck would be wise to bring the fight onto the canvas. If Lytle does end up on his back, he’ll be looking to scramble back to his feet – where it would seem he might hold a distinct advantage. But popping up to his feet may not be so easy. Koscheck, a former NCAA wrestling champ, is extremely strong and adept good at keeping his opponent on the canvas.

Method of Finish - TKO

Joe Stevenson is looking to rebound from a disappointing performance the last time he entered the Octagon. In that fight, current lightweight champion BJ Penn dismantled Stevenson and it will be interesting to see how Joe Daddy responds to that bloody defeat. Prior to his fight with Penn, Stevenson had won his previous four fights, with notable wins over Yves Edwards, Melvin Guillard, and Kurt Pellegrino. Fighting professionally since the age of sixteen, Stevenson knows the importance of not losing two straight fights. ??

Fighting out of Coconut Creek, Fla., Gleison Tibau is also feeling the pressure of losing his previous fight, so he also knows a victory on Saturday is critical to his UFC career. Holding an impressive 27-4 record, Tibau wants to show UFC fans that his loss to Tyson Griffin was a fluke, and that he is a contender at 155-pounds.??

This fight may play perfectly into Tibau's game plan. Stevenson generally looks to bring his opponents to the ground – using his wrestling and relentless ground and pound to end the fight. But that may not be so easy when facing a fighter with the jiu-jitsu skills Tibau possesses. Don’t be surprised if Stevenson tries to turn this into a stand up fight, rather than going to the canvas.

Method of Finish - Submission

With the talent and styles of both fighters, don’t be surprised if this is given “Fight of the Night” honors. Hard-hitting Canadian Patrick Cote is looking to continue his recent success inside the Octagon, where he has seemingly become a different fighter. After losing his first four UFC fights, Cote (13-4) has strung together an impressive three-fight winning streak, with wins over Scott Smith, Drew McFedries, and Kendall Grove. In his fight with Grove, he was able to show the power he possesses in his hands – sending his foe crumbling to the canvas.

After hanging up his gloves for nearly four years, Almeida returned to mixed martial arts and the Octagon in February – tapping out Rob Yundt in less than two minutes. It was the type of performance that isn’t typical of a fighter being out of action for so long. Now Almeida is looking to put himself right into the mix of the middleweight division.??

After seeing what Cote did on his feet against Grove, expect Almeida to try and bring the fight down once the bell rings. That may be easier said than done. Cote possesses great takedown defense to go along with power in both hands. If Almeida is able to bring the fight to the canvas, he’ll be trying to stay active while hunting for a submission so the referee doesn’t stand the action up. ?

Method of Finish - Decision

After weeks of watching Team Rampage vs. Team Forrest on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter, we are finally going to see the two coaches face off against each other inside the Octagon.

After scoring his second victory over then UFC champion Chuck Liddell, Jackson proved that he is truly the best 205-pound fighter in the world when he took out highly regarded Dan Henderson. In that fight, the affable champ showed that he has more than just the ability to finish fights fast, as he displayed has the heart and conditioning to win a 25-minute war as well. And while Jackson dominated in PRIDE as well, it’s key to note that the man who beat him twice, Wanderlei Silva, currently trains with Griffin.

Riding the success of his epic war with Stephan Bonnar, Griffin now faces the most important fight of his life. When the Octagon gate closes Saturday night, he will have the opportunity to leave with UFC gold around his waist. Since winning the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, Griffin has compiled a 6-2 record. One of those losses was by decision to Tito Ortiz, a fight many people feel Griffin won. The lowest point of Griffin's UFC career came at UFC 66; where he suffered a devastating knockout to Keith Jardine. Showing his fighter’s heart, Griffin immediately wanted to get back into the Octagon, where he beat Hector Ramirez and then stunned the MMA world by beating one of the best light heavyweights in the world, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

Since both Griffin and Jackson have not fought in close to ten months, it will be interesting to see if they exhibit any signs of rust early in the fight. For Jackson, he will be looking to push the pace early in the fight – trying to end it. People have come to expect the heart and determination that Griffin has shown time and again, so look for him to win the later rounds – if it goes that long. Both fighters like to stand and trade, but the reckless styles of both of them may lead to a knockout. As for submissions, don’t be surprised if Griffin attempts a few. This is an aspect of his game that tends to be overlooked. One issue that people see Griffin facing on Saturday is the pure strength that Jackson possesses. Jackson uses his strength to work his way out of dangerous positions, so if Griffin can neutralize that strength, he may be able to send Jackson out of the Octagon without UFC gold.

Method of finish - TKO