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UFC 70 - Nations Collide Preview

    Sat, 2007-04-21 07:57 — Bevois

    UFC 70 - Nations Collide is appropriately titled as it features MMA fighters from all over the globe, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Croatia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Belarus, and Australia.

    On Saturday April 21, 2007, Zuffa returns to the United Kingdom for the 70th installment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, entitled UFC 70 - Nations Collide. The event will take place in Manchester, England and will mark the second time that the UFC has hosted a show in the United Kingdom. Their first British show took place at UFC 38 in London, England back in 2002. The UFC also has plans to host a show in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 16th, which is also part of the United Kingdom. UFC 70 - Nations Collide is appropriately titled as it features MMA fighters from all over the globe, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Croatia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Belarus, and Australia. Even though there are no title fights on the card, the main event bout featuring the dominant Croatian sensation Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic vs. the sport jiu-jitsu world champion Gabriel "Napão" Gonzaga will determine who gets the first shot at UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture this August. The card also features The Ultimate Fighter 3 champion and native Englishman Michael "The Count" Bisping vs. the Australian MMA torch-bearer Elvis "King of Rock n' Rumble" Sinosic. Other main event fights that should catch people's attention is the heavyweight war featuring the UFC debut of Pride super-star and submission master Fabricio Werdum vs. the UFC's former heavyweight champion in Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski, as well as the light-heavyweight battle between two undefeated and immensely talented light-heavyweight contenders in American wrestler David Heath and the Brazilian karate/jiu-jitsu man Ryoto "Lyoto" Machida. The best part of the fight card is the fact that it will be aired for free on SpikeTV due to scheduling difficulties that the UFC had at gaining an HBO deal for this show. Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic vs. Gabriel "Napão" Gonzaga It's no surprise who the heavy favorite is going into UFC 70's main event match up. On paper, this bout appears to be a mere formality for CroCop before he faces the venerable Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in August. However, this fight is a lot more interesting at second glance. Everyone talks about heavyweight Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz and Jeff Monson's highly decorated sport jiu-jitsu and submission grappling accomplishments, but Gabriel "Napão" Gonzaga may have them both beat as he is currently the reigning world champion of jiu-jitsu having beat Pe de Pano last summer at the Mundials in Brazil. Even with that being said, CroCop has single-handedly injected the flat-lined UFC heavyweight division with a new lease on life and the potential match-ups for the Croatian Cop are huge, but this does not appear to be one of them. CroCop isn't just a fighter and in this respect his most dangerous asset is his mindset, he is a soldier by trade having fought in the elite Croatian Special Forces. Pure and simple, his K-1 kickboxing, Pride, and now UFC dominance does not appear to come from his sheer passion to compete. He seems to always go in for the kill like on a battle field, presses the action, while always moving forward, and is never afraid to engage. No other fighter in the division shares this mentality. As mentioned earlier, Gonzaga is the reigning Mundial heavyweight champion and his only chance, clearly lies on the ground, but I fully expect CroCop to nullify any takedowns by utilizing the most impressive sprawl in MMA and to land sharp, precise blows on his Brazilian counterpart. From a standing point of view, Gonzaga won't be able to trouble him at all. Although a credible fighter in the division boasting an impressive 7-1 record with five submissions, he isn't at the Croatian's level. It's just a matter of time until we see CroCop's trademark left high-kick end the fight, but we should also expect his hands to fly early with that vicious straight left followed by devastating uppercuts. Prediction: CroCop via First Round KO. David Heath vs. Ryoto "Lyoto" Machida This is clearly the most interesting fight of the night, as both men hold identical undefeated 9-0 records, while also both being men of mystery as the average fight fans still don't know a whole lot about either. Lyoto Machida has a dynamic karate based stand-up game, while also having a stellar black-belt level jiu-jitsu game on the ground as he is a native of Brazil, while having a karate master for a father growing up. More impressively he holds wins over two former UFC champions Rich Franklin and B.J. Penn, as well as wins over Tiger White and Stephan Bonner. However, his first fight on American soil came last summer in the WFA and he has only fought once in the U.S. since then with this fight again being international as they will be fighting in England. Due to this, he still is not as well-known or as well-received in the States, as one would expect from a man with his MMA track record. David Heath on the other hand, was a former Oklahoma state high school football stand-out and uses his dominant wrestling background and heavy hands to exact his will on his opponents. I really feel that this fight will be the chance for both men to make a name for himself as a top-contender in the UFC's light-heavyweight division. This should definitely be an interesting fight, as the loser will walk away with his first loss and the winner should be next in line for a title shot. I feel that Machida will utilize his international MMA savvy and experience that he has gained against elite opposition and will be able to stay out of danger to grind out a well deserved decision victory. Prediction: Machida via Unanimous Decision. Michael "The Count" Bisping vs. Elvis "King of Rock n' Rumble" Sinosic This fight also features an undefeated fighter and possibly England's biggest MMA star in Michael Bisping. He squares off against Elvis Sinosic in his second fight, since winning The Ultimate Fighter 3 reality series on SpikeTV. If Bisping is England's biggest MMA star, then Sinosic is no doubt Australia's biggest MMA star. Sinosic is a veteran of six UFC fights winning his debut back at UFC 30 over Jeremy Horn via armbar. However, he has since gone on to lose his last five fights in the Octagon and hopes to reverse his fortunes against Bisping in a battle of Commonwealth nations. Sinosic is a highly skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner and ADCC veteran, so it's really not in Bisping's best interest to gloss over this fight due to Sinosic's spotty MMA record. Sinosic's record isn't the best and he has dropped fights when faced with ranked opposition, but all it takes is a simple mistake and he can submit Bisping easily. I know Bisping was able to overcome another jiu-jitsu expert in Eric Schafer's ground attack in his last effort and that a lot of MMA insiders aren't giving Sinosic a chance, as they feel he's simply there to bolster Bisping's record, a hometown win if you will, but I think he is a dangerous opponent to overlook. That being said, I expect Bisping to eek out the win, but I don't think it will be as easy as everyone expects. Sinosic's stand-up was horribly robotic in his last bout (in England's Cage Rage) against former Bisping nemesis Mark Epstein, but when push came to sub the armbar was slapped on slick, fast, and tight. I expect this will be Bisping's toughest challenge to date, mainly because Sinosic doesn't know when to go down, but in the end I feel that he will be able to overcome Sinosic's ground game and pound out a victory, as he did to Schafer, if he plays it smart against the Aussie assassin. The final and possibly biggest variable in this fight will be how Bisping deals with the huge expectation of fighting (and winning) in front of the biggest crowd he has ever seen there to support him. Hometown pressure is a heavy burden. However, it seems to be one that he welcomes. Prediction: Bisping via Second Round TKO. Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski vs. Fabricio Werdum This fight could possibly set up a huge grudge match for Andrei Arlovski and CroCop, as Fabricio Werdum is CroCop's jiu-jitsu instructor, friend, and training partner. That is assuming of course, if Arlovski and CroCop are both able to get past their Jiu-Jitsu World Champion opposition, that they each get to face Saturday night in the form of Werdum and Gonzaga respectively. The Belarusian Arlovski, clearly has the tougher of the two obstacles in Werdum (pronounced "Ver-Doom"). Arlovski is surely the money shot in waiting for the UFC when he faces CroCop in the future, as both are excellent strikers and both like to engage from the bell. However, Arlovski I feel has been mostly the product of over-hype due to the UFC's recent history of needing a heavyweight star. His rugged Belarusian looks and fighting style made him a fan favorite, so the UFC fed him a string of under-sized heavyweights (that should have really been fighting at 205) and mid-level heavyweights that would stand and trade with Arlovski, as the UFC loves the "sprawl n' brawl" mindset. Werdum has all the tools to put a big man like Arlovski in trouble with his methodical jiu-jitsu game. The Pride superstar holds very impressive submission wins over the likes of Tom Erikson, Roman Zentsov, Alistair Overeem, and Fedor's brother Aleksander Emelianenko, as well as a TKO win over Gonzaga (Gonzaga's only loss). Moreover, in Arlovski's last fight in December, we all saw holes in his ground repertoire during his fight with Pe de Pano, who appeared to be very close to pulling Arlovski's leg off (if it weren't for some "strategic" cage grabbing and a questionable kick to the head combined with a suspect stop and restart). I think the difference here is that Werdum is a much better striker than Pe de Pano and he's better prepared to deal with the strikes to set up a takedown to employ the ground-based fight that he will seek to secure the win. Arlovski has been very vocal about wanting a shot at the belt again, but I feel that he needs to work through some top opposition first, gain some quality wins, and get back into a winning stride. I think the planning of this match is the UFC's way to play to Arlovski's strengths as they did with Pe de Pano, but I honestly feel that this will be Werdum's night and he will expose Arlovski's overrated ground game (or lack there of). Prediction: Werdum via Second Round Submission. Assuerio Silva vs. Cheick Kongo This fight will be the one where the UFC fans will fully appreciate the tools that Assuerio Silva brings to the cage. He hasn't really shown his true worth in the UFC after picking up his two losses there against two of the UFC's better heavyweights in Tim Sylvia and Brandon Vera. Unfortuneately, for Silva, these losses were back to back and thus, he had been exiled from the UFC and to those he is new to, doesn't appear to be that much of a threat to the popular Frenchman Cheick Kongo. Kongo is an excellent striker with devastating knees from the Muay Thai clinch. He appears to be cut out of stone and has good conditioning for a heavyweight. He is an exciting fighter in the heavyweight division, but this is a really tough fight for him to bounce back from after his split-decision loss to Carmelo Marrero in October. There are solid kickboxing skills in both fighters' arsenals, but the clear edge in experience and submissions goes to Silva. I think we will see a hard fought battle lasting mostly on the feet with the Brazilian picking up the win late in the fight. Prediction: Silva via Third Round TKO. Matt "Wolverine" Grice vs. Terry Etim Just like Heath vs. Machida, both Matt Grice and Terry Etim are riding flawless 9-fight winning streaks and are undefeated at 9-0 each. I know what Etim brings to the table in this bout, but I have to admit to not knowing too much about Grice other than he has a solid background in wrestling and that he has fought mostly in smaller MMA shows in the southwest, close to his native state of Oklahoma. However, it is Grice's wrestling prowess that is one area where the British fighters like Etim tend to flag well behind the Americans. British fighters don't have access to college wrestling and as such they usually tend to play catch-up to higher level Greco-Roman and Freestyle competitors such as Grice. Unfortunately, styles make fights and I have a feeling Grice will control the tempo and pace of this fight. Etim's edge clearly lies in his submission game as he has finished all but one of his fights via submission with the other coming by way of TKO. However, I feel Grice will rely on his heavy wrestling background, while nullifying Etim's submission offense, while delivering a lot of punishment from the top to score a win over the Liverpool, England native. Prediction: Grice via Unanimous Decision. Junior Assuncao vs. David Lee Dave Lee had a difficult debut against the very highly regarded Tyson Griffin at UFC 63 in September and found himself on the wrong end of a submission finish. As testament to his potential, the UFC have invited the cockney fighter back to prove himself again, this time infront of his native countrymen in England. His opponent comes in the form of Brazilian submission fighter and Capoeira stylist Junior Assuncao. Lee's training incorporates highly regarded Brazilian Top Team champions in Danny Batten, Ze Marcello, and Alexandre Izidro. A camp that should have him well prepared for the task ahead, as Assuncao will more than likely be looking to ground the fight as well. I think we will see a technical battle on the ground from both fighters, even though they are both coming off Octagon rear naked choke losses in their debuts last fall. As mentioned previously, Lee lost to Tyson Griffin at UFC 63 in September, while Assuncao lost to Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 64 in October. They both have good cardio and very similar games stylistically. Prediction: Lee via Unanimous Decision. Victor "The Matrix" Valimaki vs. Alessio "Legionarius" Sakara I am a big fan of the Italian MMA star Alessio Sakara, but I would much rather see him drop the weight, after this fight, and try his hands at 185. The middleweight division is loaded chalk-full of strikers and is one where his strengths will come to the forefront. The Italian's boxing ability is without question and his ground-game is improving continually via the Cesar Gracie Camp, which includes star grapplers such as Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Jake Shields, and Gilbert Melendez. However, I think he will have to take another loss, before he bows to pressure and cuts to middleweight, as he is a small light-heavyweight in the first place. The Canadian MMA veteran Victor Valimaki, is also a good boxer, although he is also quite competent on the ground. He returns to the Octagon after dropping a tough fought split-decision to David Heath at UFC Fight Night 7 in December. I don't think that this fight will go to the ground though. I think this match has all the hallmarks of being another barn-burner fight in the style of "Griffin vs. Bonner", a classic full-on slug fest with every form of offense being thrown into the mix. Both fighters are game competitors and I really think that this will go down as the best fight of the night. Prediction: Valimaki via Split-Decision. Dennis Siver vs. Jess "Joker" Liaudin Opportunity knocks for both of these fighters and you can expect a war between these two European fighters, as they both make their debuts in the UFC. Jess Liaudin's record belies his potential and skill. The Frenchman has fought in some exceedingly tough fights over the years and more importantly in weight classes outside of his natural 170 lbs. category. For 2007, he is finally in a place where his head, business, and training are all in the right place, as he has been regarded as a welcome UFC addition. The same can be said for the German "Cage Warriors" veteran Dennis Siver, who is a solid submission fighter in his own right. These two European MMA veterans bolster a welterweight division that is already loaded with with talent. More importantly, the UFC really becomes a worldwide fight network encompassing new fighters from both France and Germany. Anyways, back to the fight. I think Liaudin will employ a strategy similar to his last fight in December at Cage Rage against Ross Mason, where he won via submission due to a tight heel-hook. He will most likely attempt to to make Siver think he is looking to trade, stay on the outside, and stick and move. I think he will frustrate Siver into shooting for a takedown and from there, the game really opens up for Liaudin. Liaudin has a chiseled frame from Muay Thai, having trained in Thailand, but his core is in submissions and wrestling. Siver is a very close match in skill set, but I think Liaudin's experience and cage savvy will pay off in the end. Prediction: Liaudin via Third Round Submission. Edilberto "Crocota" de Oliveira vs. Paul "Relentless" Taylor Paul "Relentless" Taylor is a warrior with loads of heart. His fight with Pride export Zelg Galesic a.k.a. "Mini CroCop" was a testament to that, as he fought through excrusiating pain to win the fight with a broken arm. His overturning of the Che Mills verdict into a "no contest" from November's Cage Rage also proved to be a masterstroke, as the verdict belies the fact that he was losing that fight. That was the last time he's been in action and his performance that night wasn't quite complete and I hope he comes into this fight much sharper. Edilberto "Crocota" de Oliveira is the kind of fighter that you know will be dangerous from the start of the fight. He has been training his boxing with the Nogueira brothers and boasts an undefeated record with only one draw, while fighting primarily in the Nogueira's MMA organization "Minotauro Fights" in Brazil. He also possesses ground skills that are comparable with that of any typical Brazilian competing at this level of MMA, which is also a reflection of his time spent training with the Nogueira brothers. I have my doubts on Taylor being able to pull out a win in this fight and expect it be a slow-burn UFC debut for both fighters. Prediction: Crocota via Unanimous Decision.

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