So the other day, Scotty emails me and asks if I could do a write up on the upcoming UFC 112 "that only I could do". Why not? While I'm on the site everyday I have to admit my personal content production isn't nearly what it used to be. But the thing is, I'm not nearly as much of a fan of MMA as I used to be.
Maybe it has to do with my length of time involved with the sport (14 years now!) or the fact the market seems over saturated or whatever, MMA fights don't get the blood pumping the way they used to. Put two guys in a cage I have no vested interest in, I might be watching the fight in fast forward if I both with it all. (I remain as huge a fan as ever of BJJ and Grappling however).
While I'm not so much a fan of events, I am a fan of fighters. And this weekends UFC 112 card in Abu Dhabi has a number of fighter that I am tremendous fans of.
I'm going to take a closer look at the three main events on this card: Anderson Silva vs Demian Maia for the Middleweight title, BJ Penn vs Frankie Edgar for the Lightweight title, and an almost grudge match between two legends in Matt Hughes vs Renzo Gracie. I'm not going to offer predictions because I'm comically bad at them when it comes to MMA, but I think I have some insight on the matches that no one has analyzed yet.
Anderson Silva vs Demian Maia
Many analysts and oddsmakers are making Anderson Silva the heavy favorite over Demian Maia on a number of factors, not the least of which is Anderson's advantage in striking. The thing is, Anderson has an advantage in striking over everyone in the middleweight division, and Demian is at a disadvantage against nearly the entire division. I think that actually works in Maia's favor in some ways, because there is no way he's going to try to strike with Anderson. He's going to try to close the distance and get the fight down to the canvas as quickly as possible. On the mat Maia may have as big of an advantage over Silva as Silva has over Maia on the feet. Where as Silva has a very respectable black belt under the Noguiera brothers, Maia is an absolute top of the food chain world champion black belt, with a game that is better suited to MMA than most.
Two things in particular set Maia's ground game apart. Firstly, he is left handed, and while equally adept on both sides, he is comfortable from angles most grapplers are usually used to. Secondly, is his use of the overhook, which he uses beautifully to set up his offense, but in MMA also serves the purpose of nullifying a striking hand.
You can watch video of Maia in competition in our video library here: 
In other words, Maia doesn't have to give up his safety in order to generate offense. That's a huge advantage, because most grapplers from the bottom would either look to attack or stop themselves from eating too many punches.
Still getting Anderson Silva to the ground is a daunting task. Anderson is no anti-wrestler and his sprawl isn't necessarily that great. What Anderson Silva has better than ANYONE in MMA is footwork, which translates into his ability to gauge distances and find range. Once Anderson figures out his range, no one has been able to penetrate it. If Anderson finds his range quickly, Maia is in for a quick night because it's doubtful he'll be the only to solve Anderson's range. If Maia does get close this becomes an interesting match. Maybe. I do think this is more competitive than the oddsmakers do however.
BJ Penn vs Frankie Edgar
I have a hard time seeing this fight as being that competitive, but that's no knock on Frankie.
Many other write ups will repeat the line that "an in shape, motived BJ Penn is a dangerous thing".
I'm going to tell you an out of shape, lazy BJ Penn is a dangerous thing. The fact he's determined to take his training to the next level? He's off the charts scary.
When I see BJ I still see the scrawny but scrappy 17 year old that entered the academy so many years ago. He worked hard, but he was having fun.
He hasn't always looked like he was having fun in his UFC career. I think has gone through periods in his life when he wasn't having as much fun, and I don't think those reasons had anything to do with what was happening on the mat or in the cage.
As long as BJ is having fun, he will be the most dominant fighter in the world. I believe the way BJ defines fun is a challenge. The challenge right now is for him to really prove himself as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
So what do you when you're up against arguably the most well rounded fighter in MMA history and he's at his peak? If you're Frankie Edgar you atempt to do what has worked well for you in the past. Frankie is definitely an evolving fighter, and he's made several transitions to his training before finding a home.
Ironically, while Frankie is known largely for his wrestling ability, he's most often been associated with camps known for the Jiu Jitsu. Edgar started off as a member of Team Balance working with the Migliarese brothers. He quietly spent some time in California working at AKA, really under the wing of Dave Camarillo, being one of the very select group of fighters to actually spend the duration at Dave's home. He has since found a home with Ricardo Almedia.
Skillset wise Edgar might not match up favorably against Penn, but if he has something that could work in his favor, it's tenacity. If he can force BJ into his pace than he could turn the match into a favorable outcome for him. Easier said than done, of course.
Like I said, I'm not one to look for predictions from, but I have a hard time seeing anyone challenging BJ at 155 for the time being.
Renzo Gracie vs Matt Hughes
This is the fight I'm actually the most excited about. Two legends entering the ring against each other. Past their prime? So what! When you're talk about the great Renzo Gracie against the formidable Matt Hughes I'd practically watch a match of them playing Yahtzee against each other. But with very few exceptions, both men have always been extremely competitive in their matches.
Renzo is an iconic figure that is beloved virtually everywhere. It is rumored that he had a hand in at least introducing the UFC's current investors Flash Entertainment to Zuffa (depending on who you talk to), but even if that's not the case his friendship with the Sheikh is most certainly a motivating factor for Renzo to be making his UFC debut in Abu Dhabi.
Recently Renzo has been well matched against other legends of the sport, collecting wins over Pat Miletch, Carlos Newton and Frank Shamrock (via DQ), so at the moment he rides some momentum coming into this match.
Matt Hughes status as one of the Octagon's best ever is certainly cemented, and although he's not quite the dominant force he once was, he last win over Matt Serra still proves he's dangerous.
Matt Serra is of course, Renzo's first black belt, if that adds any extra incentive/element of the grudge to this match.
Call me biased (there's no way to disguise that from me), but I think this fight is going to be far more competitive than any of the oddsmakers will tell you. Not to mention fun to watch. I could go on and on on why I think other analysts have been off mark with this one, so I can say wait and see with the rest of us.
Hey! One of the new features on OTM is the ability to comment on articles, so if you like/disklike or have anything to add to the article feel free to add you two cents (I'm an attention whore) and I'm very likely to respond!