Combat HQ is the new blog continuing from The Fight Table. I'm sure you'll recognise the format.
Anthony "Rumble" Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki "Zenko" Yoshida
(80 kg/176 lbs)
+Dangerous KO power
+Athleticism and strength
-Questionable grappling skill
+4th degree black belt Judoka
+Good ground and pound
-Uncertain how damaged chin might be from previous KO loss
I would guess that Johnson's plan will be identical to the one Koscheck used to send Yoshida to the hospital, and I'm guessing he has the power to do it. One thing that Koscheck has over Johnson is submission knowledge, as evident when Johnson was subbed by Rich Clementi, so look for the American to keep it off the ground.
I would back him to succeed in that, and if Yoshida is unable to use his Judo, Johnson should have the fight, as Yoshida's striking was never considered threatening.
Johnson by KO, Round 1. I think he'll employ the Koscheck strategy and finish Yoshida early.
Johnson is at 1.20 while Yoshida is at 4.25, but I'd rather combine Johnson with later favorites.
Joe "Daddy" Stevenson vs. Spencer "King" Fisher
(155 lbs/70 kg)
+Good grappler and a Jiu Jitsu black belt; has an extremely dangerous guillotine
+Fights at a tenacious pace
+Judo black belt
-Not a KO artist
-One dimensional striking
+Hard hitting, versatile stiker
+Very aggressive striker
+Decent grappling knowledge and has never been subbed
-Not a great wrestler
Pretty even matchup here. Stevenson has a significant advantage on the ground, but I feel that Fisher has an edge striking. Fisher is certainly the more versatile striker than Stevenson, who just boxes for the most part, whereas Fisher takes advantage of kicks and knees.
Although Fisher is but a Jiu Jitsu purple belt, he has never been submitted, and I would not expect Stevenson to pull it off. I could however, see Fisher getting controlled on the ground and losing a decision.
Close, but leaning towards Fisher by TKO, Round Two. Fisher enters at 2.10 while Stevenson is at 1.37 so of course I'll go with Fisher.
Ben Rothwell vs. Cain Velasquez
+Elite wrestling, being a Junior College champion
+Great heart and jaw
-Holes in striking defense
-Not much in the way of submissions
+Size advantage, coming in at 265 lbs and 6'4"
+Hard hitting slugger
-Not much ground skills
-Not a great wrestler
Rothwell has a distinct size advantage, but isn't really superior to
Velasquez in any aspect of MMA. He'll be most competitive in striking, so
that's what he'll be aiming for. If Cain obliges, it could get interesting,
but looking at his previous bouts, I'm guessing he'll take it to the ground
and keep Rothwell there until the bell sounds.
Velaquez' striking skills were questioned with his victory over Kongo, but
Kongo's striking is considerably better than Rothwell's, and his sprawl is
I can't see Rothwell threatening off his back, so his one chance of winning
is by flash KO.
As is abundantly clear above, I'm going with Velasquez, Unanimous Decision. Rothwell enters at 2.75, while Velasquez is heavy favourite at 1.29. I'll bet on Velasquez, as part of a triple with Johnson and my pick for the next fight.
Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida vs. Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua
(205 lbs/93 kg)
+Wonderful striking, incorporating Shotokan karate into an elusive, devastating style
+Excellent sprawl, use of sumo and akido
+Jiu Jitsu black belt
+Excellent sparring partners
-Not a one strike KO artist
Rashad Evans (2009)
Thiago Silva (2009)
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (2008)
Rich Franklin (2003)
+Extremely skilled grappler, being a very decorated Jiu Jitsu black belt
+Iron jaw, never KO'd
+Powerful Muay Thai
+Excellent wresting and trips
-Can sometimes get sloppy standing
-Limited by lack of stomps and soccer kicks
Based on recent form, it would be fair to assume that Machida is a superior
striker here, perhaps lacking the iron jaw and head movement, but making up
for it and then some in footwork, accuracy, and versatility.
On the mat, I'd give Shogun the nod. He'll have difficulty taking Machida to
the mat—he has some of the best offensive wrestling there is, but if he
can't close the distance with his striking he will not be able to use it.
Also, Machida is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt himself, so he'll likely
not get flash subbed. Ground and pound however, is a severe theat should the
Dragon end up on his back.
Shogun's cardio can be assumed to be better than it was previously, with
more time now since his surgery, but I have doubts if it will be up to
Machida's, who hasn't really been found tired yet. If Shogun wins I'd bet on
it being early.
Machida by TKO, Round 4. Yes, I'm guessing Machida will be the first to
defeat Shogun's iron jaw.
Shogun enters at 4.00, while Machida is at 1.22, so there is an enormous difference in value. Nonetheless, I'll take Machida in conjunction with Johnson and Velasquez.
Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem vs. James "The Colossus" Thompson
(120 kg/265 lbs)
+Viciously powerful and skilfull striking, having wins over K-1 legends
+Great clinch, using Muay Thai and Judo
+Brutal ground and pound
+Considerable size, weighing at 275 lbs
-Chandelier of a jaw
How can Thompson win here?
I've never ever been so fortright, but seriously, Thompson cannot beat Overeem. He was (T)KO'd four times in succession, and by four men that would get eaten alive by Alistair Overeem, who has defeated K-1 kickboxing stars like Peter Aerts and Badr Hari.
Thompson does not have an advantage anywhere the fight goes, as Overeem has also got decent submission skills and monstrous ground and pound.
Overeem by brutal KO, Round One. Overeem is at 1.06, and Thompson is at 10.00.
Overeem's best chance of losing the fight is by Disqualification, but it's still a decent enough chance to justify not taking the odds by themselves, given Overeem's low blows against Cro Cop.
Still, I wouldn't be averse to doubling it up.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Katsunori Kikuno
(70 kg/155 lbs)
+Explosively powerful and versatile striker
+Good defensive wrestling
+Good cardio, chin and heart
-Can brawl and get untechnical at times
Tatsuya Kawajiri (2008)
Joachim Hansen (2008)
+Decorated Kyokushin Karate practitioner, and highly accurate striker
+Never KO'd or submitted
-Never displayed much grappling skills
-Hardly uses Judo aggressively
One of the toughest fights of the two cards to pick. Alvarez would probably be the harder striker of the two, with accuracy going to Kikuno, and neither of them being ground fighters (though with Alvarez' current three-fight submission win streak I feel he may best Kikuno in that regard should it get to the ground).
Alvarez has a trusted chin and heart, which Kikuno may have but we have not seen yet—Kikuno's lack of ranked opposition makes it difficult to know where he's at right now.
I am leaning towards Alvarez by Unanimous Decision, but with Kikuno entering at 4.00, and Alvarez at 1.22, it is too much to pass up on to avoid betting on Kikuno.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Zelg "Benkei" Galesic
(84 kg/185 lbs)
+Powerful and versatile striker, and has a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Doe
+Extremely aggressive and unafraid to let fly
-One dimensional, without much grappling or wrestling
+Historically a great grappler, having (technically) subbed many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts
-Past his prime and extremely expended, having suffered a lot of damage throughout his career
-Very basic striking
-Does not have explosive wresting
It can be assumed that, even after all the age and all the punishment he has endured, that Sakuraba still can pose a threat to the Croation, should it hit the ground, so at least Saku has a theoretcal way of winning.
But I can't see it as much more than that—Galesic has a decent sprawl that should be good enough to keep him standing and is unafraid of letting loose with his strikes, and Saku isn't exactly explosive with his shots anymore.
Galesic by KO, Round One, putting yet another nail in Sakuraba's (once glorious) career.
Galesic enters at 1.65 and Sakuraba at 2.25, so I still see value in Galesic, maybe adding to Overeem.