Welterweight Jon Fitch (23-3) will also be showcased, and while he isn’t fighting Thiago Alves who suffered an injury in training and had to pull out of their rematch, he is fighting nonetheless.
Some of the other names in action: Paul Buentello against Stefan Struve; middleweights Alan Belcher and Wilson Gouveia go at it; and Rousimar Palhares takes on Lucio Linhares.
It’s certainly the UFC’s most well-rounded card — featuring a sure-to-be explosive main event, solid fights two thru four in the lineup plus a host of big name fighters — since probably UFC 100 way back in July.
So without further deliberation, here is a short breakdown on the five biggest fights of the night. Be sure to check this pay-per-view event out.
BJ Penn (14-5) vs. Diego Sanchez (23-2), Lightweight Championship
This is going to perhaps the fight of the year. You’re talking about the most dominant lightweight fighter of the decade going against the contender in Sanchez who has absolutely steamrolled through the fellow 155’ers put in his way since dropping down from the welterweight division.
Both fighters are extremely well rounded and not just that, their arsenals are as dynamic as the top fighters in MMA. They each can do things that very few in the sport can even think about doing.
What will be the difference in this fight, in my opinion, is Penn’s unmatched talent. He is called the prodigy for a reason and although Sanchez will give it everything he has, pushing Penn to the brink, Penn’s skill will ultimately allow him to prevail in the latter half of the fight.
Penn by TKO, 4th round
Frank Mir (12-4) vs. Cheick Kongo (24-5), heavyweight
This is a huge fight for both fighters as they look to make a run at a heavyweight title fight. Both are coming off tough losses — Mir to Lesnar and Kongo to Velasquez — which have set them back somewhat, and have which driven them to only get better.
Obviously this is a matchup between a great striker in Kongo who is perhaps the best in the division at that aspect, and a deeply skilled ground fighter in Mir. While Mir showed in his previous two fights some very adept striking skills, one would assume that the ground is where he will win this fight, if he does. Question is, can he get it there?
Mir by unanimous decision
Jon Fitch (23-3) vs. Mike Pierce (9-2), 170 lbs
Fitch returns to the octagon here against Pierce who takes the place of the injured Thiago Alves. Fitch remains one of the top welterweights in the world and until it is shown otherwise, you have no choice but to go with Fitch against the newcomer.
Fitch by KO, 1st rd
Kenny Florian (13-4) vs. Clay Guida (25-7), 155 lbs
Another big time matchup here. Florian has evolved into a complete mixed-martial artist since he first broke out on the scene five years ago, while Guida brings a cardio that is unparalleled in the game.
At the end of the day though, Florian has the more well-rounded game and greater depth of talent.
Florian by submission, 2nd rd
Alan Belcher (13-5), Wilson Gouviea (12-6), 185 lbs
Sure this fight isn’t on the main card but that doesn’t mean it should not be. While the Struve/Buentello fight may be more exciting because Buentello will get a big knockout, this matchup is far more dynamic.
Both Belcher and Gouviea are extremely skilled middleweights, who not a short time ago were close to title shots. Now both are coming off recent losses (to Akiyama and Marquardt respectively) and need to bounce back in a big way.
I believe Gouviea is the more skilled fighter of the two but Belcher could have more heart and determination.
Gouviea by KO, 3rd rd