B.J. Penn (top) in a photo dated from 2004. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Following Friday’s preliminary picks, Sherdog.com staff put their reputations on the line with bold predictions of the UFC 127 main card:
B.J. Penn vs. Jon Fitch
Jordan Breen: It's hard to rule B.J. Penn out of any fight given his unique toughness and one-of-a-kind natural gifts. However, while Fitch can't do what Georges St. Pierre did in the Penn rematch in terms of damage, he can push him into the fence, hit him to the body, and put him on the mat. Historically, Fitch's biggest problem has been starting slow out of the gate, but against Thiago Alves in August, he looked more aggressive from the get-go, in addition to looking more dynamic with both his striking and wrestling than ever. I anticipate a similar unfolding to Fitch-Sanchez, with Fitch winning a close, competitive decision on top, but with Penn having his ooh-ahh moments with brief grappling threats. Given Penn's raucous and steadfast fanbase and the way Fitch will likely have to fight to win, I'm sure the post-fight moaning over Fitch will be at an all-time high.
Tomasz Marciniak: Admittedly, I do have some doubts whether Fitch's new vegetarian diet will pay dividends in this fight since he was already under 180 pounds at the beginning of the week. My original thoughts were that the California-based fighter can employ a similar strategy to GSP, who essentially grinded Penn down. Granted, Fitch is not going to be a better striker than Penn but he's a big, strong opponent and got past the lauded takedown defense of Alves with little issue. He also is durable enough to withstand Penn in the striking department and the most dangerous spot he faces against the Hawaiian is in the scrambling department. So far nobody grappled circles around Fitch but if anyone can do it, it's probably Penn. However if Fitch fights his usual fight he should rack up enough points to get the nod on the scorecards.
Tristen Critchfield: As exciting as it was to see Penn knock out UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, don’t be fooled. At this point in his career, Fitch is on another level than Hughes, having proven himself better than most everyone in the division not named St. Pierre. Regardless of Penn’s motivation level come fight night, Fitch should be able to do what he does best, which is grind people into the canvas for three rounds with superior size and strength. Penn possesses the proverbial puncher’s chance if he’s able to keep the fight upright, but don’t count on that happening for very long. Expect a heavy dose of Fitch in top position as the AKA product takes home yet another decision victory.
Guilherme Pinheiro: Penn is unquestionably a very talented fighter. His skill level added with fearlessness to face challenges in other weight classes have made him a huge fan favorite. However, it seems that expectations around Penn always revolve around the perception of what he can do in the cage instead of what he actually does. My point here is that despite being a very good fighter, Penn is just like the rest of mankind in a way that he is also susceptible to be better some days than others. That being said, his performance against Hughes was very impressive and it put him in position to fight for a title shot despite being 1-3 in his last four fights at welterweight. However, he is facing the second best welterweight in the world against Fitch, who happens to have a big size advantage over Penn. While I do believe Penn is good enough to make things interesting on the ground, I think Fitch will use his size advantage and superior wrestling to control Penn on the ground on the way to another big victory and a possible shot at the welterweight belt. Fitch by decision.
Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera
Lutfi Sariahmed: No matter what Bisping seems to do here he can't win. If he runs his mouth he's the devil. If he doesn't run his mouth then he's the bad guy for not being able to take a joke. I'll never completely understand how the public sentiment is decided for some fighters. Don't get me wrong; I understand Rivera's logic behind these videos. He wants people to get excited about what would otherwise be a relatively lackluster middleweight bout. It's just odd how Bisping can't seem to win with the public regardless of what he does. As for the bout itself, give me Bisping to win. A bout like this rarely goes to the ground especially when neither fighter is that particularly strong there. So give me Bisping in a bout of a few power shots and more technique.
Todd Martin: I love this matchup. It has all the makings of a very entertaining standup war between divergent striking styles. Bisping is an athletic, precise and mobile striker. Rivera is gritty, powerful brawler who prefers to fight from close range. Over the long haul, I think Bisping will be better able to dictate the terms of the fight. But I think Rivera is going to catch him at some point over the course of 15 minutes, scoring the biggest victory of his career.
Rob King: The trash talk between these two fighter has made me more interested in this bout than I thought I’d be.Â You hear Rivera's story and you can't help but root for him, but I see Bisping taking this fight.Â The Brit is a more technical boxer and should be able to land to quickly and then get back outside of Rivera's range.Â If he gets sloppy he could get caught, but I don't see that happening.Â Bisping via TKO in the second.
Brian Knapp: Rivera has talked a good game, but I think he falls short in terms of overall skill. Size and strength favors Bisping, as well. I expect him to put Rivera on his back and ground-and-pound his way to a second-round finish.
George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver
Marciniak: For all of Siver's highlight-reel kicks he has not busted them out successfully against higher caliber of opposition. I think he can hold his own standing but I do expect Siver to be more cautious with his feet than usual in fear of being taken down, even if Sotiropoulos doesn't have strong takedown he surely can catch a leg and trip his foe. The German has devoted a significant part of his training towards grappling, but Sotiropoulos is in a different league than him and he will so demonstrate as he taps out Siver at some point in the fight.
Critchfield: Sotriropoulos has been steadily climbing the 155-pound ladder during a quiet eight-fight winning streak. Siver is probably one level below the top tier of UFC lightweights, but he has compiled a 5-1 mark during his second stint in the UFC and should be able to provide a stern test for the Australian. Sotiropoulos won’t want to spend much time dealing with Siver’s kickboxing and will look to take the fight to the ground. Once he has Siver there, Sotiropoulos will be able to impose his will and secure a submission in the third round.
Tony Loiseleur: I see Siver coming out with winging, fast punches and George Sotiropoulos dropping and driving for single-leg takedowns in response. It'll be on the ground where Sotiropoulos will of course dominate positionally, twisting Siver up en route to getting a win. A finish is always distinctly possible with Sotiropoulos, but whether he gets the tap or just ties up Siver up for all three rounds, the Aussie is going to rack up another win here and take one step closer to a lightweight title shot.
Freddie Defreitas: This fight is clearly Sotirpolous' to lose and the Aussie could very well walk right into a fight ending Siver spinning-back kick; just not on this night. Sotirpolous by submission in the second round.
Chris Lytle vs. Brian Ebersole
Knapp: Lytle is not the kind of guy you want to fight on short notice. He has way too many weapons for Ebersole. I see him ending it by submission in the second or third round.
Sariahmed: The prevailing sentiment here would be to go with Lytle if for no other reason then Ebersole is coming in as a late replacement. But Ebersole won't be scared away by the bright lights of the UFC with more than 50 fights to his name including in Strikeforce and the IFL. Ebersole's striking is what's going to do him in here because he won't be able to take Lytle down. With Lytle's takedown defense being what it is then this bout becomes a striking game which favors Lytle. Give me Lytle by KO in the round two.
King: It’s a shame that Condit dropped out of this bout. Lytle has been on fire lately, winning five of his last six, and should take this one.Â Lytle has excellent submission skills and Ebersole has been prone to submissions in the past.Â Lytle via submission late in the first.
Martin: It’s nice to see a well-traveled veteran like Ebersole get his shot in the UFC and having the fight take place in his adopted home of Australia is to his benefit. With that said, Ebersole is essentially a poor man’s Lytle. He has the same basic strengths as a fighter but doesn’t have quite as much knockout power, ground skill or big fight experience. Plus, Lytle was already training for a tough bout with Condit and is thus unlikely to come in underprepared. Lytle is the clear pick.
Kyle Noke vs. Chris Camozzi
Breen: Kyle Noke isn't a perfect fighter and he's not likely to ever be a serious middleweight contender, but he's long, rangy and well-rounded. That should be good enough to get by Camozzi, who is a good athlete but doesn't excel in any one area. Most of the Anaheim crowd felt he lost to Dongi Yang in October in what was basically a tired slugfest, and that's not a ringing endorsement against a much more dynamic and in-shape Noke. If Noke can't tap him, he's still probably heading for a tidy decision win.
Critchfield: You can’t question the toughness of Camozzi, who did his best to stay in the Ultimate Fighter 11 house despite a broken jaw. Noke had to win his way onto the card in his homeland, finishing Rob Kimmons with a guillotine to earn a spot on the main televised card. The Jackson’s MMA-trained Australian has some decent career experience, including 1-1 record against Sotiropoulos and a closely contested draw vs. Hector Lombard. Noke should be able to overcome Camozzi’s reach advantage and take a close decision in front of the home folks.
Pinheiro: I’m expecting another close fight here. While I don’t see any of them eventually making a push for the belt, both of them are good-not-great fighters that will probably win more than they’ll lose against solid competition. They way I look at this fight, Noke is just a little bit better than Camozzi: I’ll go with Noke by decision.
Loiseleur: Camozzi is a tough, gritty fighter who despite looking tired in his fights, is able to absorb punishment and push through to the final bell. While I still expect Noke to beat him, I don't think Camozzi gets finished. I see Camozzi making it through all three rounds on the strength of his chin and tenacity. Camozzi's southpaw stance and knees in the clinch could give Noke problems, but I like Noke's sharper punches and leg kicks to rack up points for the eventual decision.
Tomasz Marciniak 28-16
Guilherme Pinheiro 27-17
Brian Knapp 26-18
Tristen Critchfield 26-18
Tony Loiseleur 26-18
Todd Martin 25-19
Lutfi Sariahmed 25-19
Rob King 25-19
Jordan Breen 25-19
Freddie DeFreitas 22-22