UFC 102 Analysis: The Main Card

By Tim Leidecker Aug 31, 2009
In retrospect, UFC 102 “Couture vs. Nogueira” was a solid card with some entertaining fights that ultimately provided no clear direction in terms of the title pictures in various weight classes. However, the event advanced the careers of certain fighters, set others back and did nothing for those who managed to disappoint, even in victory.

What other questions were answered at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore.?

Brandon Vera def. Krzysztof Soszynski -- Unanimous Decision

What happened: Vera used his versatile kickboxing to keep the physically bigger and stronger Soszynski off balance, as he picked him apart on the feet. Though one half of the UFC commentary team compared him favorably to middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Vera continues to lack the killer instinct he showed in his first four appearances inside the Octagon. He fought with a conservative, defensive, counterattacking style that had the crowd restless by the end of round one.

Forecast for Vera: Watching Vera fight as he did at UFC 102 is like watching someone drive a Ferrari in first gear. Until he can change his approach to a more fan-friendly style geared towards finishing fights, he should not be moved into position to compete against top 10 opposition. Bouts with Stephan Bonnar or Matt Hamill, his original UFC 102 foe, make the most sense, along with a rematch against Keith Jardine.

Forecast for Soszynski: “The Polish Experiment” has displayed good overall skills to compliment his heart, but he has also revealed that he needs to put in some more work to become a complete martial artist. Soszynski may need to fight someone like James Irvin, Eliot Marshall or Kyle Kingsbury in order to build his stock in the light heavyweight division.

Nate Marquardt def. Demian Maia -- KO (Punch) 0:21 R1

What happened: In what turned into a showcase for Marquardt, the former King of Pancrase destroyed the previously unbeaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu prodigy with a single punch. A huge right cross killed the momentum and hype Maia had earned over the past 22 months. Hardcore fans eager to see how Marquardt’s ground game would fare against the Brazilian were left unsatisfied.

Forecast for Marquardt: Marquardt has done his nickname justice, having obliterated his last three opponents inside the Octagon. His performances warrant another shot at Anderson Silva’s middleweight title, though it’s no guarantee.

Forecast for Maia: The knockout he suffered was grim and continued the tradition of the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu players coming up short in high-profile mixed martial arts matches (see Marcio Cruz, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Rani Yahya). Still, it would be nice to see Maia get another shot at a big name like Yoshihiro Akiyama or a top-ranked fighter like Yushin Okami.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Jake Rosholt would like a
rematch against Dan Miller.
Jake Rosholt def. Chris Leben -- Technical Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) 1:30 R3

What happened: Leben, the hometown favorite, seemed heavy and sluggish. Rosholt capitalized by displaying improved striking and a good chin, in addition to his top-shelf wrestling. Rosholt’s best positions remain top control and half guard, which is where he finished the fight with an arm-triangle choke. He still needs to work on combining the individual disciplines.

Forecast for Rosholt: In his post-fight interview, the Xtreme Couture middleweight asked for, in a roundabout way, a rematch against Dan Miller. The former International Fight League middleweight champion handed Rosholt his lone career defeat in February. Other possibilities could include matchups with Tom Lawlor and Aaron Simpson.

Forecast for Leben: “The Crippler” is at his best when he has an opponent in front of him willing to go toe-to-toe. There are a couple of such fighters on the UFC’s roster whom Leben has not fought yet, including the always entertaining Alan Belcher or heavy-hitting Pole Tomasz Drwal. A rematch against one-time middleweight title contender Patrick Cote could also be interesting.

Thiago Silva def. Keith Jardine -- TKO (Punches) 1:35 R1

What happened: Following a decisive loss to current UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in January, many experts questioned the legitimacy of Silva’s place in the division. The young American Top Team fighter shut up those critics with a first-round technical knockout against the tough three-time UFC headliner Jardine. “The Dean of Mean” continues his hot-and-cold run, as he was knocked out for the third time in six bouts.

Forecast for Silva: Two fights for which Silva has been asking -- against former light heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin -- should be made available to him in the near future. With Evans locked in his feud with Quinton Jackson, the bout against Griffin could take place first.

Forecast for Jardine: With a mediocre .500 record in his last six appearances, it will be difficult for Jardine to move up the 205-pound ladder. Jardine should continue to draw solid opportunities, as win, draw or lose, he always produces exciting fights. Having already fought a majority of the big names on the UFC’s roster, a rematch with Bonnar makes sense, along with showdowns against Soszynski and Luis Arthur Cane.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Randy Couture -- Unanimous Decision

What happened: In a heavyweight showdown that lived up to the hype, Brazilian great Nogueira outboxed and out-grappled UFC hall of famer Couture, as he re-inserted himself into the title picture. In the process, he proved his poor performance against Frank Mir at UFC 92 was due more to health and injury problems, including a staph infection, than a decline in ability. In defeat, Couture displayed tremendous submission defense and durability.

Forecast for Nogueira: Looking at his resume, which now includes a victory over the revered Couture, the Brazilian should have done enough to warrant a title shot against Brock Lesnar. With the former World Wrestling Entertainment star scheduled to defend his belt against Shane Carwin in November, “Minotauro” will have to wait until 2010 or maybe keep himself busy with a rematch against Mir.

Forecast for Couture: New six-fight contract in hand, Couture has plenty of options going forward. The most obvious choices include showdowns with 2006 Pride open weight grand prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic or the fast-rising Cain Velasquez -- provided he survives a test from Ben Rothwell in September. If no antidote for Machida can be found, Couture might be drawn to the 205-pound division once again.
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