UFC Steps Up with Champs, Haters and Enigmas


Feb 29, 2008
Don't be surprised if you see Joe Silva wearing his shoes on his hands come Saturday night, as most of the fighters on this undercard seem to have fallen victim to the "opposite's day" matchmaking gimmick.

With plenty of main card regulars slumming it off-camera, let's hope we get more Silva-Belfort type finishes and less UFC 127 advertisements.

Perhaps the most surprising main card exclusion is the heavyweight tussle between Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) and Jake O'Brien. With Arlovski's contract status up in the air and O'Brien recovering from a disastrous neck injury, this fight will play a major role in the future of the division.

While we all know Arlovski is about as consistent as Hillary Clinton's views on NAFTA, he typically does well against one-dimensional opponents, and this fight carries with it the extra weight of deciding Arlovski's value on the free-agent market.

Unless O'Brien can somehow manage 15 minutes' worth of top control against Arlovski, whose shown strong takedown defense in the past, he'll get picked apart en route to a TKO loss. I take that prediction back if O'Brien shows up rocking some monster bling. Nothing is more important in MMA than serious bling.

We'll likely be deprived of any flashy ornamentation when Luke Cummo (Pictures) and Luigi Fiorovanti make their play to escape the bounds of undercard status at each other's expense.

With both men having a stated preference for striking, this one will come down to Cummo's muay Thai stylings against Fiorovanti's close-quarters bruising. Turning this one into a turn of attrition will be a tall task for Fiorovanti given Cummo's superior reach and footwork. As the bout wears on, watch for Fiorovanti to get sloppy and end up laid out courtesy of a Cummo overhand right. A few more UFC wins for Cummo, and you'll start seeing MMA fans bottling their own urine.

Potent potables aside, another welterweight showdown awaits as MMA's very own "McLovin," Dustin Hazelett (Pictures), takes on Josh "Kos" Koscheck, who makes up for his lazy nickname with a nonstop motor befitting the former Division I wrestling champion.

That wrestling background may be Koscheck's undoing, however, as Hazelett (10-3) is garnering a reputation as one of the division's premier submission artists. Watch for Koscheck (9-2) to sport the same conservative game plan he used against Sanchez by keeping this bout standing and scoring points with his fists instead of his takedowns.

Still haven't had enough welterweight action? Good, because TUF alumnus Diego Sanchez (Pictures) will look to rebound from a winless 2007 by spoiling the UFC debut of David Bielkheden (Pictures).

In a classic grappler/grappler style clash, Bielkheden (12-5) will have to make good use of his Brazilian Top Team training to outdo Sanchez (17-2) on the ground.

"The Nightmare" has traditionally done his best work in these kinds of matches. The trend won't come to an end here, as Sanchez dominates the positioning game and scores a ground-and-pound stoppage midway through the second round. If there happens to be a lightning storm in the area, that stoppage will come within the first 15 seconds. Don't mess with jiu-jitsu Raiden.

Starting off the night is a lightweight clash that features John Halverson making his UFC return against Jorge Gurgel (Pictures), who must have a contract clause that requires him to be on every UFC card held in Ohio.

Fighting on his adopted home turf didn't work out well for Gurgel (11-3) last time, when he dropped a decision to Alvin Robinson (Pictures). Halverson (16-5, 1 NC) knows the sting of disappointment, too. His lone UFC appearance ended in bizarre fashion with Roger Huerta (Pictures) landing a questionable knee strike that led to a TKO stoppage in just 19 seconds.

This bout won't be quite that fast. Both men match up well with each other, so we should get a solid scrap. I haven't called a draw in what seems like an eternity, and seeing how I don't see any particular difference in ability, we'll go with a split draw here.
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