I haven't done one of these UFC pick posts in a while, so I'll make up for it by posting this link to a YouTube video of some of MMA's most vicious knockouts. For my money, Evans-Liddell should've been number one. Liddell looked like he was stone dead. Also, I'm kinda surprised the famous Rich Franklin/Nate Quarry 'timberrrrr' knockout didn't make the cut. Watch it quick before the UFC inevitable pulls the footage!
Onto the picks! And for god's sake, given the incredible rash of injuries befalling UFC fighters, let's hope everyone can stay healthy between now and Saturday.
* Jon Fitch vs. Mike Pierce. Fitch was originally supposed to fight Ricardo Almeida, who got injured. Then he was supposed to fight Thiago Alves, who got injured. So now in comes Mike 'Bronze Medal' Pierce, who has just one UFC fight under his belt and now must face the consensus #2 welterweight in the world. In short, I hope Pierce has a good dental plan. I had a high school teacher named Mike Pearse whose last name was pronounced the same as 'Pierce.' My pal Matt always inexplicably hated Mr. Pearse, so maybe Matt can get work out some of his issues by seeing Pierce get demolished on Saturday. Fitch, TKO, second round.
* Paul Buentello vs. Stefan Struve. Buentello will hold a special place in my heart for main-eventing the first UFC pay-per-view I ever watched. I tagged along with some friends to London's Oar House to watch UFC 55, headlined by the Buentello-Arlovski fight for the heavyweight title. My friends' hype and the UFC promo package had me all revved up for what was going to be a classic tilt....and then Arlovski knocked Buentello out in 15 seconds. Hmmm. That humiliating loss aside, Buentello is a pretty solid fighter and will be in tough against the gargantuan Stefan Struve, a near seven-footer whose only UFC loss is to Junior Dos Santos. In spite of his size, Struve is actually something of a submission specialist, which perhaps isn't so unusual given that this gangly motherfucker can put you into a triangle from basically any position on the ground. Since Buentello has a history of submission defeats, I'll actually pick Struve to pull the minor upset. Struve, submission, second round.
* Frank Mir vs. Cheick Kongo. This is MMA's version of a zero-sum game. Either Mir will instantly take down Kongo and submit him (since Kongo's ground game is non-existent), or Kongo will pound Mir's face into hamburger (since Mir's striking abilities are non-existent against anyone who isn't suffered from a severe staph infection). After four years, could Kongo possibly have learned some damn takedown defense? After knocking out a weakened Minotauro Nogueira, does Mir actually think he possesses stand-up skills? If Mir even thinks for a moment he can compete with Kongo standing, then this fight will turn into a remake of 'Titanic, with Mir playing the boat and Kongo's fists playing the iceberg. Dana White can play Billy Zane's role. Jon Fitch can play Victor Garber's architect character. This analogy is falling apart. Anyway, yes, in fact I do think Mir is dumb enough to stand and trade long enough for Kongo to bash him. Kongo, knockout, first round.
* Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida. This one has fight of the night written all over it. You've got arguably the second-best lightweight in the UFC (Florian) coming off of a decisive loss in a title match, and he's facing perhaps the highest-energy fighter. I think Florian don't do what Diego Sanchez did and just pound away at Guida to test his toughness. Instead, Florian might even let Guida take him down since Guida (for all of his energy and hard work) rarely does a lot of actual damage to opponents when he's controlling them. Basically, Guida is the most exciting lay-and-pray fighter imaginable. I can see Florian using this to his advantage and trying to lock Guida up in a submission when they're on the ground. The fight might unfold quite a bit like the Guida-Roger Huerta fight, which was only one of the best matches of 2007. I expect nothing less from this matchup. Florian, submission, third round.
* BJ Penn vs. Diego Sanchez. Gray Maynard, Frank Edgar and maybe Tyson Griffin are next in line for whomever the lightweight champion is after Saturday, but honestly, Sanchez might be the last guy left in the division who can give BJ a real challenge. If Penn beats Diego, then we might see the re-emergence of Bored BJ Penn, who makes noise about moving back up to welterweight given the lack of challenge in his natural division. I'd like to see Penn actually do it and fully clean out the LWs, but he might have a point. The only thing in his way is Sanchez, who it should be noted is far from just a stepping stone. Diego's only losses came to Fitch (in a split decision at welterweight) and a decision loss to Josh Koscheck when he was dealing with a staph infection and a Hepatitis C scare. Penn will have to figure out a way to do what no other fighter has done (finish Sanchez), since if this one goes into the fourth or fifth round, Penn will be at a decided cardio disadvantage. Diego's cardio is second to none, whereas BJ still hasn't definitively answered the question of if he trains hard enough to go five rounds. He did make it into the fourth round to beat Florian in his last fight, but that came just a few months after quitting rather than go into a fifth round against Georges St. Pierre. Then again, GSP was giving him the beating of a lifetime, so I can see why he wanted to give it up. Anyway, Diego seems to have the tools to outlast, if not actually finish, Penn, but until another lightweight proves that he can do it, I just can't pick against the undisputed #1 LW in the world. Penn, TKO, third round.
* Matt Wiman over Shane Nelson, decision.
* Ricardo Funch over Johny Hendricks, TKO, first round.
* TJ Grant over Kevin Burns, submission, third round.
* Rousimar Palhares over Lucio Linhares, submission, first round.
* Edgar Garcia over DaMarques Johnson, TKO, second round.
* Wilson Gouveia over Alan Belcher, decision.