Three critical matches will be the focus of the upcoming UFC 87. No disrespect to the other combatants, but the UFC has a lot riding on the main three. The winners will be thrust into a new level of stardom. Roger Huerta versus Kenny Florian will determine a number one contender for the lightweight championship. Pro-wrestler turned mixed martial arts sensation, Brock Lesnar, will battle Heath Herring in an attempt to prove his legitimacy. And, Jon Fitch challenging Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight strap, will pit arguably the two best welterweights in the world against one another.
Brock Lesnar vs. Heath Herring
Brock Lesnar is the perfect fighter to headline a main event because, love him or hate him, deserving or not, the next big thing or the UFC’s next big flop, the man inspires enormous fan reaction. But, an endless number of critics have been quick to point out his lack of experience, undeserving main card status and large salary. Few have bought into the hype and even fewer have given Lesnar props for his performance, albeit losing, against Frank Mir. This writer won’t make that mistake. Lesnar is the real deal. And, if his impressive display of seamless takedowns (and a quick transition to Mir’s back) and stiff jabs that rocked Mir didn’t win you over, I believe his bout against Herring will.
There has never been a physical specimen quite like Brock Lesnar in the UFC. Ignoring his actual MMA skills, his pure girth and athleticism are enough to arouse awe. Whether it is bursts of explosiveness that seem impossible for a man his size, his demonstrations of raw power that leave the audience speechless, maniacal acrobatic stunts off the top ropes, Lesnar has left no doubt about his strength and athleticism during his career in the WWE. (I couldn’t find a clip of a perfectly executed shooting-star-press, but this is impressive nonetheless. Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqsy-MkGZnA). How that translates to MMA remains to be seen, but what is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that it will be difficult to find any fighter his size that rivals Lesnar’s strength and agility.
Since Lesnar only has two professional fights on his resume, it’s difficult to determine how developed his MMA game is at this point in time. Regardless, we saw his wrestling was top notch in his previous fight. And, although fans hardly saw his striking prowess, Lesnar did drop Mir with a jab followed by a right. Needless to say, it’s still unclear exactly what Lesnar brings to the table and this fight should be a good indication of what the expectations of the behemoth will be.
Heath Herring has always had problems with wrestlers. Jake O’brien was able to put him on the ground at will. If Herring couldn’t stop takedowns from O’brien, then how is he going to prevent the monstrous Lesnar from doing the same thing? The answer: he won’t. Lesnar will dictate where the fight is fought, and most likely, he will choose to put Herring on his back. Herring is no dummy, he realizes fighting from his back is likely, so watch for him to try and work a submission with Lesnar on top. If Herring were smart, he would have prepared for Lesnar by working his flexibility in order to try and slap on a triangle.
Last time in the octagon, Lesnar was almost too wild. He was overzealous in his vicious ground n’ pound and got docked a point for hitting in the back of the head. Later in the fight, he was careless once again and got his leg caught in a fight ending submission. In this bout, Lesnar will need to fight with controlled aggression. Herring will be looking for Lesnar to make a mistake on top and could capitalize with an arm bar attempt. Herring is also notorious for serious high kicks Lesnar’s chin has not been tested, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Herring come out firing with those. But, if Lesnar can stick to a game plan using less emotion and more brainpower, the results could be far different.
A lot of comparisons have been made between Lesnar and Elite XC star, Kimbo Slice. Both were recognizable tough guys; both had little or no experience in the sport; and, both were thrust into the spotlight as headliners. But, that’s where the similarities end. Slice is a brawler, while Lesnar is a world-class athlete with a decorated wrestling pedigree. Slice is sluggish; he seemed gassed by the second round of his last fight. Lesnar has speed and is a cardio freak in the gym. With Kimbo, it appears like he may be a GOOD fighter someday. Unfortunately for Heath Herring, I believe Lesnar is already one right now.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar TKO via round one
Kenny Florian vs. Roger Huerta
Kenny Florian, the over achieving, undersized, big hearted competitor from season one of the Ultimate Fighter, has truly made a name for himself. By diversifying his skills and being one of the most cerebral fighters in all?of MMA, Florian has risen to the top of the lightweight ranks. His strength lies in his disciplined technical style and ability to avoid straying from a game plan or losing composure. ??
In stark contrast from his refined opponent, Roger Huerta is a loose cannon?that relies on his heart and size. The 25-year-old has a bright future in the?sport. His athleticism, size and strength give him an advantage over most?fighters in his division. At times, he fights recklessly, but he is also?innovative and finds ways to win fights. Florian will be his toughest?challenge to date. ??
Admirably, Florian has called out the division’s best in an attempt to?re-position himself for a title shot. He has garnered positive reviews for?his performances because of his tendency to finish fights. His tenacity has?been displayed throughout his three submissions and TKO over his last four?opponents. ??
On paper, it may seem that Florian has the advantage because he has more?weapons at his disposal. But, Huerta will have the strength advantage and is?a better striker. If the fight goes to the ground, Florian will have a?legitimate shot at a submission. Yet, Huerta fights with a never say die?attitude.?This fight has been proclaimed as the potential big one of the year. The two?competitors are both incredibly tough and well known for putting on exciting?fights. When these two clash, I have no doubt it will be a superb scrap.?
Huerta has a wrestling edge and may decide to put Florian on his back. This?could end up being problematic, because FlorianÂ¹s razor like elbows could?cause serious damage. Unfortunately for Huerta, this is going to be a very difficult fight for him to win. Florian exploits undisciplined fighters and is determined to regain?a title shot. But, I like Huerta’s toughness and resiliency. Despite lacking?the skills Florian possesses, I think Huerta will take a beating, en route to pulling out a come-from behind knockout.
Prediction: Roger Huerta via TKO round three
Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch
Hands down, Georges St. Pierre is one of the most talented and athletically gifted fighters in the world. With a recent string of meaningful wins, in addition to an already stellar resume, GSP has positioned himself to fight his way into history as one of the best fighters of all-time. But, in order to do that, he needs to get passed one of the top welterweights in the world, Jon Fitch.
With much of the attention focused on Brock LesnarÂ¹s return to the octagon, and the lightweight bout being hailed as the potential fighter of the year candidate, GSP versus Fitch has flown under the radar. But, make no mistake; their fight has the potential to thrust the winner into a whole new echelon of fighters.
Ever since his TKO loss to Matt Serra, GSP has not looked 100% comfortable with his striking. He used his wrestling and ground prowess to beat Josh Koscheck and then Serra in their rematch. On his feet, he has seemed a bit tentative. If he is to continue improving, GSP must once again establish his dominance as a striker.
GSP is one the most well rounded fighters in all of MMA. He has fantastic wrestling skills, superb takedown defense, good jiu-jitsu and versatile striking. There are no glaring weaknesses in his constantly evolving game.
Jon Fitch is primarily a wrestler who incorporates great takedowns and solid ground control. His strength is using his strikes to set up a takedown and has become flawless at that transition. But, he has also shown limited stand up ability. He was rocked in his last bout against Chris Wilson and was dropped with an overhand right by Thiago Alves.
Fitch is a tough competitor who has continually gotten better. One could make a legitimate case for proclaiming him the number two welterweight in the world right now. Koscheck, a former GSP opponent, has helped Fitch prepare for the fight. Fitch has remained confident in pre-fight interviews and touted his conditioning. He believes his time is now and that the belt will be his. However, GSP has all the tools to win this fight in an impressive fashion.
GSP has the world in front of him. He has the opportunity for mega fights against BJ Penn and potentially Anderson Silva. Yet, he cannot risk overlooking Fitch. ItÂ¹ll be interesting to see if GSP has regained confidence in his striking. Fitch is much slower then GSP so he should try to utilize his advantages on his feet. By firing off his accurate and powerful jab, while keeping Fitch off balance with body kicks, it should provide GSP the opportunity to land his straight right. How well GSP performs in this fight will help gauge where his career is headed.
I expect GSP to keep the pressure on Fitch and wear him down. Once he senses Fitch is weakening, he will shift into another gear and push for the finish.
Prediction: Georges St. Pierre via TKO round three