Finally, its here ! The weekend of UFC 118 has arrived, and with a solid card top to bottom, its time to break down the fights. Between a lightweight title rematch, the MMA debut of James Toney vs. UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, and Massachusetts’ own Kenny Florian fighting for a title shot, Saturday should be an outstanding night of fights.
Also be sure to tune in tonight to 98-5 The Sports Hub for our UFC 118 Preview show beginning at 6pm with Rich Keefe and Nick Cattles. Now to the rest of the fights…
Marcus Davis (22-7) vs. Nate Diaz (12-5)
UFC 118 ‘s main card opens up with a bang, as Marcus Davis awlays provides highlight reel material when he fights. The 37-year-old fighting out of Bangor, Maine is entering his 14th fight inside the Octagon and is coming off a stellar KO win over Jonathan Goulet at UFC 113. “The Irish Hand Grenade” comes as advertised: a violent boxer who you’ll never see shy away from an exchange. Despite his extensive boxing background, Davis also trains with Mark Dellagrotte at Team Sityodong and can just as easily use his jiu jitsu to sneak out a submission victory.
Since winning season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, Nate Diaz has not been able to find any consistency in the UFC. He rode his TUF 5 victory to a five fight win streak, but since then is only 2-3, losing to lightweight contenders Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, and Gray Maynard. Now, Diaz is up to his more natural weight of 170 and will use this change to his advantage. The younger Diaz brother is a great all around fighter, with a background in boxing and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and is a Fight of the Night contender each time out (he has won the award 3 times).
…fireworks to open the main card of UFC 118. Both guys are outstanding strikers and will never back down from a good fight. For Diaz, the easy route in this fight is to keep changing levels to take Davis down and work him from the ground, as Davis is only defending about 21% of takedowns. From a fan’s point of view, lets hope this fight comes as advertised with these two slugging it out.
Kenny Florian (15-4) vs. Gray Maynard (10-0 1NC)
The pride and joy of Westwood, MA, Kenny Florian has finally arrived at the event he has dreamed of since embarking on a career in MMA: a fight on the big stage of the UFC in front of his home crowd. Easily the most successful mixed martial artist to come out of the Bay State, Florian has developed into one of the top lightweights in the world. Known primarily as a Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist, his skill set has grown with every fight, developing a wrestling background and improving his striking, highlighted by some of the nastiest elbows in MMA. Since his loss to BJ Penn, Ken-Flo has looked markedly better, plowing through tough competition in Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi. If he stays the course and keeps his hot streak going, Kenny Florian will get his third crack at the lightweight title.
Playing foil to Kenny Florian is Gray Maynard, an outstanding wrestler who has yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon. “The Bully” is the only man to defeat current lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, and with a win against Florian, he would receive a title shot. Maynard’s wrestling background is pristine, including All-American status at Michigan State alongside Rashad Evans. The only knock on Maynard is that he simply does not put on great fights, doing enough to grind out a victory. Its why Dana White hasn’t given him a title shot yet. If you ask me, its tough to penalize a guy that doesn’t do anything but win.
…Maynard to do what he typically does, and that’s take his opponent down and smother him. Kenny Florian is an outstanding fighter, but its tough to ignore the numbers: Gray Maynard is successful on 76% of his takedown and 84% on takedown defense. He is just a strong, stocky dude that is worthy of the nickname “The Bully.” But what has worked in the past for Maynard might not be such a great idea in this fight. Florian is as good as they come from working on his back, with razor sharp elbows and a deadly jiu jitsu game. This fight will be a test of each man’s strengths. Something’s gotta give.
Demian Maia (12-2) vs. Mario Miranda (12-1)
Unfortunately, Demian Maia might go down in UFC lore as the guy that Anderson Silva embarrassed at UFC 112. Nonetheless, without a doubt the best Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner in mixed martial arts is Demian Maia. A 2nd degree black belt and countless titles in BJJ, no one is more dangerous on the mat than Maia. Despite his last fight against Anderson Silva, Maia has had great success in the Octagon, going 6-2 with his only other loss coming via a quick :21 KO against Nate Marquardt. This is an important fight for him, and a win would go a long way in restoring some shaken confidence.
Mario Miranda represents a bit of the unknown in this fight, with only two UFC fights to date (KO loss to Gerald Harris and KO victory over David Loiseau).Nonetheless, UFC middleweights are on notice, as his ground game is as well rounded as you will fine. Miranda has made a name for himself in the Pacific northwest with a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and an extensive wrestling background. He is no slouch standing up either, training in Muay Thai and having a significant reach advantage over many at 185. Mario Miranda is a tough matchup, no matter the opponent.
…Miranda to do everything he can to remain vertical and utilize his reach to keep Maia at bay. Whether he will be able to implement this strategy is another thing, but if Miranda stands a chance, he needs to take away the one advantage Maia has going for him. Maia might be at a disadvantage everywhere else, but the degree to which Maia excels at BJJ makes him the heavy favorite in this fight. But don’t count Miranda out. He is an excellent striker and if he can utilize his reach, he could easily steal this fight.
Randy Couture (18-10) vs. James Toney (0-0)
Edgar vs. Penn might be the main event, but this is the fight that everyone is talking about. What more can be said about Randy Couture? He is an Olympic caliber wrestler, UFC Hall of Famer, and most importantly, a multiple time champion across 2 different weight classes. Like a fine wine, he’s gotten better with age, and his ability to dirty box and work from the clinch has extended his career by years. There isn’t really anything left for Randy to prove, which is exactly why he is the perfect man for this fight. “The Natural” isn’t too proud and won’t exchange with Toney unless he feels it necessary.
Simply put, the kind of striking that James Toney brings to this fight has never been seen inside the Octagon. As far as the rest of his game goes, who knows? And really, who cares? No one can honestly expect much from Toney in this fight aside from some heavy, heavy hands and maybe some takedown defense just so he can remain standing. Anything else for Toney is a loss. Period.
…exactly what you expect. This fight isn’t any deeper than what you see on the surface. Couture is a mixed martial artist, Toney is a boxer, and in the Octagon, Toney’s window for victory is miniscule. But even if the odds are a million to one, there’s always that chance. Don’t get me wrong…I fully expect Randy Couture to win this fight. But do not forget that no mixed martial artist has ever brought the kind of stand up game that James Toney has. His hands are as quick as any in the UFC, and more importantly, they are packed like anvils. If he can land a solid punch on Randy, even if it doesn’t knock him out, it will keep Couture back because he can’t sustain many of those. And that is where James Toney needs to keep this fight if he stands a chance.
Frankie Edgar (1-1) vs. BJ Penn (15-6-1)
In one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, Renzo Gracie student Frankie Edgar shocked the world by defeating BJ Penn by decision at UFC 112. This is by no means a slight on Frankie Edgar. It was more about the aura of invincibility that surrounds BJ Penn when hes focused than the talent of Frankie Edgar. Well, with carefully timed strikes, outstanding footwork, and enough cardio, Edgar found the answer for “The Prodigy.” Now, believe it or not, comes the tough part. Challengers may be able to surprise you, but champions do not fly under the radar. Edgar has had a nice career doing just enough to win, and if he is to BJ Penn, hes going to do much of the same.
The biggest knock on the career of BJ Penn is his tendency to coast and at times not put in the effort that he should before a fight. “The Prodigy” is just that, and at times can rest on his laurels a little bit too much. But if the first fight between these two did anything, its wake up a sleeping giant. Penn’s history and proficiencies at BJJ are well documented, but his striking ability at times is underappreciated (just look at the mangled mess of a face Diego Sanchez was left with). Frankie Edgar neutralized this in their first fight, and it left the future hall of famer frustrated. This time, Penn will have a backup plan.
…a new-look BJ Penn that will have an answer for Edgar’s strategy. No disrespect to Edgar, but BJ Penn is too good to fall into the same trap as he did last time and will give the champ something different this time around. Penn knows that he can’t leave the fight in the hands of the judges again. As for Edgar, he needs to employ a similar strategy as their first fight. Quite simply, “The Answer” does not have the finishing ability required to beat BJ (then again, who does?) and cannot get caught up in trying to end the fight. If Edgar is to win this fight, he is going to have to go 5 rounds and get another decision. If BJ dictates where this fight goes, however, the champion’s reign will be very short-lived.